The Imperials began with feints at Bpfassh and Draukyze which would ultimately lead to large numbers of ships (which would otherwise have been in these systems) being present in the Sluis system later. The hit-and-fade tactics also forced the New Republic to use its starfighter squadrons to become escort craft along various shipping routes to defend against possible Imperial attacks, and left the still-new galactic government strapped for freighters. This also caused the Republic to strip down and give only skeleton crews to some larger war vessels, even Mon Calamari Star Cruisers, to transport goods and supplies.
Thrawn also attacked Nkllon, stealing fifty-one Mole Miners from Lando Calrissian's Nomad City, jamming the system so that the administrator could not transmit his override codes. Finally, Thrawn's acquisition of cloaking technology gave him the extra help he would need to smuggle his ships into the system.
Hours before the battle began, Cloak Leader was dispatched in an A-class bulk freighter, the Nartissteu, which had a cloaking device installed inside its cargo hold. When activated, the ship remained fully visible to both scanners and the naked eye, but the TIE/LN starfighters and mole miners within appeared as empty space to any scans performed on the freighter.
Although to the eyes and battle senses of the seasoned New Republic officers Afyon and Wedge Antilles the ship still seemed strange, the Nartissteu and its hidden fighter complement were able to fool Sluis Van Central and Sluis Control by reporting damage sustained in a pirate attack and being forced to drop their cargo and run. Antilles, deciding that the freighter handled more like a full, functional ship than a damaged, empty one, ordered Rogue Squadron to launch from Afyon's Larkhess.
The Nartissteu exploded as the X-wings reached it, with the command section piloting away and the destroyed hull leaving space open for forty TIEs and fifty mole miners to engage the under-defended fleet of undermanned New Republic ships. At this point Thrawn's task force emerged from hyperspace to attack the spaceyard's perimeter. His thirty-nine capital warships and thirty TIE squadrons had the conservative goal of engaging and pinning down the formidable New Republic defenses, thus reducing the pressure on the Imperial infiltrators.
The timely arrival of the Rogues and Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, and Lando Calrissian in the Millennium Falcon hardly slowed the Imperial forces as the mole miners drilled through the New Republic ships' hulls to place boarding parties. Thrawn had packed four or five stormtroopers and spacetroopers into each of the two-man mining craft. These boarders were efficient enough to have even taken control of at least one Star Cruiser in only minutes, firing at Commander Antilles as he attempted to use what he thought was an allied ship as cover. The Imperials were even tapping into Republic comms, listening to Solo and Antilles' tactics, so as to defend the mole miners against combined attacks.
Before the raiders could abscond with the New Republic fleet, Han Solo realized that the Imperials were not jamming their comms this time, and Lando Calrissian used his command codes to activate the miners, making them drill entirely through the fleeing starships. However, at least one winged Mon Calamari cruiser, three GR-75 medium transports, four Corellian Corvettes and one Nebulon-B frigate were crippled by the miners' engines and a self-destructive spacetrooper before they were stopped. His plan foiled, Thrawn ordered Chimaera to retreat, telling Captain Pellaeon that the New Republic might have won, but had lost a great many ships in the process.
- Heir to the Empire (First appearance)
- X-wing: Isard's Revenge (Mentioned only)
- Jedi Search (Mentioned only)
- Enemy Lines I: Rebel Dream (Mentioned only)
- Heir to the Empire Sourcebook
- Dark Force Rising Sourcebook
- The Essential Chronology (First identified as Battle of Sluis Van)
- The Official Star Wars Fact File 15 (NEB1-2, Nebulon-B Frigate)
- "Who's Who in Rogue Squadron"—Star Wars Insider 59
- The Official Star Wars Fact File 97 (THR4, The Thrawn Campaign)
- Star Wars: The Ultimate Visual Guide
- The New Essential Chronology
- The Essential Atlas
- The Essential Guide to Warfare
- The Essential Reader's Companion