In early 1997, Carowinds began consultations with Swiss roller coaster manufacturer Bolliger & Mabillard about adding a new ride to the park. During 18 months of discussions, several designs and themes for the ride were developed, including theming it to the Godzilla franchise. In July 1998, the park announced the addition of Top Gun: The Jet Coaster for the 1999 season. At a cost of $10.5 million, it would be the single biggest investment in the park's history. The ride opened on March 20, 1999.
Top Gun: The Jet Coaster became Afterburn in 2008 after the park was sold to Cedar Fair in 2006. For the 2014 season, Afterburn was repainted.
Afterburn stands 113 feet tall, has a drop of 125 feet and reaches speeds of 62 mph. It features a 2,956 foot track layout and a nearly three-minute-long ride time. It also has six inversions, including a batwing. The other inverted coaster with this element is Montu at Busch Gardens Tampa. Afterburn has generally been well received, having been featured several times as a top 50 roller coaster in the Amusement Today Golden Ticket Awards.
Before dispatching, "Clear for Takeoff" will be occasionally heard. After rolling out of the station, the train climbs the 113 foot tall chain lift hill. At the top, riders drop 125 feet to the right, reaching a max speed of 62 mph. Then, the train moves through a 90 foot tall vertical loop. Riders head into a small ravine, which leads into an immelmann. The train flips into a zero-g roll underneath the chain lift hill. After this, riders approach a batwing with a tunnel in between. Following the batwing, the train goes through an airtime hill. Riders whip through a corkscrew, before heading into a helix. The helix is followed by the final brake run. After a right turn, the train heads back into the station.
2 trains with 8 cars per train. In each car, riders are arranged 4 across in a single row, for a total of 32 riders per train.