"She Got You Jumpin' Off the Deck, Shoving Into Overdrive", was pretty much all it took for Top Gun to capture the imagination of gearheads and wannabe pilots the world over, but can anyone own a jet fighter?
Forgetting for a moment that you need a license, if you have the cash then the answer is yes, and you might be surprised how cheap ex-military jets are. Pick a single-engine subsonic jet, and you're talking supercar money with unrivaled bragging rights. Imagine inviting your buddies along for a spin in a MiG during the weekend!
We have some bad news for anyone dreaming of Maverick shenanigans, the F-14 Tomcat, star of the movie is off the table, upon its retirement the US government ordered all airworthy examples to be scrapped, which is a pity. However, there is still a wealth of "affordable" fast jet thrills still to be had.
9 Douglas A-4C Skyhawk
For a mere $995,000 gearheads can land themselves one of the stars of Top Gun, Douglas Aircraft's A-4C Skyhawk taking on the role of sparring partner during the movie's training scenes. Don't be fooled by its apparent lack of size and single-engine design, the Skyhawk's remit calling for agility over speed.
Speed shouldn't be an issue, the Skyhawk's Pratt & Whitney J52 engine is good enough for a subsonic maximum of 670 mph. Any faster and you can expect a visit from the authorities, Mach 1 over built-up areas is strictly no-go. In all, roughly 2960 Skyhawks were built, with a handful still in use today reserved for trainer roles.
8 Lockheed F-104 Starfighter
This futuristic piece of military hardware comes with mixed blessings, the F-104 Starfighter from as far back as 1954 boasts some impressive achievements, including the first aircraft to break both Mach 2 and attain an altitude of 30,000 meters. However, it also earned itself a less than enviable nickname of "The Widowmaker" due to high-accident rates.
The F-104s safety record did improve over time, and any gearhead fancying a Mach 2 capable jet can bag this particular aircraft for $850,000 including a host of spares to keep it flying. Powered by a single J-79 afterburning engine for the full pants of fire experience, it's hard to beat the stubby winged Starfighter.
7 McDonnell Douglas F4 Phantom II
Interceptor, Fighter bomber, and air-superiority roles, the F4 Phantom has done it all, forming the backbone of the US Navy's fleet air capability throughout the Vietnam War right up until the F-14 Tomcats introduction in 1974. Introduced in 1961 this Mach 2.2 monster holds the record for the most widely produced US supersonic Jet Fighter with 5195 examples produced up until 1981, with a dozen or so still in use with the Hellenic Air Force.
Not for the faint of heart, the Phantom II is a formidable piece of machinery, twin J79 engines produced enough thrust to set outright speed and altitude records early in their operational life. Despite huge production numbers, only one known example resides in private hands, recently listed for $1.5 million, with trades considered.
6 Aero L-39 Albatross
Coming in a lot cheaper, at $300,000, the Aero L-39 Albatross is one of the most widely used jets with over 40 foreign operators deploying the type. Admittedly, the Albatross isn't in the same league as other combatants on this list, but with +8/-4g loadings the L-39 is supremely agile.
Trading speed for economy isn't as bad as you might expect, still capable of 600 mph over distances up to 680 miles. In reality as fast as anything else in private hands thanks to FAA regulations preventing putting a stop to Mach 1 booms, the L-39 is the perfect answer for gearheads wanting to spread their wings.
5 BAE Systems Hawk Mk.67
Synonymous with the Red Arrows, the BAE Hawk serving as the RAF's frontline fast jet trainer since 1974 is known the world over for its highly technical flying displays and breathtaking agility. The Hawk however is also a formidable supersonic fighter, serving with dozens of air forces around the globe.
Huge +9g agility combined with the Rolls-Royce Turbomeca power plant makes the perfect training ground for fast-jet pilots. Envisaged as cheap entry-level fast jets means used ones are cheaper than you might think, but why stop at just one? A recent listing for 10 Hawks cropped up, airworthy jets and spares for $2.5 million a throw.
4 Northrop F-5 Tigershark
Stepping back into Top Gun territory for this one, the MiG-28s, of which all but one got blown out of the sky by Maverick, didn't actually exist, the movie's producers figuring the higher the number the more potent, seems logical enough. With no real MiGs available, turning to the Northrop F-5 Tigershark, a multirole budget fighter from the early '60s.
Retired from US Air Force service in 1990 should've released a glut of F-5s into private hands, but any would-be Russian MiG pilot wanting one of these twin-engined Mach 1.4 interceptors will have to look elsewhere, namely Switzerland. However, buying one could be tricky, former US President Donald Trump looked to buy back 22 F-5s for a mere $39.7 million, or just under $2 million a jet.
3 Mikoyan MiG 29UB
The MiG 29 is one of a handful of military jets that is both readily available to private buyers and used operationally. It goes without saying those in private hands are missing a few top-secret bits of equipment, with radars and electronics removed before disposal. Despite these downgrades, the MiG29UB can be had for as little as $4.6 million, a bargain for arguably the best airshow crowd pleaser.
Built-in retaliation to the mighty F-15 Eagle, MiG bestows the Fulcrum with two immensely powerful Klimov RD-33 afterburning turbofan engines that provide its jaw-dropping abilities. Chief among which is the visually stunning and terrifying tail-slide maneuver, going from vertical climb to engine idle free-fall only to recover seconds later.
2 Hawker Siddeley Harrier GR.3
The Harriers claim to fame, the forerunner and most successful VTOL aircraft to date, only the F-35 Lightning looks set to out-perform the iconic jump-jet's incredible go-anywhere versatility. Originally designed by Hawker-Siddley, the Harrier entered service in 1969 proving itself operationally in the Balkans and Falklands conflicts.
Think of this one as a fixer-upper, a late 1976 Harrier GR.3 example attracting a winning bid of $150,000 with the added option of a full delivery/assembly service leaving the lucky owner to apply for its airworthy certification. Notoriously tricky to fly, the Harrier's Rolls-Royce Pegasus engine providing both lift and thrust via four vectored nozzles, once mastered producing near unmatched agility.
1 General Dynamics F16 Falcon
Bordering on the realms of never never, picking up your own F-16 Falcon recently got a tiny bit closer, the only issues we can see are the $8.5 million asking price, and never-ending red tape the USAF is likely to throw at you.
Ignoring the red tape, that's always an issue with any ex-military equipment that is somehow still current, the F-16 is still widely used at home and overseas. The stickler here is $8.5 million asking price, in the grand scheme of things a bargain for a modern super-agile Mach 2+ fighter. Sure they are going to remove all the cool toys, but less weight surely means more speed, right?