Tom Cruise has had a need for speed for more than 30 years. But now he's finally getting back in the sky for "Top Gun: Maverick," sequel to the 1986 hit "Top Gun." Production just started for its July 2019 release in theaters.

Cruise has been talking about this sequel forever. Even after he revealed the official title last year -- and said filming would likely begin in "the next year" -- and Paramount gave us a release date ... it still didn't feel real.

Now it does.

Cruise teased a photo from "Day 1," taking us right back on that highway to the danger zone:

That loving feeling is rushing back!

Look at Tom Cruise. We just can't quit him. Here he is at 55-years-old -- 56 on July 3. His "Mission: Impossible -- Fallout" looks genuinely amazing and comes out this July. And then next July he has his long-discussed "Top Gun" sequel.

He'd better still be in good enough shape for some serious running scenes, even as a hotshot fighter pilot, or we'll feel let down.

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