Royal Navy Lieutenant Stephen Collins will be the first ever British pilot to attend the famous Top Gun school.
Lieutenant Stephen Collins, callsign “LOTHAR” (an acronym, which stands for Loser of the American Revolution), was selected to attend the U.S. Navy Fighter Weapons School after an internship which included a tour aboard USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74) aircraft carrier. His talent was spotted by the Americans while Collins was flying combat sorties, specifically ground attack missions in F/A-18E Super Hornet, over Afghanistan with VFA-14.
He must have proven his guts, because soon after the cruise the U.S. Navy offered him the opportunity to be involved in the Top Gun, which is officially known as United States Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor Course, formerly located at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in California and now located at Naval Air Station Fallon, Nevada.
It is even more astounding, taking into account Collins’ age: he’s only 26.
Stephen Collins is by no means entering the Top Gun School by accident. His father was a pilot during the Falklands War, later on he moved to Red Arrows aerobatic team. In other words, Stephen has aviation talent in his genes.
For the last five years he has flown in the US Navy, being a partaker of an exchange programme the purpose of which is to allow the British aviators get used to aircraft carriers operating conditions.
Even Collins himself emphasised that element:
The U.S. and the Royal Navy have worked together very closely on the Joint Strike Fighter program. The ultimate aim is for us to get some experience flying a jet with very similar capabilities to that one. It’s a good trade, the U.S. gets a pilot out of it and the Royal Navy gets the experience.
While he is going to be the first one to attend the famous school as a student, LOTHAR is not going to be the first Briton to work at Top Gun: in fact, almost unknown to many, Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm’s instructor pilots from Lossiemouth were instrumental in setting the United States Navy Fighter Weapons School at NAS (Naval Air Station) Miramar at the end of the 1960s: the contribution of a dozen British pilots flying the Buccaneer at that time, was crucial to the Americans who were struggling to improve their kill ratio during aerial engagements over Vietnam.