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Other than Biggs telling the commanding officer that Luke the "best bush pilot in the outer rim", what other qualifications did he have to lead the fighter group that took out the Death Star? Both Biggs and Wedge had been in the rebel alliance longer and I'd assume seasoned pilots, at least more so than Luke. Was there a reason that Biggs or Wedge didn't lead the last group? Up until that battle, I don't remember reading or seeing anything about Luke being in combat. I wouldn't think you'd want someone that green leading an assault as important as that one was.

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Wasn't Red Leader leading the assault? –  Xantec Apr 8 '12 at 2:13
    
@Xantec I meant in his group/squadron of 3. –  xecaps12 Apr 8 '12 at 3:08

3 Answers 3

up vote 7 down vote accepted

In-universe: Red Leader had been keeping tabs on Luke during the battle. his natural talent as a pilot showed through enough for Red Leader to call for Luke to lead the second run. He certainly stepped up to it. Biggs and Wedge, as more experienced pilots who'd flown together, were logically better suited to evade the TIEs that Red Leader knew would be coming in behind them.

Out-of-universe: Luke has to take the shot. There's simply no two ways around it.

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If Luke hadn't been made leader, he would still have taken the shot-- once Biggs and Wedge were dead. –  Beta Apr 10 '12 at 18:34
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If Luke weren't the leader, he would have been targeted before the leader, whether that was Biggs or Wedge. The TIEs always methodically worked up the Vee formation in all three of the runs we saw during the battle. –  KeithS Apr 10 '12 at 18:41
    
@KeithS Seems like the best answer to me. As for your comment, why didn't they target the leader first? By that point the knew what they were trying for. And really, what was the point of that formation? How were they holding off the Ties? Wonder if the Essential Guide to Warfare explains their tactics. –  xecaps12 Apr 10 '12 at 21:56
    
KeithS, good point. Luke might still have outlived the leader, but it would have complicated the scene. @xecaps, maybe the point was "predator saturation": in that trench the TIEs had a hard time shooting at anything but the trailing X-wings, so sending a group increased the chance of one getting through. –  Beta Apr 11 '12 at 2:00
    
In any small-craft combat, the closer the better. A common adage in WWI air combat (where the planes were little more than powered kites) was "when you think you're too close, get closer". Therefore, using the Vee formation with two craft lagging behind the leader, you present two closer targets, which you must defeat before you can close within range of the leader; if you don't you'll probably pass them (putting you in their sights; a bonehead move if there ever was one). –  KeithS Jul 19 '12 at 15:54

By the time the "shot heard round the Empire" occurred, Luke's entire squadron was shot down minus Biggs, who had retreated out to counter Vader's TIE squad. Luke was the only one left to take the shot. He didn't lead the squad at all, he just outlasted most of them.

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I was talking about his small group of three, with Biggs and Wedge. When they started their run, Luke was in the lead. Biggs and Wedge were in support positions. –  xecaps12 Apr 8 '12 at 2:21
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@xecaps12: If you were a commanding officer, would you fly into the Death Star's defenses yourself or send you subordinates in first? –  bitmask Apr 8 '12 at 2:35
    
@bitmask I never said anything about the co doing it himself. If I didn't know anything about a newbie, which it seems at that point it time, Luke is just some kid from some backwater world, I wouldn't make him the leader of his group. I'd put Wedge or Biggs in the lead. –  xecaps12 Apr 8 '12 at 2:40
    
@xecaps12 To quote Magneto: "In chess, pawns always go first." Also, Luke was hardly unvouched for. Wedge and Biggs knew he could fly, and so did Leia. Having royalty vouch for you is a pretty good recommendation. –  Gabe Willard Apr 8 '12 at 3:02
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Leia saw luke fight off the tie fighters. While not flying, she knew he could handle himself in combat. I assume luke was leading the trio in, because the person in charge knew that luke could make the shot the best, and they thought that they would be better served protecting him from tie fighters, something he had never done before in a small craft. –  Chris Apr 8 '12 at 21:11

In the briefing before the battle, it was Luke who was speaking up about being able to hit targets about the size of the exhaust port while flying at high speeds. While Wedge and Biggs were more experienced (and likely better) pilots, the skill at piloting does not equal the skill at gunnery. Likely a decision was made that Wedge and Biggs would use their superior piloting skills to cover Luke while he used his superior gunnery skills.

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