Powered by Applied Phlebotinum, Hover Tanks are the go-to Rule of Cool war machine. They usually hover inexplicably only a few feet off the ground, often bobbing slightly. Many may have a variety of Anti Gravity drive, rather than air-powered thrust..
Oddly enough, even when a Hovertank can float/fly high off the ground, it's usually still built like a ground tank, with it's turret and weapons all only covering the top of the vehicle.
They would be utterly impractical using real world technology, as they would burn a lot of fuel just to stay up and yet wouldn't clear most terrain obstacles. They would burn fuel just counteracting recoil (recoil of e.g. a 30-mm autocannon is several tons of average thrust force, plus lots of vibration - and it's going to be applied badly off center, too). The amount of armor and equipment they could carry would also be severely limited. Of course, all that usually doesn't matter in fiction, though some do restrict hovertanks to lighter designs.
In strategy games, they may be faster and more maneuverable than their land-bound counterparts, but more fragile. They are usually amphibious and can travel over water at full speed.
Military hovercraft aren't included. They ride on a mundane air cushion, barely lift off the ground, and have a difficult time operating on non-flat terrain.
Anime and Manga
- The vehicle trope is played with in Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross/Robotech : Southern Cross/The Robotech Masters, where the VHT-1 Spartas is a hovertank, but only in its tank mode for the purposes of transportation. To use its maximum firepower, it must go into Guardian Mode to engage its heavy cannon, but at the cost of being highly restricted in movement. Finally, Battleloid Mode, which is more a humanoid robot configuration is used when the pilot needs more maneuverability for combat.
- Gundam series
- Mobile Suit Gundam introduced the Dom, a heavily-armored Hover-Humongous Mecha. It's oversized forelegs contained jet engines that it used to "skate" across the ground.
- The Tragos mobile suit from Mobile Suit Gundam Wing in it's walker mode is basically the tank of mobile suits, a huge beast with massive armor plates, huge twin shoulder cannons, and a rifle for close combat. With a couple of attachments it can transform into a hover-tank mode, especially useful for navigating desert terrain. The rebel Maguanac Corps also had a hover-based Mobile Suit called the Oliphant, which was apparently used as an unmanned drone since all 40 members of the Maguanac Corps pilot the eponymous Maguanac mobile suits.
- The Five Star Stories have the "Air Balleles" (probably a corruption of Barrel, from the Alternate History name for tanks used in the works of Harry Turtledove). They are actually capable of genuine flight, but prefer to stay close to the ground and generally behave like real tanks to avoid enemy anti-air fire.
Film -- Live Action
- Star Wars A lot of repulsorlift battle vehicles from the franchise. Or rather there's no strict borders between "tanks", "gunships" and "planes". They all are fast and armored. However, the repulsorcraft also have common disadvantages: the Battle of Naboo also demonstrated the problem when AAT, unlike ground vehicles and droids, were stopped by shields. Another one is described in supplementary materials: gravitic anomalities of repulsorlifts allow reliable identification and target lock, and appropriate sensors are used even in missiles of portable launchers.
- Trade Federation's AAT (Armored Assault Tank) appears to be floating MBT - but is actually somewhere between tank, UCV and gunship. It's smaller than other repulsorlift tanks, and while its armament is quite formidable, it's vulnerable to any anti-armor weapon - blaster cannon turret the size of a big pillow mounted on Naboo guard speeders destroyed AAT with a single hit - and its low speed and high silhouette make AAT rather easy to hit. It's not protected from EMP, either.
- In books and game materials the Empire got fast S-1 FireHawke (low profile, great speed and exactly half of AT-AT firepower - two guns, instead of two pairs) and Imperial Repulsortank 1-H (slower, bigger and carrying more auxiliary weapons and crew).
- UT-AT ("Unstable Terrain Artillery Transport") is a spider hovertank (or rather self-propelled artillery/APC) - it got 16 separate repulsorlift ski units, and presumably can stay afloat after losing a few.
- Oddly enough, hover tanks don't make all that many appearances in Star Wars films or games, considering that they look a whole lot more practical than those walkers we see all the time.
- In some of the games, we see "fighter tanks", one-man repulsortanks that emphasize speed and agility over armor. Though some of them make up for that weakness by packing Deflector Shields. Some have a laser turret, while some just have forward-firing guns.
- Sgt. Bilko: Fort Baxter is supposed to be demonstrating a hover tank. The problem is while it can hover fine, it runs into that pesky Third Law of Motion when it tries to fire its cannon with nothing bracing it. When asked to demo this defective technology, they fake it.
- David Drake's Hammer's Slammers series of short stories features fusion-powered air-cushion tanks. Each lift fan has its own armored nacelle to protect it from anything that damages another fan; "while a single broken track block would deadline a tracked vehicle, a wrecked fan only made a blower a little more sluggish."
- Notable because it is explicitly stated that these hover-tanks are unable to cross bridges that would not support their weight. Since they are not anti-gravity, but air-cushion, they still exert pressure on the ground.
- In H. Beam Piper's Uller Uprising, there's mention of "air-tanks" which use Anti Gravity to get to the battle zone quickly and then settle down on tracks to actually fight.
Live Action TV
- In the Space: Above and Beyond episode "Pearly" the alien Chigs have floating tanks. Of course,it's no match for the eponymous Pearly, who is a tank of the good, old-fashioned tread kind.
- 2300 AD makes extensive use of air cushion hovertanks, with all the major nations (and the alien Kafer) fielding their own. They're hydrogen-fueled but indeed use giant lawnmower fans for lift.
- Warhammer 40,000: The Eldar Falcon and Tau Hammerhead and their offshoots are anti-gravity based hover tanks. Though it should be noted that in the fluff text and novels, they are capable of flying at the same altitudes as attack helicopters, and this is reflected in the game rules by them often being able to fly over obstacles and terrain.
- The Eldar don't actually use their skimmers as tanks, they use them in the same manner modern armies use helicopters, with the Falcon as the attack helicopter (think Apache), the Wave Serpent as the transport (think Huey), and the Fire Prism and Night Spinner as heavy artillery on a helicopter platform in a manner completely infeasible with modern technology.
- And consider that the Skimmer type (shared by all of the above vehicles) also includes the Valkyrie, an Imperial Guard transport VTOL jet plane designed to be dropped from orbit and get its cargo of troops to the battlefield.
- The hovercraft from BattleTech, which are unique in that they actually use air-cushion based lift, like real-world hovercraft. True to form, they're fast and zip over water with ease; on the other hand, they're lightweights compared to many conventional tanks, limited to fairly open terrain, can only safely move at full speed while traveling in a fairly straight line, and can be easily and rudely grounded by a single lucky shot.
- The basis of the Tabletop Game Grav Armor.
- Also common in Renegade Legion.
- The Grav Tank in GURPS: Ultra-Tech can travel at the speed of sound and is nearly invisible to sensors until it starts shooting.
- Shadowrun has LAVs (low altitude vehicles) aka Thunderbirds that typically use vectored thrust from jet engines. Notable for being incredible fuel hogs. They are not quite light tanks in their armor and armament, but are far tougher than any aircraft, fixed wing or rotary. Piloting them (at least in earlier editions) was a separate skill from driving a ground vehicle or flying any sort of aircraft.
- The Star Trek: New Worlds game has the player constructing a Federation, Romulan or Klingon colony on an alien world and features a wide variety of hovering vehicles, including tanks. Others include APCs. unarmed scouts and science vehicles and photon torpedo-armed mobile artillery pieces.
- Another unpopular Interplay-published video game Tanktics gives players D.I.Y. tanks that can ride on five types of propulsion. One of these propulsions is the aptly-named "hover base".
- The Hoverdynes from Ground Control, which are faster but frailer than conventional tracked Terradynes.
- "Hover" propulsion from Warzone 2100. Another Fragile Speedster example.
- Earth 2150. Seriously, just take control of the Lunar Corporation and trust us, its army's nothing but hover tanks.
- Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri: Hovercrafts are amphibious Lightning Bruisers, but their high cost makes them nearly Awesome but Impractical.
- The PAC from Battlefield2142 had hover tanks. They were no less durable than their traditional EU counterparts, but they traded the turret in for the very useful ability to strafe.
- Command & Conquer series
- In Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun the Global Defense Initiative got hovering MLRSes. They were fast and able to easily traverse terrain, including skimming over water, but had light armor and were grounded during Ion Storms. And in the next game... GDI went back to treads, ditching both mechas and hover propulsion (with the exception of Juggernauts, which they still use for artillery purposes).
- GDI got both methods of propulsion back in the C&C 3 expansion Kane's Wrath, though only the Steel Talons sub-faction uses the Titans and Wolverines (the latter are described more as Powered Armor than tanks, which most GDI infantry wear anyway).
- Scrin vehicles don't have wheels, so either hover or walk.
- In Red Alert 2, both sides got conventional hovercraft as transports, and in the Yuri's Revenge expansion the Allies also gained robotic hovertanks that could fly over water, but if their control station was destroyed or lost power, they fell into the drink.
- Emperor: Battle for Dune: In another of Westwood's games, House Ordos got kickass hovering tanks with laser cannons and force fields, making them fast, hard-hitting, and surprisingly tough (unless a laser-armed enemy hit their force field).
- The N64 game Battle Tanx had hover tanks called Hover Tanks, which were basically Abrams with turbines and a flat bottom. Though a bit squirrely to control, they could strafe sideways while firing, float over mines without problems, and pick up an impressive amount of speed for ramming other players.
- Halo: The Covenant's Ghost and Wraith.
- Tanarus has a hovertank in it, similar to the one from Battlefield 2142. Fast, maneuverable, packed a decent punch, but no traversable gun turret.
- The Vanu Sovereignty in PlanetSide gets these, in line with their super-futuristic and unconventional array of weaponry.
- All vehicles in Battlezone 1998 except the walkers. Battlezone 2 had a lot of tracked and wheeled vehicles added in. The vector wireframe vehicles in the original 1984 arcade game might have been, but at that resolution who knows?
- X-COM has Hovertank (in variants with Plasma and Fusion Launcher) like this. Of course, they chassis is a crossbred of your basic tank drone with enough of scavenged Flying Saucer tech to build your own.
- Ace Online: The Anima Mortar, or A-Gear is a fully flight-capable Hover Tank, armed with an awesome Siege Mode for its main gun.
- Wing Commander IV: Hover tanks make an appearance in cutscenes of the Circe mission branch. They're pretty much just Cannon Fodder for the good guys, though, and don't even get the dignity of counting in killscores.
- Mass Effect 2: The Hammerhead, a replacement for the first game's Mako.
- Both sides in Dark Reign used hovertanks for their heavy tanks, with the Imperium using hover technology for all their vehicles.
- Both Civilization: Call to Power and Call to Power 2 have Fusion Tanks, which fill a similar in game role as modern day tanks, and can also travel over shallow water.
- Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri features a chassis called the hovertank, which is Exactly What It Says on the Tin. Hovertanks move three squares per turn (rather than the Speeder's two) and apparently require nanotechnology to build. The details of how they work are not given, nor are they important; the idea, no doubt, was to create a land unit with 3 movement points.
- The Diamondback was one in StarCraft II for a while, but it got dropped (from the normal lineup at least) later. It remains as a campaign-only unit in Wings of Liberty, featuring a pair of anti-armor railguns and the unique ability to fire while moving.
- In Sonic Colors, the Wii-exclusive Green Wisp's power is to turn Sonic into an organic version of this, which also allows him to fly across trails of rings.
- Empire Earth replaces conventional tanks with hover-tanks in the late epochs.
- Not the first game. It has a hovertank unit that can traverse seafloor but it cannot be built outside custom maps.
- Hell it can't even do that, but underwater instead, probably because of engine limitations.
- Not the first game. It has a hovertank unit that can traverse seafloor but it cannot be built outside custom maps.
- The Atari Jaguar games Hover Strike and Hover Strike: Unconquered Lands has the player pilot a futuristic hovertank against enemy tanks and bases to rescue colonists from space pirates.
- Incoming Forces included hovertanks as well as conventional tanks as playable units. Their advantages over conventional tanks were tenfold - they could slide sideways for evasive manouvering.
- Warzone2100 includes a hovercraft option for propulsion, which unfortunately wander into Awesome but Impractical territory; they're fast but poorly armoured, but if weighed down with the more powerful late-game weapons their speed drops noticeably. Their one advantage is that they're amphibious, enabling attacks from unexpected directions.
- Supreme Commander features both Fragile Speedster and main combat versions. In addition, all Aeon Engineer units hover, as opposed to the more traditional amphibious nature of the other races.
- Total Annihilation featured Hovercraft in it's Core Contingency Expansion, to the point that they were essentially merely hovering versions of the normal ground vehicles. Useful on the wide variety of swamp maps however.