The Attacker is a very versatile aircraft. Though their method of propulsion was never elaborated on, it is strongly evident that Attackers have transcended the need for traditional liquid or solid-fuel combustion engines at least while hovering in place, given their lack of the incredible heat and exhaust output necessary to support something its apparent size and mass, such as from a jet engine.
Despite not having wings or maneuvering flaps for stability, the Attacker is capable of stable atmospheric flight even at speeds reaching or exceeding the sound barrier while still maintaining an incredible degree of maneuverability and have been demonstrated to have fantastic acceleration power, going from a completely stationary hover to presumably several hundred miles per hour in just a few seconds. It should be noted that all of these handling characteristics have been observed from a badly damaged crash specimen recovered and then repaired from the Roswell incident of 1947; it is probable that a mechanically undamaged and fully stocked Agile Fighter may exhibit even better handling characteristics.
Attackers are capable of trans-atmospheric flight, allowing a single autonomous unit to leave a planet's atmosphere; accordingly, they are equipped with cabin-pressurization, inertial dampening, and life-support systems installed that are sophisticated enough to allow two or three pilots to sit comfortably inside the craft (and to a lesser extent, survive crash/impact forces) without requiring the need of sealed and pressurized space or G-suits, despite the Attacker's ability to pull incredible-G turns that stress normal air-frames and pilots often to the breaking point. It is probable that a single autonomous Attacker has the capability to successfully complete re-entry into a planet's atmosphere at least as dense as Earth's, but as the two known incidents in which an Attacker re-entered the atmosphere unassisted both resulted in crashes that either heavily damaged or completely destroyed the ships in question, this has not been definitively confirmed.
In addition to their surreal handling, maneuverability, and their ability to travel into space unassisted, the Attacker possesses the infinitely more valuable ability to produce and envelope itself in a working particle shield that deflects all incoming physical projectiles from space debris, to small-arms fire, all the way up to one or more successive direct hits from highly explosive air-to-air missiles or 20mm auto-cannon fire. This crucial edge gives the Attacker survivability, thereby turning it into the perfect air-interceptor, allowing it to return to base only lightly or perhaps even entirely undamaged.
It is highly evident that the method that allows each Attackers to produce enough energy to power both the propulsion, internal avionics, life-support, and weapons systems in addition to maintaining a working constant-use or even multi-use shielding system, requires an energy source or conversion process several orders more powerful than combustion engines or perhaps even nuclear fusion could match. Despite the best efforts of Area 51's scientists over nearly 50 years of dedicated study and reverse-engineering, no similar power plant could be replicated to power a salvaged Attacker craft. Ironically, during the arrival of the aliens on the War of 1996, the crashed craft spontaneously re-activated, thus leading to speculation that Agile Fighters may actually receive some or all of their energy remotely from a power plant aboard the the mothership.
Owing to their tremendous technological advancement, Attackers make exceedingly lethal fighter-interceptors alone, and are nearly unstoppable when deployed in groups from inside the City Destroyer, which also serve as aircraft carriers. In combat, the preferred tactic used by the aliens is to deploy massive swarms of Attackers directly from the interior of a Destroyer, and secure absolute air dominance by crushing opponents with sheer numbers. Engagements are often brutally short and very one-sided; against an unshielded foe, Attacker craft can quickly destroy enough enemy units that the remaining few are exponentially overwhelmed, eventually facing odds of an entire squadron of Agile Fighters per single enemy unit.
Like the City Destroyers, they also came equipped with shield generators, which is made especially evident during the the battle against the Black Knights in Los Angeles, where machine gun and missile fire are incapable of penetrating the Attackers' shield. However, the shield generators are not completely impregnable, especially against crashes, which is evident by how the Attacker Captain Steven Hiller brought down was forced to crash land due to trying to evade the Grand Canyon wall after Hiller blinded it via his parachute and deliberately ramming his jet into the wall after ejecting.
In the Expanded Universe novel Independence Day: War in the Desert, a City Destroyer in the Middle East deploys five hundred Agile Fighters to destroy the Earth fighters, and a large (unspecified) number of additional Fighters are found inside the ship after it crashes. The hangar of a City Destroyer therefore has a capacity of at least five hundred attacker craft, and given its massive size relative to one fighter, the theoretical hangar space to host many more.
During the War of 1996, Attackers were deployed after the Harvesters began their attack on Earth and met with retaliation by human military forces. Like the City Destroyers, the Attackers were equipped with deflector shields and allowing them to easily decimate human forces without losses. Although few Attackers did suffered casualties, such as U.S. Marine Captain Steven Hiller having lured an Attacker into the Grand Canyon, where he caused the spacecraft to crash land by causing it to narrowly avoid colliding into solid rock.
On the day of "The Fourth", the Attackers' deflector shields were disabled by David Levinson's computer virus, and were then forced into a even battle against human fighters and lose. Their remains were likely cannibalized in the aftermath.
Behind the Scenes
- In The Art and Making of Independence Day: Resurgence, production designer Oliver Scholl recalls working on the attacker aesthetic: "For the destroyers, Roland just likes the simple, classic saucer look, which is also what's in the attacker shape... it has the single Mohawk on top, but it's basically a saucer that's a bit twisted." Patrick Tatopoulos explains how a moment of serendipity brought them the final design that was used: "I sketched the alien first then the craft. Then I realized the top of the craft is the same as the head of the creature. This was an accident, but it was instinct - a through-line in the design."
- In the video game, the alien attackers are officially called "Agile Fighters", and come in three forms, BAC-A, BAC-B, and BAC-R, the latter two being exclusive to the game.
- BAC-R: The BAC-R has two visible cockpits, suggesting it is piloted by two aliens.