Fighter Launching Sequence
aka: Take Off Every Zig
"Emergency! Emergency! Incoming enemy fighters! Prepare for launch!"
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
engines. This isn't always a case of Space Is Noisy
(because they're probably still in the pressurized 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!
, 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
, Standard Establishing Spaceship Shot
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Anime & Manga
- All the time in the various Robotech series (Macross, Southern Cross, Mospeada), complete with a Stock Footage unfurling of the tail fins from their storage mode.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion does this with its giant mecha.
- Getting to the robots in Go Lion, and therefore Voltron.
- 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.
- The first opening sequence of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Striker S did this using Nanoha and Fate in the place of planes and Humongous Mecha, complete with flight strip lined with lights and Hayate gesturing for them to launch. Humongous Mecha series disguised as a Magical Girl series, remember?
- Uchuu Senkan Yamato: The Black Tigers.
- 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.
- Martian Successor Nadesico features a Hot-Blooded pilot yelling, "MANUAL LAUNCH!" and just running his Aestivalis out of the hangar on foot. This is directly lampshaded.
- Tekkaman Blade has a Stock Footage launch sequence every time the hero launches up to the space ring.
- 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 Quraci Legion 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.
- Eureka Seven sometimes has Stock Footage of the Nirvash launching into batttle, complete with Transformation Sequence.
- 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.
- Last Exile and Last Exile: Fam, the Silver Wing have several, the straightest example being the Gracies rocket fighters' launch sequence, complete with lots of smoke and impressive booster jettisoning.
- A one-episode event in Gatchaman episode "Jumbo Shakora, the Ocean Devil King". Subversion: It's the bad guys, launching from their latest mecha.
- Happens several times in Sentou Yousei Yukikaze. The most prominent one is in the final episode when whole squadrons of planes are taking off from an Airborne Aircraft Carrier thousands of feet in the sky.
- Episode 15 of Aldnoah.Zero has a major space battle featuring this, complete with a Suspiciously Similar Song to Hell March 2 from Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2.
Films — Animation
- Used by both sides in Battle for Terra.
- Wallace & Gromit:
- Parodied and subverted in A Close Shave. Wallace uses a visual feast of overly-elaborate Technology Porn, a clear Affectionate Parody of the sequence from Thunderbirds, 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.
- The Iron Giant
- "Mr. President, we've got a situation sir."
Films — Live-Action
- 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.
- Similar, done thrice in Michael Bay's Pearl Harbor.
- In The Rock when the plane meant to bomb Alcatraz takes off.
- Batman films often have a one-vehicle version.
- The Final Countdown starts off with an F-14 Tomcat taking off from the Pearl Harbor airfield, and has many shots of Navy aircraft being launched off the aircraft carrier Nimitz.
- Battle of Britain: Well don't just stand there! Get them up!
- Also features a subversion: throughout the film the pilots at the main viewpoint squadron are repeatedly shown trying to kill time while staying within earshot of the office with the telephone, because reacting to that buys an extra few seconds before the main alarm goes off. Near the end everyone is extra nervous, because the Luftwaffe should have launched their first raid of the day by now. The telephone rings, everyone jumps up... and it's just the canteen announcing that the Tea's ready.
- 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 when the Wicked Witch of the West sends her flying monkeys after Dorthy and Co, and we see the monkeys swarming in the sky from the window of her castle.
The Wicked Witch of the West
: Do take care of those Ruby Slippers! I want them most of all! Now fly, FLY! FLY, 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.
- In "Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo", pilots on the Doolittle Raid take off from an aircraft carrier in B-25s, something that had never been done before. It led to this exchange between a pilot and co-pilot.
Pilot: Raise the flaps
Co-Pilot: (Looks) They weren't down.
Pilot: Great. I wonder what else we forgot.
- 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.
- Both Battlestar Galactica series. 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.
- Ultraman Towards The Future did this with the UMA fighter jets, in nearly every episode.
- Ultraman Gaia featured the XIG fighters launching from their base in the series' opening sequence.
- Ultraman Nexus featured the launching sequence of the Chrome Chesters in the series' opening sequence for the first 25 episodes of the series.
- The opening sequence of Ultraman Mebius shows the Gun Phoenix taking off.
- 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.)
- Power Rangers, a LOT. Especially Power Rangers Operation Overdrive.
- 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.
- UFO. When Moonbase interceptors or Sky One launched to fight incoming UFO's.
- An elaborate one in Space: Above and Beyond, in which the cockpits descend and attach to the bodies of the fighters before launch.
- Just about every episode on JAG taking place on an aircraft carrier will feature this trope in some fashion.