In a knuckle-whitening aerial dogfight (or other vehicle pursuit), our hero is in a tight spot as the enemy aircraft are closing in, approaching speeds he cannot hope to match, so rather than continue to outrun his opponents, our hero does the unexpected trick of putting on the brakes, switching the advantage in a split second as his foes rush out in front of his guns.
Truth in Television, as forcing your opponent to over-shoot is actually a keynote of dogfighting tactics. There are many ways to do it, from the simple defensive high-speed yo-yo◊ to the more complex vertical and rolling scissors. The real-life maneuver most commonly seen in media is the barrel roll defense,◊ where the defending aircraft pops up and rolls gracefully before coming back down behind the attacker. It looks cool, and the split-second reversal of advantage is suitably dramatic. This works just as well on jets as it does on biplanes; it's just that dogfights are much less common in Real Life these days.
The trope also applies to more dramatic depictions where the character's vehicle seems to literally "brake" in mid-air without fancy maneuvering. This is possible if a pilot drops his flaps, speed brake or even landing gear to slow down (though this is a desperation move since it can also make them an easy target, or worse, stall the plane), or if they have certain kinds of vectored-thrust aircraft, specifically, the version used by the Harrier Jump Jet to enable STOVL (Short TakeOff, Vertical Landing), which can perform VIFFing (Vector In Forward Flight). Still other types of aircraft with thrust-vectoring (NOT the same as vectored thrust: Thrust-Vectoring is when you can redirect the jet nozzle's thrust off-center to augment or even completely replace the use of aerodynamic control surfaces usually used only to augment/replace rudders and elevators. Somewhat more difficult use for roll control)
And of course, the trope also applies to similar braking maneuvers that are simply impossible.
- The various versions of Area 88 regularly feature these maneuvers since it's a series about Ace Pilots in dogfights.
- Graham Aker pulls this off in a Humongous Mecha in Gundam 00 Awakening Of The Trailblazer to deal with a large wave of ELS following him, by reversing the direction his thrusters are pointing. He is shown to be in some amount of pain from the G-forces he pulls doing it, but it works.
- A fairly common Ace Pilot trick in the Macross franchise. It helps when you can change your Variable Fighter into GERWALK mode mid-flight and actually have your main engines point forward for a few seconds.
- Shin Kudo from Macross Zero does the Pugachev Cobra maneuver. Unfortunately, the enemy knows what he's up to and nothing short of abusing the VF's innate ability to change forms allowed Shin to be able to get a shot in.
- Alto Saotome's attempt to do it to kill Brera in Macross Frontier fails when Brera dodges his attack. And Alto was so certain it'd work too.
- In the Robotech novelization, this is referred to as "Fokker's Feint".
- In The Sky Crawlers, this is Yuuichi's signature move, with which he wins several dogfights across the film. It's a plot point that it also turns out to be a favorite tactic of The Teacher.
- Erica pulls one in Strike Witches, although it's Gertrud that gets the kills.
- Most hilarious version is probably in Gold Digger, when an opponent in a VTOL uses it to allow him to brake, so it's "Like he's flying backwards". The protagonist, meanwhile, laughs, and his plane's engines flip around, allowing him to literally fly backwards.
- Boba Fett did this when he was chase by IG 88 in the Shadows of the Empire comic.
- Played with in a strip of Calvin and Hobbes, in which Spaceman Spiff pulls this maneuver to turn the tables on some pursuing aliens. This being outer space, they respond by simply turning around, so Spiff speeds up to get back ahead of them again, whereupon they turn around again, and so on. The last panel reveals Calvin is imagining this scenario from a swing set.
- The Iron Giant does this as well.
- In the opening of Lilo & Stitch, Stitch skips the "dodge" part: he simply flips his cruiser over 180 degrees so his Fixed Forward-Facing Weapon is pointed at his pursuers, and his engines accelerate him straight towards them.
- Yuichi's signature move in The Sky Crawlers, which wins him several dogfights. Also the signature move of The Teacher, which turns out to be a plot point.
- Ad Astra. During the Moon buggy chase, Roy puts on the brake as a pirate buggy drives in from the side to ram him; the buggy plows into a solar power array instead.
- The Assignment (1997). The protagonist is in a stolen taxi that's falling apart under the abuse, being pursued by gunmen. He drives down a stairway halfway then pulls on the handbrake and ducks—the car behind hits the back of his own, flips over and bursts into flame.
- In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Nick Fury pulls this off in a car chase by luring his pursuers into boxing him in from the sides, then braking right before an intersection, resulting in them getting plowed into by a box rental truck.
- In For Your Eyes Only, James Bond finds himself driving an underpowered Citroën 2CV against two hostile pursuers. He uses a clever brake dodge to make them collide with each other, eliminating one from the chase.
- Taken to extremes in Hot Shots! with the fighter plane braking in mid-air, complete with screeching sounds and an "AIR BRAKE" pedal!
- Iron Man: Tony pulls out the flaps and tries to hide under one of the pursuing jets. The sound he makes when he does so makes it clear that it hurts.
- Mad Max:
- Subverted in Pineapple Express. Saul slams on the brakes during the police chase, only to have the following car brake beside him and open fire.
- Return of the Jedi: Luke does this during the speeder bike chase on Endor.
- The Terminator: Sarah hits the brakes on the car while the Terminator's car continues its high speed pursuit.
- When mooks on each side of them threaten to shoot the tires on their truck, the heroes of Think Big hit the brakes, and the mooks accidentally shoot each other's cars.
- Formerly named for the iconic scene from Top Gun. Maverick does this one twice, in fact; the first time, he uses it against experienced training pilot Jester, who keeps enough presence of mind to dodge for a while longer before finally succumbing to Maverick's simulated shot. The second time is against a MiG pilot who clearly isn't expecting the move, as he freezes long enough for Mav to immediately get a missile lock and fire.
- Used during Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Bumblebee, Sideswipe, and Dino/Mirage brake, causing the Dreads to jump over them instead of onto them.
- In the first Tremors movie, Val gets a Graboid to chase him at full speed toward a cliff and then stops suddenly, causing the Graboid to fall off the cliff.
- Done by Nanny Ogg and Casanunda on a broomstick to a pursuing elf in Lords and Ladies.
- Favorite tactic for Dale Brown's Patrick McLanahan, unlike normal pilots he does it with a B-52.
- Patriot Games. Cathy Ryan is driving home with her daughter when a van pulls up next to her and the sliding door opens:
"There was a man kneeling, holding something. There came a chilling moment of realization. She stomped her foot on the brake a fraction of a second before she saw the white flash."
- Although they're still badly injured in the crash that follows, it is unanimously agreed by the first responders that her actions threw off the guy's aim—he himself admits that he isn't sure about his shots—and ultimately saved their lives.
- In Mercedes Lackey's Sacred Ground, protagonist Jennifer is being chased by hired hitmen, in a woefully underpowered car. Thwarted in her attempts to outmaneuver them and about to be forced off the road, she abruptly remembers her brakes. The badguys overshoot and are promptly rammed by a bus going in the opposite direction.
- Lampshaded in the Star Wars: X-Wing Series. A fake recruit in training (as part of a sting operation against an officer who's faking crashes and selling fighters on the black market), is in the simulator with other members of her squadron. Her mission is to deliberately be an average student, in order to entrap a villainous instructor into artificially improving her scores. So she takes the lead from her less experienced but determined wingmate during the simulated mission. While being chased by two TIE fighters, she pulls one of these. It doesn't work. After the sim, her commander notes something to the effect of, "you were trying to slow down, in open airspace, while being chased by two more experienced pilots in more maneuverable craft? What Were You Thinking?"
- The aforementioned wingmate is able to give the correct response to the situation: drop a missile and use the detonation as a screen for the turnaround maneuver.
- A more complicated variant is a Rogue Squadron tactic: one wingmate stops short, expecting the pursuit to also stop short. However, the other wingmate continues in a plain arc, and that pilot's pursuer follows in a predictable manner, becoming an easy target for the first Rogue.
- This is a classic scissors maneuver for a two-plane element. Stackpole indulged in a little Shown Their Work in the first book of which this is part.
- Another bit of Shown Their Work in the X-wing novels is pilots playing with the fact that in space, what direction your craft is pointing isn't necessarily the direction it's going. More than a few Rogues and Wraiths pull reversals on opponents by turning off the coordination between attitude control and acceleration, allowing them to literally fly backwards or sideways, mimicking the effects of this.
- In Shooting Script by Gavin Lyall, the hero kills a fighter jet with his unarmed propellor-driven plane by slowing down abruptly right in front of the jet, which stalls while trying to avoid crashing into him and goes into the ground. The fighter had been buzzing him because the local dictatorship thought he was supporting the rebels. They hassled him so much that, well....
- Airwolf did this practically every single episode; justified as it's a helicopter that really can just stop in the air.
- Since the series takes place in space, Babylon 5 pilots occasionally do this sort of thing. Sheridan trains the station's Starfury pilots in one episode and says that aliens with greater tolerance for G-forces or are willing to let the autopilot fly while they're blacked out can be particularly dangerous in these situations.
- Also shows up many times in the original Battlestar Galactica, written by the same guy who did Buck Rogers. Although Galactica's Vipers had actual reverse thrusters.
- Subverted in a Galactica comic, where the Viper pilots are up against a Cylon ace (an advanced model; he didn't look like a standard Centurion). As they start to tangle with him, one of the Viper pilots says, "Reverse thrust, that always works." When they do so, the Cylon ace says, "Reverse thrust? That never works," and sure enough proceeds to hand the Viper pilots their asses.
- The correct display of Newtonian physics was also used for a variation several times in the 2003 reboot of Battlestar Galactica, as well as in Space: Above and Beyond: In both cases, the chased pilots simply flipped their fighters backwards while keeping their momentum, thus bringing the pursuing enemy into their sights.
- This maneuver is referred to as "Good old-fashioned red-dogging" in the pilot two-parter of the Buck Rogers in the 25th Century TV series.
- Interesting variation on Firefly, with the "Crazy Ivan"—the manoeuvrable Serenity pulls a 180 flip, then engages its interplanetary drive, catching the pursuers in its high-temperature exhaust. The move is named after a real life submarine manoeuvre used for detecting ships hiding in sonar shadow.
- Which you will all of course know from The Hunt for Red October.
- Done in Stargate Atlantis by Colonel John Sheppard in an F-302 against an AI-controlled F-302 that's trying to kill him.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
- In "Sons and Daughters" General Martok orders the IKS Rotarran to do this while dogfighting with some Jem'Hadar attack ships. He's on the tail of one, and a second is on him from behind. He blasts one, brakes, and blasts the other.
- In "Treachery, Faith, and the Great River" Odo pulls this against a pursuing Jem'Hadar attack ship in a runabout, enabling him to get above his pursuer and Attack Its Weak Point.
- On Star Trek: Voyager, Tom Paris uses this tactic against a Kazon fighter.
- A standard tactic in Aeronautica Imperialis, especially effective if an Eldar Nightwing dumps the throttle and pulls a nice sharp climb to drop its speed by 5 (on a 0 to 9 scale, no less), forcing the tailing Ork fighter to rocket-booster along and let the Nightwing drop down behind it and shred it in a barrage of shuriken cannon fire.
- Occasionally occurs with some of the more elite pilots in the Ace Combat series. The most obvious are the Su-37 Ace pilots in Ace Combat 2, which can pull a Pugachev Cobra (see under Real Life). If you don't expect it, you fly straight past and they get a perfect shot at you. If you are expecting it, you get a free shot at a completely immobile enemy.
- Yellow Squadron pilots will also perform this maneuver in Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies; ironically, their replacements in the final mission do it so much that it back-fires, making them easy gun kills. It's similarly possible for the player to evade close-in enemies by braking and actually stalling for a second or so.
- The DFM counter-maneuvers Ace Combat: Assault Horizon are explicitly these, requiring the player to slow up until their pursuer is close enough to slip behindnote . The exact move used varies by situation, from simple breaking barrel rolls to the same stunts seen by enemy aces in previous games. Note that the enemy can also do it to you, if they're skilled enough, but there's a very brief moment where you can counter their counter, resulting in a brief aerial ballet that ends with your cannon pointed directly at their cockpit and a critical hit missile immediately ready to fire.
- In Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown, Champ tries to use Pugachev's Cobra to turn the tables on Mister X (Mihaly Shilage), but as Mihaly is clearly the more experienced pilot, he sees right through this tactic and answers in kind with a kulbit that brings him practically nose-to-nose with Champ before blowing him away instantly.
- Arguably the tactic in Ace Online, although the choices are, like in their real life counterpart, numerous. Should you lure your enemy into terrain? Use (or abuse) the Back Move Mach/Turn Around function to engage the enemy? Or use an innate ability to basically keep yourself alive longer than your opponents? The choice is endless.
- Subverted in Afterburner Climax; some enemy planes will do this, but all it does is make them an easy target since they can't fire at you.
- Early in the "Going Hunting" mission of Battlefield 3, an enemy Su-35 pulls off a Cobra to get behind the player and their F/A-18. The pilot of the player's jet shortly after uses less cool but more realistic turns and spins to get behind them so the player can light them up with missiles.
- You can do this in Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X., but realistically it's only possible with the higher-performance modern jets and not, say, a MiG-21Bis "Fishbed".
- However, the type of maneuver the game encourages you to use to get behind your enemies is the one tactic most pilots would try to avoid, which would be deliberately stalling your plane.
- It's an effective maneuver to evade Darth Vader and his wingmen in the trench run on the Death Star in Rogue Squadron. You can even get in a few good shots of your own if you're quick enough on the draw.
- Some airship battles in Skies of Arcadia give you the option to slow down and let the other airship get ahead for a clear shot with your Harpoon Cannon (and later, Wave-Motion Gun).
- You can do this in Star Fox 64 during the dogfights with the Star Wolf team. You can also pull a somersault* to the same effect, which even nets a response from your pursuer.
Wolf: What the heck?!
- Queen of Thieves: Leon does this while fleeing a police pursuit in the prologue. He brakes hard, letting them speed by, then backs up, turns around, and drives off.
- In Air Force Blues, Top Gun fan Ken Dahl tries doing this to a cop who's after him for speeding, but the maneuver just results in Dahl's car getting rear-ended.
- In the Buzz Lightyear of Star Command episode "Inside Job", Buzz uses this twice as it is his Chekhov's Maneuver for the episode. He referred to it as "Stop, Drop, Rock and Roll!".
- Samurai Jack: Episode XIX "Jack Remembers the Past". Jack is being pursued by bounty hunters riding on giant hornets. Jack has his own hornet stop and draws his sword and cuts off his opponent's head as they fly past.
- Exaggerated in Voltron: Legendary Defender. Hunk pulls this trick in order to get a Galra fighter off his tail in battle... but because the Yellow Lion is a Mighty Glacier, instead of letting the fighter pass him, braking only causes the fighter to crash headlong into him and explode.
Lance: Hunk, you got a fighter right on your six!
Hunk: Yeah, and I'm about to teach this sentry a lesson about tailgating!
- A discarded trope, at least in the real world. Modern fighter combat is based on the Energy Maneuverability (EM) theory of Col. John Boyd, a Maverick USAF officer responsible for developing the F-15, F-16, and the A-10, among much else. Boyd conceptualized air combat as a physical system featuring two energy parameters: kinetic (motion) and potential (altitude). The key to victory is maintaining as high a reservoir of energy as possible — the pilot who maintains the highest energy level wins. This allowed Boyd to work out an entire series of previously unknown maneuvers (called "zero-gee" maneuvers) to allow pilots to break locks and out-turn opponents without losing energy. It also rules out tactics like braking and VIFFing, which waste energy (and explains why Harrier pilots refrained from doing it over the Falklands). EM is the current paradigm for air combat and is utilized by all air forces in training pilots.
- It should be noted, however, that the basis of Barrel Rolls and several other maneuvers is to be able to achieve the effect of braking without actually bleeding airspeed. By spiraling around the original path you were taking, you constantly convert your speed into height and back, all the while making sure that you're "moving fast the wrong way", so that whoever is on your tail is effectively forced to "take the shortcut", making them pull ahead of you, without you having ever tried to actually slow down.
- Pugachev's Cobra, named after Sukhoi test pilot Viktor Pugachev who demonstrated it at the Paris Air Shownote .
- The first MiG-29 sent to the Paris Airshow crashed doing this, ironically. Do not assault your stall speed close to the ground!
- Although RAF Harriers and RN Sea Harriers were widely reported as doing this during the Falklands War, in fact the Argentinian pilots were at the edge of their range and did not fly aggressively enough to make it necessary. Slamming the nozzles into "full hover stop" however gave the Harrier a significant advantage in a number of training dogfights.
- It's also Difficult, but Awesome bordering on Dangerous Forbidden Technique; if you think approaching stall speed near the ground is bad, try coming to a dead stop. There's a reason the American version of the Harrier is notorious for killing far more trainees than jets that are designed to only fly forward.
- Unorthodox manoeuvres, such as skidding (sideways slide by inserting stick to one direction and adding opposite pedal) or snap rolls (controlled spin along the longitudinal axis by applying the stick and pedal diagonally opposite) are this trope.
- Many say Duke Cunningham's combat experiences formed the basis of Top Gun's action sequences, as Cunningham actually performed the maneuver in Vietnam in a big bulky F-4 Phantom II in combat against a MiG-17.
- A tactic sometimes used by American B-52s flying over Vietnam when they found themselves being tailed by a MiG. Having no hope of outrunning or out-turning the smaller fighter jet, and the tail gunner included in earlier models of the bomber being of limited use in the jet agenote , the most effective tactic was often to idle the engines, drop the flaps, brakes, and landing gear, and drop out of the sky with all the aerobatic grace of a rock. The fighter jet, being designed for speed, often had no hope of slowing down nearly that quickly, and would overshoot the bomber, giving the bomber valuable time to make good their escape. This could be a sort of inversion of Tim Taylor Technology, as many of the aircraft's control surfaces and landing gear could be damaged by being forced into the airstream at full speed.
- The Swordfish biplane of World War II was technically obsolete even before the war began. However, both the Royal Navy and RAF kept it in service until long after 1945. The Swordfish had the advantage of being so slow that an attacking fighter had to slow to almost stalling speed to be in with a fleeting chance. It was also surprisingly maneuverable: this combined with its exceptionally slow airspeed allowed it to evade fighters moving four times more quickly but which could not stunt as well. These factors also explained the survival of Gloster Gladiator biplane fighters in the air battles over Malta. In one engagement over the Adriatic, a Swordfish pilot slowed practically to stalling speed. One after the other, three modern Italian fighter aircraft diving to attack overshot their target, and as the engagement happened so close to sea level, were unable to pull up in time before crashing into the sea. The pilot, Lt-Commander Charles Lamb, said it was a pity he didn't fire his guns, as this would have enabled him to claim three kills.
- This can happen with wild predators hunting dangerous prey. In this National Geographic video, a cheetah overshoots a warthog (accidentally helping it "brake" by getting a glancing blow on its legs), then has to run from its tusks until he gets help from his brother acting as wingman.