Space warfare

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An example of warfare in space.

Space warfare or space combat was the use of armed starships and other spacecraft for the purposes of military actions across star systems and the galaxy. Evolving from water navy engagements and in turn the earliest orbital battles, space warfare became a high technology affair that often defined the outcome of the galaxy's most important conflicts.



Turbolasers were the primary form of capital ship armament for thousands of years.

Technological innovation determined the design of warships and naval doctrine and the outcome of battles. While the sizes and capabilities of starships varied, four main technologies drove and were advanced by space warfare: weapon systems, shield technology, sublight propulsion, and hyperdrive technology.


There were two basic types of space weaponry: energy and conventional. Energy weapons began with microwave lasers for offense and were typically secondary to conventional, physical weapons. From 4000 BBY however, energy weapons were the dominant form of weaponry in space combat, dominated by the turbolaser and the laser cannon, outgrowths of blaster technology that had matured at the same time.[1] On capital ships, energy weapons were normally grouped into batteries based upon the weapon type and its placement upon the hull. For example, on an Imperial-class Star Destroyer the heavy turbolasers on the portside of the hull's dorsal surface would be grouped into one battery, while those on the starboard dorsal surface would be grouped into a second battery. Targeting computers in capital ships were usually shared between the weapons of each battery, allowing the gunners to concentrate their fire on particular targets. Other designs of energy weapon included the charric, a Chiss advancement of early microwave lasers; the ion cannon, an electromagnetic weapon used to non-destructively disable electronic systems; and the superlaser, a Clone Wars development that was an immensely more-powerful design of laser that could cause planetary-scale damage.[2]

Conventional weapons were the first weapons used in space combat. Although the first conventional space weaponry included projectiles such as slugs, technology further progressed and came to encompass guided missiles and torpedo launchers. Conventional weapons could be guided, as in the case of missiles, or unguided, as in the case of bombs. Conventional weapons came to include the nuclear bomb, the proton bomb, proton torpedo, and the concussion missile.

Shield technologyEdit

N-1 Shields

A ray shield envelops a Naboo starfighter.

Deflector shields were a critical component in starship design and were used to mitigate damage from impacts. They included ray shields, which protected against energy weapons, and particle shields, which repelled physical objects. Both types consumed large amounts of energy and for a long period in galactic history, were reserved for only the largest warships with the greatest power-generating capability. Early warship captains therefore thought in terms of armor for defense. Other early defenses included charged particle clouds to diffuse energy weapons and hulls treated with kiirium to reflect beams.[3]

A refinement of the squintpipe process in the 7500s BBY produced shields that were stronger and quicker to regenerate, and also reduced the effective size of deflector shield generators. From then on, reliable deflector shields could be fitted to ships of all sizes.[4] Other defenses included point-defense laser cannons, which were designed to destroy incoming threats like torpedoes before they could hit the ship.

Propulsion technologyEdit

Sublight drives propelled ships below the speed of light and were best represented by ion drives: powered by fusion generators, these engines expelled particles at a very high speed to provide propulsive force. Sublight engines determined speed and maneuverability and could prove decisive: the Galactic Empire's TIE/LN starfighter used an extremely efficient twin ion engine design and stripped-down spaceframe to improve its mobility. The Alliance to Restore the Republic countered this with the faster and more maneuvrable RZ-1 A-wing interceptor, which the Empire countered in turn with the even faster TIE/IN interceptor.

Hyperdrive technology was an enormous influence on strategy in space warfare: fleets travelling faster-than-light in hyperspace had to traverse known hyperlanes to avoid dangerous mass shadows. For much of galactic history, starships lacked the computing power to calculate safe routes between systems and were confined to jumps within networks of jump beacons. In war this allowed navies to effectively pin ships at a certain point by disabling its beacon. By 4100 BBY, navigation computers had advanced to the point that jump beacons were no longer needed, making control of routes more difficult, as blockading one route merely pushed ships to one of many alternative ones. However, statistically speaking, only a few of these route could be traversed quickly, and a military force that controlled the fast routes could rapidly redeploy to intercept an adversary using the slow ones. Hyperlanes thus determined the strategic geography of space warfare, and fleets repeatedly battled over the same planets on significant hyperspace routes, such as Chazwa, or planets at hyperlane junctions such as Yag'Dhul or Brentaal IV. Militaries might also maintain secret hyperlanes to get the drop on their enemies: during the Clone Wars, General Grievous made use of a secret route through the Deep Core to directly attack Coruscant, while the Galactic Republic and the CIS negotiated with the Hutts for control of the Nexus Route connecting each other's core territories. The Rebel Alliance also made use of secret Claatuvac Guild routes supplied to them by Chewbacca for hit-and-hype raiding against the Empire.[5][6]

Ship classesEdit


Destroyers, frigates and corvettes and starfighters engage in combat.

Ships designed for war were typically split into two broad classes: starfighters and capital ships.


Starfighters were small craft typically piloted by one or two beings. Their operations and role encompassed an entire doctrine and form of warfare in its own right, known as starfighter combat. Types included space superiority fighters, bombers, and snubfighters. Space superiority fighters were stripped-down ships, usually minimally armed and armored, and were used to combat enemy bombers but typically could not attack capital ships. Bombers were more heavily-armed starfighters and were usually equipped with bombs, torpedoes and missiles so that they could make bombing runs on enemy warships. They were typically less-maneuverable than space superiority fighters and usually required their own fighter escort to avoid being shot down.[7]

Snubfighters sat between space superiority fighters and bombers in size and armament and were designed to both dogfight with other fighters and attack capital ships. Though snubfighters like the Rebel X-wing and Y-wing became famous, for the majority of galactic history snubfighters were not heavily used in deep-space combat: commanders considered it better to operate snubfighters from planet-based surface airfields to strike through cloud cover and launch torpedo strikes and strafing runs against attacking ships and troop transports. However, the advantages of snubfighters tended to disappear in the great ranges between opposing fleets and their payloads were not as great as dedicated bombers. It was only after the success of N-1 starfighters against Trade Federation battleships at the Battle of Naboo in 32 BBY, an experience confirmed by the role of Y-wings against the Malevolence at the Battle of the Kaliida Nebula during the Clone Wars, that the snubfighter began to be taken seriously as a deep-space battleship killer.[8]

Starfighters may or may not have had a hyperdrive; if not, they were often launched from a carrier or other larger craft. Some, like Imperial TIE/LN starfighters, were armed only for fighter-on-fighter combat; more versatile ones, like the Rebel X-wing and Y-wing snubfighters, were also capable of anti-ship and anti-surface attacks. Bombers like the TIE/sa bomber and the A/SF-01 B-wing starfighter were typically poor dogfighters and relied on heavy shielding or escorts to push through fighter screens and attack warships.[9]

By nature, a starfighter was intended to be small, fast and agile, designed to operate either on its own or as part of a squadron or a fighter wing on a variety of mission profiles, ranging from escort duty to reconnaissance missions and full-scale assault. Due to their size, starfighters could not engage in self-sufficient operations for any long period of time, needing a base of operations to provide fuel, repairs and supplies for the pilot, given as these cannot be carried aboard in any large quantity.

Capital shipsEdit


Imperial dignitaries at the commissioning of the Star Destroyer Pradeux.

A dizzying variety of capital ship classifications existed throughout galactic history. However, all agreed that a capital ship was a military starship that was at least one hundred meters in length. After the Clone Wars, the most common classification system was the Anaxes War College System, which replaced the system instituted after the Ruusan Reformation. The largest class recognised by that system was the cruiser, reflecting the Ruusan Reformation's restriction on transgalactic warships larger than six hundred meters. By the time the Clone Wars broke out, many rich sectors had commissioned much larger warships with local-range hyperdrives for their defense, with lengths of several kilometers and making the cruiser an increasingly-meaningless class.[10]

Under the Anaxes War College System, ships smaller than one hundred meters were classified as either starfighters, or if they were unarmed, space transports. Mindful of what had happened to the cruiser class, the Anaxes architects extended their classification system to account for the possibility of truly gigantic warships. Corvettes were fast, light attack ships which were used in a variety of roles, including blockade running, anti-starfighter missions, or escort and support for larger ships. Frigates sat between two hundred and four hundred meters and served the purpose of eliminating smaller vessels of an enemy fleet and often carried their own starfighter squadrons. Cruisers were from four hundred to six hundred meters in length and were heavily armed relative to their size and could often trade blows with much larger ships. Heavy cruisers were from six hundred to one thousand meters in length and were typically the backbone of any fleet engagement. Star Destroyers were between one and two kilometers in length and were typically the most numerous large starship, specializing in heavy ship-to-ship combat. Battlecruisers were from two to five kilometers in length and were heavily armed, designed for long-range, independent operations hunting down other capital ships Finally, dreadnoughts were ships over five kilometers in length and so powerful that the mere threat of their deployment could pacify multiple sectors.[11][12]

Additionally, the Anaxes War College System carried a shorthand for use during engagements, one that lumped warships of different classes based on their size and capability. Corvettes, space transports and starships acting as warships in-theater were designated as gunships, small, fast, heavily-armed ships that specialized in destroying the maximum number of small enemy ships in a space battle and relied on evasion far more than their shields to escape damage. Frigates and lighter cruisers - the workhorses of most military engagements - were identified as cruisers. Big ships of the line whose mere presence could change the course of a battle were referred to as battleships.[13]


The first space battlesEdit

Thanium star-glaive

A Thanium star-glaive of Xim's empire.

Space warfare was heavily based on aquatic and aerial engagements using surface and sub-surface warships, and atmospheric fighters, respectively. As technology evolved and various races achieved spaceflight and then faster-than-light travel, the traditions of naval and air combat extended to the three-dimensional battle planes that made up the vacuum of space. Generally speaking, starfighter tactics were inspired by aerial engagements, while those of capital ships were based in aquatic combat. Much information surrounding the very earliest wars in space was lost by the era of the Galactic Civil War, but the legends of the eldest spacefaring civilizations all told an intriguingly similar story – of a terrible war waged with unimaginable weapons.[14]

The first well-documented wars were those of the Tionese and the Hutts. Tionese warships used guided missiles, torpedo launchers and microwave lasers for offense. Protection was provided by point-defense missiles, clouds of charged particles to diffuse energy weapons, and thin armor plating coated with superconducting, mirror-bright kiirium alloy to reflect laser attacks.[15]

In this era, ships larger than light cruisers were rare: the flagship of Xim the Despot, the Eibon Scimitar, was considered gargantuan in its time, but military historians during the Imperial Period generally agreed that it would be considered a heavy cruiser at best under the Anaxes War College System.[16] Wars in this era were fought across networks of jump beacons. Significant conflicts of this early era of space warfare included the Cronese Sweeps, the Expansionist Wars of Xim's empire, Xim's final war with the Hutt Empire, and the Unification Wars that founded the Galactic Republic. [17]

Cruiser warfareEdit

The Tionese War did not see a shift towards larger warships: such ships were expensive to build and of little strategic use against fleets of cheaper and more nimble craft. Alsakan's Atgeir-class battlecruisers – renowned for their supposedly impregnable shields – were exceptions to the rule. During the early Alsakan Conflicts, ships like these battlecruisers and Coruscant's Gilagimar were chiefly used for home defense while fleets of swift cruisers launched raids and protected colonies in the Exploitation Region. The best example of this was Admiral Hirken’s Northern Dependencies campaign during the Fifth Alsakan Conflict.[18]

Fifth alsakan conflict

Admiral Hirken's defense of the Northern Dependencies during the Fifth Alsakan Conflict.

Jump beacons were still essential for hyperspace travel, which allowed the Bureau of Ships and Services to halt the First Alsakan Conflict of 17,018-16,700 BBY by threatening to withhold navigational data from both Coruscant and Alsakan.[19] In 10,966 BBY, BoSS was also able to end the Pius Dea Civil War by infecting the ships of the Pius Dea Faithful with rogue navicomputer codes that scattered their fleet and left what remained to be easily overwhelmed by a combined Jedi-Renunciate fleet at the Battle of Uquine.[20]

After the Duinuogwuin Contention of 15,500 BBY, the Republic encountered few opponents with large warships and so had little use for large capital ships. The Republic Navy preferred fast gunships that could escort merchant transports and colony ships.[21] The Pius Dea Crusades of 12,000-11,000 BBY saw the use of cathedral ships and large, armored men-o-war optimised for broadside combat, but the next widespread use of large capital ships came around 10,000 BBY when the Republic was briefly provoked by the rise of the Kumauri Empire.[22][23] Vall Kumauri's massive battleships were armed with mass-driver cannons capable of accelerating asteroids to planet-cracking velocities (similar to ancient Hutt planechanga). The Republic countered with an identical fleet, which cowed or destroyed several hostile civilizations during the Republic's expansion and even served as terror weapons during the Osara Mundicide of the Tenth Alsakan Conflict. Advances in planetary shields largely eliminated the threat of bombardment, but the Kumauri Empire's most enduring innovation was the use of synthetic mandilon to make smaller, more efficient hyperdrives that allowed longer jumps across the galaxy's network of jump beacons.[24]

The Waymancy Storm, a furious confrontation between the Galactic Republic and Waymancy Hollow in 7811 BBY, sparked the next major wave of naval innovation. In the first battles, Republic ships were torn apart by rapid fusillades of laserfire: Waymancy's Sisters of the Machinesmith had developed the Sif-Alulan process and produced extremely efficient power generators that allowed for energy weapons far more powerful and with much faster rates than anything the Republic could bring to bear. After Waymancy's defeat, the Sif-Alulan process was reverse engineered by the Verpine crafter Lyns Skutroo, who created the squintpipe process in the 7700s BBY. This created a brief period in which rapid-fire turbolasers outclassed all available defenses. This caused naval tacticians to disdain capital ships in favor of swarms of gunships that could overwhelm opponents. Since deflector shields were now useless, this led to a search for stronger hull armor, with vacierite replacing kiirium. In the 7500s BBY, further refinements of the squintpipe process produced shields that were stronger and quicker to regenerate, and shield generators became small enough to be fitted to starships of any size.[25]

The golden age of battleshipsEdit

The refined squintpipe process sparked a golden age of warship construction. Capital ships reemerged as the primary warships of the Republic Military, its Planetary Security Forces, and its enemies, the worst of whom were the Sith. In the Great Hyperspace War of 5000 BBY, the Republic faced a fleet of massive Sith Derriphan-class battleships led by Naga Sadow's Corsair. The Republic Navy countered with ever-larger capital ships, including command ships, battleships, and the Hammerhead-class cruiser (one of the most enduring warship designs in galactic history, which remained in military service with upgrades for nearly 3,000 years).[26]

Battle of Vanquo

Hammerhead-class frigates at the Battle of Vanquo.

The double threats of the Sith and the Mandalorians in what became known as the Old Sith Wars prompted the Republic to build ever-larger, more powerful ships, culminating in titanic clashes between the largest warships yet seen in the galaxy. These included the 3,100-meter Inexpugnable-class tactical command ship, the 1,200-meter Centurion-class battlecruiser, and the 600-meter Interdictor-class cruiser. This cruiser design projected a simulated gravity well into realspace, creating a mass shadow in hyperspace that prevented hyperspace jumps or dragged ships back into realspace. However, this innovation would soon be rendered ineffective by better hyperspace sensor suites and multiphase null field units, and it was not until the Galactic Civil War that gravity well projectors became decisive weapons again.[27][28] The Great Galactic War, Cold War and Galactic War saw Republic Valor-class cruisers and even the "superdreadnaught" Star of Coruscant fighting the Terminus-class destroyers and Harrower-class dreadnoughts of the Imperial Navy of the restored Sith Empire.[29]

By 4100 BBY, the era of the jump beacon was coming to its end as more effective and powerful navigation computers were developed. Wary of rumblings beyond the Republic frontier, the Republic Navy conducted crash research to ensure that its ships could cross the galaxy quickly and safely without having to rely on beacons. This was a prescient move: during the Great Sith War and the Mandalorian Wars, the Republic Navy destroyed many jump beacons in an effort to deny its enemies easy passage into Republic space.[30]

Technological innovation slowly obsoleted battleships, however: the Seventeenth and final Alsakan Conflict was caused by the Republic maintaining and expanding its Navy despite the conclusion of the Galactic Wars, building a fleet of two-kilometer-long Invincible-class fast battleships. Alsakan and the Axis responded with mass-produced squadrons of sublight missile corvettes, which successfully defended their systems from Republic raids. However, Corellia responded with a fleet of long-range frigates. Technological breakthroughs enabled them to be outfitted with fast engines, strong shields, and heavy turbolasers, allowing Prince-Admiral Jonash e Solo to rapidly outfight both Coruscanti and Alsakani battleships and forcing a peace treaty on both.[31]

The Ruusan ReformationsEdit

The battleship era ended in the 2500s BBY amid the dire economic straits of the New Sith Wars. Tacticians once again came to prefer fleets of smaller cruisers, most notably the striking fleet of wroshyr-framed wooden gunships led by the Jedi Lord Valenthyne Farfalla aboard the Fairwind. The Ruusan Reformation of 1000 BBY halted large battleship construction: not only was the Republic Navy dismantled and responsibility for defense given to the Planetary Security Forces and the Judicial Forces, but the size of ships was capped at the six-hundred meter cruiser. Ships larger than six hundred meters had their hyperdrives limited and their navicomputers restricted to local charts. For centuries after Ruusan, capital ships larger than light cruisers were rare and were seen as extravagant.[32][33]

Cruisers emerged as the workhorses of the PSFs and the Judicials alike, and they served well in the Unification Campaigns after the New Sith Wars. However, as the Republic's authority in the Outer Rim Territories slowly crumbled in the final centuries of the Great Peace of the Republic, wealthy industrial sectors began building new capital ships for the sector fleets, while megacorps like the Trade Federation took advantage of loopholes in the law to develop their own trade defense fleets. These developments culminated in giant cruisers on a scale not seen for millennia, with rich planets like Kuat and Rendili seeking to create impregnable defenses and impress their neighbours. Additionally, shipwrights were granted exemptions to allow them to pursue technological innovations and showcase prototype designs. This resulted in corporate "demonstration fleets" made up of variations on warship design, which were often leased to sectors that could afford them. By the 30s BBY, rich sectors were awash with massive warships, with their fleets' numbers swelled by loans from starship manufacturers. Meanwhile, the defense limits of the Ruusan Reformations meant that poor Rim sectors struggled to police their worlds and defeat smugglers and pirates with undersized fleets of underpowered warships.[34]

The experience of the Clone WarsEdit


The Republic and Confederate Navies clash at the Battle of Coruscant.

The Clone Wars of 22 to 19 BBY, a product of the Order of the Sith Lords' Grand Plan to seize control of the galaxy, fundamentally changed the conduct of space warfare. Most significantly, it resulted in the spread of three new enormous variations of capital ship: the Star Destroyer, the Battlecruiser, and the Star Dreadnought. Even prior to the Ruusan Reformation, ships larger than two kilometers in length had been rare, and most warships tended to be below the one-kilometer mark. However, the Clone Wars saw the rapid development and widespread use of Star Destroyers. While the name had originally been a corporate marque of Kuat Drive Yards, it came to refer to a ship in excess of one kilometer long, carrying an armament powerful enough to lay waste to entire star systems. Star Destroyers, exemplified by the Venator-, Victory-, and finally the Imperial-class, would become the backbone of battle fleets during and after the Clone Wars. The Separatists' answer to the Star Destroyer was the Providence-class carrier/destroyer, but though the class was made famous by General Grievous' Invisible Hand, there were relatively few of them.[35]

An even larger development of capital ship was the battlecruiser, massive, heavily armored warships designed to hunt down and destroy other capital ships in long-range, independent operations. The first warship that gained formal recognition as a battlecruiser was KDY's 2.5-kilometer Procurator, which served as a template for a series of ever-larger KDY battleships. By the time of the Clone Wars, dozens of battlecruisers defended Core and Colonies sectors, among the the Procurator's refinement, the four-thousand-meter Praetor-class. The majority of these huge ships went into Republic service during the Clone Wars, with most serving as local defense against Separatist incursions. Others were uparmored, fitted with transgalactic-capable hyperdrives and became the spearpoints of task forces sent against key Separatist worlds, most notably and tragically the Quaestor at Pammant. The Confederacy of Independent Systems maintained a few ships that could be called battlecruisers, most notably the Subjugator-class, best represented by the Malevolence, but they preferred fleets of smaller frigates and light destroyers. The Galactic Empire would commission relatively few battlecruisers, relegating them to Core defense, and saw them as being less versatile than Star Destroyers but not instilling the same terror as dreadnoughts.[36]

521742 10150717011498713 1716418986 n

New instruments of naval power: Battlecruisers, Star Destroyers and a Star Dreadnought refuelling.

The star dreadnoughts were the largest class of capital ship ever built, and were massive warships designed to be so powerful that the mere threat of their deployment would pacify multiple sectors. The first warship considered a dreadnought was KDY's eight-kilometer Mandator, built twenty years before the Clone Wars. It triggered a race among wealthy sectors for similar warships, and during the Clone Wars, KDY developed the improved Mandator II design. The Galactic Empire continued star dreadnought development, culminating in the Sarlacc Project and the Executor-class star dreadnought, a 19-kilometer-long battleship so large and powerful that it was nearly invincible in fleet combat. Many in the Imperial Navy, however, came to disdain star dreadnoughts as inefficient compared to fleets of smaller cruisers for patrolling the galaxy, and derisively referred to them as "Super Star Destroyers".[37]

The Republic Navy was opposed by the Confederate Navy, which compensated for the relative fragility of their Recusant-class light destroyers and Munificent-class star frigates with huge numbers of the droid-crewed vessels, as well as immense swarms of starfighters.[38] In addition to traditional interceptors like the Belbullab-22 and the droid tri-fighter, and bombers like the Hyena-class and Belbullab-24, the Separatists also operated large numbers of snubfighters. In a departure from traditional doctrine, the Confederate Navy would often deploy squadrons of snubfighters like the Vulture-class droid starfighter in both a dogfighting an an anti-ship role.[39] Developments in snubfighter technology had outraced doctrine. The performance of N-1 starfighters at the Battle of Naboo had shown the Separatists that hyperspace-capable snubfighters could indeed destroy battleships. The experience was confirmed with the destruction of the Separatist superweapon Malevolence at the Battle of the Kaliida Nebula, helped in no small part by it being crippled by Y-wing starfighters. The Republic Navy was not slow to notice this. Its main starfighter carriers of the war, the Venator- and Victory-class Star Destroyers, were originally designed with traditional doctrine in mind and to operate NTB-630 torpedo bombers in an anti-capital ship role, alongside short-range A-6 Interceptors for escort and dealing with enemy starfighters. By the end of the Clone Wars, carrier capacity was largely given over to snubfighters like the ARC-170, and designers like Vors Voorhorian and Walex Blissex spent the war years designing a new generation of starfighters that could dogfight on equal terms with any starfighter in space.[40]

The Confederacy of Independent Systems fought the Republic with a stateless strategy, making surgical strikes and terror raids designed to deny the Republic key invasion corridors, undermine support for the war, and sever key fleets' supply lines. The sheer size of Republic territory meant that it was impossible for the Republic Navy to repel all the raids, and if it tried to take the offensive against the Separatists, it might leave key worlds vulnerable.[41] The Republic never found a solution to this strategy. Instead, it outgrew it, conscripting vast numbers of new crews and cloning huge numbers of new clone troopers, and by the third year of the war, had committed a substantial portion of its much larger industrial base to produce a fleet so large it could both defend its territories and take the fight to the Separatists. The Separatists' Outer Rim holdings were ground down in an attritional campaign known as the Outer Rim Sieges.[42] After the Separatist Droid Army was finally deactivated, the new Galactic Empire inherited the immense Republic Military and both the Republic and the Confederacy's military-industrial complexes, allowing Emperor Palpatine to consolidate control over the galaxy with a new navy larger than anything ever seen before[43]

The Galactic Civil War and afterEdit


A clash between Rebel and Imperial task forces.

The Galactic Civil War of 2-19 ABY cemented the role of the Star Destroyer as the central warship of navies. Under Emperor Palpatine, the Imperial Navy expanded to become the largest military starfleet the galaxy had ever seen, peaking at 25,000 Star Destroyers and millions more smaller ships. The Imperial Navy's doctrine emphasised maximizing capital ship firepower rather than achieving starfighter superiority, and it subordinated its starfighters to this role.[44] The large carrier capacity of the Venator-class Star Destroyer was done away with in future designs in favor of smaller fighter complements. This made room for bigger, more powerful reactors, allowing them to be more heavily armored and carry stronger shields and more powerful weapons, all of which would make starfighters less effective. The new Imperial-class Star Destroyer became the backbone of the Imperial Starfleet and was heavily optimised for fleet combat, carrying only a single wing of 72 starfighters, relatively small in comparison to the Venator-class' 420 fighters.[45][46][47]

Seeing it as a legacy of the Separatists, the Imperial Navy abandoned snubfighters in favor of more traditional starfighters: the TIE Series, exemplifying traditional starfighter doctrine with the TIE/LN Line Starfighter and the TIE/sa Bomber, was a series of barebones fighter designs built around a ball-shaped cockpit and the revolutionary twin ion engine design. Seen as complements to Star Destroyers, they served as escorts, scouts, hit-and-fade raiders, and bombers supporting ground troops. As such, they lacked hyperdrives, deflector shields, or even life support systems, reducing their mass and giving them great speed and maneuverability, but also limiting their survivability and their range.[48]

The Clone Wars had stimulated aggressive new research into interdiction field technology, and the Empire built on the Republic's developments. New designs of gravity well projector were powerful enough to pull any ship out of hyperspace or to pin it in realspace. However, only large capital ship had the spaceframe and drive systems to carry the large, bulbous generators, and Immobilizer 418 cruisers became common sights in Imperial fleets. They were decisive in preventing the immediate escape of the Alliance Fleet into hyperspace at the Battle of Endor. Owing to their role, however, these cruisers were underpowered for their size, and only large battleships like the Sovereign-class and Eclipse-class dreadnoughts were big enough to carry effective interdictor systems without serious penalties in weaponry.[49]

The Galactic Empire was opposed by the Alliance to Restore the Republic, which operated on an entirely different military philosophy. Since it lacked large numbers of capital ships, the Rebel Alliance made heavy use of snubfighters as part of its stateless strategy. Powerful starfighters like the T-65 X-wing conducted hit-and-hype raids against prominent Imperial targets and supply convoys, using their superior shielding, armament, and hyperdrives to inflict disproportionate damage on Imperial targets. Meanwhile, the Alliance Fleet would roam the galaxy, challenging Imperial authority merely by existing, and waiting for the chance of a decisive battle with the Galactice Empire.[50] The Galactic Empire made belated moves to develop their own snubfighters like the TIE Advanced x1 and the TIE/D Defender after the Rebels inflicted humiliating defeats on them with X-wings, but the most numerous new development was the TIE/IN, a non-hyperspace capable traditional interceptor that though capable of outracing Rebel fighters, was not equipped with deflector shields. Only declining numbers of TIE pilots in the years after Emperor Palpatine's death as the Empire lost ground to the New Republic spurred warlords such as Grand Admiral Thrawn to retrofit TIE Interceptors with shields.[51]

A fourth Imperial influence on space warfare was its increasing resort to superweapons to counteract the Rebels' stateless strategy. The Empire's initial response was a policy of reprisal, a system of state terror that was institutionalised in the Tarkin Doctrine.[52] However, the policy of overwhelming force in an effort to deny the Rebels safe haven did more to foment resistance than eliminate it. The creation of superweapons like the Death Stars, the Eclipse-class dreadnoughts, the Galaxy Gun, and the Sun Crusher, was intended to reverse this state of affairs by introducing the possibility of a reprisal so terrifying - namely, the destruction of entire planets, or even entire star systems - that no world would risk aiding the Rebellion.[53] All these superweapons consumed enormous amounts of resources and more often than not were destroyed early in their lives by concentrated Rebel raids, most notably the Battle of Yavin and the Battle of Endor, by the very snubfighters the Empire had disdained.[54][55]

Lusankya vs Reaper

The Orinda campaign of 12 ABY reaffirmed the utility of large battleships.

After the destruction of the Second Death Star at the Battle of Endor and the subsequent collapse of Imperial authority, the New Republic moved away from the development of battlecruisers and dreadnoughts: its strategists saw them as obsolete, narrowly-focused on fleet combat, and vulnerable to "trench run disease" - starfighters hugging close to their hulls and using surface trenches for cover to launch strafing runs. Ship design in the Defender and New Class Modernization Programs instead focused on smaller, more versatile, modular ships, as well as a focus on fleet carriers for large starfighter complements. However, the poor performance of the New Republic Defense Fleet against fleets of dreadnoughts in Operation Shadow Hand, and the experience of the Lusankya's duel with the Reaper during the Orinda campaign, forced a change in design philosophy. The Mon Calamari Shipyards subsequently created the 8.5-kilometer Mediator-class battle cruiser and the two massive, 17-kilometer Viscount-class Star Defenders, Bounty and Krakana, intended as the centerpiece of the New Republic's Outer Rim defenses in the aftermath of the Galactic Civil War.[56][57]

Strategy and tacticsEdit

Strategies in space warfare mirrored those applied on the ground. These strategies were: asymmetric, attrition, conventional and psychological.

The multidimensional battlefield made space warfare tactics complex and difficult to master. In addition to the complexities of space combat itself, related operations and logistics were equally complex. For example, known hyperdrive lanes were a factor, as the angle of attack determines which starships will be in range of the entering fleet and vice versa.

Interdictor warships were able to hold fleets in realspace at will, preventing enemy retreat. In this sense, they were a valuable addition to any fleet. However, due to the apparent rarity of these vessels, many commanders had to resort to trapping their adversaries in an existing gravity well, such as that of a planet to prevent their escape. Such tactics were risky at best because they relied on outsmarting your enemy at every turn, because an unanticipated maneuver could allow the ambushed force either to escape or to turn the tables on the ambushers, trapping them in the gravity well.


Rebellion starfighters attack Imperial forces including TIE fighters and Imperial-class Star Destroyers

The source of a fleet's ships, a shipyard, was very valuable, and made an important target for an opposing force. As they required ships to defend themselves, shipwrights were also very vulnerable and the defending fleet must destroy any opposition before it can damage the docks. In this case, speed was an important factor to the invaders. However, planets providing strategic material for the war effort were also of paramount importance, because without adequate supplies, after a certain period, any combat starship loses the ability to engage the enemy, either through lack of fuel, lack of munitions, battle damage that cannot be repaired, or the starvation of the crew. Consequently, campaigns could often depend upon cutting the enemy's supply lines, either by attacking the supply ships, or preventing the enemy from reaching their supply ships.

Various Commanders will use asteroids or floating piles of junk to ambush unsuspecting ships. The only major problem with this idea was that it almost always damage the ship in numerous ways.

In general capital ships fought other capital ships, and starfighters fought other starfighters. Exceptions included starfighters equipped with proton torpedoes or other warheads, and capital ships, like the Lancer-class frigate, which were designed to fight starfighters. However, most capital ships were equipped with anti-starfighter cannons to aid their fighter escorts or to serve as a front line defense against fighters in lieu of an escort.

When capital ships fought each other, one of the most basic tactics was to maximize the damage one did to one's enemy, and minimize one's own damage. This was often accomplished by maneuvering the ship so that you had more weapons to bear on the enemy than vice-versa,[58] as well as presenting a narrower profile for the enemy to shoot at. However, in Mon Calamari capital ships in particular, it was possible for two or more ships in close proximity to one another to collaborate their energy shields, sharing the strain of enemy bombardment between them to minimize overall damage. Also, capital ships could rotate, allowing their shields to pick up enemy shots in areas that were still at full power.[59]

In addition, there was also an intelligence element to space warfare, with each side in larger engagements attempting to intercept and decrypt enemy communications as part of a larger effort to predict what the enemy will do next— with the intention of either preventing them from achieving their intentions or minimizing the damage that can be caused by their plans.

The Mon Calamari Admiral Gial Ackbar was renowned for developing several different space battle strategies and tactics which ultimately led to countless victories for the Rebel Alliance.

Other tactics included using starfighters to distract the larger guns of capital ships, minimizing damage to frigates and other capital ships. This is ineffective if the ship had anti-fighter defenses such as point defense turrets. This tactic still provided bombers and larger ships the opportunity to do damage. However, this can be viewed as suicidal by some commanders.

Starfighter screenEdit

As its name suggests, the Starfighter screen was a purely defensive formation in which a capital ship or freighter would have its starfighter escorts form up in front of it to engage enemy fighter squadrons before they could close in on the larger vessel. As the description suggests it was a very basic, but effective maneuver.
Breaking Ryloth blockade

A Venator-class Star Destroyer executes a Marg Sabl maneuver during the Clone Wars

Marg SablEdit

The Marg Sabl closure maneuver was a simple maneuver well known in Imperial Navy circles both before and after the Battle of Endor. It was an opening tactic where the superstructure of the starfighter-carrying vessel would turn to face the oncoming enemy's vessels, allowing the starfighters to launch without risking attack. It was typically followed up by a massed assault of starfighters clustered in a group. Grand Admiral Thrawn used this tactic against an Elomin commander quite effectively at the Battle of Obroa-skai.

Thrawn PincerEdit

The Thrawn Pincer was a tactic pioneered by Grand Admiral Thrawn and used by him at the Battle of Bilbringi. The tactic first called for Interdictor cruisers to create a gravity well, which denied the enemy an easy escape. Then, reinforcements could jump through hyperspace into the general area and be pulled out of with accuracy and surprise which would otherwise be very difficult to achieve. Admiral Ackbar used this same tactic to help defeat the Ciutric Hegemony.

Ackbar SlashEdit

The Ackbar Slash was a space warfare tactical maneuver devised by Admiral Ackbar. It involved one side's ships forcing their way into the middle of an enemy formation. The desired result was that, with enemy gunners running a high risk of shooting their own forces, they would be hesitant to fire. The other side would have no such risk, and be able to cause higher damage to their enemy. If the enemy ships did choose to fire, the risk of them hitting each other still worked to the advantage of the attacking fleet. In addition, the enemy ships in this situation could usually bring no more than half of their weapons to bear, while nearly all of the weapons on the ships executing the Ackbar Slash could be used, as there would be enemies on both sides to target.

Slashing the deckEdit

Slashing the deck was a tactical maneuver used against enemy capital ships by the Dark Lord Kaan at the First Battle of Ruusan. The technique involved any number of smaller ships, usually ranging from snubfighters to corvettes, that would fire all guns while cutting in along a vector that minimized the amount of guns the enemy capital ship could bring to bear against them. When the enemy capital ship tried to change direction to bring more guns about, the smaller ships would pivot and double back for another pass along a different vector to inflict even more damage. However, the tactic focused heavily on the element of surprise and was almost useless if the enemy could call upon the support of other ships.

Tallon splitEdit

The Tallon split was a tactical maneuver. The maneuver was theoretically simple, but took a great amount of skill, precision, and concentration to execute correctly. When applied successfully, the Tallon split would allow two starfighters to inflict a considerable amount of damage on an unsuspecting capital ship. The tactic called for two starfighters to fly extremely close together as they approached a capital ship, so close that the larger ship's targeting computer would detect the two fighters as one approaching ship. At very close range, the two fighters would split apart: one fighter would continue on a strafing run of the capital ship, while the second would draw fire away from the first. The attacking fighter would have about five seconds to cause damage on the capital ship before it was clearly identified as a second ship. Even so, those five seconds would allow enough time to cause serious damage to the larger vessel.[60]

The tactic was executed with surprising success during the evacuation of Hoth in 3 ABY by Rebel starfighters flying escort for GR-75 medium transports attempting to run the Imperial blockade of the planet. Most notably, Rogue Squadron pilots Wedge Antilles, Derek Klivian, Wes Janson, and Luke Skywalker employed the tactic to help the transport Thon's Orchard safely reach hyperspace. Antilles piloted his X-wing close to Klivian and Janson in their BTL-S3 Y-wing starfighter as "one target," as they attacked an Imperial-class Star Destroyer blocking the transport's flight path. In conjunction with those two ships, Skywalker also attacked from a hidden location flying underneath the transport. The Star Destroyer was distracted and damaged enough to allow the Thon's Orchard to reach safety.[60][61]

Tallon RollEdit

The Tallon Roll was a starfighter maneuver designed by and named after Adar Tallon.[62]

This difficult tactic was performed when an attacking starfighter pilot became aware of the possibility of overshooting a breaking target. The pilot would level out, pull up hard, then roll away from the direction of the turn. To complete the maneuver the attacking pilot would have to slide in behind his target, thus effectively altering the angle of approach without losing distance or speed. This maneuver was difficult to counter as it took place in the typical starfighter pilots' blind spot; at the same time the maneuver itself was difficult to accomplish without the attacker becoming disoriented himself, thus making him overshoot and possibly a target himself.[63]

A-wing SlashEdit

Pioneered by Garm Bel Iblis, this strategy required a number of large starfighters to mask the approach of smaller starfighters or missile weapons behind them, then moving out in what appeared at first glance to be a flanking attack, wrong-footing the gunners of enemy point defense weapons to allow the force approaching behind the large starfighters to slip through the enemy's defenses, often allowing the smaller fighters or missiles to inflict critical damage to the enemy.

Alpha StrikeEdit

An "Alpha Strike" was a term used with large starships with multiple weapons emplacements. The idea was to fire all weapons at the same spot, at the same time, to cause optimum damage. This could make a blast far more powerful then what any one weapon could do. An example of a ship prime for this tactic would be a star destroyer. Its angled, arrowhead design made the Alpha Strike perfect for the ship. The reasoning was to destroy the enemy ship immediately, before it could fire, as to not prolong the battle. The only problem with this was that if the opening salvo didn't get past the opposition's shields, then the "alpha strike" ship would be defenseless for a period of time. The aggressive nature of the Empire made this tactic very popular amongst the Imperial fleets. Many others also employed this technique, such as the Yuuzhan Vong.

Loran SpitballEdit

This maneuver was named after Wraith Squadron pilot Garik Loran who developed the tactic. Specifically the tactic was used with the CR90 corvette Night Caller. The Loran Spitball was a quick way for the corvette, which housed nine X-wings in a bow hold, to launch their missiles at an enemy from within the ship. By lowering its bow shields and opening the hangar doors, the X-wings could target whatever enemy the ship was facing and launch their barrage. This was used effectively as a surprise attack on two occasions for the Wraiths.

Kettch's DrillEdit

During the Battle of Kuat in 7 ABY, Commander Wedge Antilles designed a tactic for members of the Hawk-Bats to eliminate a number of enemy starfighters early in the engagement. The maneuver called for the Hawk-Bats to attack three waves of oncoming TIE fighters head-on, rather than attacking the first wave and then breaking off to engage them in dogfighting. The plan worked perfectly, as the Hawk-Bats destroyed many fighters almost immediately, and succeeded in keeping the Imperial forces of the Kuat system away from the forces of Warlord Zsinj.[64]


A small Imperial naval unit would chase a Rebel Alliance unit to a world known to harbor Rebel sympathizers, who would launch reinforcements. The Imperials would stage a retreat, followed by the larger Rebel fleet, to a point where a pre-arrange Imperial attack group would emerge from hyperspace and obliterate the Rebels.[65]

Carom shotEdit

During the Battle of Bakura, a tactic was seen known as a Carom shot, where a warship would ram a second ship, using its momentum to ricochet it into a third ship.[66]


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See alsoEdit

Notes and referencesEdit

  1. The Essential Guide to Warfare, pp. 30-1
  2. The Essential Guide to Warfare, p. 34
  3. The Essential Guide to Warfare, pp. 30-1
  4. The Essential Guide to Warfare, pp. 30-1
  5. The Essential Atlas
  6. The Essential Guide to Warfare, pp. 12-3
  7. The Essential Guide to Warfare, pp. 51-3
  8. The Essential Guide to Warfare, pp. 51-3
  9. The Essential Guide to Warfare, pp. 179-80
  10. The Essential Guide to Warfare, pp. 30-3
  11. The Essential Guide to Warfare, pp. 30-33
  12. The Essential Guide to Warfare, pp. 166-7
  13. The Essential Guide to Warfare, pp. 30-33
  14. The Essential Guide to Warfare, p. 3
  15. The Essential Guide to Warfare, pp. 30-1
  16. The Essential Guide to Warfare, pp. 30-1
  17. The Essential Atlas, pp. 118-21
  18. The Essential Guide to Warfare, pp. 22-4
  19. The Essential Guide to Warfare, pp. 22-4
  20. The Essential Guide to Warfare, pp. 25-8
  21. The Essential Guide to Warfare, pp. 30-1
  22. The Essential Guide to Warfare, pp. 25-8
  23. The Essential Guide to Warfare, pp. 30-1
  24. The Essential Guide to Warfare, pp. 30-1
  25. The Essential Guide to Warfare, pp. 30-1
  26. The Essential Guide to Warfare, pp. 30-1
  27. The Essential Guide to Warfare, pp. 30-1
  28. The Essential Guide to Warfare, p. 46
  29. Star Wars: The Old Republic
  30. The Essential Guide to Warfare, pp. 12-3
  31. The Essential Guide to Warfare, p. 24
  32. The Essential Guide to Warfare, pp. 30-1
  33. The Essential Guide to Warfare, p. 47
  34. The Essential Guide to Warfare, p. 47
  35. The Essential Guide to Warfare, p. 117
  36. The Essential Guide to Warfare, p. 167
  37. The Essential Guide to Warfare, p. 166
  38. The Essential Guide to Warfare, p. 87
  39. The Essential Guide to Warfare, p. 155
  40. The Essential Guide to Warfare, pp. 51-5
  41. The Essential Guide to Warfare, pp. 85-6
  42. The Essential Guide to Warfare, pp. 104-5
  43. The Essential Guide to Warfare, p. 31
  44. Imperial Sourcebook
  45. The Essential Guide to Warfare, p. 133
  46. The Essential Guide to Warfare, p. 117
  47. The Essential Guide to Warfare, p. 96
  48. The Essential Guide to Warfare, pp. 133-5
  49. The Essential Guide to Warfare, p. 46
  50. The Essential Atlas. p. 178
  51. The Essential Guide to Warfare, pp. 133-5
  52. Imperial Sourcebook
  53. The Essential Atlas, p. 7
  54. Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope
  55. Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi
  56. The Essential Guide to Warfare, p. 207
  57. The Essential Guide to Warfare, p. 180
  58. X-Wing: Wedge's Gamble
  59. X-Wing: The Bacta War
  60. 60.0 60.1 Galaxy Guide 3: The Empire Strikes Back
  61. The Essential Guide to Characters
  62. Star Wars Customizable Card Game
  63. Rebel Alliance Sourcebook
  64. X-Wing: Iron Fist
  65. Imperial Sourcebook
  66. The Truce at Bakura
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