In Top Gun Maverick (2022), Capt Pete trains squadrons:

Capt Pete: It's the most difficult stage of the mission. It's a pop-up strike with a steep dive, requiring nothing less than two consecutive miracles. Two pairs of F-18s will fly in a welded wing formation.

What does "a pop-up strike with a steep dive" mean?


1 Answer 1


These are not military code words, it’s actually self explanatory if you just watch what the airplanes do: They pop up, then go into a steep dive.

The pop-up was necessary because the ingress was done at low altitude to avoid radar detection. The aircraft needed to rapidly gain altitude to both clear terrain, and to acquire the target. The steep dive was also necessitated for delivering ordnance in that terrain.

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    $\begingroup$ ... and to add another point, unless using high drag ordnance, You cannot deliver high explosive weapons from low altitude because the weapon will impact and detonate directly below the plane, blowing yourself up as well as the target. Popping up and delivering from above 1000 AGL or higher, in a dive, is required in order to allow weapon time-of-flight (TOF), and the delivery aircraft dive recovery to create sufficient aircraft to weapon separation at impact. Generally, for Low drag High Explosive bombs, the weapon must fall for at least 6-8 secs or more to generate sufficient separation. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 6, 2023 at 14:15
  • $\begingroup$ @CharlesBretana, good point, but I think that's a next level discussion to answer a question about advantages of a diving delivery. I purposefully try not to over answer sometimes... $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 6, 2023 at 15:13
  • $\begingroup$ @Michale, yes, but in this case, the disadvantages of exposing yourself to AAA and radar guided SAMs vastly outweigh the advantages you mentioned. Unless by "...*optimized for delivering ordnance.*." you meant deconfliction with the frag pattern.... But as that is the most significant issue involved in the choice to perform a pop-up, it might be "under-answer-ing" not to mention it. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 6, 2023 at 18:54
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    $\begingroup$ again, true, but if you're going to go beyond the "simple definition", and include the justification or reasons for performing the maneuver[s], then mentioning the most significant one of those reasons might be warranted. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 6, 2023 at 20:40
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    $\begingroup$ I suspect we are back & forth on this way more than its worth. If I implied otherwise, my apologies, but my initial intent was not to criticize your answer or imply that it was incomplete by not including the substance in my comment. Your answer was and is perfectly fine as is. It was just to make that additional info available to readers ... $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 8, 2023 at 18:46

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