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"I gather you've disposed of that Gunship, Dr. Freeman. Your reputation, sir, is well deserved."
Odessa Cubbage[src]

The Combine Gunship, often referred to as Gunship, is an autonomous and large Combine Synth ground-assault aircraft armed with both a heavy pulse cannon and a ventral warp cannon. It is a common adversary in Half-Life 2 and its episodes.


The Gunship is a Synth aerial assault unit whose overall appearance resembles that of an aquatic animal. It has a round, stubby head with a body that extends wider to it's backside, ending with a huge, round rotor forming it's "tail". Two flippers are located near it's head along with two small, thin limbs near it's rotor. The Gunship's carapace is divided into two sections: the top of half of the Gunship has a camouflage pattern consisting of a green-brownish color mixed with white colored splotches leading to a more orange color on the tail. The underside is white with accents of teal due the Combine technology built into it. Curiously, the Gunship displays a form of Countershading, often seen in marine life, in which the top of the body is more darkly colored than the lower areas, giving the body a more uniform darkness and a lack of depth relief.

Like all Synths, Gunships appear to be a combination of organic and mechanical parts. The first visible mechanical component of a Gunship is the pulse gun attached to the underside of it's head, with the barrel of the gun protruding out of the head. Compound eyes resembling those of a dragonfly are positioned directly behind this gun. The middle section of it's underside are filled with tubes and mechanical components that give off a light-teal glow. The most apparent mechanical addition is the rotor on it's backside, which bulges out sideways. Blades are affixed at the center of this mass, where they spin to give the Gunship lift. Two nozzles can be seen at the top part of the Gunship that leads to the rotors, while an exhaust unit can be seen directly below them.


D3 citadel 050347

Gunships leaving the Citadel.

Gunships are one of two aerial assault units seen being used by the Combine, the other being the Hunter-Chopper, and one of five flying synths, the others being the Combine Dropship, Shield Scanner, Mortar Synth, and Advisor Pod. While it lacks the variety of armaments available to the Hunter Chopper, it makes up for it in accuracy and maneuverability. Gunships are highly accurate with their pulse gun; a single firing cycle from a Gunship almost always hits their target if not outright kills them. They are also highly agile in the air and are able to execute a variety of maneuvers such as 180° turns while keeping their flight trajectory. This combination allows them to attack from multiple angles and make Gunships highly versatile assault units that can be deployed in a variety of situations. They are especially deadly in areas with a lot of open ground such as the Coast, where it is easier for them to pick off hostile targets one-by-one.

Like most Synths, Gunships are invulnerable to small-arms fire and can only be damaged by explosives such as the RPG. However, Gunships display a behavior of self-preservation not seen in other Synths where they will prioritize shooting down incoming projectiles over enemy hostiles. This adds a layer of difficulty in taking down an already resilient target as one would have to maneuver projectiles past the Gunship's defenses multiple times in order to bring it down. For this reason, the Combine often deploy Gunships in pairs to guard important locations such as the Citadel dark fusion reactor or Nova Prospekt, where one Gunship can cover the other from attacks while the other focuses on attacking any hostiles in the area.

Gunships are not fought in Episode Two, but they can be seen flying over a bridge escorting a Combine marching column right after exiting the Antlion caves in the chapter Freeman Pontifex, though they were supposed to be in the Strider battle near the end of Episode Two. Only Hunter-Choppers are featured to attack the player.


Ep1 c17 02a0023

Crashed Gunship in the hospital's attic.

When attacking a target, Gunships frequently strafe in predictable directions to gain a direct line of sight on its target, often firing at its target while doing so. Gunships refrain from approaching the player or an enemy at close range, instead choosing to perform several firing cycles on its target(s) at a comfortably long range - the purpose to gain a height and range advantage over its enemies. Before firing, the Gunship's pulse cannon emits a mechanical thud-like sound, alerting the player that the Gunship is about to begin its firing cycle, repeating the same sound once its firing cycle ends.

Like Striders, Gunships will often fire ahead of the target before directly hitting it, making dodging somewhat more difficult and giving a player less time to seek cover. Gunships also tend to fire at explosive barrels when an enemy is near them (in scripted events, such as the battle at New Little Odessa), thus the player should always keep distance from explosive barrels or detonate them via small arms fire or the Gravity Gun before the Gunship does.

Destroying a gunship with an RPG requires a unique strategy, as its pulse gun will attempt to shoot missiles down. Therefore, you should avoid firing in a straight trajectory and try to maneuver the rocket around the gunship's head. Mixing up your trajectories with irregular movements like zig-zagging or corkscrewing will grant much greater chances of evading its fire. Alternatively, you can try and shoot high, then slam the missile down above where its gun can fire, or wait for it to move and try to sneak the rocket through the rear or side arc, where the gun cannot fire. Another window of opportunity to hit the gunship is when it is already firing on a target, since the gunship cannot change targets in the middle of a firing cycle. This can be done when there are multiple targets for the gunship to hit, such as resistance members or antlions, or even when the gunship is firing at the player. However, the latter is not recommended since the Gunship would damage the player as well, and quite heavily.

Gunships are one of the most formidable enemies in Half-Life 2 and its episodes, and dealing with them presents several problems, doubly so if there are other enemies in the vicinity simultaneously (or worse, multiple gunships, since they cover each other). Since it takes at least five hits (on Normal difficulty) to destroy one, the player can only effectively fight one if they have a steady source of replacement ammunition for the RPG. It's also essential to have plenty of overhead cover to use in between firing at the Gunship.

Gunships will always prioritize missiles over any other target, so if the player has, for example, one missile left and needs to get across open ground to resupply, fire the rocket into the air and steer it around as long as possible while moving to the next spot of cover. The gunships will be entirely distracted by the missile, allowing the player to get to safety or resupply.

Behind the scenes[]

Gunship projectile

Gunship projectile.

As seen in Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar, early Gunship concepts were quite machine-like, while the final version depicts a more consistent, synthetic look. During early playtesting, Valve found that the Gunship would accidentally consider rockets fired at it as the more interesting enemy and try to shoot them down. This played so well that the RPG vs Gunship battles were reworked into a game of cat and mouse.

Furthermore, Nova Prospekt was originally to feature a Gunship factory and maintenance site, called the "Gunship Bays" and located at the foot of the Depot, where Gunships stripped off their armor. Lines and tanks of fuel for the Synths were to also be seen. The concept was heavily trimmed down and later reused in the Half-Life 2 chapter Our Benefactors, where Gunships can be seen mounted on the walls, being serviced by Stalkers.

According to Scott Dalton, Valve designed the Episode One Hospital Gunship battle to create a dynamic evolving experience while still keeping the player within a constrained area. Initially, the attic appears straightforward and provides plenty of cover. As the environment gets progressively more damaged, combat becomes more challenging; players are increasingly open to enemy fire, and the path to the rocket crate becomes more difficult to navigate. As the roof breaks apart, however, the Gunship also becomes more visible and therefore easier to hit, keeping things relatively in balance.

As seen at New Little Odessa (in d2_coast_03) and during the City 17 uprising (in d3_c17_07) in the Half-Life 2 leak, the Gunship was also to fire a beam similar to that of the Strider with its belly cannon. While the cannon is still visible on the final model, this weapon is never seen demonstrated in-game, though it can be used in Hammer. In N.L.O., the Gunship was supposed to fire its cannon into the shack where the "RPGGuy" was hiding, exploding the shack and killing him, allowing Freeman to grab the RPG. During the City 17 uprising, a Gunship attacks the bridge set beyond the plaza where Alyx gets captured in the final game (she just remains hidden there for no apparent reason in the leak). In the final game, the bridge is already destroyed.

Originally, the Gunship was also to launch projectiles, as seen in the leak model files.

Related Achievements[]

Half-Life 2[]

Hl2 kill odessagunship
Where Cubbage Fears to Tread 5 Gscore
Defend Little Odessa from the Gunship attack.
Hl2 kill threegunships
One Man Army 5 Gscore
Destroy six Gunships in Half-Life 2.

Half-Life 2 (cut)[]

Hl2 kill bothprisongunships
Uninvited Guest
Kill both Gunships in the Nova Prospekt courtyard.

Half-Life 2: Episode One[]

Attica! 5 Gscore
Destroy the gunship in the hospital attic.


  • In the Half-Life 2 model viewer, the Gunship's "dragonfly" eyes possess the ability to extend downwards and sweep left and right.
  • The entity names of the two Gunships fought in Nova Prospekt are 'Penn' and 'Teller', named after the comedy and magic duo.
  • According to the Overwatch Voice as heard in the Half-Life 2 chapter Sandtraps during Freeman's invasion into Nova Prospekt, the Gunships may respond to a different part of Overwatch called 'Airwatch'. This term is also heard on the Bridge in Highway 17.
  • The Gunship is controlled by the game and does not fly independently like the City Scanners or Shield Scanners. It exclusively follows Path Tracks which were set in the game; info_target_gunshipcrash entities are used to suggest crashing points for defeated Gunships.
  • It is possible to 'hit' the Gunship in the air using the buggy in the Highway 17 chapter of Half-Life 2 after using the magnetic crane. However, it does not appear to do any damage to the Gunship and the buggy passes through the Gunship without collision.
  • The aircraft encountered at the end of Half-Life 2: Lost Coast is in fact a Gunship using the model of the Hunter-Chopper.
  • During the final battle in Half-Life 2, numerous Gunships emerge from the brewing portal in order to stop the player. If the player ignores them and destroys the Citadel core instead, the Gunships will also be destroyed.
  • The Gunship's belly cannon is not used in Half-Life 2 and its Episodes, and they will only use it if a Gunship is spawned through a console command. The belly cannon will not damage the player if they are in the beam but it will damage nearby NPCs.
  • In depot_01 the player was to fight a early version of the gunship. This gunship was to use its pulse cannon and belly cannon.
  • There are two instances where it is possible to shoot down a gunship whole without it exploding into pieces.
    • The first instance is in Half-life 2 in Highway 17 after the player leaves Dock 137. After jumping the ramp and reaching the car pile-up with an infinite RPG supply crate, the gunship will circle back and forth around the pile-up to try and shoot the player. To bring it down whole, the gunship must be killed as it reaches the end of it's strafe in the direction towards dock 137, when it is directly above the highway. If successful, the gunship will explode as it crashes down whole and a few seconds afterwards. Killing it anywhere else will result in the usual animation where it explodes into multiple pieces.
    • The second instance is in Half-Life 2: Episode One in the chapter Urban Flight. The player will have to fight a gunship on the hospital roof. Killing it will result in the gunship crashing down whole into the rooftop. Unlike the previous instance, this event requires no timing from the player and is scripted to happen seeing as there is dialogue referring to the event (Alyx jokes to Gordon that he should hit the dead gunship with his crowbar just to be safe)
      • The underside of the Combine Gunship greatly resembles that of a Reefback from the game Subnautica.





Combine Gunship - Animations

This video contains all animations of the Combine Gunship.

Note, this video concerns only the retail games, as some animations are left unused.

Example, when the Combine Gunship shoots with its belly cannon.

List of appearances[]


Imagecat The Half-Life Wiki has more images related to Combine Gunship.