Inspired by this question about the naming of spaceships, I was wondering if there was any explanation on canon about the actual decision of the design of the ships.

It’s not that usual for a single manufacturer (or even different manufacturers for the same kind of craft) to come over with different designs for several practical reasons. On our world most planes are fairly similar on their categories and even across categories. Fighters are usually alike in design and significant changes in shape and form are only introduced for special needs (I.e stealth or cargo capacity).

Is there any in universe canon explanation about the different form factors of X, B, Y and A wings explaining why a particular shape is used and how that makes that particular ship better than other on its tactical function? I ask this specially given the fact aerodynamics would be of little concern for this kind of ship.

I understand out of universe it’s very likely just due to the rule of cool (warning: tv tropes link).

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    Planes are all quite similar? Au contraire; boldmethod.com/blog/lists/2014/09/…
    – Valorum
    Commented Jan 10, 2022 at 11:58
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    We see "families" of design - the X-Wing and the Z-95 Headhunter for example (the split s-foil of the X-wing allowed double the number of lasers, as well as better manoeuvrability), both made by Incom. The Delta series flown by the Jedi in AotC and the A-wings (both made by Kuat).
    – HorusKol
    Commented Jan 10, 2022 at 12:15
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    The differences tend to go by role - A-wing/Delta are fast and highly manoeuvrable - with an interceptor role (like an F-102, Su-15 or Lightning - which are darts with engines), the X-wing/Z-95 are sturdy and fill a multi-role capacity (F-14 - a pretty heavy beast requiring variable wing geometry for low speed lift), while the Y-Wing was a heavy fighter/bomber (Me-110). The B-Wing is the odd one out, but is an experimental design from Ackbar - it sits somewhere between the X and Y-wing in capability.
    – HorusKol
    Commented Jan 10, 2022 at 12:22
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    Why I think the designs in Star Wars can not be seen as analogous to real world planes is that all planes are constrained by the technology we have. While the in-universe fact that something like the Millennium Falcon can fly like the most agile dogfighter (even in an atmosphere) demonstrates that in Star Wars, engine technology is sufficient to propel something shaped like a brick, so the entirety of design is down to individual philosophies, tastes, and function. Commented Jan 10, 2022 at 12:24
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    @GeoffAtkins at this point, most of Star Wars is a retcon - I still love to watch, read, and play, though
    – HorusKol
    Commented Jan 10, 2022 at 12:27

2 Answers 2


This is going to break down to two different aspects of the question:

Why different shapes?

Unlike the real world, technological limitations in Star Wars don't dictate almost all aspects of design. Real planes are designed to work based on the ability to generate sufficient lift and thrust to get airborne, which is further complicated by the capabilities of the materials available, the weight the plane will have to lift, and the performance requirements of the aircraft once aloft.

Star Wars technology has moved beyond such things. The Millennium Falcon is capable of atmospheric flight and demonstrates the ability to perform aerobatic manoeuvres that would rival the most agile of model aircraft.

Therefore we can determine that Star Wars starfighters aren't constrained by the need to balance weight to lift/thrust, or worry about aeronautical control surfaces, or anything else that real world designers would be required to focus on.

As such, each manufacturer is free to design their vessels on different criteria. Design philosophies are one factor, each manufacturer tends to have a distinctive style for their respective lines of starfighters (and star ships). There's also the required function of that vessel; A-Wings for instance have comparatively large engines, as befits their status as fast interceptors, while X-wings have comparatively massive guns.

Beyond the different manufacturers you have the fact that different species entirely are involved in the designs here. The rounded cockpit of the B-wing seems to favour the design aesthetic Mon Cal prefer (both Legends and Disney Canon share that the B-wing's designer was a Mon Calamari), but the X-wing and Y-wing are both distinctly angular. Whereas all real life planes are designed by humans (or at least, computers designed by humans), and humans are all more alike than we are different - especially as aircraft designers borrow ideas from each other.

This leads us to conclude that real world homogeny is neither necessary or even present in the in-universe design of starfighters in Star Wars.

The second aspect of the question I want to address is:

how that makes that particular ship better than other on its tactical function?

The answer here is... it doesn't follow from what we see on screen that it does.

The Rebellion is generally depicted as scrounging for whatever they can get. Whereas the Empire, with all its resources make ships and starfighters that follow similar lines in vast numbers, the Rebels are shown using whatever they can get. Yes, they may have a few truly exceptional custom works of art amongst their fleet (the Millennium Falcon and the Ghost as examples), but it's shown that they begged, borrowed, and stole most of their starfighters and small star ships.

It's only the B-wings that were designed and built entirely by the Rebellion during the course of the civil war, and these are never shown in number.

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    "[T]hat would rival the most agile of modern aircraft". I wonder what aircraft you have seen that I have not :)
    – Joachim
    Commented Jan 10, 2022 at 15:56
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    @Joachim - My bad. Spellcheck corrected a typo in "model" for "modern". I was considering those highly manoeuvrable toys that seems to pop up everywhere last year. Commented Jan 10, 2022 at 16:21
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    It's mentioned many times that the Millenium Falcon is a cobbled-together mess of parts that barely work together. Imagine a 57 Chevy with a dragster engine, a Honda radio from the 1980's, wheels off your grandma's 78 Buick, and an aftermarket remote start system. Now, give that car to someone like Han who regularly drives it to the limit, smuggling huge crates of contraband and getting into car chases with the fuzz. That's the Millenium Falcon. Commented Jan 10, 2022 at 16:58

Unfortunately I don’t have references readily available for this, but I think I have the answer you’re looking for. Perhaps someone can edit this and add in sources.

  • X-Wing: Space Superiority Fighter - heavier, durable, designed for dogfighting with some attack capability.
  • Y-Wing: Attack fighter - primarily for attacking static targets and capital ships, with some defensive dogfighting capability.
  • A-Wing: Small, fast, agile space interceptors - designed for dogfights with essentially no attack capability.
  • B-Wing: Attack bombers with some defensive capabilities.
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    Yeah, the Y-wing is sort of a cross between an A-10 and a light bomber. It hits with a powerful punch but isn't the best dogfigher. Commented Jan 10, 2022 at 17:03
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    Note: some of my “knowledge” of these craft comes from the X-Wing and Tie Fighter video games and the West End role playing game. I don’t know what the canonicity is for this, so keep that in mind. One thing we do see in the original trilogy is these craft being used in these ways (not so much the B-Wing). The battle of Yavin definitely shows the X-Wings providing cover for Y-Wing attack runs until there are no more Y-Wings. Commented Jan 10, 2022 at 17:09

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