In Return of the Jedi, Luke and Leia steal an Imperial Speeder Bike to chase and stop some Imperial Scout Troopers. Almost immediately, Luke thinks to jam their comlinks and tells Leia to do so.

Why does the Imperial Speeder Bike have a one-flip switch capable of jamming their own comlinks?

LUKE (pointing to the controls)
Quick! Jam their comlink. Center switch!

  • 1
    Meh. The other question sort of asks a similar question, but the answers don't touch it.
    – phantom42
    Commented Oct 14, 2015 at 12:33
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    Jamming communications can be as simple as constantly transmitting on the same frequency...
    – Moo
    Commented Oct 14, 2015 at 12:37
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    @Himarm Cell phones use slots within a given frequency range, which is why you can have full signal but still not be able to place a call (ever had that at New Years for instance?) Same deal here. Fill up the frequency, nothing works. Basics of electromagnetic physics :) The only thing you can do is shout louder to try and drown out the noise.
    – Moo
    Commented Oct 14, 2015 at 15:22
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    Don't think this is a duplicate. The linked question asks "are comm jammers common, and why". This question asks "why would an Imperial comm jammer be able to jam Imperial comms". Which I think is a different and more interesting question. I imagine that in any military context you'd want your signal-jamming tech to be complementary with your communications tech so that you can use both at once.
    – aroth
    Commented Oct 15, 2015 at 2:28
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    Definitely not a dupe.
    – Wad Cheber
    Commented Oct 15, 2015 at 4:54

1 Answer 1


This is going to get complicated, but bear with me.

Let's start by looking at the two roles that the Speeder Bikes are likely to play in an Imperial Operation. From the movies we know they are used for:

Scouting/Patrol When scouting, it's important to be able to blanket transmissions. You don't want the people you are poking at being able to report back if they spot you before you can eliminate them.

Hit and Run Attacks Due to their speed and built in firepower, it's natural to assume the speeder bikes would also be used in hit-and-run operations. Again, you want to suppress comm transmissions so that reinforcements don't arrive.

In the one battle we see them in, they are fighting very angry teddy bears, so we don't have a real perspective on their use in battle because the obviously technologically inferior bears weren't using comlinks to communicate. (It's much more difficult to jam a converted-animal-horn. I won't cover that here.)

So let's talk about modern jamming technology. Electronic interface can come from just about any source. Your microwave, your mobile phone, your electric oven. Even a Fish Tank can interfere with wireless signal operations (looking at you, Admiral Ackbar). You can demonstrate some of these effects in your own home with an AM Radio. This involves walking around your house playing with the tuner on an AM radio by hand. Keep this in mind, it will be important later.

The point here is that jamming ALL signals is vastly easier then jamming a specific signal (frequency) - but even jamming a specific signal can cause 'bleed over' into nearby frequencies if the transmission is too powerful.

For an example of this in the Legends universe, Han Solo once installed a jammer so powerful that it jammed his own systems and his ship was only saved because it was SO powerful, it burned itself out.

But let's look back at our first discussion about how speeder bikes are used. You're traveling at blistering speeds on a device that is apparently both fragile and prone-to-go-out-of-control when damaged in a combat environment while shooting and being shot at. Do you have time to pull out an AM Radio, identify the source of the transmission, and the frequency, and then adjust your dial to jam it specifically?

Electronic Warfare is something that the US Navy engaged in regularly during the Vietnam war, which led to the development of the EA-6B Prowler, a dedicated electronic warfare plane. It's role was to target specific electronic systems and 'blind' them while attack aircraft approached.

Speeder Bikes have a crew of one and travel at blistering speeds. Prowler's have a crew of four and travel only at subsonic speed (not implying that the Speeder Bike is supersonic, just pointing it out for comparison).

TLDR: It seems much simpler (and cheaper) to give Imperial Scouts a one-switch-Jam-everything (Including their own comlinks) system then to equip four of them with a 50 million credit fighter that can do the same job.

  • 1
    And then there was the time an off-the shelf UHF/VHF amplified rabbit ear tv antenna jammed GPS in Monteray Bay CA gpsworld.com/the-hunt-rfi
    – Yorik
    Commented Oct 20, 2015 at 15:05
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    @Yorik My favorite was always the US Navy activating Garage Doors in Australia: archive.wired.com/science/discoveries/news/1999/04/19166
    – Mark
    Commented Oct 20, 2015 at 15:11
  • I doubt it would be used in the scouting role. The role of a scout is to "see without being seen". Typical comm jamming involves emitting a huge amount of white noise across a large spectrum (at least in our militaries). While this can and does interfere with the enemy's transmissions, it also gives away your location. That's not what you'd be doing on a scouting mission. On the other hand, the mission of a patrol is to find and engage the enemy, so it would be useful in that role. Commented Oct 20, 2015 at 16:14
  • The armed scout role is not a new one - in fact, this is why many Armored Divisions have Apache Gunships attached to them. In the case of Desert Storm, these Gunships were actually the first to strike military targets by seeking out and eliminating military installations just across the border. You're assuming scouts only want to locate and report, but an armed probe is still a role that scout units fulfill on the battlefield. And their speeders are equipped with a blaster cannon - you would think if they didn't want them to be an armed probe...they wouldn't arm them.
    – Mark
    Commented Oct 20, 2015 at 16:50

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