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All the fighters featured in the Star Wars films lack any sort of thrust vectorizing technology, so from a technical standpoint, they probably shouldn't even be capable of getting off the ground without taxing (which they don't).

How do the ships in Star Wars maneuver without side thrusters?

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    Etheric rudders according to X-Wing novels, pretty sure that translates to bullshit steering thingy – IG_42 Jul 13 '16 at 15:37
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    Are you sure that there was no thrust vectoring built into the engines. The engine itself may not have articulated, but that doesn't mean that the exhaust somehow didn't, especially if it were magnetically accelerated. The most common type of engine was an ion engine, similar to our ion thrusters, so the vectoring could have been built into that system. In addition, by controlling how much thrust each engine was giving you could push the craft left or right at least. Starships also had/used repulsor technology, though that would be more for around/on planets. – Phyneas Jul 13 '16 at 15:57
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    Although I can't find any explicit evidence for that, and it is not very well explained in-universe, like a lot of the science. – Phyneas Jul 13 '16 at 16:11
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    Out of universe - the motions of ships in Star Wars were always meant to be cinematic and have a dogfighting feel, and Lucas went through old footage of dogfights and recreated those motions, at least in the first movie. That means in the Battle of Yavin as depicted in Star Wars, the spacecraft move like aircraft, and there's pretty much no scientific way that would make sense, but it does make for a good show. – Todd Wilcox Jul 13 '16 at 16:43
  • @Phyneas - I think you'll like the answer. Yes, there's all kinds of thrusting and retro-thrusting going on. – Valorum Aug 30 '16 at 20:45
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+50

According to the Star Wars: Incredible Cross-Sections factbook, the T-65 X-Wing fighter utilises "differential thrust" from its four powerful "Fusial Ion Engines", "High-mass electromagnetic gyroscopes" as well as forward facing "retro-thrusters" to create a combination of thrust, pitch, yaw and roll.

Since this is largely reliant on negating the effects of forward thrust, it also goes some way to explaining why the ship handles like a dogfighting jet even though it's in space and should, theoretically, be able to freely rotate.

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In the new trilogy (according to Star Wars: The Force Awakens Incredible Cross Sections) the T-70 X-Wing has many of the same features as well as a new refinement, wing-mounted repulsors which, presumably are intended to provide additional maneuverability within a planet's atmosphere.

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There's also a nice bit in the Star Wars: Blueprints - Rebel Edition that shows the interior workings of the engines and how they achieve variable thrust vectoring.

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As to your (sub-)question of how the ship gets into space in the first place, the answer is that it uses its "Repulsorlift engines" for both lift and vectoring until it's clear of the landing pad and can turn on its main engines.

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