A sortie (from the French word meaning exit or from Latin root surgere meaning to "rise up") is a deployment or dispatch of one military unit, be it an aircraft, ship, or troops, from a strongpoint.[1] The term originated in siege warfare.

In aviation

A U.S. Air Force Boeing C-17 Globemaster III flies over Owens Valley, California, for a test sortie.

In military aviation, a sortie is a combat mission of an individual aircraft,[2] starting when the aircraft takes off. For example, one mission involving six aircraft would tally six sorties. The sortie rate is the number of sorties that a given unit can support in a given time.

In siege warfare


In siege warfare, the word sortie refers specifically to a sudden issuing of troops against the enemy from a defensive position—that is, an attack launched against the besiegers by the defenders. If the sortie is through a sally port, the verb to sally may be used interchangeably with to sortie.

Purposes of sorties include harassment of enemy troops, destruction of siege weaponry and engineering works,[3] joining the relief force, etc.

Sir John Thomas Jones, analyzing a number of sieges carried out during the Peninsular War (1807–1814), wrote:[4]

The events of these sieges show that a bold and vigorous sortie in force might carry destruction through every part of a besieger's approaches, where the guard is injudiciously disposed and ill commanded; but that if due precautions have been observed in forming the approaches and posting the defenders, any sortie from a besieged place must be checked with loss in their advance, when the approaches are still distant; or when the approaches are near, should a sortie succeed in pushing into them by a sudden rush, the assailants must inevitably be driven out again in a moment, with terrible slaughter.


  1. ^ "sortie - Dictionary Definition". Retrieved 6 May 2020.
  2. ^ Ellsworth Air Force Base (AFB), Powder River Training Complex: Environmental Impact Statement. USAF. August 2010. p. (8) – 4. Retrieved 22 February 2021.
  3. ^ Leif Inge Ree Petersen (2013). Siege Warfare and Military Organization in the Successor States (400–800 AD): Byzantium, the West and Islam. Leiden: Koninklijke Brill NV. p. 293. ISBN 978-90-04-25199-1.
  4. ^ John Thomas Jones (1846). H.D. Jones (ed.). Journals of Sieges Carried on by the Army Under the Duke of Wellington. Vol. 2 (3rd ed.). London: John Weale. p. 331.