TIE fighters are fictional starfighters in the Star Wars universe. Propelled by Twin Ion Engines (hence the TIE acronym), TIE fighters are depicted as fast, fragile starfighters produced by Sienar Fleet Systems for the Galactic Empire. TIE fighters and other TIE craft appear in the original Star Wars trilogy—Episode IV: A New Hope (1977), Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980), and Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983)—and throughout the Star Wars Expanded Universe. Several TIE fighter replicas and toys, as well as a TIE flight simulator, have been released 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 A New Hope. Initially given a blue color scheme, the TIE fighter models for the first Star Wars movie were grey to better film against a bluescreen; TIE fighters in the next two movies 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 X-wings in A New Hope were meant to be reminiscent of World War II dogfight footage; editors used World War II air combat clips as placeholders while Industrial Light and Magic completed the movie's special effects. The Jedi starfighter, created for Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, was designed to bridge the appearance of the Jedi starfighter in Episode II: Attack of the Clones 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 in Star Wars: Legacy, set 130 years after the events of A New Hope, to appear both reminiscent of and more advanced than the original TIE fighter.
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. Although Expanded Universe material often describes the TIE fighter as lacking an ejection seat, the player can eject from TIE craft in LucasArts' TIE Fighter flight simulator. 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 properly equip said craft.
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 A New Hope. ILM gave it a design different from the other TIE fighters to make it instantly recognizable. The next movie, 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.
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 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 A New Hope 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.
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 1994, LucasArts released the TIE Fighter flight simulator, which casts the player as an Imperial pilot flying a variety of TIE starfighters. TIE starfighter variants are also playable in Star Wars: Battlefront II and appear in other LucasArts Star Wars titles. 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.
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