Department of Flight Studies:
Starfighters, or flying craft as a whole have a long history. Dating back to over 100,000 years ago, historians have found that the ancestors to modern Starfighters were sluggish atmospheric craft powered by the compressed, liquified remains of creatures forgotten by the mists of time. These craft slowly evolved based upon the current times of warfare to the sleek craft we have in use today.
These craft have evolved by the use of lighter, more durable components, heavier weaponry, and longer Operational Limits. If you look back in history you see that craft that were used in the times of the Great Jedi Civil War, and those in the current Vong War are very different. During the Jedi Civil War, fighters were designed to be quicker and lighter, for more anti-fighter warfare. Fighters in the current war are more versatile due to Vong armaments being far superior to our own understanding. During the course of these notes you will learn about the different Fighters in use, as well as a select few fighters that have changed the shape of modern warfare. You will also learn what classes of fighters are in existence as well as their tactical use. Good luck!
II-Starfighter Basics Despite the numerous types of fighters in the galaxy, there are some basic principles that affect all fighters.
- Mission- Some fighters are designed with a single role in mind; others are designed to fulfill multiple roles. As a general rule, large powerful entities, such as the Galactic Empire, have single purpose craft, at least on the front lines. Smaller, less powerful entities, such as the Rebel Alliance, typically have multi-purpose fighters. A similar philosophy can be observed in capital starships.
- Balance- In all cases, a designer must choose how to balance three things: speed, armament, and protection. Very fast fighters tend to have weaker armaments and protection, the goal of course being to make up for these short comings with speed and maneuverability. Likewise, a fighter with a heavy armament and protection often must sacrifice speed. It must be noted that sacrificing one aspect to increase another is a common practice and, generally speaking, not due to oversight or poor planning. From time to time, a well balanced fighter comes along, but finding that right combination of factors at a decent cost can be difficult.
- Operational Limits- All fighters have operational limits and thus can only go so far for so long; pilot capability plays a large role in determining a craft’s operational limit, but design limitations are far more important than pilot capability. For example, TIE fighters have no hyperdrive, which means they can only go where a larger ship takes them. In contrast, the X-wing has a hyperdrive as well as a storage compartment for short term supplies, so the fighter can go further and longer than the TIE fighter. Fuel and maintenance needs can impact a fighter’s operational limit.
Throughout the course of history, there is a sort of pendulum that swings slowly between fast/lightly armed and slow/heavily armed. The current philosophy seems to lean towards more slower and more heavily armed fighters, most likely because of the Rebel Alliance’s (which became the New Republic) success with such designs. But, through the Clone Wars and the Galactic Empire, faster, more lightly armed fighters dominated. It should be noted that this is not a strict rule. There will always be fighters that lean the other direction or sit in the middle.
All starfighters come armed with at least one of three possible weapons: laser cannons, ion cannons, and warhead launchers. Some fighters may have all three types of weapons. Some experimental fighters have had turbolasers installed, but these are fairly impractical, given the size and the recharge rate of turbolasers. The power of lasers on fighters varies from design to design.
In professional militaries, there is a fairly simple organization for fighters. The basic unit is the squadron. A squadron typically consists of twelve fighters and the pilots often become a close knit group of friends. A squadron can also be sub-divided into flight elements, typically of three fighters (one leader with two wingmen, as pictured to the left), but elements can vary in size depending upon the mission. In well equipped militaries, squadrons always have fighters of the same type. Lesser equipped groups may throw together hodgepodge squadrons. Depending on the mission, two or more flight elements of different starfighters will be paired up. For example, the Rebellion would frequently pair up flight elements of Y-wings and either X-wings or A-wings. The Y-wings would conduct their mission while the other craft protected them, or were striking another part of the same target.
Squadrons are led by a squadron leader who almost always takes on the call sign of ‘one’ or ‘leader.’ So, the leader of Black Squadron would be called Black 1 or Black leader. Typically, the person with the call sign of ‘two’ is the second in command, but this may not always be the case. Squadron names are almost always selected by the founding members of the squadron: colors and animals are common motifs, though large militaries (like the Galactic Empire) may use a standard naming scheme for most fighter squadrons, leaving specialized names only for elite units. For example, TIE fighter squadrons were often called Alpha or Beta; however, Obsidian Squadron was a special squadron of TIE fighters designed for atmospheric combat.
Six squadrons make up a standard starfighter wing, which is led by a Wing Commander. A wing does not necessarily have to consist of the same fighters. For example, an Imperial Star Destroyer carries an entire fighter wing, but the official Order of Battle called for four squadrons of TIE fighters, one squadron of TIE bombers, and one squadron of TIE interceptors. The squadron configuration, such as adding extra bombers in lieu of regular TIE fighters, could change depending upon the mission.
IV-Types of Fighters
Fighters are designed to play an important role in any engagement. Fighters fulfill the roles of reconnaissance, hit-and-run encounters, pinpoint maneuvering into vulnerable areas, to name a few of their uses. Many fighters in current use are also quite inexpensive. While looking at the overall cost to manufacture a squadron of fighters may seem excessive to the cost of only one Capital Ship, look into the various uses of the fighters as opposed to the singular use of that type of Capital Ship. (For Capital Ship uses, see the Capital Ships course.)
The function of starfighters vary between Space Superiority, Interceptors, and Bombing craft. Each type of craft carries specific strengths and weaknesses. This can range from being heavily armed and armored, which slows the craft. To being quick and agile, which sacrifices armor and armament. However the basic weapon on any fighter is the laser cannon which provides little more than anti-fighter capabilities. Depending on the type of craft they can also carry proton torpedo and/or concussion missiles for greater fighting capabilities.
4.A – Space Superiority
Meant to achieve total dominace, these craft are well rounded, able to function in most any capacity with little to no work needed to be done. These craft are able to switch between strafing a city, engaging enemy fighters, to bombing an enemy Capital Ship. The basic Space Superiority fighter still functioning is the X-wing fighter. THis craft has been in use for roughly 40 years and has seen many modifications. During its earliest incarnations this craft was the bane of most TIE Fighter (I