Obviously the in universe reason that the Imperial-I star destroyer in ANH was replaced by the Imperial-II star destroyer in ESB/RotJ is because it's better in some way (cheaper, more effective, whatever).

I'd like to know though if there was any particular real world reason that the design of the star destroyers changed (Movement of the turrets, change of the shape of the targeting array). The difference is odd in that it seems to big to be an accident (Like the change in the surface greebles), and too small to be intentional. Most people don't notice until it's pointed but, but it's obvious enough that you can easily tell once you know what to look for.

I am not talking about the difference between the Imperial class of the original trilogy compared to the Resurgent class from TFA or Venator of the prequels. This is about the change within the Imperial class between ANH and RotJ.

If it was to intentionally represent technological improvement in universe that's reasonable if someone involved in the production has ever confirmed that but I'm not looking for speculation.


4 Answers 4


For A New Hope, they had a single 3 foot model for the Star Destroyer. That's actually kind of small for a miniature which had as many close ups as it did, and shooting with it can't have been easy. When they did the sequel, they decided to upgrade to a brand new 6 foot model produced from scratch that would have more surface detail, better lighting, and be easier to move the camera around. They did a pretty good job matching the overall look, but they didn't worry too much about the details. A lot of the original parts were literally pieces from other kits that wouldn't fit the new scale even if they could figure out where they'd come from originally. They were hardly documenting the origin of every piece.

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    This is a really interesting out of universe explanation. Commented May 4, 2017 at 14:17
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    Indeed. This could be a very good answer. Do you, by any chance have a source for that? Is it mentioned in the Making Of, is there an article showcasing photos of the models, an interview with someone from the staff, anything? Commented May 4, 2017 at 14:49
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    Interestingly, in the case of Star Trek: The Next Generation around the end of Season 2, they made a 4-foot model that had more detail than the original 6-foot or 2-foot models.
    – T.J.L.
    Commented Feb 14, 2020 at 16:48
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    This is a good answer and seems familiar like I'd heard it somewhere before. A source or two would be excellent. Commented Feb 14, 2020 at 18:05

Cribbing a bit from Wookieepedia I think I can explain.

They are two different models of Imperial Star Destroyer class I and II.

There is not much in the Disney canon about this at all, in fact, they have class II operational 5 years BBY in Rebels, which does not make much sense.

In Legends, the class II was introduced around 0 BBY but was not active in great numbers then, which is why you don't see it in A New Hope. It was an updated version of the class I which had been in service for 22 years. By the Battle of Hoth, they were in use in greater numbers.

So while on screen you are seeing a new model come in within the space of three years, it is not one brand new space ship being replaced by another new one, but a very old model having an updated version come out.

Most information from here

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    "they have class II operational 5 years BBY in Rebeles, which does not make much sense." It does! Not even the mighty empire will roll out a new updated ship for the whole fleet instantly and scrap the old ones. It's more than likely that for a long time there are both class I and class II destroyers operational. Commented May 4, 2017 at 14:50
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    This is true, but you would think that Vader wold get one before some backwater planet. Perhaps he was still in Palpatains' bad books. Commented May 4, 2017 at 15:11

Out of universe, I have not seen any concrete evidence that what I am about to say is correct, but...

The reason is Merchandising

This article explains a lot about the toy industry and what StarWars did to it in the beginning, however J.J Abrams did say this,

Yet even when the toys seem to supersede the films, the people behind the scenes still hold true to Lucas’ original sentiment. The story rules.

“What’s been incredible for me has been the creative freedom and the desire to make something hopefully worth people’s time – and not a commercial for toys,” J.J. Abrams told Rolling Stone. “I’m not itching to be involved in creating things that end up in a landfill. I wanted to tell a story.”

But, still, Disney did not buy the franchise to lose money. Why Buying Star Wars and LucasFilm Is the Best $4 Billon Disney Ever Spent

Star Wars is a merchandise monster

While I'm sure Disney has sold a lot of products tied into the Avengers universe, the numbers can't approach the retail phenomenon that is Star Wars. Disney has smartly tapped into the nostalgia many parents likely feel when it comes to Lucas' universe. It made buying new Star Wars toys an event, which kicked off Sept. 4, dubbed Force Friday, when it launch the first batch of Force Awakens merchandise.

"That day alone Star Wars merchandise sales are estimated to have neared $1 billion," The Atlantic reported in late November. Overall, Star Wars merchandise sales could reach a potential $5 billion in the first year after the release of The Force Awakens, which could result in $500 million in licensing and retail revenue for Disney, according to Macquarie Securities analyst Tim Nollen as quoted in that article. And those predictions were made before the film was on its way to being the biggest movie ever.

Again I have no concrete evidence of this ,but this is also why I think they made small changes to millennium falcon, see below, they changed the round radar to a square one. Changing just little things like this on any of the original characters or sell-able items in the movie, will inspire collectors and new consumers alike to buy again, even if they have the original version.

enter image description here

So I will leave you with a parting video that needs to be watched.

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    Even if it's a reasonable assumption to make, without any evidence or references pointing out the connection between design updates and merchandising, it's just guesswork and speculation. The linked article, too, is basically just assuming an influence of merchandising on the creation of new content for ESB and RotJ (not modifying designs for re-merchandising), without any proof, quoting a self-proclaimed(?) 'Star Wars specialist' and professionally-unrelated-to-Star-Wars(?) comic book / collectibles guy. Commented May 3, 2017 at 7:47
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    They changed the radar dish because Lando knocked it off in ROTJ. (youtube.com/watch?v=iMNSJKzHSHM) Not having the same dish is a nod to continuity, not merchandising, imho.
    – Ross
    Commented May 3, 2017 at 13:03
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    @KyloRen - the dish on the MF was at least 30 years old, if not older (which is quite possible considering the ship we now know as the MF was included in the prequels). It might have been difficult to find the same kind of sensor dish.....also, seriously though, it was probably because the outcry from many nerds if the original dish was put back would be loud and angry, it would have been taken as a lack of awareness of continuity
    – NKCampbell
    Commented May 3, 2017 at 13:36
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    I'm not asking about the change between RotJ and TFA, I'm asking about the change between ANH and ESB.
    – smithkm
    Commented May 3, 2017 at 20:25
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    The Millenium Falcon is a poor example. We know it lost its dish at the end of RotJ. Replacing it with something distinctly different is the best solution for TFW. Leave it off, and you have to explain how it could have flown for years without it. Replace it with another round dish, and nitpickers call it a mistake. Really, a new, distinct dish is the best answer, regardless of merchandising.
    – J Doe
    Commented May 3, 2017 at 21:06

All you have to do is look at the real world. Tech changes over time. The in-universe time difference between the prequels and the original trilogy is about 20 years and the time difference between the original trilogy and the trilogy starting with Force Awakens is 30+ years.

Compare that to real world military tech. The original aircraft carriers just after WWI are massively different from WWII aircraft carriers, which are massively different from modern aircraft carriers. The same goes for anything: Tanks, destroyers, battleships, fighters, bombers, on and on.

25 or 30 years is ages of difference in modern tech. There's no reason it wouldn't also be that way in the Star Wars universe. In the 60-70 years or so of Star Wars movie in-universe time star destroyers have changed. The Venator of the prequel era evolved into the Victory I/II, from there to the Imperial-I/II (and Tector variant), and finally to the new Resurgent class from Force Awakens.

Tech changes. That's just life.

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    I'm not asking about the differences between the Venator, Imperial, and Resurgent classes over 60 years, I'm asking about just the changes within the Imperial class over 3 years.
    – smithkm
    Commented May 3, 2017 at 20:41

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