Patlabor 2 Patlabor 2

Move over Top Gun, because military experts say the most accurate air combat scene of all time comes from the 1993 anime feature Patlabor 2: The Movie.

Earlier this year, military and defense industry website Task & Purpose published an article in which author Matt Sampson argued that Hollywood’s attempts to portray air combat control pale in comparison to the classic Mamoru Oshii anime. In the piece, he argues that:

Through rigorous attention to technical detail and thorough authenticity, this minor scene from an anime movie gave viewers the most accurate portrayal of modern aerial combat ever seen. .… Hollywood has attempted, time and again with poor results, to portray what happens when an unidentified or unauthorized aircraft or missile threat penetrates friendly airspace. Top Gun and War Games tried, but wound up giving us classic 1980s cheeseball cinema. There is a noticeable absence of films that capture the pulse-pounding chess game of ground-controlled interception (GCI) – a sensation that is only amplified when lives are on the line.

In fact, the scene is so detailed that Task & Purpose had to enlist several experts to help explain its incredible accuracy. One aspect which really impressed those experts was the technology used by air traffic controllers:

The film uses period-accurate monochrome radar displays that refresh only when the radar beam makes another circuit. Tracked air assets are marked with their “squawk codes,” rather than plane names.

Patlabor 2: The Movie

The article also praises Patlabor’s accurate dialogue and voice performance delivery. English is the lingua franca of air traffic communication, and despite the rest of the film being in Japanese, air traffic controllers speak in a clear and deliberate English while communicating over the radio.

Sampson summed up his and his colleagues’ opinions on the scene, saying:

Overall, myself and our subject matter expert both agree that this scene is the most authentic portrayal of air operations ever put to film. Additionally, I interviewed several former military air traffic controllers, strike analysts, and aviators, and their opinion was unanimous: This is pretty dang good.


h/t to Super Punch for finding the story