No longer content simply driving over rooftops in his car, Batman takes his war against crime to the air in The Dark Knight Rises with his baddest vehicle yet: a heli-tank his gadgetmaster Lucius Fox dubs "The Bat."
Without giving away any spoilers (we hope) for those who haven't seen the movie yet (go see it, it's great!), The Bat proves extremely handy at escaping from hairy situations, trolling the cops, and just blowing shit up in general.
But while The Bat may seem pretty fantastical in the film, it has a basis in reality just like all the gear in Christopher Nolan's Bat-universe. The Bat borrows elements from several different types of high-tech aircraft.
Fox tells Bruce Wayne that the vehicle was built for "urban pacification" (or, as a character in an unrelated superhero film might say, "hippie control") and was designed to maneuver between buildings without the recirculation effect that negates lift on most helicopters when they're in tight spaces.
In the production notes for the film, production designer Nathan Crowley explains that not only did he and Nolan want The Bat to seem like it comes from the same "family" as the Tumbler and Batpod, they wanted it to look like it could fly for real.
"We took the approach that this would be a credible military project, and that gave us a good basis," Crowley said.
Crowley told Popular Mechanics that it works like this: "We came up with the idea that maybe the rotors are on the underside, which physically probably makes no sense... The jump jets are on the front so you can try and guide yourself. And then the whole main body is flaps to exhaust the propellers and the jump jet so you could try and hover."
In the production notes, director Nolan adds: "It has flaps and louvers that change its aerodynamics and allow it to maneuver around buildings."
For filming, the movie's crew built a detailed model of The Bat with working rotors, aerial flaps, lights and a cockpit that opens up. The whole rig is almost 30 feet long, 17 feet wide and weighs about 3,000 pounds.
About the only thing The Bat model can't do is fly. The crew just made it seem that way by running it along wires, suspending it from cranes or helicopters and having it ride on a specially constructed truck. Many of these moments were captured on video during filming in Pittsburgh.
When it flies between Gotham City's skyscrapers to prey on lawbreakers, CGI takes over.
"To get something like that off the ground was beyond our capabilities," special effects supervisor Chris Corbould said. "I'd be a very rich man if I could build something like that that could actually fly."
Check out some real-life Batplanes in the gallery above. What did you think of The Bat? Does it remind you of any other aircraft? Let us know in Kinja below.
Photos credit Getty Images, Warner Bros., the U.S. Government
Boeing AH-64 Apache helicopter
What is it: An advanced attack helicopter that's been in service since the mid-1980s but remains a force to be reckoned with. It has a 30 mm chain gun with 1,200 rounds as well as rockets, missiles and substantial armor.
How it's like The Bat: If Batman didn't have The Bat, odds are, he'd fly an Apache. It seems pretty comparable to Bruce Wayne's new ride in terms of firepower. The cockpit design is very similar as well; like the Apache, The Bat's passengers sit tandem, one in front of the other.
Harrier Jump Jet
What is it: The Harrier is capable of taking off vertically, eliminating the need for a runway and making it deployable in cramped areas or on aircraft carriers. Thrusters rotate downward, pushing the fighter jet off the ground and into the air.
How it's like The Bat: The Harrier shares a number of functional similarities with Bruce Wayne's new toy, in particular the ability to take off and land vertically. The Bat also performs some pretty crazy aerobatic maneuvers, making it fly more like a fighter jet than a helicopter.
Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey
What is it: A tilt rotor aircraft that is a fusion of plane and helicopter, it uses its twin rotors to perform vertical takeoffs. The Osprey has been controversial due to its excessive development costs and safety record, but it has proven useful for many applications, including search and rescue and combat.
How it's like The Bat: The Bat also incorporates elements of both planes and helicopters, and has the same level of versatility as the Osprey. It's also probably just as expensive.
Lockheed Martin F-35 B
What is it: It's the "short takeoff and vertical landing" variant of the F-35 Lightning II fighter jet, a newer plane intended to replace the Harrier. It uses swiveling nozzles that direct the jet thrust directly downward and a powerful lift fan for vertical takeoffs.
How it's like The Bat: The Lightning II is an extremely cutting edge aircraft designed to lift off vertically, much like The Bat. The film's production designers cited this capability when they went to work creating Batman's new aircraft.
Bell Eagle Eye
What is it: A tilt rotor aircraft like the Osprey - another Bell product with which it shares some design features - the Eagle Eye has two huge rotors on either side. Unlike the Osprey, the Eagle Eye is an unmanned aerial vehicle, also called a drone. It's highly maneuverable, like a plane, and meant to go into the most dangerous areas in the world so that human beings don't have to.
How it's like The Bat: Like the Eagle Eye, The Bat uses rotors to fly. It's also suited for being in dangerous places unsuitable for human beings, like Gotham City.
Sikorsky Cypher UAV
What is it: The Cypher is an unmanned drone that flies thanks to rotors enclosed in a donut-like housing. If you've ever played Metal Gear Solid 2, you've shot at plenty of these.
How it's like The Bat: The Bat also has enclosed rotors like the Cypher, and with its autopilot feature it could also be considered a drone of sorts. Just a really scary one that can cause a lot of explosions.