->''"Your ships are very impressive in the air, or in space, [[DangerouslyGenreSavvy but at this moment]], [[MagnificentBastard they are on the ground]]."''
-->-- '''Londo Mollari''', ''Series/BabylonFive''

What do the CoolShip, CoolStarship, and CoolPlane all have in common? They are all at their most vulnerable when in docked in port or while parked on the ground. This is a state of vulnerability that pretty much everyone and everything has to accept at some point, as personnel need food and sleep, ships need maintenance, and nobody has found a way to keep a plane in the sky indefinitely yet. 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 [[MolotovTruck Fireships]] to [[DeathFromAbove attack planes]] or a [[MacrossMissileMassacre long range missile attack.]]

Of course, it's also possible to be placed in this position because your ship was badly damaged in a ''previous'' fight, and the enemy is coming back to finish you off before you can finish your repairs.

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 been caught on the ground, although of course very few pilots have a problem with destroying an enemy plane before it can get airborne.

Historically, a combat pilot would get no credit for destroying an enemy plane while it was still on the ground, until the Americans began to grant credit for such kills during WorldWarII[[note]]It was decided that it was better to destroy a German fighter on the ground rather than risk letting it take down an American bomber or two in the air later.[[/note]]. It was theoretically possible to become an ace by only destroying planes on the ground, although German airfields tended to be very heavily defended by [[MoreDakka anti-aircraft batteries]] that could do wonders for shortening your flying career.

Exploiting this trope is a favored tactic of the CombatPragmatist, and a favored method of preventing the FighterLaunchingSequence.

NotToBeConfusedWith ''[[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sitting_Ducks Sitting Ducks]]'', which was inspired by the same idiom that this Trope draws its name from.

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!!Examples:

[[foldercontrol]]

[[folder: Anime And Manga ]]

* In ''MartianSuccessorNadesico'', the Jovian Lizards hit the Nadesico while it's landed to pick up survivors of the invasion of Mars, giving Yurika the SadisticChoice of turning on the ships' DeflectorShields - 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.
* The Wolf Pack arc of ''{{Area 88}}'' focuses on a mercenary group who destroy most of the planes at Area 88 while they're on the ground.
* In the second episode of ''[[Franchise/SentouYouseiYukikaze Yukikaze]]'', the titular [[AIIsACrapshoot plane]] suddenly and inexplicably opens fire on an entire row of FAF planes parked at Tactical Air Base 15, causing the FAF top brass to recall Yukikaze and have it brought in for system checks. [[spoiler: Turns out it was a good thing it did, as those planes had been sabotaged by enemy infiltrators, and Yukikaze was also attempting to kill the infiltrators that were present on the airstrip.]]

[[/folder]]

[[folder: Comic Books ]]

* ''[[ComicBook/GIJoeARealAmericanHeroMarvel G.I. Joe Special Missions]]'' #3: The Joes bomb the planes of a {{Qurac}} style nation while they are still on the ground. This mission also serves as cover for another Joe team to steal a new Russian fighter from the base.

[[/folder]]

[[folder: Film ]]

* ''Film/PearlHarbor'' and ''ToraToraTora'', obviously. In ''ToraToraTora'', one of the American commanders is GenreSavvy enough to have some of his planes dispersed to various auxiliary airstrips to avoid keeping all of his eggs in one basket. Otherwise, he is bound by his orders to gather the planes together in the middle of the airfields to protect them from saboteurs, which plays directly into the Japanese attack plan.
* ''Film/RedTails'': The German aircraft when Easy, Lightning, Joker, and Junior follow [[NicknamingTheEnemy Pretty Boy]] back to his base.
* ''Film/SkyCaptainAndTheWorldOfTomorrow''. Dr. Totenkopf's robot aircraft catch Sky Captain's planes on the ground (and in their hangers), almost completely wiping them out. Only Sky Captain's plane manages to get off the ground.

[[/folder]]

[[folder: Literature ]]

* Clive Cussler's ''The Mediterranean Caper''. A WorldWarI 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.
* Admiral Leighton launches a raid on a the Spanish harbor of Rosas, in order to attack and sink a squadron of damaged French warships while they attempted to make repairs in the HoratioHornblower novel ''Flying Colours''.
* ''Literature/HonorHarrington'' had several examples of this trope, typically against complacent pickets in systems that were considered unlikely to be attacked. Generally speaking, the ships on the receiving end had to be drifting with cold nodes, preventing them from getting a [[DeflectorShields wedge or sidewalls]] up in time to defend themselves.
** In ''Mission Of Honor'', [[spoiler: The Manticore and Grayson home systems]] get cold-cocked by an unexpected new enemy, in the [[WhamEpisode single most one-sided engagement of the series.]] Just after [[TemptingFate they had decided that things looked as if they would come out on top.]]
* One of [[CombatPragmatist Wedge Antilles's]] favored tricks during the Literature/XWingSeries is to take out an enemy's air force while it's still on the ground. In ''Wraith Squadron'', he orders a commando strike that destroys the launch tubes for the enemy's underground hangars, keeping a third of their fighters from participating in the final battle. In ''Starfighters of Adumar'', he performs the same feat on a much larger scale during the invasion of Cartaan; knowing his enemy will attempt a noon-time bombing run, he attacks at dawn; while the enemy's fighters can get in the air, their multiple-crew vehicles, including their ''Meteor''-class [[AntiAir point defense]] [[GiantMook heavy gunships]] are still on the ground when his bombers arrive. His proteges in Wraith Squadron use the trick again in ''Mercy Kill'', destroying six out of the enemy's eight ready fighters (they have ''[[UnwittingPawn plans]]'' for the other two) as the first act of their final plan.

[[/folder]]

[[folder: Live Action Television ]]

* ''Series/BlackSheepSquadron'': {{Lampshaded}} by the narrator in one episode to show how a particular new pilot was both [[TooDumbToLive very foolish]] ''and'' very good. He attempted to take off while being strafed by Japanese Zeroes, and somehow managed to get up in the air AND get behind the planes that had just been flying behind him trying to shoot him up. He still gets [[WhatTheHellHero chewed out]] for trying that to begin with.
* ''Series/BabylonFive'':
** Londo's CrowningMomentOfAwesome was when he invoked this trope on [[spoiler: The Shadow base on Centauri Prime.]]
** Prior to his arriving on Babylon 5, Captain Sheridan's own crowning moment was his defeat of the Minbari warship ''Black Star'', despite his ship being a SittingDuck (having been crippled by the ''Black Star'' in a previous attack), via some previously placed nuclear bombs in an AsteroidThicket.
** Later on, Captain Sheridan attempted to invoke this trope on a Shadow [[FanNickname Battlecrab]] on [[spoiler: the Jovian moon of Ganymede]], but arrived just in time to see the ship launch and destroy the facilities there.
* In ''Series/{{Crusade}}'', the heroes had to be mindful of the fact that using the ''Excalibur's'' WaveMotionGun rendered the ship helpless for a short period of time, due to the power drain required to use the weapon.
* In the pilot for ''Series/BuckRogersInTheTwentyFifthCentury'', by DressingAsTheEnemy, Buck is able to put [[BananaInTheTailpipe bombs in the tailpipes]] of almost all of the Draconian attack fighters while they are preparing to launch.
* Used in both series of ''Franchise/{{Battlestar Galactica}}'', in different ways. In the [[Series/BattlestarGalacticaClassic original series]], the Cylons planned to attack the ''[[TheBattlestar Galactica]]'' while all of her pilots were being honored at a party on the planet Carillon. Fortunately, Commander Adama was far too GenreSavvy to let that happen, and came up with a BatmanGambit of his own.
** In [[{{Series/BattleStarGalacticaReimagined}} the reboot series]], the Cylons were able to ''[[TheComputerIsACheatingBastard invoke]]'' this trope via a computer virus that [[EverythingIsOnline remotely shut down all of the Colonial fleet's systems]], leaving their ships adrift in space at the [[CurbstompBattle worst possible moment]].

[[/folder]]

[[folder: Tabletop Games ]]

* Task Force Games
** Several ''StarFleetBattles'' 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 ShoutOut to "Pearl Harbor".

[[/folder]]

[[folder: Video Games ]]

* In ''AeroFighters Assault'', one of the bonus mission has you protecting your AirborneAircraftCarrier from enemy attacks while it's refueling.
* ''SecretWeaponsOfTheLuftwaffe''
** 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 ''VideoGame/RedBaron'' 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.
* An available tactic in a few missions of RogueSquadron.
* If you get into a Japanese harbor in Silent Hunter 4 you can often find a lot of enemy ships that are this.
* ''{{AceCombat}}'' has the player take out bombers or other aircraft on the ground from time to time. Attacking ships at anchor also shows up occasionally.
** Also makes the player the subject of this trope a few times, with ''you'' being the sitting duck after being on the recieving end of a surprise attack on your base or needing to refuel mid-combat. Slowly taxiing to the runway while fuel trucks and hangars are bombed to oblivion around you is one of the most intense scenes in the game.
* In the Virmire mission of ''[[VideoGame/MassEffect1 Mass Effect]]'', one way you can help your allies against Saren's base is destroying his fighters when they come in to rearm.
** It features heavily in the [[spoiler: Reapers']] plan to [[TakeOverTheWorld Take Over The Galaxy]] [[spoiler: Again]]. By attacking the Citadel first [[spoiler: through its built-in mass relay]], they can make sitting ducks out of both the Fleet ''and'' the Council with one fell swoop.
** In ''VideoGame/MassEffect2'', the ''Normandy'' is disabled by a computer virus and then [[spoiler: boarded by the Collectors.]]
* In several ''VideoGame/{{Civilization}}'' games and ''SidMeiersAlphaCentauri'', ships in port in a city/base under attack receive a negative modifier to their defense, reflecting this trope.
* In the VideoGame/{{Halo}} series, all Covenant spacecraft have DeflectorShields that reduce humanity's [[MacrossMissileMassacre Archer missiles]] into a WorfBarrage. Once they go down for whatever reason, those same missiles prove to be quite effective. In particular, the first mission in the fourth game has the player shred an entire cruiser with a measly two missile pods.
* In ''VideoGame/{{Xenonauts}}'', approaching a landed UFO is a very tricky and dangerous business, but if it works out, its as good as yours.
* As GDI in ''VideoGame/CommandAndConquerTiberiumWars'', you are told to infiltrate and then attack a Nod Weapons depot before they can deploy their tanks against you. Which is a good thing, as the sheer mass of tanks takes up a quarter of the map. However, They aren't crewed, so you get some satisfying target practice after the pain it is to [[ThatOneLevel infiltrate the base in the first place]].
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Real Life ]]

* The Japanese raids on [[WorldWarII Pearl Harbor and the Philippines]], catching the American Pacific Fleet and the hundreds of planes based on Oahu (bunched together to prevent sabotage) flat-footed as big easy targets for the Japanese to destroy, is quite possibly the TropeCodifier. Although the Imperial Japanese Navy failed in their ''primary'' objective, the destruction of the American carriers, and [[AwakeningTheSleepingGiant contributed to the US entering the war]], it was a punishing blow for the unprepared American forces. It would be six months before the Allies could regain the initiative and start pushing the Japanese back.
** The Japanese attack on the Philippine Islands had similar results, for a slightly different reason: The Americans scrambled their planes upon hearing about the attack on Oahu, but the expected Japanese air attack didn't arrive until many of the American planes landed to refuel.
** The US Navy got its revenge at the Battle of Midway, where American bombers caught the Japanese carriers right as they were getting ready to launch the next wave of their own attack aircraft. All four of these carriers had participated in the attack on Pearl Harbor, and all four were sunk during the battle (at the cost of the ''USS Yorktown'').
** The German Luftwaffe's victories over the Polish, French and Soviet air forces early in WWII were mostly from destroying enemy planes on the ground, rather than in the air.
* Earlier in WorldWarII, HMS Royal Oak was lying at anchor in Scapa Flow on October 14, 1939 when it was torpedoed by a U-Boat.
* Operation Focus was the opening airstrike by Israel at the start of the [[ArabIsraeliConflict Six-Day War of 1967]]. At 07:45 on June 5, 1967, the Israeli Air Force launched a massive airstrike, using very nearly every airworthy plane they had, which 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, allowing the Israelis to enjoy air supremacy for the entire war.
* UsefulNotes/ThePeloponnesianWar ended when the Spartans found the whole Athenian fleet beached and their crew ashore foraging.
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