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In The Force Awakens...

Han Solo gets Finn aboard the Star Killer base by effecting a light speed jump to within its shields, which succeeds completely - they seem to be undetected and able to carry on with their mission.

However, in the Battle of Endor there is an elaborate plan to eliminate the Death Star II's shields by attacking the shield generator on Endor before Lando can fly the Falcon into the heart of the Death Star II to lead the attack on the central reactor.

Why couldn't they have just used the same approach as Solo does in TFA?

I am unconvinced its an enhancement to the Falcon since none is mentioned, and indeed Solo just comments "you won't like it" when asked how he is going to accomplish the feat in TFA, so I assume its a simple technique. Some mention of "fractional shields" is mentioned, whereby the Star Killer base is protected against anything slower than light speed, but this just opens up the question of why not use a light speed weapon aimed at the right spot?

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because the First Order got smart and put the shield generator behind the shields. – KutuluMike Jan 5 at 13:15
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My take is that Han has more experience with piloting spaceships now than he had 30 years ago. Not that he wouldn't have dared to back then, but he wouldn't have known how to do it. – Mr Lister Jan 5 at 13:19
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It worked for one single ship - and not any ship - with one of the best pilots of the galaxy. But the whole Rebel fleet? With hundreds or thousands of ships, huge Mon Calamari Star Cruisers and freighters? – Neow Jan 5 at 13:25
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@Moo - how is that ANY different from having a thermal vent that you can drop a torpedo through ; or having a tunnel to your power generator that Falcon can fly through; or not putting TWO overlapping shield generators for backup on Endor; or.... That's just how they roll in the Empire – DVK-in-exile Jan 5 at 14:00
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@DVK - You could argue the Emperor deliberately put the shield generator in an exposed position on Endor in order to lure the Rebels into attacking it, as part of his elaborate trap. – RobertF Jan 5 at 14:19

10 Answers 10

Canon doesn't have an answer, but I can think of three things:

  • At that point, Han didn't know that he could penetrate a shield at lightspeed. 30 years is a long time to learn new reckless things. Maybe, Han learned about this by accident or by studying shield or his reckless mind suddenly popped an idea based on what he knew.

  • Shield of the Death Star doesn't fluctuate. Han said this:

    No planetary defense system can be sustained at a constant rate. It would take too much power. The shields fluctuate at a predetermined rate. Keeps anything traveling less than lightspeed from getting through.

So, it's a possibility that shield of Death Star doesn't need to fluctuate because of less power requirement (Death Star was much much smaller).

  • There wasn't adequate space under the shield of the Death Star for maneuvering. Starkiller was a planet with atmosphere and people walk on its surface and there are surface buildings and trees. So, the shield needed to be built in the sky leaving much space in the atmosphere below for maneuvering. On the other hand, people don't need to stand on the surface of the Death Star and turrets etc don't require lots of space. Even if one targets a bay or hole for entry, it'd be suicide because again you won't be able to slow down before crashing.
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+1 for "no planetary...". That's the killer quote as far as I'm concerned. – Valorum Jan 5 at 19:39
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And another +1 for space under the Death Star's sheild. As it was they nearly plowed into the surface, and Starkiller base was way larger. – Wayne Werner Jan 5 at 21:50
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@user45623 Planetary shields exist in Star Wars canon (at least Legends) – Azor-Ahai Jan 6 at 5:56
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@user45623 if the shield covered only the weakpoint then you can just drop ground troops outside of the shield and walk in as the Empire did at Hoth – Cearon O'Flynn Jan 6 at 10:28
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@user45623 Imperial ships are well capable of glassing entire planets (there's even a procedure for doing so, using just three star destroyers - a tiny portion the whole fleet). If you don't shield your whole planet, you're going to die anyway. The full planetary shields can prevent "any bombardment" (that can realistically be done with a fleet of capital ships). That's the why the Empire built the Death Star in the first place - it can penetrate any shield (at the time it was designed). Even then, you can see Alderaan's shield resisting for a split second - those things are strong. – Luaan Jan 7 at 7:53

Accodring to the Foster novelization, the Starkiller base had special kind of planetary shields.

They were - if i may use my own term instead of canon's far wordier description - flickering.

This meant that the Falcon didn't just magically teleport through the shield - Han planned - and managed - to get inside the shield by really-really quickly dropping through the shield while it was down.

The lightspeed approach was merely to get enough speed, so that the Falcon doesn't get caught by the shield while traversing it too slow.

Since Death Star was not on planetary scale (they showed size comparison in the film and it was far smaller), presumably they had the ability to deploy a permanent shield that wasn't flickering just to lower their electric bill conserve energy. (plus, as another answer wisely noted, it was far less dangerous to go to Endor and turn off the shield - which wasn't an option on Starkiller, a convinient forest moon housing the shield generator not having been included in the LEGO set)

To address "why not use light speed weapon":

  1. Since Han explicitly has to time their passage, the assumption is that this isn't something that can be automated

  2. And even if it could, Resistance has nothing like that at the drop of a hat. All they got is a Falcon, Leia's new weird transport, 30 or less X-Wings, and a lot of grit.

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So, Fosters novelisation puts it down to, essentially, incompetence then? – Moo Jan 5 at 13:49
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shields that ... don't shield. See my other comments above for how this could have been used without any risk to a human pilot. – Moo Jan 5 at 13:51
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Ahhh ok - I am still of the opinion however that shields that are so easily bypassed are a product of incompetence, especially when there seemed to be no planet wide detection system to back up the weakness in the shield. – Moo Jan 5 at 13:55
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@Moo "Easily bypassed" is relative... one person getting through does NOT make something easily bypassed. You can't protect against everything - people, new advances in technology, sabotage, etc. One person driving a ship - with either perfect reflexes or some new technology that just hit market - doesn't negate the fact that the shield was perfect protection before and it doesn't negate the fact that it still protects against the other bazillion people in the "known universe". – WernerCD Jan 5 at 17:24
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How did Han synchronize his approach with the shield's downtime if he was coming via hyperspace from another system? – Dronz Jan 5 at 19:49

You do recall that the whole Endor operation was a trap set by The Empire? It was designed to attract and destroy the entire rebel fleet, and to bring Luke Skywalker to the Emperor. Nothing was what it seemed. Pointing out flaws, like putting the shield generator on Endor, is missing the point. The "flaws" were designed in. The shield generator was bait.

They are under no such pretense at Star Killer base. They are not trying to encourage any attention from the resistance, and their defenses reflect that.

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Yes, though this seems like the opposite of an answer to the question - it might rather be added to the question text, as it points out yet another level of ridiculousness why this base would be vulnerable to the same sort of destruction, this time without even needing much of a plan, or any detailed information or analysis. So if later technology by people not setting a trap could be easily bypassed in TFA, why indeed couldn't they do the same at Endor? – Dronz Jan 5 at 17:57
    
The "flaws" were designed in. - "It's not a bug sir, it's a feature." – Ceiling Gecko Jan 7 at 14:17

Starkiller Base was very much bigger then the second Death Star, being the size of a planet instead of a small moon, so it's possible that there wasn't enough space inside the Death Star's shield for the manoeuvre to work. If the shield was 10,000 kilometres across instead of 1,000km then at the speed of light you have 1/30th of a second instead of 1/300th of a second to drop out of hyperspace at the exact right time.

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There were parts of the Death Star II through which you could see the star field and planet on the opposite side, plus there were chunks missing - aim for one of those and you have a much larger window of opportunity. – Moo Jan 5 at 13:33
    
@Moo DS2 Different shields (Small moon, steady... planet, "flickering"), different weaknesses (vulnerable generator vs flickering). Is there anything that says that the DS2's shield had the same weakness? – WernerCD Jan 5 at 17:28
    
@WernerCD Also, internal shield generator vs eternal shield generator. – Trisped Jan 7 at 0:39

Because Leia and the Rebel command shot the idea down

This is highly speculative, but Han's comment to Leia

That she isn't going to like it

suggests that he's offered this plan before, and they turned it down. Which they logically would have because:

There's no evidence that the Death Star II's shields work as Han describes in TFA, so we don't know if it even would work

And

The rebels have a far less risky alternative in the form of a stolen ship and codes for safe passage. It's safer and has a much higher chance of success without being detected until the shield comes down. Once the Falcon hits Endor atmosphere, it would likely have been detected and the gig would be up. And if they tried it with larger ships, they could easily lose the bulk of their force in a crash.

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One consideration might be that landing on a planet-sized structure coming out of light speed is an easier trick to pull off compared to coming to nearly a full stop on the surface of a death-star sized object.

The distance between the shield and the surface is key-- there's more of it over the planet than the death star.

It was a risky maneuver even for the Falcon; it may have been completely unfeasible for the other rebel ships.

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Assuming the Death Star on Endor had the same kind of shield, there was still 2 possible ways to do it. 1) destroy the generator, 2) jump inside the shield. They simply picked to destroy the generator. Solo's comment about them "not liking it" indicates the shield jump is a really dangerous idea...so it stands to reason that with both options available they'd choose to try to destroy the generator. With the Star Killer it was their only option...no external generator.

Another consideration is that the much larger Star Killer also may have had more space between object/shield to jump into...it may not have been viable at all for the smaller Death Star.

As far as just using a lightspeed weapon to destroy the Star Killer without the shields being an issue: they didn't have one that could do that sort of damage. Even once they got inside the shield they had trouble inflicting the amount of damage they needed to destroy it and had to add damage from the inside in order to bring it down.

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The two situations had different goals, so different solutions were selected.

In the Return of the Jedi, the goal was to destroy the Death Star II by shooting it with the whole rebel fleet. The shield must be down for that to work.

In FTA, the goal was to get a small team through the shield and onto the surface.

There are other plot based reasons also:

  • The military leaders were probably aware of the common shield limitation, but if it was exploitable, it would have been removed. As a smuggler, Han was probably one of the few people who knew how to exploit the limitation, so it might never have been considered. Otherwise they could have sent a few X-wings and Y-wings and taken out the core. It is also possible that they did not expect detonating the core to be active enough to destroy the space station because it was not fully operational. In this case, they would need the full fleet to destroy it.
  • Han was going down to the planet with Leia. Rather then risking his ship and the fleet, Han might have kept the radical idea to himself. They had a good plan, no need for a crazy one.
  • As has been stated in comments and other answers, DS2 might use a different type of shield (external satellite size shield vs internal planet size shield) which might not have been known to have this limitation.
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The reason for the small team getting to the surface in both films was to disable the shields - in neither film did they have an official secondary objective. It was only after they landed that Finn revealed he was going after Rey, so that wasn't a consideration when they came up with the plan. – Moo Jan 7 at 11:34
    
While the small teams both had the same job (disable the shield) how they got to the job was critically different. In one, they used a stolen shuttle to get to a location outside the shield. In the other, they used a limitation of the shield to get inside the shield. This difference is why they have different solutions. If you need to go through a piston smasher, do you run really fast, or turn it off? It depends on if you can turn it off before running through. – Trisped Jan 7 at 18:00

The big difference - in RoTJ, the plot is actually thought through. In TFA, it's just a McGuffin to get them inside. Even if the Starkiller base shields do flicker at a predetermined rate, how does Han Solo, who's spent years running away from being a member of the Rebellion (sorry, Resistance), know anything about it? No-one knew any details in the film about Starkiller Base until Sanitation Stormtrooper Finn conveniently explains it all, and he didn't know about the shield fluctuations.

Also, as one of the earlier posters said, the reaction time needed to stop the MF from crashing into the base is a ridiculously small window. A very old Han Solo, as that's what he is, wouldn't have the reactions to do it.

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I didn't read most of the answers so sorry if I duplicate any answers given. But in Episode 6, the rebel alliance had to disable the shields first before the death star was destroyed. Also, Thrawn had set up a strong umbrella shield that is vastly different from the Crapshooting base (starkiller? I mean really? New star wars guys you suck at naming as much as george lucas sucks at coming up with new ideas for star wars) which used some sort of pulse shielding which means there are gaps that occur for milliseconds. which leads to other issues with the movie...

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Hi and welcome to the site. Reading the other answers to a question you're thinking of answering is usually a good idea - it helps avoid duplicates and make your own answer better. – Megha Feb 20 at 10:16

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