Here we see Darth Vader piloting his fighter while hunting for Rebel starfighters above the Death Star:

Darth Vader

He does it in multiple scenes. Was this some sort of targeting configuration controller?

  • 18
    And no jokes about the question title! :p
    – Jared
    Commented Feb 15, 2012 at 23:41
  • 5
    No jokes? Come on, you're asking for it :)
    – bitmask
    Commented Feb 16, 2012 at 0:30
  • 3
    Note to self, when in trouble for screwing, say its "adjusting" ;)
    – Jared
    Commented Feb 16, 2012 at 1:35
  • 3
    He's changing the radio station.
    – Wad Cheber
    Commented Aug 13, 2015 at 4:43
  • 1
    @IanAuld That is precisely the intention indicated by the script.
    – Null
    Commented Aug 13, 2015 at 15:18

4 Answers 4


Judging by the result (a slight adjustment to the targeting grid) it's a fine-tune for the targeting. Think of it as a joystick equivalent of "Shift-arrow" for point-and-shoot games (I'm sure modern fighter planes have something similar but I haven't seen Larian LeQuella around here these parts in a while, sadly).

TIE Advanced x1 (which was Vader's fighter) Wookieepedia page has this to say:

The target tracking system was also more sophisticated than the already formidable advanced targeting system on standard TIE craft, used to overcome the extremely powerful electronic jamming used by all combat craft to defeat target lock in battle. For best performance, the targeting system of the x1 required frequent adjustment in combat.

... but that sentence is completely unreferenced, and therefore probably made up on the basis of A New Hope by whoever wrote the Wikia article in the first place :(

  • 5
    It begs the question: Why would Darth Vader need a target tracking system, and if he did, wouldn't he use the force to fine tune it? George sure left a lot of loose ends... Commented Feb 16, 2012 at 2:30
  • 13
    @MajorStackings Perhaps because Qui-Gon's Force ghost kept yelling "Anakin, NOOOoooo!" in his head?
    – HNL
    Commented Feb 16, 2012 at 7:52
  • 2
    @MajorStackings - It no longer begs. scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/11196/… Commented Feb 16, 2012 at 12:04
  • 2
    One also wonders what kind of subtle adjustment one can make to a sophisticated tracking system by repeatedly twisting a knob.
    – Beta
    Commented Feb 17, 2012 at 5:05
  • 7
    Also, in a fighter with twin guns it could well have adjusted convergence distance for the shots. In that case you'd want to adjust it as the range closes.
    – Tynam
    Commented Oct 16, 2012 at 18:59

The script describes what Vader was adjusting as his "control stick", "targeting computer", "control lever", and "controls":

Darth Vader calmly adjusts his control stick as the stars whip past in the window above his head.


Darth Vader calmly adjusts his control stick as the stars zoom by.


Vader calmly adjusts his targeting computer and pushes the fire button.


Vader adjusts his control lever and dives on the X-wing fighters.


Vader adjusts his controls and fires laserbolts at two X-wings flying down the trench. He scores a direct hit on Wedge.


Vader adjusts his control stick.


Vader adjusts his control sticks, checking his projected targeting screen.

The most specific of these descriptions is "targeting computer". Also, the last line quoted says that he checked his targeting screen after adjusting his "control sticks", likely because he was expecting a change on the targeting screen due to his adjustment. Therefore, Vader was almost certainly adjusting his targeting computer.

  • 2
    Now that's a lot of adjusting for one fight.
    – Zikato
    Commented Aug 13, 2015 at 6:00
  • 3
    “Honey, what are you doing in there, why’s the door locked?” — “Nothing, mom, I'm just, um, adjusting my control stick!” Commented Aug 13, 2015 at 7:58
  • "adjusting his "control sticks", likely because" , in WWII era aviation, which all this combat is based on, pilots had to make constant adjustments to the air/fuel ratio, and a host of other things. He's "the best starfighter pilot in the galaxy" - he's adjusting everything, always (also, always have a little left rudder on, in case you get shot at).
    – Mazura
    Commented May 29, 2019 at 18:14

The TIE Fighter Owner's Workshop Manual has a section on the flight controls including a schematic of the yoke and control column. The knob that corresponds to the one that Darth Vader adjusts is for target selection.

TIE Fighter control yoke

  • Wow, so the TIE targeting computer is so bad that it can't automatically pick up the only thing flying in front of it? And it keeps needing to be set? My dog has a better attention span than that. "Ooh, turret!" "No, X-wing." "Ooh, wall!" "No, X-wing." "Tower!" "X-wing."
    – DavidW
    Commented Sep 20, 2021 at 16:58
  • A good find and worthy of a plus one. I hope you don't mind that I've swapped out the picture for one that doesn't look like it was furtively taken in a Waterstones.
    – Valorum
    Commented Sep 20, 2021 at 17:49
  • @Valorum Thanks, I try. I actually took it on my desk at home from my own copy of the book, but I was (supposed to be) working so I rushed it a little bit :-) Commented Sep 21, 2021 at 7:30

OK, hypothetically speaking...

Vader's TIE was an advanced experimental prototype. What if the battle over the death star was one of the, if not the, first time it went into actual combat? Vader did order two pilots to cover him, maybe he was not sure his fighter was fully combat tested yet?

As an experimental unit seeing its first real combat, Vader found in real combat he needed to make some adjustments to deal with real enemies.

  • The later shows suggest that he's used this fighter extensively
    – Valorum
    Commented May 29, 2019 at 11:26

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