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In effect, the inverse of Hyperspeed Escape. Instead of using hyperspeed to escape a bad situation, you use it to cause a bad situation by jumping into the immediate vicinity of your target to take them by surprise. Alternately, you can just lie in wait where you know the enemy will exit hyperspace, and pounce on him before he has time to react. Immediately departing the area as soon as the attack is concluded is fairly common for the jumping-in-to-attack variant, but optional for the defensive lying-in-wait variant.

Unorthodox use of Faster Than Light travel in combat is fairly common in military science fiction literature, particularly Justified in a setting where Hyperspace Is a Scary Place and therefore most people in the universe are unwilling to push the possible uses of FTL to the limits. For example, a ship might use tactical hyperspace jumps to jump into and out of hyperspace over relatively short distances and short periods of time to make themselves harder to hit or otherwise throw off the enemy, when conventional wisdom would suggest that such a tactic is far too risky to be possible, usually due to the risk of a ship falling afoul of a Tele Frag with a planet or other celestial body. After all, traveling through hyperspace ain't like dusting crops.

The actual applicability of this trope is limited to settings or situations where at least one of the parties involved cannot detect other ships that are traveling FTL, either because they are limited to light-speed sensors, or because their sensors can not penetrate into whatever other dimension is used for FTL.

Contrast with Hyperspeed Escape, not to be confused with Tele Frag, although that can be a very real risk of this strategy.

Examples of Hyperspeed Ambush include:


Anime and Manga

Film

  • In the 2009 Star Trek film, we get to see the Enterprise pull one of these in the film's climax, using Beam Spam to counter the Romulans' Macross Missile Massacre in a Gunship Rescue moment.
    • And inverted earlier in the movie, where the fleet is ambushed by the Narada and destroyed. The Enterprise only survives because they were Late to the Party.
  • In Star Wars Return of the Jedi, the Rebel Fleet ran afoul of such an attack launched by a very sizable Imperial fleet when they tried to attack the Death Star II.

 Admiral Ackbar: It's a trap!

    • And inverted in The Empire Strikes Back: The Imperial Fleet loses the element of surprise by jumping out of hyperspace too close to the Rebel base on Hoth, causing them to be detected immediately rather than being able to sneak up on the Rebels.

Literature

  • Isaac Asimov's Foundation trilogy novel Second Foundation. The Foundation space fleet is facing a numerically superior Kalganian fleet. They send a squadron into hyperspace, with orders to return in a specific place at a specific time. They then maneuver the Kalganian fleet so the returning squadron will appear and attack them from behind with complete surprise, winning the battle.
  • Used by Grand Admiral Thrawn in The Thrawn Trilogy (Timothy Zahn's most famous Star Wars Expanded Universe novels). Said technique involved precise placement of interdiction ships to pull his ships out of hyperspace at a specific point. It worked well.
    • At another point in this series, Han Solo used a hyperspace microjump to position the Millennium Falcon exactly where it needed to be against an enemy force.
  • A strategy that comes up from time to time in Honor Harrington, though mostly only when the characters are near a Wormhole Terminus. Since Wormhole Terminii located near populated systems tend to be extensively surveyed and plotted, any ambush through them requires overwhelming force, as one can usually find fleets of warships, arrays of massive space fortresses, and remotely-launched missile pods waiting for any unwelcome visitors in hopes of making their visit a short and spectacular one.
    One notable example is the Royal Manticoran Navy's successful assault on the Havenite forces at Trevor's Star. They first launched a conventional attack with a fleet dropping in from hyperspace, and once that battle had enough time to develop fully, another fleet jumped in directly from the Manticoran system via the wormhole that connected the two star systems to strike the Havenite forces from behind.
    The main problem is that every transit destabilizes the Wormholes for a time, based on the transferred mass. With one ship, there is a very short cycle until the next one comes through. Sending the maximum mass in one transit (for a Manticorian Terminii about thirty Superdreadnoughts) will make further use impossible for hours. Which means no retreat if something goes wrong and makes tactics as used above very risky. And sending your ships in one after another would just give the other side a chance for some target practice.
  • Gordon R. Dickson's Childe Cycle, Donal Graeme stages a daring raid against an enemy planet in Dorsai!. He uses multiple swift hyperspace jumps to simulate a huge armada attacking his enemy, even though it drives him and his crew to the edge of collapse, with each jump leaving them more and more in pain and disorientation.
  • In David Drake's RCN series Daniel Leary, frequently uses FTL in unexpected ways to take enemies by surprise.
  • While short-range hyperjumps are possible in Elizabeth Moon's Vatta's War universe, it is a technique generally limited only to some of the better equipped space navies; most civilian and commercial-grade equipment just isn't designed for that sort of thing. That said, limitations in sensors and communication (limited to light-speed within a star-system, given that the FTL communications arrays are space stations unto themselves) preclude this strategy from being used. Until someone develops a FTL communications rig that can easily fit aboard a starship.

Live Action Television

  • A common strategy on Babylon 5, thanks to many larger ships being capable of producing their own jump points into and out of Hyperspace. Since ships in hyperspace can not detect anything in real space, and vice versa, this requires the attacker knowing where and when the target will be in a particular location ahead of time. Most battles of this sort tend to be very short. Inverted about half the time, with ships lying in wait just outside a jump gate where they are not expected, allowing them to rip an incoming ship apart as soon as it exits the gate.
    • The Narn in particular are prone to being victims of this, either at the hands of the Centauri or the Shadows, partially because they are the first major race [1] to spend any major effort investigating the Shadows, and partially because they get baited into a war with the Centauri, who are significantly more advanced technologically.
    • The Narn do get to repay the favor to the Shadows, when one of the few remaining Narn cruisers, the G'Tok, arrives just in time to nail a Shadow Battlecrab with Frickin' Laser Beams before it could attack the White Star. Even better, they bring The Cavalry right behind them in the form of a fleet of ships from assorted races, forcing the Shadows to retreat in the first time since... really ever that anyone alive could remember.
    • The Minbari are masters of this tactic as well. Their expansive experience in hyperspace travel (they have been traveling amongst the stars for over a thousand years) means they can plot a jump from hyperspace into a much more precise area than the other races can. On at least one occasion, they capitalize on this to open a jump point in the middle of an EarthForce fleet of ships, ripping half of them apart before the Minbari ship even exited hyperspace.
    • The Shadows take this even further, given that they can "shift" between Truespace and Hyperspace without the tell-tale of opening a jump point, denying their victims even those few seconds of warning.
  • Battlestar Galactica: The Battlestar Pegasus got the jump on a squadron of Cylon Base Stars when they were focused on attacking the Galactica. Indeed, the first moment that even the audience knows anything of the sort is going on is when the first of the Cylon ships is suddenly pummeled by a massive amount of incoming fire from offscreen before we see the Pegasus sail into view.
    • Meanwhile, the fact that Cylon fighters possess FTL (in contrast to the Colonial Vipers, which have no such ability) means that the crew of Galactica have to constantly be on the ready for the small Raiders to come from anywhere at any time, only adding to their already substantial Paranoia Fuel. They keep a flight of Vipers on standby to launch within moments at all times.
    • Also Starbuck's mission to evacuate the Caprican resistance had several Raptors jumping directly into Caprica's atmosphere (though one came out inside a mountain). Later that tactic is used to communicate and resupply the resistance movement on New Caprica.
      • Speaking of New Caprica, Adama jumps the Galactica past the Cylon fleet during the evacuation and into the atmosphere, launches a couple Vipers to cover the civilian's Hyperspeed Escape, then jumps back into space just before hitting the ground.
  • Star Trek The Next Generation featured a variation in the form of the "Picard Maneuver", where a ship (typically already engaged in battle) would use its warp drive to make a very short trip to another part of the battlefield. If done properly, this allowed a starship commander to allow his ship to appear in two places simultaneously, because the sensor return from the ship's previous location had not yet gotten back to the enemy ship. This tactic was notably of limited use, only being effective against enemies who did not possess subspace sensors.
  • A common tactic of the titular character of Tracker
    • He can only do it once per day, though.

Video Games

  • Happens some in Free Space. One mission has an enemy ship about to open fire on a station you are protecting (an enemy ship too powerful for your fighters to handle), when all of a sudden, the very-aptly-named Colossus warps in and blasts the crap out of it.
  • Sword of the Stars has variations. With lategame FTL techs you can cross from outside an enemy's system-based sensor range to his systems in one turn, giving him no time to build additional defensive forces or rally defenders from elsewhere. Also, this is one of the uses of CnC ships. Without them new ships that jump in to replace your losses will appear far from the planet and waste time getting to the action. If you have them, the new ships jump in right next to them. This creates an interesting tactical dilemma in the earlier stages where CnC ships are fragile, as players have to weigh the advantages of getting reinforcements right on top of the enemy to the chance of losing the CnC ship.
    • Morrigi military strategy is built around this. They start with stealth armour, which reduces the range at which enemies detect them strategically, and are amongst the best at researching cloaking tech. Their ships are also fast but fragile. Using two to three good fleets, a morrigi player can bring an enemy to its knees by hitting weak spots in their defensive line and then retreating before a counterattack; especially devastating against human and zuul players who can't recall fleets committed to nodespace travel..
  • A Collector Cruiser does this to the Normandy during the intro to Mass Effect 2, leading to Shepard's death.
    • It does so again to the second Normandy, succeeding in abducting most of the crew after it uses a virus to disable the Normandy.
    • In Mass Effect 3, according to the Codex, the Turian fleet managed to effect one of these against The Reaper fleet during the invasion of their home system. They waited for the enemy to finish jumping into their system, then did an FTL hop into the middle of the enemy formation, inflicting heavy casualties early in the battle. Soon after, the enemy performed an FTL hop themselves to place themselves near the homeworld, forcing the Turians to fight them on their own terms.
  • In Star Control II, the VUX ships are MightyGlaciers. They can't move fast but have a powerful laser that can take care of most ships in a few seconds. They compensate for the speed disadvantage by slowing down enemy ships with gravity mines and warping into battle right on top of the enemy.
  • Homeworld, in all its incarnations, makes this a plot point and a game mechanic at once. In the story, hyperspace cores and drives are used as a blitzkrieg weapon on more than one occasion. The tables have been turned against hyperspacing fleets just as much, provided a ship has a gravity well generator installed to interfere with the hyperspacing equipment. The same ideas stretch onto actual gameplay, although in much smaller scales than those found in the plot, for balance reasons.

Web Comics

  • In Schlock Mercenary, when the Toughs' teraport drive was still the only one in the galaxy, they would use this strategy to great effect against enemies who thought they'd be forced to use a wormgate instead. Various methods of preventing Teraport usage were developed later.
  • Unwinder's Tall Comics: In an in-universe novel by Gary P. Rastov, Krohn attempts to pull off a hyperspace ambush--but the solar system he's attacking has a fifty-second warning of his fleet's arrival. More than enough time for their Lightning Foundries to produce another fleet capable of reducing Krohn's to its component atoms.

Notes

  1. other than the Vorlons and the Minbari, both of whom want to prevent the Shadows from knowing that they know they are returning
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