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We did not see A-Wings till the Battle of Endor.

When playing the (non-canon) X-Wing games, the A-Wing always seemed to be more advanced than the X-Wing. It was only used for special missions, etc.

So in the 1990s I was under the impression that the A-Wing was the newer fighter.

However we now (in 2015/2016) have Rebels flying A-Wings 5 Years BBY, and X-Wings still in use 35+ years ABY.​​‌‍

Was I mistaken in my 1990s impression of the A-Wing, or has it been changed to be the older craft?

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For whatever stock you place in the video games, it has been fairly consistent over the last 20+ years that the A-Wing is more manouverable and faster than the X-Wing in the video games, but maybe not as durable. As such, it seems to feel newer and more advanced in the games. – Todd Wilcox Jan 6 at 18:12
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The Wookiepedia listings indicate that the A-Wing is newer based on the sources used there - which I believe are not Disney Canon. Also note that the A-Wing is designed for a slightly different purpose than the X-Wing, as @Dungarth mentions in his answer. – Todd Wilcox Jan 6 at 18:18
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Found this in the Wookiepedia under A-Wing: "A-wings appear in the games Star Wars: Empire at War, Star Wars: X-wing, Star Wars: Rebel Assault and the Droids animated series; however, these are set years before the A-wing is stated to have been developed, making it an anomaly. All these pre-Yavin A-wing instances have been retconned into R-22 Spearheads." – Todd Wilcox Jan 6 at 18:30
up vote 69 down vote accepted

In Legends continuity, A-Wing were designed and fielded after the Battle of Yavin, which is why you don't see them before Endor. Disney did a semi-retcon by having them show up in Rebels around 5 years before their former conception.

About them being the "newer" craft, you are comparing oranges to apple, though. What's the better vehicle : a motorcycle, a sedan or a pickup truck? If you want raw speed and maneuverability, the motorcycle is probably your best bet. For a slight drop in maximum speed, though, you could be a lot safer in a sedan, and be able to bring some friends with you. The pickup truck would be slower, but would also allow you to bring a lot more stuff than the other options would. While a motorcycle could be the best option to commute to work on a daily basis, it really wouldn't be my go-to pick if a friend asked me to help him move out of his house.

In Star Wars, it was pretty much the same thing with the A-, X- and Y-Wings. The A-Wings were meant as a counter to the TIE Interceptors, which were a lot faster and better armed than the common TIE Fighters. To achieve similar performances, the A-Wing sacrificed shields and durability, but was also heavily modifiable to suit specific needs. The A-Wing was a huge feat of engineering (at least in the SW Legends), as it managed to be just as fast and well armed as an Interceptor, while still having some shield capacity. The Interceptor had four laser cannons to the A-Wing's two, but the A-Wing had access to concussion missiles, specifically designed to take down enemy starfighters.

X-Wings, on the other hand, were meant to be the "regular" superiority fighters, able to take a heavy beating before going down, usually taking down a few TIEs themselves before doing so. Being much larger, the X-Wing also had access to the very versatile proton torpedo launchers, which could be used for dogfighting, bombing runs or capital ship assaults. The Y-Wings, in the mean time, were intended as slower bombers, with larger payloads but limited dogfight capabilities. Another result of the "Galactic Arms Race", in a fashion similar to the A-Wing, was the creation of the B-Wing, originally intended as a replacement of the Y-Wing. With even heavier shields and targeting capabilities rivaling those of smaller capital ships, they were meant to attack capital ships, using their strong defensive capabilities to live through their bombing runs.

In the end, the A-Wings were not meant to be the "better" or "newer" craft, they were intended as a specific counter measures for TIE Interceptors, which only became apparently superior to X-Wings when their speed and firepower allowed them to make hit-and-run passes at Alliance pilots without them being able to catch up and fight back. The Alliance needed a fighter fast enough to force the Empire into a proper fight, but sturdy enough to live through it, and the A-Wing was born.

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This is similar to my answer but has more description. I think this is the best answer and should be accepted. +1 – Null Jan 6 at 18:23
    
@Null - Yeah, we posted around the same time, too, so I didn't see yours until I submitted mine, otherwise I'd have suggested edit to yours >_< – Dungarth Jan 6 at 18:24
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Might be worth including B-Wings in your answer too, for the sake of completeness. – Sobrique Jan 6 at 20:10
    
It's possible that your "which" clauses don't refer to the object immediately preceding them; I'd ask you to phrase a bit more clearly in that case. If they do refer to the immediately preceding object, then I have two questions: 1) Do you have a citation for TIEs having shields? In some Legends stories, a big deal is made of TIEs and Interceptors completely lacking shields. 2) TIE Interceptors did not appear during the Trench run, only standard TIEs and Vader's custom fighter. So do you mean the normal TIEs' speed? – jpmc26 Jan 6 at 22:24
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Your comparison to a truck or motorcycle is pretty wrong. A better comparison would be between an A-10 Warthog and a FA-18 Super Hornet. They specialize in different types of roles, neither is "better" than the other, both are aircraft, but one is better at CAS and the other is an air superiority craft. – SnakeDoc Jan 6 at 22:43

In Legends, the A-wing was designed after the Battle of Yavin in response to the speed of Imperial TIE fighters. It was observed at that battle that TIEs nearly foiled the Death Star trench run, and that the Rebels needed a faster fighter. In canon, however, A-wings have been seen before the Battle of Yavin in Star Wars Rebels. The backstory for the A-wing has therefore indeed changed.

This arguably not really a retcon, though, since Lucas never considered himself beholden to the EU/Legends; contradictions between canon and Legends don't need to be explained in the same way that contradictions in canon need to.

It is not clear from canon whether the A-wing was developed before or after the T-65B X-wing used by the Rebel Alliance at the Battle of Yavin.

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I would consider the fact that what is considered canon has been changed recently to be a gigantic retcon, so saying something is not a retcon because it's not canon is a valid point of view, but it seems equally valid to me that a retcon is a retcon regardless of canon. – Todd Wilcox Jan 6 at 18:21
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I think the backstory being changed as part of the retcon was what I was asking. So this does cover that. – Jeremy French Jan 6 at 18:27
    
@ToddWilcox See my updated answer. – Null Jan 6 at 18:30
    
I think it depends on one's definition of "retcon". Or if you prefer, what definition of "reton" one considers to be canon. :-) – Todd Wilcox Jan 6 at 18:36
    
@ToddWilcox Surely you recognize there's a difference between having to explain a contradiction between two canon pieces of information vs. having to explain a contradiction between a canon explanation and an explanation someone else came up with? – Null Jan 6 at 18:45
  1. What's throwing you into confusion is that X-Wings you see in 2015 (I'm assuming you meant 30 years after Endore, in The Force Awakens), are NOT the same X-Wings we see in Original Trilogy.

    They are a far more capable and upgraded model, called T-70 (the original was T-65)

  2. In addition, the main tactical reason for Alliance A-Wings was the fact that they were a TIE/ln-fighter (and TIE-interceptor) equivalent: super fast (Faster than X-wing), no shields and light weapons

    A-wings were often modified. The most common variant seen in the Alliance favored raw speed, consisting of a stock model stripped of its shields, armor and heavy weapons. (src)

    First Order's new TIE/fo basically became equivalent to X-Wings (shields, better armament) and thus, outclassed the A-Wing in a fight.

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StarWars.com Databank has an entry for Phoenix Squadron (from Rebels) with a bit of explanation as to why we may not have seen A-Wings at Yavin

Phoenix Squadron was an elite group of A-wings in one of the first larger rebel collectives. They served under Commander Jun Sato and often assisted the Ghost team on missions -- until one deadly encounter with Darth Vader. The Sith Lord, piloting an TIE Advanced prototype, wiped out Phoenix Squadron in a vicious attack. Only a few ships survived the battle.

http://www.starwars.com/databank/phoenix-squadron

So - to answer your question - probably a bit of both with more emphasis on retconning

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There were Disney-canon A-Wings in battle of Endor (which is AFTER the Rebels, obviously, since you mentioned Vader alive) so I don't think this is correct? – DVK-in-exile Jan 6 at 17:55
    
@DVK - correct: at Endor - not at Yavin. If only a few ships survived an early encounter with Vader 5 years prior to the Battle of Yavin, it may explain why there were none there at the time. The building / acquisition process may be difficult for the Rebel Alliance. For instance, "Rebels" shows us the first prototype B-Wing. We see no B-Wings at Yavin either but they are at Endor. The build time for a small squad of illicit B-Wings may be a similar assumption? – NKCampbell Jan 6 at 17:57
    
@DVK In Legends, the A-Wing's production required very high tech components, with Rebel engineers frequently sacrificing the A-Wing's capabilities to install improvised parts. Production at full technical specification and mass production are both only possible during the New Republic era. If the A-Wing's technical specs in canon are any similar to that in Legends, it's reasonable to say that it took a long time to recover from the near complete loss of a whole squadron, and any available squadrons are better deployed in more active postings than secret base defence. – thegreatjedi Jan 7 at 0:24
    
@thegreatjedi - New Republic passed Disarmamet law, so they are also not possible during Disney New Republic era either :) – DVK-in-exile Jan 7 at 0:25
    
@DVK Actually, it was not a utopian full disarmament. The Galactic Rifle Association would oppose such a move, the Hutts and Black Sun are still around and the Jedi is gone. The New Republic sought to move away from Imperial militarism, but not repeat the mistakes of the Old Republic that led to the Clone Wars. The New Republic armed forces is smaller than the Imperial armed forces, but is no smaller than the GAR. They need to replace makeshift guerilla ships with stock ones better suited for a galactic military, maintain fleets and run modernization programs. There's always a demand. – thegreatjedi Jan 7 at 0:46

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