The epic Battle of Endor featured the entire Rebel fleet of capital ships. Six or more Mon Calamari cruisers (two were lost, and four more can be seen when Executor goes down), a few Nebulon-B frigates, even more CR90 Corvettes and GR-75 Medium Transports.

However, what puzzles me is: why were they brought there? The whole plan was for the fighter group to fly into the superstructure and blow up the reactor.

The plan

So, what was the role of the capital ships? Since the goal is to blow up the reactor anyway, bombarding the station serves little purpose, especially since it might have had operational turbolasers, presenting a threat to the ships.

Ackbar mentions that:

(...) our cruisers will create a perimeter while the fighters (...)

What does that entail? Surely, not engaging the supposedly absent Imperial Fleet. Intercepting potential evacuees? Because, a wing of A-Wings would perform infinitely better than an MC80 cruiser.

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    Cannon fodder / A distraction.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jan 13, 2017 at 16:13
  • @Valorum from what? The supposedly absent Imperial Fleet? It's not like they needed to draw turbolaser fire, as shown by Lando and his pilots when the shield finally went down. Not that the Imperials would target capital ships over fighters trying to get inside...
    – Petersaber
    Commented Jan 13, 2017 at 16:14
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    The Rebels were obviously expecting to find some capital ships in orbit. And were surprised to find none at all.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jan 13, 2017 at 16:16
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    If the Rebels only sent fighters, the Empire would know they must've sent someone down to disable the shield generator. With capital ships, it may look like they wanted to overpower the shields. Plus, if the shields didn't go down when scheduled, the fighters wouldn't be able to last long on their own against all the TIE fighters on the Death Star. Commented Jan 13, 2017 at 16:23
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    @PeterSaber - He says that it'll be "relatively" unprotected. That suggests they may be expecting some bigger ships, just not half the star fleet.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jan 13, 2017 at 16:38

3 Answers 3


The Star Wars in 100 Scenes factbook describes the Rebel's capital ships as acting as fighter-carriers.

They plan for a commando team to land on the moon and bring down the shield before the rebel fleet arrives and launches starfighters to fly into the Death Star and hit its main reactor.

Interestingly the film's official novelisation strongly suggests that the main fleet was also going to directly assault the Death Star II.

The Rebel fleet broke out of hyperspace with an awesome roar. Amid glistening streamers of light, battalion after battalion emerged in formation, to fire off toward the Death Star and its Sanctuary Moon hovering brightly in the close distance. Soon the entire navy was bearing down on its target, the Millennium Falcon in the lead.

Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi - Official Novelisation

  • While the first quote is directly contradicted by the movie (capships don't launch anything, everyone hyperspaces in on their own), the second quote answers my question. Accepted answer.
    – Petersaber
    Commented Jan 14, 2017 at 16:26
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    @Petersaber - It's not entirely clear whether all of the Rebel fighters make their own jumps. We see dozens in the final fight and less than half that jumping.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jan 14, 2017 at 16:27
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    Well, we see 6+ Mon Calamari cruisers, but only two in the first group of Rebel ships. 90 seconds later later there are 6. Probably arrived in waves? Several groups, each with a fighter escort?
    – Petersaber
    Commented Jan 14, 2017 at 16:33

There are several reasons why the Rebels would deploy capital ships:

  1. The Rebel capital ships can fight Imperial capital ships. This can be useful for hindering the Empire's ability to deploy TIE fighters against Rebel fighters. Note that the Rebels were unaware that much of the Imperial Fleet was hiding on the far side of the forest moon, but they had to have expected at least a few Imperial capital ships. After all, the Empire would surely deploy some Star Destroyers with the Emperor on board (especially if the Death Star II was not operational, as the Rebels thought). Also, the first Death Star was protected by Star Destroyers during construction so the Rebels would expect similar protection for the second Death Star:

Death Star I as seen in *Rogue One*

  1. The Rebels deployed medical frigates, such as Redemption, and some other non-combat ships like transports. The medical frigate could tend to the wounded (e.g. Rebel troops returning from the forest moon), and the transports were probably necessary to bring equipment (such as fuel). Rebel capital ships are necessary to protect these non-combat ships from Imperial Star Destroyers and/or the Death Star itself.
  2. The Rebel capital ships can also carry supplies for the Rebel fighters, and can act as carriers to repair/refuel/re-arm Rebel fighters during the battle.
  3. Rebel capital ships could be used for orbital bombardment of Imperial units on the forest moon of Endor, in support of the Rebel troops attacking the shield generator (obviously only after the shield was down).
  4. Although likely not very effective against fast TIE fighters and interceptors, the capital ships might be able to score a few kills against Imperial fighters anyway.
  5. The Rebel capital ships could attempt to prevent important Imperial officials (such as the Emperor himself) from escaping before the Death Star was destroyed. This is likely the reason why Admiral Ackbar said the capital ships would form a "perimeter".
  6. The Rebels knew the Battle of Endor would be decisive: either the Empire would suffer a terrible blow with the loss of the Emperor and the second Death Star, or the Rebels would fail and the rebellion would be ruined. Why not send everything you've got, just in case?
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    In case IT'S A TRAP! 1. They were expecting none 2. Why deploy them? 3. It was shielded, so it's likely they couldn't 5. Why not delegate a group of fighters to this task? But an OK answer
    – Petersaber
    Commented Jan 13, 2017 at 16:37
  • I must've been taught my numbers wrong, I always though 4 followed 3. Explains a lot...
    – Edlothiad
    Commented Jan 13, 2017 at 17:02
  • @Edlothiad I didn't address all points. And later the post was edited. If no other answer comes up, one that contains canon information from novelisations or guides, I'll accept this one, even though all points are very debatable
    – Petersaber
    Commented Jan 13, 2017 at 20:29
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    @Petersaber - Most military decisions, both real and fictional, are very debatable. This answer gives good arguments in favor of not just warping in a bunch of fighters from afar. Those arguments may be debatable, but they're also well-reasoned and plausible.
    – aroth
    Commented Jan 14, 2017 at 3:08
  • Another possibility not mentioned here is that you may want to use a capital ship for command-and-control operations. If all you have are fighters zooming around and trying not to get shot, how do you coordinate the broader strategy? Who's in control? How do they get visibility of the tactical situation? What happens when their flimsy fighter craft explodes after taking a single turbolaser hit? A capital ship is more survivable and makes a better CIC. And if you're sending one in, you need to send in others to provide cover for it.
    – aroth
    Commented Jan 14, 2017 at 3:19

The larger rebel ships still have guns that can shoot down enemy fighters. What's better? sending a bunch of fighters at the death star, or a bunch of fighters with additional support?

  • Capital ships are not likely to be particularly effective at shooting down fast enemy fighters.
    – Null
    Commented Jan 13, 2017 at 16:18
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    The Capital Shops don't need to outrun the fighters. They have turrets on them. The Death Star's turrets shoot down fighters. Commented Jan 13, 2017 at 16:19
  • The Death Star turrets score a few hits against the Rebel fighters, but most of the Rebel fighters are destroyed by Imperial fighters. Likewise, most Imperial fighters were destroyed by Rebel fighters rather than capital ships.
    – Null
    Commented Jan 13, 2017 at 16:30
  • So you are agreeing with me that the Capital Ships contributed to the battle. Commented Jan 13, 2017 at 16:45
  • I agree that they contributed to the battle, though not primarily for the reason you give (shooting down enemy fighters).
    – Null
    Commented Jan 13, 2017 at 16:53

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