- "That's a myth so far as I'm concerned."
- ―Mellor Yago on the Katana fleet
The Katana fleet, also known as the Dark Force, was a starfleet launched by the Galactic Republic several years before the Clone Wars as part of its attempt to restore the Republic Navy to its long-gone glory. The fleet was named for its flagship, Katana. Other ships in the fleet included the Braxant Brave, Harrier, and Peregrine.
Highly advanced for its time and equipped with state of the art automation systems, it was lost in its first hyperspace voyage. The fleet consisted of 200 modified Dreadnaught-class heavy cruisers, all carrying experimental AT-PT walkers. The ships' controls could be slaved to the controls of Katana. This slave circuit system reduced the crew required from 16,000 to 2,200 per ship, allowing larger numbers of craft to be fielded. The fleet may have been a "showcase" of the slave-circuit and/or Dreadnaught design, as the ships' interiors were in a comparatively flamboyant blue color scheme rather than the standard gray; indeed it was this distinctive feature that partially alerted the New Republic to the fleet's continued existence.
The fleet fell victim to a hive virus (possibly caused by carsunum spice) that wiped out the crew after driving them insane. In their insanity, the captain ordered a jump to random hyperspace coordinates before his death. Because of the slave circuits, every other vessel in the group followed suit, and the Katana fleet disappeared, presumably making no further communication with either the Republic or the galaxy at large. The loss of the fleet was a huge scandal that contributed to the growing dissatisfaction with the Galactic Republic, and also to a shift in starship systems from slave-circuitry and computer control to vessels with substantial crews and human control of vital systems.
The Dark Force was undiscovered until smuggler Captain Hoffner and his ship stumbled upon it in 6 BBY. Hoffner and his navigator, Talon Karrde were the only ones aboard aware of the find, but neither realized the other person knew the secret. They concealed the fleet's location until the right time to make use of it. Hoffner later arranged to sell individual Katana Dreadnaughts to Garm Bel Iblis, who eventually accumulated a strike force of six of the ships, including his command ship, Peregrine.
By 6 ABY, the balance of power between the New Republic, Imperial Remnant, and warlord forces was so precarious that, despite their age, it was believed that any faction that recovered the fleet would immediately become the dominant force in the galaxy. The enormous potential value of the Katana fleet was used to draw the Imperial II-class Star Destroyer Eviscerator away as a prelude to the Second Battle of Borleias.
In 9 ABY, nearly fifty-five years after the fleet's disappearance, Grand Admiral Thrawn became interested in obtaining the fleet. However, the Grand Admiral's actions turned Mara Jade against the Galactic Empire and she, along with Luke Skywalker, rescued Karrde from Thrawn's forces and brought the smuggler to the New Republic. Thrawn was nonetheless able to acquire the information from Hoffner, and though both sides secured some of the fleet during the Battle for the Katana fleet, Thrawn had acquired all but twenty-two of the Dreadnaughts before the New Republic forces arrived. These remaining vessels, except for the one Dreadnaught destroyed during the battle, became part of the New Republic fleet, along with the AT-PT walkers later used in the campaign against Thrawn. Initially, the New Republic believed Thrawn would not be able to take advantage of his new vessels, since he would require over three hundred thousand crewers for the Katana fleet—2,000 for each of the 178 ships. However, Thrawn proved to be more resourceful, using clones produced in days (instead of the years) from Spaarti cloning cylinders in the Emperor's storehouse on Wayland to crew his ships. Luke Skywalker and Talon Karrde estimated that Thrawn's clones were 'grown' to maturity in fifteen to twenty days instead of the typical year to three years. Clones grown this quickly were generally known to be mentally unstable, but due to the use of Ysalamiri and their Force-neutralizing abilities, Thrawn's clones could be grown to perfection in a fraction of the typical time without this side effect.
Thrawn's acquisition of the Katana Dreadnaughts augmented his fleet's ability to the point that it was able to immediately attack more than twenty New Republic systems.
Behind the scenesEdit
It was stated by Talon Karrde that the fleet was lost in 32 BBY (at the time of The Phantom Menace), but Captain Gilad Pellaeon set it at fifty-five years prior to the date of the story (which is set in 9 ABY.) The New Essential Chronology sets the fleet's launch following the Stark Hyperspace War, but does not implicitly state it was lost the same year, although the implication is that it was lost before 44 BBY. It is far more likely that a high-ranking Imperial officer has the correct date than a smuggling chief, especially because it was stated by Karrde as being "about ten years before the Clone Wars".
However, Jorus C'baoth was listed as having been killed on board Outbound Flight in the computer archives of the flagship, Katana. Since the novel, Outbound Flight, lists the deployment of Outbound Flight as being in between The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones in 27 BBY, this means the Katana fleet either was lost after the Outbound Flight, or that the information in the Katana's computer about C'boath was automatically updated after the Katana fleet was lost.
- Star Wars: Republic: Dreadnaughts of Rendili (Mentioned only)
- Side Trip (Mentioned only)
- X-Wing: Rogue Squadron (Mentioned only)
- X-Wing: Wedge's Gamble (Mentioned only)
- X-Wing: The Krytos Trap (Mentioned only)
- X-Wing: The Bacta War (Mentioned only)
- Heir to the Empire (First mentioned)
- Dark Force Rising (First appearance)
- The Last Command
- Before the Storm (Mentioned only)
- Specter of the Past
- Vision of the Future
- The New Jedi Order: Force Heretic I: Remnant
- Dark Force Rising Sourcebook
- Galaxy Guide 8: Scouts
- Star Wars Gamemaster Handbook
- Dark Empire Sourcebook
- "The History of R-Series Astromech Droids"—Star Wars Adventure Journal 7
- The Thrawn Trilogy Sourcebook
- The Essential Guide to Vehicles and Vessels
- Star Wars: Rogue Squadron: The Official Nintendo Player's Guide
- Star Wars Episode VII: Rise of the New Republic"—InQuest Gamer 50 "
- The Essential Chronology
- Starships of the Galaxy
- The Official Star Wars Fact File 5 (THR3, Grand Admiral Thrawn)
- The New Essential Chronology
- Star Wars: The Official Starships & Vehicles Collection 14
- The Essential Atlas
- The Essential Guide to Warfare
- The Essential Reader's Companion