Star Destroyers are capital ships in the fictional Star Wars universe. The Imperial Star Destroyer, which first appears in the first seconds of Star Wars (1977), is "the signature vessel of the Imperial fleet". The term "Star Destroyer" also refers to other vessels in the franchise.
Numerous Star Destroyer models and toys have been released, and iconic scene featuring the vessel's first appearance has been called a milestone in special effects history.
Concept and design
In draft scripts for the film that would become Star Wars, the term "Stardestroyer" refers to two-man fighters flown by what would become the Galactic Empire. The film's second draft features four Star Destroyers chasing a single Rebel ship, but the tremendous costs incurred by Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) when production began helped lead Lucas to use a single "terrifyingly large" Star Destroyer instead of four. ILM built a 91-centimeter (36 in) shooting model that was about half the size of the model for the Tantive IV the Star Destroyer was chasing. Lucas asked ILM to build a larger Star Destroyer model to match the Tantive IV's scale, but ILM convinced him that the Dykstraflex camera invented for the film made this unnecessary. Nevertheless, they added additional hull details to the Star Destroyer model. The 13-second opening shot was the first special effects piece ILM completed, and its success was an essential test for the Dykstraflex.
ILM built a 259-centimeter (102 in) Star Destroyer, equipped with internal lighting to provide a better sense of scale, for The Empire Strikes Back (1980). During production, Lucas decided that every Star Wars film would open in space with a shot of a Star Destroyer. The Empire Strikes Back also introduces the "Super Star Destroyer", also referred to as a "Star Dreadnought". The shooting model for the Super Star Destroyer Executor in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi was 282 centimeters (111 in) long.
The design of the Venator-class Star Destroyers appearing in Revenge of the Sith (2005) are meant to bridge the appearance of the Acclamator-class transports in Attack of the Clones (2002) and the Imperial class in the original trilogy.
Films and television
The iconic Star Destroyer first appears in the opening scene of Star Wars, chasing the Tantive IV. This appearance shows the Imperial ship's massive size in comparison to the Tantive IV. Imperial-class Star Destroyers appear not only throughout the original trilogy, but also in Star Wars Rebels and Rogue One (2016). Rey scavenges materiel from a crashed Imperial-class Star Destroyer in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015).
The original trilogy also feature a massive Super Star Destroyer that serves as Darth Vader's flagship in The Empire Strikes Back and is the Imperial command ship at the climax of Return of the Jedi. Rey pilots the Millennium Falcon through the wreckage of a crashed Super Star Destroyer during a chase scene in The Force Awakens.
Other Star Destroyer varieties appear in the Star Wars prequel and sequel films. Star Wars creator George Lucas calls the cigar-shaped Separatist cruisers visible at the beginning of Revenge of the Sith "Star Destroyers" in the movie's DVD commentary track. Venator-class Star Destroyers are introduced in Revenge of the Sith and later appear throughout Star Wars: The Clone Wars. The Venator-class ships initially appear with a red and grey Republic color scheme in Revenge of the Sith; the Venator at the film's end is gray and white, signifying the Empire's rise to power.
The Force Awakens introduces the Resurgent class of Star Destroyers belonging to the First Order, one of which is commanded by Kylo Ren.
Star Wars Expanded Universe materials offer details about the Star Destroyers shown in Star Wars film and television, and they also introduce other varieties. The Empire had a dozen Super Star Destroyers in service during the time of the Battle of Endor, including Vader's Executor command ship. The final surviving Super Star Destroyer, the Ravager, is the vessel whose wreckage appears in The Force Awakens. The Ravager's crash onto Jakku is depicted in the game Star Wars Battlefront (2015).
Star Wars Legends
According to Star Wars roleplaying books and other texts, Imperial-class Star Destroyers are constructed by Kuat Drive Yards and hold a distinguished place in the Imperial Navy, symbolizing the Empire's military might with a peak number of more than 25,000 vessels. Like the Victory- and Venator-class ships that precede it, this Star Destroyer is notable for its massive size and overwhelming firepower; a single Imperial-class ship is capable of overwhelming most starships or devastating a hostile planet, and its mere presence is often enough to deter rebellion. At 1,600 meters (5,200 ft) long, Imperial-class Star Destroyers are armed with turbolasers, ion cannons and tractor beam projectors. They carry 72 TIE fighters, numerous ground forces (including stormtroopers, 20 AT-ATs and 30 AT-STs), a prefabricated base for rapid deployment to planetary surfaces, and a variety of support craft. After the Battle of Endor, the Rebel Alliance captured several Imperial-class ships and added them to their own fleet. Although the New Republic eventually upgrades its starfleet with newer ship types, the Imperial-class Star Destroyer remains in service well into the New Jedi Order era and fights during the Yuuzhan Vong War.
Kevin J. Anderson's novel Darksaber describes a Super Star Destroyer as being "worth twenty Imperial Star Destroyers". Described in A Guide to the Star Wars Universe (1984) as being 8 kilometers (5.0 mi) long, Executor-class Super Star Destroyers were later described as being 19 kilometers (12 mi) long. In addition to Vader's command ship, Star Wars novels introduce the prison ship Lusankya and stealth-armored Night Hammer as ships in the class.
The labels "Star Destroyer" and "Super Star Destroyer" are applied to several other massive Star Wars warships, such as the Pellaeon-class in the Legacy comic series (2006–2010), the reborn Emperor Palpatine's flagships Eclipse and Eclipse II in the Dark Empire series (1991–1995), and the Victory class first described in the early Star Wars novella Han Solo's Revenge (1979).
The Super Star Destroyer has also been merchandised. Kenner wanted to use a less ominous name than Executor for the toy playset of Darth Vader's meditation chamber. An advertisement agency's list of 153 alternatives included Starbase Malevolent, Black Coven, Haphaestus VII, and Cosmocurse; ultimately, the toy was labeled "Darth Vader's Star Destroyer". In 2006, Wizards of the Coast created an Executor miniature as part of its Star Wars Miniatures Starship Battles game. An electronic Super Star Destroyer toy released by Hasbro "is the rarest among Hasbro's Collector Fleet".
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