22

Apart from being a short movie, what might be the reason for this tactical disaster? :)

  • Because if you can destroy their base during there evacuation, you can kill off any people who haven’t left yet, and knowing you can track them through hyperspace means they can’t escape you – Edlothiad Jan 14 '18 at 15:28
  • But you kill the cruisers, and no hunt through hyperspace is necessary. They had star destroyers, tie-fighters, etc for the rest. – cleaner Jan 14 '18 at 15:34
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    @cleaner Just because you don't need to hunt them through hyperspace doesn't mean you still don't have to hunt them. On the planet the hunt is more risky. – Odin1806 Jan 14 '18 at 20:54
27

The Rebels/Resistance have shown a consistent tactic throughout their history; basing themselves somewhere remote, striking at Imperial targets and then, when confronted, bugging out to a rendezvous point and a new base.

In this instance the First Order have a new and highly effective tactic of their own, the capacity to follow ships through hyperspace. Although wasting time destroying the base (and consequently allowing ships to enter hyperspace) would have been a tactical blunder during Imperial times, the First Order already know where the Resistance have gone by tracking the fleet as it leaves and working out where they're going. On top of that, you have the added benefit of being able to work out where their new secret base is as well.


You might wish to note that a key aim here was to create a "demonstration" of the First Order's power rather than simply killing everyone and everything in the most expeditious way possible.

“Perfect,” he said. “I have my orders from Supreme Leader Snoke himself. This is where we snuff out the Resistance once and for all. Tell Captain Canady to prime his Dreadnought. Incinerate their base, destroy those transports, and obliterate their fleet.”

...

“Reorient the topside batteries to target the Resistance fleet,” Canady ordered. “And prep our fighter squadrons for launch.”
“General Hux ordered no fighter deployment,” objected Bascus. “He feels a demonstration—”

The Last Jedi: Official Novelisation

  • But it was supposed to be their final strike. They believed that they had all resistance in front of them. First cruisers, then base, would have saved them all problems. – cleaner Jan 14 '18 at 15:43
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    @cleaner - If your enemy is running, they're usually running somewhere. It's likely that some of their people will have already gone ahead to prepare the base for their arrival. – Valorum Jan 14 '18 at 15:44
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    Also the first order had no possibility knowing if really no one stayed behind on the base...the ships they could follow at their leasure...the base they neeeded destroyed for that reason and nother one....to make a point that NOTHING survives an attack by them and on them (as the base was the point of origin for an attack on the first order that hurt their pride). Also destroying the base AND fleet would send a message to would be rebels. – Thomas Jan 14 '18 at 19:42
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    If this was the plan, Snoke clearly wasn't in on it. Nor did it seem to be Hux's original intention, he was rather clearly disturbed by the turn of events, even if he knew he had an ace up his sleeve. – Harry Johnston Jan 14 '18 at 19:45
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    @HarryJohnston - I don't think the plan was any more complicated then "Go there and blow the base up and kill everyone in the vicinity, then follow whoever escapes and kill them as well". – Valorum Jan 14 '18 at 19:46
7

I think without a novelization and insight into what the First Order you can't really say for certain. However, I would like to offer a theory (which is also only speculation): given that the First Order no longer had a planet killer, but instead had Hyperspace tracking, the Resistance could potentially have had an easier time hiding on the planet than by escaping with space ships.

Unlike Hoth, D'Qar seems to be a rather hospitable planet and if the rebels had scattered using ground vehicles it would at least have taken quite some time to track them down. Looking at Endor it does not seem that there is good scanner technology which can make out specific lifeforms on the ground.

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    and insight into what the First Order - are you going to finish this sentence? The suspense is killing me. – Edlothiad Jan 14 '18 at 20:46
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    @Edlothiad it may be the finished sentence actually. Consider "What the First Order you are doing here?". – Ivan Kolmychek Jan 15 '18 at 7:18
  • @IvanKolmychek neither are complete sentences, I don't understand your example. – Edlothiad Jan 15 '18 at 7:27
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    @Edlothiad it is a bad joke based around shoehorning FIrst Order into the place of f-word in the widely-used phrases like "WTF are you doing here?". But as I am not a native English-speaker I cannot say for sure that it is a complete sentence either. :) – Ivan Kolmychek Jan 15 '18 at 7:38
5

TLDR

  • The First Order was playing to their strength.
  • The Rebel Fleet was inadequate to fight them and they knew it; hence the escape.
  • The First Order knew they had the upper hand in a space battle; hence their patience.

So this all comes down to military strategy... which can be a much longer explanation. If you would like that, let me know and I will throw in some more details.

However, it really boils down to fighting the enemy the way you know you can win. The First Order knew that their firepower with Snoke's vessel at the fore was beyond what the Rebels had. They know that when it came down to it, while they may lose some of their fleet in a straight up fight, they would still have become victorious, given numbers and the ease of taking out at least one craft every minute or so with Snoke's ship alone... not including all the other firepower they had available.

If the rebels ran, with their new tracking ability, the First Order would be able to chase them and continue the fight.

Therefore, while the battle is in space the Rebels can not win in a fight and can not run.

Let's look at a battle on the ground:

First - They could destroy the fleet and strand them on the surface. This however requires a blockade to keep their friends from coming to rescue them. Without a blockade (i.e. resources that could be useful elsewhere) someone can come rescue them and then they escape.

Second - Similar to the first, you strand them there and bombard from space. However, without a confirmation of enemies destroyed you will never know when the job is done and when you can leave. (i.e. resources that could be useful elsewhere)

Third - Kind of a combination of the first two plus a new element... Send troops down to the planet. This is dicey. Boots on the ground is always a risk. First you still require the blockade in orbit to keep others from rescuing or providing reinforcements (i.e. resources that could be useful elsewhere); but now you have also tied up your ground forces in a ground war. While these can sometimes be decisive and quick, they can sometimes be long and arduous. This drains resources (food, power, etc.), time, initiative, moral, etc.

And with all of these options if the rebels escape, even just some, you lose and you have wasted time and resources.

But by allowing them to escape, they are fighting on your battlefield where you have the upper hand. As seen in the movie, so long as they were in space the Rebels were on the defensive and had no chance of victory. Even Poe's plan was simply to disable their ability to track them. That is not a win. It is a stalemate.

  • I am not a First Order Admiral, so I would be interested in your idea about the First order military tactics :). Keeping the rebels in space makes sense, but they just arrived over the planet without any fear of planetary defenses. After destroying the fleet, they have all time in the world to vaporize the surface. Furthermore, any rebel ships attacking them in the future can be tracked through hyperspace. Thus, I am still not convinced that letting go the cruisers was a good idea – cleaner Jan 14 '18 at 22:59
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    You are still not considering the battle/time on the surface. Just bombarding from space is NOT a guarantee you got them all. You have to have boots on the ground to control that area. That is not First Order tactics, that is basic military strategy. The point of their attack was to kill the Rebels. How do they know they have done that if they only bombard from space? What's to say they did not hide in a area shielded from scans or something?There was an entire planet to hide on compared to ?thirty? nonthreatening ships all bunched together in space. – Odin1806 Jan 14 '18 at 23:18
  • @cleaner - There are a lot of variables that you are not considering. The biggest I think is this: Given resources I think it is way cheaper (both time and money) for the First Order to simply chase them down and shoot them with a big gun than it would be to bombard the planet, blockade the planet, land on the planet, search for survivors, possibly have a ground war, and finally be able to leave. All the while you have neglected your other theatres of war – Odin1806 Jan 14 '18 at 23:21
2

It's just good tactics. A single shot would take out the base and any grounded ships and any ground-based weaponry, whereas it could have taken several shots to deal with the cruiser, potentially allowing more ships to join the battle and giving any rebels remaining on the base time to start shooting back. (I don't recall there actually being any ground-based weaponry or combat ships left on the ground, but Hux had no way to be certain of that.)

Besides, according to Wookiepedia [edit: but see cleaner's comment] the Dreadnought's main weapons were specifically designed and optimized for planetary assaults. It was the job of the rest of the fleet to take out whatever part of the rebel fleet had reached space. The Dreadnought no doubt would have helped had it not been otherwise occupied, but it wouldn't have played the primary role in any space battle that might have taken place.

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    Poe says "These things are fleet killers". And since the Dreadnought is about to aim at the fleet, the First Order also seems to think so. – cleaner Jan 14 '18 at 22:55
1

At the start of the movie, Hux is proven to be a grandstanding idiot who prefers to be flashy than effective. Wouldn't be out of character for him to want to destroy the base first to show off to the rebels before finishing them off.

He seems to have learned from his mistakes by the end of the movie, though.

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    Haha, that is true ! I really miss Vader in such moments ( "He is as clumsy as he is stupid" ). Snoke is far too forgiving for such mistakes ( losing Starkiller Base, the Dreadnought, and whatever else ). Vader choked for less... – cleaner Jan 15 '18 at 21:07
  • @cleaner "Vader choked for less" +1 – Odin1806 Jan 20 '18 at 15:52
-1

Before the Dreadnought arrived, there was Hux's ship and a couple/few Star Destroyers. My tactics would be to let the Dreadnought fire on the surface and use the Destroyers to engage the fleet before jumping into hyperspace. And since the orders is to give no quarter, take no prisoners, if I saw a single X-Wing approach any ship, I would have blasted it right away without hesitation and without caring what, if any, messages were to be communicated. I would have also scrambled TIE Fighters even before the Dreadnought arrived. They would be flying the perimeter in formation waiting for the word to hit the fleet. This would have taken care of all those slow bombers before they even had a chance to reach the Dreadnought. Instead of being smart, they were arrogant. Also, I believe Holdo was with the First Order and she was the reason they were able to be tracked. And she sacrificed herself to redeem herself after she realized what she had done.

  • Do you have any info to support Holdo being with the First Order? I seem to recall Poe remarking on a battle she was famous for.. – Verdan Jul 5 '18 at 1:57

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