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What was the major malfunction with that "squad" specifically ordered to get Poe Dameron and Finn, as their stricken tie fighter fell towards Jakku?

The nub of my question is "what happened to that squad that was supposed to follow the descending tie fighter with Poe and Finn? No one brought a tracking device? No ability to follow a single crippled tie fighter to its resting spot? No sensors to detect a heat source or a big smoke plume gushing into the atmosphere? I've spent far too much time performing detailed research on the web for answers and found not even a whisper of a hint. Apparently this question has never been asked or answered.

As I watched this scene I fretted for Finn's safety, as I did what Abrams and Kasdan wanted me to do (i.e., fear that the enemy squad would appear at any moment and gun him down). But no one shows up at all. It's like the crack squad hopped into their intercept vehicle, hit the "launch" button, and got this message on the dashboard. Until we get an answer to this question, we're all in danger of feeling let down by overly-forced dramatic tension.

It must have taken some good quality time for the spinning wreck to descend through the atmosphere, long enough for any tie fighter worth its salt to intercept and destroy it. Then, after they've entered the atmosphere, Finn, who must have taken even more time to descend in his parachute, lands and remains unconscious for who knows how long. Eventually he wakes, sees a smoke plume off in the distance, and slogs through the sand dunes towards it. During all of this time, where is the squad that was ordered to get them? Seems to me Finn and Poe would have been complete goners but for some epic incompetence. I had to ask myself why the First Order allowed both a rebel and a traitor to not only get away after letting their command ship get shot up, but take their sweet time launching an intercept squad.

Now, those other squads, sent on a completely separate mission to find BB-8 and Ray on Jakku, they did a great job. Kudos to them for finding their quarry (even if they sucked at capturing them).

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    Welcome to the site. Consider making this less of a rant and more of a question. Also break it up into smaller paragraphs to improve readability. :) – RedCaio Dec 31 '15 at 8:02
  • I've taken your advice RedCaio. The question is now clearer than ever. Answers are appreciated. – D-Flo Dec 31 '15 at 8:19
  • “Apparently this question has never been asked or answered.” And the film’s been out for two whole weeks! – Paul D. Waite Dec 31 '15 at 9:51
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    Look, this is my first post in scifi.stackexchange. First thing that happens is I get 2 negative votes that say "This post does not contain any research effort." So I added that line to show "research effort." I'd have shown "research results" had there been any. Plus, 2 weeks = 2 centuries in our hyper cyberculture. – D-Flo Dec 31 '15 at 10:32
  • Just a thought - we know they didn't pursue Finn, but do we know they didn't pursue Poe? They'd have seen the pilot bail out, and presumably they'd have been briefed that the pilot was a higher priority target (presumably, they'd also have judged the guy who bailed out as being more likely to survive than the guy who didn't) – user568458 Dec 31 '15 at 19:47
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You may recall that a few minutes after the fighter landed, it sank below the sand. This evidently masked the heat signature and blocked the First Order from effectively tracking the ship.

He unbuckled himself and staggered to his feet. The desert of Jakku spread out as far as his eye could see. Only to the east was the vista of sand broken. Smoke plumed into the sky.
He hastened toward it.
The crashed TIE fighter was still burning when he arrived

Given that the First Order were only able to make an approximate plot of his likely crash location, the fact that Finn/Poe destroyed the TIE fighters in the hangar (preventing them from being followed them into the atmosphere) and the fact that the ship was so readily hidden by the elements, it's not surprising that it took the stormtroopers a few extra hours to track Finn down.

The hot smoke obscured the inside of the cockpit, probably for the best. Flight jackets were manufactured with materials that could withstand high temperatures, but human skin still had its limits. Poe likely had been burnt beyond recognition.
The ground shifted, collapsing under the TIE. Sand poured into the recesses of the wreck and the TIE started to sink into the hole its impact had made. Finn leapt free before the quicksand could claim him, too. Yes, Finn. Finn was his name now.
Watching the TIE vanish into the sand, Finn called out his friend’s name one last time. He wished he could have saved Poe’s life again. - SW: The Force Awakens - Junior Novel

  • Thanks offering an answer. I'm still confused: (1) Timing: It's not clear to me that it was only a few minutes after the fighter landed that the quicksand got it. Finn was knocked out cold for some undefined period before he woke. Plus I'm assuming the fighter didn't have its own parachute so it must have landed well before Finn did. Then that long trek over to the burning hulk, and a quick inspection, before the quicksand does anything. (2) I'm assuming they had at minimum telescope technology to track the fighter. (3) Didn't see any fighters pursuing them, only rockets and laser blasts. – D-Flo Dec 31 '15 at 10:27
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    It wasn't a long trek, it was a few hundred meters. Finn doesn't appear to have been knocked unconscious, just rattled. – Valorum Dec 31 '15 at 10:44
  • @D-Flo - I stand corrected. The screenplay indicates that he was unconscious. The implication is that it wasn't for long. "TIGHT ON FINN'S FACE: His EYES OPEN. He goes from unconscious to terrified, fast." – Valorum Jan 1 '16 at 21:06
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There are two main possibilities here:

  1. They caused enough damage while shooting up the main hangar bay that the launch of pursuit fighters was delayed by a few hours. Not only did they destroy many of the racked fighters in the bay, they shot up the main control booth and killed the officers in it.

  2. The First Order deliberately delayed their pursuit in the hopes Finn and/or Poe would find the droid first, allowing them to capture both at their leisure. Similar to Vader and Tarkin letting the Millennium Falcon go in order to track it to the main rebel base during A New Hope.

Since there's no real on-screen evidence to support #2, I think #1 is the most likely explanation.

  • Renegade Princess' first possibility has some evidentiary merit. Perhaps the officer who ordered the squad to follow Poe and Finn hadn't yet received the damage report and assumed that the loading and egress of the intercept vehicle would be a snap. No other hangar bays on a ship that size? Seems like a serious design flaw for a ship designed for combat and reliant on CAP sorties. Even WWII era aircraft carriers had multiple elevators and hangar deck areas. Perhaps this is yet another way of showing how the First Order, like the Empire, is constantly getting undone by its own pride. – D-Flo Dec 31 '15 at 9:06
  • Yeah the apparent lack of secondary launch bays is a major issue with this theory. I'm not familiar enough with non-movie Star Wars material to know if this is normal for Star Destroyers or not. There are a few folks around here who often draw upon the novelisation for clarification in situations like this. It's possible they'll be able to expand my answer or add a better one of their own based on whatever the novel says about this. – Renegade Princess Dec 31 '15 at 9:10
  • Yes, it seems like no matter what the explanation is, the answer inevitably isn't very kind to the bad guys. Your response made me think of something perhaps relevant: the newness of the First Order. Perhaps their paranoia in surviving as a newish organization is reflected in design elements on command ships? A single point of control over ingress/egress seems to comport with a paranoid viewpoint towards what gets in or off the ship. Any newborn, fascist/imperial entity would have to spend a long time developing a comfort level with trust and delegation of authority. – D-Flo Dec 31 '15 at 9:20
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    What First Order needs is a special "Bay Watch" squad to keep those bays safe in Episode VIII. David Hasselhoff's agent says he will work for food. Pamela should be free too, as some other model will star in the new Bay Watch movie. independent.ie/entertainment/movies/movie-news/… – D-Flo Dec 31 '15 at 9:31
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    Wookieepedia says that Resurgent Class Star Destroyers like The Finalizer have "starboard and port hangar entrances, with hangar flight control bridges overseeing activities in both bays. ... Another lateral flight deck was located in the ship's bow, and was used as a staging area for full-scale invasion operations." It seems as if some barely sentient officer could have gotten this job done faster than was the case in the film. These guys could track a hyperspace trail, yet they lose the scent of a crippled tie fighter no more than a couple of miles away that can't exceed terminal velocity? – D-Flo Dec 31 '15 at 10:51

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