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Vorloncruiser 7740

You're about to be Touched by Vorlons in a rather painful way. Have a nice day.


Sometimes a full broadside cannon barrage isn't enough to bring down those pesky enemy ships. Or the enemy may be running away as fast as they can, and you don't have time to turn and give them the full fury of your weapons array. That's why you should remember to design your ships with a really big weapon pointed straight forward, to make running away very unattractive as the cannon rips into them from behind.

The core of the trope is that the weapon cannot be independently aimed -- it can only fire in a fixed direction relative to the ship (typically straight ahead), so you have to maneuver the entire ship in order to aim it. This is typically because the weapon is so large that it takes up a significant portion of the ship's mass and/or volume, so mounting it in a turret is impractical or impossible. It can be nose-mounted, dorsally mounted (on the top surface of the ship), ventrally mounted (on the bottom), or a "spinal weapon" (where it runs along -- or in extreme cases is -- the spine of the ship).

Commonly referred to as the "main gun" or some other such name to indicate how much more powerful it is compared to the other weapons.

Nearly all fighters use this design (due to size, weight, aerodynamics, and modern aircraft mostly using long-range homing missiles or precision-guided bombs), so specific examples need not be listed.

Frequently a Wave Motion Gun or Rail Gun of some sort. If the ship has a split hull that functions as a Wave Motion Gun, it's a Wave Motion Tuning Fork.

Examples of Fixed Forward-Facing Weapon include:


Anime and Manga

Film

  • Pirates of the Caribbean: the Flying Dutchman is equipped with a pair of forward facing long-nines. Anyone proficient in sailor lingo was already saying Oh Crap, but then the "long-nines" turn out to be rotating triple-barrel cannons. Not bad for a time when cannons were still loaded manually.
    • The Queen Anne's Revenge from the fourth film has Forward Facing flamethrowers.
  • Star Wars: The Death Star's planet-killing superlaser. The second Death Star in Return of the Jedi was shown to have minimal aiming ability, but the key word there is "minimal".
  • Asteroid: The lasers are mounted on the noses of jet fighters and feature no auto-targeting of any kind. Justified in that the engineers had a limited amount of time to install these before all life on Earth ended. This becomes a plot point when one of the three fighter pilots is unable to keep the asteroid in his crosshairs due to a storm, and the asteroid is only hit with two beams.

Literature

  • A Piece Of Cake, Derek Robinson's WWII novel. The seminal moment where the Luftwaffe realizes the fixed-forward cannon in the nose of the Me110 (its only weapon) are absolutely lethal if the target aircraft is obliging enough to position itself in front of you, but no use if the RAF pilot elects to come in from the side or rear... the feared German planes are forced to get into a mutually defending circle like settler wagons beset by Indians, and are absolutely impotent at defending the bombers they are meant to be escorting.
  • Posleen War Series: the super monitor class ship has a spine-mounted Mass Driver that fires a huge slug packed with a gooey antimatter center for taking on the battle globes of the Posleen as they enter. A single round is said to be able to destroy a significant percentage of the ships in the formation of hundreds.
  • Star Wars Expanded Universe: The Darksaber is a cylindrical ship that houses a superlaser and makes up the majority of the ship itself.
  • Honor Harrington: The newer generation Light Attack Craft, nicknamed "Super LACs", have spine-mounted weapons, often grasers. Previous generations of LACs instead carried a single broadside of the biggest missiles they could carry, in hopes of delivering their payload before they were swatted out of the sky. In Enemy Hands mentions that the thought of spinal guns for ships of the wall had been banished as unfeasible earlier, specifically in contrast with using these on the much smaller and more agile LACs.
  • The Lost Fleet: some capital ships have a weapon called a "null field" that is projected from the front of the ship. Unlike most of this type of weapon, it's short range (for a space weapon), but tends to a One-Hit Kill as it just disintigrates a large chunk out of whatever ship it hits and breaks down most shields.
  • Troy Rising: Assault Vectors have several spinal mounted heavy laser weapons that are clustered on the nose, each with their own independent power supply.

Live Action Television

  • Stargate SG-1: The Ori mother ships have a massive slow-firing weapon that frequently decimates any ship it hits. There are smaller pulsed weapons on the sides that can still take out a Ha'tak with a single triple-volley.
  • Star Trek the Next Generation: The phaser lance from the alternate future version of the Enterprise-D in "All Good Things".
  • Star Trek Deep Space Nine: The USS Defiant is an escort cruiser, first of her class, purposefully designed for combat, containing 4 fixed-forward pulse phaser cannons and 4 quantum torpedo launchers (2 fore, 2 aft). However, she is a Pint-Sized Powerhouse, and is quite agile.
  • Babylon 5, the Vorlon Cruiser, pictured above. Also the Narn G'Quan cruisers are equipped with those.
    • And the Excalibur in Crusade, being derived from Vorlon technology. Her total helplessness for several minutes after firing this Wave Motion Gun was a slight downside, though.
    • All Vorlon ships appear to have only forward-facing weapons. The crown jewel is the Eclipse-class Planetkiller, a 45 kilometer monster whose forward-facing beam can destroy a planet with a single shot Death Star-style. They had a number of those (at least 2) and weren't shy about using them during the end of the Second Shadow War.
    • Many of the smaller warships in the B5 setting are equipped this way, such as the White Stars, the smaller of the Centauri's two depicted warships, Earth's cruisers, and even the Star Furies.
  • The bioships of Species 8472 in Star Trek Voyager appear to be only able to fire directly forward. Then there's their planet-busting Wave Motion Gun.
  • In the series finale of the original Battlestar Galactica Classic, the Galactica uses a pair of such weapons, massive laser cannons mounted in the nose of the ship, to wail on a disabled Cylon Base Star.
  • When Myth Busters tested the spy car machine-gun myth, they first tested the machine gun as if it were "spinal mount". Adam was shocked at how effective it was.

Tabletop RPG

  • Star Fleet Battles (And it's PC implementation the Star Trek Starfleet Command series) has the Romulan Mauler, essentially a ship built around a massive beam weapon and it's supporting batteries/capacitors designed to break starbase or planetary defense shields in one shot. Not typically a stand alone vessel though - it depends on its sisterships to defend it while it get's into position.
  • Traveller: most starship weapons did incremental damage and could wear down an opponent over time. Spinal mount weapons (either a particle accelerator or a meson gun) ran the length of the ship and could blow opposing ships to atoms with a single shot.
  • Battlefleet Gothic:some ships have a nose mounted main cannon. Ork ships quite often have a large main gun, and the Imperium has the Nova Cannon, which is a massive mass driver that runs through most of the ship and fires building-sized projectiles at relativistic speeds. The well named chaos ship 'Planet Killer' is build around it's main gun.
    • Most escort vessels and Eldar ships have entirely forward-facing weaponry because they can maneuver much more effectively than the big clumsy seventeen-kilometer-long battle cathedrals and thus don't need weapons in more than one fire arc.
    • Some vehicles in ordinary Warhammer 40000 have got these as well. Of note are the Vindicator (a Space Marine tank that has a front-mounted short-ranged ordnance weapon designed for blasting through fortifications) and the Minotaur (an Imperial Armor super-heavy tank that has a pair of Basilisk artillery weapons mounted forward and level).
    • The Shadowsword is a superheavy tank with a forward-facing cannon that can be aimed... by about two degrees.
    • Human and Ork Titans seem to make great use of this, with Ork Gargants and Stompas mounting a forward firing cannon in their "belly" and the current Epic model of the Imperial Warlord Titan has a pair of shoulder mounted Turbolasers that don't seem to be able to pivot in any way.
  • GURPS Spaceships: has massive spinal weapon batteries. By default they fire out the nose but they can also be constructed to blast out the rear.
    • In Transhuman Space particle accelerators have to be fixed, as they are several hundred meters long.
  • Spelljammer has a Giff ship called simply "Great Bombard". One glance at deckplans explains why. And yes, this thing doubles as a blunt ram, too.
  • A Car Wars article once talked about these for ... well, cars. The scenario involved someone in basically a Crown Victoria (or non-Ford equivalent in class), normally able to at most mount something like an M61 Vulcan cannon, treating some enemies to 75mm cannon fire.
  • BattleTech mostly avoids this; weapons are standardized no matter what platform mounts them and even big guns are usually just part of a unit's entire array. There are, however, a couple of cases that play the trope more or less straight:
    • For ground units, it's the heavy Gauss rifle, whose massive recoil prevents it from being arm- or turret-mounted and makes firing it while moving risky for BattleMechs because doing so forces a piloting skill roll to avoid falling.
    • Meanwhile, suitably large space units -- as in, 750,000 tons and up -- may potentially be equipped with as-yet-experimental mass drivers, whose firing arc is literally just the straight line of hexes in the direction they're pointed into (which for WarShips, which can only carry one at most, means dead ahead). They're also quite massive themselves and rather inaccurate even if they do get a target lined up, so many players don't consider the damage they can potentially inflict really worth it (it's not that out of line with a simple volley of more 'regular' naval weapons, anyway).
  • In the starship miniatures game Full Thrust, this is a standard part of Kra'Vak (the most antagonistic alien race) design philosophy; their ships carry mass driver cannons called K-guns (for Kinetic Gun) as their main weapons, and only the smallest two classes can have more than a sixty degree firing arc. A typical Kra'Vak ship carries the two biggest K-guns the ship can structually carry on outrigger-type pods facing forward (sometimes with barrels as long or longer than the main hull of the ship) as her main battery, plus secondary weapons. A few Kra'Vak ships carry a third main gun as a spinal mount in the main hull, while some of their biggest ships carry four outriggers.

Video Games

  • Halo: UNSC ships have a MAC (Magnetic Accelerator Cannon) built into the length of the hull that acts as a primary weapon.
    • The Super MACs take this trope Up to Eleven. As they are simply massive floating guns with support structures built around them.
      • A single shot from a Super MAC is said to be able to take out almost any Covenant ship, even with full shields. While normally outclassing humans in every way, the Covenant have to resort to tricks in order to take out the Super MACs before attacking a planet, such as ramming or boarding.
  • Mass Effect: Magnetic railguns are the weapon du jour on typical warships. The Encyclopedia explains that every ship has its biggest gun mounted in the nose, because that way, the railgun can run the entire length of the ship - and the energy you can put into a railgun projectile is proportional to the length of the magnetic rail. Smaller railguns are usually mounted in turrets and sides, but if you want to punch through somebody's shields, you're gonna need the nose-gun.
    • The Collector ship has a similar situation on their slow turning ship, though if they're facing you, you're pretty much screwed. Just ask anyone who survived the destruction of the original Normandy.
    • The Normandy SR-2 can get the newly-developed Thanix cannon mounted on the nose, which is the same sort of weapon the Reapers use, except the Normandy is a lot more maneuverable than the Collectors. Given that the same weapon was capable of one-shotting a cruiser...the results were clear...and oh-so-poetic.
  • Homeworld 2: has the Ion Cannon Frigate and Vaygr Battlecruiser, this is actually tactically important, as both ships have limited turn speed.
    • Homeworld: Cataclysm gives a Siege Cannon to the Somtaaw Mothership. It's mounted to the side and forward-facing, because it's so huge.
    • The Ion Cannon Frigate in the first Homeworld is basically an Ion Cannon with a ship wrapped around it. It's mentioned in the manual that this trope is the only possible option for equipping a ship of such a small size with an Ion Cannon (indeed, Destroyers and Heavy Cruisers mount multiple turreted Ion Cannons, but they are also much larger ships); even then, there is no room for any other weapons on the Frigate!
  • Skies of Arcadia: The Delphinus is armed with the Moonstone Cannon, which is basically an Expy of the classic Wave Motion Gun.
  • Escape Velocity: Nova: Most Auroran and Polaran capital ships have fixed guns (railguns and Capacitor Pulse Lasers respectively) as their primary armament, as opposed to the mostly turret-and-missile using Federation. The Aurorans get around the inherent inflexibility of the gun by using its phenomenal range, while Polaran ships are so hellishly fast and maneuverable that it almost doesn't matter.
    • The player could modify any acquired capital ship to use this trope in the two older games, although the only ship to truly fit it from the start was the non-acquirable Alien Cruiser, with its Heavy Fusion Beam.
  • Wing Commander:
    • From Wing Commander II, the Confederation class dreadnoughts (including the player home ship, the TCS Concordia) had the Phase Transit Cannon as an integral part of the design's keel. The Kilrathi design from which the PTC was copied, aboard the Sivar dreadnought from Wing Commander: The Secret Missions that used its gun to destroy the Confederation's Goddard colony was also a fixed mount. As the latter wasn't of any use against anything smaller than planetoids, maneuverability of the platform wasn't an issue.
    • Wing Commander III gives us TCS Behemoth, a one-of-a-kind planet-killing cannon with a ship built around it, in a desperate attempt to end the war in one shot. It failed.
    • In Prophecy, the Nephilim Kraken-class ship had a fleet-killer plasma cannon that could only face in on direction... but could wipe out a fleet in battle formation with one shot. After being captured, it was given a new fixed mount between the Midway's split forward arms.[1]
  • Starcraft: Protoss Carriers have a forward-facing laser used to sterilize planets, although you don't use it in-game. The Terran Battlecruiser also has one called the Yamato Cannon.
  • Sword of the Stars: Spinal mounts for destroyers, strafe sections (although these are a batter of smaller weapons) and impactors all point forward. Heavy beams usually do, but certain dreadnought specifications have the option of using them as broadsides and the Zuul have them turreted. The Siege Driver is probably the crown example, insofar adding one does not so much add the weapon to the ship as add engines and a cockpit to the weapon.
    • The human variant of the Siege Driver is especially prominent, as it is, essentially, a battleship-sized revolver that fires asteroids.
  • Inverted by the Spathi in Star Control 2: Their warship's signature weapon is quite powerful, with a fixed firing arc centered axially. Why does it not qualify? It fires backwards.
    • The weapon is called the Backwards Utilizing Tracking Torpedo (BUTT).
    • Played straight with most of the other races' ships in the game. Most notable are the Ur-Quan dreadnought's forward firing fusion cannon and the Chenjesu broodhome's photon shard, both of which are powerful enough to obliterate most other ships in a couple of shots. There is also the VUX intruder's and the Chmmr avatar's forward superlasers which can burn down anything in short order.
      • Not to mention Druuge Mauler. Recoil of that thing gives much better acceleration than cruise engine.
  • Several flagship-sized ships in Sins of a Solar Empire have their most powerful weapon pointed forward. This includes the Kol-class Battleship (TEC) with a massive railgun and heavy laser emitters, the Radiance-class Battleship (Advent) with an extremely-powerful overcharged beam cannon, and the Marza-class Dreadnought (TEC), specially designed as an artillery gun in space for laying waste to groups of ships or entire planetary populations with its powerful forward-mounted gun. They do have side- and, sometimes, rear-facing guns, but these are only meant to keep those pesky destroyers and cruisers at bay, while the main guns are all for flagship-to-flagship engagements.
    • Taken Up to Eleven with the Ragnarov Titan in the Rebellion Expansion, where the ship is built around a gigantic railgun.
  • While averted for the most part in Nexus the Jupiter Incident, where pretty much all guns are turreted and are spread out through the hull, with the exception of the Siege Laser, which is mounted on the front of Gorg and (later) Nova battleships. This laser can take out most ships with one shot and can even take down the mighty fortress shield with a few shots but takes a long time to charge and require the combined power output of three other ships.
  • Super Smash Bros. Brawl has two examples: The Battleship Halberd has a large cannon mounted below the mask which does not seem to aim. This is upped to eleven with the Subspace Gunship (literally a space gun). This ship is easily the largest in the game, and most of its length consists of a single immense cannon with a Wave Motion Tuning Fork on the end. The main gun is never used in combat; it is actually used to tear the fabric of space, creating portals to subspace.
  • Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force had one level that took place on a vessel called "Dreadnought" which was described in game as "a giant cannon on autopilot." The monster has a barrel 700 meters long that you repurpose to fire on a Harvester ship approaching Voyager.
  • Master of Orion ships can be designed with narrow firing arcs if the player wants to mount more guns since guns with a larger arc take up more space. A spinal mount is an option in MoO 3.
  • Based on the animations, ship special weapons (read: Wave Motion Guns) in Infinite Space are fixed like this, as are most large weapons.
  • Naval Ops series: Wave Motion Guns, railguns, and a variety of other energy weapons can only shoot straight forward or backward in the.
  • The Galactic Armory mod for Star Ruler adds a Spinal Mount Hull option, which allows you to link a weapons system to it to greatly improve that weapon's capabilities.
  • World Of Tanks: Most tank destroyers and artillery have guns that are almost entirely fixed to the hull with only a very slight angle of adjustment before you have to move the entire tank hull. Several exceptions exist, such as the American "turreted TD" line, and some artillery like the GW Panther. The American M3 Lee medium tank is one of the only tank tanks to have a fixed gun.
  • Empire: Total War and Napoleon: Total War have, for the most part, your typical Age of Sail warships that fire broadsides at each other. Some of the larger ships may have a cannon or two mounted on the front to take potshots at the enemy without doing any serious damage. Then you have the mortar and rocket ships. While by no means precise, they can ruin your day pretty easily if you don't deal with them quickly. While they do have a small number of side-mounted cannons, their main strength is their forward-facing mortar/rocket launcher. A successful mortal hit can even cripple a first-rate battleship and can decide the course of a battle if that first-rate happens to have an admiral on it. The rockets don't do much damage but can set ships on fire, even the ships firing them. Won't do much good against ironclads in Napoleon, but those come so late in the game that most games tend to end before you even research them.
    • Unfortunately for the mortar/rocket ships, the fact that they're facing the enemy means that they can't get away quickly if one decides to come within range of their broadsides.

Web Comics

Western Animation

  • Megas XLR: The UPD[2] mounted on the Glorft ship is mounted under the main hull of the mother ship, but is almost the size of the entire mothership.

Real Life

  • The American World War II era B-25 Mitchell bomber had a variant (the B-25G, and improved in the H model) designed for anti-ship strafing, with a 75 mm M-4 cannon in the nose.
    • Several medium and light bombers in the US inventory had solid noses, as opposed to the normal glass nose traditional to bombers of the time, with multiple machine guns in immobile mounts for the purpose of having a ground attack role.
    • Old 666, a B-17 from the same era was also fitted with a forward facing machine gun that the pilot could use to fend off head-on attacks from enemy fighter planes.
  • One version of the DeHavilland Mosquito carried a 57mm cannon for anti-submarine work, attacking them on the surface and holing their hulls so they could not dive. Its effect on enemy aircraft, when circumstances permitted its use (i.e. caught unawares, not dodging and weaving) was described as 'spectacular'.
    • Likewise, a never-used variant of the German Me-262 jet fighter replaced the 4 30mm cannon of the standard model with a single 57 mm reason. This was because it took 12+ well placed hits from the 30mm to bring down a B-17 or B-24, and the 262 was too fast to maintain a firing position. The 57mm required one hit almost anywhere on the plane.
  • Similarly the German Ju-88P was a tank killer variant with a 75mm PaK gun.
  • The A-10 Thunderbolt II is built around a massive 30MM Gatling gun.
  • The approach taken by most WWII "tank destroyers" and assault guns was to mount a single larger fixed-forward gun than similar-sized vehicles with a turret gun.
  • Scaling down the concept to a giant shotgun mounted on a rowboat gets you the "punt gun", which was used for duck hunting in the 1800s. To a lesser extreme, gunboats with powerful chaser guns fixed in the bow were a staple of coastal defense in the days of Wooden Ships and Iron Men. Individual gunboats were not at all survivable, but they could be built and deployed en-masse, with the added advantages of shallow drafts, fiendish maneuverability in the confines of a harbour no matter which direction the wind is blowing, and a disproportionately heavy armament for their small size.

Notes

  1. The game's designers weren't aware of the plot plan for the plasma cannon when they made the ship design, it was just a happy coincidence.
  2. Ultimate Planet Destroyer
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