"Training for SAM launches up to this point had been more or less book learning, recommending a pull to an orthogonal flight path 4 seconds prior to missile impact to overshoot the missile and create sufficient miss distance to negate the effects of the detonating warhead. Well, it works. The hard part though, is to see the missile early enough to make all the mental calculations. "
This is quite similar to Cutscene Power to the Max
in that it showcases a character's sheer skill, or the abilities of their Cool Vehicle
A swarm of seeking projectiles
is flying right at a character, and they're almost certain to be rendered into a fine paste by the attack ... but through an extreme display of evasive maneuvers, the character escapes without the slightest scratch. Sometimes the dodging is merely swerving from side to side or taking sharp turns, sometimes it's done like in Macross
, where the pilot puts his Valkyrie
through aerial acrobatics that would logically cause massive G-forces
. At other times, the pilot maneuvers so as to cause the missiles to hit each other and explode
, or supplements his evasive maneuvers with the use of some weapon to actually shoot down the missiles instead of being Point Defenseless
(but merely being able to shoot down
missiles doesn't make for a High Speed Missile Dodge).
Although High Speed Missile Dodging can and does happen
in Real Life
, real-world anti-aircraft missiles are designed to not actually hit
the target, but instead explode in close proximity
to it and fill the entire vicinity with high-velocity shrapnel
. Thanks to the Rule of Perception
, though, most anti-aircraft missiles in fiction only damage targets if they hit directly.
Aircraft pilots in Real Life
have two basic tactics for dodging missiles; the most common method, as described in the opening quote, is to maneuver the aircraft in such a way that the missile overshoots—so that when its warhead explodes, the shrapnel from the blast won't actually impact the intended target. There are several methods for accomplishing this, depending on the situation and the kind of aircraft involved. Even the massive B-52s
are capable of using this tactic to defeat missiles.
The other tactic is pure speed; some aircraft are (or were
) capable of successfully outrunning air-to-air missiles, such as the MiG-25 and the SR-71 Blackbird
, whose official
missile evasion procedure was "just go faster, duh
" (lightly paraphrased). In this case, it's less about the pilot's skills and more about the abilities of the aircraft itself.
Compare with the Wronski Feint
, which uses the local landscape as an accessory. The same skills used in dodging missiles are also handy for dodging lasers
. See also Smoke Shield
, where it's sometimes implied that although the missiles exploded, the character dodged while obscured from the camera. See also Misguided Missile
, where the missiles are led back to their launcher or into each other. On a smaller scale there's Dodge the Bullet
, which is about, well ... dodging bullets
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Anime and Manga
- The Macross series has at least one example of this in each series.
- Macross Frontier episode 7 gives us this clip, which provides examples of an attempted High Speed Missile Dodge, Macross Missile Massacre, Roboteching, Theme Music Power-Up, BFG, Attack Drones, a partial Cold Sniper, Transforming Mecha, Real Robots, Sapient Ships, Humongous Mecha, Ace Pilot, Vapor Trail (IN SPACE!), and The War Sequence. All in the space of three minutes.
- This became canonized somewhat in the official Robotech RPG by Palladium. According to the rules, it was possible to dodge volleys of up to three missiles, but never more than four, just because it never happened on the show.
- Someone was obviously not paying attention. Max dodges a twenty-plus swarm from Miryia's FPA at least once. Of course, Max is the best pilot living to the point he's just that good.
- To be fair, that is the same chart used in every Palladium game with missiles. It was more a matter that Palladium didn't do their research.
- In the VF-21's initial test run in Macross Plus, a truly enormous swarm of self-guided decoy missiles is shot at it to display its maneuvering capabilities. Since the YF-21 is controlled via neural link, Guld merely has to plot the missiles' individual trajectories and think his way through the gaps in a massively complex vector. Ironically, when he shoots an impenetrable wall of real missiles at Isamu, the latter merely shuts off his engines, drops some countermeasures for the missiles to hit, and glides peacefully above the ensuing inferno.
- They even comment on the proximity fuses of the missiles and wonder why they have not detonated as the YF-21 is dodging them. It seems the YF-21 is travelling too fast for the triggers to engage.
- In Macross Zero, to show off the Valkyrie's rarely-used head cannons, Roy Focker uses an eye-tracking interface to shoot down dozens upon dozens of micro-missiles shot at him by his nemesis at almost point-blank range.
- Lets not forget Shin Kudo, who managed to dodge a similar swarm in a normal F-14 using pure badassery and skill (as well as plenty of tolerance for high-G maneuvers). On the other hand, he kinda had no other choice as the missiles mostly ignored his flares.
- Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann manages to use every means of missile dodging available the first time they're able to fly against the Airborne Aircraft Carrier Dai-Gunten: The first volley is destroyed by the Gurren Lagann's own volley (tiring out the primary pilot), the second volley is dodged by the secondary pilot (while he's screaming in fear) and the final two supermissiles collide with one another after the first one is grabbed and thrown back at the ship.
- An example of a magical projectile dodge is in the Watery card episode of Cardcaptor Sakura.
- Kagutsuchi of Mai-HiME when attacking Artemis.
- Subverted in Love Hina when Naru, screaming and arms flailing, flees from Kaolla Su's Macross Missile Massacre.
- Just about every time the Nirvash typeZERO mech is deployed in Eureka Seven, it pulls off at least one of these, usually butchering several hapless KLF units in the process. In fact, most, if not all, of the openings also depict it.
- The series also features homing lasers, which receive
similar identical treatment. Does this make any sense whatsoever? No. Is it awesome? Oh yeah!
- Parodied in School Rumble, where Harima races downhill at high speed, in the snow, on a giant curry bowl, dodging a battery of large, apparently heat-seeking frozen fish projectiles with an impressive sequence of maneuvers and aerial acrobatics.
- Parodied in Project A-ko, where Eiko Megami not only dodges missiles, but in the final scene uses the enormous barrage of the alien ship as stepping stones up to the ship.
- A variation in Bleach: In the climactic battle between Ichigo Kurosaki and Byakuya Kuchiki on Sokyouku Hill, Byakuya unleashes his Bankai, which transforms his Zanpakuto into a cloud of razor-like blades. Ichigo responds by demonstrating the insane speed boost of his Bankai for the first time, knocking every one of the millions of blades to the ground. Ultimately Averted however when Byakuya responds by increasing the amount of blades he's using by 100-fold, whilst chiding Ichigo of making the same mistake that Renji did; he has a bankai as well, and he's still better with it. It takes Ichigo's Super-Powered Evil Side to save him here.
- Rushuna dodges bullets and missiles in virtually every episode of Grenadier. Subverted when a stray bullet rips off her panties leaving her defenseless, as she is unable to perform acrobatics without exposing herself.
- Spike in Cowboy Bebop dodges missiles, asteroids, even laser beams in his spacecraft.
- FLCL sees Haruka dodge hundreds of bullets at once, while cutting every single one of them neatly in two halves with a razor. Talk about going over the top.
- Since it mostly involved both sides launching barrages of magical bullets at each other, both Nanoha and Fate engaged in quite a bit of this during their last battle in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha.
- Used repeatedly in Code Geass by some of the more talented aces. Kallen even pulls one off while still on the ground.
- In the 5th episode of Overman King Gainer, the Yapan city forces shoot surface to air missiles, which King Gainer dodges while flying towards them to defeat the invisible Blackmail. While Yassaha tried to do the same in Blackmail, he was quickly shot down.
- The Outlaw Star manages this occasionally.
- Area 88 pilots attempt this frequently. It doesn't always work and the g-forces involved actually kill Mario in the manga.
- Not content to merely dodge this time, when a rocket-propelled grenade is fired at Vash the Stampede he kicks it out of the way.
- In Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, Kira while in the Strike Gundam is known to do this from time to time, awesomely at that. To the point that he will have a barrage of missiles flying towards him, and he will dodge through the gap in their position, causing them to collide amongst each other, behind him.
- In a Deadpool comic, Deadpool is driving a pickup when Bullseye shoots at him with a rocket launcher. Deadpool does a 90-degree brake turn, opens the windows, and watches the missile sail harmlessly through the car. Even Bullseye, who usually gets very upset if he misses, is impressed.
- Tintin. In "The Red Sea Sharks" the Big Bad orders his Submarine Pirates to sink one of his own freighter that's been appropriated by our heroes, killing the meddlesome Tintin and destroying all the evidence against him. Haddock has to keep turning the ship to avoid the torpedoes being fired at them, only to have an Oh, Crap moment when the handle of the engine order telegraph breaks off in his hand.
- Justified in An Entry With A Bang!: the armour on Battletech aerospace fighters means the blast fragmentation shrapnel and continuous rods from normal air-to-air missiles are much less effective. Contact-detonated shaped charges are mounted in replacement, so it's possible to evade the blasts. It is noted that the g-forces involved aren't healthy, though... and you can dodge one missile, maybe two, but not a whole swarm of them.
- In Episode 7 of Super Mario Bros. Z, Sonic is busy dodging bullets from Mecha Sonic's machine gun (rather easily) when Mecha decides to send 2 missiles his way. In a slo-mo encounter, Sonic rebounds off a wall, and leapfrogs one of the missiles in mid-air. The move's coolness is detracted from when the missiles hit the wall and the explosion sends Sonic flying.
- Wings To Fly has pilots employing countermeasures and the classic missile-avoidance maneuvers used by real pilots, and their own missiles, to deal with incoming missiles. In the last case it's demonstrated that this can also be done for missiles aimed at others.
Film - Animated
Film - Live-Action
- Ironhide dodges Decepticon missiles in the 2007 Transformers Live-Action Adaptation.
- Could be the movie being true to the source material. Decepticons were pretty lousy shots.
- Captain Ramius in The Hunt for Red October pulls this off twice. With a submarine. Then the USS Dallas one-ups him after leading away the live torpedo tracking the Red October.
- Ramius' Crowning Moment of Awesome was the case where he ordered his sub to run head-first into an incoming torpedo to destroy it before its warhead had time to arm.
- In fact, the Red October never once fires a torpedo throughout the movie. Neither does the Dallas, for that matter.
- Dobbs, Ace Pilot from the German TV action show Der Clown, manages to evade two surface-to-air missiles with a helicopter (neither an Apache nor Airwolf) in the movie Payday. He even sends one flying back into the SAM mortar.
- In the 2008 Iron Man film, during the saving of Golmera, the titular character narrowly avoids a missile fired from a tank by sidestepping it in the nick of time. In a Crowning Moment of Awesome, Iron Man fires a smaller missile back at it, and walks away as it explodes behind him.
- In Octopussy, James Bond is in a small jet in hostile territory and the enemy launches a surface to air missile at him. With the missile chasing him, Bond heads for the hangar where he was caught trying to destroy a plane. The commander realizes what he is about to attempt and orders the hangar doors closed. But it's too late, Bond successfully flies through the hangar just in time while the pursuing missile collides with the interior and destroys the hangar.
- Most submarine movies will have at least one scene of the heroes performing a last minute turn to escape an incoming torpedo. The Hunt for Red October accomplishes this by having the crew blow ballast so that they quickly rise vertically. In real life, submarines will attempt to turn to face the torpedo so that they present the smallest possible target while discharging countermeasures, or employ high-speed maneuvers that create agitated areas of water which reflect sonar. The lack of submarine-vs-submarine battles, at least when armed with homing torpedoes, means this tactic remains historically untested.
- One of the purposes behind the development of the VA-111 Shkval supercavitating torpedo (which is itself unguided as we still have no idea how to steer when going so fast underwater) is to force the enemy sub that has just launched a wire-guided torpedo to evade, cutting the wire.
- This gets used for a Money Making Shot in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra where Duke and Ripcord dodge several missiles in Bullet Time.
- Attempted in Behind Enemy Lines. It doesn't work.
- At the climax of The Dark Knight Rises, Batman must maneuver the Bat to dodge a set of missiles that were fired at him. The first two are stopped by flares, the next are tricked into crashing into buildings, and the last is maneuvered back to its sender. This is especially shocking because Batman is flying the Bat, which is some kind of helicopter designed for urban operation and should have no way to outmaneuver or outrun a rocket-propelled missile.
- Done a few times in Flight of the Intruder, though, as The Boxman demonstrates, you can only dodge the missile when you can see it to know which way to go. The film also nicely demonstrates the "near hit" reality of surface-to-air missiles, as the missile explodes a fair distance away from the plane in question, which is still destroyed by the blast.
- In RoboCop (1987), the titular cyborg does this a few times during his Executive Suite Fight with ED-209 in OCP headquarters.
- Explained by the narrator in Flight of the Intruder: For the A-6 Intruder, the preferred strategy was to dive towards the missile while ejecting decoys and attempting to jam the enemy's radar. The trickiest parts were of course spotting the incoming missiles early enough to know which way to dive, and running out of enemy missiles before you ran out of altitude.
- Attempted by a Pinnace pilot in Honor Harrington: Flag in Exile. Unfortunately, they still took a glancing blow from the missile, cutting the ship in half rather than simply disintegrating it.
- Done with cannonballs in Sharpe. Truth in Television, in that cannonballs travel slow enough that someone far enough away can realistically be able to get out of the way. Also subverted in that, whenever characters just dodge cannonballs, it inevitably ends with a concussion or unconsciousness from the wind of the cannonball's passing.
- A variation in the Star Carrier series. Missiles are actually pretty darn hard to shake (they're flown by A.I. and have a huge array of sensors to beat any ECM), so a dodge by itself doesn't work. Instead, you use the dodge to lead the missile to where you want it, then dump "sand"note and let the missile fly into it.
- Ultraman Max is very fond of this trope, although it's usually the DASH planes that do it.
- Subverted in the pilot miniseries for the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica—though Boomer's Raptor and Apollo's Viper manage to avoid being directly hit by Cylon missiles, the subsequent explosions take both their ships offline, if not destroying them.
- Adama does seem to comment it's possible in his speech to Starbuck after she's injured and working out to get back in shape. He grounds her when she can't simulate holding the high-gee turn long enough.
- In Primeval series 5, Matt, Abby, Connor and the sole surviving/conscious naval officer pull one of these off in a sub with next to no warning, after the sub had been damaged travelling twice through an anomaly and essentially had to be jump started. Extra levels of awesome for doing this in reverse and firing off a jury rigged anomaly locking torpedo that went through the anomaly before the nuke!torpedo that was fired at them did.
- Averted in seaQuest DSV, despite it being a show all about submarines and featuring a number of sub combat scenes (especially in the third season). The titular sub preferred to simply shoot down the torpedoes with countermeasures.
- There's also a couple of examples from more recent Final Fantasy games, such as Dirge of Cerberus and Final Fantasy IX.
- Sonic Unleashed's opening cutscene.
- Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes had Solid Snake dodge a missile by leaping on top of it.
- Likewise, Devil May Cry 3 had Dante dodge a missile by bending over Neo-style...and then leaping atop it and surfing around the room on it before aiming it at a wall and jumping off.
- Hotsuma of Shinobi not only dodges a missile matrix style, he uses Akujiki two slice it in two, in mid-flip. Said missile halves then explode as Hotsuma lands.
- In the MMORPG EVE Online, the Interceptor class of ships are the fastest ships in the entire game. It's quite common for Interceptors to outrun missiles fired from other players. this has been repeatedly showcased and commented on in the annual tournaments between player alliances, where it's referred to as "Benny Hill-ing".
- With the speed nerf included in the Quantum Rise expansion, this is now harder, if not outright impossible, to pull off, making Defender anti-missile missiles the only reliable way to stop missiles from hitting you. Hitler, who bought an expensive high speed battleship and a whole set of speed boosting implants 3 weeks before the speed nerf, has all the reasons to pull out his usual rage.
- At Alliance Tournament 6, a Vigil class frigate(arguably the fastest ship of its class and price range) pulls this off and escapes beyond the targeting range of enemy missile ships. The commentators, while cracking up, commented that they should bring their own Vigils to start a new kind of race, and at the end offered the Vigil pilot a bribe to self destruct his ship so that the next match can start in schedule. After this incident, the act of outrunning enemy fire with a cheap frigate(especially a Vigil) is being called "Vigil Racing."
- Or at least they would, if they worked.
- While ships cannot outrun missiles anymore, fast enough ships can still outrun the explosions, reducing the damage caused. For the largest missile type, "fast enough ships" used to mean anything that moves.
- Independence War demands this out of the player. If you cannot dodge countless homing missiles (that each do 20% damage) while dealing with the inertia inherent to a Newtonian flight model, you will DIE. At least the LDS inertia cancel trick in Independence War 2 helps a lot by throwing off the missiles' lead compensation.
- Players of Armored Core had better learn to do this themselves, or suffer the consequences. In fact, careful research on the appropriate wikis will usually reveal guides to some common missile-evasion maneuvers; depending on the type of missile and its movement pattern, the evasion pattern is different. Which is why some players (and AIs) take to launching several swarms of different types of missiles simultaneously.
- The Macross Missile Massacres can be fun. Even more fun is dodging fire from the automatic flak gun, which is easier than one would think if you have a decent flyer, since the gun's AI is easy to predict.
- Earlier games has missile barrages about 12, or maximum 16 missiles at a time. In For Answer, a dedicated missileboat can launch a whopping 128 missiles continously, at a single target, with fire-and-forget capability (meaning that once a lock-on is ensured and the trigger is pulled, each missiles launched will track the locked on target even when it's no longer on the lock-on arc). This makes missile dodging paramount to survival itself.
- For Answer also has VTF missiles, which were meant to avert this trope by possessing proximity detonation capabilities. However, a particularly fast AC can still dodge it.
- The doujin shmup game Ether Vapor not only embraces this trope wholeheartedly, it made this trope an art form by making the missile dodge sequence not just a cutscene, but a bonus minigame where the AI takes control of your craft and all you need to do is destroy as many missiles as you can. You'd still be invincible, but hey, it's just THAT cool!
- Ace Combat players must master this before taking on the higher difficulty levels. Particularly fun when outnumbered five or ten to one. The enemy will do it too. It's not clear why the missiles act so oddly, as they can take out a tank with one "shack on the target" but need two to blow through a plane, at least in Shattered Skies. Strangereal is weird.
- Notably Ace Combat Zero has one exception to this: the ADFX-02 Morgan will for the first two thirds of the final mission adhere to this but in the last third will simply deflect all attacks fired at him... except for missiles that come at him head on.
- On the same note, H.A.W.X. also incorporates a lot of this, especially in "OFF" mode, where in order to shake missiles, the plane performs maneuvers that would more than likely paste the pilot.
- Also in the game, the player must fly through an ERS "Low-altitude" tunnel through a zone covered in SAM sites. While all the player sees is himself flying through the tunnel avoiding the missiles, some replays of the mission may show the pilot's craft zooming near ground level and outrunning or outflying six or seven SAMs locked on the player. So what LOOKS like a normal tunnel flight to the pilot seems like a high speed missile dodge to the observer.
- There's also the almost constant chorus of "Missile evaded" and the also constant alarm that plays when there's a missile coming at you.
- You actually earn points towards Challenges for dodging missiles without using flares. Evading the missiles is trivial regardless of the mode you're in; when the wingmen tell you to break right, they're not saying it for effect, just roll hard to one side and pull back for a U-turn. It works. Pilots can dodge missiles coming straight at them with a little skill and luck too.
- Contrary to the trope name, slowing down is often the best option, as it allows for tighter turns or even drift and stall turns in OFF mode.
- Generally averted in the X-Wing series. Proton torpedoes and concussion missiles lock on to targets before firing, will swerve to match dodges, and have a proximity fuse. Still, it's possible to avoid a lock, and fancy enough moves can let a pilot survive.
- There's only three consistent methods to keep a locked on missile from hitting in the older X-Wing and TIE Fighter games: You can try to dump all power into the engines and pray you outrun it. If it was fired from far enough out, you can turn toward it and blast it out of the sky. Or you can do the sensible thing and use your chaff/flares, which is generally far more effective than either of the other options. Fancy flying sometimes works, but the lighter missiles are generally just as maneuverable as your craft, so don't count on it.
- I seem to recall the missiles' turning radii being fairly unimpressive. If you dodge the initial approach, you can usually get inside a "safe sphere" and shoot it down. Chaff/flares are for surviving several at once.
- Used in combination with a Rocket Punch in Metal Wolf Chaos.
- The Master Chief of Halo did this in Fall of Reach when testing the new Mark V Mjolnir armor, by slapping the missile aside just before it hit him. No, his armor and physical augmentations don't give him reflexes that ridiculous: Cortana handled the timing.
- Though this doesn't mean he was completely undamaged by the missile's explosion.
- He was also set up to be killed by Colonel Ackerson, who never approved of the SPARTAN-II project.
- Space maps in Battlefront 2 essentially require anyone flying a fighter, interceptor, or bomber to do this or you will blow up.
- Ryu Hayabusa's ending in Dead or Alive 4. He dodges two missiles.
- Ace Online has the Idle Sniper I-Gear, the fighter type Gear that can outrun most missiles from levels as low as 40-50. I-Gear top speed= 500 (before lvl 86), most missile top speed=450. Enter Episode 3 and the introduction of Speed Card missile upgrades. Now most I-Gear pilots rely not only on pure high speed, but also a healthy dose of Wronski Feint and barrel rolls. Any I-Gear that manages to hit 94 however, will still be able to outrun most missiles except highly customized ones.
- This trope is a very large part of gameplay in any Afterburner game. Interestingly, some missiles do seem to have a proximity fuse and go up in a blast with a not-insignificant Aoe, so you do need to put some distance from them.
- Generally one of the ways to survive in the Wing Commander series, given the limited amount of decoys you generally get (at least pre-Prophecy), particularly when they get significantly more fatal in WC4. In something of a "huhwha...?" situation, your slow-ass, stock clunker of a Tarsus, the starting ship in Privateer, can simply afterburn away from missiles that are supposedly twice as fast as the ship they're targeting, even without much ECM help.
- Another Western example is Freelancer. As soon as you hear the loud beeping and your ship screaming "INCOMING MISSILE!", you know it's time to swerve with afterburners at max!
- The AS-Mothership map of Unreal Tournament 2004 features spacefighters with homing missiles as secondary armament. Dodging them is not especially hard: their tracking abilities are rather pathetic, merely flying directly at the missile on a narrow angle will do the job. Man-portable AVRiL missiles however are VERY hard to dodge: they automatically lead a moving target and are capable of pulling extremely sharp 180° turns. Either pull off a Wronski Feint or break line of sight with the launcher to make the missile lose guidance.
- Mantas are notorious for being able to outmaneuver an AVRiL by positioning themselves in front of an obstacle, waiting for the missile to get close then leaping over it. Cicadas drop the issue by being equipped with chaff specifically for defeating AVRiLs.
- In A.S.P. Air Strike Patrol (AKA Desert Fighter), both ground and air-launched missiles can be avoided by the player through some fancy maneuvers. Valuable because not only do your missiles, bombs, and countermeasures count as the same universal ammo reserve, but using countermeasures affects your supplies rating just like expended munitions.
- This happens in the cinematic trailer for Brink, though Splash Damage assures us you can't do this in-game.
- This is a regular occurrence in the X-Universe games, since missiles are often slower than the ships they're fired at. In fact, one of the most effective tactics in an Old School Dogfight is to use the missile as a distraction and make the kill with guns.
- This is possible in Battlestar Galactica Online, most often with Strikes, but you'll still want to pack decoys because it is not very reliable.
- It is not exactly an aircraft missile, but the Red Shell from the Mario Kart series is a Homing Projectile that can be very hard to avoid. In Mario Kart Wii the homing shell must be blocked with another item, as it is next to impossible to dodge due to how the shell mechanics work. In earlier installments like Double Dash, however, it can be dodged by doing a mini-turbo boost at the right moment. The shells will chase you down, then "hover" for a second behind your kart, and then speed up to ram into you. Just as it does so, it breaks the homing effect, meaning that ending your power slide drift (with the added drift boost) is enough to make the shell pass behind you at an angle instead of striking the vehicle.
- Vector Thrust makes heavy use of this trope by nature of being a Spiritual Successor to Ace Combat, but future updates may phase this out with upgrades to missile seekers that make them more perceptible to increased engine heat (such as when you're trying to speed away).
- In Planetside 2, the tiltjet fighter-bombers are nimble enough that players can do this.
- Episode 10 of Red vs. Blue Season 8 brings forth the return of Tex, who then delivers a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown to the Reds and Tucker. Simmons fires a heat-seaking missile to Tex, who outruns it and goes through a portal and runs right back to the "heroes", missile in tow. She clotheslines Sarge, Simmons and Tucker who were conveniently standing in single-file at the time... for some reason... and she slides under Grif. She then leads the missile into a bunch of exploding barrels.
- Though some people would tell you that High Speed Missile Dodging is impossible in real life, combat pilots are trained in methods of outmaneuvering and dodging missiles. Some examples:
- As explained in the opening, even the massive B-52s can perform High Speed Missile Dodges. The tactic employed by B-52 crews during the Vietnam War, for example, was to fall towards the missile at an oblique angle drastically increasing the closing velocity. This caused the "shotgun" cone of destruction of the exploding missile to mostly fall behind them.
- British Harrier pilots in the 1980s Falklands War developed a technique for dodging the Argentine anti-aircraft missiles. Known as "viffing"—for Vectoring In Forward Flight—it involved canting the nozzles of the Harrier, producing a sudden change in altitude while maintaining course,causing the missile to be unable to react and fly beneath the target Harrier.
- This video from Operation Desert Storm demonstrates Real Life High Speed Missile Dodging at work—sort of. Twelve American F-16 fighters were on a bombing mission north of Baghdad, but ran into a Macross Missile Massacre of surface-to-air missiles (SAMs). The pilot in this video winds up dodging six SAMs through skillful piloting and effective use of his ECM pod and countermeasures. Two of his fellow pilots, however, were shot down. A written account of this incident can be found here, in the section labeled Day Three.
- A common recommendation in BFM (Basic Flight Manuvers) is to put the missile at 90 degrees off the nose on either side, then break as described in the opening article quote.
- Fighter pilots actually have a slang term for evading an oncoming surface-to-air missile. They call it dancing with the missile. Make of that what you will.
- Footage exists of Vietnam-era pilots dodging multiple SAMs this way. The trick is to wait until the last possible second so that the missile doesn't have time to correct.
- And of course, there's always the other option: "Just go faster."
- The MiG-25 "Foxbat" was fast enough to outrun the earlier versions of the Sidewinder heat-seeking missile. However, modern versions of the Sidewinder fly at speeds of Mach 4 (or faster), outpacing the Foxbat's top speed of 2.5~2.8. The Gulf War demonstrated just how far Tech Marched On, with American F-15s slaughtering Iraqi MiG-25s using that very missile type.
- The frail U-2 spy plane was designed to fly higher than any surface-to-air missile or aircraft could go... until it didn't.
- The SR-71 "Blackbird" was designed to not need an escort or any kind of defense, as it could fly so high and fast that any missile would run out of fuel before it caught it. Standard evasive action was simply to accelerate.
- This is the modus operandi of most low-altitude attacks; the object being not to go faster than the missile, but to go faster than the operator or the missile can lock you while you're in its smaller field of view. And don't make more than one pass.
- Pilots performing "Suppression of Enemy Air Defense" duties get to know this tactic very well. In the US Air Force it's termed "Wild Weasel," but no matter what it's called it's a deadly game of flashlight tag—just with radar and missiles as the flashlights. SEAD crews must know how to dodge missiles to maximize their chances of survival.
- In the Vietnam War, the usual SEAD strategy was as follows: Send a fighter bomber carrying special radar-detecting gear, cluster bombs, and radar-seeking missiles, to suspected SAM sites. Once the enemy locks onto them with their targeting radar, they'd lob off one of their missiles, then spend the next little while frantically evading the missiles that the Vietnamese had launched as soon as they had gotten the aforementioned lock. The first generation of Wild Weasel planes didn't carry homing missiles, and had to try and actually find the radar site on the ground to bomb it, while the Vietnamese were trying to shoot them down the whole time.
- The patch worn by the Wild Weasel aircrews showed a terrified weasel, with their slogan printed in acronym form: YGBSM: You've Gotta Be Shittin' Me!, the reaction most crews had when informed of their new mission. In fact, the phrase was first coined by a former B-52 electronic warfare officer when he was told that he would be the Guy in Back to a self-absorbed fighter pilot while purposely exposing themselves to enemy SAM sites in order to destroy them.
- After the first couple of generations of jet fighter planes, air strategists decided that the future of air warfare was air-to-air missiles; planes just moved so fast that they couldn't have time to maneuver against each other as in the classic WW II dogfights, so how would they have time to aim and fire traditional machine guns (or their replacement, autocannons)? The famous F-4 Phantom fighter didn't even have a cannon in its first few versions, as it was initially designed as a high-speed, high-altitude interceptor, intended to carry a load of radar-guided air-to-air missiles. Needless to say, things didn't work out quite that way. Early generations of air-to-air missiles just weren't that reliable. Later, after missiles became more reliable, friendly-fire incidents demonstrated the problems in over-the-horizon firing without visual identification of the target, concern of which was taken to ludicrous extremes in the Rules of Engagement the US military were given in the Vietnam War (where their opponents were usually able to dance all around the slug-like US fighters, though the Phantom's monstrous General Electric J79 engines—either of which by itself would have been the most powerful ever mounted in a fighter aircraft, and the Phantom had twin engines—gave it vastly superior climb and acceleration, which kept it from being a turkey shoot for the North Vietnamese). When the F-4 entered combat for the first time, they quickly figured out how to add a gun pod to the F-4, and later models included an internal cannon.
- And because heaven only knows history can't repeat itself some USAF authorities are trying to remove the guns on aircraft AGAIN. To make things better the F-35, which in many versions lacks a gun, only carries a single pair of missiles in most configurations.
- The idea that guided missiles are inescapable and that this trope cannot occur in real life has been around for decades.
- In fact, the British government's 1957 White Paper on Defence predicted that the surface-to-air missile would make manned aircraft obsolete. A consultative paper recommending that all work on manned combat aircraft be halted because of this was circulated for comment; the only known response was the word "Balls" scribbled in the margin by an air commodore.
- Proponents of unmanned combat aircraft argue that developments in aircraft and missile technology will make it impossible for a human pilot to remain conscious while pulling the necessary maneuvers to defeat guided missiles (among other dogfighting tactics), because the G-forces will be too strong to withstand—thereby forcing humans out of the cockpit and into control booths instead (or handing the whole thing off to AIs). However, G-Suit technology is also improving.
- Other countermeasures are also becoming more effective even as missiles are, though they are requiring less actual maneuvering. Notably the latest version of the venerable Sidewinder is becoming longer range as the USAF is worried that the radar guided missiles will be useless due to stealth and more advanced radar jamming. Almost sounds like air combat over Vietnam. To top things off laser jammers are now stopping infrared based missiles like the Sidewinder rather effortlessly.
- Also very possible when talking about anti-ground missiles of man-portable size, such as anti-tank guided missiles, which are usually intended to be used against large and not very maneuverable targets, such as tanks. When used against infantry, they are surprisingly slow and it is entirely possible to evade them. As these missiles also commonly have warheads with a very narrow area of effect (commonly HEAT), having been meant to defeat heavy armor, not generate a large blast zone, individual humans who are not caught by surprise are very able to get away unscathed from a frontal attack with these weapons (provided a sufficient distance to the firer).