In Top Gun (1986), a flight got hit by a missile:

Pilot: I'm hit! I'm hit! We're coming apart! I can't control it! Hold on! Zero for twenty! We're going down!

What does "Zero for twenty" mean?

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    $\begingroup$ I don't remember that line, could not find it in scripts (this and this) either. Can you share the video? $\endgroup$
    – Farhan
    Commented Nov 14, 2022 at 17:03
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    $\begingroup$ The scene is here: youtube.com/watch?v=mM3fHmmHovg time 8seconds. I believe the real line is "Zero Four Twenty We're going down", as in "Tail Number #0420 is going down" (but just my personal opinion, I don't have a source) $\endgroup$
    – abelenky
    Commented Nov 14, 2022 at 18:45
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    $\begingroup$ After multiple replays, I might also hear "Oh-Nine-Zero-Four-Twenty We're going down" (090420) instead of "hold on 0420". $\endgroup$
    – abelenky
    Commented Nov 14, 2022 at 18:50

1 Answer 1


The line said in the movie is "090 for 20", and he is calling out his relative position.

It is in a standard format for a range and bearing callout, with the 090 being magnetic bearing and 20 being nautical miles.

The clip is too short for the context, but range and bearing could be from the ship, from an arbitrary pre-briefed "bullseye" location, or from the engaging fighter itself.

SHIP: If they were using the ship as a reference point a quick check of the TACAN is all that's needed. In this case the tail of the needle, or radial, would be at 090 and DME would read 20. A combat engagement 20 NM from the ship is VERY close, so they were probably using...

BULLSEYE: In the more likely event that the ship is controlling electronic emissions and the TACAN is off, a mission cycle will assign an arbitrary Latitude/Longitude as "bullseye". This bullseye point then becomes the center of an imaginary VORTAC in the middle of the ocean. All aircraft on that mission cycle will enter this location in their navigation systems and reference their position off it as if it were a real navaid.

In this case the hit pilot is obviously calling out his position relative to whatever anchor point they have chosen to use as a reference on this mission to get help on the way.

If, (in the case of the last example) the transmission were coming instead from a tactical controller onboard the ship or from AWACS, the call would be for the engaging fighter to help get their radar on the target. For example, "Maverick, bandit at your 090 for 20."

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    $\begingroup$ I've always used the term "at" for DME, not "for". I would say I'm "Bearing 090 at 20". Interesting use of "for" in this case, especially since its a homonym with "four(4)". $\endgroup$
    – abelenky
    Commented Nov 14, 2022 at 22:24
  • $\begingroup$ @abelenky, I guess I hadn't thought too critically about it before, but you are absolutely correct. Just one of those cultural bits of lingo that you get used to. And I'm sure "at" was used sometimes as well... $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 14, 2022 at 23:39

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