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Hover Tank
Artwork by Eli Maffei.

Everyone knows that Power Floats. And everyone knows that Cool Tanks are power incarnate. So what happens when you make a Cool Tank float? You get a Hover Tank of course!

Powered by Applied Phlebotinum, Hover Tanks are the go-to Rule of Cool war machine. They usually hover inexplicably only a few feet off the ground, often bobbing slightly. Many may have a variety of Anti Gravity drive, rather than air-powered thrust like real-world hovercraft. Oddly enough, even when a Hover Tank can float/fly high off the ground, it's usually still built like a ground tank, with its turret and weapons all only covering the top of the vehicle.

Hover Tanks would be utterly impractical using real world technology, as they would burn a lot of fuel just to stay up and yet wouldn't clear most terrain obstacles. They would burn more fuel just counteracting recoil. The amount of armor and equipment they could carry would also be severely limited. Of course, all that usually doesn't matter in fiction, though some settings do restrict hovertanks to lighter designs. Though that still leaves the tank ramming itself into the ground every time it fires.

In strategy games, they may be faster and more maneuverable than their land-bound counterparts, but more fragile. They are usually amphibious and can travel over water at full speed. Another advantage, seen particularly in third-person vehicular shooter scenarios, is the ability to 'strafe', or move from side to side while still pointing the same way and firing, which most tracked or wheeled vehicles can't do, and which allows the Hover Tank to dodge incoming slow-moving projectiles and attack while moving in and out of cover.

Military hovercraft aren't included. They ride on a mundane air cushion, barely lift off the ground, and have a difficult time operating on non-flat terrain.

Contrast with the Spider Tank, for cases in which the conventional treads have been traded in for legs instead of a floating propulsion. See also: Cool Tank.


Examples:

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     Anime and Manga  

  • The vehicle trope is played with in Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross/Robotech : Southern Cross/The Robotech Masters, where the VHT-1 Spartas is a hovertank, but only in its tank mode for the purposes of transportation. To use its maximum firepower, it must go into Guardian Mode to engage its heavy cannon, but at the cost of being highly restricted in movement. Finally, Battleloid Mode, which is more a humanoid robot configuration is used when the pilot needs more maneuverability for combat.
  • Gundam series
    • Mobile Suit Gundam introduced the Dom, a heavily-armored Hover-Humongous Mecha. It's oversized forelegs contained jet engines that it used to "skate" across the ground.
    • The Tragos mobile suit from Mobile Suit Gundam Wing in it's walker mode is basically the tank of mobile suits, a huge beast with massive armor plates, huge twin shoulder cannons, and a rifle for close combat. With a couple of attachments it can transform into a hover-tank mode, especially useful for navigating desert terrain. The rebel Maguanac Corps also had a hover-based Mobile Suit called the Oliphant, which was apparently used as an unmanned drone since all 40 members of the Maguanac Corps pilot the eponymous Maguanac mobile suits.
  • The "Air Balleles" (probably a corruption of Barrel, from the Alternate History name for tanks used in the works of Harry Turtledove) of The Five Star Stories. They are actually capable of genuine flight, but prefer to stay close to the ground and generally behave like real tanks to avoid enemy anti-air fire.
  • Desert Punk has the Fire Dragon Kong, a massive hover tank wandering around the desert and was almost completely unstoppable, being the most powerful weapon in the Kanto desert.

     Film — Live Action  

  • Star Wars: Any repulsorlift vehicle from the franchise, such as the Trade Federation's AATs. Oddly enough, hover tanks don't make all that many appearances in Star Wars films or games, considering that they look a whole lot more practical than those walkers we see all the time. This is justified in the Expanded Universe where it's said that terrain effects and enemy countermeasures can easily knock out repulsortanks and leave them vulnerable, hence the Empire's emphasis on walkers.
  • Sgt. Bilko: Fort Baxter is supposed to be demonstrating a hover tank. The problem is while it can hover fine, it runs into that pesky Third Law of Motion when it tries to fire its cannon with nothing bracing it. When asked to demo this defective technology, they fake it.

     Literature  

  • David Drake's Hammer's Slammers series of short stories features fusion-powered air-cushion tanks. Each lift fan has its own armored nacelle to protect it from anything that damages another fan; "while a single broken track block would deadline a tracked vehicle, a wrecked fan only made a blower a little more sluggish."
  • In Hardwired, the main male character is a "Panzerboy" who drives/flies his hovertank "Pony Express" across the balkanized U.S.A., smuggling all sorts of contraband.

     Live Action TV  

     Tabletop Games  

  • 2300 AD makes extensive use of air cushion hovertanks, with all the major nations (and the alien Kafer) fielding their own. They're hydrogen-fueled but indeed use giant lawnmower fans for lift.
  • Warhammer 40,000: The Eldar Falcon and Tau Hammerhead and their offshoots are anti-gravity based hover tanks. Though it should be noted that in the fluff text and novels, they are capable of flying at the same altitudes as attack helicopters, and this is reflected in the game rules by them often being able to fly over obstacles and terrain.
    • The Eldar don't actually use their skimmers as tanks, they use them in the same manner modern armies use helicopters, with the Falcon as the attack helicopter (think Apache), the Wave Serpent as the transport (think Huey), and the Fire Prism and Night Spinner as heavy artillery on a helicopter platform in a manner completely infeasible with modern technology.
    • And consider that the Skimmer type (shared by all of the above vehicles) also includes the Valkyrie, an Imperial Guard transport VTOL jet plane designed to be dropped from orbit and get its cargo of troops to the battlefield.
    • Tau players had found an interesting application of the Devilfish hover transport: by sandwiching their Glass Cannon Fire Warriors between two Devilfish, they essentially formed a moving bunker (the reasoning being that the Devilfish lifts off to allow the Warriors to fire, then back down to shield them).
  • The hovercraft from BattleTech, which are unique in that they actually use air-cushion based lift, like real-world hovercraft. True to form, they're fast and zip over water with ease; on the other hand, they're lightweights compared to many conventional tanks, limited to fairly open terrain, can only safely move at full speed while traveling in a fairly straight line, and can be easily and rudely grounded by a single lucky shot. That said, their speed gives them a decent chance against Mechs in open combat, while other tanks usually need an ambush. While most hovercraft do have air skirts, some use vectored thrust to stay afloat rather than using skirts, making them look much more like a regular hover tank, such as the Hephaestus or the Epona.
  • The basis of the Tabletop Game Grav Armor.
  • Also common in Renegade Legion.
  • The Grav Tank in GURPS: Ultra-Tech can travel at the speed of sound and is nearly invisible to sensors until it starts shooting.
  • Shadowrun has LAVs (low altitude vehicles) aka Thunderbirds that typically use vectored thrust from jet engines. Notable for being incredible fuel hogs. They are not quite light tanks in their armor and armament, but are far tougher than any aircraft, fixed wing or rotary. Piloting them (at least in earlier editions) was a separate skill from driving a ground vehicle or flying any sort of aircraft.
  • O.G.R.E. has GEV (Ground Effect Vehicle) which is basically a hovertank with a fancy name.
  • Traveller has Grav-tanks, often equipped with Plasma Cannons and missiles. In-game it's stated that they've taken over the roles of both helicopters and fighter jets on the future battlefield.
  • Tomorrow's War has both semi-realistic air-cushions and anti-gravity as options for AFVs, though both limit the amount of armor they can support.

     Video Games  

  • The Star Trek: New Worlds game has the player constructing a Federation, Romulan or Klingon colony on an alien world and features a wide variety of hovering vehicles, including tanks. Others include APCs. unarmed scouts and science vehicles and photon torpedo-armed mobile artillery pieces.
  • Another unpopular Interplay-published video game Tanktics gives players D.I.Y. tanks that can ride on five types of propulsion. One of these propulsions is the aptly-named "hover base".
  • The Hoverdynes from Ground Control, which are faster but frailer than conventional tracked Terradynes.
    • Hoverdynes also have a stronger punch, thanks to their energy weapons as opposed to conventional ballistic ammo of the Terradynes.
    • In the sequel, the Hoverdynes make a comeback with some support from walkers. The alien Virons also have Centruroids, which are, effectively, Hoverdynes.
  • "Hover" propulsion from Warzone 2100. Another Fragile Speedster example.
  • Earth 2150. Seriously, just take control of the Lunar Corporation and trust us, its army's nothing but hover tanks.
    • The expansion pack gives them some tracked vehicles, playing this trope straight in that they're more mobile bunkers versus their usual swift and fragile hovering ones.
  • Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri: Hovercrafts are amphibious Lightning Bruisers, but their high cost makes them nearly Awesome, but Impractical.
  • The PAC from Battlefield 2142 had hover tanks. They were no less durable than their traditional EU counterparts, but they traded the turret in for the very useful ability to strafe.
  • Command & Conquer series
    • In Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun the Global Defense Initiative got hovering MLRSes. They were fast and able to easily traverse terrain, including skimming over water, but had light armor and were grounded during Ion Storms. And in the next game... GDI went back to treads, ditching both mechas and hover propulsion (with the exception of Juggernauts, which they still use for artillery purposes).
    • GDI got both methods of propulsion back in the C&C 3 expansion Kane's Wrath, though only the Steel Talons sub-faction uses the Titans and Wolverines (the latter are described more as Powered Armor than tanks, which most GDI infantry wear anyway).
      • Said hovercraft are the Slingshot, a light, fast, weakly armoured mobile anti-air turret, and the Shatterer, which was designed to fight in Tiberium-infested areas and has a very impressive sonic cannon.
    • Scrin vehicles don't have wheels, so either hover or walk.
    • In Red Alert 2, both sides got conventional hovercraft as transports, and in the Yuri's Revenge expansion the Allies also gained robotic hovertanks that could fly over water, but if their control station was destroyed or lost power, they fell into the drink.
  • Emperor: Battle for Dune: In another of Westwood's games, House Ordos got kickass hovering tanks with laser cannons and force fields, making them fast, hard-hitting, and surprisingly tough (unless a laser-armed enemy hit their force field).
  • The N64 game BattleTanx had hover tanks called Hover Tanks, which were basically Abrams with turbines and a flat bottom. Though a bit squirrely to control, they could strafe sideways while firing, float over mines without problems, and pick up an impressive amount of speed for ramming other players.
  • Halo: The Covenant's Ghost and Wraith.
  • Tanarus has a hovertank in it, similar to the one from Battlefield 2142. Fast, maneuverable, packed a decent punch, but no traversable gun turret.
  • The Vanu Sovereignty in Planetside gets these, in line with their super-futuristic and unconventional array of weaponry. Again, quicker, more fragile, trades turret for frontal main gun.
  • All vehicles in Battlezone except the walkers. Battlezone 2 had a lot of tracked and wheeled vehicles added in - which were immune to being sniped and had more armor, but could not strafe and were clumsy in low gravity. The vector wireframe vehicles in the original 1980 arcade game might have been, but at that resolution who knows?
  • X-Com has Hovertank (in variants with Plasma and Fusion Launcher) like this. Of course, they are a crossbred of your basic tank drone with enough of scavenged Flying Saucer tech to build your own.
  • Ace Online: The Anima Mortar, or A-Gear is a fully flight-capable Hover Tank, armed with an awesome Siege Mode for its main gun.
  • Wing Commander IV: Hover tanks make an appearance in cutscenes of the Circe mission branch. They're pretty much just Cannon Fodder for the good guys, though, and don't even get the dignity of counting in killscores.
  • Mass Effect 2: The Hammerhead, a replacement for the first game's Mako.
  • Both sides in Dark Reign used hovertanks for their heavy tanks, with the Imperium using hover technology for all their vehicles.
  • Both Civilization: Call to Power and Call to Power 2 have Fusion Tanks, which fill a similar in game role as modern day tanks, and can also travel over shallow water.
  • The Diamondback was one in StarCraft II for a while, but it got dropped (from the normal lineup at least) later. It remains as a campaign-only unit in Wings of Liberty, featuring a pair of anti-armor railguns and the unique ability to fire while moving.
  • In Sonic Colors, the Wii-exclusive Green Wisp's power is to turn Sonic into an organic version of this, which also allows him to fly across trails of rings.
  • Empire Earth: The first game has a hovertank unit that, for some bizzare reason, traverses underwater, probably because of engine limitations. It cannot be built outside custom maps, either.
    • Later games in the series replaces conventional tanks with hover-tanks in the late epochs.
  • The Atari Jaguar games Hover Strike and Hover Strike: Unconquered Lands has the player pilot a futuristic hovertank against enemy tanks and bases to rescue colonists from space pirates.
  • Incoming Forces included hovertanks as well as conventional tanks as playable units. Their advantages over conventional tanks were tenfold - they could slide sideways for evasive manouvering.
  • Warzone2100 includes a hovercraft option for propulsion, which unfortunately wander into Awesome, but Impractical territory; they're fast but poorly armoured, but if weighed down with the more powerful late-game weapons their speed drops noticeably. Their one advantage is that they're amphibious, enabling attacks from unexpected directions.
  • Supreme Commander features both Fragile Speedster and main combat versions. In addition, all Aeon Engineer units hover, as opposed to the more traditional amphibious nature of the other races.
  • Total Annihilation featured Hovercraft in it's Core Contingency Expansion, to the point that they were essentially merely hovering versions of the normal ground vehicles. Useful on the wide variety of swamp maps however.
  • As noted above, Dawn of War had the Eldar and Tau's hover tanks (though the Falcon is the transport). However, only the Eldar tanks are able to jump over terrain, while the Tau's Devilfish is invisible.
  • Hovertank 3 D, obviously.
  • Blaster Master, once Sophia gets Hover Mechanics.
  • The obscure polygonal arcade/PlayStation game Cyber Sled is Virtual-ON with hover tanks. The vehicles in the game (some of which take more generosity than others to call a 'tank') are extremely agile and can move in any direction (save vertically) with ease, and in spite of a reasonable array of textures on the vehicles, caterpillar treads are conspicuous with their absence.
  • MechWarrior Living Legends, set in the same universe as BattleTech, features allows the player to pilot several hovertanks. The Harasser is an actual hovercraft with a rigid skirt, allowing it to accelerate, move, and turn very quickly, though it frequently nosedives if one tries to transition onto water too quickly. The Epona and Hephaestus lack skirts and instead use vectored thrust to move about. Previous games have had the Harasser, though as a worthless cannon fodder unit used only by the singleplayer enemies.
  • Several of the larger warrior-type Transformers in Transformers: War for Cybertron and Transformers: Fall of Cybertron can turn into hovering tanks, most notably Megatron and Brawl for the Decepticons and Warpath for the Autobots. Shockwave from the latter game also appears to be some kind of mobile artillery platform, and is effectively close enough in form and function to call him a hovering tank.
  • March Of War has the R-57 Hover Platform; though it is more of a hover self-propelled gun than an actual tank.
  • Hover tanks can be researched and built in Armada 2526 to be used to defend and attack planets. They require special transports.

     Web Comics  

  • Juathuur: The title race use Fluur rings to power their sleds and boats.
  • Schlock Mercenary has at least two classes of hover tank used by Tagon's Toughs. Their primary use is air support.

     Western Animation  

  • The Neosapien Hovertanks from Exo Squad. They were built specifically to defend Phaeton City against Exofleet but fortunately for the latter, La Résistance managed to capture the factory where they were produced and used them against Neosapiens themselves.
  • Vehicle of choice for Sgt. Hatred on The Venture Bros.


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