Follow TV Tropes


Orbital Bombardment

Go To

"[Galaxy Commander] Perez ordered his Galaxy's WarShip, the Sabre Cat, into low orbit around Turtle Bay. When it hung over the city of Edo, Perez fired the huge vessel's laser and autocannon batteries again and again until nothing remained of the once-proud city save piles of smoking debris."
Invading Clans: A BattleTech Sourcebook

In some science fiction, it's impractical to transport enough ground troops to invade a planet or natural satellite, or The Empire simply wants to make a statement. So they bombard it with a bunch of nukes or large kinetics, or Energy Weapons of some sort. This bombardment may be limited to a small geographical area but more often it is a general assault that wipes out most civilization if not all life on the planet.

A term frequently used in relation to this trope is "glassing," which originally referred to the bombardment being intense enough to cause the soil to vitrify, or melt into volcanic glass. Such as what happened at the Trinity nuclear test site.

Subtrope of Death from Above, supertrope to Colony Drop, usually less powerful than an Earth-Shattering Kaboom. Kill Sat is a specific example where the bombardment is carried out by a satellite instead of a ship (the primary distinction is that the Kill Sat can't leave orbit under its own power). This can overlap with a Meteor-Summoning Attack. May involve Nuking 'em, and could be required because It's The Only Way To Be Sure. Has no relation to an Orbital Shot. See also Gunship Rescue.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Gundam:
    • The original Mobile Suit Gundam's backstory includes an attempted colony drop on Brazil that was derailed to Australia. Gundam 0083 gives us a decent peek of the ensuing crater bay carved from the 50-mile radius around what used to be Sydney.
    • Char's Counterattack more or less revolves around Char doing this and even begins with a preliminary meteor drop on Tibet.
    • Operation Meteor of Gundam Wing infamy was drafted as a plan to drop an asteroid on Earth, then seize control with the Gundams as the populace runs around in terror. Of course, we wind up seeing what happens when the Gundams jump the gun and their pilots' humanity interferes, but Dekim Barton decides to double back and do it right in Endless Waltz.
    • After War Gundam X starts with the Space Revolutionary Army devastating the Earth with mass colony drops. The series proper takes place After the End with everyone who's left scrambling to control the titular Gundam, whose Satellite Cannon was designed to shoot the things down.
    • The second season of Gundam 00 has an orbital elevator collapse and a massive scramble from Celestial Being and A-LAWS to clear the ensuing debris before it lands on someone's head. The collapse was caused by the Memento Mori orbital cannons which were also used previously to level entire CITIES from above.
    • Gundam SEED Destiny features an attempt to drop a destroyed colony on Earth. Despite the efforts of both the Federation and ZAFT, who together actually manage to take out the majority of the thing, enough damage is caused to re-ignite a second Bloody Valentine War.
    • Even SD Gundam Force gets in on the action towards the end of its first half, when Chief Haro conducts the largest-scale Bright Slap homage ever by dropping the hand-shaped Blanc Base on the Dark Axis's Big Zam.
    • In The 08th MS Team, the entire point of the Apsalus Project is to produce a weapon that can destroy the Federation's headquarters at Jaburo even through the layers of rock and earth protecting it. This is done by strapping a superhigh-powered beam cannon to a mobile armor designed to "bounce" high into the atmosphere and bombard Jaburo like a Kill Sat.
    • Gundam Evolve featured a Titans Mobile Armor, the Geminus, that was capable of striking ground targets from orbit with a Beam Cannon. It manages to take out a Karaba base before getting destroyed by a team of Zeta Gundams.
    • Iron-Blooded Orphans has a non-Colony Drop version of this: in the final episode, Gjallarhorn launches a Dainsleif bombardment on Tekkadan's remaining mobile suits during their last stand. This ends up doing incredible damage to the Barbatos, but Mikazuki keeps fighting for a few more minutes out of sheer determination. A briefly seen map at the end of Season 1 shows that in the past (presumably during the Calamity Wars) something, presumably large and dropped from orbit, wiped out Sydney, Australia. Again
  • Space Carrier Blue Noah: Hostile aliens destroy Earth's bases through showers of meteors.
  • Robotech's Macross:
    • Midway into the saga, Admiral Dolza amasses the Zentradi armada above Earth's orbit. The crew of SDF-1 join forces with Breetai and Azonia to smash through Dolza's defenses and succeed in killing him, but not before the order is given to annihilate the Earth. The Zentradi open fire, devastating close to 90 percent of the planet's surface, killing two thirds of its populace.
    • In the original Super Dimension Fortress Macross, the Zentraedi fold into orbit and immediately open fire without giving humanity any time to do more than gawk at the enormous fleet they've amassed. When the Macross and the allied Breetai and Lap Lamiz fleets go after Bodolza, they do so under the assumption that all human life on the planet is dead. Fortunately, it turns out this isn't quite the case: a few million survivors here and there across the surface are located in the following years.
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: The movie confirms that this is how the Anti-Spirals destroyed the previous iteration of human civilization, and the Earth's surface along with it.
  • In Space Battleship Yamato 2199, the Gamilas Empire used planet bombs to irradiate the earth's surface. The Gamilas Empire bombarded Alteria with ultra-menace missiles, fighters, and fighter carriers that act as a Kill Sat in an attempt to scare any civilizations that want to revolt from the empire.
  • Yakitori Soldiers Of Misfortune. When Unit K-321 request this trope, their commander insists that another member of the unit confirm the request before allowing it. They discover why on seeing the sheer destruction that ensues.

    Comic Books 
  • Global Frequency features the threat of kinetic spears, weapons designed to be dropped from satellites, heat up on re-entry, and strike the ground with the force of a tactical nuke, and as hot as the edge of the sun. Part of a 'die-back' protocol.
  • Star Trek: Early Voyages:
    • In the two-part story "The Fallen", the Chakuun ghostships launch devastating attacks from space on Federation colonies such as Jubal and Theta Kalyb. Approximately 100,000 Federation citizens are killed in the attack on Jubal. New Milan suffered the same fate eight years earlier.
    • In "Nemesis", the Klingon commander Kharg threatens to destroy the major population centers of the Temazi homeworld from space.
  • Superman:
    • In The Death of Luthor, Supergirl visits an alien world which was destroyed by hostile spaceships shooting freezing beams which literally glassed the atmosphere.
    • "Superman Vs Muhammad Ali": In order to force Superman and Muhammad Ali to comply with his demands, the Scrubb Emperor Rat'Lar warns that his armada has surrounded Earth before ordering the obliteration of one whole city. One of his hundreds of ships fires two giant intangible plasma missiles, and although Superman is able to divert them into the sea, he still must deal with the ensuing tsunami. While he is busy, another ship shoots another couple of missiles and blows one island up before Superman can stop them.
  • Dawn of the Jedi reveals that the desert world Tattooine was once a jungle world with large oceans. The Rakata conquered it and the people they enslaved rebelled. They bombarded the world from orbit and turned it into the desert we see in the films.
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: The Green Geni get a kick out of finding planets that support life, and then bombarding them with nuclear weapons from orbit. They then have the temerity to act like the victims when the Golden Women Space Police force turns their own vessel into a prison ship for them.

    Fan Works 
  • The Celestia Code: After some run-ins with changelings, Twilight finally settles on diplomacy. Namely, a politely worded letter ... and borrowing an asteroid when Luna's not looking.
    I think I used too much velocity.
  • Day of Darkness II features Gallente Sentry Drones performing an orbital bombardment. Also, Admiral Tovil-Toba performs a Colony Drop with his multi-kilometer spaceship.
  • The Elements of Harmony and the Savior of Worlds: This is the Earth Defense Command's General Plan 24 and equivalent nuclear option - bombardment of a ground target with the Energon cannons of as many Enterprise-class space battleships of the EDC as can be made available.
  • Fractured: Anyone with a sufficiently large Battlestar seems to like employing this trope. From the small-scale by comparison nuclear firepower unleashed by an anti-Jakobs alliance to full-scale anti-Reaper blasts from Trans-Galactic Republic fleets or even the last sweep against the Flood using huge numbers of Star Dreadnaughts, many planets have been glassed over the course of the series.
  • From Bajor to the Black states that after the survivors of the fleet rescued the 9,000 survivors of the Borg attack on the Vega IX colony, they demolished the site with an orbital torpedo attack.
  • Let the Galaxy Burn, A Song of Ice and Fire as a Space Opera, has a character mention a maxim: "Maxim One: who controls the orbital, controls the planet". It's stated that the inability to do this is part of what makes taking Moat Cailin almost impossible, as even if you get past the minefields, asteroid fields, and asteroid fortresses, it has machines on it that generate gravity distortions that drag any ship in bombardment range to their doom, forcing enemies to land troops if they want to take the massive swamp-covered planet that one character states could be used in a dictionary to define the term Death World.
  • Red Fire, Red Planet: This is done inadvertently. Norigom's "strike package" (really just ten tons of uranium dropped from a Bird-of-Prey at 25,000 km/s) is actually aimed at part of Utopia Planitia Fleet Yards, but a chunk of it keeps going after hitting its target and impacts the planet. A Martian city reportedly suffered a direct hit.
  • The Unabridged Memoirs of Darth Plagueis the Wise: This is the main tactic of Ackbar's Perlemian Blitz campaign. He jumps his fleet into a system, and proceeds to deliver Death from Above on every visible military site on the planet, allowing his forces to then land and steal and/or sabotage all the infrastructure they can, before then fleeing the system to rinse and repeat somewhere else.
  • Uplifted: Arrival: Following the Nazi commando raid on the Kareon and the successful liberation of Adolf Hitler, Admiral Alaan'Jarva tracks Hitler's movements into Italy, where a fortress inside Mt. Ortler was constructed during his absence. When his location is confirmed, Jarva orders twenty-four ships into orbit over Earth and together they fire about 800 megatons of firepower on him, vaporizing the dictator, tens of thousands of soldiers and civilians and the entire mountain.
  • Used and discussed in Wilhuff Tarkin, Hero of the Rebellion:
    • The technical definition of a Star Destroyer is based around their orbital bombardment capabilities; "any ship smaller than 2,000 meters capable of making a planet uninhabitable in less than a day with only the standard weapons". Most Star Destroyers achieve this through sheer turbolaser firepower, while the Victory I, relatively undergunned in the turbolaser department, simply fires all its missiles to blast away a planet's magnetic field and let solar radiation finish the job.
    • Base Delta Zero, an orbital bombardment that obliterates all life on a planet, is ordered by Tarkin against the planet D'vouran. As D'vouran eats people and is being weaponized by a rogue Imperial scientist, this is considered entirely appropriate.
      • Base Delta Zero has existed as a protocol for a long time for situations where killing an entire planet quickly becomes necessary, but every time it was ordered an alternative solution was found before it was carried out... Up until Grievous ordered it against Humbarine during the Clone Wars for terror purposes, with "rogue" Imperial officers carrying one out against Caamas. Tarkin's implementation is the first appropriate use of the bombardment.
    • The Bombardment of Falleen is featured, with two variations: Vader was extraneous to the creation of the flesh-eating bacteria that made it necessary (in fact the release was the result of the lab screwing up by trying to destroy it before Vader arrived and discovered they hadn't done it yet), and it was demanded by a medic in the affected area knowing he'd be killed. Vader being Vader he arrived ready to carry it out, he just waited for the medic to order it - and Falleen's garrison fleet being prevented from carrying it out by the local governor that didn't want to lose the "donations" from a native of the targeted city.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Referenced in Aliens with Ripley's famous "I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure."
  • Iron Sky: The Moon Nazis start the attack on Earth by dropping asteroids they towed into orbit with their Zeppelin battleships. Inverted later, when the George W. Bush drops nukes on the Nazi base on the Moon.
  • Men in Black:
    • In the first film, after the Bug kills the Arquilian prince and steals the Galaxy, an Arquillian battle cruiser enters orbit around the Earth. It sends an ultimatum: deliver the Galaxy or it will destroy the Earth. It then fires a warning shot at the North Pole to make it clear that it means it.
    • In the title sequence of the second film, Serleena's starship blows up several planets for no apparent reason on her way to Earth.
  • In Soldier the captain wants to do this to the settlers on the garbage planet, but the colonel vetoes that in favor of giving his genetically engineered soldiers some exercise. It doesn't end well for them.
  • Stargate: Continuum: Double Subverted. The combined fleets of the System Lords under a Time Traveling Ba'al arrive in Earth orbit and initially just sit there and look threatening, because Ba'al had grown to like the old timeline's Earth and wanted to offer them status as an autonomous protectorate of the Goa'uld Empire. After Qetesh kills him, thinking he's off his rocker, she orders the fleet to go back to Goa'uld Plan A and opens fire on the planet.
  • Star Trek V: The Final Frontier: The Enterprise lays in a photon torpedo strike on "God" in order to cover the escape of Kirk, McCoy, and Spock. It only serves to slow their pursuer down momentarily.
  • In Star Trek: First Contact, when the Borg sphere arrives at Earth in the past, it begins blasting Zefram Cochrane's installation where his ship was to be launched the following morning. This stops rather abruptly when Picard puts a quantum torpedo volley up its tailpipe.
  • Star Wars: nowhere near as prominent or overpowered as in Legends, but still present. See the appropriate entries under Literature, Video Games, and Western Animation for more on that.
    • In the films themselves, the original plan to deal with the Rebels in The Empire Strikes Back was to bombard the base with Star Destroyers. When Ozzel screwed up and the Rebels got a bombardment-proof shield up, they resorted to going under the barrier with a ground side assault.
    • In The Last Jedi, the Resistance base on D'Qar is promptly evacuated at the beginning, right before being obliterated by an orbital strike from the First Order's Mandator IV-class Siege Dreadnought, which specializes in that kind of things.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • In Captain Marvel (2019), Yon-Rogg complains that Ronan and the Accusers think orbital missile strikes are the solution to every problem. They do it to the planet Torfa, and are only prevented from doing it to Earth by Captain Marvel's intervention.
    • In Avengers: Endgame, 2014 Thanos announces his arrival in 2023 by unloading an artillery barrage of missiles from Sanctuary II that obliterate the Avengers Compound and reduce it to a pile of rubble. Later, during the battle, Wanda Maximoff seeks out Thanos, seeking revenge for his 2018 self's murder of Vision, and outclasses him to the point that he has to order Sanctuary II to unload another missile barrage on the battlefield (killing several of his own troops in the process) just to break her focus.
      Thanos: [struggling] RAIN FIRE!
      Corvus Glaive: But sire! Our troops!
      Thanos: JUST DO IT!!!

  • Available in Aeon 14, although orbital strikes, called "starfire" in slang, are mainly used for tactical purposes rather than to glass planets (the engine wash of a large number of ships is often enough for that).
  • Banned outright in the Alexis Carew series under the Abbentheren Accords, passed after the Republic of Hanover achieved independence from Deutschstirne by indiscriminately bombarding multiple planets with asteroids, killing billions.
    • Alexis discovers a loophole in ''The Little Ships: the Accords define "space" as "above a planet's mesosphere", meaning flying to a lower altitude and then firing broadsides is perfectly legal, not to mention completely unexpected since ships in the 'verse aren't meant to be capable of flying in atmosphere.
    • In The Queen's Pardon, while trying to escape a Space Pirate-ruled planet with thousands of enslaved spacers, Alexis points out the Accords when told that, if it comes to it, the pirates are willing to bombard the planet to subdue any uprisings. The more senior officer she's working with wryly responds that pirates aren't exactly known for following the law.
  • In Angel in the Whirlwind, it's common and extremely destructive for ships to fire kinetic impactors at enemy formations and bases on planet surfaces, but using them on civilian targets is frowned upon and the antimatter weapons commonly used against other ships would make the planet worthless.
  • Discussed in the Animorphs series when the kids find out about a particularly strange project the invading Yeerks are undertaking. When one of them guesses that it might just be aimed at killing a lot of people, their alien ally Ax dismisses the idea, saying if the Yeerks wanted to do that they could just fire their Dracon beams into the atmosphere, overheating it and incinerating all life on Earth. Thanks, Ax.
  • Starting with the second book of the Arrivals from the Dark series, humanity has heavy cruisers equipped with an antimatter Wave-Motion Gun. It's not uncommon to use them for orbital bombardment (even though the atmosphere would reduce the effectiveness by causing matter-antimatter reactions with air particles. In a later book, a fleet is sent into an enemy home system in order to lay waste to their homeworld using these weapons. The goal is to cause massive confusion in the enemy ranks by taking out their leaders. One of the protagonists calls it off, and the war continues for another century.
  • Ashes of Empire:
    • Dendera's "Retribution Fleet" uses this versus every planet that might be connected to the rebellion. Surrender fast enough, and they'll only bombard your planet to a pre-space travel level. The slightest hint of resistance, including simply not surrendering fast enough, and the planet is bombarded back to the Stone Age.
    • During their flight, Morane's ships use this as Due to the Dead for two colonies wiped out by reivers, using nukes to cremate the entire colony rather than leave the corpses to rot.
  • Confederation of Valor: During a ground battle in Valor's Trial the Others' Space Navy apparently say "screw this" and strike the place from space with some sort of tactical warhead that fuses the entire battlefield into volcanic glass, killing almost everyone on both sides.
  • A Desolation Called Peace: The Teixcalaanli Galactic Superpower's capital ships each pack enough nuclear weaponry to destroy a planet's biosphere, though even the war-obsessed Empire sees it as the absolute Godzilla Threshold. That the Emperor seriously considers it in the war against the unknown aliens is a sign that they're getting desperate. Ultimately, they negotiate a truce right before the order goes through.
  • The Dresden Files: The only reason Ebenezar McCoy isn't known for this is because he tends to use one object at a time. Such as dropping a satellite on a South American village. Or The Tunguska Event (which is still talked about over 100 years later). If he wasn't considered moral enough to be the holder of the Blackstaff (which allows him to set aside most of the effects of ignoring the Laws of Magic), one might be wondering what would happen if the asteroid belt were closer to Earth...
  • Dune:
    • In Heretics of Dune, Honored Matres ships blast the surface of Arrakis into molten slag, sterilizing it.
    • In Chapterhouse: Dune Honored Matres ships destroyed the planet Tleilax and many Bene Gesserit Sisterhood planets.
    • Averted in the Legends of Dune prequels, where the League of Nobles uses atmospheric bomber craft to drop nukes on planets rather than do it from orbit. It's implied that the Thinking Machines would be able to intercept them at such ranges.
  • In The 5th Wave, an alien species called "the Others" attacks Earth in several successive waves — hence the title. While the books set in during the eponymous fifth wave, it is mentioned that the second wave consisted of a single huge metal rod the size of the Empire State Building dropped from orbit into the ocean. Since the vast majority of humans (used to) live directly at or in fairly close proximity to the coast, the resulting Giant Wall of Watery Doom plus some earthquakes wiped out three quarters of Earth's population in a matter of hours. It goes downhill from there. Rapidly..
  • In Footfall, the alien invaders have two versions of this. First, they use space-based lasers and "Rods From God" to destroy Earth's military forces and insurgents; later, after Kansas is nuked to defeat their first invasion they drop the eponymous "Foot" (an asteroid) in the Indian Ocean to try to force Earth's surrender (it doesn't work).
  • In Michael Z. Williamson's Freehold series the tactic takes the form of blocks of metal that are dropped from orbit. It's first seen when the Grainne military is hired to carve a gap through a mountain range for a new highway. At the end of The War of Earthly Aggression Grainne hits several major Earth cities with the weapons to force the UN to the negotiating table.
  • The laws of war in The Four Horsemen Universe forbid this: aircraft and spacecraft are not allowed to attack surface targets from above 10 km altitude. The rule is only useful if you get caught, though: in Asbaran Solutions, the Blood Drinkers, a Besquith PMC, claim-jump the title PMC by attacking them from orbit with neutron bombs, leaving nobody alive to report them. And the Mercenary Guild leadership are in on the plot anyway.
  • Robert A. Heinlein:
    • In The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress the lunar rebels use the mass driver meant for sending shipments of grain back to Earth to drop big rocks on Earth military bases.
    • Space Cadet
      • The primary mission of the Space Patrol is to ensure peace on Earth by maintaining orbiting nuclear weapons which they would use on any aggressor. Cadet Dodson serves a tour onboard a Patrol Ship whose prime mission is to coordinate such a bombardment. To keep the crew busy, they (including Dodson) perform routine maintenance on such bomb satellites.
      • There's an amusing scene regarding these about two-thirds of the way through the book, where Dodson explains this to his parents and that one of the bombs will be directly overhead by the time they finish dinner. His mom panics — "What if it falls?" — which leads to Dodson having to explain how orbital mechanics work and that if Space Patrol wanted to nuke them they'd use a different bomb further back on the same orbit that could actually dump enough velocity to hit them. Dad doesn't find this very reassuring.
    • Between Planets. The Federation has a large space station in orbit around Earth called Circum-Terra. It's their main guided-missile control station, and can fire missiles at any city on Earth. It has between 200 and 1,000 fission bomb rockets and components for the manufacture of fusion bombs.
    • Starship Troopers acknowledges that if you just want to kill stuff that lives on the surface, nuking it from orbit is usually much more effective. Two problems with this: the Bugs don't live on the surface, and while the Skinnies do, the humans are hoping to turn them into allies/trading partners in the future and don't want to completely wipe them out. Also, it would destroy valuable real estate that humans could use in victory. As the book says, you can kill everything from orbit but you need a kid with a rifle on the ground to hold it. However, the bugs do it to humans, by bombing Argentina.
  • In Andrey Livadny's The History of the Galaxy setting, the First Galactic War started when the President of the Earth Alliance unilaterally decided to forcibly bring the Lost Colonies under Earth control in order to solve Earth's overpopulation problem. He sends a strike fleet to one of the more developed colonies called Dabog. The admiral of the fleet opens the invasion by nuking two major cities on the planet from orbit without warning. When the colonists are able to successfully fight off the invasion forces, the admiral pulls his forces back and has the planet sterilized by repeated nuclear bombardment as a message to the other colonies. This only serves to unify the Free Colonies against the threat, and the bloody war drags on for several decades instead of being a quick show of force, ending with the colonies coming out on top. Even a thousand years later, Dabog is still too radioactive to re-settle. Instead, it serves as a silent memorial to all those who refused to bow down to tyranny.
    • After the war, the Confederacy of Suns sends warships to locate secret Earth Alliance bases (usually automated and underground) and destroys them using tornado missiles launched from orbit. If the planet has a tropopause layer, the missiles detonate and generate temporary tornadoes that seek out air shafts (all underground bases need them) and destroy anything in the base.
  • The Western Galactic Empire of Robert Zubrin's The Holy Land uses Psioray bombardment. Capable of wide-area bombardment, accurate to within one-tenth of a percent of the range fired, can be tuned to only affect specific groups of beings (even more specifically than species), and reduces the targets to less than an inch in height, while leaving, for instance, local birds, lizards, and predatory insects the same size. Poor Peru. Poor Iowa.
  • In the Honorverse orbital bombardment is restricted under the Eridani Edict in that the planet has to have had its space-borne defense destroyed and be given a chance to surrender first. If the planet refuses to surrender then Orbital Bombardment is allowed but only against military targets (which does include bombarding the politicians who control the military). Of course since ships and missiles tend to fly around at relativistic speeds a "miss" can easily destroy an ecosystem and debris from orbital combat can cause massive damage (as was seen in Oyster Bay). If the Eridani Edict is disobeyed the theoretical penalty is the complete destruction of the offending government by the Solarian League, but given how poorly the League fleet performs against Manticore and Haven when they actually join the fight it's questionable whether the threat can be backed up anymore...although those same star nations are probably quite willing to enforce the Edict themselves.
    • When orbital bombardment is used, the weapons of choice are kinetic bombs. These weigh about half a ton and have impeller drives, and depending on their acceleration can produce blasts sized to take out anything from an outhouse to a city.
    • On at least one occasion, striking a planet from orbit (or beyond) is referred to as the Heinlein Maneuver. That the Havenites refuse to even risk it is one of their early redeeming qualities. That the Masadans directly set out to do this is probably the second or third time they cross a Moral Event Horizon (Blackbird Base being the first).
    • Not long before In Enemy Hands, Admiral Esther McQueen used orbital kinetic strikes from her flagship PNS Rousseau in combination with low-altitude bombing to foil an attempted coup against the Committee of Public Safety. The bombing in particular got her the In-Series Nickname "Admiral Cluster Bomb".
    • Much later in the series, one of the villains establishes their evilness by destroying several cities with kinetic strikes to put down a popular rebellion against the local Puppet State government. The Manticorans return the favor, destroying the villain's headquarters with a precision strike from orbit.
  • In the Hostile Takeover series by S. Andrew Swann, the tactic is called "orbital reduction of target", and consists of dropping a cloud of thin, heavy filaments from orbit. This smashes up the target area, has good ground-penetrating properties, and leaves the surroundings essentially undamaged. In the backstory Jonah Dacham destroyed the city of Styx this way, killing 35,000 people, including his mother. (Not really; someone else had her killed.) Later, Klaus Dacham does the same thing to the refugees from Godwin Arms.
  • Turns up on a number of occasions in the Kris Longknife series. Shipboard laser weapons have approximately the potency of tactical nuclear weapons: in one memorable incident, when an alien dictator starts firing nuclear missiles at her orbiting ships, Kris destroys the missiles in midair and then melts the mountain containing the dictator's redoubt down to approximately sea level.
  • From the Legacy of the Aldenata series by John Ringo:
    • The Posleen invasion was lead off by kinetic weapon strikes on planetary defense centers and various pyramid structures around the world (due to a resemblance to similar structures set up by the Posleen, who consider them important).
    • In Hell's Faire, the heroes and the entire population of Earth, are totally screwed until the fleet unexpectedly returns and uses kinetic bombardment to destroy every important target on the ground.
    • O'Neal's team finds out what it's like to be on the receiving end of it, in The Eye of the Storm (free sneak preview available here, containing the scene in question in Chapter Four).
  • Lensman: As might be expected, the Lensmen get into this particular Arms Race. If you're lucky, they're just tossing bombs at you. If you get them really mad, they target you with a couple of planets moving at several times c. With diametrically opposed vectors. It's called the "nutcracker", and the results are described as the creation of a new, temporary star.
  • In Line of Delirium, the three Imperial colonies in the Shedar (Alpha Cassiopeiae) system were invaded by the fast-breeding Sakkra. Civilians were evacuated (mostly women and children, although not all women left), while most men chose to stay and fight. Instead of trying to retake the planets, which would result in huge casualties, The Emperor decides to bombard them with meson bombs. The invaders and the defenders were killed, and the planets were made uninhabitable. The Empire proceeded to retaliate and wiped out the entire Sakkra species. The protagonist mentions visiting his home planet Shedar II decades later, revealing that the oceans are still boiling.
  • In The Lost Fleet, it's standard practice in the Forever War by both sides to bombard enemy planets using "rocks" in order to reduce the enemy's recruitment pool and industrial strength. When John Geary (who spent 100 years as a Human Popsicle) learns of this, he is horrified that The Alliance has stooped so low. He is determined to put an end to this.
    • One of the reasons this tactic is presented as so horrible is that it takes a few minutes for the payload to reach its intended target. While the target is fully aware it is coming, they can't hope to escape the blast radius, so they have time to agonize over their inevitable death. The 'Rocks' are too durable to blast out of the sky, as well. In a later book, humanity's first alien allies save a human planet using their incredible flying/shooting skills to divert one of these attacks.
  • In Lucifer's Star, orbital bombardment is considered the equivalent of using nuclear weapons. It's something most powers can use but is considered to be an absolute last resort given inhabitable planets are an incredibly important resource. It's a sign of how thoroughly sick the Commonwealth has become with the horrific casualties brought about by the Archduchy of Crius' superior technology (but numerical inferiority) that they decide to do this to the Crius homeworld.
  • The Mote in God's Eye. In the Back Story to the novel, five Imperial battleships destroyed all life on the rebellious planet Istvan, killing tens of millions of human beings.
  • Peter F. Hamilton
    • In The Reality Dysfunction a special forces team floating down a river through enemy territory get some sudden and unexpected support when 5,000 precision-guided kinetic energy harpoons fired from a spaceship slam into the banks on either side. The harpoons are falling so fast no-one hears them until after they land. Then they really hear them.
    • The Kinetic-Energy Harpoon is mentioned (although not used on-page) in "The Nano Flower" in the Greg Mandel trilogy; described as a "poor man's nuke"note , they were apparently used in the Slamdown War. That resulted in massive campaign to get a defensive system in orbit, designed specifically to stop them ever being used again.
  • The Occupation Saga: Tactical orbital bombardment is a standard part of the Shil'vati Imperium's playbook. The side with orbital superiority typically dominates most battlefields, to the point that the primary job of Imperial Marines is acting as Target Spotters for the Navy. The Shil'vati are so used to using it that in Between Worlds Three the colonels of the first two Marine regiments are completely stumped by the campaign to retake Raknos-Three from the Roaches, where weather conditions prevent its use.
  • The Shongairi in Out of the Dark open their invasion of Earth with a kinetic bombardment that levels several cities. They later bombard a U.S. Army tank unit that refused to surrender and in the end the Shongairi leader wants to reduce Earth to rubble.
  • Safehold: Langhorne used this to kill off those who disagreed with his philosophy for running a colony. During the rest of the series, the heroes are worried that the bombardment may be set off again if any use of advanced technology is detected.
  • Seen repeatedly in the Star Carrier series by Ian Douglas. When the America carrier battle group first meets the Turusch they're doing their utmost to bring down a theatre shield protecting a Marines base on Eta Boötis IV. After the battle group drives them off, they eventually return and obliterate the entire colony with kinetic strikes from multi-AU ranges. Late in the book they attack Sol the same way. The few shots that get through cause devastation on Earth and Mars and slag several space stations. And that's just the first book.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • The various Star Destroyer type vessels are equipped for orbital bombardment. The Expanded Universe says they were designed around the task, which is part of why they so heavily outgunned everything else in space at the time and had such an advantage against other vessels designed for starship combat. Notably, in the novel Rebel Dream, a Super Star Destroyer uses this tactic while defending — by using ground troops to force the enemy into specific locations on the planet below, where they could safely be blown to bits. Repeatedly.
    • And of course there's the Death Star, designed to be the ultimate form of orbital bombardment. Perhaps a little too good at this task.
      • In Legends, that much firepower is justified, from a military standpoint: there are around planetary shields able to resist anything less for an indefinite but long period of time. For example, the makeshift Rebel base on Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back had a shield capable of surviving a bombardment from five Imperial Star Destroyers (one of which would be enough to melt the crust of a planet in a matter of hours, even if three are usually employed to make sure nobody can escape from the other side of the planet) and a Super Star Destroyer (with the firepower of over a thousands ISDs), and Alderaan's planetary shield actually resisted the Death Star's superlaser for a tenth of a second (that in that tenth of second had already delivered more than enough firepower to actually shatter the planet) before being overwhelmed. Eventually, both Legends and Canon would have the Empire develop ships capable of breaching a planetary shield without destroying the planet (Legends had the Eclipse-class Star Dreadnought, with a less powerful superlaser, while Canon has the Onager-class Star Destroyer with a similar weapon and the Mandator IV dreadnought featured in The Last Jedi).
    • The Republic Attack Cruisers/Venator-class Star Destroyers from the prequels feature similar systems, but they had a unique drawback: because of the placement of their weapons, they were great for orbital bombardment, but crap for ship-to-ship combat. This was fixed with the later Star Destroyers.
    • Orbital bombardments come in various degrees, depending on the situation, whether it's supporting an invasion, targeting an enemy's production facilities, making a statement, or other such uses. It went on to introduce the Base Delta Zero, the only Imperial (and pre-Imperial) code not subject to change because they don't want anyone to get the order confused when it comes down, as it's a planetary scale scorched earth tactic. Interestingly, while it's been threatened several times the only known time in the Imperial era a BDZ was successfully carried out was in the backstory to the Hand of Thrawn duology against Caamas, and that was by a mercenary fleet rather than Imperial regulars. How far it goes depends on varying factors, with Soontir Fel envisioning his ordered but aborted Base Delta Zero on Nar Shaddaa involving burned-out buildings, surface landings and mop-up operations, while kill-crazy guys like General Grievous have liquefied entire surfaces of planets.
    • X-Wing Series:
      • In Rogue Squadron the New Republic uses the ISD Emancipator, one of two ISDs captured by the Rebellion at Endor, in an unsuccessful attempt to bring down the theatre deflector shield protecting the Imperial surface base on Borleias. Interestingly Wedge Antilles notes during the briefing that the Hoth solution, a ground attack against the generators, has historically been more successful. In the end it doesn't matter: the attack is a spectacular failure due to intelligence missing that the general in command had an extra power supply for the base.
      • Offscreen in Wedge's Gamble, Warlord Zsinj's SSD Iron Fist does a hit-and-run attack on the Rogues' surface base on Noquivzor in retaliation for them blowing up a couple of his ships earlier. Becomes an Exploited Trope: Tycho is listed as MIA after the attack, which lets him rescue the Rogues later in the book.
    • In the Jedi Academy Trilogy Admiral Daala uses her Star Destroyers to bombard civilian targets on Mon Calamari before a gambit by Admiral Ackbar costs her an ISD and forces her to retreat.
    • Discussed in the P.O.V. Sequel I, Jedi: before the Jedi apprentices go to war with the ghost of Exar Kun, Corran messages his CO in Rogue Squadron, Tycho Celchu, to ask Admiral Ackbar to order Exar Kun's temple bombarded from orbit in the event of failure, hoping that an orbiting ship would be beyond the reach of Kun's influence.
    • New Jedi Order: The Yuuzhan Vong were inordinately fond of the Colony Drop form, particularly bombarding GFFA planets with their own orbital defense stations. The particular version used against Sernpidal in Vector Prime, crashing a planet's moon into it, they call Yo'gand's Core after their first Supreme Overlord who pioneered the tactic. They also use the ship-against-planet form a few times, including to glass N'zoth. On the flip side, the NJO novel Rebel Dream gives us Operation Emperor's Hammer, a.k.a. Operation Infantry Can't Do Shit About Super Star Destroyers.
    • In The Thrawn Trilogy Thrawn conquered a world at the start of The Last Command by bluffing them into believing he could do this to them by firing through their shields, at which they immediately surrendered. The trick required cloaking ships, Force-assisted split-second timing, and picking a target prone to panicking when they saw something that's supposed to be impossible. In Heir to the Empire, Joruus C'Baoth is quite certain he's safe from this while meeting with Thrawn and Pellaeon due to the village's proximity to Mount Tantiss, which Thrawn is very much interested in. Pellaeon assures C'Baoth that the Chimera's crew is more than capable of levelling the village "without so much as singeing the grass on Mount Tantiss." Later, in Dark Force Rising, Thrawn has the Chimera bombard the fields outside a Noghri village, while Thrawn is in the middle of that village visiting the maitrakh, just to scare her half out of her mind. Demonstrating that Pellaeon's confidence in his gunners was not misplaced.
    • In Shadows of the Empire we have a mention of Darth Vader bombarding Falleen to save it, as a flesh-eating bacteria had escaped from a research facility on the planet (one established by Vader himself) and wiping out the city and the surrounding region was the best way to prevent the contagion from spreading and wiping out all life on Falleen. This had the side effect of kicking off a bloody rivalry with Prince Xizor (head of the Black Sun crime syndicate and a confidant of the Emperor), whose family was killed in the bombardment.
    • The Shadows of the Empire Sourcebook mentions Project X271, that could wipe out all life on a planet. The captain of the Devastator had suggested to use it on Falleen to stop the spread of the aforementioned flesh-eating bacteria, only for Vader to deem it overkill and order an immediate orbital bombardment with turbolasers.
    • Honor Among Thieves: The Empire has the location of a device that could control hyperspace, but so does a common thief. They care enough about stopping him from selling it that they send ten Star Destroyers to bombard a city hosting a conference of Rebel sympathizers. Han Solo is on-planet and has to race back to the Millennium Falcon through the city as it explodes around him, then run the blockade along with all the other ships fleeing the planet.
  • Star Wars Expanded Universe: Orbital bombardment still exists in the canon EU of Star Wars, albeit far, far scaled back from the potency and commonness of Legends.
    • Base Delta Zero is confirmed as extant in the current canon, but has been far scaled back to make its depiction more consistent with the movies, shows, and games (where no ship was throwing around planet-slagging firepower- or even casual nuclear firepower). No one has the yields to totally demolish planetary atmospheres anymore, at least not in any remotely reasonable time frame, and thus BDZ seems to be limited to just destroying production assets, military bases, and major settlements with the strength of a fleet's guns (possibly aided by fission and plasma weapons, e.g. the 100 megaton building-sized bombs that Ninkas carry). Nor is a single capital ship ever stated to be able to do this in an hour, as Legends had it. When the Empire wants to quickly kill whole planetary populations with just a few capital ships, some other, more unwieldy weapon is required, such as billions of metric tons of poisonous gas on Geonosis, or a system of weather-manipulating satellites on Naboo.
    • Base Delta Zero has entered casual conversation as slang in the Disney canon, with one Imperial officer in the novel Servants of the Empire threatening to "Base Delta Zero" some incompetent recruits.
    • In Thrawn, the titular admiral has his flagship attempt to bombard an enemy base on Scrim Island, only to find that it's shielded. So he resorts to jumping in atmosphere and pumping tons of turbolaser fire into the nearby ocean, causing a small tsunami that drowns said base (the shields were designed to block energy weapons, not millions of tons of water). Notably, the same novel establishes that even if the island wasn't shielded, Thrawn's Arquitens-class light cruisers would have been incapable of dealing any significant damage with orbital bombardment, instead having to enter the stratosphere of the planet for damage fall-off over range to not render their turbolasers useless. A 40 million ton, 1,600 meter long ISD-2 is obviously a different story, but it does justify why, say, a single pirate ship can't subjugate a planet from space. Orbital bombardment is only even a possibility for large military-grade capital ships, and even then it's not 100% effective.
    • In Aftermath: Life Debt, three Star Destroyers begin bombardment operations to wipe out the Wookie species on the planet of Kashyyyk. It's stated that even bombing such a relatively small population into submission (Kashyyyk has a population of 56 million) would take a long time, but since no one was around to stop them, they could afford to be slow. In the end, someone actually was around to stop them, so the Wookie population escapes with only minor damage. Notably, Star Destroyers also drop large "propulsion bombs" from their bays to accomplish this rather than relying solely on turbolasers.
  • In the Troy Rising series by John Ringo, Earth is subject to kinetic bombardment multiple times. The first three bombardments target major cities. Afterwards, humanity abandons urban culture. The last orbital bombardment to actually hit Earth was targeted at the leaders of the major nations of Earth, with the intent of causing paralyzing power struggles. Unfortunately, as all the targeted nations have very clear rules of succession, all it did was piss us off.
  • A fixture of Warhammer 40,000 novels.
    • The Blood Angels novel Deus Encarmine has a Chaos Space Marine warship blow away the Blood Angels' entire motor pool. At the end of the next book, Deus Sanguinius, a high-ranking Blood Angel regretfullynote  notes that a planet will have to be hit with an Exterminatus.
    • Shows up in two separate Ciaphas Cain novels:
      • In Duty Calls, the Imperial fleet supporting the Imperial Guard's ground operations against a Tyranid invasion by blasting any 'nid-held locations they find out about. The planet's weather patterns make finding out about them difficult, unfortunately.
      • Done by Chaos in Cain's Last Stand when Warmaster Varan's forces flatten the PDF headquarters with a battleship's lance batteries. The for-once-not-incompetent brass had already evacuated but we don't know the casualties.
    • Gaunt's Ghosts:
      • The reason the Tanith First-and-Only are called Gaunt's Ghosts is partly because they're the only survivors of their homeworld after Chaos warships, fleeing an Imperial naval victory early in the Sabbat Worlds Crusade, glassed their homeworld. Commissar Ibram Gaunt managed to get about a third of his Imperial Guard recruits offplanet before the enemy struck.
      • Ghostmaker features a brief discussion of Imperial doctrines on the tactical use of orbital bombardment after Colonel Corbec sends the Imperial frigate Navarre coordinates for a strike. Ordinarily the Navy only bombards from orbit to soften up targets for ground assaults; during the actual attack they prefer to send Space Fighters for airstrikes. In this case, though, the Ghosts have discovered a (probably Nurglite) daemon whose Weather Manipulation has both grounded the fighters and prevented any more troops from landing, so Navarre's captain uses Corbec's coordinates to blow it to bits.
      • In His Last Command, the step-cities of the planet Anacreon Sextus are glassed from orbit. Slightly different in that this was a final solution, since the Imperium had initially attempted to secure the World by ground assault, but it became clear that the planet itself was a trap laid by the Ruinous Powers.
  • In the Wing Commander novel Fleet Action, multiple Terran Confederation planets are bombarded from orbit by a massive Kilrathi fleet the humans are unable to stop, using antimatter warheads and dirty nukes specifically employed to sterilize worlds.
  • While they're never used, all warships in Harry Turtledove's Worldwar series (and subsequent books) are armed with nukes. However, when the Race nukes human cities, they do so using "killercraft" (jet fighters). In Homeward Bound, the US sends a Sleeper Starship towards Home, the Race's homeworld in Tau Ceti, armed to the teeth with nukes in a clear case of Gunboat Diplomacy. When the humans reveal that they possess FTL starships, the Race comes up with a counter in the form of their STL starships being capable of being launched towards Earth to impact the planet at 50% of the speed of light.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has the villains using this tactic to usher in the Darkest Hour at the tail end of Season 7: After Sibyl hacks the Lighthouse's database, she transmits the location of every SHIELD base in the world to the freshly arrived Chronicom fleet, which proceeds to obliterate every facility.
  • Andromeda:
    • The Andromeda Ascendant is said to be capable of glassing an inhabited planet in about six minutes with her "conventional" weaponry. In contrast to her more limited supply of Nova Bombs.
    • One of her sister ships, the Pax Magellanic, managed to blow up a planet when her captain called in fire on his own position when he was about to be overrun by Nietzschean rebels. Or rather ordered her to self-destruct, which prompted her to drop her slipspace core on him and lurk in the asteroids for three centuries slipping further and further into solipsistic insanity.
    • In "Una Salus Victus", Dylan Hunt seizes control of old Commonwealth orbital defense missiles from the Drago-Kazof pride and fires on his own position to force Fleet Marshal Cuchulain to back down and let him and Tyr go. They're in a bunker under a mountain, so they're safe for a half-dozen hits, but by the fifth missile it's clear the mountain won't last much longer.
    • In "Bunker Hill", Dylan's plan to liberate Earth from the Drago-Kazof is to start a slave uprising to lure the Nietzsheans' armor into the open where he can destroy it from orbit with Andromeda. The Space Battle goes awry and Dylan never reaches the Sol system, but the rebels get off a video message that triggers uprisings all across the Dragos' empire.
  • Babylon 5:
    • In "The Coming of Shadows" a group of Shadow ships demolish a Narn orbital base at the behest of their long-time enemies the Centauri, then turn their guns on the colony below.
    • In "The Long Twilight Struggle", the Centauri use mass drivers (cannons shooting small asteroids) to bombard the Narn homeworld. In Season 3, the effects are shown — including altered climate due to atmospheric dust. This attack was severe enough that even the Vorlons, who explicitly take no interest in the younger races affairs, issued an official protest of the Centauri Republic's actions.
    • Also almost the fate of Earth, at the end of Clarke's presidency of the Earth Alliance in "Endgame". He sets Earth's orbital defense satellites to start nuking targets on the surface and then shoots himself so he can't be forced to countermand the order. The Alliance of alien and renegade Earth ships led by Sheridan destroy the entire defense grid to stop this.
    • Later on, the Narn, with the help of the Drazi, proceed to Centauri Prime to return the favor, though they at least restrain themselves to only using conventional heavy weapons (causing untold thousands of deaths).
    • Also from Babylon 5, the Shadow planet-killers used bombardment of many thermonuclear devices shot into the planet's crust, which would burrow down to the core and destabilize it. The planet remained intact, but totally sterilized and volcanically volatile on the surface. The Vorlon planet-killers were more of the Earth-Shattering Kaboom variety, by contrast.
    • In the movie A Call To Arms, which served as a pilot to the spinoff Crusade, the Drakh got hold of a planet-killer abandoned by the Shadows, and used it on Dureen's homeworld, before threatening Earth with it.
    • A Crusade episode also has the Excalibur using its Wave-Motion Gun to destroy a mine being used by a technomage named Alwyn to amplify a spell to destroy another EarthForce ship. This was all a ploy by Gideon, Galen, and Alwyn to destroy the mine that was making locals sick. Alwyn, a master of illusion, was never there.
    • In "The Lost Tales", Galen shows Sheridan a vision of a possible future, in which the restored Centauri Republic performs a sneak attack on Earth and lays waste to its surface from orbit. The plot of the episode is an attempt to keep that future from happening. Galen wants Sheridan to "accidentally" kill Centauri Prince Regent Dius Vintari (son of the infamous Emperor Cartagia) during a flight on Starfuries. However, at the last moment, Sheridan comes up with an alternative - he offers to effectively adopt Vintari and have him live on Minbar with Sheridan, Delenn, and their son. The hope is that being away from the Decadent Court will keep Vintari from growing up bitter and resentful. Galen later admits he hoped for the same outcome.
  • Battlestar Galactica (2003) begins with the nuclear annihilation of humanity by the Cylons. The original miniseries was somewhat vague as to how the bombs were delivered (likely due to budget constraints), but "The Plan" shows the bombing attacks in full, horrifying detail.
  • As in the games' the Covenant in Halo (2022) glass human planets (or population centers, at least) as part of their genocidal war. The aftermath of one such operation is shown to have liquified the crust and created an effect similar to a large-scale volcanic eruption.
  • The pilot of Lexx opens with His Divine Shadow bombarding the Brunnen G homeworld. Though later on the series tends more towards Earth Shattering Kabooms, mostly from the titular ship.
  • The Mandalorian:
    • Between Star Wars Rebels and this series, the Empire engaged in a genocidal bombing campaign against Mandalore, laying waste to the surface with fusion bombs and gunning down any survivors. Long after the Empire's defeat, the surface is marred by massive crystalline formations from the heat of the bombs and the planet's very magnetic field has been destabilized, creating mega-storms. That said, after Din obtains a piece of trinitite with Mandalorian sigils from a trader he figures out that it is possible to survive on Mandalore.
    • In the Season 2 episode "The Tragedy", Din Djarin's ship, the Razor Crest, gets obliterated by an orbital strike from Moff Gideon's Star Destroyer.
  • The Outer Limits (1963): In "Demon with a Glass Hand", it is mentioned that the Kyben bombed Earth from space in the 30th Century.
  • Stargate-verse:
    • Stargate SG-1:
      • The series had occasional instances of the Goa'uld bombarding planetary surfaces with low-power blasts from Ha'tak-class motherships as a terror tactic ("The Warrior", "The Sentinel"), to cow the inhabitants into surrendering. In at least two alternate timelines/universes ("There But For the Grace of God", Stargate: Continuum) they also used full-power multimegaton blasts to attack Earth, with the practical effect of both terrorizing the populace and culling them to a manageable number. There's a good reason why Goa'uld rule scattered backwards villages instead of entire cities.
      • In "Pretense" SG-1 tails Jaffa ground forces on Tollana and discovers them fiddling around with the Tollans' anti-orbital cannons, each of which could one-shot a Ha'tak. Turns out they were painting them as targets to let the mothership take them all out at once. Fortunately, Teal'c convinced the Nox Lya to make one of the cannons invisible.
      • The Ori also used this on occasion. In "Counterstrike" Adria uses her mothership's main gun to demolish the Dakara superweapon (and most of the city along with it). In "Line in the Sand" an Ori mothership tried to destroy a village that refused to convert to Origin, but Sam was able to phase out the entire village until the ship leaves. She duplicated this feat in an alternate universe in "The Road Not Taken" by using the entire power grid of the continental United States to phase out the whole planet. Cue a rather disconcerting visual of the shot from the main gun travelling straight through Sam and doing squat.
    • Stargate Atlantis:
      • In "The Siege, Part 3", a fleet of Wraith ships trying to capture Atlantis start bombarding the city's shields from orbit with energy weapons. The team convinces them to leave by faking the destruction of the city, detonating a nuclear weapon above the shields and then cloaking the city after the initial blast passed.
      • In "First Strike" the SGC attacks the Asuras with the Horizon weapons system, a MIRV launched from the Daedalus-class battlecruiser tipped with six 280-gigaton naquadria bombs. The resulting blasts razed an entire continent, though as the inhabitants were self-replicating machines they cleaned up quickly, and retaliated next week by attacking Atlantis with an orbital weapon of their own.
  • Star Trek has shown cases of orbital bombardment a number of times, and discussed the possibility a few times more.
    • Star Trek: The Original Series:
      • Averted in the second pilot "Where No Man Has Gone Before" Kirk tells Doctor Piper that he is going out to eliminate the mutated Gary Mitchell before he becomes too powerful, and that should he not be heard from in 12 hours the Enterprise was to depart to a nearby Starbase with Kirk's recommendation that Delta Vega be subject to an orbital bombardment from lethal neutron radiation.
      • In "Operation Annihilate" Kirk is forced to consider orbital bombardment to stop the neural parasites who have invaded Deneva from getting any further into Federation space. When the Enterprise finds that ultraviolet light will kill the parasites but leave their unwilling hosts unharmed, Kirk elects to bombard Deneva with such light, freeing the Denevans from the parasites.
      • "A Piece of the Action" had non-lethal orbital bombardment (a precision phaser blast from the Enterprise set on stun).
      • "Mirror Mirror", this is the standard way the Terran Empire deals with cultures that refuse them.
      • "A Taste of Armageddon". After Captain Kirk is captured by the Eminians, he gives Scotty General Order 24. Unless he countermands his order, in two hours the Enterprise will destroy the entire inhabited surface of Eminiar Seven.
      • "Assignment Earth". The U.S. puts a nuclear warhead platform in orbit. During the episode it falls out of orbit and drops toward an enemy country: it will go off on impact.
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
      • One episode has another non-lethal example when the Enterprise uses her phasers to bore a hole in a planet so an away team can beam to an underground location they couldn't get to otherwise.
      • In "Code of Honor" Picard orders photon torpedoes to fired and detonated high over the planet's cities as a show of force after Lutan abducts Natasha Yar. At least, that's what it's supposed to be. Later scenes on the surface show no indication such bombardment took place and it's never mentioned again.
    • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
      • In "The Die Is Cast", the combined Obsidian Order/Tal Shiar strike force moves in to blow away the Founder Homeworld. Their opening volley supposedly destroys 30% of the planet's crust, and while the visual effects don't really mesh with what they say, we still see attacks that would devastate entire continents.
      • In "Broken Link", Garak tries to take over the Defiant's weapon systems and points out to Worf that their ship could reduce the new Founder Homeworld to a smoking cinder in short order.
      • "The Dogs of War" shows a Dominion propaganda video of a Jem'Hadar battleship blasting apart a Cardassian Rebellion outpost on the surface of a planetoid.
      • In "What You Leave Behind", the Jem'Hadar blow away Lakarian City on Cardassia Prime in retaliation for Cardassian civilians fighting in support of the Cardassian Rebellion. When this instead causes the entire Cardassian military to pull a Heel–Race Turn in mid-battle, the female Founder orders the orbital genocide of the entire Cardassian species. 800 million die before Odo is able to convince the Founder to capitulate.
    • In the Enterprise alter intro for the Mirror Universe episodes, an Emmette-type starship bombards the Lunar colonies with photonic torpedoes.
    • Star Trek: Discovery:
      • Lorca fears that the Klingons will bomb a peaceful race of Energy Beings from orbit for fear that their antenna may allow Starfleet to penetrate their cloak.
      • While in the Mirror Universe, Burnham receives an order from The Emperor to obliterate a secret base of La Résistance from orbit. When Burnham delays, Emperor Philippa Georgiu personally arrives in her flagship to rain hellfire down onto half of the planet with a photon torpedo barrage.
      • In "If Memory Serves", Georgiou mentions that she had the surface of Mirror!Talos IV bombarded from orbit after the Talosians tried to trick her using illusions.

    Music Videos 


    Tabletop Games 
  • Banned by the Ares Conventions, Honours of War and the Clans' even more restrictive code of honor in BattleTech. Using WarShips for orbital bombardment is tantamount to genocide unless against strictly military targets, and will summon the wrath of every neutral power against the aggressor. Clan Smoke Jaguar was annihilated by the combined forces of a dozen mercenary units and the elite units of all the Successor States while the other Clans stood by and let it happen, with one of the reasons cited was the orbital levelling of a city called Edo on a planet called Turtle Bay because of an insurgent problem. Once warships became available (again) to the Inner Sphere, using them to attack concentrations of enemy ground troops became a legitimate tactic, though it rarely happened because the ships tended to be Too Awesome to Use, and the Word of Blake made use of both this and nuclear weapons during the Jihad.
  • Eclipse Phase: When the TITANS started forcibly uploading people en masse the various human and transhuman powers of the solar system tended to respond by hitting them from orbit with nukes, asteroids, and anitmatter. There are still areas of Mars and the moon that are under quarantine, and of course earth is unfit for transhuman life as far as many are concerned. Also many Firewall Sentinels still drop hypersonic rocks on TITAN remnants.
  • Star Fleet Battles:
    • The game allowed ships to launch drones (nuclear missiles) at a planet to destroy surface installations.
    • After the Klingons invaded and conquered the Hydrans, they put space stations in orbit around the Hydran planets which could destroy the Hydrans on the surface if they revolted. Unfortunately they didn't provide as much protection against attack from space as they did against attack from the ground, and the Hydrans were eventually able to capture them.
  • The General magazine Volume 13 #6, article "Saga of the Bug War". This article on the Starship Troopers game included rules for Terran starships in orbit passing over the field of battle and firing down nuclear rockets to destroy targets on the ground.
  • The West End Star Wars RPG has torpedo spheres, siege vessels designed for cracking planetary deflector shields via Macross Missile Massacre, followed by a computer-controlled turbolaser attack against the generators to open the way for ground invasion. This was a time-consuming process, which was part of the official reasoning for the Death Star's introduction.
  • In the sci-fi variant of Stratego the Spotter unit calls down orbital laser strikes.
  • Terraforming Mars is a Board Game about essentially peaceful attempts to create a second home for humanity. Some of this is achieved by methods that would fall into "planet killer" territory if used on Earth. Hitting Mars with a comet will produce water, for example, or you can set up shop on a radioactives-rich asteroid and use laser beams to heat up the atmosphere. Or you can drop Deimos, which isn't otherwise being used (Phobos can be used to host a city).
  • Traveller has "ortillery" or "orbital artillery" including nukes, fusion cannons, and meson guns among others. Most of which the Imperial Navy tries to maintain a monopoly on, within Imperial borders.
    • Another notable example is the former Sindalian Empire, which liberally bombarded planets known or suspected to harbor resistance - which was a large part of the reason that rebels rose up to tear it apart.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • Many Imperial vessels are capable of Exterminatus, cleansing a planet deemed unsalvageable by the Inquisition with virus-bombs that turn all living things into highly flammable organic matter, or cyclonic torpedoes that shatter the planet's crust. For a kinder, gentler approach, human warships have enough giant guns to specific parts of the planet instead. The more technologically advanced Necron ships almost certainly do as well, though for some reason this isn't shown often (or perhaps at all).
    • Ork roks combine this with Colony Drop and It's Raining Men, being asteroids that are hollowed out, filled with orks, guns, and engines, then sent hurtling through space (or from ships onto planets) until they crash on a planet. They either crash and do a lot of damage or crash-land and act like non-reusable drop pods.
    • The 5th Edition Necron codex had a weird crossover with the Space Battle trope when an Imperial sector fleet used cyclonic torpedoes to destroy a Necron Planet Spaceship called the World Engine (after its shields had been sabotaged in a Heroic Sacrifice by the Astral Knights chapter of the Space Marines). The World Engine was quite literally a planet that had had engines attached to it.
    • Some editions of the game itself allow high ranking Imperial Commanders, such as Inquisitors, Adeptus Astartes Chapter Masters, or certain Astra Militarum officers, to call in orbital strikes in place of a normal shooting attack. They are usually not that accurate (shooting from orbit means they scatter 2d6 without subtracting the shooter's Ballistic Skill like a normal Blast attack), but when they do hit there are few units in the game that can survive such a strike.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: Its a (rather underwhelming) support card for the Alien archetype, depicting their flying saucer firing a beam at a planet.

    Video Games 
  • Assault Retribution ends with a lengthy final mission where the player defeats the Mutant Hivemind in the mutant's homeworld, allowing humanity to retaliate by bombarding the mutant planet with a satellite-delivered nuke. Combined with the planet's now-unstable core, this leads to an Earth-Shattering Kaboom of the mutant planet.
  • Dawn of War has several examples:
    • The Space Marine Force Commander has an Orbital Bombardment power, which has the Astartes' orbiting Battle Barge fire multiple Pillars Of Light into the general area of the selected location. In Dark Crusade, you can hijack the Orbital relay, letting you use the ability on the Space Marines (they fire one on their own base in the ending).
    • The Tau have the Orbital Strike ability, which fires a single massive beam on one point, which then spreads out. In Soulstorm, the Ethereal orders the Air Caste to fire into their base as a desperate maneuver. The Ar'ka cannon could be considered a variation, since it serves as a lunar-based planetary bombardment system (it can strike any of the four planets in the system).
    • Dawn of War II: Retribution demonstrates Exterminatus on Typhon Primaris.
  • DUST 514 allows squad leaders to call down strikes from orbiting ships once their squads accrue enough war points during a battle.
  • Escape Velocity includes code for ship-launched weapons that destroy planets, although the official releases don't use them. For that you'd have to be playing a mod such as Polycon or Starfleet Adventures.
  • EXTRAPOWER: The method of choice for series Big Bad Dark Force to soften up planets before invading. Happens midway through Star Resistance to the Shakun Star and early in Attack of Darkforce to Earth.
  • Galactic Civilizations: One of the ways of softening up planetary defenses during an invasion is to drop asteroids on it. While this helps drastically reduce the number of defenders, it also severely reduces the planetary quality. Another option is bombardment via mass drivers, which is less destructive, but still ruins pretty much everything on the planet's surface.
  • Galaxy Angel: The first game opens up with Eonia's fleet using this method to attack Planet Traansbal and wipe out the royal family, including his own father the Emperor. We don't get to see the full effect, save for the destruction of the royal palace.
  • Haegemonia: Legions of Iron: The only way to get a planet to surrender is to rain fire down on it until it either surrenders or the inhabitants are wiped out.
  • Halo:
    • The Covenant fleet glassed multiple planets from orbit during their genocidal war against humanity. How well this works depends on which source you look at: one of the Reach datapads claims that the Covenant mostly just glass population centers because glassing an entire planet is simply too time-consuming for them. Then again, said datapad was written in-universe only one year into the war; subsequent sources have somewhat clarified that while the Covenant don't literally glass every square millimeter or even come close to it (e.g. Kholo still had surviving vegetation and standing structures after receiving one of the most thorough glassings of the war), the effects are still devastating enough to require extensive reterraforming in order for the glassed planet to become habitable again (plus, the initial in-universe estimates on how long it would take them to glass a world are off because the Covenant military turns out to be much, much bigger than initially assumed).
    • Halo: Reach: At the end of "Tip of the Spear," the supercarrier Long Night of Solace delivers a DFA attack on the frigate Grafton.
    • Halo 4 has targetable ordinance drops. While intended to supply the user with a weapon, the drop will also insta-kill most players if they're standing under it.
    • Halo Wars lets UNSC players call down fire from the MAC gun (Magnetic Accelerator Cannon) of an orbiting warship. In addition, Covenant players who use the Prophet of Regret as their leader can call down an orbital laser beam which can be left active indefinitely (and steered around) assuming you have the resources.
      • Somewhat subverted in Halo Wars 2. Isabell infiltrates the Banished's CAS carrier and fires its glassing canon at the Arc. The automated defense systems are not happy.
    • In The Forerunner Saga, the Forerunners put down a rebellious planet with the full fury of their fleets on display. These include deploying possibly billions of fighter craft and sentinels, bombardments of plasma, antimatter-matter annihilation, and even stranger energies, laser blasts that cut across entire continents, and actually ripping out massive sections of the planet's crust and overturning them.
  • Homeworld series:
    • In the third mission of the first game the Taiidan Empire incinerates Kharak's atmosphere from orbit using an illegal atmosphere-deprivation weapon.
    • The backstory for Homeworld 2 explains that the Hiigarans (before their exile) first did this to the Taiidan with conventional weapons, which is why the Taiidani retaliated and took Hiigara for themselves, kicking the Hiigarans out. Later in the actual game the Vaygr attempt this on Hiigara, and you as the player have to stop them by intercepting the missiles and destroying the bombardment platforms, or else it's Game Over.
  • House Of The Dying Sun: The objective of the final mission. The late emperor decreed that worlds that instigate rebellions to be rained fire upon from orbit. With the emperor's inner circle betraying him, it means Rhal'Tuum Prime, the throneworld of the empire, and all its inhabitants must die.
  • The Last Federation: An essential part of war, allowing a civilization (or the player) to deplete rivals' infrastructure and population without risking soldiers. Two species have particular interactions with it:
  • Marathon 2: Durandal: The relative ease of the first few levels are justified when Durandal launches an orbital bombardment attack against the Phfor garrison to sow chaos and panic in their ranks.
    Durandal: You should encounter little organized resistance because the Pfhor are preoccupied. I've been introducing them to the magic of orbital bombardment.
  • Mass Effect:
    • Mass Effect mentions that, during the turian occupation of Shanxi, the turians were more than happy to blow away city blocks from orbit to take out single squads of human soldiers. During a sidequest, Shepard offers to have the Normandy hit a rachni hive from orbit.
    • Mass Effect 3: One of Diana Allers' news stories mentions that the Reapers blew away Adelaide, Australia with an orbital strike. There's also the battle with the landed Reaper destroyer on Rannoch, which Shepard takes out by painting it as a target for the Normandy and the entire quarian fleet.
    • The Reapers don't generally do this: their goal is to harvest life, not obliterate it, and bombardment kind of defeats their purpose, at least if it's done before harvesting is complete. Javik, however, mentions a planet from his time, Atespa, which was such a Death World that the Reapers' ground troops were getting eaten by the native fauna. The Reapers eventually gave up and nuked the planet from orbit. That said, through Mass Effect 2, there are a lot of out-of-the-way planets which used to have someone living on them, and now don't, and in some cases have had their atmospheres totally demolished, leaving the planet uninhabitable. The phrase "craters", "major urban centers" and "bombardment" keep occurring far too often to be a simple coincidence. Generally, if the Reapers aren't terribly interested in a planet's occupants, they'll bomb the crap out of it and move on. High resistance also seems to engender this kind of response: when you see the turian planet Palaven early in the game, large portions of the continent facing you are glowing orange, indicating millions of square miles of crust has effectively been melted... and the invasion just commenced the previous day. Earth doesn't get it nearly as bad, but when you come to London you can see that the sky is blacked out and the air choked with soot... despite London being nowhere near the glowing orange spots you see from space, showing that the atmosphere has been globally screwed by the bombardment, albeit not to the extent that the planet will need to be significantly terraformed to recover.
    • The worst kind of bombardment that a planet can be subjected to is a meteor drop, where the attacker will simply tow in large asteroid, attach thrusters to it, and then accelerate it at the planet they want dead. This can be done easily by pretty much any state (or corporation) with a Space Navy and the ability to produce and transport a few building-sized fusion torches, so basically every single major power and most of the minor ones. Whenever a bombardment of this type is discussed, from the krogans' use of it during the Krogan Rebellions, to Balak's attempt to crash X-57 into Terra Nova, to Garrus casually suggesting towing in some asteroids to drop on Rannoch, it is always in the context of imparting enough energy with the impact to not only kill all life on the targeted planet, but render biosphere messed up beyond repair for thousands if not millions of years. So, petaton impacts, in a universe where ship guns that output double digit kilotons a second are already considered potent. The only way to prevent this is to be both hyper alert at all times and possess near-total space superiority in order to stop an asteroid towing operation before it begins, which isn't always possible. Needless to say, this tactic is banned by the Fictional Geneva Conventions under the threat of Mutually Assured Destruction, though this doesn't prevent "third galaxy" nations from using it against each other.
  • In the Master of Orion, this is one option for dealing with enemy colonies after defeating defending fleets and defense stations. It can wipe out ground troops, civilian populations, and planetary improvements, leaving an empty planet ready for resettlement. Or just an empty planet if it's toxicnote , and mineral-poor. Certain late-game weapons upgrade this to Earth-Shattering Kaboom.
  • Planescape: Torment gives a high-level mage the spell "Meteor Storm Bombardment", which does pretty much exactly what you'd think.
  • Risk of Rain 2: The Captain can call upon his ship, UES Safe Travels, to call down pods to bombard an area (or alternatively, drop down a massive object with significantly longer delay) and up to two supply beacons that have a variety of useful effects. He's notably disadvantaged in the Hidden Realms areas, where both these abilities are disabled since he can't establish connection to his ship.
  • In Sins of a Solar Empire, capital ships and bombardment frigates can do this to enemy planets to depopulate them, allowing your own colony ships to claim the world for you.
  • StarCraft:
    • In the backstory of StarCraft, the Terran Confederacy nuked Korhal into radioactive desert, killing all of the planet's humans and a good number of its other flora and fauna, which led to the restrictions on nuclear weapons that resulted in Terrans only using very weak tactical nukes that have to be guided by ground soldiers with laser pointers. The "glassing" of Korhal was said to have involved over a thousand strategic high-yield Apocalypse-class missiles, despite Korhal only being inhabited by 35 million people. Later, the Protoss "purified" Terran colonies that were infested with Zerg during the first campaign. In both cases the planets were recolonized later on.
    • StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void: The Spear of Adun has the ability to fire various types of orbital strike on the map. The mission "Forbidden Weapon" requires the player's forces to outpace a displacement beam from a Tal'darim mothership arcing across the surface of the planet. At the end of the mission "Purification" the newly-reactivated Purifiers annihilate all life on the Zerg-infested planet they were orbiting with one shot from their ship's main gun. And finally, Amon's physical body is destroyed when hit from orbit by the Spear of Adun, the Purifier ship, and the Tal'darim motherships, all at once.
  • In Star Fox 2, Andross's forces attempt to destroy Corneria from above. If the planet's damage reaches 100%, good-bye.
  • Almost all ship-to-planet combat in Star Ruler consists of this. Park a ship in orbit, then start blasting the crap out of every population center with heavy kinetics, missiles, or energy weapons until every one of the billions of citizen is dead. However, once you start making huge ships or extremely high-tech ships, you stand the risk of blowing up the planet when you only meant to cleanse all life. Nuclear-Chemical-Biological warheads allow you to kill most of the population without destroying the infrastructure. In Star Ruler 2, excessive bombardment will be a "heinous" act, and will give the victim influence to use against the aggressor in diplomacy.
  • In Stars! (1995), orbital bombardment is the only viable way to clear out enemy population on a settled planet (colonists can just be dropped, but are usually slaughtered for any planet with more than minimal occupancy and mass drivers quickly become easy to counter).
  • Star Trek Online:
    • Engineers have an Orbital Strike power for use during ground missions that deals a lot of damage in a very localized area. A targeting grid appears on the ground, then a couple seconds later a Pillar of Light comes out of the sky. Season 8's Voth lockbox introduced an unlockable trait that allows the beam to last much longer and follow the target(s) in case they try to get clear. In a frequently amusing case of Gameplay and Story Segregation, the power also works on interior maps, such as indoors on starships, without any effects like the roof collapsing or explosive decompression.
      • The Polaron Bombardment Kit Module also performs a similar function, having your orbiting ship fire several shots at the area targeted. Also defies the rules of structural integrity if used inside.
      • The Delta Alliance reputation includes a rifle, usable by all players, that calls down an Orbital Strike when the secondary firing mode is used on an "exposed" target.
    • Episode "Romulan Mystery", mission "Cutting the Cord" has the Player Character marking ground targets for their orbiting ship to destroy, including an Iconian gate.
    • Episode "Dominion Domination", mission "The New Link" has one of the KDF PC's bridge officers suggest calling in the fleet for a quick bombardment to make sure that a group of changelings you encountered don't try to stick around after you leave. The Starfleet version of the mission instead suggests that the planet will be declared a no-fly zone and the changelings left in peace.
    • Episode "Borg Collective", mission "Collateral Damage" has Undine warships begin glassing a planet the Borg are assimilating. The season 9 update replaced this mission with "A Gathering Darkness", where the Undine ships start with small-scale tactical bombardment then switch to an Earth-Shattering Kaboom.
  • Star Wars:
    • Star Wars Battlefront (2015): This is known as an "Orbital Strike", this is a powerful power-up available to be picked up by soldiers on the field. Orbital Strikes can also be called down at will by an AT-AT if the player takes control of it in Walker Assault. Nien Nunb, a Rebel Hero, can also summon these as one of his default abilities; however, he can't do this in smaller game modes, instead receiving the less over-powering Proximity Mines to replace the Orbital Strike.
    • Star Wars Battlefront II (2017): Orbital strikes are present, and also see use in the singleplayer campaign. There's a pseudo-scripted scene in the Battle of Jakku mission where Iden needs to call in several orbital strikes from a nearby Starhawk-class battleship to take out a force of AT-AT walkers advancing on her position.
    • Empire at War: The Forces of Corruption expansion pack makes Orbital Bombardment available in ground battles when you have frigates, cruisers, or capital ships in orbit above a planet you happen to be invading. It has a limited area of effect, and takes an impractically long time to recharge, even when you have an entire fleet of Star Destroyers up there, possibly for balance issues.
    • Knights of the Old Republic: Darth Malak orders an orbital bombardment of Taris (giving us the page picture), effectively bombing the planet into the stone age in an attempt to get one Jedi (who escapes). It's also explained that the Rakata bombarded Tatooine long ago, and that this is how it came to be a sandy desert planet to begin with.
    • Star Wars: The Old Republic:
      • Imperial Agent PCs and some mobs have the ability to call in tactical orbital strikes (even indoors). It does Area of Effect damage and knocks over weaker enemies.
      • In story, there's a scene at the beginning of the Knights of the Eternal Throne expansion when your character comes within meters of being blown up by a turbolaser strike. Also, in Knights of the Fallen Empire Arcann orders it done to five planets, because he can't find the Outlander.
  • Stellaris: Bombardments of this sort can be done with different intensities — "light" only targets unquestionably military targets, "limited" seeks to cripple the world's industrial capacity but avoids permanent harm to the biosphere, and "full" basically just glasses everything. This is a major part of why pre-spacefaring civilizations do so very poorly against invasions by space age civilizations.
    • Bombardment is the only way to deal with Infested Worlds (planets taken over by the Prethoryn Scourge) — ground forces can't even land on one. You just have to sit in orbit and hammer the planet until no life exists anywhere on its surface. Similarly, the Contingency's "Sterilization Hubs" must be bombarded from orbit until the planet-sized machine self-destructs.
    • With the release of the Utopia DLC, any empires running with the Fanatical Purifiers (Fanatic Xenophobe and Militarist) civic will gain access to Armageddon type bombardment, which is the highest level of orbital destruction unique to them.
    • The "Apocalypse" DLC adds planet killer ships, and the accompanying free update reworks orbital bombardment mechanics so that each level leaves so much of the planet's population alive, Armageddon-intensity bombardment eventually turns an inhabited planet into an uninhabited Tomb World. In addition, empires with the Barbaric Despoilers civic can raid planets instead of bombarding them, abducting populations as slaves.
  • Sword of the Stars:
    • Ships can attack enemy colonies during tactical combat. Mass drivers, (nuclear) missiles, and even lasers that merely damage other ships kill millions when used against planetary populations. There are also specialized Assault Shuttles that go on bombing runs and Biowar missiles carrying Synthetic Plagues that don't damage terraforming or infrastructure (aside from Beast Bomb and Nanoplagues that is).
    • Dreadnoughts can be also built with a Siege Driver, a massive mass driver that fires asteroids at planets. Two or three is usually enough to depopulate a world, although environmental damage will be extensive. In most cases, the planet will be rendered uninhabitable by such bombardment.
    • Humans can also research and build Node Missiles, which are basically destroyer-sized missiles capable of FTL travel. While their intended use is to soften up enemy defenses (i.e. ships, satellites) before the arrival of the main fleet, they can just as well be used to conduct bombardments of planets from star systems away. They're actually more effective at this than destroying ships, as they move so fast that even regular missiles have a hard time keeping up.
  • Sunrider: In the opening minutes of the first game, the PACT dreadnought Legion obliterates the capital city of the planet Cera with a shot of its Wave-Motion Gun. The protagonist's sister is among the millions killed in the blast.
  • Ten Minute Space Strategy: Bomber spacecraft are necessary in order to destroy enemy's colonies and, consequently, win the game. Without fighters escorting them, they are sitting ducks, however.
  • Terra Invicta: Used to attack and destroy enemy surface bases, as well as armies on Earth. How effective it is depends on the weapons your ships have, and the thickness of the planetary atmosphere. In the Protectorate ending, an orbital bombardment is called on the UN Headquarters in New York (which destroys it and a good chunk of New York City) and chalked up to an accidental misfire, conveniently eliminating the only remaining organization opposed to Earth's new benefactors and the only people who know the truth about humanity's surrender to the aliens.
  • XCOM: Enemy Unknown: Your chief engineer notes that the aliens must have this capability as their technology is so far advanced, and the fact that they aren't simply wiping you off the map by lobbing in asteroids hints at bigger plans for humanity.

    Web Animation 
  • Red vs. Blue: Season 9's "The Sarcophagus" has the Freelancers call in an orbital strike from the Director's flagship, UNSC Mother of Invention, to get out of being trapped on a rooftop. The building is collapsed by the attack and the Freelancers are rescued in midair by a Pelican.

    Web Comics 
  • In Crimson Dark the Republic of Daranir launched an indiscriminate bombardment of the Cirin Alliance planet Farhaven. The Cirin consider it a war crime.
  • Exterminatus Now, as a parody of 40k, features Exterminatus. However here it's a localized attack rather than a planet-wrecking one.

    Web Original 
  • In SCP Foundation, SCP-1514 ("Star Wars") offers a non-standard example. If the SCP-1514-2 Kill Sats do not receive the daily telepathic signal from SCP-1514-1A (implying a Russian first-strike on the United States), they will attack and destroy their ground targets in Russia, triggering a nuclear war. However, they don't have WMD-level death rays, and instead have Xasers (X-ray lasers). Their targets are unspecified, but is strongly implied to be nuclear launch sites in Russia. Their destruction would absolutely wipe out all of Russia, making this an example of an orbital bombardment with weak power by itself but WMD-level effects due to their targets.
  • The Wizards of the Coast website has a what-if page about a Space Opera version of Magic: The Gathering called Space: The Convergence. One of the sample cards shown is called Orbital Bombardment. (It's a sf-flavoured Wrath of God.)

    Web Videos 
  • Mahu: In "Second Chance", the Galactic Commonwealth never performs a planetary invasion without previously bombarding the world they want to conquer for a few weeks. Once the planet's fortifications are all reduced to rubble, the fleet in orbit continues to give fire support to the troops on the ground.

    Western Animation 
  • In Battletech, Nicholai Malthus bombards Remus City on the planet Romulus after militia remnants assist the Strikers in escaping the planet. The only reason Clan Jade Falcon didn't catch as much flak for this as Smoke Jaguar did for their bombing of Edo city a few months later(see Tabletop Games) was because Malthus forcibly evacuated the population first.
  • The Irken Empire from Invader Zim employs a procedure called "Organic Sweep" on already conquered planets which is basically amounts to this trope. The entire Irken Armada bombards the planet with all their artillery, eradicating all the organic life and structures that might have survived the previous conquering. This leaves the planet ready to be re-purposed as the Almighty Tallests see fit.
  • Star Wars Rebels:
    • Remember Base Delta Zero from Legends under Literature? A HoloNet News broadcast in "Rise of the Old Masters" mentions "another successful planetary liberation utilizing the Base Delta Zero initiative." Details as to what exactly that means in canon are lacking, but it doesn't sound good ...
    • "Zero Hour": Grand Admiral Thrawn does this to the Rebel base on Atollon, stopping just before their shield fails because he's under orders from Grand Moff Tarkin to take the rebel leaders alive. The effects are rather... unimpressive, with each shot from the Star Destroyer's turbolasers being inferior in explosion radius and lethality to a modern artillery shell. The Last Jedi suggests that this was because turbolasers have an Arbitrary Weapon Range past which they rapidly lose power; Thrawn started bombardment from geosynchronous orbit, while bombardment is presumably usually intended to commence from LEO.
  • During the liberation of Earth in Exosquad, a column of Neosapien Hover Tanks commandeered by the Resistance get into an extended battle at a cloverleaf interchange with a group of loyal Neo Tanks. This lasts until the entire Exofleet gets overhead and brings the battle to a swift conclusion in favor of the Resistance.
  • Attemped in Young Justice (2010) by Mongul from the WarWorld after learning that the Reach had reached Earth. After the WarWorld's laser cannon was disabled, Mongul instead launched a saturation attack that took a combination of the remaining Justice League, Earth's military forces, and the Reach's secret armada to repel.
    Mongul: Your deaths today in the face of the Reach are a mercy. My grand laser emitter would have ended your world in a matter of minutes; another mercy. But it seems the mercies of Mongul are not appreciated, so we will do this the hard way, and the WarWorld will unleash all it's weapons on the Earth. You're welcome.

    Real Life 
  • While only theoretical, "Rods from God" are meant to do this. These were literally a rod made from some quite dense metal — such as tungsten - suspended in high orbit, ready to be dropped at any time. The kinetic energy accumulated and subsequently released by such an object is roughly the same as a nuclear weapon without needing to worry about all that nasty fallout and may technically be able to not violate agreements such as the Outer Space Treaty. The US military has even considered making one for real, called Project Thor. The catch is that Tungsten is an extremely dense metal, and getting enough of it into space would require a lot of effort and money.
  • In the 1960s, US Air Force engineers designed the Orion Battleship, a 500m, nuclear propelled space craft that could theoretically bombard any target on earth with both conventional naval artillery and a terrifyingly large number of nuclear missile launchers. Even worse, it was entirely possible to build it by the end of the decade. Even at the peak of the nuclear arms race, President Kennedy was so terrified by the blueprints' theoretical destructive powers, he orded the end of any further research in Orion propulsion, and the destruction of all blueprints and scale models.


Video Example(s):


SGA: "First Strike"

In an attempt to stop the Asuran Replicators from running amok, Stargate Command deploys the Horizon weapons system, a MIRV dropped from the bomb bay of an SGC battlecruiser with six 90-gigaton nuclear warheads.

How well does it match the trope?

4.4 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / OrbitalBombardment

Media sources: