Star Wars Canon Catch-Up: What Are A-Wings?

Star Wars is going through a state of transition. For twenty years, an Expanded Universe of novels, comics, and games have supplemented the films and TV shows to create an incredibly deep and detailed Star Wars universe. Soon after Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm, however, they wiped the canon slate clean, saying they would no longer adhere to the stories of the Expanded Universe in order to have the greatest creative freedom with their new Star Wars films starting with The Force Awakens.

But with the new films, so comes new books, comics, and games in a new continuity to replace the old one. So, what is canon and what isn’t anymore? After twenty years, are these the same characters and planets we’ve always known and loved? Is it even the same universe? Well, in our column Canon Catch-Up, we’re here to answer those questions and set the record straight.

Today, we’re discussing A-Wing Starfighters.

So, what’s the deal with A-Wings in the current continuity? 

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The RZ-1 A-Wing starfighter is a high-speed starfighter manufactured by Kuat Systems Engineering and appropriated by the Rebellion for their guerilla campaign against the Galactic Empire. Equipped with two laser canons and concussion missiles, the ship’s extreme speed capabilities made it perfect for the hit and run tactics the Rebels used during the early years in the Galactic Civil War.

The A-Wing was used by the Rebellion early in their campaign, but played an instrumental part in the Battle of Endor. A-Wings flew with Lando Calrissian inside the superstructure of the second Death Star, eventually splitting up to draw TIE Fighters away from the group headed to the power generator.

One notable A-Wing pilot, Green Leader Arvel Crynyd, crashed his fighter into the bridge of the Super Star Destroyer Executor, disabling the ship and sending it spiraling into the Death Star.

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What about A-Wings in the Expanded Universe?

Inspired by the Eta-2 fighter from the Clone Wars, A-Wing fighters were much faster than Imperial TIE Fighters or even any of the Rebellions other brands of starfighters. Originally conceived by General Jan Dodonna, who realized the Rebellion’s need for a fast craft after seeing a trio of TIE Fighters almost cost them the Battle of Yavin, the dedicated Alliance interceptor was designed by an ex-Kuat Systems engineer.

Despite the A-Wing project being underfunded by Mon Mothma, the fighters were extremely successful in their engagements with Imperial forces. So much so that the Empire designed the TIE Interceptor to counter their capabilities. Despite their effectiveness, however, lack of funds meant that only a handful of fighters were in operation at any given time. As a result, only one full unit was present at the Battle of Endor.

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By the time the New Republic was firmly established as a galactic power, the A-Wings were seeing more widespread use in military campaigns. One particular tactic, the A-Wing Slash, was developed by General Garm Bel Iblis. The A-Wing Slash involved a group of X-Wings approaching Imperial forces with A-Wings flying in a tight formation behind them to mask their presence. The X-Wings would pull away, drawing Imperial fighters away from the A-Wings while they closed in on a target and launched concussion missiles.

The A-Wing also become a favorite of intelligence agencies as a reconnaissance tool, able to quickly jump into an area and jump out without being destroyed by enemy interceptors.

What does the Expanded Universe tell us about A-Wings in the new continuity?

Introduced in Return of the Jedi, the original concept art for the A-Wing actually had blue paint on it:

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Unfortunately, due to technical limitations of the time, the blue paint meant that it would blend in with the blue screens used to give the space battles a background. Thus, the blue was changed to red.

However, the new continuity has shown it’s embracing many of the unused concepts by Ralph Mcquarrie right down to unused color schemes. We can see this in The Force Awakens X-Wings and the early A-Wings of Phoenix Squadron seen in the Star Wars: Rebels season 2 premiere.

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If we can learn anything here, it’s that many of the fighters we’ll see going forward will be inspired or in some cases literal translations of the original concept art. So, start hunting guys. You may find the next generation Y-Wing in there.

While we’re waiting for more post-Return of the Jedi information, check out our previous entry of Canon Catch-Up about Force lightning.

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