It was Wilhuff Tarkin, Grand Moff of the Empire and Governer of the Outer Rim, who commissioned Sienar Fleet Systems to create “a line of single-pilot, short-range starfighters,” personally designed by Raith Sienar himself, fast, energy efficient and relatively inexpensive to manufacture, the TIE Fighter.
Much as the Clones had come to define the era in which the Republic fell and was replaced by the Galactic Empire, so was the TIE Fighter fully intended to symbolise the Imperial era, omnipresent, able to overpower any resistance through the sheer numbers in which they swarmed, all produced to identical specifications guaranteeing precise performance in the field.
Tracing the modular elements through the entire Star Wars saga, the original “standard” TIE Fighter, designated the TIE/in Space Superiority Starfighter, drew on earlier small space vessels such as Kuat Systems’ Eta-2 Actis Interceptor and Alpha-3 Nimbus V-wing as well as a Star Courier customised to the specification of Senator Sheev Palpatine which he bestowed upon his assassin Darth Maul, the Scimitar.
Once approved, the “twin ion engine” Space Superiority Starfighters were mass produced in fully automated manufacturing facilities on any planet where the necessary raw materials could be found in abundance such as Corellia and Lothal, approximately 4.6 million of them, enough to control an Empire.
The text informative but inevitably repetitive, the manual covers the common variants of the TIE Fighter, the TIE/rb Heavy Starfighter which guards the nebula around Kessel, the TIE/sa Bomber, the TIE Advanced v1 and x1, the latter Darth Vader’s personal ship, through the TIE/in Interceptor and the more recent upgraded specifications of the First Order, the TIE/fo Space Superiority Starfighter, as well as less familiar adaptations.
More interesting is the insight into the design process, the Empire’s attitude that their pilots were ultimately disposable leading to the decision to include no life support, shielding or hyperdrives in the basic TIE Fighters in the belief it would encourage the pilots to fight to the absolute best of their ability and reduce the possibility of desertion, choices reversed by the First Order whose limited resources require them to make more practical provision and provide greater training for their pilots.
From their involvement in the programme, their priorities, expectations and demands, the manual also gives presence to their powerful personalities of Tarkin, Sidious and Vader, as well as their would-be successor General Armitage Hux, a man to whom the irony of the Emperor’s “safe and secure society” requiring not one but two weapons platforms named “Death Stars” is apparently lost.
The TIE Fighter Owners’ Workshop Manual is available now from Haynes