Sitting Duck YKTTW Discussion

Sitting Duck
(permanent link) added: 2011-02-27 17:40:45 sponsor: AFP (last reply: 2011-03-06 01:19:41)

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Londo Molari: Your ships are very impressive in the air, or in space, but at this moment, they are on the ground.

What do the Cool Ship, Cool Starship, and Cool Plane all have in common? They are at their most vulnerable when in docked in port or while parked on the ground. A savvy enemy can use the element of surprise to sucker punch an enemy, even a numerically or technically superior enemy, before they can bring their forces into play. Methods for this can range from Fireships to attack planes or a long range missile attack.

The Trope name comes from a hunting phrase referring to ducks sitting on the water, often considered to be off limits until they take flight. Due to its applicability, the phrase was adopted in the military aviation community to refer to airplanes that had not had a chance to take off, although of course very few pilots have a problem with destroying an enemy plane before it can get in the air.

Exploiting this trope is a favored tactic of the Combat Pragmatist.


Anime and Manga
  • In Martian Successor Nadesico, the Jovian Lizards hit the Nadesico while it's landed to pick up survivors of the invasion of Mars, giving Yurika the Sadistic Choice of turning on the ships' Deflector Shields - crushing the refugees beneath it - or letting the attack destroy the Nadesico (likely killing most of the refugees when it crashed in flames). She chooses the former, but not without some angsting.


  • Clive Cussler's The Mediterranean Caper. A World War I biplane strafes a U.S. Air Force base and destroys a number of F-105 Starfire jet fighters and C-133 Cargomasters while they're helpless on the ground.

Live-Action Television
  • Babylon 5: Londo's Crowning Moment of Awesome was when he invoked this trope on The Shadow base on Centauri Prime.
    • Earlier, Captain Sheridan attempted to invoke this trope on a Shadow Battlecrab on the Jovian moon of Ganymede, but arrived just in time to see the ship launch and destroy the facilities there.

Tabletop Games
  • Task Force Games
    • Several Star Fleet Battles scenarios involved ships being caught by surprise attacks while in orbit or docked to a space station. The scenario usually had rules for "powering up" ship systems so the ships could fight.
    • Starfire scenario "The Paurl Harbor Raid". Rigellian carriers smashed Khanate battleships "at anchor" in Paurl Harbor, an obvious Shout-Out to "Pearl Harbor".

Video Games
  • In Aero Fighters Assault, one of the bonus mission has you protecting your Airborne Aircraft Carrier from enemy attacks while it's refueling.
  • Secret Weapons Of The Luftwaffe
    • One hypothetical German mission is attacking an Allied bomber base in Britain and destroying the B-17's on the ground before they can take off.
    • Another mission involved taking off while your airbase was under attack and fighting off the enemy planes.
  • The first German campaign mission in Red Baron was being on the receiving end of one of these. You had to get your plane into the air while your airbase was being strafed by attacking Allied planes.

Real Life
  • The Japanese raids on Pearl Harbor and the Philippines, catching the American Pacific Fleet and the hundreds of planes based on Oahu flat-footed, is quite possibly the Trope Codifier. Although the Imperial Japanese Navy admittedly failed in their primary objective, the destruction of the American carriers, it was still a punishing blow for the unprepared American forces, and it would be six months before the Allies could finally regain the initiative and start pushing the Japanese back.
  • Operation Focus was the opening airstrike by Israel at the start of the Six-Day War of 1967. At 07:45 on June 5, 1967, the Israeli Air Force launched a massive airstrike that destroyed the majority of the Egyptian air force on the ground. By noon, the Egyptian, Jordanian and Syrian Air Forces, with about 450 aircraft, were destroyed.

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