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?

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    Because it was the biggest ship? – Zoredache Oct 11 '13 at 19:01

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.

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    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 '13 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 '14 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 '14 at 15:49
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    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 '14 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? – ApproachingDarknessFish May 10 '16 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. – Mike DiBaggio Sep 14 '16 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.

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    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. – ApproachingDarknessFish May 10 '16 at 20:00
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    The TIE fighters were not shown to be directly dependent on any SD for their actions. – Meat Trademark May 10 '16 at 20:16

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