TIE Fighters are an extremely recognizable part of the Star Wars universe, but there's something about them that bothers me.

Where do TIE Fighters generate their thrust?

Based on the way TIE Fighters move in the battlefield, you would think they operate similarly to most other Star Wars universe propulsion ships.
They have thrusters in the back to push the craft forward, yet they can move along an X and Y axis.
An example being whenever the Millennium Falcon or an X-Wing takes off after being docked or “parked”. They rise up vertically into the air, rotate around, and then blast off using the thrusters on the back of their ship.
These ships have obvious ion engines that display a bright glow where the thrust is coming from.
Imperial Cruisers use these glowing propultion systems, as seen here: enter image description here
However, in the same picture, you see some TIE Fighters heading towards the Cruiser.
They don't have any glowing propulsion spots.
Here is a better look at the back end of a TIE Fighter:
enter image description here
This part of the ship does not glow when it is flying around in space.
So, back to the original question: Where do TIE Fighters generate their thrust?

TIE stands for "Twin Ion Engine".
Ion Engines contain "no moving parts".
"All TIE series starfighters had two or more ion engine outlets..."

  • They generate their thrust in the engines, duh. :P
    – KSmarts
    Jan 23, 2015 at 22:00
  • 3
    Do you really need reaction thrusters when you've got cheap anti-gravity? Even that hick Skywalker could afford a landspeeder.
    – Kyle Jones
    Jan 24, 2015 at 3:56
  • You dare question LucasPhysics and LucasEngineering? :) Jan 24, 2015 at 15:18
  • (T)win (I)on (E)ngines Jan 3, 2017 at 20:58
  • They're a lot lighter than most fighters, at the expense of survivability, as for the Kzinti lesson, perhaps the Rebel ship's shields are great at screening out the fast moving relativistic plasma, but the concentrated energy content of the blasters is just right for breaking through them. I mean there's a lot of radiation in space, not much artificially contained relatively slow moving high energy density pockets of plasma.
    – Dom Vasta
    Nov 15, 2017 at 22:03

1 Answer 1


The little red spots on the TIEs in the first picture are the main engine outlets. They are clearer here:

enter image description here

The second picture doesn't show the engines well because the engines do not appear to be powered. The two pieces on the central cockpit ball that are the darkest appear to be in the correct position for the engines.

Although there were only two engine outlets, Wookieepedia's article on the SIE-TIE engine cites The Essential Guide to Warfare to say that the engine

utilized microparticle accelerators to agitate ionized gases to relativistic velocities, and featured independently articulated ion stream deflector manifolds for pinpoint maneuvering accuracy.

So that's how they maneuvered.

As for why the TIE engines look different than the engines on other starfighters like the X-Wing, the most likely reason is that the TIE fighter is considerably less massive than the X-Wing (the TIE design famously omitted shields and life support systems to reduce mass) and can therefore use smaller and fewer engines to achieve the same thrust and maneuverability.

It could also be that the X-Wing uses a "fusial thrust engine" rather than an ion engine like the TIE (on the other hand, the Y-Wing uses an "ion jet engine", but its engines look more like the X-Wing than the TIE fighter).

  • Y-wings are leftover older technology from the clone wars, miniaturization can progress a lot in 20 years, just look at computers and cell phones. Y-wings are also a helluva lot more massive.
    – Dom Vasta
    Nov 15, 2017 at 22:05
  • 2
    "the TIE design famously omitted shields and life support systems to reduce mass" They also don't have hyper-drives, unlike most rebel fighters. Dec 15, 2017 at 19:57

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

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