- Toreno: "Would you like to see your brother this week?"
- Carl: "Yeah! What can I do?"
- Toreno: "You just gotta steal a military jet off an amphibious assault ship and use it to destroy a flotilla of spy ships. Nothing big."
- —Mike Toreno gives Carl Johnson his mission
Vertical Bird is a mission in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, given to protagonist Carl Johnson by government agent Mike Toreno from Madd Dogg's Crib at the Mulholland district of Los Santos, San Andreas.
After reclaiming the mansion from the Vagos, Carl returns to the mansion, where he listens to Madd Dogg performing in his recording studio with Kent Paul and Maccer. All of a sudden, the audio is cut off and Toreno's voice is heard on the speakers, requesting that Carl meet him outside the mansion. Carl leaves Paul, Maccer and Dogg in the studio and enters Toreno's Washington outside.
Toreno drives Carl to the northern shore of Red County. Requesting another job to be performed for him in exchange for Sweet's release from prison, Toreno demands that Carl sneak inside a amphibious assault ship in the Easter Basin Naval Station to steal a Hydra VTOL jet to destroy a flotilla of spy ships. Carl hops in a Squalo speedboat containing a knife and a silenced pistol, and heads for the naval base. Carl enters the ship through the rear, where he has the option to either blast his way in, or sneak inside the ship using his equipment. Regardless, Carl disables the ship's S.A.M. sites and steals one of the Hydras.
Shortly afterwards, a group of Hydras are dispatched to shoot down Carl's aircraft. Toreno tells Carl not to worry about it, stating that a shootdown would cause an international incident. Carl destroys the pursuing aircraft and flies towards the Sherman Reservoir where he uses the Hydra's weaponry to destroy the Tropic spy ships, as Toreno requested. With his task completed, an infuriated Carl now asks Toreno what to do with the jet, but Toreno tells Carl that it is his problem. Carl flies the aircraft back to the Verdant Meadows airfield, where he taxis the jet into one of the hangars, completing the mission.
In order to complete the mission the player must:
- There's a silenced pistol and a knife in the speedboat
- Head for the ship
- Get inside the ship before the rear door closes. Swimming will help avoid detcetion by the guards
- Find the control room to switch off the SAM sites
- Steal one of the military jets
- There are military jets on your tail. Take them out
- All enemy jets are destroyed. Now destroy the spy ships
- Take the jet to the desert airfield and land anywhere on the landing strip
- All of the guards aboard the LHD-069 - Killed by Carl Johnson in order to steal a Hydra VTOL jet.
- Pilots of enemy Hydra VTOL jet(s) - Killed by Carl Johnson for attempting to kill him for stealing one of the Hydras.
- Unknown personnel aboard the Tropic spy ships - Killed by Carl Johnson with a Hydra jet under the orders of Mike Toreno.
The Hydra will now permanently spawn in the westernmost hangar of Verdant Meadows, as indicated by an on-screen message. As well, one is found on the aircraft carrier's flight deck, and two are found onto Area 69's tarmac, although both areas are restricted and the player will earn a 5-star wanted level for trespassing. Heavy weaponry will now spawn at Toreno's ranch, including a minigun, both versions of the rocket launcher, and the flamethrower. All of them gives the player more ammunition than a regular pick-up. E.G. Minigun with 500 ammo here, other locations 200 ammo.
- There are a total of four Hydra aircraft on the ship. One is already on the flight deck and will take off immediately if the player reaches the doorway to the flight deck at the top of the stairs. It can be destroyed before it even starts to take off by using a Minigun if the player doesn't go near the doorway, however this doesn't have any effect later. There will be three left. Destroy any two and board the last or else they will join the pursuit. Even if every possible Hydra is destroyed(including the one that's supposed to take off) there will be one chasing the player.
- If the player wishes to complete this level in stealth then it might be advisable to use the Sniper Rifle to kill the 2 soldiers in the patrol boat that enters the carrier. This has a comedic effect on the first cutscene as the patrol boat appears to be driven by no one, and no one seems to mind the dead bodies.
- A much easier way to complete the mission is to fly the Hydra to the airstrip in Verdant Meadows, then, if the player has a Heat Seeking Rocket Launcher or a minigun, go back to where the spy ships are, bomb the spy ships and if needed, the jets as well. Then go back to the airstrip and climb back into the Hydra and drive/push it into the hangar. This can be useful for people who find flying a Hydra difficult.
- One easy way to evade the three Hydras that give chase is to hover beneath/between the Garver or Kincaid bridges. Doing this for a few moments will result in the three Hydras colliding with the bridges and being destroyed without the need for tricky aerial combat.
- As entering the Easter Basin Naval Station doesn't give the player a wanted level in this mission, this is a good opportunity to collect the two oysters located close to the naval base, before approaching the rear of the aircraft carrier.
After the mission
A WCTR news bulletin announces that several eyewitnesses witnessed the Hydra being stolen from the Naval Base. However, this is denied by the Navy.
- This is the only storyline mission that takes place across each of the three major areas in the State of San Andreas. It starts at Madd Dogg's Crib (Los Santos), Carl steals the Hydra from the Easter Basin Naval Station (San Fierro), destroys spy ships in Tierra Robada and lands the jet at Verdant Meadows (Las Venturas).
- The mission is scripted to take place at night and have stormy weather.
- There is no time limit to enter the ship before the cutscene with the patrol boat starts.
- The Squalo at the beginning of the mission can be destroyed without mission failure. The player will be forced to swim to the objective, however.
- If the patrol boat that enters the carrier is destroyed from afar (with a Minigun or RPG), the game will crash as soon as the player sneaks aboard.
- The default radio station in the Washington is WCTR, but when Carl and Toreno enter Toreno's car, K-Rose is playing.
- In the beta, Carl would have to drive all the way to the boat, as depicted by unused mission failure messages. I.E. Toreno's car is destroyed!
- The S.A.M. sites on the aircraft carrier are mission-exclusive, and will remain inactive out of the mission, regardless of whether they were deactivated or not by the player during the mission.
- If the player destroys the S.A.M sites with a heavy weapon before disabling them, the objective won't change and they'll still be instructed to disable them. If the player then takes off with a Hydra they'll be notified that the sites are still active even though they're destroyed.
- This is one of two missions where Hydras are piloted by military instead of the police, the other is N.O.E.
- The player can board the spy ships, but they cannot be driven around or pushed in any way.
- The Heists Update of GTA Online introduces a very similar mission, Humane Raid - EMP. In this mission, 4 players have to infiltrate an aircraft carrier by boat to steal a Hydra containing an EMP generator. After stealing the Hydra, other Jets will chase and try to take down the Hydra. However, there are multiple different jets on the carrier whereas the other players can also take to escort the Hydra.
- After the mission is completed, Carl is free to do whatever he wishes with the Hydra he used in the mission.
- Even if CJ parks the Hydra at Verdant Meadows, then destroys the spy ships on foot such as with a rocket launcher, he will still yell at Toreno afterward through the (invisible) earpiece as if he were still in the jet.