"We're going in, we're going in full throttle, that ought to keep those fighters off our back!"
—Luke Skywalker

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

During Luke's attack run on the Death Star during the Battle of Yavin in A New Hope, we see his target computer counting down numbers, presumably distance to the target, until he switches it off.

Do we have any indication of how fast he was flying, either through this or from other clues?

Was that any different from the speed of the group of Y-wings or the first group of X-wings?

  • 1
    Asking about the Y-Wing speed seems like a separate question to me. – TheLethalCarrot Jan 9 at 9:22
  • @TheLethalCarrot but closely related. I can very well imagine an answer answering both from the same source. I put it in here, instead of asking a separate question and having it closed a dupe. I've reworded it. – SQB Jan 9 at 9:25
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    As is usual with vehicles in any work of fiction, they fly at the speed of plot. ;) – Sava Jan 9 at 9:52
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    Am I the only on thinking that in space, if the thrust output of an engine remains constant, then the vehicle accelerates at a constant rate. In Space there is no top speed there is only top acceleration, applied continually until one approaches light-speed . . . or does the star-wars tag imply no actual physics? – Binary Worrier Jan 10 at 13:29
  • Probably the same reason fighters bank in space. – Stephen Collings Jan 10 at 14:16

The countdown numbers on the targeting computer give us a metric to calculate the speed of each attack run. By simply looking at the amount that the countdown has dropped in one second, you can work out the speed.

  • The first attack run (Y-Wings) take place at a speed of 2400 m/s. (timestamps 06:29 - 06:30).

  • The second attack run (X-Wings) takes place at a speed of 2200 m/s (timestamp 08.30 - 08.31)

  • Interestingly, Luke's attack run (at "full throttle") actually takes place at a lower speed; 1900 m/s (timestamp 11.43 - 11.44) slowing to 1700 m/s as he approaches the target. This may because the initial part of the run was faster but he's slowed down while Ben is communicating with him and entreating him to use the Force.

On a related note, the X-Wing is supposedly capable of a maximum subluminal speed of 100 MGLT (megalight per hour).

Assuming a megalight is 1 millionth of lightspeed (1000 kph) then the top speed for an X-wing in free space would be 100,000 kph or approximately 2700 m/s. This would imply that Luke was at about half-throttle at the end of his attack run.

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    Where did you get the speeds for the attack runs of the Y-Wings and X-Wings? All I see at the timestamps you mentioned are numbers displaying the distance to target, I don't see any indication of speed anywhere. Or even anything to indicate what unit of measurement is used to display the distance. – Sava Jan 11 at 11:50
  • @Sava - The measurements are in metres, according to the Official Fact Files. So by simply looking at the amount that the countdown has dropped in one second, you can work out the metres/second. – Valorum Jan 11 at 13:53
  • You've got some unit dissonance here. Either the speed can't be megalights per hour, or megalights have to be a unit of distance, not speed. – Rawling Jan 11 at 14:27
  • @Rawling - MGLT is presumably per hour. – Valorum Jan 11 at 14:31
  • Best answer EVAR! – Maury Markowitz Jan 16 at 21:19

The only place where I remember seeing any mention of speed for X-Wings, or any Star Wars starships in general, has been on the various RPG resources published over the years, which are surprisingly coherent on the subject.

According to both that Star Wars D6 Core Rulebook edition 2.5 (page 249) and the Star Wars Saga: Starships of the Galaxy supplement (page 152) , X-Wings have a maximum speed of 1050 km/h.

Y-Wings are slightly slower at 1000 km/h, while the standard Tie fighter seen at Yavin (dubbed Tie/ln in the RPG supplement to avoid confusion with other TIE models) can reach 1200 km/h, making Luke's assumption rather dubious.

While speeds are never mentioned on-screen, we do see the squadron of TIE fighters led by Dark Vador gain on the Y-Wings and X-Wings running up the trench, even though they flew at top speed, proving that the standard TIE fighter is indeed faster, though not by much given how long it took them to catch up with the Rebel crafts.

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    That's slow AF, crazy – GordonBennett Jan 9 at 10:15
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    @PeterParker - You are, of course, failing to take into account that they have anti-gravity, which means that escape velocity is basically meaningless. – Valorum Jan 9 at 12:47
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    In fact if you google speed of an x-wing the first answer confirmed the 1050 Kph number given in this answer. – Richard C Jan 10 at 1:23
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    Having an upper speed limit for a spacecraft is completely ridiculous. – Organic Marble Jan 10 at 1:34
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    @Valorum so it's inapplicable to the trench scene. – Organic Marble Jan 10 at 13:36

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