I don't think those sideways panels are for trapping solar energy because there should be more efficient power source in TIE fighters. But they look like solar panels.

What do those panels do in-universe?

Only canonical answers, please.

3 Answers 3


Multiple sources confirmed that they are indeed solar panels:

The first in the series of advanced twin ion engine starfighters, the original TIE fighter was developed by Sienar Fleet Systems. The agile single-pilot craft has a titanium alloy hull, and quadanium steel armored solar panels... (src: The Star Wars: Rogue Squadron III: Rebel Strike game)

Additional canon sources naming them solar panels:

  • Strike Force: Shantipole
  • Dark Forces: Soldier for the Empire
  • X-Wing book series

As far as energy:

"The Essential Guide to Vehicles and Vessels" (1996) confirmed that the TIE/LN fighter's power plant was heavily dependent on solar panels

... most distinguishing feature is the pair of dominant solar array wings...

... The TIE fighter draws much of its energy from solar radiation absorbed by the array wings. (page 180)

The diagram named the power plant on TIE/ln as "SFS I-a2b Solar Ionization Reactor":

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In the new canon Star Wars: TIE Fighter Deluxe Book and Model Set which is the only canon source I can currently locate on the functionality of the "wings" of the TIE series fighters.

Each wing has six "solar collecting arrays" with "energy accumulator lines" connecting each of the panels to the reactor where it was channeled through a pressurized gas, stored in the ventral fuel tank, this reaction emits energy which then outputs power to the twin P-s3 ion engines and L-s1 low temperature laser cannons.

So from that I gather that it's not solar powered, but the reactor requires high intensity light to work and concentrating all the light from the surfaces of those 12 panels into a tiny area inside the reactor is required to make that high pressure gas release energy to run the engines and weapon systems. So it's basically a solar catalysed reaction powered, kind of like using the solar energy as a sparkplug to ignite the fuel. It requires solar radiation for the reactor to run, but it's not solar powered.

  • 1
    First, can you include either quotes or pictures of said information. Second, is a model kit really canon? I'm having trouble believing that.
    – amflare
    Nov 6, 2017 at 19:34
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    @amflare - Anything published after April 2014 is considered canon and vetted by the Lucasfilm Story Group
    – Valorum
    Nov 6, 2017 at 19:35
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    @Valorum - There is a difference between published literature and a balsa wood model. That difference is what raises my skepticism. If there is an article/press release that says either, everything released by anyone licensed to manufacturer merchandise is canon, or that the LSG is vetting all third-party merchandise, then I'll accept it.
    – amflare
    Nov 6, 2017 at 19:39
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    I also have trouble believing that the Empire would make it's starfighters in such a way that they can only fight around a star system, I mean what if you're pulled out of hyperspace around a black hole, no sunlight, no power for your TIE fighters, it's akin to using a jet engine on a space fighter. But this is the only Canon info we have and the best explanation for why there are solar panels and a "solar ionization reactor" on a TIE
    – Dom Vasta
    Nov 15, 2017 at 21:57

The wings are dual purpose. They collect energy in the dark panels and the outer surrounds of the wings dissipate heat. Energy in different forms flows both ways. Remember the technology in Star Wars might not necessarily or should be able to be explained to us. Don't get me started about cloaking, which is actually once a fantasy in the Star Wars galaxy also. Now it's everywhere, Darth Maul's ship and the TIE Phantom.

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    Cloaking was mentioned in the original trilogy (Captain Whatsisface says that the Falcon is too small to have one when it disappears off their scopes)
    – Valorum
    Jun 2, 2019 at 7:12

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