Former Navy Capt. Ronald E. "Mugs" McKeown, a decorated fighter pilot who was the first commanding officer of the elite Top Gun academy, died Nov. 21 in a Hillcrest care facility. The cause was complications associated with Parkinson’s disease. He was 76.
Mr. McKeown, whose boxing prowess earned him the nickname "Mugs," was chosen to command the newly commissioned Navy Fighter Weapons School, popularly known as Top Gun, in 1972. The training school began informally just two years earlier in a converted trailer at the former Naval Air Station Miramar to teach Vietnam War pilots air-to-air combat tactics necessary to defeat MIG attacks. He was one of the program’s first instructors.
Taking command of the program allowed him to teach jet pilots the tactics he had been honing for years.
He took part in the first air strikes against North Vietnam in 1964, flying F-8U Crusader and F-4B Phantom aircraft. While on deployment, he was chosen for test pilot and astronaut training and went on to serve as chief test pilot and tactics manager of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron Four. There, he was in charge of engineering changes to the radar-homing Sparrow missile, developed tactical maneuvers for the F-4 Phantom, and gained invaluable cockpit knowledge flying Soviet-built MIG fighter planes.
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Hat tip Brenden