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Natalia: "Argh! Can't you shake them, Lieutenant?"
—Mech Assault 2
A common vehicle in Military Science Fiction: A Drop Ship is a craft used to carry troops, vehicles and/or supplies from an orbiting ship to the surface of a planet and back, sometimes while under fire. Some are effectively a Military Mashup Machine between a space shuttle and a transport helicopter, while others are full-sized landing craft that are substantially larger. If the ship is armed and/or the troops involved happen to be reinforcements, it may be the vehicle of a Gunship Rescue.
Truth in Television, given the fact that the physical requirements of "getting from a planet to orbit and back" are far, far different than those of "getting from orbit around one planet to orbit around another". Think of the lunar lander as a kind of Drop Ship and you'll get the idea.
For when the vehicle is not designed to go back up, see Drop Pod.
Often part of a Standard Sci-Fi Fleet.
- One of the most famous, if not the Trope Maker, is the dropship from Aliens.
- The ship (maybe) and its pilot (definitely) were inspired by Starship Troopers, though the preferred method in the book for deploying the Mobile Infantry was literally to drop them from orbit. However, drop ships were used when the deployment was on a more relaxed schedule, and ships were used to take the MIs off the planet. The movie, though, played it straight.
- LAAT's and Acclamator-class ships both perform this role in the Star Wars prequels, on different scales. The Acclamators are dropships for dropships, which is pretty impressive. There are also LAAT-derivatives and (off-screen) barges for dropping off AT-ATs and other walkers.
- The Star Wars Battlefront games use LAATs and other craft as ship-to-ship boarding dropships. There are various other kinds of dropship in the Star Wars Expanded Universe, primarily but definitely not exclusively belonging to the Empire. There are a lot of different classes, designed to ferry anything from stormtroopers to AT-ATs to and from the surface of the planet and the Star Destroyer drifting in orbit.
- Used in Dune.
- "Drop shuttles" are standard equipment in the Vorkosigan Saga.
- The spaceplanes and Kulu Ion Fliers in Peter F. Hamilton's Night's Dawn trilogy perform this on a regular basis, some with more success than others. Most notable being Ashley's last-second rescue of the Lady Macbeths crew and assorted others when an ironberg (yes, that's exactly what it sounds like) is about to fall on them from orbit. Another of the Lady Macs spaceplanes was used to sterilise a landing zone in a jungle with belly-mounted microwave lasers.
- Called Marine Assault Modules in The History of the Galaxy series, these dropships carry Space Marines, vehicles, and Humongous Mecha to the battlefield from ships in orbit. Unlike a typical example of this trope, the MAMs carry enough firepower to Macross Missile Massacre their way through any defenses before disgorging their loads. They can either have a human pilot or flown by an AI module.
- Warhammer 40000 naturally has a lot of these, such as the Space Marine Thunderhawk or the Tau Orca. Not to mention the Drop-Pods, which are essentially a cross between a Drop Ship and an Escape Pod, and a Shout-Out to Starship Troopers.
- The one faction that doesn't really use Drop Ships is the Eldar. Their preferred rapid delivery mechanism involves either teleportation or gunships.
- Recently skyrocketed to prominence by the addition of a plastic model is the Valkyrie, a VTOL jet version of a transport helicopter used to deliver elite Imperial Guard troops to war zones. And then back them up with really big guns.
- BattleTech dropships are routinely the size of large warehouses, necessary to carry the Humongous Mecha that are the stars of the franchise. They tend to be the home base for the units they carry; the jumpships that carry them from system-to-system aren't large enough to physically hold the dropships, they have to dock to the outside (Since they're spaceworthy craft by themselves, there's also no real reason to bring them inside).
- The lightest 'Mech-carrying dropship, the Leopard, weighs in at 19 times the heaviest 'Mech, has enough weapons to match any assault lance it might encounter, and more armor tonnage than a light 'Mech weighs in total. Lighter designs like the Claymore and Avenger are actually more dangerous because they're the ones designed for a straight combat role. Heavier ones like the Overlord and Fortress are considered basically immoveable objects; the force required to take them out is simply too large to be worthwhile when there's other fighting to be done.
- Dropships act as the standard Terran transport in Starcraft. The unit's voice is even a Shout-Out to Corporal Ferro from Aliens. The Protoss have Shuttles, and while the Zerg Overlords are initially control suppliers, you can later upgrade them to Organic Technology shuttles.
- Speaking of, Star Craft 2 has Terrans ditching the Dropship for the Medivac, which doubles as a Medic, hence the name. The Protoss abandon the Shuttles for Warp Prisms, which convert the 'cargo' between physical and energy states for transport. Warp Prisms can also be used as makeshift Pylons, which coupled with Warp Gates allows the Protoss to transfer over far more soldiers than the Warp Prism itself can carry. Meanwhile, the Zerg Overlords remain more or less the same, but are now able to excrete creep onto the ground.
- Pelicans in the Halo games, as well as their Covenant counterpart, the Phantom.
- Then parodied in Red vs. Blue: "If we can put a tank on a ship, why don't we put guns on the ship?"
- Let's not forget the other dropships of Halo lore: the Albatross, Pod, and Spirit.
- Orca Dropships were used in Tiberian Sun, the second Command and Conquer game. Bonus points for having Michael Biehn star in the game as one of the main characters.
- In Tiberium Wars, the job is, in turn, filled in by the V-35 Ox transport. In an ironic turn of events, the Nod equivalent transport ship is the actual dropship, and is called by that term as well.
- In the original Transformers game for the Play Station 2 (not The Game Of The Movie), Decepticlones travel using dropships. They don't have weapons (but carry troops who do) and are at first near-indestructible- at least til you upgrade your arsenal...
- Geth Dropships often show up in Mass Effect. Depending on the mission, they either fly away after you defeat all the geth they dropped, or somehow have an infinite supply of geth and must be destroyed with a turret.
- You also have the Mako, which is awesome enough that it gets on the ground by being dropped from high altitudes without taking damage.
- Mass Effect 2 and 3 replace the Mako with the UT-47 shuttle when Shepard needs to be deployed planetside. Various mercenary factions, Cerberus, the Systems Alliance, and the Asari and Salarian militaries use the A-61 Mantis gunship for similar purposes when it isn't simply being deployed as a gunship.
- The COG uses special two-man "Grindlifts" in Gears of War to ferry troops from the surface of the planet to the Hollow, a series of large underground caverns that serve as the home of the Locust.
- The Machines don't mess around with drop ships, they use giant metal drop pods and build bases from them.
- In PlanetSide, there are 3, one that carries Large vehicles and BFR's (Lodestar), another for carrying passengers and Smaller vehicles (Galaxy) with a variant that Carries automatic Grenade Launchers, and one that carries 4 passengers and Cloaks (Phantasm)
- Battlefield 2142 has drop ships for both factions that also have drop pods as well. A full drop ship with competent gunners can usually be effective enough to be a lethal threat to gunships, infantry and light vehicles.
- Another use for the dropships, which was considered a Game Breaker by many, was to pilot the ship directly into heavily armed vehicles a la kamikaze style. The kill was usually rewarded to the pilot, but sometimes the kamikazed would get the kill, or both parties would get a kill. Another way to do it was to eject out of the drop ship before the ship hit the vehicle, which allowed the pilot to survive, but would cost him the kill. This was done so much, that in one patch, the ability to maneuver the drop pods from a drop ship was taken out. It was reinstated in the following patch though, although the controllablility wasn't as strong as it used to be.
- The craft to get onto Forbidden Island in Mega Man Legends 2 was called a drop ship.
- Ground Control's Crayven Corporation dropships where rather square while the Order of the New Dawn were more triangular, and both seemed to have 'belly doors' that could drop off troops very quickly. By Ground Control 2 they were more similar to existing aircraft and could be upgraded with more powerful weaponry and extra armor.
- In Master of Orion II the invasion with a ground combat is the only way to capture an enemy colony (except for a Telepathic race) and special single-use "Transport Ships" are the only way to deliver troops for the invasion.
- The Sky Crane dropships and their un-named ARM counterpart in Section 8 (video game). It fulfills a similar role to the dropships in the Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles; soldiers are shot out of ports in the side for the classic It's Raining Men assault, and after the battle lands to extract the infantry. It also ferries in heavy armors and heavy tanks requisitioned by the player.
- Dropship: United Peace Force, a launch title for the Play Station 2.
- Quake IV features dropships similar to those in Aliens and Halo, all though they tend to 'fall' rather than drop on several occasions, the game opens with the players drop ship hitting so hard it knocks them unconscious.
- The Combine use the bio-mechanical variety in Half-Life 2. They generally carry pods full of troops, but are also capable of carrying non-standard loads, such as Gordon Freeman's jeep. Considering their biological components, they probably aren't space-worthy, but as all of the events of the game take place within the atmosphere, this isn't a big issue. They're even referred to as drop ships in-game by the Rebels.
- Almost-Real Life Example: The Small Unit Space Transport and Insertion concept of the U.S. Marine Corps is a serious proposal (though one not likely to become reality any-time soon) to deploy Marines to anywhere on Earth via a small sub-orbital Space Plane.
- The Kovolis Systems Security from Nexus Gate has these in its fleet.