Imperial Star Fighter Philosophy: A Brief Overview
Imperial Star Fighter Philosophy: A Brief Overview

Submitted for consideration for inclusion in the New Republic Military History Archives, Coruscant.

            It is of the utmost importance that all students of military tactics and strategy be well versed on the philosophies that governed the distribution and use of the star fighter arm of the largest navy ever created by one government. At it's height, the Empire of Emperor Palpatine boasted nearly 15,000 Imperial-Class Star Destroyers, 5 active Super-Class Star Destroyers and over 100,000 TIE class star fighters in the fleet alone. These numbers do not take into account the thousands of support vessels, axillaries and reserve ships.

            Yet, in the 3 years since the Defeat at Endor, even conservative estimates indicate that the Empire has lost 60% of its forces. The loss of large capital ships, such as the Star Destroyers, can only be attributed to the superiority of the Rebel Alliance/New Republic star fighters. While the Mon Calamari MC-80's and MC-90's are by and large quite capable ships, even the novice student of tactics can see that they would simply be no match for the overwhelming number of capital ships that the Empire still retains. The Imperial Fleet, even taking into account casualties and defections, still outnumbers the New Republic navy by a margin of no less than 14 to 1!

            However, the ability of New Republic star fighters, including the Y-Wing, X-Wing, B-Wing and A-Wing, to withstand large amounts of damage during a battle, has provided the needed edge to overcome the Imperial numerical superiority. Indeed, even today, Commander Wedge Antilles of Rogue Squadron is able to go into battle against opposing Imperial forces more than 3 times in number than his own and still expect victory with no losses.

            As the war against the remnants of the Empire continues, and more Imperial pilots are defecting to the New Republic, a definitive picture of principals employed by top Imperial commanders in the application of star fighter assets becomes apparent. This report will present those ideas and detail why they are flawed.

            Imperial doctrine suggests that the ability to achieve victory is through strength in numbers, to overwhelm the enemy through the use of overkill. When a mission requires a single flight of fighters, a squadron is sent. When a city rebels, the entire continent is leveled through orbital bombardment. Therefore, Imperial commanders generally end up throwing all of their resources immediately into a battle and hope that the overwhelming superiority in numbers will assure victory. Very few Imperial commanders have ever demonstrated the restraint that is common among New Republic officers. Those few Imperials that do, such as the self-proclaimed Warlord Zsinj, have managed to establish distinct boundaries for their territories, as well as have been able to hold our forces at bay.

            Interviews with several former Imperial officers, including, by great luck, a rare discussion with General Han Solo, indicate that Imperial philosophy is that the mission goals are paramount, regardless of the cost to life. The goal is, literally, to achieve the goal, then to worry about lives afterwards. The Empire has billions of lives to choose from; a pilot could be replaced at what was considered minimal expense, but a strategic defeat is totally unacceptable. General Solo went on to state that Imperial doctrine puts the mission first, then the equipment and then the pilots. Other experienced New Republic officers have gone so far as to comment that such an official attitude towards its pilots results in low morale, which in turn promotes poor performance on the battlefield.

            The strategy of overwhelming an enemy requires vast amounts of resources. While the Imperial navy possesses several thousand large ships, most are considered impractical for the missions they are employed for. Indeed, it appears that the Star Destroyer's main purpose was to be a weapon of psychological warfare; to scare the enemy onto submission. A review of Imperial mission logs show that it was, prior to the introduction of the Alliance Mon Cal cruisers, a rare occurrence for a Star Destroyer to even engage a target. Therefore, we must assume that for all intents and purposes, with the exception of missions specifically detailed around a Star Destroyer, that standard Imperial doctrine called for the use of star fighters to overwhelm enemy defenses.

            The Imperial star fighter corps started out with several models of fighter, from Old Republic designs to more advanced craft (for the time) such as the Incom Z-95 Headhunter and the Koennsayr BTL-S3 Y-Wing. Both of these more advanced fighters, proven veterans of the Rebel Alliance, were considered too outdated by the technologically minded Imperial military very early on after their introduction into the Imperial fleet. Seinar Fleet Systems then approached the Imperial military about developing a star fighter exclusively for fleet usage (both Incom and Koennsayr had civilian versions of their military-grade models). Approval was soon given for the project, which was indirectly placed under the direction of Lord Vader, and the first TIE (Twin Ion Engine) model was flown off of the assembly line within months.

            The first model, the TIE/ln, personified everything that Imperial commanders felt a modern star fighter should be: small, sleek and fast. Indeed the TIE/ln was, at the time, the fastest star fighter produced in the galaxy. The final selling point was cost; the TIE/ln had a cost that was approximately 75% of what a new Z-95 Headhunter sold for. Soon, all SFS manufacturing facilities were turning out TIE/ln's and the older fighters of the Imperial navy were sold, scrapped or placed in reserve. A note of interest: this program of replacing older fighters with TIE models is what created the surplus of unused craft that originally provided the Rebel Alliance with the basis for its star fighter fleet. As it is stated by the Jawas of Tattooine: "One being's trash is another's treasure".

            The TIE/ln was a distinct deviation from previous military designs for star fighters. It had no hyperdrive, nor did it have the capacity to have one installed. This prevented it from acting independently of a base or mother ship, placing increased pressure on commanders not to foolishly place their capital ships in harm's way. The fighters had no shields, trading protection for speed, which accounted for the numerous military victories achieved by the TIE/ln the first few years of production. Simply put, there was no other star fighter that could keep up with it.

            Training of pilots was also improved as SFS coordinated with the navy to provide solid courses of instruction. However, as the fleet grew in later years, much of the hands-on training would be replaced by simulator instruction. As I will point out later, this will have a devastating effect on the efficiency of the Imperial navy.


            Imperial commanders soon realized that their new fighters were lacking in several "key" areas. The most important was the ability to deliver heavy ordinance to targets. This left them with two choices: develop a new fighter/bomber, or reinstate the Y-Wing into active military service. At this time, the military approached both Incom and Seinar Fleet Systems to develop a fighter or fighter/bomber capable of delivering missiles, torpedoes and bombs.

            Incom had, by this time, already begun secret negotiations with members of the Rebel Alliance to develop a star fighter that would have the heavy firepower and speed in order to go up against the TIE/ln. Receiving funding from Military Research and Development, Incom developed the first prototype of what would become the X-Wing fighter. Several early versions of the X-Wing were distributed to Imperial-friendly organizations for field-testing, including CorSec.

            Seinar Fleet Systems suspected that Incom was cooperating with the growing rebellion and placed a spy in their organization. This itself is proof that the senior officials at SFS felt that Incom had developed a superior fighter design and were fearful that Imperial commanders would see that. Fortunately for SFS, their spy was able to find evidence of certain key Incom members conspiring to turn the X-Wing design over to the Alliance and alerted the Imperial authorities. Imperial forces raided Incom facilities too late, as the designs and plans for the X-Wing were spirited away as the engineers defected to the Alliance.

            Because the X-Wing now had the stigma of the Rebellion attached to it, the Empire severed all official ties with Incom. Why the company simply wasn't taken over by the government is not known. However, a key point was the Seinar Fleet Systems not only won the fighter/bomber contract, but they also received the service contract for the remaining Z-95 Headhunters in Imperial service. The SFS service agencies were not anxious to perform work on a competitor's craft, which resulted in several planetary defense forces selling their fighters to the Alliance.

            Eventually, SFS produced the TIE Bomber. The craft was able to carry a heavier payload than the Y-Wing, but it was by far an inferior craft. It maneuvered poorly in vacuum and atmosphere. It had no hyperdrive, shields or ion cannon (which were standard on the Y-Wing), yet it cost more than the older craft.

            Here again, we see the mentality of Imperial doctrine at work. While the TIE bomber was less adaptable as older, proven designs, the fact that it could carry a much greater payload, that it represented the latest in star fighter technology, was enough for Imperial commanders to immediately begin ordering it. Most military theorists now suggest that the introduction of the TIE bomber may have been the single greatest blunder of the entire Imperial Civil War. Had the Imperial military continued to use the Y-Wing or some other similar type of craft, and then precision strikes against Alliance capital ships would have been possible. As it was, the slow speed and poor protection of the TIE Bomber simply made it a target for more limber Alliance fighters.

            Within months, Imperial commanders saw that the Alliance X-Wings were achieving several victories over the TIE/ln's and raised their concerns with SFS. The response was a prototype star fighter that was given to Lord Vader himself to test. Lord Vader's prototype fighter was equipped with a hyperdrive and shields, as well as a larger ion engine, to make it compatible with the X-Wing. After several months of field-testing, Lord Vader decreed that the design was acceptable. When the fighter was brought before the Emperor for approval, it was deemed too expensive for mass production. The Empire was still recovering from the expenses involved in the purchase of the TIE Bomber. The Emperor ordered the hyperdrive and shielding removed, as well as suggesting a change to the solar panel design. The new design, coined "double dagger" by the designers, provided more overall surface area for absorption of solar energy, which would allow for more weapons and a larger engine.

            The final design was dubbed the TIE Interceptor and it is considered the pinnacle of TIE series design. Other TIE models have been developed since, but none packed so much power into so small a package. The TIE Interceptor was designed to accommodate shield generators and missile launchers if necessary for specialized missions. However, despite the jumps in design and technology, the TIE Interceptor simply could not take the punishment that the Alliance craft could. It was only through the superior training techniques of men such as Soontir Fel that the fighter was able to gain its fearsome reputation.

            Against older craft such as the Z-95 and Y-Wing, the TIE Interceptor nearly always meant death. Against superior fighters such as the X-Wing, the lack of shielding proved to be its downfall. Several commanders, as we have learned from captured logs, made requests to Imperial City that a fighter be developed with shield capability. However, this idea went against the Imperial doctrine. While certain pilots, such as Soontir Fel, were considered heroes of the Empire, it is believed that there was a general fear of pilots developing exceptional skills.

            Many experts agree that the use of overwhelming force on the part of the Empire hid the fact that the upper echelon of the military were actually paranoid; that they may have been truly aware that the excessive use of force that was employed may come back to haunt them. As Luke Skywalker demonstrated at Yavin, it only takes one pilot of exceptional skill to turn the tide of battle. The assembly line mentality of Imperial military training, where emphasis was placed on preserving weapons and not life, is indicative of a paranoid mindset.

            As stated previously, attrition was slowly turning the TIE Interceptor into a fighter to be dreaded. Imperial commanders were known to send the fighters into situations that called for heavier assault craft, such as the Cygnus Spaceworks Assault Gunboat. This, plus the fact that pilots were beginning to be rushed through training and placed into actual combat without adequate preparation, were leading to huge losses in the fighter corps.

            It is important to note that recent intelligence reports indicate that TIE Interceptors are now being equipped with shields (some years after the death of Emperor Palpatine!).

            With the introduction of the TIE Interceptor, Alliance commanders began developing a new fighter to match the speed of the new TIE Interceptor. Alliance philosophy was that the safety of the pilot was of paramount importance. General Crix Madine was quoted as saying, when asked about the design process for a new star fighter, "a fighter is only as good as it's pilot. You can always find a good snubnose fighter, but you can't always find a good pilot to fly it."

            The A-Wing fighter was developed as a direct response to the TIE Interceptor. Imperial commanders immediately demanded a fighter superior to the new Alliance design. The Weapons Development Program, under the leadership of Admiral Zaarin, worked closely with SFS to develop the TIE Advanced, or "Avenger".

            The TIE Advanced was actually based on the original prototype for TIE Interceptor that was originally rejected by the Emperor. Many Imperial commanders were reluctant to order the new craft, which came equipped with hyperdrives, for fear of pilots defecting to the Rebel Alliance. On another level, many former Imperial officers who were involved with the development of the TIE Advanced have admitted that by bringing the fighter into military service, the Imperial military was acknowledging that the Alliance philosophy of fewer, but more powerful craft was a better strategy in fighting the civil war.

            It appears now that the commander's fears had some basis as we now have indications of up to 15% desertion on the part of TIE Advanced pilots. It is now not so uncommon to find a TIE Advanced as part of a mercenary or pirate group. Because of the high cost of the fighter, supplemented with the high desertion rate, all orders for the TIE Advanced were cancelled after the Battle of Endor.

            There are currently rumors of a final TIE design that was introduced only after the death of the Emperor. The Imperial High Council, under pressure from the higher military commanders, authorized the manufacture of the TIE Defender. Information concerning this fighter is sketchy at best, but intelligence estimates indicate that this latest fighter incorporates all of the advanced technology available. However, based on the cost of previous models and the shrinking Imperial economy, it is unlikely that this fighter will be deployed in any great numbers.

            Imperial doctrine originally dictated superiority in numbers, combined with the latest technology and coupled with the unwavering determination to complete the mission as planned. It was believed, at the time the doctrine was originated, that this was what was required of a modern fighting force. The psychological effects of having a ridiculously large military force was considered to be enough to keep most governments in line with the policies of the New Order. Considerations for the individual [pilots] were naught, training doctrines were slackened to permit more pilots and cost became the final characteristic of the star fighters employed by the Empire.

            Because most Imperial commanders refused to acknowledge that sometimes newer is not necessarily better, many star fighter designs incorporated technology that was questionable as to whether it met the requirements of the application. Imperial philosophy stated that avoiding damage was better than absorbing it. Realists realize, however, that in combat, you will take damage and your equipment must be able to take and still operate with some degree of effectiveness. Being able to operate independently of bases and mother ships provides greater mission flexibility, which Imperial forces were not able to take advantage of. Because of the high attrition rate of Imperial pilots, most of the experienced pilots were dead by the Battle of Endor, and those that were available had mostly simulated combat training.

            Current intelligence reports indicate that Imperial doctrine may be changing; it is the opinion of many experts that this is because most of the commanders who followed previous guidelines are now dead. The victories over the remnants of the Empire do not come as quickly now. Warlord Zsinj maintains a substantial battle fleet and he is known to control several SFS facilities. There are rumors from the Outer Regions of military commanders ensuring that ships are better equipped and that the pilots are better trained.

            Whatever the case, it is obvious that the philosophy of the Imperial navy towards the use and development of their star fighters was significant in their inability to provide adequate coverage for their bases and capital ships, thus resulting in their decreased numbers they possess today.

Jakobt Lerien

Ensign, New Republic Navy

NRV Emancipate

+2.41.66 ABE (After the Battle of Endor)