“I don’t know anything about flying airplanes.”
Christine Fox, Kelly McGillis’ inspiration for her character in “Top Gun,” has been named acting deputy defense secretary by President Obama, which makes her the highest ranking woman ever at the U.S. Defense Department, according to Yahoo News.
She is “a brilliant defense thinker and proven manager,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said.
Fox left the Pentagon earlier this year for a job as a senior adviser at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. While Hagel searches for her replacement, Fox will assume the acting deputy role.
Fox is the former director of the Defense Department’s Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation office. While in that position, she helped tackle the nearly $1 trillion in projected defense cuts aimed at the Pentagon.
“There needs to be a serious national dialogue on what a sensible, sustainable and strategically sound defense budget looks like,” she wrote in September.
Her bio on the Defence Department’s website also reveals that she “oversaw [the Center for Naval Analyses] analysis of real-world operations, including the operations in Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990s, the operation in Afghanistan in response to the September 11 attacks, and the operation in Iraq in early 2003.”
However, despite all of her accomplishments, her role as a civilian mathematician at the San Diego Naval base in the 1980’s is what inspired the producers of “Top Gun” (Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer) to create Charlotte “Charlie” Blackwood, Tom Cruise’s love interest and astrophysicist in the popular 1986 movie.
Despite what the movie portrays, Fox rarely interacted with pilots.
“I don’t know anything about flying airplanes,” Fox said. “But I know a lot about the guy in the back seat — his mission, his radar and his missiles.”
She also rarely felt any sparks with the men. “The fact that I know so much about what these guys are doing every day and they come in and talk to me about it — ‘Why is my radar doing this?’ — changes the relationship. It takes some of the romance out.”
Fighter pilots, however, did have a nickname for Fox: “Legs.” It never seemed to bother her.
“The reason it doesn’t bother me is that it doesn’t interfere with the work,” Fox said. “It’s just part of an attitude all aviators subscribe to, something they adopt as soon as they join the fighter community. If that prevented them from coming over and asking for help, then it would be a disaster. Anyway, I make fun of them for being macho creeps sometimes.”
“She’s so professional that her looks don’t become a point of interest,” Commander Harry Hunter told People Magazine in a 1985 profile piece. “When she walks in you say ‘wow,’ but 30 seconds later you’re talking business.”
Fox replaces Ashton Carter, who is stepping down Wednesday.
image via: U.S. Department of Defense