The R2 units got pushed into a hole behind the pilot in the X-wing. This always required a big (bigger than normal) suspension of disbelief for me, because they were meant to be able to make emergency repairs to the X-wing.

How? R2D2's reach wasn't any more than a human's. So if an engine or wing was damaged, he couldn't do anything about it.

  • R2 units were examples of astromechs, which performed not only mechanical repairs but also served as astrogation computers... does it make a lot of sense to have the astrogation computer NOT part of the ship itself? Not really. But that's what they do. They also served to assist the pilot. Wookiepedia Astromech droid.
    – erdiede
    Oct 4, 2011 at 19:59
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    The reach may not be more than a human's, but they can operate in the the vacuum of interstellar space; the cockpit of the X-Wing is pressurized.
    – DavRob60
    Oct 4, 2011 at 20:31
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    After reading this, I'm wondering if there was a point in having an onboard CPU on an X-wing (or other fighters) since, with the proper interface, an R2 unit could handle that. It'd have to be placed in a shield position, but that might make construction cheaper and droids could follow the pilots, not the ship, so it carries a flight profile with them to adjust settings for that pilot in any ship.
    – Tango
    Oct 5, 2011 at 15:09
  • erdeddie: if the computer hardware needed was very expensive, and the number of X-wings high compared to the number of pilots, it makes perfect sense to swap out computers as needed to new X-wings. Putting them in a self-propelled package that can double for other things when planetside is a natural progression from that.
    – jwenting
    Oct 6, 2011 at 11:26

3 Answers 3


There's not MUCH they can do, no. But within their reach are several key systems, and they have full computer access. While they can do only minimal physical repairs, they handle the job of engineer quite handily, able to reroute power, conduct diagnostics, and other key functions.

Their 'in-flight' repairs are basically limited to fixing physical damage to the critical systems located near their socket and routing key functions around other issues. On the ground, they can do much more.

  • 11
    Ah, the good ol' reroute power trick. My iPhone 3G malfunctioned when one of the conduits took heavy damage and I was able to reroute power to bypass the primary relays and get it working as fast as a 3GS!
    – Kalamane
    Oct 5, 2011 at 0:24
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    In the second set of movies R2-D2 has thrust jets. So if the fighter stopped accelerating, R2 could pop out and fix things.
    – Zan Lynx
    Oct 5, 2011 at 0:24
  • That seems on target, yet it raises the question of why those systems are exposed and so easily hit, as opposed to being in the internals of the fighter with the R2 unit positioned so it can reach the critical systems internally instead of externally.
    – Tango
    Oct 5, 2011 at 3:02
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    @Kalamane: In the modern world? No, not really. But then again, our aircraft fly in atmosphere and aren't facing energy weapons in the gigaton range.
    – Jeff
    Oct 6, 2011 at 13:18
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    @Chad I didn't need an energy phase converter. I needed a phone that could run Ininity Blade.
    – Kalamane
    Oct 8, 2011 at 1:48

Older ship designs such as Y-Wing and X-Wing included an astromech droid, while more modern A-Wings and B-Wings discontinued this tradition. This may indirectly demonstrate that the designers shared the doubts expressed here and ended up preferring a faster, more integrated, more efficient, less vulnerable internal system over a plug-in droid

  • This is interesting but does not answer the question. How could an R2 unit repair an X-wing? Aug 29, 2012 at 11:50
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    @Wikis I may have been misleaded by my flawed english, but I thought the OP was mainly underlining the inefficiency of the astromech droid dependent setup, to the point that a suspension of disbelief was required to think he was able to perform the various tasks involved. So I thought of an in-universe confirmation of the OP's theory: "Indeed, the R2's sucked at that so we fired them" :)
    – Giuseppe
    Aug 29, 2012 at 13:38
  • It's often better to answer what you think the real question is, rather than the literal question. Even if you're wrong about the "real" question, you usually throw an interesting perspective into the issue. Aug 29, 2012 at 16:50

In addition to their limited reach etc, you have to consider that like modern aircraft, quite a bit of the performance of the craft very likely depends heavily on computer programming. Modern fighter aircraft in particular are extremely unstable (because maneuverability depends on instability), and are only flyable by humans because of a lot of interpretation/supplemental control by the flight computer -- not just of the engines, but of actual control surfaces etc.

One can easily imagine that the flight computer is constantly working to interpret the pilot's inputs and turning that into actual control manipulation/engine manipulation to give the pilot a fast, maneuverable platform for firing; in addition, the computer has to manage the additional complexity of shields (which modern aircraft do not).

So an R2 could potentially do quite a bit to affect the performance of an X-Wing by in effect reprogramming it (or adjusting programming parameters) on the fly. Compensating for an overheating or damaged engine, control thruster, or failing shield generator are all things that can be considered "repair" and would result in the X-Wing maintaining maximum combat efficiency better.

This is in addition to the R2's stated purpose of serving as a nav computer; X-Wings don't have a fully capable nav computer built in, they require the droid to calculate hyperspace jumps.

  • I take your point about "nav computer", but I've never got the impression that they were a kind of "co-pilot". Aug 30, 2012 at 4:43
  • I didn't say copilot; they're not flying the X-Wing, they're modifying how the flight computers interpret the pilot's commands. Sep 1, 2012 at 6:13

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