The Epic Spaceships of 'Independence Day: Resurgence'

Moon Tug
The moon tug on the set of "Independence Day: Resurgence." (Image credit: Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Twentieth Century Fox/AP Images)

Note: This article contains minor spoilers for "Independence Day: Resurgence."

A group of aliens bent on destroying humanity has returned to Earth in the movie "Independence Day: Resurgence," a sequel to the 1996 blockbuster "Independence Day." The new film, which is playing now in theaters, continues the story of the original movie and is packed with action, suspense, drama and — best of all — amazing spaceships!

In the new movie, the once-defeated aliens have spent the past two decades mounting a comeback. Can Earth hold them off?

The battles between humans and extraterrestrials feature all sorts of cool spaceships, and unlike in the first "Independence Day" movie, the war takes place across the entire solar system. Read on to see what fictional spaceships were used by both aliens and humans. (Note that some of this information comes from the film, and other info is from the fan-made "Independence Day" wikia page.) [Earth's New Battle Against Aliens: Photos from 'Independence Day: Resurgence']

The Harvester (Aliens)

We all remember the scene in the 1996 film when Capt. Steve Hiller (played by Will Smith) stands in his driveway and sees a ship called a City Destroyer, hovering over the nearby metropolis, blotting out most of the horizon. 

An alien ship descends to Earth. (Image credit: Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox. TM & © 2016 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. All Rights Reserved. Not for sale or duplication)

The spaceship is roughly the diameter of Jupiter's moon Europa: 3,000 miles (4,830 kilometers). This makes it large enough to have artificial gravity (which can be used to swoop up nearby ships or objects and throw them into a planet, as necessary). The spaceship also has a massive force field that can repel attacks. Once it lands on a planet, it can drill into a planet's core and shut down the magnetic field — in the movie, this deprives the planet of its atmosphere.In "Resurgence," the aliens arrive in a ship called the Harvester. It is many times larger than the City Destroyers. Thousands of aliens swarm inside the Harvester, including a huge queen alien, who serves as a point of collective intelligence.

The City Destroyer (Aliens)

In the new movie, viewers learn that about three dozen of these spaceships attacked Earth back in 1996. One of them touched down in the (fictional) National Republic of Umbutu in Africa, where locals attacked the aliens to stop them from drilling into the Earth. The spaceships have remained dormant for two decades, but in 2016, they are inexplicably reactivated.  

Scientists visit the wreckage of a downed alien ship in the new movie "Independence Day: Resurgence." (Image credit: Twentieth Century Fox. TM & © 2016 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. All Rights Reserved. Not for sale or duplication)

Reluctantly, the Umbutus allow outside experts to investigate the spaceship for the first time. The group includes David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum), who helped destroy the mothership in the 1996 invasion. Levinson, who is now the director of the United Nations-led Earth Space Defense program, discovers that the City Destroyer is sending a distress signal to the Harvester.

Fighter jets (Aliens)

Once the aliens get to Earth, they can begin using fighter jets in individual combat against humans. First, they deploy the jets after the humans get close to the Harvester. These spacecraft are equipped with "fusion drives" — supposedly, fusion-powered engines — and are all networked back to the Harvester queen, who directs and deploys them.

A plane and set props from "Independence Day: Resurgence." (Image credit: Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Twentieth Century Fox/AP Images)

The Sphere (Aliens)

Just prior to the 2016 attack on Earth, a sphere of alien origin approaches Earth's moon. Humans at the Earth Space Defense station on the moon decide to shoot it down as a precaution, even though it's not clear what the sphere is doing. The sphere crashes onto the lunar surface, and a search party decides to bring it to Nevada's Area 51 military station to learn more about its nature.

Earth Space Defense (Humans)

After the first attack of 1996, humans stopped fighting each other and instead poured their military resources into protecting the Earth from aliens. The result is an Earth Space Defense system that stretches from Earth's orbit far out into the solar system.

An alien attack over a major world capital. (Image credit: Twentieth Century Fox. TM & © 2016 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp.. All Rights Reserved. Not for sale or duplication)

The first early warning location appears to be near Saturn. A military base stationed on Earth's moon monitors possible alien activity in the solar system, and is equipped with space tugs and is within easy reach of H-8 defender fighter jets that come from Earth. The last line of defense is two sets of satellites orbiting Earth. There are two constellations of satellites — one across latitude, and one across longitude — that have lasers capable of shooting at alien ships.

International Legacy Squadron and space tugs (Humans)

The International Legacy Squadron is an elite fighter pilot group led by the son of Steve Hiller, Dylan Dubrow-Hiller (played by Jessie Usher). The squadron has H-8 defender fighter jets capable of fighting in Earth's atmosphere or in space, with the capacity to fly at least as far as the moon. They have fusion drives that are used only in space.

Space tugs are cargo ships that are used mainly on the moon base, for carrying personnel and equipment. While they are not defensive ships, they can maneuver quickly. The tugs have robotic arms and hands that can be used to pick up and manipulate large objects. They also have fusion-drive capability.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: