Armored Coffins

"We agreed that Russian Jaegers would have no ejection system. They win or die."

In the world of mecha/dogfight fiction, one thing noticeable about the mechs is this: No Ejection Seat is built into the mech or fighter, and every battle you fight in must be seen through to the end. If you fail or get captured, see to it you do not leave behind any trace of your existence.

The Armored Coffin speaks of mechs or jet fighters or any type of war machine that forbids mid-battle retreat by design or otherwise present a particularly notable danger to those operating it. Substitute 'flying' for 'armoured' in some cases if it bothers you.

See Self-Destruct Mechanism for when the thing takes itself out enough so its tech cannot be discovered by the enemy. For another typical cause of dead tank crew in fiction (and related to the another more common use for the phrase), see Tanks for Nothing.

In-Vehicle Invulnerability (where the pilot is invulnerable until their vehicle is destroy) is in some ways the opposite, but both may be in effect at once.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Older Gundam series have this, without any real way of escaping from an exploding mobile suit.
    • Averted with any mobile suit using the Core Block system (yes, this includes the Impulse Gundam from Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny), and thus has a Core Fighter. The original Gundam's Core Fighter was designed primarily as a method for preserving valuable combat data should any of the Project V mobile suits be put out of commission. That the pilot would also be saved by this system was considered merely a side benefit: the combat data was what mattered, the pilot's job after ejecting would be to fly back to base so that the data could be preserved.
    • The Zeong from the end of the original series also averted this: being as big as it was, they were able to mount the cockpit inside the head rather than the chest, thus allowing for a system for it to detach from the rest of the suit and function as an escape pod.
    • Also averted in the second season of Mobile Suit Gundam 00 - some of the Innovade mobile suits have the cockpit attached to the back which can be ejected and flown away.
    • The RB-79 Ball was derisively known to Federation Pilots as the "Mobile Coffin" since it was just a Pod with rudimentary armor and a cannon.
    • The Prototype Mobile Suit Forbidden Blue from Gundam SEED's MSV design series was intended for amphibious combat, using the original Forbidden's energy deflection system to mitigate the water pressure; however, this was its only means of resisting the pressure, meaning that if it lost power the suit would be crushed, earning it the nickname "Forbidden Vortex". Its upgrades, the Deep Forbidden and Forbidden Vortex, rectified this by adding a reinforced titanium shell around the cockpit pod.
    • Both play straight and subverted in Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans, while there are escape pods for the Schwalbe Graze, it doesn't protect the pilots from being impaled by melee weapons. And for the mass produced Graze and Gundam Frame suits, escape pods are completely non-existent.
  • Averted in Patlabor, where, being in a Real Robot setting, people build in ejection seats. In the second movie, however, one of them jams in a warzone, leaving the pilot to die.
  • Averted in Xabungle. Walker Machines are basically trucks with legs, and are just as vulnerable. The kicker, of course, is that not only does this make them easier to escape, but a ridiculously high percentage of the pilots live to talk about it; despite being a Yoshiyuki Tomino show, pretty much only named pilots run a risk of dying.
  • ATs in Armored Trooper VOTOMS are nicknamed 'steel coffins' in-universe for enough reasons that any sane safety board really wouldn't let them anywhere near a battlefield.
  • The Lancelot in Code Geass doesn't have an ejection system, because Lloyd was too busy installing everything else he could think of into it. Suzaku thus has to rely on its supreme technological advantage, because he's not walking away from a fight otherwise. Ironic considering that Knightmare Frames were developed from Escape Pods with legs and every other one has an ejection system.
    • It fits him well in the second season as all the other Knights of the Round also lack ejection systems in their Knightmares. Knights of the Round are expected to either return with their machine intact, or die in it. The Lancelot itself is finally equipped with an escape device when C.C. takes it over, as she certainly isn't willing to risk herself (although being an immortal she'd survive anyway, albeit painfully). The Lancelot Albion, as a Knights of the Round unit, also seemingly lacks one except it does have one, so Suzaku can fake his death as per Zero Requiem, timing his ejection as the machine explodes just right so nobody sees it and assumes him killed.
    • Speaking of C.C., Lelouch's Gawain from the first season is another rare example of a Knightmare without an ejection system. In the final battle of the season, C.C. went solo against Jeremiah's Siegfried and dragged the latter down to the bottom of the ocean. When the second season rolled around, Word of God said that C.C. escaped by opening the cockpit and floating to the surface as the water pressure killed her multiple times, and they couldn't actually show this on TV because it was far too gruesome.
  • Averted in Starship Girl Yamamoto Yohko all the ships the character use have a built in teleporter which teleports the pilot out of the ship when it's about to be destroyed.

    Comic Books 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Pacific Rim:
    • Mark 1 Jaegers tend to stop functioning only in ways that either directly or indirectly kill the pilots. Later models have ejectors, but only one destroyed mech in the entire movie gets to actually use them; all the others go down in ways that preclude ejection, from having a Kaiju rip the cockpit out with its teeth to setting off a nuclear bomb strapped to the back.
    • Russian Jaegers are designed to be like this. While other countries' Jaegers have an escape mechanism, it's a general rule for Russian pilots that if their Jaeger goes down, so do they.
  • In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Iron Man suits are utterly dependent on their arc-reactor and have no inherent fail-safes. In Captain America: Civil War, War Machine's arc reactor is damaged at several thousand feet up, leaving him locked in a lifeless and blind suit as it screams towards the ground at terminal velocity.

    Tabletop Games 
  • BattleTech is a notable aversion, as most pilots will survive the destruction of their 'Mech even if they have to ride it down when it goes over, and all 'Mechs are equipped with sophisticated automatic ejection systems in the event of ammunition explosion or reactor containment loss. Similarly, since their armor is ablative, most suits of power armor can be reduced to failing wrecks that daylight can be seen through, but you still have to take one more shot to kill the person wearing it. Aerospace fighters have reliable ejection systems as well, though recovery has to be on hand if the pilot bails out in space.
    • ProtoMechs are highly Armored Coffins. They are often too slow to retreat even if they wished to, and destruction of the machine is destruction of the pilot.
    • However, the Spider light mech, is an infamous death trap because it has no ejection system. To get out in combat, the pilot must physically climb out of the control chair (no easy task while wearing a 10 pound Neurohelmet) in the tiny cabin, and climb through the hatch mounted below the armored glass.
    • Similarly, early in its service-life the Lucifer aerospace fighter went through a redesign to repair major structural flaws, and one of the ‘fixes’ required deleting the ejection system. Given that the type ended up spending more than five centuries as the Lyran Commonwealth’s mainstay medium fighter, one can only imagine how many pilots ended their careers (and lives) helplessly careening off into deep space as a result.
    • It's worth noting that a MechWarrior can always turn his or her machine into an example of this trope by simply disabling the automatic ejection mechanism (more common since the advent of explosion-mitigating CASE for the ammo bins made it more likely that the 'Mech itself would survive) and then overstaying his or her welcome (even a vented explosion is rough on the pilot and combines with damage from other sources to knock out and possibly even kill him or her).
    • This is also one of the downsides of conventional combat vehicles in the game and setting. Simply put, by default 'Mechs and fighters have ejection seats...and tanks and helicopters don't.
    • The Clan Hunchback IIC is designed to be this, it has meager armor and poor endurance, as they are usually piloted by older solahma warriors (above 35) so they can die in the next fight. Its even shaped like a coffin with arms and legs.
  • Rifts does the exact opposite when it comes to Powered Armor: any weapon powerful enough to penetrate it is more than powerful enough to reduce the wearer to pinkish mist after doing so.
    • It should also be noted that while most mechs and vehicles lacked an ejection system, they usually had their pilot's compartments armored, so the crew could still survive their machine's destruction.
  • Implied in Warhammer 40,000, where an ejection seat is actually an upgrade for an Imperial or Tau airplane, which suggests their basic planes aren't equipped with them. Chaos plays this straight since most of their aircraft are piloted by Servitors hard-wired into the cockpit, but we have no confirmation either way when it comes to the Eldar.
    • Also similarly implied for Tau battlesuits, where an ejection seat is again an optional upgrade.
    • Taken to literal extremes with the Space Marine Dreadnoughts, whose pilots are crippled veterans who are too broken to fight alongside their brothers but too valuable to simply allow to waste away. The resulting Walking Tank is just the life-support sarcophagus with some extra armor, legs, and weapons; there wouldn't be much point to having an Ejection Seat.
    • Imperial Guard Sentinels are Chicken Walkers that are usually "armored" to such an extent that they are vulnerable to mere small-arms, and frequently designed with an open canopy. They are usually used for reconnaissance or search-and-destroy, missions which hardly ensures they won't be fired on. A common fan joke is friction ensuing about Sentinel pilots regarding their machines as walking coffins with an above-mentioned Dreadnought in their midst.
    • Ork pilots, on the other hand, have no such problems: the only reason an ork would install an Ejection Seat is to have an extra rokkit close by, and being in a screaming hunk of metal blazing by at quasi-sonic speeds spitting death and smoke can only be improved by being on fire. The only problem is getting them back on the ground, where there's no one to shoot and speed is limited to walking.
    • Ork Killa Kans, smeller versions of their Deff Dreads use gretchin as pilots. Here, they're intended to be sealed in for life, requiring the services of a mek (to hook the grot up to the interfaces) and a dok (to hook up the life-support system). Obviosly, the grots aren't made aware of their fate, but once they figure it out, the joys of finally being bigger than the orks (and indeed, most of their enemies) means they need to be corralled for everyone's safety. Not that there aren't problems anyway...
    Ork mek identifying the cause of the kan not moving: Musta nailed in the little feller upside down.
    • Imperial Titans, despite having a forward mounted head unit that act as the cockpit, lack ejection systems as well. This is for two reasons. First, the main pilot (the princeps) is usually neurally wired into the Titan and thus violently ejecting him from the cockpit will usually kill him via brain damage anyways. Second, Titans are usually durable enough that nothing short of a core meltdown (or taking out the pilot) will put it down, and when these things go nuclear they can craterize entire cities, even the smaller titans.

    Video Games 
  • In Armored Core, adding to The Spartan Way training given to Ravens/LYNX, all ACs/NEXTs do not have any sort of ejection pods. In Armored Core 5 this is averted since you bail out if you mech goes out of commission (in multiplayer, at least).
  • In Front Mission, the Vampires — a black ops branch of the B-Organization - have their wanzers set up for complete destruction to cover any trace of their relations to their employer.
  • Star Wars' TIE Fighters might or might not be examples. Imperial pilots (unlike their Rebel counterparts) wear spacesuits, so very simple ejection seats would let them survive their fighters being destroyed; but does the Empire provide them? Either way of thinking, "expensive pilots, cheap fighters" or "disposable fighters for disposable pilots", would be in-character for the Empire.
    • Some of the older videogames make it clear that ejection seats are normally provided. Since most fights happen within Imperial space and with superior resources, pilots are supposed to eject if necessary, to be picked up after the fight is over.
    • The various Expanded Universe sources show that it varies whether TIE Fighters have ejection seats. Originally they all lacked them, as the designers went to extremes to reduce weight for increased speed and agility. Eventually it became common to add ejection seats, as this didn't actually add much weight, the relatively spacious spherical cockpit gave plenty of room to do so, and just a slight improvement to the engines would offset the added weight.
  • All the planes in Ace Combat 3: Electrosphere are piloted via a so-called COFFIN system, which is a kind of neural interface that allows you to steer them with your brain but has no ejection seats whatsoever.
  • In Metroid, Space Pirate boarding pods are referred to as "Space Coffins"; they only let you out if successful. Scanning one gets you some more detail. The boarding pods are really just large metal containers with explosives at one end, designed to go off when the pods hits the targeted ship. However, there are also many times were the explosives go off too late, too early, or not at all.
  • The assault pods from Quake II. How they are used? Take a few hundred of them, put a marine in each, seal the can, and let them swarm the enemy's base or planet, hoping that at least a few will survive the anti-aircraft fire. The whole thing is aptly named "Operation Overlord" at the end of the Strogg War.
  • Averted in Steel Battalion, where you can manually eject (via a big, red, molly-guarded button). If you don't, then you technically "died", eliminating any and all progress you made prior to the point of your destruction.
  • FreeSpace has never hinted at the existence of ejection systems on its fighters, and tactical retreats are rare in the game. For most ships and fighters, once committed to the field it is do or die.
  • Averted in the MechWarrior series, the mech simulator set in the BattleTech universe. All mechs have built-in ejection seats, which the player can activate in some games though in all but the Mercenaries titles it is functionally a suicide button. Played with in Living Legends; while ejection is normally enabled on all vehicles, the Solaris Arena deathmatch mode disables the ejection seat on all mechs, forcing pilots to see combat through to the bitter end. The only way to get out of a mech in Solaris Arena is to power down and climb out.
  • Zig-zagged in Titanfall: Pilots die instantly if still in a Titan when it's fully disabled because Defeat Equals Explosion, but this happens after spending some time in a "doomed" state where the pilot can use their Ejection Seat. A pilot can put off ejection to try to do more damage, but besides the obvious risk of still being inside the Titan when it blows up (which further damage accelerates) they're then vulnerable to a Termination melee attack from enemy Titans that will destroy the Pilot and Titan simultaneously. When a Titan is not in a doomed state, doing any damage to the Pilot is impossible. Of the equippable Titan abilities, one that you start with is Auto-Eject, which forces you to eject a few seconds into a doomed state, but makes you immune to Termination and cloaks you after ejection so you don't get shot out of the air. Then the only thing that can kill a Pilot while still in their Titan is instant death by Nuclear Ejection or standing under an enemy Titanfall.
  • All aircraft in the Command & Conquer series lack ejection mechanisms, with the only exceptions being some USA craft in Generals. Even those don't always work.
  • Mentioned in War Thunder's "The Battle is ON!" trailer, though in-game you can always bail out of aircraft. The trailer shows the defiant last moments of a B-17 tailgunner has he blasts the wings off of a German fighter as his bomber plows into the ground.
    "From the second it [bomber] takes off you're inside, it's a cage, you see... And then the flak comes in, thick and heavy. You won't get out, not when it dives at 300 knots."
  • Averted in Elite: Dangerous. Player ships have escape pods, complete with the ship's computer repeating Eject...Eject...Eject... when about to explode, which hyper jump you back to the last station you docked at where you can claim your insurance. Also averted in the earlier games, which would spawn an Escape Pod upon the destruction of a ship, which one could scoop up to return to authorities, ransom to relatives, or sell into slavery.
  • Escape Velocity offers an Escape Pod as a purchasable upgrade, letting the player avert or play this trope straight as they choose. However, unless you have Strict Mode enabled, the escape pod can leave you in worse shape than if you just let yourself die and reload, as you're forced to give up your hard-earned custom Cool Starship for the dinky little shuttle you started the game with. On the plus side, your reputation with any faction you were previously hostile with is reset, so you (probably) won't have to deal with enemies trying to finish you off in your vulnerable state.
  • Played straight, subverted, and averted at the same time in Warhawk. It is averted by the presence of an ejection system on the titular aircraft, which the player can trigger at any time by pressing X, Square, Circle, and Triangle at the same time. The trope is subverted by the fact that, should the Warhawk's shields fall and the fuselage takes sufficient damage, the aircraft is quickly teleported out of the area by the carrier vessel (this is also believed to occur with both the pilots and the ditched craft after ejecting). Played straight/subverted should a player fail a mission a third time. The third time ensures that, whether the craft is shot down (played straight) or the player hits the eject (subverted), the pilots are doomed to a permanent game over.
  • Averted in MechQuest when a mech is destroyed the pilot ejects from the mech, via ejection seat.
  • Averted in Blockstorm, where mechs have an ejection system. However, it's a manual system (to allow you to get out of the mech whenever you want) and takes a while to activate, so there's a good chance you'll blow up with your mech anyway, or be an easy shot for the guys who destroyed your mech while you're in mid-air above it.
  • Played absurdly straight with the Brotherhood of Steel's Vertibirds in Fallout4. They're swatted out of the air by enemy fire with ridiculous ease and always kill everyone on board when they crash. And then they home in on you while crashing regardless of whether they're hostile to you or not.

    Real Life 
  • During World War I plane crews did not have parachutes (usually). Some officers considered that the crew should not be allowed to leave the plane, as that would be cowardice. It was also thought at the time that if a pilot had a parachute, he would jump from the plane when hit rather than trying to save the aircraft. That being said, planes didn't always come with harnesses either, although they did have seatbelts (for most part). During the course of the war the German air services did introduce parachutes, which saved the lives of some of their airmen, including Hermann Goering and Ernst Udet. However, as parachute technology was in its infancy (at the time all openings were static line deployments, i.e. the ripcord was permanently attached to the plane), using a parachute was still a risky operation.
    • Introducing the parachute actually had an inverse effect: the pilots were eager to take more risks and fight more bravely as they now had a means of escape and rescue. In psychology, this is known as Risk Homeostasis (Peltzman's Law).
    • Averted for the crews of World War I observation balloons, which soon were issued parachutes. Here the usual practice was for the observers to jump as soon as an enemy aircraft approached while the ground crew tried to pull the deflating hydrogen balloon to the ground as fast as it could.
  • Japanese pilots in World War II were not issued parachutes as standard (though they were available to anyone who asked) until 1944, when the air war was waged over the Japanese home islands and any parachuting airmen would be quickly rescued. Unlike the Allies, Japan also never had a dedicated search-and-rescue service for downed airmen. Even if a pilot had successfully bailed out, he was on his own, wherever he ended up.
    • The Japanese military was (in)famous for an absolutely callous treatment of its own troops (Soviet commanders at least got similar reputation because of sheer desperation, but for the Japanese, it was a standard operational practice). Its command wasted the whole prewar cadre of highly trained Ace Pilots in fruitless attacks in God-forgotten places such as Rabaul, and only by the very end of the war did Japanese commanders realize that training an experienced pilot is actually a much longer, expensive, and difficult process than building them a plane. By then, there was simply not enough resources or the time to properly train pilots, even if they had considered them irreplaceable.
    • Even the ships got in on this. In the Imperial Japanese Navy, the more important a ship was the worse its safety features were. At the extreme end of the spectrum was the Yamato class which had no life boats or rafts. She had a very limited supply of life vests and they were only intended to be used during storms in case of a "man overboard" scenario, not if the ship actually sank.
  • The LaGG-3, a Red Air Force fighter which the Soviet airmen said stood for LAkirovannyi Garantirovannyi Grob (Lacquered Guaranteed Coffin). It was of plywood construction and had substandard flying properties, largely from its heavy airframe and anemic engine (a common problem for most Soviet fighters of WWII). Later, when a new, more powerful engine and other improvements were installed late in the war, it evolved into the seminal (and astonishingly deadly) La-5 and then La-7, an aircraft of choice for the best Allied ace, Ivan Kozhedub.
  • A number of World War II vehicles acquired this reputation:
    • Italian tanks were literally referred to by their crews as "self-propelled coffins" due to their poor armor and poor hatch placement; they were easily knocked out and difficult to bail out of.
    • Shermans earned a number of derogatory nicknames (most notably "The Tommycooker") for their propensity to catch fire, leaving the crew with only seconds to get out of the tank after a penetrating hit. This was due to both the fact that early versions of the M4 didn't have water jackets for the ammo storage and fuel tanks, and that British crews using lend-leased tanks tended to use them like their own "cruiser" tanks: they haphazardly stuffed tons of extra ammo AND fuel into their tanks wherever it would fit. They increased this way both the range and ammunition capacity, but also increased the odds of it getting set off when taking a hit. They should have learned the lesson of the Battle of Jutland 1916. (A "tommycooker" is a WWI portable field stove).
    • On the positive side if a Sherman was was hit, it was relatively easy to escape. The Soviet equivalent, T-34, was notoriously cramped and unergonomic, and difficult to escape. It is estimated some 85% of the Sherman tankers whose tank was hit were able to escape, whilst only 18 of T-34 tankers could. Having the entry hatch on glacis (in the middle of the inclined frontal armour) certainly did not increase the odds of survival.
    • Some early versions of both German and Russian tanks did not have a hatch for the radioman, forcing him to try and escape via the driver's hatch. If the tank caught fire, this usually resulted in the radioman's death.
    • German U-Boats were dubbed "iron coffins" by some. If a sub was sunk, there was no chance of survival for the crew, and they would be entombed in the hull at the bottom of the sea, hence the name. Even if the crewmen somehow managed to get out of the U-Boat before it was completely submerged, if any of the electric cell banks necessary for underwater operation were breached the battery acid inside would render the nearby water toxic enough that anyone would be as a corpse by the time they could be plucked out of the waves.
      • Late in the war, when Germany could no longer field an effective submarine fleet, the Navy created the Neger, a torpedo-carrying one-man submersible. It was a good idea on paper, the small size and low profile of the craft made them perfect for sneak attacks. Unfortunately, the Neger leaked like a sieve, was difficult to steer, aiming the torpedo was almost impossible, and the boat had a nasty tendency to get stuck to a fired torpedo such that both the craft and the torpedo ends up plowing into the target. The Neger was so unsuccessful as a weapon that the Allies never realized it existed.note 
    • The trope name was invoked for the Brewster Buffalo, even though it came with standard safety procedures, because of its immense uselessness in the Southeast Asian and Pacific theatres of World War II against the Zero fighters. It was redesigned in the later phases of the war and ended up even worse. That said, the Finns used them to good effect during the Winter War as Soviet aircraft weren't as good.
      • The problem with the Buffalo was that it was poorly suited to carrier operations, mainly due to issues with the landing gear. Modifications to the aircraft increased its weight, which exacerbated the landing gear issues. All this on top of relatively modest performance and the fact that Japanese pilots in the early months of the war were better trained and more experienced than their American counterparts. By the time the Americans had adapted their strategies to exploits flaws in Japanese aircraft and tactics, the Buffalo had been phased out of service in favor of more powerful aircraft, along with many other early-war aircraft such as the Douglas Devastator, Vought Vindicator, and the Curtiss Hawk. In Finnish use, the Buffaloes not only had heavy naval equipment removed, they were also stripped of their armor and self-sealing fuel tanks. The top speed and manoeuvereability increased dramatically. While this rendered them far less capable of taking a hit, the Finns felt it more important to reduce the odds of getting hit in the first place. It worked - Finnish pilots achieved 477 victories on Brewster while losing 10 of their own in aerial combat.
  • The Royal Navy County class heavy cruisers were called tinclads as they had good armament, but poor armour.
    • Contemporary USN heavy cruisers were frequently accused of being "eggshells armed with hammers" for similar reasons. Namely, the tonnage limits established by the naval treaties of the time. In the attempts to squeeze the most warship possible into the allowed weight, compromises were all but unavoidable — and decent armor is actually quite heavy. While Japan had been subject to the same restrictions, they were in the habit of simply made their cruisers as much as 50% larger than allowed and lying about the size.
      • Ironically, Japanese wound up lying more because they were trying to follow treaty limits. The Mogami class cruisers were designed to carry heavy armament on a lightweight hull that was treaty-compliant. The result was a dangerously unbalanced and structurally unsound design that needed expensive refits that left the ship well over the treaty limit (this was common problem among Japanese warships built in 1920s, several of which suffered accidents with heavy loss of life due to design flaws arising from trying to pack in too much in too light hulls). The subsequent cruisers were definitely not treaty-compliant, but by then, Japan had abrogated the treaties.
    • A British observer said of the Japanese heavy cruisers: Either they lie or they are made from cardboard. Turned out both assumptions were correct.
    • On a similar note, the US Navy nickname for Destroyers is "Tin Can", after the generally weak protection that WWI and WWII destroyers had against the capital ships they were often tasked with protecting or attacking.
      • "Tin Can" was more specifically used in reference to the American destroyer escorts, which were even smaller and less armored than full-sized destroyers. How can you have less armor than a destroyer that has virtually none at all? Simple: while destroyers had little in the way of armour plating, they did incorporate some armour over essential areas and made significant use of hardened steel alloys in their construction. Destroyer escorts, designed to be cheaper and more disposable, had absolutely no armour at all and thinner hulls of made of mild steel. It's like substituting cheap plywood for seasoned oak.
    • Italian torpedo boats (effectively light destroyers), destroyers and light cruisers of World War II were built for ludicrous speed and adequate range and armament, resulting in them being lightly armoured. While they were devastating against lighter ships (they were designed to hunt down the immediately smaller type of warship, having matching or superior speed and heavier armament) and had more chances of attacking battleships and survive by simply not getting hit, they were in trouble when facing ships of the same type and not having enough space to turn and run, leading to engagements like Cape Spada (where the Australian light cruiser HMAS Sydney took on two Italian light cruisers, each of them outgunning Sydney, and won, disabling one and forcing the other to retreat while shrugging off the one hit she received) and one embarrassing incident where the Italian torpedo boat RN Sagittario rammed the submarine HMS Protheus and nearly sank.
  • The modern Russian BMP series of IFVs have a darkly humorous backronym, "Bratskaya Mogila Pehoty" (Rus. "Common Grave of the Infantry"). The interior is cramped, forcing troopers to squat with their knees close to their chest; this of course, made it more difficult to quickly exit the vehicle, even under normal conditions. What made things worse was that passengers sat with their backs facing the centre of the vehicle, where the main fuel storage tanks were located. One direct hit by anything that wasn't an infantry firearm could easily penetrate the BMP's thin side armour and turn the entire compartment into a fireball. Additionally, the rear door also functioned as secondary fuel tanks; while these were supposed to be left empty in combat operations, a BMP caught in an ambush with fuel in its doors could easily find itself on fire due to a hit on the door allowing fuel to leak inside the crew compartment. While these problem were fixed with the newer BMP-3 model, Russian soldiers participating in the Chechen Wars decided to take their chances riding on top of the vehicle, rather than inside it.
    • To be fair, this is a common problem for most light APC types, especially those designed to be amphibious and air portable. The American M-113 gained a similar reputation in The Vietnam War, for example. While many modern Western IFVs are better protected, they are also too heavy to be amphibious or carried by light transport aircraft.
    • Russian armor traditionally was always designed for the large, WWII-style conflict where the most pressing concern was NBC protection, so its mine resistance wasn't anything to write home about — APCs were envisioned to be advancing behind the tank columns, equipped with the mine trawls and interspersed with the combat engineering vehicles that would dig up or detonate the mines. So when most conflicts fought by the Soviet and then Russian Army since Afghanistan turned out to be relatively low-intensity counter-insurgency warfare, where the anti-tank mines and IEDs were used by everyone and their little dog too, but the mine trawls and forward engineering recon proved impractical for each and every column, only for the largest and most important ones, up to forcing the logistics to switch into convoy mode, sitting inside the vehicle was seen as more dangerous than on top of it (it also gave the soldiers better field of view to try to notice any possible ambush). Only by The New '10s did the Russian military have the time and money to develop their own MRAP vehicles.
    • For that matter, the older BTR-40 and BTR-152 armored personnel carriers also acquired a similar reputation and nickname in the Middle East. Up until recently, these vehicles were fairly common in Arab service; several of them ended up being captured by the Israel Defence Force, which made use of them as well. Israeli troopers gave the vehicles a backronym in Hebrew: "Bo Tizrok Rimon" ("Come, throw a grenade"), due to their invitingly-open tops. It didn't help that the sides of the vehicle effectively boxed the occupants in.
    • Finnish army conscripts refer to the BTR as Sukellusvene ("Submarine"), not only because its hull resembles one, but due to an accident at Taipalsaari in 1991, where a BTR-60 crossing a lake on light wind took water in and sank, killing seven conscripts.
    • Technical note: the requirement to make the blasted thing amphibious came in fairly late in the design process, so the best the designers could do without restarting everything from scratch was to stick in a powerful bilge pump and hope for the best. Yes, the BTR-60 could float — but barely, and only so long as its bilge pump was working, as it leaked like a sieve — and, note, it was in normal operation. If the pump failed, it would promptly take in water and sink.
  • The Killdozer was used in a destructive rampage when a zoning dispute boiled over. After entering, the operator of the makeshift armoured bulldozer used a remote controlled crane to lower a concrete block around the cockpit, sealing himself in. It would've been theoretically possible to remove it by any crane (as it was eventually done, in fact), but Heemeyer just already decided to commit suicide at that point.
  • The Handley Page Victor strategic bomber had the crew hatch immediately ahead of the jet turbine. Attempting to bail out would result in crew salsa.
  • While the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter had an ejection seat, the ejection seats were often too weak to lift the pilot clear of the gigantic tail fin. Early versions of the plane had an ejection seat that ejected downwards, but that would create obvious problems when landing. Given that the Starfighter also had a well-earned reputation for being difficult to fly (in West Germany, for example, they were nicknamed "lawn darts" and it was said that the best way to acquire one was to buy a random plot of land and wait for one to fall from the sky), this was a major problem.
  • Issues with getting away from the plane after bailing out (as opposed to getting hit by the tail or wing at high speed) were of course the reason for the development of the Ejection Seat, particularly once jets arrived on the scene. Many airmen throughout history attempted to bail out of crippled planes only to suffer such a fate before that development.
  • Flying Crematorium: Born out of desperation during the final years of World War 2, the Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet was an emergency rocket-powered air defense fighter that barely had enough fuel and ammunition for a very brief sortie against an incoming formation of bombers. The one detail that makes it an Armored Coffin is the fact that it had to use a landing skid to "crash softly" on a runway since it had no landing gear or brakes (for takeoff it used wheels which were dropped off upon gaining air). A very bad idea as the Komet's fuel tank was highly susceptible to leaking from a hard impact and contained two types of hypergolic (A.K.A very volatile) propellants that would ignite when combined, without any external source of ignition. This meant that the Me 163 would literally turn into a Komet if it landed hard enough for the fuel to 'slosh' together and spontaneously combust. Ejecting any remaining fuel before landing was recommended.
    • Even worse, one of those two substances was potently acidic, which meant it needed to be held in a glass container. In turn, this was very easy to rupture if the landing was anything but smooth. Or even if the takeoff was anything but smooth - at the point the Komet was used even flat runways were in short supply, so they would often have to take off from the same bumpy, rocky fields they were meant to land on, which often meant the tires dropped free during takeoff would bounce higher than the altitude they were dropped from, promptly smashing into the Komet and rupturing the fuel tanks.
      • It would have been less of an issue, because the entire amount of fuel was to be spent gaining altitude, then the Komet would glide to attack and glide back home to crashland. The Komet had ridiculously good gliding characteristic for that manner. Still, the volatile fuels were an issue, to the point where tanking either one of them was made separate, and after one, the other had to wait for the fuel tanker to leave the area entirely before the other fuel was filled in. Before that, rigorous washing with water had to be performed. And while one of the fuels was corrosive, the other would burn after coming in contact with organic tissue, and you were pretty much surrounded in fuel tanks. Pick your poison.
    • The Mitsubishi J8M/Ki-200 was a success or failure, depending on your point-of-view. It was a highly unsafe aircraft to land, takeoff, or even refuel due to having all of the dangerous flaws of the Me 163. But the Japanese, with their 'Kamikaze mentality', saw these flaws as bonuses and considered the Rocket-powered Fighter to be a great suicide aircraft: Make one or two firing passes and then go in for a ramming attack. Thankfully for both Allies and Japanese, the Ki-200 was too late to see service and the only casualty it claimed was an unlucky test pilot who crash-landed the aircraft and caused it to spontaneously burst into flames which, ironically, fits the 'Komet' name that the aircraft was based on.
  • Being a Ball Turret Gunner meant this trope applied. Most of the crew of the B-17 got parachutes. The ball turret gunner didn't, as there was not enough room in the turret to wear one. Statistically speaking, the ball turret gunner was just as likely to die as any other member of the crew (having the same amount of armor protection, which is to say none at all), but being suspended in a cramped glass ball beneath the plane left one feeling particularly vulnerable. Additionally, if the motors that controlled the turret were damaged during combat, this could prevent the gunner from being able to exit the turret as it could only be opened when properly aligned with its access hatch. And if the plane's landing gear were also damaged, that would mean the plane was forced to perform a belly landing that would assuredly kill the gunner. There is more than one instance where this did indeed happen. This was the main reason why Harry Harrison, having served (and survived) a full tour of duty in this very position, came to hate all things military with a passion. Which is where all the snark and ridicule in his writing comes from.
  • The B-24 earned the nickname the flying coffin, though this was actually a result of improved durability compared to its predecessor. B-24s can soak up tremendous amounts of damage and keep flying, and were designed with crew safety in mind unlike the B-17. In practice however, this meant that anyone bailing out a B-24 would have to do so under extreme circumstances. With other bombers the crew usually bailed when engines gave out the control surfaces were damaged to much to allow a safe landing. In a B-24, these are the last things to go and their crews often found themselves bailing out of disintegrating aircraft.
  • The Avro Lancaster heavy bomber would fit this trope as well as it was notoriously difficult to escape. Compared to Handley Page Halifax and Short Stirling, Lancaster crews suffered greatest relative losses of all RAF heavies.
  • While the RAF's Avro Vulcan did have ejection seats, these were only for the two pilots; the rest of the five man crew had no such luck and were expected to try to jump out manually via the plane's hatches. Interestingly enough, the original prototypes of this had it worse, with only one pilot having an ejection seat.
  • The first fighter plane used by the Americans, the French-built Nieuport 28, was loved for its ability to launch quickly (the engine required little in the way of warm-up) and climb quickly, paired with excellent agility in dogfights. However, the Gnome Monosoupape rotary engine was prone to catching fire if the pilot wasn't careful (due to an unusual throttle design), the fuel tanks could occasionally leak (also leading to a fire), and during intensive maneuvering, the upper wing could delaminate, which is to say, the upper portion would rip loose, usually leading to a crash. The US Army Air Service would go on to replace the Nieuport 28 with the (also French-built) SPAD S.VII and SPAD S.XIII.
  • The Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley performed the first successful underwater attack in naval warfare history that sank the USS Housatonic. Unfortunately, the H.L. Hunley was itself lost after the attack due to the spar torpedo getting stuck in the hull of the sinking Housatonic which dragged the submarine down with it. Many years later, a diving expedition discovered and raised the H.L. Hunley from the water with the skeletons of the crew still at their stations.
    • Following the success of the H.L. Hunley was the David-class Torpedo Boats which were derisively called "David Cigars" due to their hull shape. Only a few were produced and they had no other weapon besides a single spar torpedo, making them vulnerable to the same problem that sunk the H.L. Hunley.
  • The Messerschmitt Me 321/323 Gigant would count as an unarmored coffin. The original 321 was built as an assault glider capable of landing tanks or anti-aircraft guns behind enemy lines, so the floor of the cargo area was fairly solid. The rest of the Gigant was made of fabric stretched over a framework. Despite the lightweight construction, it was so heavy that getting it into the air called for three tow planes plus booster rockets mounted to Gigant's wings, and even that proved insufficient sometimes. Finally, the Germans bolted six engines to Gigant, renumbered it the 323, and used it as a transport plane ... but kept the fabric construction of the glider version. German soldiers promptly dubbed it the "Sticking Plaster Bomber", and prayed they'd be transported to the front in a nice metal Junkers 52 instead. During one trip to the North African front, 21 out of 27 Gigants were shot down by the Allies for a loss of three Allied planes to the Gigants' escorts.