"You've got an enemy on your tail! Use the brake!"In a knuckle-whitening aerial dogfight (or other vehicle pursuit), our hero is in a tight spot as the enemy aircraft are closing in, approaching speeds he cannot hope to match, so rather than continue to outrun his opponents, our hero does the unexpected trick of putting on the brakes, switching the advantage in a split second as his foes rush out in front of his guns. Truth in Television, as forcing your opponent to over-shoot is actually a keynote of dogfighting tactics. There are many ways to do it, including the simple defensive high-speed yo-yo◊ to the more complex vertical and rolling scissors. The real-life maneuver most commonly seen in media is the DO A barrel roll defense,◊ (press z or r twice) where the defending aircraft pops up and rolls gracefully before coming back down behind the attacker. It looks cool, and the split-second reversal of advantage is suitably dramatic. This works just as well on jets as it does on biplanes; it's just that dogfights are much less common in Real Life these days. The trope also applies to more dramatic depictions where the characters vehicle seems to literally "brake" in mid-air without fancy maneuvering. This is possible if a pilot drops his flaps, speed brake or even landing gear to slow down (though this is a desperation move since it can also make them an easy target, or worse, stall the plane), or if they have certain kinds of vectored-thrust aircraft, specifically, the version used by the Harrier Jump Jet to enable STOVL (Short TakeOff, Vertical Landing), which can perform VIFFing (Vector In Forward Flight). Still other types of aircraft with thrust-vectoring (NOT the same as vectored thrust: Thrust-Vectoring is when you can redirect the jet nozzle's thrust off-center to augment or even completely replace the use of aerodynamic control surfaces usually used only to augment/replace rudders and elevators. Somewhat more difficult use for roll control) And of course, the trope also applies to similar braking maneuvers that are simply unpossible. Compare Wronski Feint and Aerial Canyon Chase.
— Peppy, Star Fox 64
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- Erica pulls one in Strike Witches, although it's Gertrud that gets the kills.
- A fairly common Ace Pilot trick in the Macross franchise. It helps when you can change your Variable Fighter into GERWALK mode mid-flight and actually have your main engines point forward for a few seconds.
- Shin Kudo from Macross Zero does the Pugachev Cobra maneuver. Unfortunately, the enemy knows what he's up to and nothing short of abusing the VF's innate ability to change forms allowed Shin to be able to get a shot in.
- Alto Saotome's attempt to do it to kill Brera in Macross Frontier fails when Brera dodges his attack. And Alto was so certain it'd work too.
- The various versions of Area 88 regularly feature these maneuvers since it's a series about Ace Pilots in dogfights.
- Graham Aker pulls this off in a Humongous Mecha in Gundam 00 Awakening Of The Trailblazer to deal with a large wave of ELS following him, by reversing the direction his thrusters are pointing. He is shown to be in some amount of pain from the G-forces he pulls doing it, but it works.
- Occured in a G.I. Joe comic.
- Most hilarious version is probably in Gold Digger, when an opponent in a VTOL uses it to allow him to brake, so it's "Like he's flying backwards". The protagonist, meanwhile, laughs, and his plane's engines flip around, allowing him to literally fly backwards. Crazy Awesome, definitely. Crowning Moment of Funny? That would be a few pages later in the book.
- Boba Fett did this when he was chase by IG 88 in Shadows of the Empire comic.
- Played with in a strip of Calvin and Hobbes, in which Spaceman Spiff pulls this maneuver to turn the tables on some pursuing aliens. This being outer space, they respond by simply turning around, so Spiff speeds up to get back ahead of them again, whereupon they turn around again, and so on. The last panel reveals Calvin is imagining this scenario from a swing set.
Films — Animation
Films — Live-Action
- Formerly named for the iconic scene from Top Gun. Maverick does this one twice, in fact; the first time, he uses it against experienced training pilot Jester, who keeps enough presence of mind to dodge for a while longer before finally succumbing to Maverick's simulated shot. The second time is against a MiG pilot who clearly isn't expecting the move, as he freezes long enough for Mav to immediately get a missile lock and fire.
- Iron Man: Tony pulls out the flaps and tries to hide under one of the pursuing jets.
- Taken to extremes in Hot Shots! with the fighter plane braking in mid-air, complete with screeching sounds and an "AIR BRAKE" pedal!
- Return of the Jedi: Luke does this during the speeder bike chase on Endor.
- Subverted in Pineapple Express. Saul slams on the brakes during the police chase, only to have the following car brake beside him and open fire.
- The Terminator: Sarah hits the brakes on the car while the Terminator's car continues its high speed pursuit.
- Used during Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Bumblebee, Sideswipe, and Dino/Mirage brake, causing the Dreads to jump over them instead of onto them.
- In For Your Eyes Only, James Bond finds himself driving an underpowered Citroën 2CV against two hostile pursuers. He uses a clever brake dodge to make them collide with each other, eliminating one from the chase.
- In the first Tremors movie, Val and Earl get a Graboid to chase them at full speed toward a cliff and then brake suddenly, causing the Graboid to fall off the cliff.
- When mooks on each side of them threaten to shoot the tires on their truck, the heroes of Think Big hit the brakes, and the mooks accidentally shoot each other's cars.
- Mad Max. The Nightrider avoiding a blast from Roop's double-barreled shotgun. Roop kills a Give Way sign instead.
- Max does this at the beginning of Roadwarrior when one of the Mooks chasing him pulls a crossbow on him. The bolt winds up in Wez's arm instead.
- Lampshaded in the Star Wars: X-Wing Series. A fake recruit in training (as part of a sting operation against an officer who's faking crashes and selling fighters on the black market), is in the simulator with other members of her squadron. Her mission is to deliberately be an average student, in order to entrap a villainous instructor into artificially improving her scores. So she takes the lead from her less experienced but determined wingmate during the simulated mission. While being chased by two TIE fighters, she pulls one of these. It doesn't work. After the sim, her commander notes something to the effect of, "you were trying to slow down, in open airspace, while being chased by two more experienced pilots in more maneuverable craft? What Were You Thinking?"
- The aforementioned wingmate is able to give the correct response to the situation: drop a missile and use the detonation as a screen for the turnaround maneuver.
- A more complicated variant is a Rogue Squadron tactic: one wingmate stops short, expecting the pursuit to also stop short. However, the other wingmate continues in a plain arc, and that pilot's pursuer follows in a predictable manner, becoming an easy target for the first Rogue.
- This is a classic scissors manuver for a two-plane element. Stackpole indulged in a little Shown Their Work in the first book of which this is part.
- Another bit of Shown Their Work in the X-wing novels is pilots playing with the fact that in space, what direction your craft is pointing isn't necessarily the direction it's going. More than a few Rogues and Wraiths pull reversals on opponents by turning off the coordination between attitude control and acceleration, allowing them to literally fly backwards or sideways, mimicking the effects of this.
- In Shooting Script by Gavin Lyall, the hero kills a fighter jet with his unarmed propellor-driven plane by slowing down abruptly right in front of the jet, which stalls while trying to avoid crashing into him and goes into the ground. The fighter had been buzzing him because the local dictatorship thought he was supporting the rebels. They hassled him so much that, well....
- Favorite tactic for Dale Brown's Pat Mc Lanahan, unlike normal pilots he does it with a B-52.
- In Mercedes Lackey's Sacred Ground, protagonist Jennifer is being chased by hired hitmen, in a woefully underpowered car. Thwarted in her attempts to outmaneuver them and about to be forced off the road, she abruptly remembers her brakes. The badguys overshoot and are promptly rammed by a bus going in the opposite direction.
- Done by Nanny Ogg and Casanunda on a broomstick to a pursuing elf in Lords and Ladies.
- This maneuver is referred to as "Good old-fashioned red-dogging" in the pilot two-parter of the Buck Rogers in the 25th Century TV series.
- Also shows up many times in the original Battlestar Galactica, written by the same guy who did Buck Rogers. Although Galactica's Vipers had actual reverse thrusters.
- Subverted in a Galactica comic, where the Viper pilots are up against a Cylon ace (an advanced model; he didn't look like a standard Centurion). As they start to tangle with him, one of the Viper pilots says, "Reverse thrust, that always works." When they do so, the Cylon ace says, "Reverse thrust? That never works," and sure enough proceeds to hand the Viper pilots their asses.
- Airwolf did this practically every single episode; justified as it's a helicopter that really can just stop in the air.
- Since the series takes place in space, Babylon 5 pilots occasionally do this sort of thing. Sheridan trains the station's Starfury pilots in one episode and says that aliens with greater tolerance for G-forces or are willing to let the autopilot fly while they're blacked out can be particularly dangerous in these situations.
- The correct display of Newtonian physics was also used for a variation several times in the 2003 reboot of Battlestar Galactica, as well as in Space: Above and Beyond: In both cases, the chased pilots simply flipped their fighters backwards while keeping their momentum, thus bringing the pursuing enemy into their sights.
- Interesting variation on Firefly, with the "Crazy Ivan"—the manoeuvrable Serenity pulls a 180 flip, then engages its interplanetary drive, catching the pursuers in its high-temperature exhaust. The move is named after a real life submarine manoeuvre used for detecting ships hiding in sonar shadow.
- Which you will all of course know from The Hunt for Red October.
- Done in Stargate Atlantis by Colonel John Sheppard in an F-302 against an AI-controlled F-302 that's trying to kill him.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
- In "Sons and Daughters" General Martok orders the IKS Rotarran to do this while dogfighting with some Jem'Hadar attack ships. He's on the tail of one, and a second is on him from behind. He blasts one, brakes, and blasts the other.
- In "Treachery, Faith, and the Great River" Odo pulls this against a pursuing Jem'Hadar attack ship in a runabout, enabling him to get above his pursuer and Attack Its Weak Point.
- A standard tactic in Aeronautica Imperialis, especially effective if an Eldar Nightwing dumps the throttle and pulls a nice sharp climb to drop its speed by 5 (on a 0 to 9 scale, no less), forcing the tailing Ork fighter to rocket-booster along and let the Nightwing drop down behind it and shred it in a barrage of shuriken cannon fire.
- You can do this in Star Fox 64 during the dogfights with the Star Wolf team.
- Some airship battles in Skies of Arcadia give you the option to slow down and let the other airship get ahead for a clear shot with your Harpoon Cannon (and later, Wave Motion Gun).
- Occassionally occurs with some of the more elite pilots in the Ace Combat series. The most obvious are the Su-37 Ace pilots in Ace Combat 2, which can pull a Pugachev Cobra (see under Real Life). If you don't expect it, you fly straight past and they get a perfect shot at you. If you are expecting it, you get a free shot at a completely immobile enemy.
- Yellow Squadron pilots will also perform this maneuver in Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies; ironically, their replacements in the final mission do it so much that it back-fires, making them easy gun kills. It's similarly possible for the player to evade close-in enemies by braking and actually stalling for a second or so.
- The DFM counter-maneuvers Ace Combat: Assault Horizon are explicitly these, requiring the player to slow up until their pursuer is close enough to slip behindnote . The exact move used varies by situation, from simple breaking barrel rolls to the same stunts seen by enemy aces in previous games. Note that the enemy can also do it to you, if they're skilled enough, but there's a very brief moment where you can counter their counter, resulting in a brief aerial ballet that ends with your cannon pointed directly at their cockpit and a critical hit missile immediately ready to fire.
- You can do this in Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X., but realistically it's only possible with the higher-performance modern jets and not, say, a MiG-21Bis "Fishbed".
- However, the type of maneuver the game encourages you to use to get behind your enemies is the one tactic most pilots would try to avoid, which would be deliberately stalling your plane.
- Arguably the tactic in Ace Online, although the choices are, like in their real life counterpart, numerous. Should you lure your enemy into terrain? Use (or abuse) the Back Move Mach/Turn Around function to engage the enemy? Or use an innate ability to basically keep yourself alive longer than your opponents? The choice is endless.
- Subverted in Afterburner Climax; some enemy planes will do this, but all it does is make them an easy target since they can't fire at you.
- It's an effective maneuver to evade Darth Vader and his wingmen in the trench run on the Death Star in Rogue Squadron. You can even get in a few good shots of your own if you're quick enough on the draw.
- In Air Force Blues, Top Gun fan Ken Dahl tries doing this to a cop who's after him for speeding, but the maneuver just results in Dahl's car getting rear-ended.
- In the Buzz Lightyear of Star Command episode "Inside Job", Buzz uses this twice as it is his Chekhov's Maneuver for the episode. He referred to it as "Stop, Drop, Rock and Roll!".
- Samurai Jack: Episode XIX "Jack Remembers the Past". Jack is being pursued by bounty hunters riding on giant hornets. Jack has his own hornet stop and draws his sword and cuts off his opponent's head as they fly past.
- Early in Transformers Cybertron, Thundercracker pulls this on Optimus Prime. Unfortunately for 'Cracker, when the smoke clears it turns out to have done no damage, and Optimus kicks off the running gag of Thundercracker being injured for our amusement by blowing up the poor Decepticon's own missiles in his face.
- A discarded trope, at least in the real world. Modern fighter combat is based on the Energy Maneuverability (EM) theory of Col. John Boyd, a Maverick USAF officer responsible for developing the F-15, F-16, and the A-10, among much else. Boyd conceptualized air combat as a physical system featuring two energy parameters: kinetic (motion) and potential (altitude). The key to victory is maintaining as high a reservoir of energy as possible — the pilot who maintains the highest energy level wins. This allowed Boyd to work out an entire series of previously unknown maneuvers (called "zero-gee" maneuvers) to allow pilots to break locks and outturn opponents without losing energy. It also rules out tactics like braking and Viffing, which waste energy. (And explains why Harrier pilots refrained from using Viffing over the Falklands.) EM is the current paradigm for air combat and is utilized by all air forces in training pilots.
- Pugachev's Cobra, named after Sukhoi test pilot Viktor Pugachev who demonstrated it at the Paris Air Shownote .
- The first MiG-29 sent to the Paris Airshow crashed doing this, ironically. Do not assault your stall speed close to the ground!
- Although RAF Harriers and RN Sea Harriers were widely reported as doing this during the Falklands War, in fact the Argentinian pilots were at the edge of their range and did not fly aggressively enough to make it necessary. Slamming the nozzles into "full hover stop" however gave the Harrier a significant advantage in a number of training dogfights.
- Many say Duke Cunningham's combat experiences formed the basis of Top Gun's action sequences, as Cunningham actually performed the maneuver in Vietnam in a big bulky F-4 Phantom II in combat against a MiG-17.
- A tactic sometimes used by American B-52s flying over Vietnam when they found themselves being tailed by a MiG. Having no hope of outrunning or out-turning the smaller fighter jet, and the tail gunner included in earlier models of the bomber being of limited use in the jet age, the most effective tactic was often to idle the engines, drop the flaps, brakes, and landing gear, and drop out of the sky with all the aerobatic grace of a rock. The fighter jet, being designed for speed, often had no hope of slowing down nearly that quickly, and would overshoot the bomber, giving the bomber valuable time to make good their escape. This could be a sort of inversion of Tim Taylor Technology, as many of the aircraft's control surfaces and landing gear could be damaged by being forced into the airstream at full speed.