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[[quoteright:316:[[Webcomic/GoneWithTheBlastwave http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/20060507_95.jpg]]]]
[[caption-width-right:316:Protip: Evacuate target's ballistic trajectory before execution.]]

No matter how badass your CoolTank, CoolPlane, or HumongousMecha may be, its crew is still often made up of flesh-and-blood human beings who, once you get past the vehicle's armor plating, are just as vulnerable to damage as any other. Enemies who have armor-piercing weaponry may come to realize that they can stop your rampaging murder machines with just a few well-placed rounds to the cockpit. In the same manner that [[BoomHeadshot a well-placed shot to the head]] can instantly kill a human being, an attack that deliberately targets and kills the pilot can stop a vehicle without having to exert the time, energy, and resources to reduce it to scrap metal.

This is common in newer FirstPersonShooter games, where killing the pilot or other crew can take the vehicle or some of its weapons out of action until those stations can be manned again. Sometimes, especially if the vehicle itself has a CrewOfOne, it can also be used so that the opposing force can hijack the vehicle and turn it against its owners.

DisposablePilot often overlaps with this. Contrast InVehicleInvulnerability.


[[folder:Anime & Manga]]
* Inverted in ''Anime/MobileSuitGundamSEED'': the TechnicalPacifist Kira eventually trains himself to render any HumongousMecha inoperable without any damage to the cockpit.
* In an episode of ''Anime/GhostInTheShellStandAloneComplex'', the pilot of an armed attack helicopter suffers from a ([[spoiler:deliberately induced]]) heart attack, which causes the A.I. in his aircraft to malfunction and refuse to acknowledge stand-down orders since it believes the brain-dead pilot is still in control. Once Saito puts a round through the comatose pilot's head, the A.I. takes back full control and returns the aircraft back to base on its own.
* In the ''Mazinger trilogy'' -- ''Anime/MazingerZ'', ''Anime/GreatMazinger'' and ''Anime/UFORoboGrendizer'' -- aiming for the cockpit (clearly visible in the two first robots) is a common tactic constantly employed by GenreSavvy villains... and the army when the Government turns on the heroes (which also is an alarmingly common occurrence). In fact, it happened in the first Mazinger-Z manga chapter (Mazinger went on a rampage due to Kouji thinking FallingIntoTheCockpit was a good idea. Several tanks attacked Mazinger, deliberately aiming for the cockpit). And in a ''Great Mazinger'' manga episode, a Warbeast is holding Great Mazinger still as Marquis Janus orders to snipe the cockpit. However, the likewise GenreSavvy HumongousMecha builders had the cockpits specially reinforced to protect the pilot.
* Standard operating procedure for the mecha in ''Manga/{{Bokurano}}''.
* Subverted in ''Manga/{{Area 88}}'', where a sniper who has managed to lock down the entire base doesn't try hitting the cockpit until the end of the episode, [[spoiler:and fails]].
* The last episode of ''Anime/MobileSuitGundam'' features the ultimate example of this, when Char pulls this on a '''''Zanzibar'''-class [[TheBattlestar mobile cruiser]]'' as a ''side effect'' of executing a BoomHeadshot on [[spoiler: Kycilia]] with a ''bazooka''.
** In the first episode, Amuro dispatches the second Zaku that attacked Side 7 by stabbing it through the cockpit with his beam saber - the first one he just cut in half, causing its reactor to go critical and subsequently punch a hole right through the side of the colony.
** ''Anime/MobileSuitGundam0080WarInThePocket'' similarly has its final battle end with [[spoiler:the Alex's beam saber stabbed through the cockpit of Bernie's Zaku.]]
* The introduction of D.D. Ivanov, one of the primary antagonist in Anime/MacrossZero is this. Captain Roy Focker had just saved a newbie from getting MacrossMissileMassacre'd to death, and said newbie gets sniped in the cockpit for Roy's trouble.
* In ''Manga/AttackOnTitan'' the weak spot at the base of a Titan's neck turns out to be [[spoiler: where their human body, specifically the head, is located.]]

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* [[ImplacableMan The Saint of Killers]] from ''ComicBook/{{Preacher}}'' pulls off several of these against a tank battalion. Of course, his magic guns (which were forged by {{Satan}} himself from [[TheGrimReaper the Angel of Death's]] sword) are guaranteed to never miss and always inflict fatal wounds no matter who or what they're aimed at, so really all he has to do is point, fire, and somehow someone is going to die. Whether it's by [[ScopeSnipe going through the tank's periscope]], hitting and blowing up a round in the tank's gun, or simply by penetrating the armor, it's immaterial.
* Referenced and averted in ''SinCity: To Hell And Back''. One {{Mook|s}} tries this on [[BadAss Wallace]]. Wallace notes that [[ThisIsReality it only works in the movies]] and that the mook should aim for the car, instead of the driver.
* In the ''ComicBook/{{Commando}}'' story "Crackshot Craig", the eponymous Craig is an ex-SAS marksman who gets caught up in a civil war in an unnamed South American country. When the rebel stronghold is attacked by government forces, Craig manages to shoot down a light-attack aircraft by killing the pilot with an antique Lee-Enfield rifle.

[[folder:Fan Works]]
* ''Fanfic/BaitAndSwitchSTO'': In chapter six Tess hits the crew compartment of an Orion interceptor with one of the USS ''Bajor's'' aft phaser strips. The ship goes out of the fight on a ballistic course. A few minutes later she duplicates it with a quantum torpedo salvo to the bridge of an Orion corvette, although this is frankly overkill.

[[folder:Films -- Live-Action]]
* In ''Film/ReturnOfTheJedi'', this leads to the loss of the Super Star Destroyer ''Executor'' as a result of a TakingYouWithMe attack from a crippled Rebel starfighter plowing into the bridge. The massive ship was sent careening out of control and crashed into the Death Star.
* In the UsefulNotes/WorldWarI movie ''Film/{{Flyboys}}'', many of the pilots are killed in their cockpits. In the final fight [[spoiler:the hero kills the German Ace with a well-placed shot from a revolver while they are flying side-by-side]].
* Used in ''Film/{{Avatar}}'' when the natives couldn't destroy the tiltrotors or Powered Armor wholesale, but could throw spears with sufficient heft to pierce the cockpits.
* Capt. Hale in ''Film/{{Broken Arrow|1996}}'' takes out the first helicopter by shooting the pilot through the cockpit glass. The pilot keels over the controls, the chopper turns over, crashes, and explodes.
* This trope is brought up in ''Film/IndependenceDay'', where Dr. Okun is asked by the president if the alien invaders can be killed. He replies that "Their bodies are just as frail as ours ... You just have to get past their technology, which is, I'm sorry to say, ''far'' more advanced".
* In the opening mission of ''Film/FlightOfTheIntruder'', the protagonist's navigator is shot through the throat by a carefully aimed shot fired by a VC armed with a bolt-action rifle, after surviving a hail of ack-ack fire. In the original book, it was a one-in-a-million accident from the VC firing into the air in the rough direction of their A-6.
* Attempted by Lursa and B'etor in ''Film/StarTrekGenerations'' when they order their gunner to target the ''Enterprise's'' bridge. Unfortunately for them, the ''Enterprise'' crew {{technobabble}}s their shields down first and puts a torpedo into their reactor.

* Shooting the pilots is noted to be an effective tactic against Ork flyers in the ''Literature/CiaphasCain'' novel ''The Last Ditch''. One of the 597th's troopers, the accident-prone "Jinxie" Penlan, once did it ''by accident'' when she used the butt of her lasgun as a mallet and [[IJustShotMarvinInTheFace it went off]].
* Tycho Celchu's trademark in the ''ComicBook/XWingSeries'' is doing this with full-sized starfighter guns.
** In the eighth book of the series, ''Isard's Revenge'', Wedge lands a cockpit shot on an AT-AT.
** In the tenth book, FriendlySniper Wran Narcassan brings down a distant flying vehicle with a single shot through its pilot.
* In Creator/HarryTurtledove's ''Literature/WorldWar'' series, aliens invade in the middle of UsefulNotes/WorldWarII. While the Lizards have technology and vehicles far superior to WWII era tanks and planes, they're still vulnerable to things like a tank commander getting his head blown off when he sticks his head out of the hatch.
* Discussed in Creator/NealStephensonís ''SnowCrash'': Hiro Protagonist threatens to shoot through the windshield of a Hind helicopter:
-->'''L. Bob Rife''': Itís bulletproof! Haw!
-->'''Hiro''': No it isnít, as the rebels in Afghanistan found out.

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* In the 2000's version of ''Series/{{Battlestar Galactica|Reimagined}}'', Starbuck pulls off a variant of this against a Cylon raider she is duelling. Given the nature of the Raiders in this setting, however, this also overlaps with BoomHeadshot.
* In the ''Series/StargateSG1'' episode "48 Hours", Teal'c takes down an ''al'kesh'' bomber by shooting the cockpit. ''[[{{BFG}} With the gun from]] [[ThereIsNoKillLikeOverkill a Death Glider.]]'' As the bomber was manned by his much-hated enemy Tanith, Teal'c was quite satisfied with himself.
* In ''Series/LoveHate'', this appears to be Darren's specialty, as he's done it twice over the course of the series and one of those was a BoomHeadshot. [[ImprobableAimingSkills With a pistol]].

[[folder:Music Videos]]
* In the Music/{{Gorillaz}} clip for "On Melancholy Hill", Noodle manages to hit the cockpit of one of the pirate planes attacking her cruise ship with her machine gun, sending it crashing into the sea.

[[folder:Tabletop Games]]
* Largely averted in ''TabletopGame/BattleTech''. While head hits will hurt a 'Mech's pilot and may knock him or her out (and the head is usually the weakest spot on the whole giant armored war machine, period), actually ''aiming'' for the head is almost impossible unless the pilot is ''already'' unconscious or the reactor has shut down.
* Defied by the Tau in ''TabletopGame/{{Warhammer40000}}''. The heads of their MiniMecha are just redundancy camera pods, and the pilot's head is buried deep in the mech's chest.
** Played straight for anyone who is not a Tau pilot. Tau railgun punches through the cockpit, and the momentum from it is such that the body of the pilot is sucked through the projectile's exit hole. The result is a long trail of gore and viscera [[NauseaFuel which was the unfortunate pilot.]]

[[folder:Video Games]]
* From the ''VideoGame/CommandAndConquer'' series:
** In ''VideoGame/CommandAndConquerGenerals'', the GLA hero unit [[ColdSniper Jarmen Kell]] can snipe pilots out of vehicles, leaving behind the unoccupied vehicle that can then be captured by a friendly infantry grunt. The Chinese Nuke Cannon artillery does the same thing when equipped with neutron shells, only on a larger scale.
** Similarly, Natasha Volkova from ''VideoGame/CommandAndConquerRedAlert3'' is able to snipe the operator of a vehicle, at which point any infantry unit can hop in.
* Can be done in the ''VideoGame/MechWarrior'' games, which take place in the ''TabletopGame/BattleTech'' universe (see above). Killing the pilot in ''[=MechWarrior=] Living Legends'' also allows you to steal the mech -- in previous ''[=MechWarrior=]'' games, destroying the cockpit would simply "destroy" the mech.
** Previous titles of the ''Mercenaries'' series, as well as the ''MechCommander'' games, have the player managing his own battle group. Salvaging enemy Mechs is a pretty big deal, and the only way to get some heavies ''way'' before you can afford them during normal gameplay progression. Cockpit shots are by far the best way to salvage a Mech that will only require minimal repair, followed by disabling the legs - much easier, but also much more expensive to fix.
* At one point in ''VideoGame/ModernWarfare'' you do this to an Mi-28 Havoc. Then Captain [=MacMillan=] does it to another Havoc, which [[TakingYouWithMe almost crashes on top of him]], [[GameBreakingInjury breaking his leg]].
* ''VideoGame/{{Battlezone|1998}}'' had a sniper rifle precisely to allow the player to do this. The sniper rifle returns in the sequel, ''Combat Commander'', but it is more restrictive - only light hover tanks can be sniped, as the rifle lacks the power to penetrate the heavy reinforced cockpits of walkers or treaded tanks.
* Killing the pilot is one way to score a victory in ''VideoGame/RedBaron''. As in Real Life, the open cockpits of many planes provide relatively little protection to the crew.
* ''VideoGame/{{Battlefield}}''
** In ''Battlefield 2'', the M95 sniper rifle and (occasionally) rockets are capable of bypassing the bulletproof cockpit glass of helicopters and jets, and killing the pilot.
** This also works in ''VideoGame/{{Battlefield 3}}'', [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LrOIgxQ--Tc as beautifully demonstrated in this vid]]. Most helicopters' windshields are bulletproof though, so it can only be done with sniper rifles or vehicle mounted machine guns. The Scout Helicopter's windshield is not bulletproof however, so you can just spray at it hoping to kill the pilot.
* Tanks in ''VideoGame/WorldOfTanks'' have a crew that can be killed in battle. If the entire crew is dead, then the tank is effectively out of the fight, even if the tank itself is still in one piece.
* In ''VideoGame/{{Crysis}}'', the only way to take an enemy vehicle is to kill its crew. A few well placed shots can net you an undamaged vehicle.
* ''VideoGame/SilentScope'' justifies this since the player only uses a sniper rifle. In one level you can take down a Harrier jet in one shot by scoring a headshot on either pilot - in another car chase level you can render everyone in a car ineffective by shooting the driver. This includes the boss, who attacks by trying to run you down with a hijacked semi. The helicopter miniboss in the same level is a subversion, as you take it down by shooting its rotor shaft rather than the cockpit.
* In ''VideoGame/MassEffect3'', Cerberus's giant Atlas mechs are somewhat vulnerable to this trope -- while, as the codex entry suggests, their giant crystal canopies are less vulnerable than they ought to be, they ''can'' be broken. In singleplayer, Shepard can then Gundamjack the unit in question. (However, since its canopy has been shot out, he's now equally vulnerable...)
* In ''VideoGame/HaloCombatEvolved'', the powerful Scorpion tank has the driver's head completely open to the air. Since the tank is so slow, a sniper can kill the driver quite easily. This bit of idiotic vehicle engineering was rectified in the later ''Halo'' games by adding a metal hatch to deflect sniper bullets. Still, if the tank takes enough damage, the cockpit hatch will fall off, allowing for an easy sniper kill once again.
* In ''VideoGame/{{Borderlands 2}}'', some bandit enemies will pilot airborne vehicles called Buzzards. Shooting the pilot will result in a {{critical hit}} for {{massive damage}}. However, since Buzzards are almost constantly in motion, it's extremely difficult to get a good shot at the pilot unless you're ''very'' quick on the draw and it's coming right at you.
* In ''VideoGame/GrandTheftAuto'', it's possible to do this to NPC's since ''[[VideoGame/GrandTheftAutoViceCity Vice City]]''. In ''[[VideoGame/GrandTheftAutoIV IV]]'', you can also do this in multiplayer (and have it happen to you, so be careful). Rather difficult though, due to both players and [[ArtificialBrilliance NPCs actively avoiding this.]]
* Done in ''VideoGame/SoldierOfFortune'' to helicopter pilots.
* In the Assault Records section of ''VideoGame/AceCombatZeroTheBelkanWar'' (a record detailing enemy AcePilot that you've shot down), one particular enemy ace was notorious for doing this. The Record goes on to state that he [[KarmicDeath was shot and killed after bailing out]].
* Some ''VideoGame/FrontMission'' games allow you to do this, notably in ''Front Mission 3''. Not only are there specific skills to do just this, but attaining hits to the torso region has a chance of damaging the pilot. Often, if the roll is particularly unlucky, a pilot can die from a single concentrated shotgun burst to the torso, leaving their [[HumongousMecha Wanzer]] intact. Not only pragmatically useful (killing enemy pilots from otherwise strong Wanzers is one way to avoid prolonged combat), the fact that you can sell the captured Wanzers later makes for one heck of a VideogameCrueltyPotential.
* ''VideoGame/TimeCrisis 3''[='=]s Stage 1 Area 3 has you riding in an ATV while shooting other enemies also in [=ATVs=]. Killing the driver of a vehicle causes the entire vehicle to spin out and crash, killing everyone else on it. It's faster than eliminating individual enemies or shooting the ATV itself, but if you're playing for score, [[AwesomeButImpractical you miss out on points gained from chain-shooting enemies]].
* In ''VideoGame/FTLFasterThanLight'', hitting a ship's room with non-ion weapons not only damages the ship's hull (unless it's a bomb) and systems, but also whatever crew happens to be inside. It is thus possible to kill off the crew of a ship with just your weapons rather than sending a BoardingParty, although in most cases the enemy ship will crumble from hull failure before the crew's lifebars are depleted. The Anti-Bio Beam is designed specifically for destroying enemy crew without damaging the hull, so a crew-kill, no-teleport victory is most feasible with it, but if the enemy ship has a medbay, it'll be useless unless you destroy the medbay.
* In ''VideoGame/WarThunder'', hitting the cockpit is a good way to take out enemy planes, especially heavily armored bombers. The US B-17 can lose 3 out of 4 engines and still fly, for starters, but if the pilot takes a bullet it's done for (maybe two if the pilots vitality stat is upgraded high enough).
** Even more important with the ground forces part. If an ammo rack hit is not avaible, then aiming for a weak spot to take out the crew (ideally the gunner) is the best course of action.
* ''VideoGame/OperationFlashpoint'' and ''VideoGame/{{ARMA}}'' allow this, depending on the vehicle and the size of your gun. It's very difficult to pull off, of course; thankfully, you can also take out the engine or some other critical part instead, if you don't plan on hijacking that vehicle.
* ''Videogame/PlanetSide 1'' had complete pilot protection against normal weapons - even, bizzarely, the completely exposed [=ATV=] riders - but a special [[LostTechnology Ancient Vanu]] weapon, the Radiator, lobbed out "grenades" that would create a ~5m wide bubble of lingering radiation that would go through walls and could kill vehicle occupants. Though the vehicle occupants had to be either an idiot or already wounded, as the Radiator was a GradualGrinder and did very little damage per tick. ''Planetside 2'' doesn't let players be killed while in enclosed cockpits, though you're free to shoot people off of their [[CoolBike Flash]], [[CoolCar Harasser]] pickup bed, or [[GunshipRescue Valkyrie]] rumble seats.
* In ''Videogame/SpaceEngineers'', blasting off enemy cockpits is one the most effective ways to to kill enemy {{SpaceFighter}}s; only the most hardcore armored fighters have enclosed cockpits, while everything else generally has the cockpit on the very front of the ship, ready to be blown off. Generally less viable against large ships, as players often mount multiple redundant control rooms and have it buried deep within the ship; it's generally more effective to target their reactor rooms or thrusters.
* ''UberSoldier 2'' has vehicle sections where you man a fixed gun, and are followed by enemy vehicles. You can blow them up with sustained firepower, or you can fire a few bullets at the driver and see the otherwise undamaged vehicle careen off and explode.

[[folder:Web Comics]]
* A Red sniper in ''Webcomic/GoneWithTheBlastwave'' [[http://www.blastwave-comic.com/index.php?p=comic&nro=7 does this to a moving plane]], causing the plane to crash into a crowd of enemy soldiers. However, it was done only as a stupid bet out of boredom.

[[folder:Web Original]]
* Jenny Matrix does this to Ashley Barnstormer in the finale of ''WebVideo/VideoGameHighSchool''.

[[folder:Real Life]]
* UsefulNotes/WorldWarI, being the first major conflict to feature air-to-air conflict, notably had many instances of this. Before someone figured out how to mount a machine gun on a plane, pilots and observers were required to take firearms along with them in the cockpit in case an opportunity to attack an enemy craft presented itself. Generally, the plane's engines had more protection than the cockpit so often enough a plane would be shot up but still flyable but the pilot was dead or wounded. Manfred von Richthofen, '''THE''' RedBaron himself, was fatally wounded by an anti-aircraft machine gun but still managed to land his relatively unharmed plane before dying. Some early plane designs also had an unfortunate habit of showering their pilots in boiling hot oil or radiator coolant if the engines were shot up by enemy fire, indirectly leading to this.
* During the UsefulNotes/SpanishCivilWar, partisan snipers learned to shoot down low-flying fighter planes by targeting the cockpit.
* This has gotten more difficult as technology has advanced, but we have yet to come up with a material that is both transparent ''and'' as strong as high-grade steel, much less more exotic stuff like depleted-uranium or Chobham armour. Some types of bulletproof glass [[note]]which are actually polycarbonates rather than silicon-based[[/note]] also have an unfortunate tendency to deteriorate over time from exposure to direct sunlight and have to be replaced periodically; if the maintenance people goof the paperwork or replacements don't turn up on time, there's a problem.
* During the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, there was a confirmed case of a Mujaheddin downing a Hind attack helicopter by killing the pilot with a Martini-Henry rifle left over from the ''British'' invasion in the previous century.
* Generally averted during UsefulNotes/WorldWarII, as better shielding for the pilot made it more efficient to destroy the plane's vital systems instead. However, the Japanese [=A6M=] Zero had a cockpit without armor protection which got many pilots killed when they went up against heavily armored American fighter planes.
* Neutron bombs are designed to do this. A depleted uranium armored tank can withstand a tactical nuclear weapon detonated as close as a quarter-mile (400 meters). Depleted uranium will block blast, heat, gamma rays, poison gas, and pathogens. It is, however, worse than useless at shielding the crew from fusion neutrons, which instead of being captured or moderated by the armor, fast fission it, creating MORE radiation. Result: the tank is left intact, but the crew receives a fatal dose of radiation, and ideally at least 5-10 times the fatal dose (radiation poisoning kills slowly if you receive only one fatal dose, leaving the crew able to fight in the interim, but 5-10 fatal doses at once quickly cripple the victim and leads to a swift death). For this reason, Soviet tanks usually have fuel tanks near doors and other sections as well as water layers to trap neutrons. Still doesn't help against gamma radiation though.
* Visibility from within an armoured vehicle is a lot better than it was fifty years ago, but CCTV systems only go so far, and can also get damaged. Sometimes you just have to stick your head out the hatch to use the Mk 1 eyeball and take your chances.
** It is also possible for snipers to disable the advanced optics and force the crew to do this. Shooting out thermal sights is a primary role of snipers when faced by tanks.
** During UsefulNotes/WorldWarII, experience showed that tank commanders or gunners who stuck their heads out of an open hatch to see what was going on were much more likely to be killed, either from a sharpshooter or just from getting caught by the blast of anti-tank weapons. On the other hand, the same experience showed that the entire tank crew was more likely to die if nobody stuck their head out to see what possible threats were approaching in a blind spot.
* Going with the theme of "disabling the vehicle by killing the crew", some modern antitank weapons are not designed to actually destroy the vehicle or even penetrate the armor, but just send a shockwave through the armor that causes pieces of it to break off and ricochet around inside the vehicle. This is known as "spalling" and tends to cause the tank's crew compartment to resemble a charnel house afterward.
** OlderThanTelevision: During the pre-UsefulNotes/WorldWarII years, the Polish Army devised the [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/7.92mm_DS 7.92x107mm ammo]] and [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-tank_rifle_wz.35 the rifle to fire it]], for the purpose of fighting armored vehicles from under cover. The very high velocity bullet would flatten itself against armor and the hammer blow would spall one (or more) [[HyperDestructiveBouncingBall chunk(s) of hard steel armor to bounce inside]] and [[{{Squick}} cut the unfortunate crew to pieces]]. It worked very well against thin, 15-20mm armor of early UsefulNotes/WorldWarII tanks, but after 1943 it became obsolete.