During the final space battle of Return of the Jedi, Admiral Ackbar says (emphasis mine):

We've got to give those fighters more time. Concentrate all fire on that Super Star Destroyer.

Referring to the Executor.

A series of vessels, including several X-wings and a suicidal A-Wing pilot, then proceed to attack the vessel at point-blank range, taking out is deflector shields and destroying the bridge. The ship then proceeds to lose control and collide with the Death Star, where it is destroyed in a remarkable plume of fire.

My question is how attacking the Executor gave the fighters (led by the Millennium Falcon) more time. These fighters were currently flying through the Death Star's superstructure in an attempt to knock out the main reactor. Other than a few TIE fighters, they were virtually unopposed once they got inside. The Executor, measuring at 19,000 meters long, was far too overwhelmingly huge to pursue the Rebels into the Death Star, and seemed to pose no direct threat to the fighters. So how did focusing their attack on the Executor give the fighters more time?

  • 4
    Because it was the biggest ship?
    – Zoredache
    Oct 11, 2013 at 19:01

6 Answers 6


It's a classic diversionary tactic.

Destroying the Death Star is the main objective, the Falcon, Wedge, etc were inside the Death Star and being pursued by TIE Fighters; attacking a Star Destroyer is obviously to achieve the goal of splitting the Empire's forces.

This is consistent with Lando's objective when he issues the order: "Split up and head back to the surface. See if you can get a few of those TIE fighters to follow you" - drawing attention and enemy fire away from those who are going after the main objective.

A second reason is obvious from The Script - after the destruction of the Star Destroyer:

For the first time, the Death Star is rocked by explosions as the Rebel fleet, no longer backed against a wall, zooms over, unloading a heavy barrage.

Up to that point the Rebels were pinned between the Death Star and the Star Destroyers; having destroyed the Executor they've taken out a major part of the latter and increased both their survival chances and their offensive capability.

  • 3
    Don't forget that changing a target in the middle of an engagement forces the enemy to redeploy their assets to cover the new target. Targeting the SSD forced the enemy fighters to change their priorities towards screening a different target. The break in the confrontation while the Imperial forces changed their positions and targeting priorities (in response to the suddenly focused fire of the Rebels) gave time for the Rebellion to change the momentum of battle into their favor.
    – Jeff
    Dec 6, 2013 at 17:26

It's a standard battle tactic (NOT specific to Star Wars). You take out the heaviest and most dangerous unit the opponent has FIRST (preferably, using light units, e.g. rocket boats or torpedo bombers to take a page out of WWII, from where a lot of Lucas' Star Wars combat is borrowed), then work your way down the threat assessment chain. Short of DSII itself, an SSD was that heaviest and most dangerous unit the Imperial fleet had in the battle of Endor.

  • "You take out the heaviest and most dangerous unit the opponent has FIRST...Short of DSII itself, an SSD was that heaviest and most dangerous unit the Imperial fleet had in the battle of Endor." You're probably right, but it's not immediately obvious to me that the Rebel fleet ought to concentrate firepower on the SSD. What about concentrating all firepower on each of the more vulnerable ISDs in turn? I imagine Admiral Ackbar did a quick mental calculation or used a handy computer to compare offensive/defensive capabilities of each fleet + factor in time.
    – RobertF
    Nov 17, 2014 at 18:38

Additionally, the Executor was a Super-class Star Destroyer, which can carry 12 TIE squadrons and more than fifty other small crafts. The Executor can always deploy more squadrons (it carrying the most squadrons among the Star Destroyers present) to engage the rebels in a dogfight (e.g with the Millennium Falcon or the X-wings).


The Executor was the flagship of the Imperial fleet at Endor, destroying it would have disrupted the chain of command for the entire fleet. Also something that large and Vader's flagship explode would have significant effect on Imperial morale

  • Even though the Executor is the flagship, the most important people to the Empire are on board the Death Star. Wouldn't it be more likely that command is probably giving out orders from there, rather than the Executor?
    – jpmc26
    Aug 20, 2014 at 15:49
  • 1
    absolutely not, some time before the death star fired the commander of the Executor orders the fleet to "hold here" having received orders directly from the Emperor since "he has something special for them"
    – IG_42
    Aug 20, 2014 at 16:44
  • Other than the Emperor and Darth Vader (who we know were otherwise occupied at the time), do we really know of anyone on board the Death Star who was higher up the command chain than Admiral Piett? May 10, 2016 at 20:04
  • @ApproachingDarknessFish Moff Jerjerrod would have outranked Piett, but his command was evidently restricted to the Death Star itself, and did not extend over the supporting fleet. Sep 14, 2016 at 17:53

This is old but the simple answer is that it was the flagship. The entire battle was commanded by the ssd . After the emperor and vader start dealing with luke they are no longer ordering units. Killing the ssd would be like sniping a general or blowing up the only carrier in a battleground, or to put in country perspectives, losing the white house in a war. Contingencies are there but you lose time since you have to reestablish battle lines and morale is hurt badly.

  • 1
    I fail to see how this accomplishes "give the fighters more time", though. I find it hard to believe that the ssd was giving direct orders to the TIE fighters pursuing the rebels into the death star. May 10, 2016 at 20:00
  • 1
    The TIE fighters were not shown to be directly dependent on any SD for their actions. May 10, 2016 at 20:16

According to the (canon) Star Wars: Battles that Changed the Galaxy factbook, the Executor was a pretty juicy target for a couple of different reasons.

  • It was the Empire fleet's command ship and was coordinating the battle against the Alliance fleet.

Command Ship: At the center of the Imperial fleet loomed Admiral Piett’s flagship, the Executor, which had come close to annihilating the entire Rebellion at Mako-Ta and then again at Hoth. Rebel pilots regarded the ship with fear and awe in equal measure.


This [attack] culminated in the destruction of the Executor, which temporarily paralyzed Imperial operations moments before the Death Star itself was destroyed.

  • Excluding the Death Star itself, the Executor was the most powerful ship in the Empire's fleet. Left to its own devices, it would eventually overwhelm and pick off the Alliance's capital ships one-by-one and could conceivably hold its own against their entire fleet.

The Executor was not only the Empire’s command ship at Endor, it was also arguably the most important vessel in the entire Imperial navy. Serving on Lord Vader’s flagship was, if you could survive his temper, a fast track to promotion. At Endor the ship was the centerpiece of the largest fleet the Empire had ever committed to battle. Commanded by Admiral Piett, who was following the highly restrictive orders of the Emperor, the Executor held position after trapping the rebels. When the rebel ships closed to short range the advantages held by the Empire began to dissipate. The Executor could feasibly have destroyed whole fleets by itself, but not when penned in on all sides by other Star Destroyers and rebel cruisers

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