One thing that has always confused me about Star Wars: A New Hope is that at the beginning of the attack on the Death Star, Red Squadron gives their callsigns in random order.

Red Leader (presumably Red One) asks for everyone to report in. Then we hear Ten, Seven, Three, Six, Nine, Two, Eleven, and Five are all standing by.

This seems like an incredibly impractical way to report in, as it's hard to keep track of whom you have heard from and whom you are missing (indeed, Red Four and Red Eight didn't report in, despite both being present, but I bet you didn't notice that).

Why didn't they count off in numerical order? Something like this:

Red Leader: All wings report in.

Wedge Antilles: Red Two standing by.

Biggs Darklighter: Red Three standing by.


Red Leader: Red Four? …Are you there Red Four?

  • 10
    This was also asked on avition SE aviation.stackexchange.com/questions/13094/…
    – jean
    Mar 6, 2015 at 19:49
  • 1
    Perhaps it is code. The digits are 1073692115. According to wookiepedia (starwars.wikia.com/wiki/1973) the movie American Grafitti came out on the 1st of August of 1973. Lucas uses such things as names in one movie in others. THX 1138 works that way (starwars.wikia.com/wiki/THX-1138_(landspeeder)). The first 4 digits might be referring to that movie. I suspect this is an easter egg. Mar 8, 2015 at 16:24
  • @EngrStudent I'm not seeing how the sequence relates to THX 1138. Could you please elaborate on that? Mar 8, 2015 at 17:24
  • THX-1138 was the first film directed by Lucas, from 1971. It is also the cell block on the first death star from which Chewbacca was allegedly being transferred, and shows up in a number of other star-wars related places. (starwars.wikia.com/wiki/1138) I am not asserting this is a 1138 easter egg. I am asserting this is an easter egg similar in form - that references to previous Lucas work show up in later work in the form of number sequences. Mar 8, 2015 at 17:53
  • Purely conjecture, but would it not be conceivable that other members of the squadron are not just acknowledged verbally, but also by an ID in their transmission - which would allow for very quick acknowledgement in which the order would not matter. (?)
    – MrWhite
    Mar 9, 2015 at 12:37

9 Answers 9



According to the new (canon) junior novelisation of A New Hope, the pilots were calling roll in the order that their names appeared on the flight roster.

“All wings report in,” Red Leader called.
They moved down the roster. Biggs chimed in as Red Three, Wedge as Red Two.
“Red Five standing by,” Luke said when it was his turn.

“Lock S-foils in attack position,” Red Leader said

Since Luke is called last, the obvious implication is that the muster sheet is either in order of seniority or longevity.


This was addressed by Pablo Hidalgo in Star Wars Insider #95.

For dramatic purposes, it was important for Luke to be the last to check in. The other featured pilots (Porkins, Biggs, and Wedge) all needed face time, but pacing is likely what dictated the order of the other pilot's reports. Besides, having to hear the pilots reporting in order from Two to Ten would have been rather tedious.


In Episode IV, and (from the EU) prior to the Battle of Yavin, the Rebel Alliance is more of a collection independent cells with very few experienced military personnel seasoning their ranks.

For example, we see Luke Skywalker planted in a T-65 X-Wing Starfighter because of his familiarity with Incom standard controls from his T-16. At this point, growing up on a backwater (backsand?) planet, he would have had no training in military procedures or protocols.

It's likely that this random callback is a symptom of the lack of training across the Alliance.

Of course, by Episode V and beyond, the Alliance has grown into a professional, combat seasoned organisation with multiple capital ships in their fleet.

out-of-universe: probably just because of editing

  • 1
    I feel your answer is just about as good as any we're likely to get. But the events of Episode V happen very shortly after the end of Episode IV. Far to soon (IMO) for them to become professional. Seasoned, yes; veteran, yes but it takes lots of training to become professional - and I feel that "just surviving" wouldn't do that. But of course my comments are just my opinion too :)
    – Jim2B
    Mar 6, 2015 at 3:04
  • 13
    @Jim2B - the Battle of Hoth (epV) was 2 years after the Battle of Yavin (destruction of the Death Star I). The Battle of Yavin was a trigger point causing more defection from the Empire to the Alliance, bringing more material and trained personnel. In the real world, it took the US only 2 years to create a professional military of 10 million men for World War II.
    – HorusKol
    Mar 6, 2015 at 4:26
  • 7
    How about the possibility of using this as a tactic to potentially confuse any eavesdroppers and hide the true strength of their numbers and/or battle prowess? (Perhaps with the goal of getting the Empire to underestimate the Rebel forces). To quote an old Chinese dude: "All warfare is based on deception." Mar 6, 2015 at 5:22

Red Squadron isn't a cohesive military unit.

Red Squadron was cobbled together from pilots from the Dantooine Squadron, the Ecliptic Evaders, and the Tierfon Yellow Aces for the assault on the Death Star (via Wookieepedia, sourced from "Galaxy Guide 3: The Empire Strikes Back")

As such, they never practiced flying together and weren't used to each other.

In addition, some of them were NOT trained combat pilots (including, as @HorusKol's answer notes, Luke Skywalker. Another one was Wedge's new trainee).

Their unfamiliarity with communications protocols is even further shown in the infamous:

Wedge Antilles (Red 2): Look at the size of that thing!
Red Leader: Cut the chatter, Red 2.

... and this is a hot shot veteran Wedge Antilles.

An additional point: The reporting isn't so much to check who's there and who isn't (like, they all SHOULD be there :) but more to sound off if anyone has issues with the fighter - in other words, what matters isn't who and when says "standing by" but who say anything else.

UPDATE: I also asked about out of universe angle of this on Aviation SE. So far, it was confirmed that real military fighters would use correct order (and wait for "missing" call sign to respond instead of responding willy nilly)

  • 2
    Agree. I don't think the reporting-in was strictly necessary because the film shows that the command staff had a HUD of positions of the fighters in the fleet, and obviously have enough data being sent to know when Luke turns off his targeting computer. In-universe, the reporting in is perhaps a way of getting some team cohesion, and as a 'comms test,' and out-of-universe it is just a device used by the filmmakers to introduce the various fighter pilot characters to the audience. I would love to hear an actual fighter pilot's opinion on this. Anybody here from the Air Force? Mar 6, 2015 at 16:15
  • @nothingisnecessary - asked: aviation.stackexchange.com/questions/13094/… Mar 6, 2015 at 16:47
  • Awesome, thanks. FWIW During the summers between college I drove a pea harvesting combine to earn dough, and when we started the shift we all reported in to make sure our CB radios were working (we used them for emergencies, calling over mechanics and the loader trucks, etc.). We did it in number-order (each combine had a number 1-7, and coincidentally were painted Red) so that we knew if somebody didn't report in. Apparently we were more organized than the rebels. Mar 6, 2015 at 17:33
  • @nothingisnecessary - did you succeed in blowing up something big? Also: Peaceful Soviet Tractor... Mar 6, 2015 at 17:34
  • @nothingisnecessary - same with military radio networks - the network controller would periodically check in on callsigns, and you'd follow the assigned order (alpha-one-zero, alpha-two-zero, alpha-three-zero, bravo-one-zero, etc) to make sure you didn't miss anyone
    – HorusKol
    Mar 6, 2015 at 21:12

It's only impractical if you assume that every attack formation has all the X-wing pilots organized in a specific formation every time, and that they always call out their call signs in numeric order.

Not only would this be impractical (what if Red 4 and Red 8 are both in for repairs?), it would mean each X-wing pilot would have to fly in a specific location in that formation, regardless of where their actual expertise lies.

You will notice, however, that the call signs begin with Red Leader, and end with Luke Skywalker, the brand new recruit to the Rebel Alliance. Without knowing anything about the rest of the call sign pilots, it'd be a fair guess that their call signs are ordered by pilot rank.

Edit Note: DVK suggests that this guess is incorrect - and I cannot comfirm whether it is or not, so treat it with a grain of salt. There may still be some other arbitrary reason for their call sign order - seniority, position in formation, order of first/last name in the alphabet, order of character death/importance...

  • To whoever upvoted this: that las guess is wrong. Mar 6, 2015 at 18:32
  • 1
    @DVK I tried to find the ranks of the individual pilots on Wookiepedia, but came up short. If you can reference it, I'll completely remove that guess from this question. Unfortunately, I couldn't find out which pilots were in that run on the Death Star. So I couldn't confirm this.
    – Zibbobz
    Mar 6, 2015 at 18:35
  • I think this has the same issues as mg30rg's answer...
    – HorusKol
    Mar 6, 2015 at 21:09
  • Wookieepedia lists the pilots during the attack, but doesn't list ranks. You might have to dig a bit more to see if they even have ranks. Mar 6, 2015 at 22:05
  • @Thunderforge - they did in at least one page. There were IIRC 2 leutenants and a captain Mar 9, 2015 at 19:22

Perhaps they were reporting in following a pattern, such as left-to-right in the formation. The callsigns would be assigned to the person, but they wouldn't always fly in that order. They might fly without all numbers present -- so a 4-ship might have Red 4, Red 2, Red 7 and Red 5 flying in line abrest, and their convention was to check in from left to right.

I don't quite buy the "undisciplined rag tag unit" theory simply because nobody stepped on each other's transmissions. They seemed to know who is supposed to be checking in next, even though it wasn't the next number in sequence.

In a squadron where each pilot has their own numeric callsign, it's entirely possible to have Bozo 10 flight being led by Bozo 62, with Bozo 44 as his wingman, then Bozo 88 as the second element lead with Bozo 32 as his wingman. The usual convention in this galaxy is to check in as Lead, 2, 3, and 4, but evidently their convention is different.

In this galaxy, we also wouldn't check in with "standing by... standing by... standing by..." because it's a waste of time & breath. "Bozo 10 check" "2" "3" "4". But they were in a galaxy far, far away, and clearly our conventions are not their conventions!


More a guess than an actual answer, but couldn't it be because they are not checking in in caller number order, but in i.e. the order based on their positions in the attack formation? It would be more logical, because it would ease strategic planning. ("Let's see... we have lost Red-11... he was flying in the middle of the second attack formation, wasn't he?")


In the X-Wing novels, the convention appears to be that in an emergency situation, pilots call back in the order that they launch. For instance, in Wraith Squadron the pilots aboard the carrier Night Caller launch several times while the ship is already engaged in combat. In each case, they report in (and form wing pairs) as they take off, because there isn't time to form up and do it properly.

In A New Hope, the fighters aren't launching directly into combat, but they're presumably in a hurry to scramble and meet the Death Star before it can enter firing range of the base. The fighters who check in first would be the ones who completed their preflight checks fastest or were located closer to the hangar bay doors and so were able to get airborne first and make up the front of the formation. Others who straggled in at the rear would check in last, regardless of their callsign.


They also have advanced droids on each ship that can handle menial tasks such as a roll call in any order even if pilots talked over each other. It would not be worth mentioning every interaction a character had with their robot.

  • Hi, welcome to SF&F. Do you have any evidence that this is what's happening? If they have droids to handle this, why do they need to even make the radio calls at all?
    – DavidW
    Dec 14, 2022 at 23:04

Likely the answer has more to do with the editing of the film. Imagine yourself watching it while the pilots report in numerical order. By the time you get to three, you're like "Ok, I got it! Skip to ten, please"... but that whole attack on Death Star is pretty close to being done in real-time, so as to accentuate the frantic nature of the dogfights.

But to provide an answer that is motivated within the story, they were probably reporting in in order of seniority... red 5 being last.

Your Answer

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

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