The Pentagon's New Top Woman Inspired Kelly McGillis' Top Gun Role

Christine Fox is set to become the highest-ranking woman in the history of the Department of Defense tomorrow. She is unquestionably uber-qualified—and what's more, her review of Maverick's flight performance was spot on.

Fox is slated to act as deputy secretary of defense, the No. 2 role at the Pentagon, until a permanent successor to the outgoing Ashton Carter is named. It's the culmination of a long and respected career as a naval analyst. But Foreign Policy's profile of Fox this morning reminded readers of another entry on her CV: She was the inspiration for Charlie, the tough-talking ground instructor who fell for Tom Cruise in Top Gun.

It's true, according to a gushy (and gender-norming) 1985 story from People magazine. Fox, a mathematician by training, was a think-tanker detailed to improve the curriculum at the Navy's Fighter Weapons School:

High heels in the hallway. Softer than a sonic boom, less penetrating than an F-14 afterburner, the footsteps of 6' Christine Fox, 30, nevertheless carry the impact of a preemptive strike. "They always know when I'm coming," she says with a sigh, "because I'm one of the few people around here whose heels click."

One of the senior instructors at Top Gun insisted that Fox was a consummate professional—nothing like Kelly McGillis' movie character, getting caught up in unduly familiar relationships with the students: "She's so professional that her looks don't become a point of interest. When she walks in you say 'wow,' but 30 seconds later you're talking business." Another senior instructor gave Fox her naval aviator call sign: "Legs."

Now, they'll call her "ma'am."

Here's Fox today:

The Pentagon's New Top Woman Inspired Kelly McGillis' Top Gun Role

[Photo credits: Paramount; DOD]