The Dark Side's bases (Vader's Death Star and Kylo Ren's Starkiller Base) were both built so that the Resistance pilots could fly around it and shoot something that destroyed the whole center. Not that it was easy to navigate around them, but it seems smarter to have those things which destroy your base when shot at in a place where they can be less easily shot at.

3 Answers 3


The weak points in question are very similar components. On the Death Star, it was a thermal exhaust shaft; on the Starkiller Base, it was a thermal oscillator. A thermal exhaust shaft has to be on the exterior of the base, so it can shunt heat from the inside to the outside of the station; that's what "exhaust" means.

A "thermal oscillator" is a bit more vague of a concept, but the technobabble with which it's introduced basically makes sense: The Starkiller Base has to store the energy of a star inside a planet. This naturally creates a lot of excess heat, which has to be handled—or "oscillated," I guess—somehow. If it's dispersing that heat into space, the way a thermal exhaust shaft does, then it has to be on the base's surface.

It's also possible that there's no room for machinery in the Starkiller's interior:

After the oscillator is destroyed, big chasms open up in the planet's/base's surface. When the Starkiller Base is destroyed, we see in its place a star-like sphere about as big as the base itself. It would seem that the energy of the star takes up almost all of the interior volume of the planet.

In both cases, the weak points aren't as blindingly obvious as they may seem to us viewers.

The critical thermal exhaust port on the Death Star was tiny; the thermal oscillator was pretty big, but didn't stick out as a target in the way the main cannon did. Without inside information from the station's blueprints, or a plucky Stormtrooper defector, X-Wing pilots would be shooting for needles in planet(oid)-sized haystacks.

  • Also theoscilator was HEAVILY shielded AND armored
    – Thomas
    Commented Dec 24, 2015 at 6:45

Overconfidence perhaps, and an overreliance on shields? Or maybe just because the plot requires an assailable weak point. Although more in-universe:

Vader's Death Star

Didn't really have any vital components on the outside. Only careful analysis of stolen internal schematics led to the discovery of the weak point, and it could only be successfully attacked by making a one-in-a-million shot that even the X-wing's built-in targeting computer cannot pull off. And although the exhaust port was externally exposed, a successful shot needed to travel all the way down the exhaust shaft into the core of the base to be effective.

The remarks of the Imperial officer ("We've analyzed their attack, sir, and there is a danger") imply that the weakness is something that they weren't previously aware of. His reaction is more "wow, their attack might actually work" as opposed to "well of course they're attacking that, it's the obvious way to make the entire base explode and we knew about it all along", so the weakness could plausibly be chalked up to something as simple as "this is our first attempt at designing a Death Star".

The Second Death Star

Was never completed, though presumably if it had been it would not have had the same weakness. Of course if you get attacked when half your superstructure is completely missing, it kind of doesn't matter where the vitals are.

Starkiller Base

Was constructed relatively hastily, and by an organization with far fewer resources than the Galactic Empire had at its peak. And it did seem like the vital component had been hardened against attack, as

repeated bombing runs have little to no effect until detonations on the insider tear open a hole in the outer shell; and even then a fighter still has to fly into the hole in order to finally destroy the thing.

Further, the component in question is described as a "thermal oscillator", which seems like it would have something to do with heat-exchange (as would the Death Star's "thermal exhaust port"). Heat-exchangers don't work well if you bury them deep in the ground and encase them in millions of tons of reinforced concrete, or otherwise don't allow them any sort of interface with the outside environment. So in addition to cost/time constraints, there may have been issues related to design practicality that made extensively fortifying the thermal oscillator unworkable.

To function as a heat-exchanger, it needs to have at least some components externally exposed. And disabling the external bits would cripple its ability to function as a heat exchanger, eventually leading to

catastrophic thermal runaway.

So I think you've got a dose of overconfidence (they don't expect to be attacked, don't consider the possibility of attackers infiltrating their own bases, rely heavily upon shields without setting up redundant shield emitters, etc.) plus the fact that the Achilles heel of superweapons in the Star Wars universe seems to be that they need to dissipate a lot of heat (and very bad things happen if they can't).

  • Uhm I have to contradict you a few times sadly as you seem to be confusing the death stars a bit. "MAny bothans died" was the 2nd death star. And yes they did NOT repeat it. They specifically say that the 2nd death star would NOT have ANY weakness if it was to be completed which is why it was the alliances only chance to destroy it while it was still uncompleted and the reactor open to the outside
    – Thomas
    Commented Dec 24, 2015 at 6:46
  • @Thomas - Noted.
    – aroth
    Commented Dec 24, 2015 at 6:51

This probably had to do with the depiction of starkiller base as built into an existing planet. It's hard to drill deep even into our own planet with its molten magma mantle, so for either inability reasons or lower-cost reasons, I gather that First Order only drilled into the planet as much as they needed to.

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