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Military Aviation Author
Navy License # BAR0102

LB __.jpg


Military Aviation Writer

Brad began military aviation writing in the mid-1990s and published his first article in World Air Power Journal. A feature article on the Lockheed S-3 Viking, it soon became a well-known reference work on the Viking and served as the "go-to" article on the aircraft's history, capabilities, and weapons.

Brad then began writing for Combat Aircraft magazine and served as a U.S. Correspondent for that publication for almost 20 years, writing on the F/A-18 Hornet and Super Hornet, EA-18G Growler, S-3 Viking, P-3 Orion, and P-8 Poseidon.


He has published over 50 military aviation articles.

He has published 14 books, the most recent being a photo history of TOPGUN - the Navy's Fighter Weapons School. His large book on the NFWS - TOPGUN: The Legacy was released in 2021. 

Brad worked as an appellate attorney in Illinois, authoring a number of articles on appellate practice and serving as co-editor of the Illinois Institute of Continuing Legal Education (IICLE) volume on appellate practice. He retired from the law in 2019.

He now works as a law clerk for the Illinois Appellate Court,

Fourth District, and also writes fiction.


Most Recent Release

TOPGUN - The Navy's Fighter Weapons School: Fifty Years of Excellence, provides an overview of the School and is best considered a photographic history. If you love the original movie and are looking forward to the release of the sequel, this volume will provide you with a general history of the School and its programs as well as plenty of solid photographs from some of the world's leading military aviation photographers. 

TOPGUN - Fifty Years of Excellence makes a good companion book to help explain more of the background behind the upcoming movie.

Please see the write-up on my book at The Aviation Geek Club - 

All you need to know about today’s TOPGUN: why the US Navy Fighter Weapons School is recognized worldwide as the center of excellence for fighter tactics training - The Aviation Geek Club

Also, see this review: TOPGUN – Brad Elward – Flight Line Book Review (



From The Fighter Pilot Podcast



Now available!

Coming in at 720 pages with over 4,000 footnotes, TOPGUN - The Legacy is the definitive work on the Navy Fighter Weapons School.

Order now at Topgun: The Legacy: The Complete History of Topgun and Its Impact on Tactical Aviation: Elward, Brad: 9780764362545: Books


Media on Brad's book, TOPGUN - The Legacy


Fighter Pilot Podcast - Discusses author background, book writing process, and TOPGUN until 1980


Fighter Pilot Podcast - Discusses TOPGUN since 1980.


Interested in how a book goes from idea to print? Check out my process in the article featured on the Fighter Pilot Podcast page.

Click Here




"Unequivocally the most thorough and authoritative account of the United States Navy Fighter Weapon School (TOPGUN) from its inception in 1968 until today. Equally impressive is how author Brad Elward superbly delves into the infancy of fighter aircraft dogfighting more than half a century before TOPGUN was established. He skillfully leads the reader though decades of developments, innovations, mistakes, and reckonings that defined the fascinating path of naval aviation through the 20th and 21st century. While some readers may be drawn to this epic book because of the storied airplanes and events that define this history, Mr. Elward does an even better job of sharing insights into the people who are unquestionably the crucial ingredient to making TOPGUN what it is today.”


CAPT James Christie, USN (ret), 38th Commander of TOPGUN, 2013-2014.


TOPGUN – The Legacy is an amazing read and the definitive history on the Navy Fighter Weapons School.  Brad has spent countless hours interviewing members of the TOPGUN Staff to get a real feel for the organization and standards of excellence which have been maintained for over 50-years.  Enjoy the read!”

CAPT Dan “Dix” Dixon, USN (ret) – Former NSAWC/N7 (TOPGUN CO), 2001-2003.


"The mission of a TOPGUN instructor is to be an expert in aerial combat, an instructor of instructors, and to perfect the art of teaching and learning.

Brad Elward has written the definitive history of TOPGUN and how its instructors have created one of the world’s most revered institutions.

TOPGUN – The Legacy accurately captures the storied 50-year history of TOPGUN.  Through thousands of hours of interviews with hundreds of TOPGUN instructors, Elward takes the reader through the origins and formation of the school and deep inside the evolution of air combat instruction for naval aviators— TOPGUN – The Legacy is the only book in existence which tells this monumental story.

Elward’s determination to precisely tell TOPGUN’s story matches the same work ethic TOPGUN instructors have used for decades.  It’s a tribute to past TOPGUN instructors who never settled on being good enough, and who’s efforts chronicled in this book will serve as a roadmap for future TOPGUN instructors to forge their own legacy."

LtCol Pat “Kato” Cooke, USMC (Ret.), TOPGUN Instructor & Training Officer (1989-93).  


“While the rest of the country has been mesmerized during these early summer weeks by the Hollywood version of Top Gun, Brad Elward's book capture the real TOPGUN training, aircraft and people that no movie really could. The tome provides all the real history and details about the real school and the pilots in a clear prose that resonates more soundly - and with a more enduring tone - than any fleeting cinematic high jinks.”

Michael Fabey, author of Heavy Metal: The Hard Days and Nights of the Shipyard Workers Who Build America's Supercarriers and Crashback: The Power Clash Between the U.S. and China in the Pacific.


 “The U.S. Navy’s famous TOPGUN — the Naval Fighter Weapons School — hardly needs introduction, given Hollywood’s treatment of the institution. After beginning with a history of fighter tactics, the author focuses on the disappointing kill ratio of Navy pilots over North Vietnam in the mid-1960s and the effort of some visionary aviators to create a school that would train pilots and radar intercept officers in tactics — forgotten earlier as missile-armed jets evolved — and reverse their fortunes in combat. The outstanding results spoke for themselves as Navy fighters ran up the score in 1972. TOPGUN has survived and thrived as the Navy vowed never to forget the basics of aerial combat. In this massive book, the author — who conducted 450 interviews — exhausts his subject with as complete a history of TOPGUN as could be imagined.”

SeaPower Magazine, December 2021.


“This is a thoroughly researched and careful analysis of TOPGUN, the school. The inclusion of former instructor commentary threaded throughout the text lends enormous credence to Elward’s deconstruction of the important moments in the school’s history. This book is the story of TOPGUN like you’ve never seen before with critical and open analysis of key events, machines and the people brought together to achieve great things. Read it cover-to-cover or dip across and in and out, any student or aficionado of aerial warfare will gain enormous insights into the pre-eminent fighter weapons school of the past 50 years, what made it tick and how it evolved through challenge and change. This is a real beauty, a trophy on any bookshelf that will no doubt claim the mantle of go-to text for this incredible story.”

Takis Diakoumis, Flight Line Book Review, April 2022.


World Air Power Journal, Vol. 34 (1998)




Tailhook 2019 in Reno celebrated the 50th Anniversary of TOPGUN.


Tailhook 2018

The author signed a copy of Legacy Hornet for Paul Guse. Hook '18 was a great opportunity to preview my upcoming books and sell copies of the Hornet books.



Brad's Books

All books are available from and directly from the individual book publishers.


 This book is a concise, illustrated history of the US Navy and Marine Corps’ most versatile jet strike fighter, the Boeing F/A-18 A-D Legacy Hornet. Presenting a historical perspective of the Legacy Hornet from its origins through today’s use in the fleet, this edition explores the aircraft’s various model upgrades and variants. The F/A-18 began as a less expensive complement to the Grumman F-14 Tomcat and Grumman A-6 Intruder, and was a replacement for the McDonnell-Douglas F-4 Phantom II and LTV A-7 Corsair II. The Hornet evolved into a capable multi-mission strike fighter, performing fighter, suppression of enemy air defense, and light attack missions.


Schiffer Publishing, 112 pages (2017)

Purchase here.

Legacy Hornet.jpg


The story of how the Super Hornet and Growler came into existence is the focus of this new book. The F/A-18E/F has its roots in the late-1980s Hornet 2000 study, which itself evaluated ways to enhance the range, payload, and bring-back capability of the existing F/A-18 Hornet. Through a series of trade-offs imposed by largely limited defense funds, what emerged was a versatile, affordable strike fighter aircraft that has served the Navy well since its fleet introduction in 2002. The Growler has a similar history. Itself an offshoot of the Super Hornet program, the EA-18G brought many of the Super Hornet's attributes - speed, maneuverability, self-defense capability, and advanced systems - into the electronic attack community and is now posed to assume all such missions from the venerable EA-6B Prowler within the next few years. The book draws on interviews with many of the key players in the F/A-18E/F and EA-18G program and on many press reports of the day to tell the story of how these aircraft were designed, developed, and deployed. Moreover, the book provides insights into the problems faced by these key individuals as well as the management methods they used to produce aircraft that have consistently been delivered at or ahead of schedule, under cost, and under weight.

Schiffer Publishing, 446 pages  (2012).

Purchase here.



For every American fighter pilot involved in the Vietnam War (1965-1973), the ultimate goal was to 'kill a MiG'. In eight years of conflict 43 Vietnamese Peoples Air Force aircraft were claimed by US Navy and US Marine Corps Phantom II crews, and one single ace crew produced. Navy Phantom IIs scored the first kills of the Vietnam War, in April 1965, as well as scoring the last in January 1973. This volume charts the successes of the navy fighter crews as they encountered 'MiGs, Missiles and AAA' over the jungles of North Vietnam.

Osprey Publishing, 96 pages (2001)

Navy F4 MiG Killers Vol I.jpg


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Navu F4 MiG Killers Vol II.jpg


This book provides a unique, illustrated history of the US Navy Fighter Weapons School’s 50-year history. Currently located at Naval Air Station Fallon, Nevada, TOPGUN was formed in late 1968 at Naval Air Station Miramar, California, to create a graduate-level course in fighter tactics for Navy pilots deploying to Vietnam. Before TOPGUN, Navy F-4 Phantom II fighter crews in Vietnam managed only a 2.5:1 kill ratio versus Soviet-built MiG-17 and MiG-21 fighters: after TOPGUN formed, the community tallied a 12.5:1 kill ratio. Since then, TOPGUN has become the standard-bearer of Navy fighter and strike fighter tactics and training and is recognized worldwide as a center of excellence. TOPGUN’s tactics and pilot training are explained, as well as changes and developments throughout the years to the present day. All aircraft flown at TOPGUN since its founding are also shown, including A-4 Skyhawk,T-38A/B Talon, F-5E/F Tiger II, F-16N Viper, F-14A Tomcat, F/A-18 Hornet, F-16A/B Falcon, and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.

Schiffer Publishing, 144 pages (2020).

Purchase here.



The Lockheed S-3 Viking was developed in the late 1960s to serve as a dedicated carrier-based anti-submarine aircraft. Over the years, it evolved into an outstanding surveillance and anti-surface platform, effective not only against submarines but also large and small surface ships. As its nearly 35-year career came to an end in 2009, the Viking also took on the carrier air wing organic tanking requirements, retiring with more than half of its service life remaining. A total of 187 aircraft were built and served in 16 US Navy squadrons. The Viking and its main variant, the highly classified ES-3A Shadow electronic surveillance aircraft, played a key role in the Cold War and in the conflicts of the 1990s. This book is one of the few publications to tell the Viking story and is packed with photos and detailed line drawings, all depicting the aircraft’s weapons, paint schemes, sensors and interior. It also provides an overview of some of the more significant variants that were studied, but never fully pursued, such as the Carrier On-Board Delivery (COD) and dedicated (KS) refueling variants. It also discusses the aircraft’s role in Operation Desert Storm and how the lessons learned from that conflict impacted the Viking’ mission during the latter part of the 1990s and early 2000s.

Squadron Signal Publications, 80 pages (2012)

S3 Viking.jpg


A short history of the early carriers of the Cold War - before the Nimitz and Ford class nuclear carriers - featuring discussions and photos of the Forrestal, Kitty Hawk, Kennedy, and Enterprise.

Osprey Publishing, 48 pages (2014)

Cold War Carriers.jpg


A short history and photos of the Nimitz class aircraft carriers, covering the USS Nimitz (CVN 68) through USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77).

Osprey Publishing, 48 pages (2010)



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