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During the attack on the first Death Star, various groups of rebel fighters enter the meridian trench (first Y-wings, then X-wings) in order to get to the (in)famous exhaust port. They enter in groups of three, but because the trench is narrow they could only fly in formation. Vader and his wing man then easily pick them off.

Since only one fighter could attack the exhaust port simultaneously (a small target, only one or two are torpedoes needed), wouldn't be better for another two fighters to get out of trench and attack Vader and his wing man directly in order to force them to break off their pursuit of the group leader who could then launch torpedoes without constantly looking back ? Anti-aircraft fire cannot be the reason, because it is almost the same inside the trench, and low above the surface .

Looks like only Han Solo understands this simple tactics, as he easily gets on the Tie Fighters tails and then blasts them, saving Luke

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    At 10:10 Wedge says to Luke "we'll stay back far enough to cover you", so the X-wings had some plan to protect their leader. I suppose they also had to be in position from which they could replace the leader if the tower guns destroy the leader too. – Mobeer Jul 25 '17 at 23:17
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    Not to answer the question, but they were in the Meridian trench not the equatorial trench. – Josafoot Jul 25 '17 at 23:43
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    Since the fighters are most vulnerable to attack from behind it makes sense to me that the wingmen are literally providing cover by blocking a direct attack to the rear. Yes, they could fly out of the trench and attempt to attack the enemy fighters following them, but that would leave the lead fighter completely exposed to a direct attack from behind. Remember that the mission is to ensure that the lead fighter gets through and drops the bombs in the exhaust port. Everyone else is expendable. – user22478 Jul 26 '17 at 1:05
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    you're looking for logic in all the wrong places. It's space fantasy - not a war simulator – NKCampbell Jul 26 '17 at 1:30
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    You're a rebel pilot in formation with your leader, Luke Skywalker. You enter the trench. You become aware, for whatever reason, that Vader and his goons are entering the trench. Now what? You and your other wingman exit the trench. Vader's goons also exit the trench to deal with you. Congratulations, you have now left Luke own his own with Darth Vader right behind him, with no way to defend himself. Luke gets shot down, the Death Star isn't destroyed, the galaxy is doomed. – DisturbedNeo Jul 26 '17 at 9:15
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It's not explicitly stated, but from the way that the two supporting fighters follow the leader through the trench it is shown that they're there to act as a second set of rear shields for the leader.

Note that when Wedge gets his shields blown out, Luke commands him to leave the trench because he "can't do any more good back there".

Also, consider that the primary attackers were in fact the Y-wings. While the Y-wings were making their attack runs, the X-wings were above the trench mixing it up with the TIEs. Sending X-wings into the trench after Vader and his wingmen might have been a solution, but any stray shots would have flown past the TIEs towards friendly Y-wings.

  • Except this does not work, supporting Y-wings and X-wings get blown to bits in seconds, they don't buy much time. Fighters are fighters, they are not deflector shields. Stray shots are much less of concern then aimed shots by TIE fighters. – rs.29 Nov 10 '17 at 20:22
  • @rs.29 To be fair, they were blown apart in mere seconds by a Dark Lord of the Sith - I doubt very much that anyone could have for seen that Vader himself would come out to engage the attacking fighters. While the Audience is aware that Vader is chasing the plans because of a fear of vulnerability, the Rebels weren't aware of any of that - and were probably more aware of Tarkin's belief that the station was indestructible presumably because there had to be some kind of senate speech about Alderaan and the Death Star when the senate was dissolved. – Mark Jan 29 '18 at 18:01

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