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Vulnerable Convoy

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In a movie or TV show with police in them, any time a convoy transporting a prisoner or more is shown, it will almost always be attacked. Sometimes, a convoy may even be sent out for exactly this reason.

Occasionally, a convoy may not even need to be attacked. Something can simply go awry during the trip, especially if it involves prisoners, and the transports never make it.

This can be prevented with a Decoy Convoy (or two, or three, or...)

For video games, this trope only applies if the player attacks a convoy. If the player is tasked with defending one, it's an Escort Mission. Compare and contrast Armed Blag, where the target is transporting money rather than a prisoner.



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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Birds of Prey: The "Apokolips Express" kicks off when Oracle gets a tip-off that there is a planned breakout from a train transporting metahuman prisoners to The Slab. The breakout happens... by teleporting the train to another planet!
  • During the Civil War arc, a convoy of captured resistance members is attacked as it passes through the streets of NYC in an attempt to free the prisoners. The ensuing chaos, where neither side seems all that interested or concerned with the safety of nearby civilians on his old block, is the final straw as far as the ever-loving blue-eyed Thing is concerned. He walks away from the conflict in disgust and spends the rest of the civil war in Europe, fighting crime and hanging out with some Euro-heroes.
  • In Dark Knight III: The Master Race #2, Carrie arranges for the convoy transporting her to hit by a remote-controlled tank, allowing her to escape.
  • The Incredible Hulk: In Post-World War Hulk, Bruce Banner is being transported in a convoy which gets attacked. But it turns out he's in a different convoy.

    Film — Live Action 
  • Inverted in 16 Blocks. A one-man detail is assigned to take a prisoner downtown while escaping a gauntlet of angry rogue cops.
  • In the Pam Grier movie Black Mama, White Mama, a prison convoy transporting Lee (Grier's character) and Karen, an American woman helping the native freedom fighters is attacked by the guerillas in an attempt to free Karen. The attack is repulsed when police reinforcements arrive, but Lee and Karen manage to escape, still manacled together.
  • Con Air: Several of the most dangerous criminals in the country are being transported somewhere by plane, so of course it's gonna get hijacked. Later in the film, a police helicopter attempts to shoot it down.
  • In The Criminal, the gang arranges for Johnny to be transferred to another prison, then intercepts the prison van and busts him out.
  • The Dark Knight, where it's done to lure out the Joker. It works, but the vehicle carrying Dent is the only one that survives.
  • Die Hard 2. Terrorists take over an airport to free a drug lord being flown into the U.S. on a jet.
  • Fast Five opens with the protagonists raiding a prison convoy to free one of their friends.
  • The Fugitive. While being transported to jail, a fight breaks out on the prisoner bus which ends up killing the driver and causing the bus to topple onto train tracks, effectively forcing the protagonist to escape.
  • The Gauntlet. Clint Eastwood's cop character must get a prostitute from Las Vegas to Los Angeles to testify in a mob trial. They're attacked several times en route.
  • Iron Man - Tony Stark's convoy is attacked by terrorists while it's on its way back from a test fire demonstration.
  • James Bond movie Licence to Kill. Drug lord Franz Sanchez offers a reward to anyone who releases him from custody. During a prisoner transfer the convoy carrying him is attacked from the inside and he gets away.
  • Mission: Impossible III: the big bad has just been arrested, so naturally his convoy is attacked and he gets away.
  • Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005) - The first cracks in the titular couple's relationships happen when they both try to take out the same target, someone being transported via convoy, except it turns out it's actually a Contract on the Hitman.
  • Happens repeatedly to the British troops in The Patriot, including Benjamin's rescue of his arrested son Gabriel. The Brits eventually wise up, at one point laying an ambush using a supply wagon.
  • Patriot Games. While being transferred to Albany Prison on the Isle of Wight, terrorist Sean Miller's escort convoy is ambushed by his ULA comrades who kill the police officers and free him from custody. Despite the fact that three identical convoys head out from the prison (the real one is betrayed by The Mole).
  • The Soldier (1982). Renegade Russians attack a convoy transporting nuclear material, to make an atomic bomb.
  • S.W.A.T. - The whole plot is effectively one long Escort Mission after the perp yells out while he's being carted away that he'll handsomely reward whomever busts him out.
  • In Teenage Crime Wave, Mike ambushes the prison van taking Terry and Jane to the reformatory: killing the driver, wounding the prison matron, and freeing the girls.
  • John Frankenheimer's The Train centers around a German train carrying French art treasures, and the efforts of the French Resistance to stop it.
  • In U.S. Marshals a plane carrying prisoners crash lands after one prisoner attempts to use a smuggled gun to assassinate another prisoner and the bullet makes a hole in the fuselage.
  • The bumbling protagonists of La Vengeance du serpent à plumes are arrested due to being mistaken for members of the terror gang (Dressing as the Enemy has its risks). As they're driven to prison along with members of a drug cartel, the convoy is attacked by the rest of the cartel and the prisoners broken out. Then those "killed in the attack" get up and congratulate each other...
  • X-Men: The Last Stand - Magneto attacks the prison convoy transporting Mystique, Multiple Man, and the Juggernaut.

    Live Action TV 
  • 24:
    • At the end of season 5, this is how Bierko escapes. Also at the end of season 8, the ambulance convoy carrying Jack Bauer, who was shot, gets attacked by a team sent to drag him to a remote area to execute him.
    • 24 uses it straight but also double subverts it during Season 8. Jack sends an ambulance carrying a captured villain to an hospital for treatment and interrogation, expecting that the villain's business partners will attack it to kill him and prevent him from talking to CTU. Unknown to them the villain is already dead and the ambulance is sent as a mobile bait. However, thinking that they are safer attacking the hospital once the villain is carried there, the partners leave the ambulance alone.
  • In one episode of Castle, they set up a prisoner transport with a decoy prisoner in order to catch a contract killer. The cops are forced to shoot the killer before they can capture him.
  • Daredevil (2015):
    • In the season 1 finale, the convoy transporting Wilson Fisk to jail is ambushed by mercenaries on his payroll who have been hired to bust him out. Fisk is then spirited away by his men, but Matt Murdock stops him before he can get too far, and Brett Mahoney apprehends Fisk and takes him back into custody.
    • In the second episode of season 3, Fisk hires Jasper Evans to shank him and make it look like he's in danger for snitching on the Albanians, so that the FBI will move him into the protection of his own Presidential Hotel. While the convoy is transporting him there, though, the Albanians make an attempt of their own on Fisk. They take out his escort cars, then gun down the FBI agents as they try to protect their prisoner, killing five of them and wounding several more. They almost succeed at killing Fisk before they are all killed themselves by Benjamin "Dex" Poindexter. Nadeem and Dex proceed to escort Fisk the rest of the way to the hotel, while Matt learns of Fisk's release as he's at Riverbank Medical Center when ambulances arrive ferrying the wounded agents from the ambush scene. Dex's sharpshooting skills during the attack intrigue Fisk, who begins working on turning the FBI agent into his personal assassin starting the very next day.
  • Several Doctor Who stories have attacks on UNIT convoys, usually transporting dangerous technology, including "The Ambassadors of Death" (space capsule containing alien visitors), "The Mind of Evil" (decommissioned nuclear missile), and "The Time Monster" (reinforcements). In "Battlefield", for a change, the convoy (transporting another decommissioned nuclear missile) just gets bogged down due to bad weather — and then the villains discover it and attack.
  • The FBI: In "The Giant Killer", a fanatic launches an attack on a convoy transporting a missile from Texas to California using a rifle grenade.
  • Gotham: In "Harvey Dent", the Russians break Ian Hargrove out of custody by attacking the van being used to transport him from Blackgate to St. Mark's Psychiatric Hospital.
  • In NUMB3RS, Colby escapes his convoy with his cuff partner ridiculously easily. Is it really that easy to smuggle a key in and shoot your guard? Really?
  • An episode of The Pretender starts with a news report of this, which kidnapped the key witness in a mafia trial. The attack was planned by Jarod himself, who was told the aim was to rescue prisoners in a war.
  • Done in an early episode of The Shield, with a van transporting evidence rather than one transporting prisoners. The catch: the attackers are none other than the Strike Team, launching a last ditch effort to get rid of evidence they planted that would've sent an innocent man to jail.
  • On Strike Back Stonebridge and Scott are escorting a van transporting a prisoner when the van is blown up. They were Genre Savvy enough to put the prisoner in the trunk of their car instead
  • This is used multiple times on Burn Notice though it is usually subverted. In one episode the team attacks a prisoner transport van to free a gangster's brother but the van and the guards are fake and they are trying to trick the gangster into releasing the hostage he is holding. Another time Micheal pretends to be a fellow prisoner that helps a mobster escape during transport so the mobster can lead them to where his boss is hiding.

    Video Games 
  • In the SNES version of the Area 88 shoot-em-up game (UN Squadron Stateside), enemy supply convoys are a source of easy money (and extra lives for the patient).
  • In the side-scrolling RTS Armor Alley, each side tries to sneak convoys past the other's helicopter assaults.
  • In Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas, the Brahmin caravan merchants are highly susceptible to attack by raiders, Super Mutants, Radscorpions, Yao Guai, Deathclaws, and in the latter game, Legionaries. An evil player can also raid and loot caravans themselves. At the beginning of the Honest Hearts DLC, the caravan the player was traveling with is slaughtered by the White Legs raider tribe.
  • In Far Cry 2, the weapons dealers ask the player to destroy convoys driven by their business rivals so that news weapons are unlocked. Strangely, the convoys never actually go anywhere, as they are alway endlessly driving around in a circle. Bizarrely, they are also completely empty, which means that someone in your information chain is either screwing up big time or having one over on you.
  • In Mirror's Edge, Faith intercepts a police convoy that transports her sister to prison after an unfair trial.
  • In some of the Grand Theft Auto games there is at least one mission where the player must attack a convoy:
    • In III, the main target in the convoy is an ambulance. And of course, in the very beginning, the prisoner convoy that carries the main character is attacked by drug cartels.
    • In Vice City, the player has to steal the tank from a miltary convoy.
    • In IV, Niko has to attack a prisoner convoy. In a twist, though, your actual intention is to kill the prisoner and dump the body after losing the police.
  • The player can accept a mission to raid a convoy hauling weapons in MechWarrior 4: Mercenaries, and actually gets to keep the weapons as loot (you even get more if you keep the transports intact while destroying their escorts). You can raid the convoy a second time; this time the escorts are stiffer and include enemy Mechs, but are beatable. If you take on the mission a third time, though, it's a trap — there's no convoy at all, only several lances of very tough Mechs out for your blood.
  • Red Faction Guerrilla spawns EDF convoys and sure enough the player is expected to destroy or hijack them before they reach their destination.
  • Happens rather often in Just Cause 2.
  • Enemy supply convoys are frequent targets in the Naval Ops series, though not in the only game where the player is allowed to drive a submarine.
  • The Green Bridge mission in PAYDAY: The Heist has the crew breaking a prisoner out of a prison transport moving in a convoy. The mission starts after the crew destroys part of the bridge, stopping the convoy and allowing them to move in and saw open the doors of the four transport vans, one of which holds the prisoner they are trying to free.
  • Resident Evil 0's Billy Coen escaped from a convoy when it was attacked by zombie dogs.
  • In Star Wars Rogue Squadron, you have to rescue Wedge from a prisoner transport convoy on Kessel after he is shot down and captured in the previous mission.
  • In Silent Hill: Downpour, the prison bus transporting protagonist Murphy Pendleton and other inmates from Ryall State Penitentiary to Wayside Maximum Security Prison takes a tumble and rolls off the road into woodland. Murphy wakes up and escapes the wreckage on foot, eventually arriving in Silent Hill.
  • Finding and engaging enemy convoys takes up about half the players time in the Silent Hunter games. The other half is spent trying to survive the enemy counter attack.
  • Happens in Great Train Robbery mission in StarCraft II.
  • In XCOM2, you play as La Résistance against the ADVENT Coalition, and sometimes, they have captured a resistance scientist, engineer, or one of your own MIA soldiers. Your mission is then to release the captive VIP and lead them to extraction.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Generator Rex episode Badlands, Rex was part of a Providence convoy transporting unstable nanites and toilet paper. It isn't long before they are besieged by desert-dwelling anarchists.
  • The first episode of the G.I. Joe five-parter "Revenge of Cobra" opens with the Joes transporting a high-tech device, and a Cobra strike force attacking the convoy and making off with it (along with Duke and Snake Eyes).
  • The teen heroes of Young Justice were charged with guarding trucks containing the pieces of the disassembled Amazo android, a convoy that included decoys. Sure enough, the trucks carrying the deadly machine parts are MONQUIS!

    Real Life 
  • Truth in Television. In war, convoys are one of the favorite targets of guerrilla fighters, especially supply convoys. For a while, the most dangerous job in Iraq was military truck driver. They're also favorite targets for conventional military forces as well, especially fast moving forces like aerial or cavalry units.
  • This is the reason why category A prisoners in the UK are moved between prison and court with armed police escorts.
  • Zigzagged at sea, where convoy tactics generally do serve to make shipping less vulnerable to attack because the convoy isn't much easier to spot than a single ship out on the open seas and both escorts and escortees can more easily support each other both in and out of combat than if they were individually scattered over a larger area. Of course, this can then make convoys look vulnerable because if the tactic is heavily used there won't be many non-convoys around anymore in the first place...and because would-be enemy attack missions that never found a target (a sign of the tactic working, in other words) tend to go mostly unnoticed by definition.
    • On the other hand, if you fail to effectively protect the convoy, you've just clustered a bunch of targets together. This was one major reason for the US Navy being hesitant to adopt convoy tactics in World War II, due to a shortage of planes and ships to protect them.
  • During World War II, the preferred aerial bomber tactic was to try and overwhelm the enemy's defenses with large numbers of bombers. The idea was that the heavily armed bombers could help defend each other from enemy fighters while bulldogging their way through the Anti-Air defenses. The inevitable result was that the bombers would be swarmed by large numbers of enemy fighters and interceptors. As the war continued, and as the Allies began to gain superior numbers of fighters over the gradually dwindling Axis forces, this trope was downplayed somewhat by massed fighter patrols sweeping the skies ahead of the bomber formations. Regardless, this strategy resulted in huge losses - the US Eighth Air Force alone lost 26,000 men in combat over Europe, more than the entire US Marine Corps did in the Pacific campaigns.
    • In the later years of the war, this became an Exploited Trope by the US and British forces. They knew the Germans couldn't afford to ignore the large bomber forces, so they launched a massive aerial offensive called Big Week to draw out the Luftwaffe in force so that the USAAF and RAF fighters could engage them and grind them down through attrition only a few months before Operation Overlord, by which point the Luftwaffe was too exhausted and battered to put up an effective air defense against the Allied naval forces when they finally launched their assault.


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