In The Force Awakens, Finn and Poe steal and escape in a TIE wearing no personal life support apparatus. TIEs have been upgraded with shields, hyperdrives (for "/sf"), weapons etc, but as far as I know they weren't upgraded with built in life support.

Finn and Poe should have frozen and/or suffocated after hitting space in the TIE. In the Rebels series, Sabine did the same thing. I've looked at what Wookieepedia states about the TIE as well as the old video game Star Wars "TIE Fighter".

Does the movie or any other work explain how Poe and Finn survived?

  • A stronger/better armed fighter means the fighter lasts longer - clearly the Empire/First Order don't care about the actual pilots.
    – phantom42
    Dec 29, 2015 at 18:53
  • The official cross-sections book doesn't seem to mention this on the pages about the Special Forces TIE: ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/A1CDbXBhHkL.jpg I haven't seen any sample images or clear documentation of the page about the basic First Order TIE, though, and I don't have the book. It may indicate that all TIEs of that era have life support equipment as a standard.
    – recognizer
    Dec 29, 2015 at 19:01
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    I think Disney canon plays very loose with the idea of even regular, original trilogy TIEs having no life support. For example, in the Star Wars Rebels cartoon (which is canon), there is at least one instance of characters piloting a standard TIE without wearing any life support suits.
    – Andres F.
    Dec 29, 2015 at 19:32
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    Note that "no lifesupport" != "instant death" - it might be something as simple as "no air exchanger installed". At minimum, the cockpit would be at least (partially) sealed to deal with things like atmosphere on planets, which would at least provide them the air trapped in the cockpit when they left the Star Destroyer. Jan 1, 2016 at 8:06
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    In the Orignal Trilogy, TIE-Fighter pilots were expendable. The First Order has much more limited resources, so they want to keep their pilots alive - they can't replace them easly. They're in a similar position to the Rebels in A New Hope. So now they have life support, shields and hyperdrive, as well as more weapons and stronger armour.
    – Petersaber
    Jan 27, 2017 at 16:43

8 Answers 8


We don't know for sure from canon.

  1. The Incredible Cross-sections page on TIE fighter makes a special note (I think even twice) that the design philosophy of the TIEs changed drastically between Galactic Empire and First Order.

    They value their pilots much more in FO.

    But while the Empire treated its pilots as expendable, the First Order values them as critical military assets. ... and their fighters now boast onboard deflector shields to bolster their defences.

    While the specific examples given were (1) Deflector Shield and (2) Special training, it's not hard to imagine that they would ALSO include life support if that's their philosophy

  2. TIE/sf that they steal has a hyperdrive.

    A long-range special forces fighter with a hyperdrive needs a life support, since existing in a spacesuit on long range flight is much harder than short missions for old TIE/ln

  3. In all fairness, Incredible cross-sections illustration of TIE/sf shows the pilot and a gunner wearing standard Imperial fighter pilots gear and helmets, so this very well may be incorrect speculation.

    The novelization does NOT address this in any specific way.

  • It's like they took TIE Defenders and didn't want to create a new model, just make the old one blacker.
    – Petersaber
    Dec 31, 2015 at 17:33
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    My instinct is that it doesn't have life support but it does have an enclosed cockpit (sealing in the air from the hangar) and presumably an emergency air supply that would be sufficient to get Poe and Finn to the next star system.
    – Valorum
    Jan 2, 2016 at 1:05
  • @Richard - that was one of the theories I had but I don't have any canon to support that whatsoever Jan 2, 2016 at 1:10
  • @DVK - The absence of any indication of a life support unit in the cutaway diagram seems very telling.
    – Valorum
    Jan 2, 2016 at 1:11
  • @Richard - Or they didn't bother drawing it. I would definitely lean towards that as evidence if OTHER craft had life support shown Jan 2, 2016 at 1:14

The Rogue One Ultimate Visual Guide confirms that canonically, the original TIE fighters did have minimal life support.

Fighter info

Though TIE vessels have minimal, perfunctory oxygen scrubbers and pressurized atmospheric seals, TIE pilots routinely wear full flight gear as a precaution.

We can therefore assume that this tradition carried over to the TIE fighters shown in The Force Awakens.


The TIE they steal has some noticeable differences from the originals. It may also be different from other ties in TFA, though I don't have a strong source for that. Wookieepedia states that this is a Special Forces TIE.

These differences clearly include the second seat and turret, as well as an allusion to a hyperdrive, since they talk about travelling to another system, which would be impossible for most ties seen in the original trilogy. "That's a short range fighter".

It therefore stands to reason that this variety of TIE could have a life support system built in, especially if its built for longer trips.


There is also another possibility:

That all new TIEs have life support. The fact that the pilots wear full environmental gear is meant as a redundancy in case the life support is shot off/damaged during combat. This way, the loss of life support systems does not mean that the TIE in question is immediately out of the fight, or result in a catastrophic loss of life.

In fact, aside from the red stripes of the /SF fighters, there were very few or even no differences between it and a regular variant TIE. Finn could've selected that particular ship because he knew that the SF ones don't require them to get into a pilot's suit.


In a movie, you don't want all your characters to be on screen wearing impenetrable helmets. There are more than enough helmets in this movie already! :)

This was fine for scary bad guys in the original trilogy, but the rebellion heroes got silly football helmets so you could tell them apart. Imagine how odd the episode 7 dogfighting sequences would have been if all you saw were the same helmets over and over with slightly different voices, instead of the range of species and sexes that were seen. (As I recall, even at least one video game I've played that showed ship-to-ship video comms managed to show pilot's unshrouded heads even though my pilot avatar was wearing a helmet!)

So they were probably breathing by the Force Of Costume. (Kind of like the Force of Plot, but snazzier.)


It's pretty simple: they've always had life support.

Keep in mind that the only reason X-Wing pilots aren't seen wearing breathing apparatus on their helmets in ANH as originally intended is because Lucas felt it important to be able to see the pilot's faces. There's even some photos of the prototype floating around online, which clearly still has the breathing apparatus attached.

In-universe: remember that the Empire is big on suppressing outward individuality. Do Stormtroopers really need to be wearing their helmets (which can also be vacuum sealed) all the time, even while on space stations and starships where there should be no immediate environmental hazards? Of course not, but it's all part of the ethos and mentality of the Imperial military. Recall how Phasma chastised Finn for removing his helmet "without permission" after they returned to the 'Finalizer'? It was probably no different back in the old days of the Empire.

In the case of the pilots it has the added bonus of being practical that in the event of a breach, they're already suited up, they just need to activate their seals and turn on their closed oxygen supply. Possible downside: restricted vision and an over-dependence on heads-up telemetry perhaps?


Well, Rebels takes place a long time before The Force Awakens. Rebels takes place a few years before A New Hope.

So, technological advances don't seem far fetched when you consider that in A New Hope Darth Vader already pilots a more advanced Tie Fighter.


They're in a Special Forces TIE fighter. SF TIES are much more advanced than normal ones, with a deflector shield, hyperdrive, and advanced missiles, so we can assume that it also has life-support if they manage to fly in it without their eyeballs bleeding then exploding.

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    Do you have any evidence or support for this statement?
    – Rand al'Thor
    May 24, 2016 at 10:43

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