Rule of Cool insists that when a bunch of fighters (planes, spaceships, or even Mecha), go into battle, you always have to see them taking off first. Always.
There are several reasons for this. One is the sound of the fighters starting up. There is something very evocative about fighter engines — the promise of power and danger right there in the turbine's whine (or the exhausts' roar). Science fiction versions of the trope will have the fighters make a very similar sound despite not running on jet engines. This isn't always a case of Space Is Noisy (because they're maybe still in the hangar) but it's definitely common.
This is closely related to Red Alert with its attending imagery of lights flashing and klaxons sounding as the pilots in their flight gear race for their fighters while the ground crew calmly preps them for take-off as their commander goes over the PA with something like "All fighters, Scramble!"
In anime, you always have to have the commander gesture impressively on the Bridge when they do this. In fact, this usually shows up in the Opening Credits.
Sometimes this trope is subverted, with the pilots attempting to scramble only to have their airfield or mothership disabled or destroyed before they can launch. That would be an example of Sitting Duck.
The Lock And Load aspect of the trope isn't Truth in Television, unfortunately. The reason being that since planes and fighters are highly sophisticated machines with lots of moving parts and where something as simple as a rag in an intake can cause disaster, there are a lot of requirements and checklists to check before flight can occur. The most technologically advanced military in the world, best case, can go from call to wheels up in... 15 minutes (nevermind actually getting to where they're going). This time can be reduced by leaving the planes on the runway with the engines running and rotating pilots in as they get tired... but this means the planes are constantly using up jet fuel the entire time.
A Sister Trope to Lock and Load Montage, Technology Porn.
Compare Engaging Chevrons, Transformation Sequence.
Gundam. Every series (with the possible exception of Turn A) has had at least one launch sequence.
Gundam SEED Destiny gratuitously abuses this — not only is there the launch sequence but the whole lengthy combination phase as well in which the four segments of the Impulse Gundam (three-piece Gundam itself plus the expansion pack of the day) meet up and combine. The full version of this sequence can waste upwards of three minutes. Considering the Troubled Production the show ran into, this was probably intentional to pad out time.
The title sequences to the various Getter Robo series pretty much always include a scene with the three machines taking off and going through a tunnel.
GaoGaiGar doesn't bother showing GaoGaiGar and its components launching, even ditching the stock "summoning Galeon" scene early on, but it does show pretty much everything else launching regularly: HyoRyu and EnRyu, the Dividing Driver, the Pliers, the individual component ships of the GGG base, etc. etc. etc.
With both sides of the conflict in Star Fleet having carrier ships that launch fighters, this tends to crop up in pretty much every episode.
A one-time example occurs during episode 14 of Mai-HiME, where an Amazon Brigade made up of most of the HiME is shown heading into battle against the season's Big Bad. Each of the girls (minus Mikoto, who just goes into a blind, screaming charge) emerges from an Elaborate Underground Base, summons her CHILD, and launches into the fray while a Theme Music Power-Up triggers in the background. Midori naturally lampshades it by yelling "TAKEOFF!" when it's her turn.
Strike Witches most prominently uses this at the beginning of the second episode of the first season, where we see Sakamoto and the rest of the Akagi's fighters preparing for takeoff.
Area 88, which is set in a QuraciLegion of Lost Souls air force unit, has several of these across all continuities, usually sending the fighters off to attack some objective. Actual attacks on the eponymous base are relatively rare.
Sengoku Basara has Honda Tadakatsu who uses a launch sequence reminiscent to that of Gundam despite being in the Sengoku era and just wearing very heavy armor with jet packs and treads.
The Full Metal Panic! anime has a scene several episodes into the first series where Kurtz and Mao launch their M9s off the catapult on the deck of the Tuatha De Danann. This sequence is repeated with the Arbalest in the opening credits of The Second Raid.
Parodied and subverted in Wallace & Gromit: A Close Shave. Wallace uses a visual feast of overly-elaborate Technology Porn to get on a bike to go and clean windows. Gromit achieves the same end result by walking through a door.
Then there's the very impressive rocket launch from the first film, which is played more like an actual rocket launch — complete with massive roar, blinding engine flare and slow launch before blasting into the sky.
When the ships take off in Star Wars to attack the first Death Star. The 1977 version showed the takeoff from a distance, with the fighters rendered as glowing dots. The 1997 Special Edition replaced these with CGI fighters.
The Empire Strikes Back with the Rebel Snowspeeders taking off in Hoth Base to fly off against the attacking Imperial walkers.
The opening of Top Gun is a launching sequence. There are two additional abbreviated launch sequences, one in the second act (right before Goose dies), and one more in the climax battle.
Tora! Tora! Tora!. The scene where the Japanese aircraft took off from their aircraft carriers on their way to Pearl Harbor.
The transports taking off in A Bridge Too Far. The movie spends a significant time on this one, zooming in on the C-47 tow planes to show that they are piloted by officers and the gliders in tow to show that they are piloted by enlisted men.
Used repeatedly in Transformers (another Michael Bay film — yes, he loves this trope). Each time airplanes are called for an air strike, the camera will cut from the battle taking place to show the air planes take off. Happens first when the A-10s are called in to attack Scorponok, and later, when the Secretary of Defense manages to get an air strike order out, we are treated to F-22 Raptors taking off. Both times the sequences are covered with voice-over of the operators giving the air strike orders.
The scene in Avatar where nearly everything at Hell's Gate that can fly is mustered for the assault on the Tree of Souls. Notice the guy on the catwalk whose cap gets blown off by the propwash.
A (very) low-tech case could be made for The Wizard of Oz: "Fly, monkeys, fly!!!"
Subverted in David Lynch's version of Dune. As the Atreides troops become aware that their shields have been crippled, they run for their ships... which are blown up in their faces by Harkonnen bombers.
A brief sequence in We Were Soldiers when Hal Moore calls a Broken Arrow, diverting all air assets in-theatre to help him: in addition to F-100s and A-6 Intruders taking off from land bases and carriers, there are shots of other aircraft already in-flight breaking off from their missions. Similar in spirit, but with transport Hueys instead of fighters, is the evocative sequence when the first lift leaves the base to go to the Ia Drang valley.
Done with B-17s in Memphis Belle complete with an officer shooting a flare-gun to signal the launch.
Okay, this is more bombers than fighters, but it still works as an example of the trope. The Dam Busters does it even better with a long sequence of preparation for the launch of 617 Squadron on the historic raid, culminating in the flare gun, multiple engine starts and formation take-offs.
Pacific Rim opens with the Beckett brothers suiting up and deploying Gipsy Danger.
Throughout the X-Wing Series there are pre-flight checks where characters sound off — "Red Flight, are we good to go?" "Red Two, ready." "Red Three, four lit and ready to burn." "Red Four, nothing's gone wrong yet." Then there's that scene near the end of Starfighters of Adumar where Wedge gives a speech about purpose to the united Adumari nation, then has someone hit the air siren to get people in their fighters, tells Iella the two reasons why nothing is going to happen to him, and gets into the cockpit to lead them.
BothBattlestar Galacticaseries. Each have their Vipers housed in individual launch tubes as their thrusters fire for maximum acceleration as they roar out.
Subverted in season one "Hand of God" the true attacking force is hidden nearby, rather than launching from Galactica
This trope is used in the shows of the Ultra Series. Often featured in opening theme sequences.
The opening sequence of Ultraman Tiga is mainly an extended launch sequence for the Artdesei, which takes flight just as the theme song swells into chorus. It's interspersed with short clips of other GUTS vehicles launching.
Babylon 5 launches fighters by having them drop out of the spinning space station. The follow on Crusade uses a launch rail that extends out of the ship — slightly more compact but no less Rule of Cool.
Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. Every time Earth Defense Force fighters launched out of their tunnels, whether going into battle or not. It is preceded by a triangular light pattern that moves toward the fighter before launch, probably as a final safety diagnosis for the tunnel to confirm it safe for launching.
The pilot actually subverted this - the outnumbered defenders of Earth saw the enemy ships fly out of their launch tubes only to explode. What they did not know was that our hero was roaming the launch bay shoving munitions up the Draconian ships' tailpipes.
Batman again (the Adam West incarnation): "To the Batmobile!" followed by "Atomic batteries to power, turbines to speed..." (the latter appears as a Shout-Out in Wing Commander III, as the fighter start-up while waiting for the mission to load.)
This goes back to the Super Sentai origins, of course, which heavily preferred vehicular mecha in the early years — the first one, Himitsu Sentai Goranger, could do this with a hot-air balloon.
Early Sentai also had mobile bases which carried their mecha... which first emerged from the heroes' main base. It's a good thing Transformation Is a Free Action, otherwise Tokyo would be gone while the second base was launching.
Zero Wing for the Sega Genesis has sequence of launching. Captain is said "Take off every Zig!" Zig move for great justice as the base which somebody set up the bomb explodes behind them.
Soukyugurentai has a 9.92-second launch sequence before the first level. The two levels after that start with the player ship launching from a floating fortress or carrier.
Star Fox in most games, (the original being pictured above) shows the team taking off before the first mission. In the original, they launch from a base on Corneria, but later games launch them from the Great Fox.
Star Fox 64 also had some shortened takeoff sequences (just the ships/submarine leaving the Great Fox) in two levels.
The player character of The Guardian Legend is always shown to go from Walking to Flying mode in a Transformation Sequence before she tackles a corridor. It also has the inversion, where she transforms back once the corridor is complete.
Happens in Kingdom Hearts II every time you enter an area with the Gummi Ship. Never mind that it was already in space. Fortunately, it's mostly skippable though.
The Wing Commander games like to have mini-cutscenes before every mission, showing you and your fighter being readied for launch. In the first game, it was an animated scene (complete with Red Alert, even for routine patrols) with pilots and technicians racing to the hangar, and a similar scene in III showed Col. Blair boarding his ship as it was being prepped by the deck crew; while in the last, it featured your fighter being loaded into the Midway's massive catapult. III and IV had an optional launching scene which was triggered if you launch your ship using the autopilot (it was skipped if you launch manually by upping the throttle).
The novels and later games also mention a "magnum launch," where a carrier simply takes every available pilot and loads them into every available ride, then dumps them into space as fast as possible, usually when the carrier itself is about to come under attack. Such missions in the games, while usually awesome, are also a bit more challenging because you can't personalize your loadout and are stuck with the defaults.
This occurs in the Ace Combat series from time to time, too. Sometimes you have to play through the takeoff as well.
The opening mission of Ace Combat 04 features a carrier launching Mobius One's F-4 if the player chooses that aircraft for the mission; otherwise it is skipped. One could also count the launch sequences from when the player uses the RTB line to rearm.
Another example is the opening to "First Flight" in 5, where your home base is under attack from enemy planes, and you're taxiing to the end of the runway so you can take off, while planes, buildings and vehicles explode and fall around the player. Due to the damage sustained during the bombing and the lack of qualified pilots, it falls to your wing of three, and later four, to defend the entire base.
Another occurs during your first mission from the Kestrel.
The Ace Combat 5 example was recycled for Ace Combat Zero when PJ, after Pixy's defection, and Cipher launch from a base that is under attack by the XB-0 super-bomber.
Played straight at the beginning of Ace Combat 6 during the opening sequence.
In the game Over G Fighters, you have to perform the takeoff manually, after manually taxiing your plane to the runway. (I recommend that you just skip this part and go straight to the runway, since if you botch the taxiing so bad that the landing gear are ruined... mission failed. Say what?)
This is taken much further, of course, in virtually every actual combat flight simulator. Many also require a full startup sequence and correct radio communications.
Air Rivals has a relatively cinematic launch sequence for whenever a player leaves town. There's also a bit of a tradition within the playerbase to send duel challenges while landed and then take off as it starts.
The X-Wing Series had launch sequences before every mission. However, due to the specific way that Star Wars fighters are launched, the cutscene may be much less exciting than with other games. However, it compensates for this with the subsequent hyperjump directly into the combat zone.
Final Fantasy XII had as many gratuitous take-off scenes as it did airships. It had a lot of airships.
Your spaceship from Galaga '88 does that at the start of the game.
Ikaruga has an equivalent sequence at the start of each level where the player's ship accelerates to intercept the enemies while the music kicks in.
Star Control: The Ur-Quan Dreadnought's secondary attack is essentially a mini-version of this trope.
The 194X series of arcade shooters had an initial launch sequence from an aircraft carrier.
Freelancer has a skippable mini-sequence every time you enter a planet, station or capital ship.
There is also few better examples in storyline missions. Especialy defense of planet Toledo from Nomads with pilots running and ships launching with sound of alarm. Also the escape from Sprague and other few examples.
Another Century's Episode gained this in the second game, with each robot doing something suitably iconic (for example, God Gundam summoned by a finger-snap and appearing on the Albion's bridge rather than the flight deck).
Gradius III has a scene of this if the title screen is left to play.
Gradius V has it at the beginning of the first stage. "Emergency! Emergency! This station at planet Gradius is under attack by the Bacterians!"
Halo 4. In the first episode of Spartan Ops, following the Infinity's Dynamic Entry at Requiem by way of rammingthrough a Covenant battlecruiser, the massive starship then proceeds to a scrambling sequence that involves mass deployment of Pelicans, Broadswords, and even entire Charon-class frigates from internal bays, immediately engaging the Covenant remnant forces above the shield world.
The launching sequence for a Pelican is a shoutout to the Viper tube launch of Battlestar Galactica, so close that it's almost copied.
FreeSpace 2 usually just starts you in space, but your first mission into the nebula (full of Interface Screw and mystery) starts you and your wing on the wing of your flagship so that you can fly off into the blue in style.
Rescue on Fractalus! featured a first-person launch sequence from the player's orbital base to the planet below.
Top Gun: The plane is seen firing its engines in the opening cinematic, and then you watch your jet take off in first person. You also have to land the thing at the end of the level, much to a generation of player's immense frustration.
Combat Flight Simulator always starts campaign missions and one-off missions with the player on the ground, requiring you to start your engines and take off before getting to do anything fun. Ordinary flights usually let you start at altitude, though.
Lucasarts' Metal Warriors for the SNES featured this for the player's Giant Mecha as part of the first mission's opening cutscene, complete with dramatic switch-flipping.
Terminal Velocity had the launch scene (complete with caution sirens, and launching from out of a rotating space station) when the game is first started (since the player continues flying between each mission without returning to base or even docking).
Its spiritual successor Furył had a similar scene for when the game is first launched (the ship is prepped and launched from a space station), while the next sequel, Hellbender had its launch scene at the start of the first level (where the player's ship is launched from a carrier, where it never returns to after each mission - both the player's ship and the carrier warp independently to each succeeding mission).
"Emergency! Emergency! Bogies approaching! All interceptors scramble now!"
The first game in the Galaxy Angel Gameverse has a cutscene for the Emblem Frames launching from the ventral hangar of the Cool Ship. It's played at least twice.
In Rogue Squadron, each mission starts with a cutscene showing your selected craft take off from a hanger and fly out through space towards the appropriate planet. Including when that craft is a snowspeeder.
The intro cutscene of Quake II has a squadron of drop pods launching. The pods are knocked out of the sky by an EMP blast, killing most of the soldiers except for the player character.
Raiden Trad featured the player's ship taking off from atop the Airborne Aircraft Carrier as an opening to the first stage, and then again as an opening to the third stage. Interestingly enough, the carrier is shown with extensive battle damage for the second take-off.
Battlefield 3 The start of the level Going Hunting had this as well as all of the pre-flight checks.
Every time an Interceptor is launched in XCOM: Enemy Unknown is launched, we are treated to a dramatic cutscene where its launch catapult is primed, and it's shot out of the big double-doors in the ceiling to chase down a flying saucer.