Star Wars Canon Catch-Up: What Are TIE Fighters?

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 new column Canon Catch-Up, we’re here to answer those questions and set the record straight.

Today, we’re discussing TIE Fighters.

So, what’s the deal with TIE Fighters in the current continuity?

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Armed with two laser canons, the Twin Ion Engine (TIE) Fighter quickly became an iconic vessel after its implementation a few years after the Clone Wars.  Based on the designs of the Clone Wars eta Eta-2 Actis-class interceptor used by the Jedi , the TIE Fighter is a small, disposal starfighter manufactured en masse for the Empire by Siener Fleet Systems on Outer Rim planets such as Lothal. The successor to the V-Wing as the mainstay of the Imperial Starfighter Corps, the Tie Fighter was seen as a ship that traded durability for versatility and maneuverability.

Able to function in both space and atmosphere, the TIE Fighter could act as a lone scout or as part of a larger attack force designed to overwhelm an enemy with sheer numbers. Despite pilots dreading their cramped cockpits, the TIE Fighter caught on, spawning offshoots of the original design such as the TIE Interceptor and the TIE Bomber.

Nearly 30 years after the Battle of Endor, the First Order still uses Tie Fighters as the backbone of its Starfighter Corps.

What about TIE Fighters in the Expanded Universe?

Originally designed by Raith Sienar, head of Sienar Fleet Systems, the TIE Fighter was designed to be easy to produce and therefore be able to use in overwhelming numbers. They became so prevalent  in the galaxy they became a symbol of Imperial power similar to Stormtroopers and Star Destroyers. Rebel starfighter pilots would come to nickname the ships “eyeballs” after the shape of their cockpit windows. Also, the ships did not carry life support systems… forcing their pilots to wear life support suits for the duration of their flights.

When the Rebellion graduated to the use of X-Wings and A-Wings, the former’s durability and the latter’s greater maneuverability began to tip the scales in small engagements. Several TIE Fighters were also stolen by the Rebels and both studied and used in infiltration missions. The Empire’s answer was to introduce the next generation TIE starfighter, the TIE Interceptor: a faster and more durable ship armed with four laser canons. The Interceptor was so fast that it nearly rivaled the Rebellion’s A-Wing for speed.

Tie Interceptor

After the Battle of Endor, the New Republic began to use TIE Fighters after capturing many Imperial manufacturing facilities. Though they never replaced the X-Wing as their mainstream fighter, they used them in several engagements including the Battle of Adumar. As the Imperial Remnant lost their facilities, they began to rely on other fighters for their Navy, such as the Preybird-class starfighter by the SoroSuub Corporation.

Over the course of its life, the TIE Fighter would see many offshoots including the TIE Bomber, TIE Interceptor,  the cloaking device enabled TIE Phantom, the droid controlled TIE/D, Darth Vader’s TIE Advanced, and the beloved heavy fighter TIE Defender among many others.

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What does the Expanded Universe tell us about TIE Fighters the new continuity?

Really, the biggest lessons the EU can teach us are that the Tie Fighter will never go out of fashion and it will always have different iterations. As we can see in the trailers for The Force Awakens, TIE’s are back with a slightly different paint job and different variants.

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There’s just no way the production team would ditch such an iconic fighter from the originally trilogy. Obviously, they aren’t above making some tweaks… but part of bringing back the Original Trilogy feel is sticking to what works.

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

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