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It's a common conceit of superhero movies that the threat has to be stopped by the hero, and the military doesn't play as large a role as it probably would in the real world. Out-of-universe, it's an understandable narrative device.

That being said, given the role that the Helicarrier played in the first Avengers film, their lack of involvement in the Battle of New York seems absolutely bizarre.

  • We know it was very close to the battle, because the nuke-delivery fighter was almost in firing range before Nick Fury could even radio Tony Stark to warn him.
  • We know that they had planes and quinjets available (i.e. they didn't all fall off during the Helicarrier's almost-crash in the Second Act), because we can clearly see several on-deck when Nick Fury tries to stop one from launching. That video also shows relatively little deck activity (meaning they weren't prepping to launch any time soon).
  • We know that they were capable of launching from both runways, because one did from each, and it didn't seem to take any special repairs or effort to make that happen. We also know it didn't take long, because one was in the air before Fury could stop it.
  • We know that the SHIELD agents aboard the Helicarrier were watching the battle unfold, and weren't tied up with other efforts aside from general repairs.

What explanation could there possibly be for not sending in those fighters? Even if the Chitauri sleds were too fast and maneuverable (although it seems worth a try), the Leviathans would have been easy targets for missiles and cannons.

We never even see them discussing sending help, that I can recall. Do we know why Nick Fury didn't offer any air support to the Avengers?

  • 2
    The order from on high was to nuke the city. You don't generally send troops in right before taking such an action. – MartianInvader Apr 20 '15 at 23:18
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    @MartianInvader That order came WELL into the battle, Fury wasn't a part of that decision, and they can't have planned ahead for it because they didn't know the invasion was coming. The question is, why didn't Fury scramble his fighters immediately? – Nerrolken Apr 20 '15 at 23:20
29

While we are not given any complete indication, it is a safe bet that Nick Fury did not send in attack aircraft because they were more of a threat to the civilian population than they would be an asset to the Avengers. Conventional military air support has a great deal of collateral damage involved, something Nick Fury is hoping to prevent.

  • We see the chaos with Thor, Hulk and Iron Man fighting in the lead against the Chitauri with Captain America, Hawkeye and Black Widow fighting a ground battle. Air-to-air combat using fighter jets would have meant air-to-air missiles (whose effectiveness could only be guessed at) and .50 caliber rounds filling the air, penetrating buildings and causing mass casualties among civilians.

  • In theory, this is why the Avengers were called. As living weapons, SHIELD expects the Avengers to do their best to both limit casualties and direct their intelligence onto finding a way to stop the enemy without inflicting more casualties than the military would using conventional weaponry.

  • 8
    Perhaps sending The Hulk wasn't the best idea then. – PointlessSpike Apr 21 '15 at 12:05
  • I would take the Hulk over a flurry of air-to-air missiles. Given the catastrophic damage a flight of fighter craft could do trying to hit (and likely missing) the highly maneuverable Chitari aircraft, Hawkeye and the Hulk were far better choices. The only things they were going to hit were the Leviathans and we don't know if missiles would be enough to stop them. – Thaddeus Howze Apr 21 '15 at 16:38
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    @PointlessSpike They didn't send the hulk, he just showed up. – Brendan Long Apr 21 '15 at 17:04
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    @ThaddeusHowze Though arguably the Hulk "hit" a lot more than that. "Catastrophic property damage" is practically his middle name. – TylerH Dec 27 '16 at 5:48
9

The primary conceit of the movie is that Nick Fury, the Director of SHIELD, wanted to set up a team of super-powered heroes to take on things that SHIELD itself couldn't cope with. He even argues with the World Security Council over how to handle the current situation, as they aren't convinced the The Avengers is even a viable idea.

So, when the opportunity presented itself, via the invasion of a god-like alien being, Fury wanted to show that The Avengers were the right tool for the job. He felt that the human defense forces would have been outclasses by the alien invaders -- and judging by the police and National Guard(?)'s lack of success, he was right.

He chose to send The Avengers in, and not any of SHIELD's other assets, because he thought that was the most effective use of resources; on top of which, he wanted to prove that his idea had merit, and the The Avengers really could be used to protect Earth from things that were too big for others to handle on their own.

3

Given that the World Security Council clearly had the ability to override Nick Fury, and issue orders to SHIELD over his head, there is the possibility that they grounded the fleet/SHIELD forces themselves.

It's bad enough that

the WSC is ready to sacrifice much of New York City,

but I doubt that they'd want to actively send more forces into a war zone that

they are prepared to nuke.

Additionally, many of SHIELD's vehicles were badly damaged when Loki's forces initially landed on the helicarrier, and while Cap/Tony were able to save the carrier from crashing, there were likely still a number of invaders running about on the ship that needed to be dealt with.

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