John: Sascha, it's time!
Ghost: Time for what?
Admiral Eisen: Jump!
John: It's Hot Drop O'Clock!
[Caldari superheavy fleet warps in]In effect, the inverse of Hyperspeed Escape. Instead of using hyperspeed to escape a bad situation, you use it to cause a bad situation by jumping into the immediate vicinity of your target to take them by surprise. Alternately, you can just lie in wait where you know the enemy will exit hyperspace, and pounce on him before he has time to react. Immediately departing the area as soon as the attack is concluded is fairly common for the jumping-in-to-attack variant, but optional for the defensive lying-in-wait variant. Unorthodox use of Faster Than Light travel in combat is fairly common in military science fiction literature, particularly justified in a setting where Hyperspace Is a Scary Place and therefore most people in the universe are unwilling to push the possible uses of FTL to the limits. For example, a ship might use tactical hyperspace jumps to jump into and out of hyperspace over relatively short distances and short periods of time to make themselves harder to hit or otherwise throw off the enemy, when conventional wisdom would suggest that such a tactic is far too risky to be possible, usually due to the risk of a ship falling afoul of a Tele-Frag with a planet or other celestial body. After all, traveling through hyperspace ain't like dusting crops. The actual applicability of this trope is limited to settings or situations where at least one of the parties involved cannot detect other ships that are traveling FTL, either because they are limited to light-speed sensors, or because their sensors cannot penetrate into whatever other dimension is used for FTL. Contrast with Hyperspeed Escape. Not to be confused with Tele-Frag, although that can be a very real risk of this strategy. If you combine it with Hyperspeed Escape, you get a form of Hit-and-Run Tactics. If you do it many times in repetition, you are using Teleport Spam.
— Clear Skies 3
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- In Star Trek: Nemesis, the Scimitar pulls this on the Enterprise by following under cloak, waiting until the Enterprise enters a nebula which will block outbound communications, then shooting until the Enterprise drops to impulse.
- In the 2009 Star Trek film, we get to see the Enterprise pull one of these in the film's climax, for a Gunship Rescue. Inverted earlier in the movie, where the fleet comes out of warp and unexpectedly encounters the Narada before being destroyed. The Enterprise only survives because they were Late to the Tragedy.
- In the sequel, Star Trek Into Darkness, the dreadnought USS Vengeance is designed to overtake and gun down its quarry at warp, something most other ships can't do. The Enterprise ends up getting run down by the behemoth starship and gets torn up pretty bad by it and is sent spinning out of the warp corridor like a boxer reeling from a sucker punch. It helps that ships don't have their shields up at warp in this era, and Armor Is Useless.
- In Star Wars Return of the Jedi, the Rebel Fleet ran afoul of such an attack launched by a very sizable Imperial fleet when they tried to attack the Death Star II.
Admiral Ackbar: It's a trap!
- And inverted in The Empire Strikes Back: The Imperial Fleet loses the element of surprise by jumping out of hyperspace too close to the Rebel base on Hoth, causing them to be detected immediately rather than being able to sneak up on the Rebels.
- The lying-in-wait variant happens at the end of the Wing Commander movie. Thanks to the Tiger's Claw getting word to Earth about the imminent Kilrathi attack, the ensing "battle" amounts to shooting fish in a barrel as the Kilrathi exit the jump point one at a time.
- Isaac Asimov's Foundation trilogy novel Second Foundation. The Foundation space fleet is facing a numerically superior Kalganian fleet. They send a squadron into hyperspace, with orders to return in a specific place at a specific time. They then maneuver the Kalganian fleet so the returning squadron will appear and attack them from behind with complete surprise, winning the battle.
- Used by Grand Admiral Thrawn in The Thrawn Trilogy (Timothy Zahn's most famous Star Wars Expanded Universe novels). Said technique involved precise placement of interdiction ships to pull his ships out of hyperspace at a specific point. It worked well.
- At another point in this series, Han Solo used a hyperspace microjump to position the Millennium Falcon exactly where it needed to be against an enemy force.
- The first variant happens repeatedly in the X-Wing Series.
- A strategy that comes up from time to time in Honor Harrington, though mostly only when the characters are near a Wormhole Terminus. Since Wormhole Terminii located near populated systems tend to be extensively surveyed and plotted, any ambush through them requires overwhelming force, as one can usually find fleets of warships, arrays of massive space fortresses, and remotely-launched missile pods waiting for any unwelcome visitors in hopes of making their visit a short and spectacular one.
- One notable example is the Royal Manticoran Navy's successful assault on the Havenite forces at Trevor's Star. They first launched a conventional attack with a fleet dropping in from hyperspace, and once that battle had enough time to develop fully, another fleet jumped in directly from the Manticoran system via the wormhole that connected the two star systems to strike the Havenite forces from behind.
- The main problem is that every transit destabilizes the Wormholes for a time, based on the transferred mass. With one ship, there is a very short cycle until the next one comes through. Sending the maximum mass in one transit (for a Manticorian Terminii about thirty Superdreadnoughts) will make further use impossible for hours. Which means no retreat if something goes wrong and makes tactics as used above very risky. And sending your ships in one after another would just give the other side a chance for some target practice.
- Gordon R. Dickson's Childe Cycle, Donal Graeme stages a daring raid against an enemy planet in Dorsai!. He uses multiple swift hyperspace jumps to simulate a huge armada attacking his enemy, even though it drives him and his crew to the edge of collapse, with each jump leaving them more and more in pain and disorientation.
- In David Drake's RCN series Daniel Leary, frequently uses FTL in unexpected ways to take enemies by surprise.
- While short-range hyperjumps are possible in Elizabeth Moon's Vatta's War universe, it is a technique generally limited only to some of the better equipped space navies; most civilian and commercial-grade equipment just isn't designed for that sort of thing. That said, limitations in sensors and communication (limited to light-speed within a star-system, given that the FTL communications arrays are space stations unto themselves) preclude this strategy from being used. Until someone develops a FTL communications rig that can easily fit aboard a starship.
- A key battle in The History of the Galaxy series during the First Galactic War was supposed to be an ambush by the Colonial Fleet against the Earth Alliance armada. The real goal was to test its new Wave Motion Gun capable of obliterating small planetoids with a single blast of Anti Matter. The colonists baited the Alliance by gathering its entire ragtag fleet at a key Hyperspace Lanes node. The Alliance sends ships after it. The plan: surround the intended Alliance "surface" point and force the enemy close to the target planetoid, at which point it would be destroyed with the Anti Matter cannon with the resulting explosion taking the Alliance armada with it. Unfortunately, the Alliance has decided to double-up (literally) and brought two armadas under AI control. The AIs use a new tactic of "combat surfacing" to send probes before emerging from hypersphere. They locate the Colonial ships and have their own ships emerge between them. Seeing that there's no other choice, the admiral aboard the Wave Motion Gun station orders the weapon to fire anyway. The annihilation of the planetoid takes out the enemy armadas but also leaves the Free Colonies with a total of 8 combat-capable ships, while the Alliance can quickly get together another fleet.
- Starship Troopers: The Terran Federation try to jump an entire fleet into orbit over Klendathu, in order to best exploit the element of surprise. Unfortunately, slight miscalculations cause many of the ships to collide with each other soon after the jump, causing widespread confusion and chaos which contribute to the Terrans' defeat in the battle.
- Lensman: In order to get around a major difficulty in space battles - that the other side can see you coming long before you are within combat range, and has plenty of time to organise a suitable defensive formation - Boskone develops the "hyperspatial tube", which is more or less an on-demand wormhole that allows them to have ships suddenly appear at any desired location (as long as it is not too deep in a gravity well). Civilization counters this by developing a means of detecting the wormhole as soon as it begins to form, and using their superior discipline and command-and-control structures to enable them to rapidly assemble a globe of ships around the point of emergence before the enemy can complete the transit, and pot the enemy ships as they come out.
Live Action Television
- A common strategy on Babylon 5 for many of the races with a long history of spacefaring, thanks to many larger ships being capable of producing their own jump points into and out of Hyperspace. Since ships in hyperspace can not detect anything in real space, and vice versa, this requires the attacker knowing where and when the target will be in a particular location ahead of time. Most battles of this sort tend to be very short. Inverted about half the time, with ships lying in wait just outside a jump gate where they are not expected, allowing them to rip an incoming ship apart as soon as it exits the gate.
- Battlestar Galactica: The Battlestar Pegasus got the jump on a squadron of Cylon Base Stars when they were focused on attacking the Galactica. Indeed, the first moment that even the audience knows anything of the sort is going on is when the first of the Cylon ships is suddenly pummeled by a massive amount of incoming fire from offscreen before we see the Pegasus sail into view.
- Meanwhile, the fact that Cylon fighters possess FTL (in contrast to the Colonial Vipers, which have no such ability) means that the crew of Galactica have to constantly be on the ready for the small Raiders to come from anywhere at any time, only adding to their already substantial Paranoia Fuel. They keep a flight of Vipers on standby to launch within moments at all times.
- Also Starbuck's mission to evacuate the Caprican resistance had several Raptors jumping directly into Caprica's atmosphere (though one came out inside a mountain). Later that tactic is used to communicate and resupply the resistance movement on New Caprica.
- Speaking of New Caprica, Adama jumps the Galactica past the Cylon fleet during the evacuation and into the atmosphere, launches a couple Vipers to cover the civilian's Hyperspeed Escape, then jumps back into space just before hitting the ground.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation featured a variation in the form of the "Picard Maneuver", where a ship (typically already engaged in battle) would use its warp drive to make a very short trip to another part of the battlefield. If done properly, this allowed a starship commander to allow his ship to appear in two places simultaneously, because the sensor return from the ship's previous location had not yet gotten back to the enemy ship. This tactic was notably of limited use, only being effective against enemies who did not possess subspace sensors.
- In the Star Trek: Voyager two-parter "Equinox", Janeway did a rather mundane version of this against the titular ship. Since Voyager is faster than the Equinox, all they had to do was catch up and knock out the Equinox's warp drive.
- A common tactic of the titular character of Tracker. He can only do it once per day, though.
- In Stargate SG-1, the Asgard are able to calculate the precise exit point of a ship in hyperspace and blow it away before it can raise shields. Unfortunately, this was a Replicator ship. While they certainly destroyed it, the pieces survived re-entry and landed on their homeworld, quickly reforming into footsoldiers.
- Happens some in FreeSpace. One mission has an enemy ship about to open fire on a station you are protecting (an enemy ship too powerful for your fighters to handle), when all of a sudden, the very-aptly-named Colossus warps in and blasts the crap out of it.
- Sword of the Stars has variations.
- With lategame FTL techs you can cross from outside an enemy's system-based sensor range to his systems in one turn, giving him no time to build additional defensive forces or rally defenders from elsewhere. It's even worse in the sequel where you need an extra turn after construction to move the newly-constructed spacecraft into an active fleet, meaning you have even less warning than in the original.
- Also, this is one of the uses of CnC ships. Without them new ships that jump in to replace your losses will appear far from the planet and waste time getting to the action. If you have them, the new ships jump in right next to them. This creates an interesting tactical dilemma in the earlier stages where CnC ships are fragile, as players have to weigh the advantages of getting reinforcements right on top of the enemy to the chance of losing the CnC ship.
- If all the ships in your fleet have cloaking sections, then the fleet isn't even visible on the strategic screen, unless you happen to have researched the Quantum Tunneling tech and have a Deep Scanner in the system. Sometimes, not even then.
- Doesn't much work against the Hivers, whose Portal Network allows them to bring in their entire defense fleet from all corners of their empire, although the number of ships that can be transported at once is directly proportional to the overall number of active gates and relies on there being an intact gate. So if the ambushers immediately gun for the gate and take it out...
- Morrigi military strategy is built around this. They start with stealth armour, which reduces the range at which enemies detect them strategically, and are amongst the best at researching cloaking tech. Their ships are also fast but fragile. Using two to three good fleets, a morrigi player can bring an enemy to its knees by hitting weak spots in their defensive line and then retreating before a counterattack; especially devastating against human and zuul players who can't recall fleets committed to nodespace travel.
- In the sequel, the Zuul can research an ability that lets them drop out of Nodespace near a target system's star rather than on the edges of the system, which may catch opponents expecting the usual extrasystem incursion vector off guard.
- A Collector Cruiser does this to the Normandy during the intro to Mass Effect 2, leading to Shepard's death.
- It does so again to the second Normandy, succeeding in abducting most of the crew after it uses a virus to disable the Normandy.
- In Mass Effect 3, according to the Codex, the Turian fleet managed to effect one of these against the Reaper fleet during the invasion of their home system. They waited for the enemy to finish jumping into their system, then did an FTL hop into the middle of the enemy formation, inflicting heavy casualties early in the battle. Soon after, the enemy performed an FTL hop themselves to place themselves near the homeworld, forcing the Turians to fight them on their own terms.
- Inverted by one of the fleet admirals of the Human Alliance, who parked his dreadnaught at optimal firing range from the mass effect relay once he realized they were being invaded and took out one of the Reaper capital ships straight out of the gate. Unfortunately, since Earth was the primary target for the Reapers, a lot more capital ships followed that one.
- In Star Control II, the VUX ships are MightyGlaciers. They can't move fast but have a powerful laser that can take care of most ships in a few seconds. They compensate for the speed disadvantage by slowing down enemy ships with gravity mines and warping into battle right on top of the enemy.
- Homeworld, in all its incarnations, makes this a plot point and a game mechanic at once. In the story, hyperspace cores and drives are used as a blitzkrieg weapon on more than one occasion. The tables have been turned against hyperspacing fleets just as much, provided a ship has a gravity well generator installed to interfere with the hyperspacing equipment. The same ideas stretch onto actual gameplay, although in much smaller scales than those found in the plot, for balance reasons.
- Given that FTL in the X-Universe series is dependent on jumpgates, the lying-in-wait variant is to be expected. In X3: Terran Conflict, there's not much that can get through a gate blockade consisting of three Terran Osaka-class destroyers operating in tandem.
- The intro to Freelancer shows the Coalition fleet doing this to The Alliance when assaulting the last Alliance-held colony after nearly 100 years of fighting. Fortunately, the Alliance manages to put up a fight, delaying the Coalition forces long enough for 5 colony ships to launch. The sleeper ships manage to break through the Coalition blockade and jump to a faraway sector. According to the original intro (before it was cut down for the game), the Solar System is destroyed by an unknown alien ship (the Nomads) shortly after that. The game itself takes place 800 years later, when the Alliance colonists have settled many star systems and have mostly forgotten the old war.
- In FTL, everyone seems to travel through the same hyperspace beacons, so the player constantly runs into patrols, plus chance encounters that didn't even expect to fight. Other times pirates will set off a distress signal intentionally to attract ships (such as yourself) to a hyperspace beacon. The player also sometimes gets an optional event where they can booby trap a beacon with a couple of missiles to slow down the Rebel fleet.
- In Sins of a Solar Empire, every offensive maneuver against enemy planets is this until the victim researches the technology that warns them of an incoming fleet. Also, the Vasari Phase Lane Stabilizer can make its owner do this to ANY target, not just adjacent ones.
- Standard defense protocol in the Space Empires series: build a space station/small group of ships, plunk them at any and all wormholes in the system. Particularly effective against AI opponents (and some players) that send their ships through one at a time, rather than as a fleet; a strong enough defensive line means you don't even have to worry about planetary defenses. At least not until one of the other empires researches the ability to open wormholes manually, and by nature of the turn system, you likely don't realize this until you get the combat screen as a fleet is descending on your homeworld.
- A fairly standard tactic in Dark Space, known as "pointjumping". Often practically required with Torpedo Ships (which are more effective than you'd imagine in space, but are still limited to close range due to the ability to dodge).
- How does the UNSC Infinity introduce itself to the Covenant fleet over Requiem in Halo 4: Spartan Ops, you ask? Simple. By jumping out beside a Covenant cruiser, ramming through it, and then unleashing a small fleet of frigates upon them.
- Eve Online has several ships dedicated to either preventing targets from escaping or dragging them out of warp. Waiting next to a stargate and trying to kill anyone who jumps through is such a common tactic that it is unwise to ever allow your ship to fly long distances on autopilot.
- In Schlock Mercenary, when the Toughs' teraport drive was still the only one in the galaxy, they would use this strategy to great effect against enemies who thought they'd be forced to use a wormgate instead. Various methods of preventing Teraport usage were developed later.
- Unwinder's Tall Comics: In an in-universe novel by Gary P. Rastov, Krohn attempts to pull off a hyperspace ambush—but the solar system he's attacking has a fifty-second warning of his fleet's arrival. More than enough time for their Lightning Foundries to produce another fleet capable of reducing Krohn's to its component atoms.