Point Defenseless

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Plot Armor: offering more protection than Deflector Shields since 1977.

"Point defense" is a military term referring to the active protection of a single asset, such as a ship or a building. In modern terms, this means computerized systems with sophisticated targeting sensors that automatically engage incoming enemy aircraft or missiles. In fiction, this can apply to space combat as well. But when a target is Point Defenseless, these systems never actually work. They may be able to swat Mook swarms from the sky or slag a Red Shirt or two, but even in the best of cases they're mysteriously unable to touch any main character. Their primary purpose seems to be offering an impressive light show.

This may be in part because many fictional point defense system still use WWII-style manually operated, visually targeted cannons instead of the automatic systems that replaced them (even when the story ostensibly has a higher tech level than modern day), but even the most futuristic AI-controlled laser-firing point defenses can fall victim to this trope. Attackers may be forced to jink and dodge, or they may be able to cruise in straight and level while bullets whizz past them, but even if the point defenses manage to take out some of the attackers, it will never be able to stop them all.

This is an application of the Rule of Drama; it's far more dramatic when people have to defend a target, rather than faceless machinery. It can also be a form of Plot Armor, when point defense can shoot down Mooks and Red Shirts but not main characters. After all, how ignoble would it be for The Hero to get shot down by something as abrupt and impersonal as an automated turret, without even a chance to demonstrate their Improbable Piloting Skills with some Old School Dogfighting? It can be part of Acceptable Breaks From Reality if the game system explicitly intends for a Tactical Rock-Paper-Scissors scheme. At its simplest, you could have something like fighter/torpedo boat wolfpacks (INSPACE!) nibbling big-gun battleships to death, which in turn get shredded by PD-heavy escorts or screening elements, which in turn get blown away by battleships...

See also A-Team Firing and Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy. If the point defense guns blaze away at where the hero just was, that's a Hero-Tracking Failure.

Examples of Point Defenseless include:


Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Generally speaking, point defenses in the various Gundam series do little but provide visual spectacle, but every so often they actually manage to accomplish something useful.
    • In Chars Counterattack, a Neo-Zeon ace is killed by the Ra-Cailum's point defense after getting cocky and attacking the ship by herself.
    • Gundam Seed and Gundam Seed Destiny are better about this than most other Gundam series, as the main ships of the series are frequently seen shooting down incoming missiles and at least deterring enemies from attacking, though they ultimately play the trope straight, as they never manage to so much as damage any character with a name.
      • Not really, at least where the Universal Century Gundams are concerned. Cosmic Era point defenses are automated, whereas Universal Century point defenses are manned, which should stand to reason that the Cosmic Era ones should be able to hit people with names. Instead, the manually targeted ones from the Universal Century actually seem to achieve better hit rates where characters are concerned.
        • Also Cosmic Era point defense weapons are mostly ballistic weapons, and most of the named pilots ride in Mobile Suits with Phase Shift armor, which takes no damage from solid weaponry. Quite a few times early in the series, during the stolen Gundams' fights Strike and the Archangel, the Archangel's defensive turrets would peg the ZAFT Gundams, but they did no damage because of the armor.
    • Additionally, quite a few mobile suits (including almost every single Gundam) has vulcan guns mounted in their heads or chests. These rarely ever get used, since all they're good for is taking out cameras or the occasional Critical Hit; they don't even get used to shoot down missiles, their intended function. The only subversion comes in Gundam Seed C.E.73 Stargazer, where we get a very visceral demonstration of anti-personnel machineguns mounted in the Slaughter Daggers' feet.
  • In the Super Dimension Fortress Macross franchise, like Gundam, the point-defense guns light space up like a Christmas tree without actually accomplishing much, with a few exceptions.
    • In Macross Plus, the latest Super Prototype goes up against the thirty year old guns on the Macross, and ends up having chunks of armor shot off.
    • In Macross Zero, a minor battleship Algeciras managed to shoot down at least two mooks and two missiles before being sunk by the remaining two ASMs launched by the enemy Ace Pilot and his wing(wo)man. The carrier Asuka herself has several Destroids as point-defense. Predictably, they're chow food for the baddies as well.
    • In Macross Frontier, Alto, also in a Super Prototype, is nearly shot down (and has his FAST pack blown off) by the the CIDS on a Vajra ship.
      • In addition, as the first Vajra attack is bearing down on the colony ship, you can see Frontier's point defenses shoot down almost all of them, allowing only the one to get through on-screen (though more apparently make it through later).
  • Played with in Crest of the Stars: while most ships aren't much in point defense department, they created a class of ship solely as a point defense platform, which mounts CIWS [1] stations by the hundred in order to create a veritable (and almost impenetrable) Bullet Hell around its charges.
  • While the Neuroi in Strike Witches had defense arsenals after the manner of Real Life aircraft (with Energy Weapons, no less), they could seldom overcome the heroines' dodge-fu, and the stuff that did hit was harmless (except when dramatically appropriate).
  • Amaterasu's point defense system in Starship Operators seems to unable to hit the laser module. Though it might be that PDS can't turn fast enough, since the module is moving quite fast and sliding on the side of the ship, not moving towards it.
  • In My-HiME, a Searrs ship is prominently seen failing to nail Midori and Gakutenou even when they're moving in predictable straight-line paths. When Mai and Kagutsuchi attack some ships, some time is spent showing one SAM going after them. Not even one per ship; one total.
  • The Phalanx CIWS in one of the Arleigh Burke class ships in Sentou Yousei Yukikaze could not take down the JAM fighter heading straight for it. Justified in that the JAM fighter was flying lower than the gun's maximum depression point. The second JAM fighter seems to have been brought down by another cruiser, but chances are it was Yukikaze's kill.
  • During Ivanovic's invasion in Dance in the Vampire Bund, the Phalanx CIWS guns on the island's perimeter are unable to stop incoming cruise missiles because they were sabotaged. Subverted when the saboteur then turns them on Bund-controlled helicopter gunships.


Film[edit | hide]

  • The Star Wars franchise does this frequently.
    • The climactic battle in A New Hope has the Death Star's (manually aimed) point defense unable to hit more than one or two Red Shirts, forcing Darth Vader and his TIE fighters to go out for some Old School Dogfighting action. This is noted in the Rebel mission briefing as the reason they sent only fighters; the Empire considered one-man craft to be a negligible threat to the station and so they're basically taking potshots with anti-capital ship weapons. In Return of the Jedi, the Empire learns its lesson and builds thick anti-fighter gunnery and surrounds the whole station in a massive energy shield during construction.
    • Similarly, the space battle at the end of The Phantom Menace shows Naboo fighters getting blown out of the sky, but they don't seem to bother Anakin in the least.
  • Star Trek Generations mentions that targeting and shooting a single missile aimed at the sun would have taken "eight to fifteen seconds". Though this may be justified because the missile is clearly Faster Than Light.
  • The film version of Tom Clancy's The Sum of All Fears had a scene where an American carrier (unrealistically traveling without escorts) is set upon by Russian aircraft. It is seen firing its CIWS at the incoming missiles, to little effect. This was actually something of a transplant of a scene from another Tom Clancy novel (see the Literature entry).
  • Red Tails more or less plays this straight, especially for the hapless crews of the Flying Fortress bombers. More or less Truth in Television there.
    • Seemingly the sole exception in the entire movie is when Junior gets hit by a flak gun while raiding a German airfield. He survives, only to be shot down again later on. He survives that time too.
    • Worth noting, when they fly into the range of German Anti-Air guns over a bombing target, the fighter pilots have to bug out and link up with the bombers again later, since there is nothing that they can do to defend the heavies from the large anti-aircraft guns. That's certainly acceptable since since the German fighters do the same to avoid friendly fire, of course.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • The USS Nimitz in Red Storm Rising gets hit by two anti-ship missiles in the first major engagement of World War Three due to a targeting conflict; the last two missiles are approaching so close together that the fire-control software, programmed to target the closest incoming vampire first, glitches out. (Possibly inspired by Real Life; see below.) The battle is actually a pretty realistic depiction of point defenses on modern ships, describing the various defensive measures the fleet takes to shoot down the incoming missiles. The CIWS shot down three other missiles, and many more missiles were shot down before they got that close. Too bad there were a couple of hundred missiles launched, each of them effectively a One-Hit Kill on anything smaller than Nimitz herself.
  • Zig-zagged in the Posleen War Series, where Posleen defensive hardware is very dangerous to anything flying under its own power (even stealth equipment and hero characters), but completely useless against unguided rockets or artillery shells.
    • Probably justified by that as a species the Posleen don't really know how to use their own (inherited) tech; even their technical geniuses at most tweak the stuff based on a partial and sketchy grasp of the underlying principles rather than invent. In particular, their sensors are set using control combinations discovered by trial and error.
  • Invoked in some of the Star Wars Expanded Universe books, particularly the X Wing Series. Though lucky shots will probably take a few out, the only really effective way to keep Space Fighters from battering capital ships to death is other space fighters.
    • Notably, the Empire created an entirely new ship packed with smaller, faster firing turbolasers specifically to counter the Rebellion's overuse of fighters. It still isn't as effective as Old School Dogfighting.
  • In Tad Williams' Otherland, during the climax, the mile-high tower that is the headquarters of J Corp is revealed to possess surface-to-air missile defenses to complement its private army. Considering that they are employed to deal not with aircraft but with a massive satellite falling from orbit, it's unsurprising that they prove ineffective.
  • Honor Harrington, being relatively-realistically-extrapolated Space Opera Military Science Fiction, plays with this in fifteen different ways. Firstly, no one is ever actually flying in any sort of fighter that would be vulnerable to point defense systems, but they use many different layers of missile defense to deal with the Macross Missile Massacre that becomes the standard method of attack. Of course, actual point defense systems as we know them are only one layer of this shield, and not nearly the most effective one. On the other hand, they do form one of the final lines of defense against enemy fire. Of course, the older ships of the Solarian League use autocannon point defense (as opposed to laser) which is horribly obsolete compared to Manticoran or Havenite multi-drive missiles, and so will play the trope straight.
    • One of the recurring elements of the books is loving, detailed descriptions of how many missiles are whittled away—or not—by each layer of protection. They almost invariably end with "[X] got through." followed by a cut to the targets' experience, often with an Oh Crap or several.
  • Generally averted in Dale Brown books, where Macross Missile Massacres and stealth have to be used to get munitions past layers on layers of enemy PD.
  • Averted in David Drake's Hammers Slammers stories because the availability of near-light-speed energy weapons has rendered aircraft and slow-flying missiles obsolete in a combat zone; if you can see it, you can kill it.
  • In the assorted Starfire books by Steven White (and David Weber), point defense against fighters and missiles is a critical part of combat but doesn't work nearly as well as you'd think their technology should allow.
  • In Harry Turtledove's Worldwar books, the Race uses anti-missile missiles to shoot down World War Two-era human missiles. However, human missiles get better and better as the war rages on, and the Race is incapable of manufacturing more missiles. These AM missiles generally have a good track record, with the notable exception of the Dora railway gun, which managed to fire two shots and blow up two Race starships. The large Dora rounds are misidentified by a Race radar technician as missiles, who engages standard anti-missile defenses. However, the rounds' thick shells prevent them from being shot down by the AM missiles. Then again, there's nothing that the lizards could've done at this point, as their starships are merely interstellar troop transports with no armor or armaments of their own.

Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Generally averted on Babylon 5: Many races' ships use fast-tracking "Interceptor" weapons systems, which lay down high volumes of very accurate defensive fire to neutralize incoming enemy weapons fire. Several episodes show what happens when Space Fighter pilots get too close to these systems without the support of larger warships.
    • However, when there is a big enough disparity in technology or firepower, such as during the Earth-Minbari War, the weaker side will often find themselves getting steam rolled without their defensive gunnery having much effect.
  • This appeared to be the case for both the Colonials and the Cylons in the original Battlestar Galactica back in the 70's. Both sides used slow-firing, slow tracking gun turrets that were easily overwhelmed by the fast-moving Raiders and Vipers, and depended on their embarked fighter wings for effective defense.
  • In the new Battlestar Galactica the Cylon Basestars are literally point defenseless, with sound justification. They rely on their Raiders to intercept enemy missiles and fighters (although they can shoot enemy missiles with their own missiles), as well as get in the way of enemy shells. The Raiders are even capable of faster-than-light travel, allowing the Cylons to engage the Colonials without ever bringing their motherships close. If they find themselves in a fight sans Raiders, however, the Colonial ships usually end up pounding them into scrap. The Battlestars, by contrast, have massive gun batteries to lay down Defensive Supression Barrages to force the Cylons to give them some breathing room.
    • A first season episode with Galactica's Viper wing launching a raid on a Cylon asteroid base subverted this trope. Even when using a Kansas City Shuffle to fake out the Cylons' Raider defenders, and Wild Weasel tactics to suppress the Cylon anti-airspace defenses, the Viper pilots still get swatted like helpless flies due to the sheer volume of enemy fire. While the Redshirts are dying, however, Lee manages to pull off an Airstrike Impossible by flying through a tunnel to get inside the base's defenses. In Galactica terms, this would be called "Pulling a Starbuck".
  • Zig-zagged in Andromeda, the titular ship has both Point-Defense Lasers and remote drones but enemy missiles still manage to hit it often.
    • It's implied in the pilot episode that most of the PDLs are still targetted manually. While the AI can do it, a Macross Missile Massacre can overwhelm her targetting capabilities.


Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • A third-party supplement for d20 Anime used this trope in order to match the feel of real anime. One of the settings, a Serial Numbers Filed Off version of Macross, has a sidebar describing the capabilities of the heroes' home base ship, saying that it has no stats due to "dramatic immunity" (except in the final battle) and that its point defenses can mow down hordes of cannon fodder mecha, but are useless against the enemy commanders (who will no doubt develop rivalries with the protagonists).
  • Anti-missile systems in BattleTech have aspects of this. Depending on the ruleset, they either run out of ammo almost instantly or are actually forbidden from being 100% effective—ie, if the attacker succeeded on his to-hit roll, at least one missile will hit the target, regardless of how good its point defense is.
  • Surprisingly an Averted Trope in Mekton. A well-designed point-defense system can shred virtually any Mekton in only a few hits. For this reason, point defense is very often left out of warship designs...
  • Averted in Battlefleet Gothic, most starships have at least one point of Turrets that can hold off torpedoes and bombers. Though most ships only have one (up to some light cruisers) to two (from light cruisers up) points of turrets, and base chance to intercept is 1/2, meaning that on average a Lunar-class cruiser attacked by four bomber squadrons is still going to take three of the attacks. Tyranid ships constantly emit and reabsorb short-range spore clouds as an equivalent of "shields" and "turrets".
    • In Rogue Trader not even a Void Kraken is defenseless. It can't shoot, but in addition to huge tentacles which can grapple ships, it has small tentacles which scratch its hide if it feels "parasites" and flail at anything that moves nearby - sure, some may get severed or vaporized, but there's a whole forest of them, and they regrow.
  • The point defense in GURPS: Spaceships is not terribly effective, very dangerous when combined with the massive damage missiles can do. A later supplement in the series added the Missile Shield design switch to let beam weapons hit as many incoming objects per second as they can fire shots.

Video Games[edit | hide]

  • In general, any game where the player controls a single fighter (optionally Recycled in Space) will likely feature large (space)ships with highly ineffective point defenses. Probably because a halfway efficient point defense would send the player back to the loading screen fast and often.
  • In the first Crysis game, the US fleet isn't the least bit able to defend itself against the slow moving hordes of alien ships. Worse, the fleet gets only a 5 second warning about the approaching ships before they wreck the carrier's flight deck by simply crashing into it. A later cutscene shows many more alien craft in the background, and a nuclear warhead had just been detonated, so they could've easily told us the aliens did a Zerg Rush and 99% were shot down before getting close and have the damage done by the remaining 1%, or that the systems were blinded by the nuke's EMP waves.
  • In the various Star Wars space sim games, there are often laser turrets that are more specifically designed for swatting X-wings. They tend to fail horribly at their jobs when you learn how to handle them.
    • In the Star Wars: X-Wing and TIE Fighter games, you can simply jiggle the stick while moving in any direction but directly at a turret to evade all fire—the Frickin' Laser Beams move so slowly that the slightest deviation in direction will throw a shot off.
    • The Rogue Squadron games often forced you to directly confront these laser turrets, which is suicidal to do head-on, but if you can get below their firing arc (and they're often on top of hills or on canyon ledges to facilitate this), they're completely helpless.
    • Battlefront II's Space Combat mode avoided player immunity to AA by having the automated turrets of capital ships shoot exploding lasers (don't think about it). This made up for their poor accuracy by making it extremely difficult for small fighters like A-Wings to fly within range of them, lest they run into a flak barrage and explode uselessly.
  • Mostly averted in Privateer 2, in which even cargo freighters are at Gunship Rescue level thanks to their relentless, targeted, and high-powered turret fire. Either you're constantly evading, you get out of range, or you get shredded. Depending on the ship, you might be able to take it out by getting into that blind spot.
  • Capital ships in Homeworld almost invariably need escorts against waves of fighters, as they have little or no point defense. This is a deliberate part of the Tactical Rock-Paper-Scissors, and a few capital ships are effective against fighters at the cost of not countering what capital ships normally counter—Missile Destroyers, for instance, will shred fighter fleets. On the other hand, the Mothership itself is armed with some serious point defenses that can repel anything short of a massed bomber attack.
    • In Homeworld Cataclysm, most of the ships end up subverting this trope. All of the larger capital ships are at least armed with homing energy cannons or precise guns that severely negate the usefulness of fighter squadrons against them. The Somtaaw capital ships carry missile launchers in addition to the rest of their guns, killing off any chance of a serious fighter attack.
      • Cataclysm also brings us a whole new way of averting this trope - the little Sentinel defense pods, which are armed with a single (upgradable) gun. A full dozen of them are needed to fully shield a ship, but when you achieve that the ship's shield itself dakkas attacking fighters with frightful effectiveness.
    • Homeworld 2's capital ships takes this trope down half a notch. Battlecruisers and Destroyers, especially of the Hiigaran kind, have developed pretty potent antifighter defense for ships that are built from the ground-up to pick on others their own size. This perk gives capital ships an edge against lone fighter squadrons, forcing the opponent to utilize numbers if he wants his winning edge back.
      • The fan-created mod Homeworld 2: Point Defense Systems attempts to address the problem directly in the name of realism. All capital ships get secondary guns dedicated to shooting down incoming missiles and fighters. The massive firepower of the capital ships makes up for whatever lack of ability the strike craft have in taking on the big boys. While the added point defense systems are far from perfect (again, balance), it is still a very noticeable subversion of this trope.
  • Ships in Nexus the Jupiter Incident can be equipped with rapid-fire flak lasers that can destroy enemy fighters and incoming missiles (but not torpedoes, they are too fast) -- though you're better off with fighter escort since they break off and intercept threats automatically.
    • Most fighters lack sufficient firepower to do decent damage to enemy ships. Their main goal is to disable subsystems. Higher-end fighters have lasers powerful enough to penetrate shields.
  • Gratuitous Space Battles has this as one aspect. Fighters/Bombers can easily destroy even biggest ship since to BFG cannons can't lock and fire fast enough. On the other hand, if fleet has even decent Point Defence systems, fighters are having hard time. All part of Tactical Rock-Paper-Scissors.
    • Well, not so much RPS and much more appropriate defensive allocation. Any cruiser can stock more than enough anti-fighter/bomber point defense to shred even the largest cloud of them, but it'll cost them points that could be used for much heavier firepower, possibly leaving them open to capital ships. It must be pointed out that no quantity of fighters alone will be able to destroy a fleet that is prepared for them.
    • Also, it's not really that the BF Gs can't hit the fighter/bombers, it's that they alone fly under the Cap ships' shields, thus attacking the generally weaker hull directly.
  • The original Free Space played this very straight, with even the heaviest Destroyers packing no more than a few easily-dodgeable "blob turrets" and puny missile launchers. In response, the sequel loaded every capital ship down with exploding flak and hitscan Anti-Fighter Beams. For the most part this was an improvement, but it also gave birth to the Aeolus-Class Cruiser, a Demonic Spider so tough it never makes an un-nerfed appearance at any point in the campaign. The turret AI was also made a bit more intelligent: it will now attempt to shoot down incoming bombs, and even prioritize them over nearby enemy fighters.
    • Some fan-made mods take it even further: The Procyon Insurgency ups the fire rate on the blob turrets to the point where they're practically beam gatlings, making them extremely dangerous.
  • Ace Combat's flying fortresses and naval ships frequently carry AA guns, but they're mostly harmless except at the very highest difficulty levels because of how the games handle damage. They're also completely unable to shoot down the player's missiles. On the other hand, flying fortresses and ships can also launch missiles, which can knock you right out of the sky.
    • In Ace Combat 5, the heroes' aircraft carrier is damaged by a sea-skimming anti-ship missile during a cutscene, despite its CIWS's attempts to shoot it down. This is actually fairly realistic—see Real Life, below.
    • Ace Combat X: Skies of Deception includes "high-performance" AAA that is able to intercept your bombs and missiles in one mission (two, actually... sort of). This is so significant for the series that the mission briefing and Mission Control specifically point out the aversion.
    • In Joint Assault Sulejmani's Varcolac has a rear-facing gatling that shoots missiles aimed at his six out of the air.
    • In Ace Combat: Assault Horizon, when attacking Renegade Russian ships, a few of the larger ships ships are actually able to successfully defend against uncoordinated missile strikes with their CIWS, requiring the player to use overwhelm the point defenses by striking simultaneously with other aircraft.
  • Point defense guns in The Sigma Star Saga fire at a 45-degree angle that can't be altered.
  • Sword of the Stars features point defense guns. Ballistics are optimized to shoot down down drones and mines, whereas Laser Point Defenses are best against torpedoes and missiles. High-tech Phasers are more effective and can kill multiple targets in one sweep, but are a late-game tech that is rarely available. Argos Naval Yard introduced Interceptor Missiles, which are even better at nailing drones, mines and torpedoes but cannot hit missiles. Take note, though, that the necessary research option is only randomly available and the Random Number God may not like you. Any weapon can be used for point defense in a pinch, even Mass Drivers and Heavy Combat Lasers, but the faster turret tracking of dedicated PD weapons is preferred. Furthermore, ship design firing arcs affect the usefulness of PD - Tarka in particular are very bad at nailing munitions coming in from above or below the plane of combat.
    • There are also "light emitters" (they don't emit light; they're just a smaller version of the standard "emitter"). A single blast can eliminate several missiles closeby. Their fire rate is a little slow, though.
    • The best way to deal with missiles seems to be is to use a dedicated Wild Weasel destroyer, which attracts most of the enemy missiles toward it while sending the rest back at the enemy (and the enemy won't try to destroy them, as they don't classify as "foe"). Of course, if you want your Wild Weasel to survive the battle (or even the first volley), you better keep a few dedicated PD ships nearby to swat all the missiles before they hit.
  • Supreme Commander provides an aversion. Between the availability of base-covering shields, artillery emplacements and long range radar, base defenses can do an acceptable job of holding off an attack.
  • While autofiring Point Defense cannons didn't appear until SE4, in the Space Empires games point defense cannons will generally rip apart missiles and fighters.
  • In Super Smash Bros Brawl, The Subspace Gunship has enough auto-turrets to literally fill the sky with projectiles.... yet they can't hit the broad side of a barn door. The destruction of the Halberd was implied to be a deliberate action on part of the heroes; once the smaller ships are released, the Gunship's turrets are suddenly slightly less accurate than your average Imperial Stormtrooper. Even Olimar's ship (shown later as barely capable of keeping up with the other ships) has little trouble avoiding the enemy fire.
  • In Infinite Space, AA lasers avert this in that they can and do shred fighters, but they're just not as useful as having a fighter complement of your own since the game prevents you from moving if you're under attack from fighters. One instance where this is best averted is in your first fight with Oisin, where he shoots tracker mines that keep your ship from moving and just blow up your fighters, whereas using your AA lasers finishes the fight in a few seconds.
  • StarCraft plays it straight with the Protoss Carrier which launches waves of small drones to attack the target, but itself has no weaponry of any kind, then SC2 averts it with the Terran's new Raven, which is able to deploy a Point Defense Laser drone to hover over your forces shooting down a good percentage of enemy missile/beam attacks until it runs out of energy.
  • In EVE Online, larger ships tend to cart around larger weapons. Makes sense, yes? Larger weapon turrets unfortunately track more slowly than smaller ones. This results in battleships that can slug it out with another battleship, but can't manage to pick off the swarms of frigates that will attack because its anti-battleship cannons track too slowly. This can be fixed by having some ships in the fleet outfitted with smaller weapons specifically to deal with the smaller ships, functioning as roving point-defense ships. Often, however, the battleships will simply load up on multiple flights or drones to deal with smaller annoyances.
    • Even then, there's still the fact that big ships take longer to lock on to targets than small ships. The best defense is to have some smaller ships in your fleet. Any fleet commander worth his salt will ensure this.
  • Possible in the X-Universe. Some ships may have only larger guns that can't track faster fighters or missiles. In X3 the Kha'ak suffer from Crippling Overspecialization where, while their weapons make great point defense, they don't scale well and their capital ships can't stand up to their peers.
    • With the Bonus Pack scripts installed, the trope is thoroughly averted for player-owned ships of Commonwealth design. Mosquito Missile Defense uses the otherwise worthless Mosquito missile to intercept incoming ordnance. Capital ships can potentially carry thousands, making for an all but impenetrable missile shield. But the script doesn't work on ships that can't normally fire Mosquitoes, making it useless on M7M Missile Frigates and anything built by the Terrans.
  • As expected from its source material, most battleships in Super Robot Wars have terrible accuracy when used against anything besides Mecha-Mooks, and basically any boss will freaking laugh at any weapon they'd be hit by except ones that are so huge they have sections of their ship built around them.
  • The Human Cruiser from Star Control has point defense lasers as a secondary weapon to compliment its nuclear missile launcher, but they're only really useful on the interstellar equivalent of peashooters (or possibly Cherry Tapping). Anything thicker will cruise right through to hit the ship. The Precursor flagship can be outfitted with P.D. lasers with similar properties.
    • On the other hand, their PD system absolutely pissed off the Ur-Quan, who use swarms of fighters. And in Star Control 2, the Orz Marines would have fits trying to get through Cruiser Point Defense, though you have to annoy them pretty bad before they'll attack at all. In most other circumstances though, the Cruiser is better off spamming nukes.
    • A computer-controlled Ur-Quan Dreadnought will not launch fighters at an Earthling Cruiser. Then again, it doesn't have to. It can just close in and blast the Puny Earthlings into atoms. Computer is also quite adept at shooting down the slow missiles with the Dreadnought's main gun.
  • Gravity Crash's levels are strewn with fixed cannons; due to a combination of aiming issues and extreme vulnerability to your ship's gun (they often go down in a single shot), they provide the bad guys practically no defense to speak of.
  • Anti missile guns in Mechwarrior 3 shoot down incoming missiles, if you remember to turn them on. Enemies seem to lack them.
  • The aggressive defence augmentation of Deus Ex destroys missiles before they can hit you, at higher levels it can actually hurt enemies by making their rockets explode near them.
  • Dead Space has automated asteroid defence guns which are supposed to protect the ship from bits and pieces of the planet it's cracking. It fails, requiring you to manually operate one until it can be rebooted.
  • Battlestar Galactica Online: Lines are generally bad at targetting small, agile Strikes. Flyswatting is the job of Escorts, but a good Strike pilot can still give them a run for their money.
  • City of Heroes has an aversion with the Vanguard Base in the Rikti Warzone. The turrets around the base are level 54, generally Lieutenants and Bosses, are backed up by a pair of level 54 Humongous Mecha, whereas the nearest enemies are, at maximum, level 38. The said, it is played straight during missions involving the Vanguard base, as those selfsame turrets are spawned to the level of the mission, alongside notably more enemies than they can usually successfully take on, and the mecha are taken out before the mission. Similarly, the turrets in the Shadow Shard are never shown firing on anything (because they actually predate the Turrets enemy group).
  • Nearly every Core (torso, that is) unit from Armored Core carried a point-defense unit against incoming missile, from the first game. This explains the barrel-like protrusions from many Cores. Starting from Armored Core 2, shoulder-mounted CIWS systems start to be introduced, from missile, laser and gun-based interception, to simple missile misdirection. Their effectiveness range from "acceptable", "total protection", and "dead weight".
    • Oddly, the only game that lacks any point defence system is Armored Core 4 and for Answer, relegating anti-missile to flares only. This being 4/fA, that seldom works due to the sheer Macross Missile Massacre feats that other AC units can pull off.
  • In Master of Orion 2 missiles tend to fly in big swarms (especially from planets and orbital bases), so adequate defence is almost always necessary, and it's available. Most guns have immediately available modification "Point Defense" - it halves the cost, size, range and damage of a weapon, gives a bonus to hit and automatically fires just before hit (i.e. at zero range) at incoming missiles and small craft in its arc, but doubles range penalties to accuracy and damage. There are also Anti-Missile Rockets - special weapon that fires in any direction, also shoots defensively, kills a missile with every hit no matter its armor, is fairly small, and has good hit rate independent from the ship's attack value - but it works at all only against missiles, not fighters or bombers (or ships); as such it's only good in early game when PD weapons and targeting computers are weak. But late game has torpedoes, and any PD is useless against them - only ECM, flyswatter devices and Lightning Field (which falls between these groups) help to avoid damage.


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Gargoyles used this heavily. One wonders why Xanatos and Macbeth invested so much money in their respective point-defence systems, given that the turrets were invariably too slow to track gargoyles in Not Quite Flight and were made short work of.


Real Life[edit | hide]

  • In reality, modern point defense systems are last-ditch desperation weapons primarily intended for use against incoming missiles; a missile only gets close enough to be engaged by point defenses if someone else has already screwed up. Given the difficulty of hitting a relatively small target hurtling toward you at multiple times the speed of sound in the few seconds between when you can first detect it and when it hits you, even modern anti-missile systems are far from foolproof, though they certainly aren't useless.
    • It should be noted that the US Phalanx CIWS is actually very accurate and effective when automated. The downside is that it can't be kept automated for long periods of time due to the chance of false positives and friendly fire. Most systems will alert a human operator before actually engaging a potential threat.
  • A notable cause of failure in modern point defense is actually programming errors.
    • Older model Patriot systems used in the first Gulf War had a critical rounding oversight in the internal clock, totally insignificant at first, but which snowballed hour after hour until they couldn't hit an idling zeppelin. Until the software was patched, they had to be manually rebooted every few hours to stay accurate.
    • Because they were originally designed to engage planes, Patriot missiles tended to detonate too slowly when fired at SCUD missiles (which travel much faster than manned aircraft), resulting in actual performance falling short of test results until a later software update.
    • In the Falklands War a number of British Type 42 destroyers got hit by not only guided anti-ship missiles but also Argentine aircraft lobbing unguided munitions at them. The early iterations of the class were fitted with GWS30 Sea Dart surface-to-air missile system for anti-air defense; problem was, if aircraft or missiles managed to close to within a certain range, software issues with the SAM system caused them to be unable to properly track and fire at targets because they were too close. This limitation was the reason why the class was latter fitted with two Mk.15 Phalanx CIWS.
    • The newer Sea Wolf SAM fitted to a few ships in the fleet had a problem with its fire-control software that most likely inspired the example in Red Storm Rising described above; when multiple Argentine fighter-bombers approached in line-abreast formation, the program threw a fit because it was supposed to target the closest threat first.
  • There's actually a group of people dedicating to make this trope Truth in Television—the Wild Weasel units' mission is the suppression of enemy anti-air fire. They do this primarily by deliberately drawing fire and then letting other members of the team destroy the AA facilities that revealed themselves by attacking. Appropriately, their unofficial motto is "YGBSM", which stands for "you gotta be shittin' me", supposedly the response of one of the original Wild Weasel team members upon being told the details of his new assignment.
  • The odds of downing a single enemy aircraft with ship's guns during WW 2 were miniscule most of the time, but this wasn't really a problem. Flak wasn't meant to kill enemy aircraft, it was meant to protect the ship, and an aircraft that flinched or dropped its weapon from too far away for accuracy was as good as a kill. Thus it wasn't as important to hit the plane as it was to make sure you came close. This is probably where the trope comes from, and the heroic pushing through the flak screen was something that happened several times in the Pacific. Often, however, it came at a terrible cost.
    • The Battle of the Eastern Solomons provides a good example: the last of Imperial Japan's pre-war carrier pilots pressed their attack home into the teeth of flak from both Enterprise and the new battleship North Carolina and several other ships. They got three hits on Enterprise, but three quarters of them died to do it.
    • Kamikazes were the ultimate recognition that it was impossible to accurately aim a bomb or torpedo under fire from US ships. Turning the aircraft itself into the weapon meant it had to be hard-killed to stop it, and consequently upped the percentage of hits.
      • The main reason that the Kamikaze strategy was deemed a failure was because of the Japanese air force's humanity; they were unwilling to commit more forces to a (literal) Suicide Mission than absolutely necessary, and squadrons typically sent in one or two planes at a time. Unfortunately for the pilots, this meant that their target ships and escorts had a much easier time picking out a target, so while the percentage of successful strikes went up, the total number of strikes dropped dramatically.
  • Bombers in World War II such as the American B-17 Flying Fortress were armed to the teeth, with more and more defensive firepower added in later models. Compare the B Model to the G Model [dead link]. While formations of these planes could make for very dangerous targets, the preferred Luftwaffe tactic of head-on strafing runs of the formations,[2] meant that hitting the fighters with the defensive guns was very difficult.
    • That said, any German Jagdflieger who wanted to live a long life always avoided attacking the American bomber formations from behind. Doing so not only reduced the closing speed considerably, but also allowed the bomber crews to present the largest volume of defensive fire. One report of a bomber formation being attacked by Me-262 Schwalbe jet fighters had the planes being helplessly torn apart by the fast moving interceptors, until one hapless German pilot made the mistake of flying at them from behind... he flew into so much defensive heavy machine gun fire that his plane disintegrated.
  1. Close-In Weapon System: point defence
  2. Reportedly as terrifying for the German pilots as it was for the American bomber crews