A pair of TIE fighters
|First appearance||Star Wars (1977)|
TIE fighters are fictional starfighters in the Star Wars universe. Propelled by twin ion engines (hence the TIE acronym), TIE fighters are fast, fragile starfighters produced by Sienar Fleet Systems for the Galactic Empire. TIE fighters and other TIE craft appear in Star Wars films, television shows, and throughout the Star Wars expanded universe. Several TIE fighter replicas and toys, as well as a TIE flight simulator, have been produced and sold by merchandise companies.
Origin and design
Industrial Light & Magic's (ILM) Colin Cantwell created the concept model that established the TIE fighter's ball-cockpit and hexagonal panels design for Star Wars (1977). Star Wars creator George Lucas liked the basic design consisting of two panels connected by a stick with a ball-shaped cockpit, but the Cantwell's concept had few details. Joe Johnston created additional details, such as the cockpit window and the attachment points between the solar panels and the hull.
Initially given a blue color scheme, the TIE fighter models for the first film were grey to better film against a bluescreen; TIE fighters in The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983) shifted back to being a muted blue. Sound designer Ben Burtt created the distinctive TIE fighter sound effect by combining an elephant call with a car driving on wet pavement. Combat scenes between TIE fighters and the Millennium Falcon and Rebel Alliance X-wing fighters in Star Wars were meant to be reminiscent of World War II dogfight footage; editors used World War II air combat clips as placeholders while Industrial Light & Magic completed the movie's special effects. Darth Vader's distinct TIE fighter in Star Wars was designed to make it instantly recognizable, and the TIE interceptors developed for Jedi were designed to look fast, deadly, and frightening.
The Jedi starfighter, created for Revenge of the Sith (2005), was designed to bridge the appearance of the Jedi starfighter in Attack of the Clones (2002) and the TIE fighter design from the original trilogy. The V-wing starfighter, seen at the end of Revenge of the Sith, also makes the distinctive TIE fighter sound when flying by a Star Destroyer. Dark Horse Comics' Sean Cooke designed the TIE predator for Star Wars: Legacy (2006), set 130 years after the events of Star Wars, to appear both reminiscent of and more advanced than the original TIE fighter.
Designers for The Force Awakens (2015) had numerous discussions about how much to "update" the TIE fighter for the first sequel film set 30 years after Return of the Jedi. They retained the starfighter's design but altered its aesthetic to suggest improvements to the vessel's manufacturing process and materials.
Star Wars literature states that Sienar Fleet Systems manufactures TIE fighters and most TIE variants. TIE fighters' solar panels power a twin ion engine (TIE) system that accelerates gases at a high speed along almost any vector, affording the ships tremendous speed and maneuverability. Described as lacking a hyperdrive, life support, or shield generators, the fragile TIE fighters are deployed in large numbers from bases or larger ships; a Star Destroyer carries a wing of 72 various TIE craft. Expanded Universe material holds that TIE fighter pilots, who undergo intense physical and psychological testing, are trained to be intensely loyal to Emperor Palpatine and the Empire, willing to sacrifice themselves and their wingmates to accomplish their mission. TIE pilots were seen as expendable assets, as it was far cheaper to manufacture a great deal of standardized spacecraft in overwhelming numbers than it was to fully equip the craft. Although Expanded Universe material often describes TIE fighters as lacking an ejection seat, the player can eject from TIE craft in LucasArts' TIE Fighter flight simulator. During the events of The Force Awakens, the First Order sees the value in its TIE pilots and equips its TIE fighters with shields to protect their occupants. A TIE fighter stolen by Poe Dameron and Finn in The Force Awakens has an ejection seat, allowing both characters to survive a crash.
Other TIE craft
In addition to the TIE fighter, a variety of other TIE craft appear throughout the films. Darth Vader flies a TIE Advanced in Star Wars. The Empire Strikes Back introduces a TIE shuttle and TIE bombers, which ferry Captain Needa (Michael Culver) to Darth Vader's Super Star Destroyer and bomb asteroids in the hunt for the Millennium Falcon, respectively. Both TIE craft have a design that stems from an unused "TIE boarding craft" concept developed for A New Hope. The TIE bomber's double-hull design led ILM's modelmakers to dub the ship a "double chili dog" fighter. TIE interceptors — faster TIE fighters with dagger-shaped wings and four laser cannons — appear at various points in Return of the Jedi. Two scales of TIE interceptor models were used during filming. The Force Awakens features TIE/FO starfighters that have deflector shields and special operations TIE/SF fighters with heavier weapons, a hyperdrive, and shields. "Flatter, fang-like" TIE Striker interceptors will appear in Rogue One (2016).
Additionally, LucasArts Star Wars video games introduce several TIE variants, such as the TIE Hunter starfighter in Rogue Squadron III and the TIE Mauler surface vehicle in Empire at War. The TIE Advanced (nicknamed "Avenger" in-game) and TIE Defender — heavily upgraded derivatives of previous craft seen in the Star Wars universe — first appear in TIE Fighter as player-pilotable craft. The plot of Rebel Assault II revolves around destroying the Empire's ability to manufacture the cloaking TIE Phantom starfighter, and a campaign in X-Wing Alliance centers on destroying experimental remote-controlled TIE fighters. Star Wars Rebels saw the introduction of another TIE Advanced model used by certain high-ranking Imperials.
Star Wars literature also introduces TIE varieties. Corran Horn flies a TIE clutch in I, Jedi and TIE raptors attack Rogue Squadron in Solo Command. TYE wings — TIE fighter and Y-wing hybrids — appear both in I, Jedi and Rogue Squadron: Masquerade. Dark Horse's Dark Empire introduces both the droid-piloted TIE/D and the TIE crawler "century tank". West End Games' roleplaying sourcebooks introduce varieties that include the TIE/fc fire-control support ship, the TIE/gt ground-attack fighter, the TIE/rc reconnaissance vessel, and the TIE scout.
A TIE fighter model used in filming the climax of Star Wars sold at auction for $350,000. Fans built a 16-foot-by-20-foot, 1,000-pound TIE fighter float to commemorate Star Wars' thirtieth anniversary as part of the 2007 Crystal Lake Gala Parade. A Wired editor's creation of a TIE fighter model out of Starbucks cups and stirrers prompted the magazine to create a contest for its readers to submit their own art out of similar Starbucks material. io9 mocked the variety of TIE fighters in the franchise, listing four TIE models on its list of the eleven "silliest" Star Wars ships.
Kenner released TIE fighter and TIE interceptor toys during the original Star Wars trilogy's theatrical release, and Kenner's die-cast TIE bomber is a rare collector's item. Hasbro also released TIE fighter, TIE bomber, and TIE interceptor toys. Both Kenner and Hasbro also manufactured TIE fighter pilot action figures. Lego manufactured TIE fighter, TIE bomber, TIE interceptor, TIE defender, and TIE advanced models. One of eight Lego mini-kit vehicles released in 2002 is a TIE advanced, and the pieces to all eight can be combined to create a TIE bomber. Lucasfilm members had access to a limited-edition mini-kit TIE fighter. Decipher and Wizards of the Coast published various TIE starfighter and TIE-related cards for the Star Wars Customizable Card Game and Star Wars Trading Card Game, respectively. In 2012, Fantasy Flight Games released Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game, a miniatures game with pre-painted and to scale miniature X-wings and TIE fighters. In 1994, LucasArts released the TIE Fighter flight simulator, which casts the player as an Imperial pilot flying a variety of TIE starfighters. TIE starfighters and their variants are also playable in third- or first-person spectives in several Star Wars titles.
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