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Weaponized Exhaust

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"Mind the backblast!"
"A reaction drive's efficiency as a weapon is in direct proportion to its efficiency as a drive."
The Kzinti Lesson, Larry Niven

Most jetpacks, rocket boots, and spaceships give off impressive plumes of fiery exhaust when they're moving. For the most part, this exhaust is just there to show that something's happening. But the exhaust of a rocket can also double as a short-ranged weapon, especially during a getaway. Characters with jet boots can perform really effective Goomba Stomps, while starship pilots can cause enormous damage with their drive flames.

Also known as the Kzinti Lesson: the more efficient a reaction drive is, the better a weapon it makes. An inversion of the Law of Inverse Recoil, since the recoil in these cases is intentional. Also an inversion of Recoil Boost, which is an exhaustized weapon. A subtrope of Superweapon Surprise. Fartillery is effectively the biological variant of this. See also Backpack Cannon. For another way you can weaponize your engines, see Ramming Always Works. If the opposite end of the engine is at issue, see Turbine Blender.

Contrast Banana in the Tailpipe. Compare with Jettison Jetpack Attack.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Armored Trooper VOTOMS, Fiana uses the engines of a crashed spaceship to help Chirico in battle during the Sunsa arc. Earlier than that, at the end of the Kummen war arc, three Melkian army ATs were vaporized by Chirico when he hit the engines on the escape shuttle under the Veela HQ (this one seemed to be unintentional on his part; those three mechs just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time).
  • Gundam:
    • In Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory, Kou gives Gato a face-full of his Gundam's maneuvering thrusters when locked in close combat. This doesn't actually damage Gato's Gundam, but it does blind and distract him. Fourteen years later in-universe, Marida Cruz of Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn does the same against an unusually skilled Stark Jegan, disorienting it long enough for her to promptly follow up with a beam saber to the cockpit.
    • The leader of La Résistance is killed in Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team when a Zaku fires its thrusters in an attempt to escape an ambush. The backwash takes out his entire house, too. And this was entirely by accident and happened mostly because a resistance member in that house fired an anti-tank rocket at it.
    • Mobile Suit Victory Gundam gives us the Victory 2 Gundam, which carries a miniaturized Minovsky Craft System (e.g., the engines used in spaceships) known as the Minovsky Drive System. Not only does this allow it to float in mid-air (unlike other mobile suits, which have to exert constant thrust to stay aloft), but the exhaust vents in the back expel charged Minovsky particles, the V2's "Wings of Light," which can expand up to one kilometer long. Fun fact: The Wings of Light have the same properties as beam sabers and beam shields.
    • In Mobile Suit Gundam, one luckless Zaku was caught behind White Base as she was taking off and got vaporized by the engines.
    • At the end of the Guyana Highlands arc of Mobile Fighter G Gundam, Domon knocks over Master Asia's Master Gundam and then blowtorches it away as he takes off in Burning/God Gundam.
  • In the Odd One Out short of Halo Legends, Mama (the AI of a crashed starship) uses the particle accelerators of her Slipspace Drive (i.e., the part that creates a Negative Space Wedgie of the right size and type to fly through) to kill the giant Brute Super-Soldier attacking the colony.
  • In Last Exile: Fam, the Silver Wing, the giant weapons employed by the Grand Exile are revealed to have been originally intended as engines.
  • Orguss 02: Young Humongous Mecha mechanic Lean has fallen into the cockpit and is barely holding his own against an enemy pilot. His solution: tackle the other Decimator mecha onto a nearby island, bend its machine gun barrels so it can't counterattack, point his Decimator's Rocket Boots at the enemy's cockpit!
  • In the first episode of Outlaw Star, Hilda activates her ship's sub-ether drive after pirate ships grapple it. They're all destroyed, though it seems to be more of a side benefit than her actual intent.
  • While a trope entirely of its own, the Wave-Motion Gun from Space Battleship Yamato is the ship's Faster-Than-Light Travel engine fired in reverse at an enemy instead of towards a destination. Rule of Cool hand waves why Yamato doesn't go into reverse warp speed while doing it... or obliterate whatever is behind it when the Wave Motion Engine fires up to go into deep space.
  • In one episode of Super Dimension Fortress Macross, Hikaru uses the thrusters on the bottom of his battloid's foot to blast a Zentraedi away from him.
    • In one of the novels from the Robotech adaptation, a Zentraedi uses his battlepod's feet as blowtorches to fight off an Invid scout.
  • In Digimon Universe: App Monsters, Globemon does this during his rematch against Charismon, destroying the latter's Attack Drones by concentrating the glowing plasma his wings naturally give off into a directed blast. He's only able to do this due to being in Overdrive at the time.

    Comic Books 
  • Iron Man's first set of stealth armor was so packed with scanners and such that it had no active weaponry. Thus when faced with attack drones, he had to dig his fingers into the ground and blast with his jetboots.
    • The second time he used his stealth armor, Iron Man was fighting the Crimson Dynamo (Dmitri Bhukarin) and Titanium Man (the Gremlin) in Siberia during the Armor Wars storyline. Although the suit was upgraded to now permit a limited number of repulsor shots, he used them up in the battle and only succeeded in destroying the Dynamo's armor, and Titanium Man caught the weaponless Iron Man in a bear hug. Attempting to escape, Iron Man's jetboots were again weaponized, albeit unintentionally, when at full blast they set the Titanium Man's armor on fire, killing the Gremlin, much to Tony's dismay.
    • His hand repulsors were initially designed as maneuvering/stabilizing thrusters, the weapon applications were a lucky coincidence. Played for Laughs in the movie, where he tries to convince Pepper he's given up on making weapons to concentrate on peaceful applications of his technology... only to break something with a repulsor misfire a few seconds later.
    • At one point his jet boots held back The Sentry, for a few seconds anyway.
  • The Irredeemable Ant-Man did this accidentally to a former friend, burning half his face off in the process.
  • In the Serenity: Those Left Behind, this is how the "Hands of Blue" die, being fried in Serenity's exhaust.
  • In Tragg and the Sky Gods #2, Tragg uses the flames from Keera's Jet Pack to start a fire to repel a dinosaur stampede.
  • My Little Pony/Transformers: Friendship in Disguise!: Spike uses the Ark's rocket engines to one-shot Devastator.
  • Seen in at least one X-Men issue where Kitty Pryde, alone in the base underneath Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters over Christmas, is faced with a seemingly invincible monster that she finally defeats by luring it into the hangar of the team's Blackbird (a modified Lockheed SR-71) and incinerating it with the engines' exhaust.

    Fan Works 
  • In Clear Skies 3, the Clear Skies does this to prevent Ghost escaping.
  • The Halo fanfic Enemy of My Enemy invokes a partial use of this, crossing over with Ramming Always Works when the Pride of Sanghelios performs an engines-first ram on the Implacable Duty in the opening chapters and the super-heated engines cause as much damage as the impact itself.
  • In An Entry with a Bang!!, the pirates attacking Chicago use the plumes of their Dropship to toast a lot of infantry. The Fusion Torch project aims to use Dropship reactors in this fashion. The weapons' nickname, "Shipkiller", should tell you everything you need to know.
  • In the Firefly fic series Forward, there are several instances where the crew uses Serenity's engines as weapons. In "Business," they lured an Alliance gunboat close enough to fire the engines directly into the bridge section of the vessel, blinding its sensors and heating up the bridge canopy enough that Jayne is able to put an armor-piercing round through it. Later on, in "Adrift" Wash uses the exhaust from the ship's damaged engines to blind a Reaver pursuit craft, and in the "Fourth Interlude" River manages to exploit a flaw in an enemy ship's engines by channeling her ship's exhaust into its intakes, overheating it and causing it to shut down and sending the enemy ship into an uncontrolled spin.
  • In Fractured, a Mass Effect/Star Wars/Borderlands crossover some kind of "space raisin" is incinerated by the engines of Revenant Phoenix. In the sequel, Origins, a Star Dreadnaught does this to another Star Dreadnaught that's shooting the first ship's engines. Given that the ship using its engines as a defense stretches thirty-five kilometers the Kzinti Lesson is on full display. An engine array that can move quadrillions of tons of mass is going to be good at destroying anything in its path (though they did turn the engines' safety/damper off first). For once, there is OSHA compliance!
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic Fanfic Hands from Andrew Joshua Talon, the Enterprise uses its Orion Drive against the Changeling Mothership.
  • In Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, Harry unintentionally torches an Auror with the blast of a rocket-enhanced broom.
  • The Next Frontier makes much of what an Alcubierre Drive can do when it's suddenly shut down (see the Real Life section below). The Kerbals were aware of the theoretical possibility but underestimated the scale of the problem until the first large-scale test run obliterated Eeloo.
  • In Reimagined Enterprise, Satterthwaite, flying an unarmed shuttle surrounded by pirates, points out that no ship with a drive is unarmed. He namechecks Niven, although he can't remember what Niven called it because, as per Star Trek: The Animated Series, Kzinti are real in this universe.
  • Rocketship Voyager. In Chapter V, a Burial in Space is done by cremating the bodies in the torchship's exhaust flame. And in Chapter XII, Voyager turns on their drive while inside another vessel, punching a hole straight through the vulnerable interior hull. The aliens are more familiar with Reactionless Drives than a Retro Rocket, which is why they made the mistake of trying a Mega-Maw Maneuver in the first place.
    Paris: Let me show you what I found out the hard way on Deimos. Every reaction drive makes an equal and opposite weapon!
  • In Ship of the Line: Forever After Earth, a fanfic that crosses Buffy the Vampire Slayer with several other works, Buffy, Willow and Xander are turned into creatures from one of the author's original works, their ship is propelled by superconductors channeling radiation along the surtace of the rounded hull. When fighting the Ori, this drive system provides a beautiful example of the Kzinti Lesson.
  • In Sleeping with the Girls, in the second Tenchi arc, the SI remembers, almost too late, that standing near a spaceship about to take off is a bad idea. Cue an Oh, Crap! moment, followed by him running away while screaming "KZINTI LESSON! KZINTI LESSON!" He almost makes it, and the backwash of the ship's takeoff merely knocks him off of his feet. Not the straightest example of the trope, but shows an understanding of it.

    Films — Animated 
  • Lilo & Stitch. When Stitch boards Captain Gantu's ship to rescue Lilo, Gantu forces him off by turning his ship's thrusters so that both of them point directly at Stitch. Stitch is virtually indestructible, so he's not hurt: but the force is still enough to shove him off the ship.
    • It's a good thing it was: he was standing directly on the glass (or similar material) container that Lilo was trapped inside, so the flames were hitting it too. If Gantu had kept that up, the container walls would have rapidly heated up, and Lilo is not fireproof.
  • Inverted in Up, where the leaf-blower Carl had previously employed as a "weapon" of humiliation, blowing blasts of air in the faces of annoying neighbors, gets re-purposed as a means of propulsion by Russell, who's tied a bunch of balloons to himself and drifted away.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Alien, Ripley uses the lifeboat's exhaust to finally blast the title monster into deep space.
  • The Batmobile's jet engine is used as a weapon in Batman Returns to put the torch on the Fire Breather in the opening fight.
  • In Face/Off, Sean Archer uses the thrust of a mounted jet engine to send Castor Troy flying into a wall.
  • In Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, a bunch of mooks are chasing Indy around Hangar 51. He gets into some sort of G-force testing rocket, switches it on and fries the lot of them.
  • In Iron Man, Tony Stark quickly discovers he can weaponize the repulsor stabilizers in his armor's palms, turning them into effective blasters and making them his suit's primary weapons.
    Tony (having just knocked himself off his feet with a repulsor's recoil):... I didn't expect that.
  • James Bond
    • In the Cold Open of Moonraker, a Space Shuttle is stolen in mid-air and its thrusters destroy the carrier aircraft. Later in the movie, the Big Bad tries to dispose of Bond and the Bond Girl by placing them in the exhaust chamber beneath another Shuttle that is about to take off.
    • In Tomorrow Never Dies, Bond traps the Stamper's foot on the missile gantry so he gets caught in the backblast as the missile launches.
    • Casino Royale (2006) features an accidental version during the airport chase scene. Miami Police Department squad cars are chasing a fuel truck stolen by a terrorist, and chase it across a runway just as a 747 is coming in. The 747 pulls up at the last moment and misses the fuel truck, but its engine backwash blows one of the police cars about a hundred feet through the air.
  • In Men in Black 3 the elder version of the Big Bad is destroyed by the wall of fire from Apollo 11's launch.
  • Moon Zero Two. Clementine pulls the thrust lever on the Moon 02 rocket, and the exhaust flame melts the spacehelmet of one of the villains and sends him flying off into space.
  • At one point in Pacific Rim, Gipsy Danger uses the exhaust from her nuclear vortex turbine as an impromptu Chest Blaster.
  • Richard B. Riddick does this to the alien monsters as the survivors make their getaway at the end of Pitch Black. He didn't need to, but he felt he owed them a proper "goodbye" on the way out and deliberately lured them in by shutting off the exterior lighting so they'd approach.
  • Leo in the Planet of the Apes (2001) remake uses the crashed Oberon's main thruster to burn the ape army's first wave.
  • In RoboCop 3, the title character kills the villain by burning his legs with the exhaust of his Jet Pack, leaving him helpless in the soon to explode building.
  • In The Rocketeer, Cliff surrenders the Jet Pack to Neville Sinclair... but not without removing the chewing gum that was sealing a fuel leak caused by a stray gunshot earlier in the movie. When Sinclair fires up the Jet Pack to escape, the rocket exhaust ignites the fuel from the leak and turns the device into a bomb.
  • In the climatic battle of Screamers, a Killer Robot is incinerated by the pre-launch burn of an escape rocket.
  • In Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, the villain's ark rocket will carry all the animals it contains to a new world. The hero suggests they just let him go, but is informed that the exhaust will also scorch Earth's atmosphere once it gets high enough.
  • In the 1979 Disney comedy A Spaceman in King Arthur's Court, Hermes knocks down Mordred's army by turning on the engines of his Space Plane. They then try attacking from the sides, but he's able to hold them off using the vernier thrusters.
  • Star Wars:
    • The Phantom Menace:
      • Anakin takes out a couple of battle droids that were standing next to his thrusters.
      • While not shown on screen, Anakin claims Sebulba once did this to him during a podrace. In this case, it's an illegal mod that vents exhaust out the side of the pods at other racers.
    • Revenge of the Sith: R2-D2 destroys two Super Battle Droids by spewing oil on them, then igniting the oil with his rockets.
    • The Force Awakens: Kylo Ren's lightsaber was crudely made based on an ancient, more primitive design, and its kyber crystal is cracked. Thus, it requires crossguard-like stabilizer vents to redirect excess power from its crystal. The twin beams coming from the vents are just as dangerous as the main blade, which he proves in his duel with Finn when, as their swords are locked, he presses one of the beams into Finn's shoulder. As a side effect, he can't do a lot of the fancy twirling that other lightsaber users do without hitting himself with the beams, and thus he wields his lightsaber like a claymore, relying on hard, smashing attacks (which also fits the state of barely-contained rage he shows in his fights).
  • In Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen, Optimus Prime gains a jetpack upgrade from Jetfire's body after his Heroic Sacrifice; the exhaust can send Megatron through a stone wall.

  • Attempted in the second book of Bruce Coville's The A.I. Gang trilogy. The title characters have built a rocket and are preparing to launch it; however, two separate spies break into it for their own reasons. One is discovered by two of the kids, whom he knocks out, ties up and leaves to be incinerated by the rocket's exhaust. The other is discovered by a third member of the gang, who is knocked out and left inside the rocket; her efforts to signal for help lead to the launch being aborted by the rest of the gang, saving all three lives.
  • Possibly the Ur-Example is the 1928 novella Armadeddon 2419, a.k.a. the original Buck Rogers story. The repeller rays that keep the Han airships aloft are indeed their primary weapon system as well.
  • The BattleTech novel "Operation Excalibur" demonstrates this trope when the Gray Death Legion mercenary commander Grayson Death Carlyle creatively positions a hijacked Jumpship to point the exhaust end of its drive at one of the setting's extremely rare deep space recharging stations. It works as a shock and stalling tactic because such stations are considered inviolate, and it's an accepted rule of space to point that end of the ship away from anything you want to keep in one piece. The moment of realization for all parties involved who didn't know about the plan beforehand is capped by an utterly priceless line:
    He had just turned her (Jumpship) Caliban into a half kilometer long particle projector cannon, the biggest damned PPC in the Inner Sphere.
    • Also used in the climax of the novel I Am Jade Falcon. The aging Falcon Mechwarrior Joanna is trapped in a fallen Summoner, having lost a leg in battle and with her weapons nonfunctional. She activates her one remaining offensive option, the jump jets in her 'Mech's remaining leg, which causes the flare from the jets to impale Khan Natasha Kerensky's modified Dire Wolf "Widowmaker" through the cockpit, killing her and making Joanna a Jade Falcon legend.
  • In Crest of the Stars, Lafiel kills Baron Febdash the Younger by venting antimatter propellant through the exhaust nozzles of her shuttle - curiously, the Baron's ship is not obliterated when the exhaust hits its hull, while the Baron succumbs to rapid radiation poisoning.
  • Discworld swamp dragons breathe fire as a weapon. But one has a digestive system that's organized so that he can flame backward, as it were, and he essentially turns himself into a rocket. It's implied the swamp dragons as a species have weaponized their exhaust by evolutionary means, and it was originally never intended to come out the mouth, since their small and weak wings aren't very effective as lifting surfaces but do make rather good ailerons.
  • Donald E. Westlake's Dortmunder: A low-tech version appears in Bank Shot. A gang of criminals plot to steal an entire bank that is temporarily housed in a warehouse by surreptitiously attaching wheels to it, then later pulling it away with a truck. To deal with the guards that are stationed inside the trailer/bank they attach one end of a garden hose to the truck's exhaust pipe and put the other end in the trailer's air-vent.
  • In the first Dune novel, the Emperor reports that his Sardukar only escaped with their lives after attacking a Fremen sietch by doing this (he was aghast, and rightly so, that his Super Extra Elite Finest Troops were outfought by a settlement of elders, women and children).
  • In Arthur C. Clarke's Earthlight, the particle beam weapons are directly derived from spacecraft ion drives, which are dangerous enough in their own right.
  • In Earth Unaware the Formic mothership vents "gamma plasma" in all directions while decelerating from relativistic speed. The first time it's shown doing that, it destroys a space station in the Kuiper Belt. It also uses this plasma as point defense.
  • David Weber's Empire from the Ashes: The gravitational "backwash" from the warp drive is used to blow up a star. Fun times abound when your planetoid-sized ships use artificial black holes as propulsion.
  • The Expanse: In Caliban's War, the Rocinante's exhaust is used to destroy a protomolecule-monster.
  • A frequent occurrence in the Great Ship universe:
    • Pamir was killed when a pissed off crewman on his bomb drive liner activated the drive while Pamir was repairing the pusher plate. He got better, though
    • In Aeon's Child, a starship's fusion rocket is disassembled, brought inside the Great Ship, and reassembled to be used as a last-ditch weapon to purge a chamber of a hostile Gaian entity.
    • Inadvertently used in Hatch, where a massive starship launching from beneath the Meat Moss coating the Great Ship forces a scavenger to blast away all his fuel and jettison his cargo in an attempt to escape to save himself from being immolated by the fusion exhaust.
  • In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Sirius's flying motorbike is upgraded for Hagrid. Included in this is a burst of Dragon Breath out the exhaust.
  • In Poul Anderson's Harvest of Stars, there is a treaty banning weapons in space. When the main characters get into a space battle with the bad guys, it is essentially a game of cat and mouse, each trying to slash the other with their exhausts while avoiding getting slashed themselves.
  • Honor Harrington:
    • Not exactly exhaust, per se, but the gravity-control impeller wedge is the usual spaceship propulsion... which does Really Bad Things to any matter that intersects the field. Normally, this is safetied to a tee; when it isn't, as in when Harkness turns on the impeller drive of one of Tepes' pinnaces in the hanger ...uh ...just Bad Things, OK?
    • In book 1, On Basilisk Station, Honor cripples a Havenite courier ship that was ready to summon the invasion fleet by sideswiping it with HMS Fearless' impeller wedge. This completely blows out the Peeps' impeller nodes, leaving them dead in the water.
    • This is how countermissiles work too. They don't have warheads; they just hit the impeller wedge of enemy missiles with their own wedge, destroying both with the feedback on their drives.
    • The trope is also effectively Played With given that these wedges with their horrifying capacity for destruction are primarily used as shields when they aren't used for propulsion, given that they effectively cover the ship completely from the top and bottom. This becomes very important in Mission of Honor when a group of ships have to use their wedges to try and protect the planets below from falling debris during an attack. They only partially succeed. And the planets were Manticore and Sphinx.
  • In Hullo Russia, Goodbye England, Silk's crew does this to a Russian spy "trawler" in the Atlantic near Scotland which is eavesdropping on their comms. While they are strictly forbidden from sinking it, they fly over it at mast-top height then stand their Vulcan jet bomber plane on its tail to give it the benefit of the back-blast from the engines. The ship stays afloat, just about, but its sensitive and expensive electronic systems are shot to pieces.
  • Imperial Radch: In Ancillary Justice, it's implied to be the warships' primary weapon system.
  • In Fury Born has an inversion. Ships use a singularity drive for slower-than-light travel, generating a black hole ahead of the ship that pulls it forwards. It also has the effect of soaking up incoming ordnance if you point the ship in the enemy's general direction.
  • From Larry Niven's Known Space:
    • The warlike Kzinti stumble upon a completely demilitarized humanity. They invade, only to find out that reaction drives and solar sail launching lasers are actually pretty good at blowing things up. Surprise! Humans call this "The Kzinti Lesson": "The more efficient a reaction drive, the more effective a weapon it makes." It came as a great shock to the Kzinti, because their telepathic spies kept telling them that human spaceships were unarmed. They were... technically.
    • The ship in Ringworld is named "Lying Bastard", or simply "the Liar", and half the reason is because it's completely unarmed... except for all the things that can be used as weapons. Louis Wu at one point thinks to himself that nearly every one of their tools can be used as a weapon, but there's no piece of equipment that Nessus can't point to and say "That is not a weapon. I brought it for (perfectly legitimate non-weapon use)." Like the digging tool, which also happens to be a dandy disintegrator ray. Or the high-powered and focusable flashlight-lasers. Or, most significantly, the presence of plasma thrusters for maneuvering purposes.
  • E. E. "Doc" Smith's Lensman: In Masters of the Vortex, there's a chapter named for this — "Driving Jets Are Weapons". (For those who want to know the details: the ship dives headlong towards the enemy base, then flips over and decelerates at full blast. This maneuver kills both its velocity and the target's shields, followed by the target. Twice.)
  • In Sergey Lukyanenko's Line of Delirium, the main characters are infiltrating/storming a military orbital platform. Upon receiving a coded signal, their ship, sitting in the hangar bay, uses it's gravity engine to "push out" the hangar bay doors and then activates the plasma engines to fry the combat droids guarding it.
  • In Logan's Run, a gang of "Devilstick" rocket bike riders circle around Logan and threaten him with their engines, which could "char a man down in the snap of a finger".
  • Taken to absolutely humongous extremes in Mark Geston's novel Lords of the Starship, in which a seven mile long rocket is built to carry humanity away from a war-ravaged Earth. But it's all a horrible trick: when the rocket is finally completed after more than a century a vast battle rages in its shadow between its millions of supporters and opponents. And then the ship slides down the slipway, and turns around until its engines are pointing towards the warring armies... just imagine how big and how hot a seven-mile long spaceship's rocket exhaust would be. It was all part of a plot by an ancient enemy to get revenge and take over the world. What's left of it.
  • In Sergey Snegov's "The Men like Gods", the humanity ships' FTL drive works on the principle of transforming spacetime into matter and running it in reverse turns matter into space. They can literally drop enemy ships into stars by removing the intervening space or evade attacks by adding it faster than the enemy or gunfire can approach. It also finds itself useful when the need to create a planet out of nothing rears its head.
    • The Destroyants/Malignants, which have mastered gravity control to a great level, are also profound of this tactic, using gravity engines of their cruisers to generate destructive gravitational waves, which can then be used to attack enemy ships or turn a planet's surface into fine dust.
  • In the James Bond novel Moonraker, Drax attempts to dispose of Bond by placing him beneath the exhausts of the eponymous rocket. It was one of the few scenes from the novel to make it into the movie.
  • The Murderbot Diaries. In the first novel the villains have sabotaged the rocket that launches a distress beacon, but Murderbot convinces them the others plan to set off the rocket manually. The villains rush out there to stop them, only to discover they've been tricked, but just as they open fire on Murderbot the rocket activates, so Murderbot has to quickly grab their hostage and jump off the nearest cliff.
  • In Georgy Gurevich's Overtake Only the protagonists who've just stolen an old photonic rocket from a museum (it's a long story) deal with the pursuers by pointing the reflector at them and starting the engine, evaporating in the process not only the pursuers, but a good chunk of the space station to which the rocket was docked as well.
  • In Return Match by Philip K. Dick, an alien spacecraft is being used as an Illegal Gambling Den. If raided by the authorities, it takes off to destroy the evidence...including their own customers.
  • In Alastair Reynolds' Revelation Space, one of the hell-class weapons is possessed by a sentient, alien computer virus and attempts to destroy an inhabited planet; disaster is narrowly averted by hitting it with the exhaust from a Conjoiner Drive.
    • Also used in The Prefect, where the Conjoiner engines of the lighthugger Accompaniment of Shadows are used to destroy the Ruskin-Sartorious habitat.
  • Used as a particularly gruesome method of execution in Scarecrow by Matthew Reilly, with the afterburner of a tied-down fighter jet.
  • Possibly the first use of this trope in science fiction was in John W. Campbell's 1930 story Solarite. Seeing a giant monoplane attacking a defenceless city on Venus, the Science Heroes from Earth turn their rocket engines on it.
  • In the Star Carrier series, Confederation fighters fly mainly with a singularity drive, generating a high mass zone ahead of the ship to pull them forward and accelerate them to about 99% of the speed of light. The drive also has the effect of sucking in any dust or debris ahead of it, which when released can do bad things to anything it hits. Loose drive singularities themselves (usually from the ship having been destroyed while the drive was turned on, although it was done intentionally once in the third book) are also seen punching holes straight through ships.
  • Inverted in Star Trek: Federation. While fighting an Orion Syndicate ship at warp speed Kirk suddenly drops the Enterprise back to realspace, wiping out an incoming torpedo salvo against the shockwave produced by the collapsing warp field.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • Unintentionally used by a number of "hot-shot" pilots throughout the X-Wing Series, generally resulting in little scars on the hangar floor. Corran Horn also once used an airspeeder's exhaust to help vent an area of toxic gas.
    • The EU also has it that, while the exhaust of capital ships doesn't pose much of a threat to like-sized ships, it can fry unwary fighters.
    • The X-Wing: Rogue Squadron novel The Krytos Trap demonstrates that capital ship exhaust can also be used to devastating effect against buildings, as the Super Star Destroyer Lusankya demonstrated when lifting off from Coruscant and it's thrusters vaporized a large section of cityscape in the process, killing a uncounted number of people in the process.note 
    • At one point in the Yuuzhan Vong/New Jedi Order series, Vong bioweapons are eating through a capital ship's hull. The fighter pilots then use their exhausts to burn them off without blasting at the ship.
    • The star system of Corellia is actually artificially created with the planets all being giant spaceships with giant repulsors/engines that have been used as weapons.
      • Even more dangerous is Centrepoint Station, which brought the planets into the system in the first place using a "hyperspace repulsor" engine, and can make stars go supernova from light-years away via the same process. It's also indicated (though never demonstrated) that if somebody had Centerpoint and all five planetary repulsors under their control, they could network them together and draw power from the star itself, which would allow for such tricks as cutting off all access to hyperspace in the entire galaxy, as well as simpler things like increasing the range of the supernova generating beam.
    • Though The Empire's best known civilian massacre was the destruction of Alderaan, the EU documents multiple lesser massacres. In one instance, an Imperial Navy captain turned his cruiser's stern to a mass demonstration and fired his engines, incinerating the protestors.
      • The worse part? It had actually happened under the Republic, and the perpetrator's name was Wilhuff Tarkin. Yes, that Tarkin.
    • According to Han, hiding a ship behind an asteroid and superheating it with its exhaust to the point of combustion is a good smuggler's trick for destroying pursuers. After his explanation the Errant Venture demonstrates, destroying an entire asteroid field's worth of space rock as well as a harrassing enemy squadron. Han comments that, "It works pretty well with a Star Destroyer."
    • One technique that can be used in an asteroid field, called the "Solo Slide", involves shutting down the main engines and using the ship's repulsorlifts on the asteroids. This is energy-efficient, keeps the asteroids from hitting you, and can be used as a very effective weapon.
      Another of the flight suffered a similar fate before the remaining TIE pilots made visual contact with the Millennium Falcon, which was zipping rings around them without, apparently, using its drives at all. Meanwhile, asteroids seemed to actively avoid it, leaping aside from its path—and ending up, with improbable frequency, on new trajectories which proved catastrophic to the TIEs.
  • In the early Terry Pratchett novel Strata, at one point Marco mentions they could use their ship's engine's fusion flame as a weapon (although this is never actually seen). Unsurprising given the book was strongly inspired by Trope Namer Larry Niven's Ringworld.
  • Heavily used throughout Paul Naughton's series VALKYRIE: Into the Heavens, where most ships use an antimatter-matter drive system that uses charged pions for thrust. Considering that these ships have forward facing braking thrusters and maneuvering thrusters, it was only a matter of time until someone used them as a weapon.
    • The first occurrence of this trope happens even before the pilots are given their ships when one trainee uses this in a training exercise when his ships weapons were all but destroyed. The pilot he defeats calls it 'cheating'.
  • In Voyage from Yesteryear by James P. Hogan, it's speculated that the spaceship used to carry the Libertarians IN SPACE! to their new world (and is now orbiting as a makeshift Space Station) is a weapon Hidden in Plain Sight. So the invasion force from Earth wait till it's on the far side of the planet before launching their attack. Turns out there's a Superweapon Surprise hidden on a nearby moon instead.
  • Warhammer 40,000: As part of the climactic sequence of Sandy Mitchell's Scourge the Heretic, an Inquisition shuttle pilot uses his exhaust to blast the front wall off the bad guys' mansion.
  • In the 1933 novel When Worlds Collide (you might know it better from the 1951 movie), when a crazed army of survivors attacks the site where the Arks are being built, things look bleak until one of the main characters starts up the almost-complete first Ark, sets the engine to "1 G", and floats over the attacking hordes in blowtorch mode.
  • Mack Maloney's Wingman series has an air pirate early on threaten to torture Hawk Hunter by strapping his face to the engine of his fighter and slowly turning up the power. While he never goes through with this threat, in a later book (Freedom Express) Hawk kills an escaping baddie by flying his Harrier over the jeep and cooking them until the obese lieutenant bursts.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The first season finale of The 100 had the titular group use the thrusters of their crashed Drop Ship as a last-chance attack to fend off a full-blown Grounder attack. Not only did the deluge of flames completely incinerated the rest of the camp, but also killed three hundred Grounders... which escalated things for a while because some of the Grounder leaders insisted that such a massacre was not something that could be taken lying down.
  • In one episode of Airwolf where the eponymous helicopter was flying unarmed, its pilot Stringfellow Hawke cleverly used the chopper's afterburners to take out ground targets.
  • In an Andromeda episode, the crew encounters an ancient Earth STL ship, which uses its massive fusion engine to rapidly accelerate to near-light speeds (it was built before humans learned about slipstream). In a pinch, this defenseless ship can use the same engine to incinerate enemy ships at the cost of precious fuel.
  • In a Babylon 5 episode, a Raider threatened to use a hijacked ship's engines to burn his way out of the station's docking bays if Sinclair tried to stop him by closing the doors. Sinclair Takes a Third Option: he lets him out, but locks down the jumpgate and orders Garibaldi to shoot out the ship's engines in his Starfury. The Raider mothership arrives first and things escalate into a full-scale Space Battle.
  • In Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome, a young William Adama kills a Cylon Raider by purposely venting fuel and then igniting it with his Raptor's afterburner.
  • The Book of Boba Fett
    • In "The Tribes of Tatooine", Boba helps his Tusken tribe attack a speeder train propelled by a large thruster on the roof. During the obligatory Traintop Battle, the thruster sends an unlucky Tusken flying when the droid conductor puts it to full blast, and gets a Pyke not long after when the conductor does it a second time.
    • When Boba is stealing back his spaceship Slave I from Bib Fortuna's palace, he guns the engines as much as he can while confined in the hangar to bowl over a bunch of attacking guards.
  • Doctor Who
    • In "The Time Warrior", Linx blows up Irongron's entire castle when his tiny one-man spacecraft takes off. He does make a token effort to warn Irongron to move his men elsewhere, but quickly loses patience with his 'primitive' ally when Irongron fails to understand the urgency. So it falls to the Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith to evacuate everyone instead.
    • In "The Ark In Space", Vira takes out a pair of Wirrn by briefly turning on the shuttle craft's engines. And when the shuttle blasts off for real with the full Wirrn swarm aboard, Rogin is caught and killed.
    • The Villain of the Week tries this in "Warriors Gate" and destroys himself and his entire ship.
  • The Expanse:
    • When the titanic generation ship Nauvoo begins its first flight, after it lit the engine you can see how the construction structures of the drydock it was being constructed in begins to melt despite being a fair distance from the ship itself, demonstrating that creators had thought out implications of a massive ship having powerful engines. Avoiding this with the Saturn V and later the Space Shuttle is why NASA's launch structures have massive water sprayers built into them. The Shuttle saw the addition of more water sprayers to the launch pad to deaden reflected sound waves that could damage the shuttle.
    • As in the book, a protomolecule creature is killed this way after the crew tricks into keaping off the hull.
    • In season 6, an unarmed Belter ship resorts to "turn and burn" maneuvers to attack the Rocinante, which is attempting to capture the vessel. Were the Rocinante not an armored warship, it might have worked.
  • At the end of one episode of Farscape, Crichton deliberately uses the energy discharge from a brief activation of Moya's Starburst drive to ignite a trail of fuel leaking from a spaceship stolen by the Villain of the Week, destroying it and killing the bad guy.
  • Firefly:
    • In the pilot, Wash uses Serenity's exhaust flame to ignite a planet's atmosphere as a way to disable/distract a Reaver ship after performing a "Crazy Ivan".
      Zoe: Ain't no way they can come around in time to follow us now.
    • Mal also intended to use the exhaust (both the flames and more importantly the physical pressure) against Burgess' troops in "Heart of Gold", but that plan never got off the ground.
  • For certain values of "exhaust", the morphers in Power Rangers RPM are said to sometimes create explosions due to energy runoff. When Flynn uses Reverse Polarity with his morpher when it's been malfunctioning, he realizes that the most likely side effect is a larger-than-normal explosion... which he deliberately aims at the villains.
  • A Space: 1999 episode, "Voyager's Return", concerned a probe whose drive system was lethal.
  • A tactic sometimes used in Star Trek is to vent a cloud of flammable gas (like warp plasma) in front of an enemy ship and ignite the cloud with a phaser blast, using the ensuing explosion to disable/destroy the enemy.
  • Played with in Top Gear (UK) with a car (a Red Bull Formula One car) shooting paintballs from its exhaust. It proved a highly effective weapon when one hit Clarkson quite painfully. In another episode, a 1980s Nissan Pulsar, which was voted 'most boring car' by the audience, was burned up with a large jet turbine.

    Tabletop Games 
  • BattleTech:
    • The massive Dropships are capable of razing anything anywhere nearby in a nuclear hellstorm of fusion reactor exhaust when they begin to lift off the ground to head to orbit. Being too close to a dropship that's taking off or landing is automatically fatal to ground units.
    • BattleMech flamers are usually powered by exhaust from the mech's fusion reactor (contrary to some of the novels, neither flamers nor Jump Jets actually pull plasma straight from the reactor, which is a near-vacuum. Instead, they run air through vents that allow waste-heat from the reactor to superheat it). Vehicles and industrial mechs with combustion engines engines make do with napalm.
  • Champions supplement Champions 2: The vehicle construction system allowed a vehicle's exhaust to do normal or even killing damage to anyone standing behind it.
  • GURPS: Space lists the offensive potential of several engines. Because GURPS assumes that most engines will not have particularly coherent exhaust streams they're relatively weak compared to normal armaments.
    • The nuclear jetpack blasts superheated radioactive exhaust at everyone below it. Why anyone would wear such a thing is a different issue.
      • A BBEG using it to escape the heroes?
  • In Palladium's Rifts sourcebook "Mechanoids", Overlords and Oracles (evil, building sized robots with a bend for human extermination) are packed full of weapons, but still like the elegant process of flying a few meters over unprotected humans. Crispy bacon.
  • In Rocket Age every rocket ship has rules that let the pilot use the radium fueled exhaust as an effective weapon. This tactic is also favoured by the rocket boarding gangs of New York.
  • SPI's classic boardgame StarForce uses a relative of this trope. In the game, "TeleShips" move FTL by teleportation. They fight by throwing random teleport windows at each other.
  • d20 Future mentions this in the descriptions for starship engines. Rules aren't given for it, since it's an unorthodox (and clever) tactic.

    Video Games 
  • The ending of Aliens: Armageddon, this is how the kaiju-sized winged Alien Queen Final Boss is eventually defeated; after absorbing plenty of grenade rounds, knocking the Queen backwards into the thrusters of an evacuation ship about to take off. The following cutscene sees the Queen incinerated for good.
  • Astro Bot Rescue Mission: Astro can slow their descent by firing a laser from their legs, which damages enemies.
  • Battle Garegga has the boss Black Heart, one of whose attacks is moving down to you and letting the afterburners flare up.
  • Bioshock 2 has Rocket Spears as Abnormal Ammo for its Speargun weapon. The rocket plume acts like a flamethrower, lighting nearby enemies and oil spills on fire as the poor splicer shot with it flails around because they have a rocket sticking out of them. The spearhead itself does surprisingly little damage
  • In Blast Works: Build, Trade, Destroy, certain enemies use exhaust which can destroy your ship and, when taken as your own, can save the moment as a very short range weapon.
  • In The Bouncer, Mugetsu is killed by being dropped off the side of an airship, into its booster jets.
  • In Broforce, the Brocketeer's jetpack releases a burst of flame to either side of him when active, frying nearby mooks. This makes up for his terrible mobility on the ground and useless primary weapon.
  • In most of the Capcom vs. games that they appeared in, Iron Man, War Machine, and most of the other characters who were equipped with jet packs or rocket boots would have moves where they used the flames produced by said jet packs and rocket boots as part of an attack.
  • This is a surprisingly effective way to kill someone if your clones lack better weaponry (and sometimes even when they do due to the wonky physics making them ineffective) in Cortex Command.
    • It's also quite effective at killing enemy dropships when piloting a dropship yourself. Being that the ships are unarmed and with very weakly armored engines, the best course of action is to position your ship so one of its engines is exhausting on top of one of the engines of the enemy dropship, and hit the throttle.
    • One mod, now lost to time, featured an item which was effectively a hand-carried turbojet engine. 'Firing' it caused an exhaust plume about three times as long an average drone's height to spontaneously manifest; this reliably shredded anything in front of it for the few milliseconds they were there, and invariably sent the user moving in the opposite direction hard enough to occasionally shear off limbs. Firing downward caused the user to rise vertically. Firing upward caused a crater.
  • In Dead Space a certain boss creature that constantly regenerates can only be gotten permanently rid of by incinerating it with the exhaust jets of a shuttle.
  • A perk in Deep Rock Galactic gives your character hover boots. Their primary purpose is to prevent fall damage, but the exhaust also does damage to enemies underneath you.
  • This is perfectly possible to do in ΔV: Rings of Saturn, both against space rocks and enemy ships. There is even a weapon called "Kzinti Lesson" which is essentially a nose-mounted plasma thruster.
  • Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening: In the opening cutscene of Mission 3, Lady kills some demons behind her on her motorbike by roasting them with the bike's exhaust backblast.
  • In Disgaea units that learn to use guns gain the "Proximal Shot" ability which allows them to invoke this trope while using their firearm as an impromptu rocket engine.
  • Downwell: This is literally your primary form of attack, as you use gunboots to hover in the air while whatever you shot for the recoil to hover is used to kill stuff.
  • Due to him not being able to fly, Dragon Ball Z games that include Hercule/Mr. Satan as a playable character give him a Jetpack to fight in the air. Some games allow him to use it as a weapon as well.
  • Of all games, Einhänder has one for the player character. By changing speed, your craft gives out a burst of exhaust, which along with the manipulator arm may be the deadliest weapons in the game. Because of this, it's possible to beat a level without firing a shot. Elsewhere in the game, the booster rockets for the satellite can kill you if you fly behind them.
    • The Star Soldier series uses this variant as well. At times, a ring-shaped enemy ship will enclose you, and the fastest way to dispatch it is to mash the "speed change" button while firing.
  • Eight Man (1991) have a stage where you enter a hangar to board a military plane about to take off. In-between fighting mooks on ground level, you also risk getting incinerated by the plane's bottom exhaust which can damage your health. You can either dash past it or jump upwards and smash the exhaust to pieces.
  • Extreme-G has the Flame Exhaust weapon, which provides a speed boost while also burning anything behind the racer that uses it.
  • Thanks to the robust dynamic fire engine in the Far Cry games, you can use rocket launchers as makeshift flame-throwers to kill enemies who are trying to ambush you with the backblast if you don't want to blow yourself up with the warhead by shooting them directly. Of course, it's entirely possible to burn yourself to death by firing while crouched, or against a wall.
  • Final Fantasy
    • Final Fantasy VII The Motor Ball boss is a six-wheeled Transforming Mecha that uses an attack called Twin Burner where it shoots fire from its exhaust ports while in its "Flamethrower" form.
    • Final Fantasy XIII has Sazh's Eidolon, Brynhildr, do this in Gestalt Mode with her Múspell Flame. Since her elemental affinity is fire, it's more that appropriate.
    • This was the original purpose of Machinist's "Cooldown" ability, which would decrease the heat building up in the Gauss Barrel, and dealt higher damage if you had some heat built up beforehand. With the third expansion it was later reworked into "Heat Blast", which can only be used while your gun is overheated.
  • You can use this in Gates of Zendocon on the Atari Lynx.
  • In G-Darius, the boss "Death Wings", a Humongous Mecha manta ray tries to torch the Silver-Hawks via exhaust from its manta ray "wings".
  • In the first Giga Wing, the Final Boss, a surreal Mechanical Abomination, fires a pair of them in the beginning of its 2nd phase. After receiving enough damage, the boss fires a single exhaust directly in the middle of the screen.
  • One of Gradius Gaiden's stage 9 midbosses, Boost Core, has harmless exhaust...but only on the first loop. From the second loop onwards, its exhaust is lethal to the Vic-Viper and its peers.
  • Robo-Ky from Guilty Gear has a heat gauge, and a good deal of his moves make it climb. If he overheats he explodes and damages himself and gives his opponent an opening. To prevent this, one of what would be his normal moves (his forward heavy slash) makes him vent steam, which he must do regularly to keep the heat under control. Of course, the steam itself is more potent the more heat he builds up first, and venting when he's seconds away from overheating creates a gigantic plume that does respectable damage and sets his opponent on fire.
  • Several Gundam games (Gundam VS Gundam Next and Gundam Battle Assault) have the Zeong use its large jets located at its base as attacks, presumably to make up for it not having legs necessary for kicking.
  • In Half-Life, a tentacle monster is living inside one of Black Mesa's rocket test chambers. Kill It with Fire is the obvious solution.
  • Space RTS Homeworld has an example of this trope in its Bomber strike craft. The game manual quips that the player race scientists realized that the most powerful directed energy system of the strike craft was their own fusion drive system. Hence they made a strike craft that can divert part of its drive thrust into very powerful plasma bombs.
  • In the Irem Shoot 'Em Up Image Fight, changing gears causes a tiny burst of exhaust that can do some damage in a pinch. Some players may never even have noticed. This ability later made it into R-Type Final, made for the ships of the OF series (the first of which, the Daedalus, is the ship from Image Fight).
  • In Injustice: Gods Among Us, Lobo's super move involves him ramming his opponent with his Space Hog, making them fall behind and then burning them with the exhaust flames while giving them a sign of utmost respect.
  • Kerbal Space Program: Possible. It most commonly occurs when separation rockets meant to push boosters clear after they separate instead blow up the main rocket with their exhaust.
  • Killzone: Though it doesn't come up in gameplay, ISA cruisers can use their nuclear-powered beam thrusters as weapons, too.
  • Kirby:
    • The Jet ability has this when it's charging power, as well as when Kirby is attacking, at least in Kirby Super Star. In the DS remake, it also causes damage while using it to hover, which is a surprisingly effective method of disposing of bosses and enemies alike at times.
    • Kirby Super Star: In Revenge of Meta Knight, crew of the Halberd try to fry Kirby with its exhaust as it takes off. It knocks him back, but he's otherwise unharmed.
  • The Legend of Spyro: A New Beginning: The Conductor's train vents jets of steam and fire from its engine in an attempt to harm Spyro during his boss battle.
  • Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime: One can upgrade the ship's engines with various gems. Beam and Metal will often add various offensive capabilities to one's thrust such as depositing caltrops or, in a literal example, having the thrust itself burn enemies.
  • MadWorld: A couple stages have jet engines that will instantly kill enemies when they are thrown into them. Now, that's all well and good in the zone that is a three-way Shout-Out to Star Wars, Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica, but a random fighter plane attached to a wall in the middle of the Casino zone is a bit much. What would XIII think?
  • Mass Effect has a codex entry noting that a dreadnought's exhaust can melt through practically anything (we never see it used, though). Any ship's thrusters can melt armor "like wax under a blowtorch".
    • The Normandy generates Mass Effect fields that it "falls" into, in order to mask its emissions when in stealth mode. Just imagine what multiple, sufficiently powerful directed Mass Effect fields could do under the right circumstances... oh, wait, that's suggested here, albeit in the form of shields rather than engines. Still!
    • In the Arrival DLC, Shepard and Dr. Kenson escape from the Batarian prison, some guards arrive a bit late to stop them... and find themselves on the wrong end of their escape shuttle.
  • MechWarrior: BattleMechs can weaponize their fusion reactors by venting its exhaust through a Flamer. Flamers deal very little actual damage, but they heat up anything they hit, allowing you to cripple an enemy battlemechs combat ability or force them into an emergency shutdown. In MechWarrior Living Legends, it's possible to make enemy battlemechs literally melt to death by heating them up past their reactor's critical temperature with flamers.
  • Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty: The Harrier boss burns you with its exhaust as one of its attacks.
  • Metal Slug: One of the bosses in Metal Slug 2/X, the "Keesi" (A military transport/bomber) will attempt to cook you with its afterburners. Another aircraft boss in Metal Slug 5, "Shooting Ray" also has this attack.
  • Monday Night Combat: Tanks and Gunners can't move while they're deployed. But if an Assassin was foolish enough to try to get behind to slash them, a blast from their jump jets usually made them quickly reconsider.
  • Mr. Robot: At one point near the middle, there's a shuttle inside the starship Eidelon. While it doesn't have enough fuel to go anywhere, you are able to burn what it has left to destroy a bunch of enemy robots inside the hangar.
  • NightFire: Bond kills off Kiko with the exhaust of a Space Shuttle owned by Phoenix.
  • In Nova Drift, the Firefly ship has thrusters that deals a large amount of damage over time to enemies touching it. The Deadly Wake upgrade lets your ship leave behind a trail that burns enemies.
  • One Must Fall 2097: The Pyros robot is equipped with rocket boosters that double as flamethrowers. One particular special move has the Pyros use the boosters to reverse direction in midair, damaging any close-by opponent in the process.
  • Perfect Dark Zero: The gunship attacks with its engine flames after it Turns Red.
  • Platform gives you jetpacks with deadly exhaust. Except the only thing you can kill with it is your partner.
  • Project Reality, a Battlefield 2 mod, you can kill players with the backblast of rocket launchers. However, you are more likely going to kill a teammate than an enemy player, as very few players are going to stand still for you to cook them.
  • Red Orchestra: The mod Darkest Hour has the Panzerschreck and Bazooka shoulder-fired anti tank weapons, which have a lethal backblast behind them when fired, which can also bounce off of walls and kill the firer, making shooting from indoor environments nearly suicidal. Unfortunately they are also quickly loaded by a teammate standing behind the operator.
  • In Ring Runner: Flight of the Sages, ships travel the universe with an Anchor drive. This drive "anchors" the ship in space, allowing the universe to spin past it. The universe spins once every 52 hours, and the danger of colliding with something at a very large exponent of light speed is so real, ships can only do this on certain "rings" in the universe, which are completely clean of matter. At the ship level, there are several ship perks that weaponize heat buildup. Venting plasma in a damaging trail, launching an explosive heatsink canister, rerouting some of the exhaust to boost weapon performance, and of course, the mother of all weapons. The Anchor Cannon, which stops the motion of the projectile relative to the universe, so the universe collides with it. It only works if the target is up-spin, but even a single atom can vaporize an entire battlefield!
  • Irem loves this trope. Special mention goes to the first boss of R-Type Delta; its attack pattern alternates between blasting a barrage of building-leveling weaponry at the player's ship and... retreating. The player has no choice but to give chase, and evade the two large flames from the boss' rocket engines. The engines can be damaged to give the player more room to maneuver.
  • In the Silicon Dreams Interactive Fiction trilogy, you play security agent on a Sleeper Starship. In the first game, you stop a terrorist from blowing up the ship just before it arrives at the planet to colonize. Unfortunately, the damaged video makes it appear you were the saboteur. In the beginning of the second part, you have just escaped the crew and landed, and must immediately seek shelter when they try to fry you from space with the ship's engines.
  • In Sky Crawlers: Innocent Aces, this is a concern during the boss fight against Wolfram, a massive dirigible/flying fortress. Part of the fight involves stopping it's escape by disabling it's engines. To disable it's engines, you have to fly directly behind it and shoot down it's exhaust pipes. And since Wolfram is propelled by massive circumferential fans, you're fighting wake turbulence the whole time.
  • In Sonic 3 & Knuckles, all of the stage bosses that fly by means of rockets can injure Sonic with said rockets. Few of them do so intentionally, however. Of course, if you've got a Fire Shield, the burning exhaust won't harm you.
  • Space Engineers' thrusters can make a decent Improvised Weapon against ships as the exhaust will burn through light armor, though the range at which they deal damage is short enough to essentially make them melee weapons. If you get stuck after ramming a ship, thrusters are an excellent way to unjam it, as strafing thrusters can burn away the bits and pieces of the torn-up enemy ship stuck on you. Amusingly, thruster damage wasn't initially in the game, so players using fanciful ships designs with concealed thrusters were reporting their ships literally slicing themselves in half when it was added to the game.
  • The Inkjet in Splatoon 2 is equipped with a long-range weapon, and that is your intended way to fight. However, the ink being propelled downwards to keep the wielder afloat can still damage opponents who get caught under it; should an opponent be splatted this way, they will be informed that they were "Splatted by Inkjet exhaust!" — not merely "Splatted by Inkjet!" — making it one of a few handful of weapons to have two possible "Splatted by" messages for the victim.
  • Spyro 2: Ripto's Rage! and Spyro: Year of the Dragon had flying saucers that did this, forcing players to take them head-on.
  • Squad 51 vs. the Flying Saucers has a powerful backburner installed behind your fighter, which works as a Smart Bomb releasing a stream of flames from your exhaust incinerating alien ships behind you. It lasts for at least ten seconds, too, allowing you to take down waves of pursuing enemies in a short time.
  • The Thraddash in Star Control II have afterburners on their ships which accelerate the ship and leave a fiery trail in their wake. This tends to deal more damage to enemy ships than the supposed main weapon.
  • One ability that players can use in Star Trek Online is called Eject Warp Plasma, which vents plasma from the ship's warp drive through special exhausts, creating a massive cloud behind the ship as it travels. Any hostile ship unfortunate to cross paths with this cloud will suffer a massive speed and maneuverability reduction, take plasma Damage Over Time direct to their hull, and revealed if they were using a cloaking device. As the damage ignores the standard-issue Deflector Shields it's highly effective against ships that rely on shields over hull for defense, and predictably it'll evaporate any smaller objects like mines or fighters. The effect can be further weaponized with the Vent Metreon-Laced Plasma trait, which reduces the trail duration but causes it to progressively explode behind the vessel, dealing extra damage in a small area of effect. Both tricks are based off maneuvers used in the various TV series and their movie spinoffs.
  • Star Wars Episode I: Racer has this as a unique feature of Sebulba's vehicle, just like in the movie.
  • Star Wars: Squadrons: Getting too close to the exhaust of a large starship, such as a Star Destroyer or MC75 Cruiser, will result in the player's ship being damaged and possibly destroyed. Downplayed in that smaller ships and fighters can't damage each other in this way.
  • Floyd's Limit Break in Streets of Rage 4 has him shoot a huge laser beam that obliterates all enemies in front of him. The exhaust from the weapon also hits enemies behind him.
  • One of the weapons in Superhero League of Hoboken is a "Modified jet engine".
  • The airship levels in Super Mario Bros. 3 have flamethrowers on the outsides of ships that are probably meant to be thrusters.
  • In Super Mario Sunshine, FLUDD's nozzles meant to propel Mario—the Hover Nozzle, the Rocket Nozzle, and the Turbo Nozzle—can still dissolve harmful goop and damage water-sensitive enemies if the water emitted from the device manages to hit them. Some bosses, such as Phantamanta and Eely-Mouth, were designed to be fought using the Hover Nozzle's exhaust.
  • Several of R.O.B.'s attacks in Super Smash Bros. Brawl involve this.
  • Word of God on Sword of the Stars states that the devs had considered this idea, but then threw it into the reject pile for detracting from the fun by having too much potential for Friendly Fire.
  • PTX-40A in Tatsunoko vs. Capcom uses its thrusters as attacks in some of its command normals.
  • Vectorman: The foot jets that allow him to Double Jump also allow him to deal damage to his enemies via the Goomba Stomp method.
  • The Jordas Golem in Warframe is an Infested boss fought at the end of "The Jordas Precept" quest, as well as the only boss fought in space. It has a gigantic engine grafted to its back that it uses to fly around the arena, leaving behind a trail of poisonous gas as it does so. Unfortunately, said engine also happens to be its only weakspot, meaning you are forced to chase after it and avoid the gas if you want to do any damage.
  • The second boss in Wario Land Shake It used the exhaust flames of his race car as an attack against Wario if Wario came too close (in the second stage of the battle, he actually lowered his car to the ground to burn Wario with the flames if Wario tried to go past him).
  • In X: Rebirth, the massive engines on capital ships deal damage to anything nearby when they are firing, doubly so when they kick in their afterburners for intra-system travel. However, the damaging range is low enough that it is extremely rare for it to damage anything other than the player's ship which is trying to blow up said engine. Ore refineries on space stations vent away excess heat when operating, and civilian craft attempting to pass another craft on the Futuristic Superhighway lanes near stations may unwittingly pass through it and explode.
  • In X-Wing and its later sequels, flying too close to a capital ship's rear thrusters causes damage. If you chose a non-engine location as a staging point for a "safe" point-blank attack, it would use a weapon jamming beam.
  • In XIIZEAL, you can use your ship's jet exhaust to damage enemies, and it is one of two ways to build up and make use of the Score Multiplier alongside the side shot.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Inverted by skilled firebenders in Avatar: The Last Airbender, who are able to send jets of fire out their feet or hands, allowing flight.
  • In Batman: The Brave and the Bold, The Music Meister sends his thralls to their deaths by having them line-dance into a rocket engine's exhaust. Fortunately Batman intervenes.
  • In Batman Beyond, Terry has used his jet boots as weapon:
    • Once to propel a crate at someone. Notably, this is the only time he's actually used it against a living target.
    • Another time to knock an attacking Synthoid away.
    • And another time to send Ace (the Royal flush Gang's android, not the dog) flying into a laundry chute.
  • In The Batman, Batman does this in Mr. Freeze's first appearance. Freeze mocks Batman when his attempt to ram him with a remote-controlled Batmobile misses, only for Batman to kick on the afterburners and torch him into unconsciousness.
  • Bounty Hamster: In a more slapstick-y fashion, the episode "Gone Fishin" has the Moby-Dick-inspired giant sandworm biting into Marion's ship, only to get inflated by the exhaust and propel away like a deflating balloon.
  • The Deep: In "The Dark Orca", Kaiko uses the backwash from the Rover's impellors to blast away two of the Orca's crew who are closing on the incapacitated Ant.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy (2015). Rocket Raccoon is shown learning this lesson in his Origin Story. He steals a Ravenger ship and turns its ion thrusters on the mooks guarding him.
    Rocket Raccoon: The rocket is a means of propulsion AND a weapon!
  • In one episode of Il Était Une Fois... Space, a Cassiopeian soldier is burned to a crisp, but in an Amusing Injuries way, by the engines of the ship the protagonists use to escape.
  • In an early episode of Megas XLR, Coop ends up using the Megas' own exhaust to blot out the sun, draining the REGIS Mk-V of its power.
  • Star Wars: The Bad Batch: When the Bad Batch try to sneak out of a crashed starship through the engine nozzle to avoid an Imperial strike team, Crosshair orders the engine turned on in order to incinerate them. The Bad Batch, however, realize what's happening and use their explosives to sever the nozzle from the engine and roll away inside it. The now-unconfined engine proceeds to spew fire and hot air everywhere, burning most of the Imperials alive.
  • Star Wars Rebels: In "A Princess on Lothal", a cruiser's engines are used to knock over an AT-AT walker.
  • Transformers: Animated: Prowl uses his jetpack to burn a Space Barnacle monster in "Nature Calls".
    • And if the series had continued, it looks like Decepticon Oil Slick uses this as well. Only instead of the propulsion force, he releases chemical weapons through his exhaust.

    Real Life 
  • Aircraft carriers have hydraulically raised blast shields behind the launch catapults specifically to prevent the exhaust from barbecuing the ground crew or throwing anyone overboard.
    • Until recently, those blast shields had to be water cooled to keep them from melting. Now they use ceramic tiles similar to the space shuttles.
  • Mythbusters had a jumbo jet's engines overturn a taxi, a schoolbus, and a smaller aircraft.
    • They also set their own shop on fire testing a rocket engine indoors. Don’t Try This at Home.
    • Top Gear did the same stunt at one point, using a saloon car and then a Citroen 2CV.
    • During the third try at the JATO Rocket Car, the MBs did a nice job of chewing up their ramp with the rocket exhaust.
  • The Supersonic Low Altitude Missile was a proposal for a nuclear-armed cruise missile with a nuclear ramjet for propulsion. Even though the exhaust itself wouldn't have been radioactive, the radiation produced by the unshielded propulsion reactor could have been dangerous to anyone that was near its flight path. Fortunately, it was obsoleted by the invention of the ICBM before it made it out of the initial design stage.
  • Inverted with the Orion Project, which would intentionally launch thermonuclear bombs out the back and catching the blast with a pusher plate on massive shock absorbers. Call it Exhaustized Weapons. Or not.
    • And then played straight with "Casaba-Howitzer", a hypothetical weapon that would use the "shaped charge" aspect of the Orion Drive to essentially turn it into a Wave-Motion Gun.
    • Further Played straight with Robert Zubrin's nuclear salt-water rocket. It mixes water with nuclear fuel salts, then feeds it through an engine that results in an exhaust that is basically a continuous fission explosion. It has the holy grail of rockets: High thrust and high efficiency. Just don't stand behind it. Or use it anywhere inside Earth's atmosphere.
    • The only space station ever to be really armed (an old Soviet station that had a machine gun on it) ran into problems with the reaction from the bullets pushing it out of its correct orbit.
  • Thanks to Newton's laws, it's been argued that any kind of drive powerful enough to accelerate a large ship to appreciable speeds would make a phenomenal weapon against said ship's enemies.
    • Consider the following: to get the space shuttle into orbit, it takes about 10 terajoules of energy. That's enough to boil over 1000 tons of iron, all delivered in eight minutes. That's an average of 20 gigawatts of power. For comparison, when people talk about possible real-world directed energy weapons, they talk in tens of kilowatts. A laser is more directed and longer ranged, but even the relatively wimpy chemical rockets used to get into orbit deliver about two hundred thousand to two million times as much power.
    • If all the fuel in a Saturn V rocket were to burn at once, the resulting explosion would be about the size of the one that leveled Hiroshima in World War II. Space travel in the future is likely to be highly regulated, just because of the damage a single rogue pilot could do.
    • In a case of accidentally weaponized exhaust, the huge white clouds at a rocket launch during liftoff are not actually the rocket's exhaust. They are created from massive amounts of water poured on the launch pad during launch to absorb the enormous energy that would otherwise radiate out from the pad, destroying windows and even structures nearby.
  • The earliest war rockets tended to work this way. When Tippoo Sultan used them against the British in the Indian wars of the late 18th century, rockets tended to do more damage if you dropped them in a confined space and they ricocheted off the walls burning people with their exhaust than if you used them the conventional way. This was partly because they were too inaccurate to be directly aimed at targets, but another thing that played into it was the fact that such rockets couldn't really carry an explosive payload either.
  • Almost all rocket-propelled weapons have a hazardous zone behind them. Size of that zone varies with weapon, but it is a very bad idea to stand behind an MLRS (or a humble RPG operator) during launch. Operators of man-portable rocket-propelled weapons are told not to fire their weapons if they have a wall behind their back. Fiction writers tend to forget this, though, causing anybody who has actually encountered this phenomenon to note the Missing Backblast.
    • Averted by the German Armbrust and French/Canadian Eryx antitank launchers. The Armbrust exhausts a relatively gentle puff of plastic flakes while the exhaust gases are captured in the tube by sealing pistons. The Eryx has a tiny charge to kick the missile out of the tube, then the main rocket ignites at a safe distance. Both launchers can be used in enclosed spaces with no harm to the crew.
    • Also partially averted by the AT4-CS, which uses a salt-water counter-mass to absorb much of the blast, and the RPG-7, which uses a moderate-sized charge to eject the rocket (which then ignites at a safe distance). In both cases, there's some dangerous area behind the tube, but it's at most a few meters long.
  • The General Dynamics F-111 was well known for dump-and-burn performances. Because the main fuel dump valve was located between the exhausts, opening it and bumping the afterburners would leave a spectacular trail of flame. This was a legitimate tactic for confusing heat-seeking missiles and an airshow specialty of the Royal Australian Air Force, even being performed at the 2000 Sydney Olympics closing ceremony.
  • A theoretical physics version: The Alcubierre Drive would fry whatever you stopped at. Then again it'd make interstellar wars pretty easy...
  • The Big Wind is an old tank chassis fitted with surplus jet engines, built to fight oil well fires by blowing them out.
  • The Challenger disaster. Exhaust gasses started leaking through a defective field joint in the solid rocket boosters and proceeded to blowtorch through the hydrogen tank's outer skin like a hot knife through butter.
    • More generally, the shuttle system was inherently unsafe because you couldn't stop the SRBs once lit, and you couldn't separate the orbiter from the SRBs safely while they were burning because there was no way to avoid the orbiter flying into the blowtorch exhaust plumes.note 
  • An American soldier fighting in the Battle of the Bulge recounted how German tank crews dealt with soldiers in foxholes; oftentimes the crews would park their tank over the hole to prevent escape, then begin revving the tank's engine, using the carbon monoxide from the tank's exhaust to suffocate the soldier to death. However, this was considered the more humane way of killing; the alternative choice among more sadistic crews was locking one of the treads over the hole, then spinning the tank around, slowly and painfully grinding and crushing the poor soldier into a pulp.
  • In the air this is so easy to do it can even be done by accident. Pilots are specifically trained to take care when landing after larger aircraft because turbulence left behind in their wake can throw smaller craft out of control. A good example is seen here, where a small plane flips over while trying to land almost a half a minute after a helicopter takes off.
    • Played out straight, tragically, with AA Flight 587 just two months after the 9/11 attacks. The aircraft encountered severe wake turbulence from taking off too soon behind a 747; between the roiling exhaust air and the pilot's attempt to fight it with rudder control, the entire tail and both engines snapped clean off the aircraft and sent all of it into Queens, killing 265 people.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Weaponised Exhaust, Kzinti Lesson


Unpredictable Space Debris

When Mariner needs a place to hide, she finds "dangerous space debris" orbiting an unnamed planet.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / AsteroidThicket

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