At the Battle of Endor the Emperor lured the Rebel Fleet into a trap: the Rebels believed the Death Star superlaser was not operational when in fact it was, and the Imperial Fleet led by Darth Vader's flagship Executor surprised the Rebels by coming out of hiding from the far side of the forest moon of Endor. This brilliant plan pinned the Rebel Fleet between the fully operational Death Star (still protected by its shield generator) and the Imperial Fleet.

Left in this situation why didn't the Rebels immediately retreat and jump to hyperspace? The Rebels ships might have been momentarily vulnerable while starting the jump but that would be better than facing either the Death Star's superlaser or the turbolasers of the Imperial Fleet. And even if the Imperial Fleet managed to follow the Rebel Fleet at least the Rebels would have escaped from the Death Star.

Instead, the Rebels only considered engaging the Imperial Fleet while the strike force on the ground attempted to destroy the shield generator:

Lando Calrissian: Yes, I said closer! Move as close as you can, and engage those Star Destroyers at point blank range!

Admiral Ackbar: At that close range we won't last long against those Star Destroyers!

Lando Calrissian: We'll last longer than we will against that Death Star! And we might just take a few of them with us!

Meanwhile, the Death Star continued to destroy capital ship after capital ship.

The most obvious explanation is that the Imperial Fleet included Interdictor cruisers which were preventing the Rebel Fleet from jumping to hyperspace. However, there was no mention of Interdictors in the movie because, out of universe, they hadn't been invented yet.

  • 9
    +1 for Interdictor Cruisers. I just learned about this space battle game changer machine thanks to you. :) – user931 Oct 1 '14 at 5:07
  • 28
    Because you can't leave 4 or 5 of the main of characters stranded on Endor. – Mazura Oct 1 '14 at 6:43
  • 5
    @Mazura why not? It's not going to be the first time we get a stranded hero story. And they could still go on and save the world themselves. – mechalynx Oct 1 '14 at 13:39
  • 4
    That’s similar to the question why everyone thinks they are trapped when there’s something before and after them while they are acting in a three dimensional space. The enemies would have to form a sphere around them for really trapping them, however, the answer is, don’t ask too many questions – Holger Oct 2 '14 at 10:18
  • In universe, Interdictors existed before the Battle Of Yavin though only a few hundred were made by the Battle Of Endor (compared to 25,000 Star Destroyers). – Schwern Oct 2 '14 at 21:22
up vote 41 down vote accepted

BEN

How long before you can make the jump to light speed?

HAN

It'll take a few moments to get the coordinates from the navi-computer.

The ship begins to rock violently as lasers hit it.

LUKE

Are you kidding? At the rate they're gaining...

HAN

Traveling through hyperspace isn't like dusting crops, boy! Without precise calculations we could fly right through a star or bounce too close to a supernova and that'd end your trip real quick, wouldn't it?

The rebels have arrived and not only is the shield not actually down, but the whole thing is an ambush, and the Rebel fleet is effectively surrounded by Imperials.

A hyperspace navigation computer can successfully plot a course to a fallback rendezvous point, but there must be a clear path between them and their destination. With fighters and capital ships swarming around them, they'd never have a clear jump unless they could at least clear out an exit path, or at least enough hold off enough for much of the fleet to get away. It will also take a few moments for the computer to perform the calculations. They'd need a lull in the firefight so they could sit relatively still to calculate the proper path. Good luck with that.

  • 7
    +1 Excellent point about the enemy fighters swarming around and in the way. Still, couldn't they clear a path a la Ender's Game (Endor's Game?) while computing the jump? They'd be vulnerable for a few moments but they'd take fewer casualties than sticking around while the Death Star systematically blasted whole capital ships. – Null Oct 1 '14 at 3:57
  • 1
    Even if they cleared a path while the computers were calculating, the path would have to still be clear at the time of the jump or risk catastrophic collision. – phantom42 Oct 1 '14 at 4:04
  • 1
    The quote specifies that it is looking for coordinates which are cleanly not obstructed or otherwise threatened by a star or supernova. – phantom42 Oct 1 '14 at 13:23
  • 1
    For further information about why a clear path was needed, you can read up more in the Hazards section of Hyperspace on Wookieepedia. – phantom42 Oct 1 '14 at 13:45
  • 2
    "We gotta give Han more time!" – Mark Rowlands Oct 1 '14 at 14:15

Because they really have no choice but to try - attempting to escape would likely delay the inevitable as they would still have to deal with a fully operational Death Star, and have already taken casualties:

Lando Calrissian: [after seeing the Death Star is operational] Home One, this is Gold Leader.

Admiral Ackbar: We saw it. All craft, prepare to retreat.

Lando Calrissian: We won't get another chance at this, Admiral.

The lines you quote come a bit later, as Lando realises the best thing for the rebel fleet is to mix it up with the imperial fleet, making it harder for the Death Star to pick off the rebel capital ships.

  • True, but that doesn't mean they couldn't jump to escape and return once the shield generator was down. Every minute in battle while the shield generator was up was just time for the Death Star to destroy more of their capital ships. – Null Oct 1 '14 at 4:00
  • 2
    @Null: How would they know the shield generator was down if they didn't have ships there? Leaving anything less than the whole fleet behind as a scout would simply get their fleet cut to shreds piecemeal. The Rebels needed to knock out the Death Star before it became fully-operational, and they weren't going to get another chance. It was risk the fleet NOW, or risk the whole damn galaxy later. – James Sheridan Oct 1 '14 at 8:20
  • 21
    So much this answer. Also Mon Mothma: "The Emperor made a critical error, and the time for our attack has come. [...] With the Imperial Fleet spread out through the galaxy in a vain effort to engage us, [the Death Star] is relatively unprotected. But most important of all, we've learned that the Emperor himself is personally overseeing the final stages of the construction..." -- Even with the Death Star operational, other parameters hadn't changed. This was the Rebel's single best opportunity to deal the Empire a crucial blow, so retreat was not considered (at least by Lando). – DevSolar Oct 1 '14 at 11:22
  • 2
    Wookieepedia also explains that all of Mon Mothma's information was false: "Palpatine had deliberately leaked false information to them—the Death Star was in actuality operational and ready for combat. The Emperor also had a fleet of Star Destroyers waiting to ambush and destroy the Rebel Fleet upon their arrival." – phantom42 Oct 1 '14 at 17:58
  • 1
    @phantom42: Xizor and Palpatine hatch the plot to leak false information on the Death Star project to the Bothan spy-net, and by extension the Rebel Alliance, during the events of Shadows of the Empire. – James Sheridan Oct 2 '14 at 1:25

They couldn't leave because they were part of the diversion. If they tucked tail and ran it would mean the Imperials could send more troops to Endor once they realized things were going sideways there. Obviously they thought their troops on Endor should be able to take care of business, but since they were losing they would have been able to call for reinforcements of troops from either the Star Destroyers or the Death Star. Once they send reinforcements to the surface, it's game over for Han, Leia, Chewy, Artoo and Threepio. The Ewoks would have been wiped out as their ambush plan didn't really have legs to handle a large scale force of reinforcements since it relied so heavily on the element of surprise.

  • I like how a bunch of living teddy bears armed with sticks and stones do battle with genetically engineered killers equipped with head to toe body armour, laser rifles and imperial walkers. – Daft Oct 2 '14 at 12:14
  • 3
    Lucas was said to have taken inspiration for the Ewoks pluckiness from the Viet Cong, who fended off the much more technologically advanced US forces during the Vietnam War. – jbwharris Oct 2 '14 at 12:36
  • 5
    @Daft By the time of Episodes IV - VI, Stormtroopers are not genetically engineered clone soldiers ([...] the stormtrooper ranks would cease to be dominated by Fett's progeny after the Battle of Kamino in 12 BBY). They are enlisted from the population of the Empire (By the time the Galactic Civil War began in earnest, Jango Fett's clones were heavily supplanted by clones based on a variety of templates around 9 BBY, followed shortly after by enlisted Humans.). Source (see "Early history" and "The Galactic Civil War") But yeah, Ewoks... – ajp15243 Oct 2 '14 at 13:50
  • @ajp15243 ah! I didn't know that! Cheers – Daft Oct 2 '14 at 17:06
  • It is just like a war between British armies and masai warriors. At first, masai did loose a lot. But then thier chieftains commanded them to ditch shields, useless against bullets, ditch thrown weapons and just charge headlong with knives and spears. They managed to drive British armies far back - soldiers were not prepared for close quarters melee in the bushes. – Barafu Albino Oct 2 '14 at 20:23

I'm going to put together several answers and comments into one cohesive answer.

The attack on the second Death Star was not simply to destroy a weapon, the Empire could build more, it was an assassination attempt on the Emperor. The Emperor created the Empire and held it together. If the Rebels could kill the Emperor they could end the conflict. This added urgency to press home the attack now rather than leave and allow the Emperor to escape.

While the Rebel Fleet was falling into a trap, a convincing deception plan would require much of the Imperial fleet to be actually scattered chasing Rebel distractions. Thus the fleet they were facing at Endor, while much larger than the Rebels expected, was still diminished compared to what they might have faced. A fleet likely too large for them to tackle directly, but small enough to give them a chance of destroying the Death Star and the Emperor with it. 30 Star Destroyers may seem like a lot, but that represented just one reinforced Sector Group. Over the course of its existence the Imperial Navy had 25,000.

A coordinated Hyperspace jump of a large fleet close to an object as large as the Death Star, not to mention the planet sized Endor and the giant planet it orbits, would have been difficult. The fleet jumped as close as it safely could to the Death Star without risking being scattered and then had to fly closer; this inaccuracy of Hyperspace jumps can be seen by the necessity of the Thrawn Pincer where the fleet is precisely yanked out of Hyperspace by Interdictor cruisers. Because of the Emperor's deception plan (and flair for the dramatic) the Rebel Fleet approached the Death Star unmolested by either the Imperial Fleet or the Death Star. If they left and came back, their return would not be so easy and would likely be taken under concentrated fire as soon as they appeared.

Pulling off a coordinated retreat with the ability to jump back minutes later would have been difficult and costly. True, Admiral Akbar would have been prepared for this. Rebel strategy requires a Fleet In Being and a comprehensive escape plan would be an integral part of any battle. This can be seen in how Akbar, recovered from his surprise at walking into a trap, calmly issues "All craft, prepare to retreat" indicating an existing retreat plan. Regardless of his plan, different ships would need different times to prepare for Hyperspace and align, capital ships would take particularly long. They would have taken additional fire during this period. Any stragglers or damaged ships would have been mauled. After jumping, the fleet would need time to reassemble, get back in formation, perform any immediate repairs (or ignore them), refuel, reorganize, and jump the now diminished fleet top of the now waiting (not hiding) Imperial fleet and fully operational Death Star.

If the Rebels did jump away to regroup and return, a pursing Imperial fleet would likely have spoiled this plan. A fleet that large would be easy to track, and a damaged, scattered, Rebel Fleet would have been a juicy target.

Finally, while the trap indicated surprise was lost, the Rebels did have one card left to play: their confidence in Han to get the shield down and the Emperor's arrogance that it would not happen. The shield generator, while well guarded, was not as well guarded as it should have been. While Akbar and Lando would not have known what was going on on the surface, they would have at least known that certain defensive preparations had not been made. The Imperial Fleet, confident in the shield to protect the Death Star and following the Emperor's orders to let him play with his new toy, was not in a position to protect the Death Star. By engaging the Imperial Fleet at point blank range, the Rebel Fleet assured the Imperials would not be able to react in time to protect the Death Star when the shield dropped allowing Rebel starfighters to enter the superstructure relatively unmolested.

  • +1 for this well researched and sourced answer. However, I am unconvinced that the hyperspace difficulties are so significant to explain the Rebels' behavior. For one, hyperspace jumps must be fairly accurate in that the Rebels had to take evasive action just to avoid the shield when they realized it was still up moments after they arrived. Second, casualties incurred while calculating a retreat jump and aligning capital ships could not have been any worse than losing entire capital ships to the Death Star every few minutes. – Null Oct 3 '14 at 5:20
  • @Null To the first, I would say that capital ships don't turn or stop on a dime and we don't know how far out that shield goes (and neither did they). The second may be true, but only matters if your idea to jump out and jump back when the shield is down could have worked, and I put forth reasons why it could not. – Schwern Oct 3 '14 at 7:16

According to the extended cannon, The Immobilizer 418 Class Star Destroyer were invented sometime between the Battle of Hoth and the Battle of Endor and were being used increasingly frequently in the build up, so they were available and present for the fight

  • 3
    Actually, the "Service History" section in Wookieepedia's article on the Interdictor says that the first cruisers were manufactured two years before the Battle of Yavin. But good find (+1) that they were supposedly present at the Battle of Endor (as I noted in my question, they weren't mentioned in the movie because out of universe they hadn't been invented yet). – Null Oct 2 '14 at 16:06
  • @Null I couldn't remember if 2 years after the battle of Yavin was before or after the battle of hoth lol. Also sorry, I got confused regarding what you meant by invention there – CyanAngel Oct 2 '14 at 16:17
  • 1
    Interdictors would explain why the fleet could not flee, they don't explain why the rebel fleet chose to remain. – Schwern Oct 2 '14 at 20:39

The gravity of the Death Star II, Endor and the gas giant would've created a natural interdiction. The fleet would've had to fight their way through the Imperial Fleet then make it safely out of the planet's influence which would've resulted in massive casualties even if the Empire didn't have Interdictor Cruisers to use.

  • This is a clever answer +1. I haven't been able to find any information which suggests that the gravity of the three bodies mentioned created a strong enough gravity well to prevent a jump to hyperspace, though. If you can find information to that effect, I will accept this answer. – Null May 26 '15 at 15:39

The James Khan novelisation strongly indicates that Ackbar considered the idea (and even gave the order to make preparations to retreat), but ultimately rejected the plan on the recommendation of Lando Calrissian.

‘We saw it,’ Ackbar answered wearily. ‘All craft prepare to retreat.’

‘I’m not going to give up and run!’ Lando shouted back. He’d come a long way to be in this game.

‘We have no choice, General Calrissian. Our cruisers can’t repel firepower of that magnitude!’

‘You won’t get a second chance at this, Admiral. Han will have that shield down - we’ve got to give him more time. Head for those Star Destroyers.’

Ackbar looked around him. A huge charge of flak rumbled the ship, painting a brief, waxen light over the window. Calrissian was right: there would be no second chance. It was now, or it was the end.

He turned to his First Star captain. ‘Move the fleet forward.’

In the world of Star Wars, each ship needs to be jump or hyperdrive cable, or there's no way it can enter hyperspace. Hyper Space Coordinates need to be pre-computed, and have to be shared, or known, before jump. They are computed by either nav-computers (a component of a ship), or computed by cute and lovable astromech droids.

I believe one of their capital ship's hyperdrive was damaged or destroyed early in the battle. In other universes, a wormhole (etc) could be opened by a friendly ship; in Trek like worlds, warp fields can expand and help other ships -- not true in Star Wars!

In theoretical physics, they believe the information needed would be incredibly voluminous if you could do this. So, Star Wars pays some homage to actual science here.

And, lastly: The rebels are all in, they can stand and fight, or splinter and run and be chased down and destroyed. That was the Emperor's plan, but he didn't account for everything.

  • I'll punch in an essentially unguided hyperjump for ~3000000 km to get out of a trap. Space is pretty empty and gas giants sweep their orbits well to boot. – Joshua Oct 22 '15 at 3:13
  • Jumping through hyperspace isn't like dusting crops, @Joshua. That 3*10^8 km jump just might return to realspace inside the next planet inward or outward. – Codes with Hammer Dec 15 '15 at 20:43
  • @CodeswithHammer: Check your math. That puts gas giants too close together to hold moons. – Joshua Dec 15 '15 at 21:18
  • @Joshua: Never quote me the math! (Would you like me to keep channelling the movies?) – Codes with Hammer Dec 16 '15 at 15:48

Your Answer

 
discard

By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.