During the speeder bike chase in Return of the Jedi, Luke Skywaker instructs Leia to jam the communications of the Imperial Scout Troopers they are chasing/being chased by.

The jammer seems to be activated by a simple switch, which strikes as odd. Is communications jamming such a common function of a speeder bike such that it needs a prominent, easy to reach control?

The explanation I've come up with is that the Empire enforces control by preventing the general populace from spreading information quickly. Comms jammers are routinely installed in all Imperial vehicles and equipment, much like cameras and RFID technology come in a lot of electronic devices in our world.

So, does communication jamming technology appear a lot in Star Wars – both movies and extended universe? Does the theory hold up?

  • I always assumed this was just Lucas working from old technology concepts. Think of the comms being like Walkie Talkies -- assuming they use a single channel (not uncommon, and even when they don't, older ones usually have to be switched to a different one) -- Want to jam it easily? Lock the talk button down. You have the line open, preventing (or interfering with) anyone else from using it. (Break the mic or hit Mute to keep them from hearing you.) Sophisticated systems can get past this, but if it was just meant to be for local communication, it might be walkie talkie simple.
    – K-H-W
    Aug 21, 2014 at 17:16

2 Answers 2


The technology is extremely common in the Expanded Universe. Jamming technology is used, not just by the Rebels and Imperials but also by smugglers, in Timothy Zahn's Thrawn Trilogy. Han Solo and Lando Calrissian come up with a low-tech way to jam Imperial communications in Vision of the Future, and Thrawn successfully jams a Trade Federation task force's communications while still working for his native Chiss in Outbound Flight. And that is merely Timothy Zahn's work.

Communications jamming, as well as eavesdropping, is consistently shown to be very common in the Star Wars EU. As Han and Lando show in Vision of the Future, it would seem that jamming communications is not especially difficult, and therefore it's very common. Even Centrepoint Station, a space station that pre-dates the invention of artificial gravity without the need for rotation, is shown to possess communications-jamming capabilities in The Corellian Trilogy. It is obviously a side-effect of the Star Wars hypercomm technology that it is very easy to jam.

As for the theory, I couldn't tell you. Communications technology has never been very well-explored in Star Wars lore, with the slight exception of The Corellian Trilogy. Even then, the jamming was referred to as a "brute force technology," which even the technologically-illiterate Human League could pull off, provided they had a strong enough power-source. Repulsor and hyperdrive technology is much better examined. Without a knowledge of how Star Wars communications actually work, I couldn't possibly guess at how well the theory behind jamming it holds up.

  • The Human League? youtube.com/watch?v=uPudE8nDog0
    – Valorum
    Aug 4, 2014 at 11:09
  • @Richard The Human League was a group of human terrorists lead by a relative of Han Solo. They were formed a few years after the events of the 6th movie as an extremist group in the Corellian sector, having the ideas of the Galactic Empire and its New Order as their basis.
    – Nzall
    Aug 4, 2014 at 13:39
  • @natekerkhofs - So not the same people that sang 'don't you want me baby' then?
    – Valorum
    Aug 4, 2014 at 13:41
  • 4
    @jamessheridan - Justin Bieber's musical crimes against humanity are well known.
    – Valorum
    Aug 4, 2014 at 15:22
  • 1
    @G_Hosa_Phat: There is. Radionics and line-of-sight lasers are both used in The Corellian Trilogy. Inter-planetary communicaions are another matter, with the destruction of the HoloNet causing massive disruption during the New Jedi Order series. Both the Yevetha and the Chiss work on creating special, unjammable and untraceable hyperspace communication systems. Aug 6, 2014 at 7:52

While we don't know how local communication equipment (like a speeder bike's) works, we can make assumptions. Point-to-point light transmissions, such as those performed via laser beams (or fiber-optic cable), require a cable or a direct line-of-sight, which isn't practical for use on a planet's surface. Other communication methods are unlikely to have the speed or sensitivity to be useful.

That leaves us with some form of radio or microwave transmission. As we we already have the ability to disrupt these, the higher-tech Star Wars universe can be expected to handle this just as easily as the EU and movies show.

For ship-to-ship and other interstellar communication, this becomes more difficult to guess. The Holonet itself is never really explained, but it has a physical requirement, as the Yuuzhan Vong destroy much of it. Ships tapping into the 'net must send messages first to these satellites/outposts/facilities/deep-space buoys.

As light travels much faster than microwaves, I'll assume they use it in space. This kind of communication would be much more difficult to stop en-route. However, you could overload the receiver. Assuming the Holonet buoy has a tight-beam light receiver, and your ship wants to talk to it, I could send a constant beam of light at the receiver to prevent it from understanding your message (a "denial of service" jam). Assuming my power source is at least as powerful as yours, or assuming I can actually burn out the receiver itself so no communication can take place, this should work.

Alternatively, if I have access to the Holonet receiver itself, either through hacking or secure access (as the Empire would have had), I could simply shut it down. That would stop all faster-than-light communication methods without further hassle.

Stopping light-speed ship-to-ship communication inside a planetary system would be difficult, as ships tend to move. In the short term, however, it would work. If the target ship is across the system, light would take hours to reach it. An example: I jam the target's receptors, you send a message, I destroy your ship, my jam reaches the target, your message reaches them but they can't see it because of the jam, they react to the jam by moving their ship, but you are already dead and cannot re-send the message to the new location of the ship.

All of this assumes the Star Wars universe uses technology we have envisioned as of now. If ships themselves mount Holonet-capable devices and can use them to communicate with nearby Holonet buoys, then any guesswork on the theory is out the window. We simply don't know enough about how the Holonet works.

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