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In the film Independence Day (1996) we have the scene towards the end where the aliens become aware of the secret base and begin moving towards it.

The civilian convoy people gathered outside are hurriedly allowed to enter for whatever degree of protection the base can provide, they then hunker down and await their fate.

As the air battle draws near we see Major Mitchell in the Control Room peering at a little screen, he then announces "They're deploying their primary weapon".

My question is how did he know? What technology allowed him to make this observation in the middle of a dogfight up above his bunker?

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    A camera on a stick should do it... – Valorum Sep 9 at 6:20
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He doesn't need to see it because he already knows their tactics. The line before is...

Major Mitchell: It's settling directly over us.

Which is confirmed by the 2D radar plot. Gen. Grey then announces...

Grey: They're preparing to fire their primary weapon!

Which is what they do when they settle over something.


Interestingly, the film's official novelisation (based on an earlier version of the script) has a different take on it. Grey can see a 3D radar plot of the ship, with sufficient detail to make out the enormous doors.

Connie had come into the war room to see if there was anything she could do. Standing behind Grey, she watched one of the radar screens showing a three-dimensional display of the huge city destroyer.

Because some of the base’s primary radar receptors had already been destroyed, the image on the screen was incomplete, blinking on and off like a ghost. She felt a long shiver run through her legs up to her scalp when someone reported that the thing was directly overhead, then pointed out to general Grey some aspect of the torn, indistinct image.

Once he understood what the man was showing him Grey snatched up the microphone and spoke to the remaining pilots.

“Attention! They’re opening the bottom doors and getting ready to fire the big gun. Somebody get down there and knock that thing out before they can use it!!”

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