Star Wars Canon Catch-Up: What Are X-Wings? [Updated]

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 X-Wing Starfighters.

[UPDATE 12/10/15] We’ve added information on the T-70 X-wing in The Force Awakens in the section “What does the expanded universe tell us about the X-Wings in the new continuity?”

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

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Designed by the Incom Corporation, the T-65 X-Wing was a natural progression from the Z-95 Headhunter and the Clone Wars-era ARC-170 starfighter. It’s four wings, referred to as “S-foils” could fold together for higher cruising speeds and fold apart during combat engagements.

Armed with four laser cannons (one on each wing tip) and a pair of proton torpedo launchers in the nose, the T-65 was also equipped with fully functioning hyperdrive and shield systems. However, in order to compute a jump to hyperspace the fighter would need to be outfitted with an astromech droid behind the cockpit.

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The X-Wing became the fighter of choice for Rebel pilots during the Galactic Civil War, but the fighter gained true fame when Luke Skywalker used one to destroy the Death Star at the Battle of Yavin. After the Rebels relocated to Echo Base on Hoth, X-Wings were kept in the hanger and used during the evacuation after the Imperial Navy stormed the planet. At the Battle of Endor, the X-Wing was used in conjunction with Y-Wings, B-Wings, and A-Wings to assault the second Death Star. It was Wedge Antilles in his X-Wing, however, that destroyed the station along with Lando Calrissian and Nien Nunb in the Millennium Falcon.

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As the Rebellion became the New Republic and pressed a military campaign that culminated in the Battle of Jakku, X-Wing fighters were used in the engagement. 30 years later, the Resistance now uses the more advanced T- 70 X-Wing fighter against the First Order.

What about X-Wings in the Expanded Universe?

Originally designed for the Empire by the Incom Corporation as a successor to the Z-95 Headhunter, the design team that created the fighter defected to the Rebel Alliance and brought the prototypes with them. Soon after, the Rebel Alliance began producing the fighter in a decentralized operation throughout the Outer Rim.

Though the X-Wing proved a superior ship to the Empire’s mass produced TIE Fighter in one-on-one engagements, the fighters were upgraded several times during the Galactic Civil War. The most popular version of the fighter was the T-65B, used by Luke Skywalker in the Battle of Yavin. In the years after the death of Emperor Palpatine at Endor, the New Republic planned to replace the X-Wing with the E-Wing Starfighter, but it never caught on. Rogue Squadron in particular was famous for their almost exclusive use of the X-Wing for almost all of their operations against the Imperial Remnant.

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Eventually, the X-Wing was replaced by an upgraded variant, the XJ, during the Yuuzhan Vong invasion. The XJ’s improvements included a third torpedo launcher under the craft and other improved systems. The XJ also had many variants, including the StealthX fighter: a covert strike craft used by Luke Skywalker’s Jedi Order.

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

The X-Wing is one of the most iconic designs in the Star Wars universe, so it’s no surprise it’s very prominent in both continuities. Interestingly, the new canon takes a page from the old expanded universe and (understandably) features a more advanced fighter after Return of the Jedi. While the T-70 does bear some resemblance in to the XJ, it’s far more inspired by concept artist Ralph McQuarrie’s initial paintings of the fighter:

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[UPDATE 12/10/15] Poe Dameron actor Oscar Issac recently weighed in on the capabilities of the T-70 X-wing and how it differs from its predecessor:

“They’re faster. They’re more maneuverable. Just think about a BMW from 30 years ago to now. It’s more computerized. You notice instead of the four thrusters, it’s got the one that separates, it’s a more high powered engine. The guns also. The targeting is better on them, you can get way more specific with taking out individuals from very up high.”

While the backstory of the X-Wing is still yet to be decided in the new canon, it’s possible we may see the expanded universe story adapted in Star Wars Rebels as the X-Wing has yet to make an appearance in the pre-A New Hope show. We also wouldn’t be surprised if the classic X-Wings showed up in Rogue One, though it depends how far that movie is set behind A New Hope.

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

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