Thanks to the tireless work of some German agents, some early pages from a tie-in book to the upcoming Rogue One movie have been smuggled out, and they’re full of exciting things, including two new spaceship designs. Since many Bothans/Germans died to get us this information (I’m assuming), the least I can do is scrutinize the hell out of it.
I want to focus on the two revealed spaceships here: one Rebel, one Imperial. Since Rogue One takes place right before the events of the original 1977 Star Wars, we know that these craft would have been contemporaries with the now-iconic spaceships we all know and love from the movie that started it all, and there are some pretty clear similarities and familial resemblances with these new ships and the ones we’re familiar with.
Here’s the two spacecraft: the Rebel starfighter called a U-Wing, and the Imperial TIE Striker:
Let’s start with the TIE Striker first, since I have a pretty strong opinion about the TIE Fighter it’s related to; specifically, it sucks. The TIE Striker actually seems to address my biggest concerns with the TIE Fighter, and, from what I can tell based on this one diagram, seems like a better-designed vehicle.
Of course, the goals of each of the craft are different, which likely is the reason for their diverging design.
The Fighter is designed for in-space dogfighting against maneuverable Rebel starfighters, and the Striker seems to be designed to attack ground forces and installations from the air, or possibly attack larger capital ships in space.
They’re both clearly built from the same fundamental principles and share a lot of distinct parts from the common Sienar Fleet Systems parts bin, most obviously that octagonal forward window-assembly. I think Sienar probably got their start making ornamental greenhouses and gazebos, and that’s where that design came from.
One basic structure is common to the TIE family: a central, round-cross-sectioned hull, flanked by a pair of solar panel/heat radiator units. Both the Striker and Fighter share this design (and, presumably, the Twin Ion Engines from which they get their name) but the way these elements are handled is fairly different.
The TIE Fighter is built along the lines of an eyeball sandwich, while the TIE Striker seems to be more of a fixed-wing bat. The big issues with the TIE Fighter—the extreme lack of usable volume and the huge blinders on either side—look to be mitigated in the Striker.
The Striker seems to address the almost absurdly tiny volume of the TIE Fighter by extending the central hull, making a stubby cylinder instead of a tiny sphere. This should allow far more room for not just the pilot, but for fuel, weaponry, life support, and all manner of other equipment, hopefully giving the Striker a much more usable effective range, and greater safety for its expensive-to-train pilot.
The solar panel/heat radiator ‘wings’ are now sharply angled from the vertical and look like they’ll block far less lateral viewing (maybe the Fighter has some camera setup?) and they’ll be much more usable in an atmosphere, where the pilot won’t have to constantly be fighting crosswinds against the two sails they’re stuck between like on the Fighter.
The diagram also points out something called an “Aviation Regulator,” a cylinder mounted to the upper edge of one (maybe both?) of the wings. That name sounds like a tiny guy with a clipboard, tie, and FAA badge should be in there, but I’m guessing that’s not the case.
Overall, I think this looks like a better variant of the TIE than the Fighter we all know, and I suspect it was more expensive, which is why its advantages weren’t employed for the almost-disposable TIE Fighter design.
Now, let’s look at what the Rebels have: another letter. Those guys love naming their spaceships after how they sort of resemble letters in a language that they’re not supposed to even know about, which is weird, right? It’s not like we call C-clamps or U-joints whatever the Klingon letter that sort of looks like a C or U is, after all.
Speaking of U, the Rebels’ new-to-us space fighter is called the U-Wing because, yes, it’s sort of U-shaped, when viewed from above. Really, it’s more like a two-tonged fork, but I get the idea.
In the same way that the TIE Striker shared a lot of parts and design vocabulary with the TIE Fighter, you can see a lot of similar parts and design between Incom’s T-65B X-wing design and the U-Wing.
The engines, cockpit canopy, and overall long-nose design philosophy are clearly related to the X-Wing. Actually, even more than the X-Wing, the U-Wing appears to have a lot in common with the less celebrated Y-Wing.
Look at the two of them here; the entire cockpit module seems like a modification of the Y-Wing’s module. The U-Wing appears to have a hyperdrive at the rear, much like its X- and Y-Wing counterparts, and that fits with the less-centralized principles of the Rebellion, as well.
The U-Wing in profile looks to have a surprisingly big belly; it almost appears to be pregnant. It’s a little surprising to see in the diagrams, because the underbelly is basically hidden by the U-wings in the 3/4 view. This could hint at the role of the U-Wing: is it a personnel carrier? A heavily armed and armored cargo ship?
I’m guessing that the U-Wing is designed as a sort of multi-purpose utility/fighting craft. It’s a lot like a an X-Wing’s quad-engine array mounted to a Y-Wings cockpit and twin-laser cannon unit, with a big cargo box slung underneath.
It could be used to haul people and/or equipment out of dangerous areas, and, I suspect that when unladen, it could be a formidable dogfighter. Perhaps that whole lower bay is modular, and can be removed for dogfighting duty, or easily swapped for people or cargo or whatever?
Logistically, that would be great– cargo or passenger modules could be prepped and loaded somewhere safe, a U-Wing could swoop down, dock with the belly module, and head out. Sort of like a space attack/cargo helicopter. This thing could be the backbone of the Rebel’s logistics and supply operation!
One thing that puzzles me, though, are the things that give the U-Wing its name, those two long aerodynamic-looking prongs. Do they have some aero function in an atmosphere? They seem like they’d be useless in space, and they just make the whole thing take up much more room than it would have to. Are they fuel tanks? I really have no idea.
Also puzzling: where’s the astromech droid? While not all Rebel fighters used them (X and Y-Wings did, A and B-Wings that look like they should be F-Wings do not), I’ll admit I wanted there to be a place for my favorite bits of Star Wars hardware.
Overall, these seem like a pair of great additions to these iconic fleets, and they’re designed so well that George Lucas could probably slip them into a BluRay re-release of the original movies without anyone noticing.
Except, of course, everyone would, and they’d pitch a fit. But not because the ships’ design wouldn’t make sense, just because leave the damn movies alone already, George.