3

In Tarkin, the titular character takes out one of the V-wing fighters, and the book says that

Things could have been worse, however. The Goliath could have been carrying a squadron of the new - and seemingly disposable - TIE fighters.

Together with their apparent vulnerability in Episodes 4-6, is there an explanation why the Empire would rely so heavily on fighters that were so vulnerable compared to craft already long in service?

13

The Star Wars: Incredible Cross-Sections factbook offers a host of reasons why the Empire favours TIE fighters. They're instantly recognisable, visibly imposing, impossibly fast, ultra-low maintenance, incredibly maneuverable and above all things, cheap cheap cheap to build.

Since the Empire evidently views their pilots as largely expendable, kitting them out with shields and heavy armour is a total waste of resources when they can sling them out of the ship (by the hundreds) in what amounts to little more than an engine with guns.

Hurtling through space, TIE fighters are the most visible image of the Empire's wide-reaching power. The TIE fighter engine is the most precisely manufactured propulsion system in the galaxy. Solar ionization collects light energy and channels it through a reactor to fire emissions from a high-pressure radioactive gas. The engine has no moving parts, making it low-maintenance. To reduce the mass of the ship. TIE fighters are built without defensive shields, hyperdrive capability, and life support systems - so the pilots must wear spacesuits. The light-weight ship gains speed and maneuverability at the price of fragility and dependence on nearby Imperial bases or larger craft for support.

There's also the fact that the ships fit in nicely with the Empire's martial philosophy of dehumanisation and sameness

TIE pilots may never use the same ship twice, and develop no sentimental attachment to their craft as Rebels often do. TIE pilots know that every reconditioned fighter is identical to a factory-fresh ship: one is the same as many thousands - another reinforcement of Imperial philosophy of absolute conformity.

On top of that, their lack of hyperdrive and life-support would presumably deter any thoughts of defection to the Rebellion.

As to why the Empire would field such a craft knowing of its obvious weaknesses, this is addressed in the Star Wars Databank article on TIE Fighters.

A TIE cockpit was cramped, and the fighter’s lack of defenses made flying one a dangerous calling. But TIE pilots took a perverse pride in the flaws of their craft. They saw the ability to fly a TIE effectively as the sign of true ability for a pilot, and TIE aces were held in great esteem by pilots who dreamed of amassing similarly impressive service records.

Star Wars: Databank - TIE Fighter

  • Where I struggle with this and the @Probst's answer is the notion of the Empire not caring about the lives of its' pilots. You could argue that Russia in WW2 didn't care about its' soldiers: they might starve anyway so throw them at the enemy. But as a key line of defence and offence for a starship? And considering the relative expense of stormtrooper armor? (e.g. scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/14454/…). – Peter Feb 18 '16 at 20:59
  • 2
    From the Star Wars databank: "A TIE cockpit was cramped, and the fighter’s lack of defenses made flying one a dangerous calling. But TIE pilots took a perverse pride in the flaws of their craft. They saw the ability to fly a TIE effectively as the sign of true ability for a pilot, and TIE aces were held in great esteem by pilots who dreamed of amassing similarly impressive service records." – Valorum Feb 18 '16 at 21:05
5

The TIE fighters are more vulnerable but also faster and more maneuverable than other fighters. They are cheaper to manufacture and since the empire doesn't care about the lives of it's pilots they can be fielded and lost in large numbers if necessary. This concept can be seen in the real world as well with light vs heavy tanks, light tanks are cheaper and faster to produce as well as more maneuverable but heavy tanks are much tougher to destroy.

  • 2
    That actually sounds a lot like the A6M Zero – Zerjack Feb 18 '16 at 20:23
  • Yeah from my understanding that was pretty much the Japanese perspective during WW2 as well. – Probst Feb 18 '16 at 20:27
  • That's a good point, @Zerjack. Google "tie fighter zero japan" and you'll see others with the same viewpoint. I know Lucas used footage of WWII dogfights as inspiration, I wonder if he specifically based the TIE fighter on the Zero. – DCShannon Feb 18 '16 at 20:31
  • @DCShannon The Zeros were built the way they were because they didn't have the steel resources that places like Germany and the USA had. It's not so much that they didn't care about their troops, it's that there is a stronger sense of social responsibility and group-culture. While this was exploited, the willingness of a Japanese soldier to sacrifice himself for something greater than himself is part of the reason they could make the Zero such an effective weapon. – Armstrongest Feb 18 '16 at 21:51

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.