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Spoilers from the opening scenes of the Last Jedi:

In the beginning of the Last Jedi, Poe convinces Leia it's worth trying to destroy the Dreadnaught. They launch several (10s?) of bombers at the Dreadnaught. We see they end up all getting blown up, which doesn't end up mattering because apparently only bombs from a single bomber were required to destroy it.

Did they launch so many bombers initially because they only expected one to make it? Or did they get lucky that apparently the Dreadnaught was lined with explosives to cause a chain reaction when the the successful bomber dropped its bombs? (ie they expected it to require bombs from multiple bombers)

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    I think they knew they only needed one bomber, and they wanted to guarantee that one would survive long enough to drop it's payload (while probably hoping they would have a few left standing at the end). Not sure where we'll find any canon evidence of this until the novelization comes out though – Allball103 Jan 4 '18 at 18:29
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    Because Rian Johnson wanted a WW2-style bombing run and appereantly the person who designed the SF-17 Star Fortress really loves the B-17 Flying Fortress. That is literally the only reason. They didn't expect losses of that size, which is why Leia Organa demoted Poe despite giving him the green light for the assault. – Petersaber Jan 4 '18 at 18:30
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    @Petersaber That's nuts that they spent so much money/time/screentime on that scene then, because I felt the movie overall would have been much stronger without it. – spacetyper Jan 4 '18 at 18:31
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    @spacetyper to me, that was the moment when I realised this movie isn't going to make sense. I can't fathom how someone could think it's a good idea to include in the movie planes that are designed in a way that is archaic and impractical even by our standards. Johnson simply had several set pieces he really wanted in the movie, this being one of them, and the rest is just filler. Lucas also was heavly inspired by WW2 battles, but his spaceships at least made SOME sense in this soft sci-fi setting. – Petersaber Jan 4 '18 at 20:59
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    My biggest problem with this part was that later, everyone is super sad that this strike cost so many Resistance lives, but if you think about it: The bombers were so close above the Dreadnaught that they would inevitably explode anyway. So it was already decided at the beginning when they started the attack, that they would lose all these lives. – poke Jan 4 '18 at 23:14
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Out of Universe:

  • This was the tactics used by that bombers in WWII (and WWII aerial combat was the inspiration for space combat in ALL Star Wars films, starting with Episode IV). Even the bomber name (SF-17) was intended to evoke B-17 Flying Fortress.

  • It also mirrors all the OTHER capital ship vs. small ships runs in Star Wars (Death Star 1, Death Star 2, Starkiller) - you start with a couple of wings of small ships and most of them get taken out. That's an "archetypal story".

In Universe:

  1. They were up against a capital ship AND TIE fighters.

    A lucky hit and a bomber is out. It requires a large amount to have some survive the attrition.

  2. The formation was meant to have the bomber guns reinforce each other (same as WWII, again).

    Resistance flight instructors teach bomber pilots that it is essential to fly in a tight formation, opposing attacking fighters with overlapping fields of fire (source: TLJ ICS).

hat/tip @Valorum for finding correct Wikipedia article on the formation

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They launched all these StarFortresses so that they could commence a bombing run. They were trying to perform a bombing run as seen in previous films:

EDIT: this is also due to Ryan Johnsons' inspiration from World War Two, in which flights of bombers would often attack in numbers to cause as much destruction as possible

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