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Hoth Revisited

[ 88 ] February 13, 2013 |

Danger Room has convened a symposium re-evaluating Imperial strategy and military performance at the Battle of Hoth. My own contribution was simply a translation (with the assistance of former Patterson School student Patrick Davey) of the evaluation of Captain Giage Gentis, professor of military history at the Imperial Naval Academy, and author of several books on Imperial history, including How Effective is a Death Star? and Wrong Clones: The Empire’s Deadly Rejection of the Fett Corps.

Take a look.

Comments (88)

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  1. Sly says:

    I think we can all agree that the Imperial Fleet came out of lightspeed too close to the system. Or at least we better agree.

    • JKTHs says:

      “Fat, drunk, and stupid is now way to go through life, Admiral Ozzel”

    • wengler says:

      TIE Bombers should’ve definitely finished off those ion cannons before the whole fleet showed up.

      • actor212 says:

        Ah, the ion cannon was protected by a separate power source, according to Wookiepedia.

      • Sly says:

        TIE Bombers don’t have hyperdrives, so they would have had to have been launched from a carrier.

        The point of exiting hyperspace outside sensor range was so that the Imperial fleet could launch bombers and use the asteroid field to mask their approach. Because of the probe droid, the Rebels knew to expect an attack, they just didn’t know when. Ozzel’s blunder told them when.

        • wengler says:

          Once again the problem of the Empire not having a small, nimble spacecraft for bombing or infiltration rears its ugly head.

          • actor212 says:

            Well, they had bounty hunters…

          • Murc says:

            You wouldn’t WANT a nimble spacecraft for bombing. The Y-Wing and B-Wing were the Alliance’s bombers and the former flew like a pig and the latter wasn’t a lot better. For your bomber you want something that can carry a shit-ton of ordnance and is well-armored and shielded. The TIE bomber wasn’t shielded, but it was pretty well armored.

            And they did have the Assault Gunboat.

            • Sly says:

              The problem was that the Empire had been operating under the Tarkin Doctrine for years, so expensive yet more durable multi-role fighters were deemed unnecessary. Threats to the Empire prior to the Rebel Alliance came from localized insurrections that could be countered by displays of overwhelming force; interstellar Shock and Awe, if you will.

              Yavin changed that substantially. More advanced fighters were in the works at the time of Hoth, but we’re still in the R&D phase.

              • Murc says:

                Well, the doctrine underlying the TIE fighters had nothing to do with the Tarkin Doctrine, really.

                The Empire has access to nearly limitless manpower. The TIE is designed to leverage that. It’s small. It’s modular. It’s cheap to build; I think the ratio is something like two entire squadrons of TIEs to a single X-Wing. (The Incom T-65 X-Wing is an amazing fighter but it’s a precision instrument that contains a LOT of expensive systems and requires a number of rare elements.) It’s easy and cheap to train people to use them, and you can really pack the things onto starships; they’re stored in enormous racks, like clothes on a hanger.

                The idea is that you can just swamp people with them. In fact, at the Academy, TIE pilots explicitly were not trained to fight equal or greater numbers of enemy fighters; it was assumed they would ALWAYS have numerical superiority.

                To be fair to the Empire, this doctrine actually worked great right up to the point they stopped having access to limitless manpower.

                • Sly says:

                  The military reforms in the Tarkin Doctrine involved more than the creation of the Death Star; it centralized military control into oversectors – groups that were not bound by existing political jurisdictions – and allowed the Empire to counter localized disturbances from a military hub. Instead of the decentralized order of battle used by the Republic, the Empire could rapidly deploy its forces into known problem systems and destroy the insurgency before it takes root and spreads.

                  The TIE Fighter fit that doctrine perfectly. It was cheap to produce, so an oversector could pour hundreds of them into individual systems at any given time and overwhelm local opposition, along with Star Destroyers that could easily besiege rebelling worlds. If the Death Star was the ultimate expression of the Tarkin Doctrine, the TIE Fighter served as the foundation.

                  Problem was that this kind of order of battle couldn’t handle an enemy that was more mobile than the Empire and, by the time of the Battle of Endor, the Rebels were an almost entirely mobile force.

                • Murc says:

                  The military reforms in the Tarkin Doctrine involved more than the creation of the Death Star; it centralized military control into oversectors – groups that were not bound by existing political jurisdictions – and allowed the Empire to counter localized disturbances from a military hub.

                  And that was by far the smartest part of the Tarkin Doctrine. It was a legitimately good idea.

                  The Alliance was exploiting existing sector boundaries to jump the county line, so to speak. If one Moff made a sector too hot to hold them, they’d jump into a neighboring one, where he couldn’t do shit about them without stepping on the toes of a different Moff. Centralizing control of problem areas under Grand Moffs made a lot of sense in that context.

                  You are certainly correct that the TIE fighter made such a doctrine even MORE attractive by its presence, but that was more or less an accident. The TIE was already the standard fighter before Tarkin had his brainstorm.

                  Problem was that this kind of order of battle couldn’t handle an enemy that was more mobile than the Empire and, by the time of the Battle of Endor, the Rebels were an almost entirely mobile force.

                  I would say that the primary strength of the Alliance was not its mobile nature, but its substantial support among the populace.

                  To be fair, being highly mobile was not only an advantage (and a necessary one) but the Alliance ultimately had to defeat the Empire in conventional battle. What they did was the equivalent of, say, militiamen running around in Idaho getting Raytheon to produce weapons for them. (That’s basically where the B-Wing came from.) It was rather impressive.

                • Sly says:

                  You are certainly correct that the TIE fighter made such a doctrine even MORE attractive by its presence, but that was more or less an accident. The TIE was already the standard fighter before Tarkin had his brainstorm.

                  I wouldn’t be so sure.

                  Tarkin was overseeing construction of the first Death Star at the end of RotS, which means he was already a Moff and had developed the Tarkin Doctrine (it was the development of this doctrine that got him promoted). And the TIE began becoming the mainstay of the Navy sometime after this (the standard Republic fighter was the V-Wing, which you can see escorting Palpatine’s shuttle at the end of RotS). So it is entirely conceivable that the TIE/LN was developed to suit the needs of the Doctrine and not the other way around. Their were older TIE models, of course, but the LN was the first one developed for general military use.

                  I would say that the primary strength of the Alliance was not its mobile nature, but its substantial support among the populace.

                  That actually contributes to their mobility. The Alliance survived off of its connections in the civilian and corporate world. The first non-human race to join the Alliance were the Mon Calamari, and it was their cruisers that allowed them to become a fully mobile force.

                • Derek says:

                  I always had a problem with the idea that Imperial state terrorism was somehow Tarkin’s idea. Like maintaining control by murdering the fuck out of everyone who crosses you doesn’t come naturally to a Sith.

                  It seems to me that Tarkin just added expensive melodrama. Why kill everything on the surface, when you can blow the planet up. At ten thousand times the price.

                • actor212 says:

                  Can I just say that I’m having a nerdgasm here?

            • Wrye says:

              As an aside, I realize the Y-Wing is the Me-110 of the Battle of Yavin, but I’ve always had an affection for the design. Here’s what’s always made me wonder: if I recall correctly, we see only 3 surviving fighters plus the Falcon escaping the battle. 2 X-Wings and a Y-Wing. We know that the Red pilots are Luke and Wedge. Who the hell is the surviving Gold pilot? Was he (I don’t think we see any female pilots in the original) just that good, or that lucky? Was he hanging back the whole time or was he single-handedly occupying the Death Star’s defences while the remnants of Red squadron make their final run?

      • Murc says:

        Where would they have come from, tho? At least part of the fleet would have had to drop out of hyper in order to launch the bombers.

  2. Incontinentia Buttocks says:

    If only the Empire had employed COIN doctrine!

  3. Todd says:

    I’ll just wait for Mel Gibson to remake this battle into an epic film in a really historically accurate way.

  4. Njorl says:

    The Empire was doing fine at Hoth until they decided to leave the assault on the Tora Bora ice cave complex to locals.

  5. Murc says:

    Speaking as someone who is a giant Star Wars nerd, that analysis of the Battle of Hoth is riddled with errors. It assumes a whole boatload of facts not in evidence (including a number that are just flat-out wrong) and then bases its analyses on those faulty assumptions.

  6. actor212 says:

    But isn’t the imperial strategy at Hoth designed to disrupt the reformation of the rebellion after the Yavin moon incident? It’s like chasing a terror group: yes, the ultimate goal is to dismantle the network, but the best way to do this is to disrupt it, force it to make mistakes.

    One way we can tell the goal of Hoth was not to strike the death blow against the rebellion was that, well, Vader was sent, not the Emperor.

  7. Count me among those who say that Vader botched Hoth on purpose in the service of his ultimate goal of capturing Luke. A couple of the linked pieces mention the lack of air superiority during the ground assault, but since Vader knows Luke is one of the rebellion’s best pilots he surely would’ve wanted no Imperial air cover that could’ve shot down and killed his main objective. AT-ATs are ludicrously defenseless against fighter-bombers, and it seems likely that they wouldn’t have scored a single kill if not for the Rebels bizarre insistence on flying straight at them, so Luke (great pilot) vs. AT-ATs (no AA) is a gamble Vader should be willing to make. He can blame all the failures on subordinates who he can then strangle to cover his tracks (how do we know that Vader didn’t issue a private order for the fleet to come out of light speed that close to the system?).

    Vader probably didn’t plan on Skywalker escaping, but he knows he’s going to grab a boatload of prisoners and documents that will allow him to continue the pursuit. Having Luke’s friends all stash themselves on the same ship was just a fortunate bonus of war that sped up the whole process. Pre-Hoth, Vader’s priorities are like so:

    1. Capture Skywalker.
    1b. If Skywalker cannot be captured, make the battle as safe as possible for him.
    2. Inflict maximum casualties and damage on supporting rebel forces.

    He got 1b and 2, while giving himself a leg up on the eventual completion of 1 at the cost of a few easily replaceable senior officers, a half dozen AT-ATs, and a few temporarily disabled Star Destroyers. That’s a deal any commander should take.

    • Scott P. says:

      But those goals were different than the Emperor’s, so it seems as though you are arriving at Ackerman’s conclusion that putting Vader in command was a mistake, just via a different route.

    • wengler says:

      Vader’s first priority should have been the capture or killing of the political leadership of the Rebel Alliance, of which Luke was not really a part. Mon Mothma and Princess Leia should’ve been top Imperial objectives.

      • actor212 says:

        Was Mon Mothma even at Hoth?

        • wengler says:

          That’s the problem. The Empire doesn’t even know where the primary Rebel base is. Their intelligence is awful.

        • Murc says:

          She was not.

          Mon Mothma was constantly on the move, usually safely in the bowels of a Star Cruiser. She was always going somewhere to meet with people to get them to join the Alliance or make decisions on strategy or whatnot. It was, if I recall correctly, doctrine that Mon Mothma and the rest of Alliance higher-ups (the Alliance attempted to maintain democratic norms; Mon Mothma was elected to her position by members of the alliance and in fact had to stand for re-election at least once during the Rebellion) were never to be planetside unless absolutely necessary, at least not all in one place; it was thought best to always be able to escape into hyper with them if necessary.

      • JKTHs says:

        I think the Rebel Alliance was a secondary concern. Once you have Vader AND Luke, it’s pretty easy to fuck them up.

        • actor212 says:

          Sith: There can be only two. Never more. Never less.

          Assuming the Emperor doesn’t die before Luke is turned (or Vader, for that matter) the struggle between those three would have given plenty of opportunities for the alliance to exploit.

          • actor212 says:

            And yes I know it’s “fewer” but who am I to argue with Yoda?

          • Malaclypse says:

            Sith: There can be only two. Never more. Never less.

            And that annoys me no end. Are you telling me nobody in the Empire has managed the basic sociological insight that Simmel had in discussing “The Dyad and the Triad”?

            • Murc says:

              The Rule of Two was actually a relatively recent innovation on the part of the Sith, and it would be discarded within a hundred years of Palpatine’s death.

              It makes a certain amount of sense within the cosmology. It was thought, with some evidence, that multiple Dark Side users made the Force noisier; harder to commune with and understanding. Since the goal of the Sith was complete understanding of the Dark Side, by which they hoped to attain true freedom, it made sense to keep the numbers low.

              Thus, the one master one apprentice system.

              • The Emperor’s anti-Hegelian doctrine was doomed anyway. You can ignore dialecticism, but in the end it’ll come back and getcha.

              • rea says:

                The Rule of Two was actually a relatively recent innovation on the part of the Sith, and it would be discarded within a hundred years of Palpatine’s death.

                As examination of the present-day Republican caucus demonstrates .. .

              • actor212 says:

                There’s a far more prosaic answer than that.

                Sith tended to kill other Sith. If you only had one apprentice, you only had to keep your eye on one threat.

                • Anonymous says:

                  Yes. You can (or should) be able to gauge the power of your protege and know when you need to kill him. If you have multiple apprentices, it is harder to know when they are a threat.

                  There could be brief periods with a third Sith, but the paranoia generated should result in the stronger killing one of the weaker, or the weaker realizing they must combine to kill the stronger.

          • Ian says:

            I thought Return of the Jedi told us that the Emperor’s plan was to kill Vader and replace him with Luke, or kill Luke and keep Vader if Luke refused to turn. Nothing there for the Rebellion to exploit.

            • actor212 says:

              There would have been a three-way struggle. Perhaps it would have sorted itself out immediately, but more likely not, and the “loser” would have slipped away and plotted.

              If you abide by the logic that “there can be only two” implies some really nasty infighting, then a third Sith would upset the Dark Side’s balance, creating a chaotic situation and at the very least, a distraction.

          • SamR says:

            Well, there can only be two sith under the rule of 2, but obviously the Brotherhood of Darkness had a different belief system.

            • sharculese says:

              Which was sort of the point. The Brotherhood of Darkness illustrated the tendency of any Sith organization to plunge into internecine strife, and the solution was the rule of two- one master, and one apprentice who would eventually either rise up and become the new master or be struck down in the attempt.

          • Mark D'ski says:

            that was a rule of the Sith. Much like the Republican Sequester (which , apparently is now the Obama sequester). with only 3 known Sith (assuming Luke was turned) I sure that Palpatine could have dispensed with it.

            • actor212 says:

              I’m not sure. Remember, the implied rule of the Sith is that each Sith Lord will try to overthrow the one above him. If Vader saw the emperor was weakened by his battle with Luke (as he does, but in a different context) he’d have no qualms about utilizing the opportunity to kill Sidious and install himself as emperor.

              Likewise, if Sidious turns to defend himself against Vader, Darth Luke (so as not to confuse the issue) would attack and try to kill Sidious. Or Vader.

              Indeed, about the only pairing that makes sense as an alliance is Vader/Skywalker, but even there, they’d have to sort out who would be master and who apprentice after destroying Sidious. And neither would be able to fully trust the other’s allegiances.

    • actor212 says:

      AT-ATs are ludicrously defenseless against fighter-bombers

      But great against snowspeeders which are the equivalent of pitting gnats against a HumVee. The speeders had a harpoon. There were no bombers. The AT-ATs had effective long-range ion cannons which meant the empire could avoid hand to hand shooting across a flat open expanse.

    • Murc says:

      A couple of the linked pieces mention the lack of air superiority during the ground assault, but since Vader knows Luke is one of the rebellion’s best pilots he surely would’ve wanted no Imperial air cover that could’ve shot down and killed his main objective.

      It’s worth nothing that TIE fighters are shit in an atmosphere.

      That’s usually not an issue, because typically speaking all the fighting that MATTERS happens in space.

      AT-ATs are ludicrously defenseless against fighter-bombers, and it seems likely that they wouldn’t have scored a single kill if not for the Rebels bizarre insistence on flying straight at them, so Luke (great pilot) vs. AT-ATs (no AA) is a gamble Vader should be willing to make.

      In fairness, the AT-AT is just a transport.

      It’s job is to be able to soak up a shit-ton of punishment and keep on lumbering toward its target, with its cargo of troops safe and sound inside it. Those chin guns it has aren’t weapons of assault; they exist to clear space while it disembarks troops.

    • Hanspeter says:

      Vader was unaware of who Luke really was until after Luke starts training with Yoda. Before that, Vader thought Luke was just an excellent pilot that had some Force skills. Capturing Luke didn’t become part of the plan until his holographic conversation with the Emperor.

      Also, the AT-ATs did pretty well in a firefight against the snowspeeders (which were actually originally designed for heavy cargo hauling). At least 4 are shown shot down on screen, with one done rather ‘acrobatically’ by the AT-AT (6:20 of this video). Not bad for an armored troop carrier.

      • Murc says:

        Vader was unaware of who Luke really was until after Luke starts training with Yoda.

        … that’s not true.

        Or if it is, it means Vader is dumb. Vader learned Luke’s name shortly after the Battle of Yavin. You think he brushed off the fact that the kid has the same last name as he did and that he was exactly the right age to have slid out of Padme and was raised by his old in-laws back on Tatooine as pure coincidence?

        • Hanspeter says:

          You’re right. I stupidly forgot that Vader was explicitly chasing Luke and by the time of ESB knew he was his son. However, there is no evidence I could find that Vader knew Luke was a real Force threat and/or convertable Force ally by the time of Hoth. If Luke’s power was that great, presumably Vader would have sensed it both during the Death Star escape and at the Battle of Yavin, but his only thought was that the Force was strong in him. The first mention by the Empire of Luke’s real Force potential is during the Vader/Emperor conversation.

          So I change my earlier statement to

          Capturing Luke for his Force skills didn’t become part of the plan until his holographic conversation with the Emperor.

          • Dirk Gently says:

            It depends on whether you go with the original holographic conversation, or the special-special edition on the DVD’s and BluRay. In the original, he knows. In the latter, Palpatine tells him, and Vader says, “How…is that possible?” Lucas’ tinkering ensures that this particular debate over strategy is fucked.

        • NonyNony says:

          Or if it is, it means Vader is dumb. Vader learned Luke’s name shortly after the Battle of Yavin. You think he brushed off the fact that the kid has the same last name as he did and that he was exactly the right age to have slid out of Padme and was raised by his old in-laws back on Tatooine as pure coincidence?

          Perhaps he didn’t think that Obi-Wan was such a freaking moron that he would try to “hide” his son by putting him with Vader’s stepbrother, telling him that his father was Anakin Skywalker, and not giving him a heads up that his father was the mass murderer who had killed more Jedi than anyone else in the galaxy.

          I mean he probably should have, given who trained Obi-Wan. But I think he could have just as easily have assumed that some kid was using the Skywalker name to mess with him.

          • actor212 says:

            First, remember that Padme was still “pregnant” at her funeral, which would have been highly visible even on Coruscant. Vader and Sidious could have been fooled into believing both children dead.

            It’s conceivable, altho the canon doesn’t discuss this, that “Skywalker” was a fairly common name in the Outer Rim. If Vader believed his offspring was dead, then yes, he might have ignored the coincidence.

            And if Vader, who must have visited Tatooine to mourn his mother at some point, spied on his family, it’s likely he would have known the name “Luke Owen,” which makes sense from a dad named Lars.

            Then of course there’s the line “Obi Wan was wise to hide you from me. Now his failure is complete,” which tells us that Skywalker is a complete surprise to Vader and the Emperor.

            The Force itself is not what a Jedi/Sith senses when he says “The Force is strong,” but the ability to manipulate the Force, to alter the flow of it. Until Luke actually started using the Force (e.g. training) then there’s no real way for Vader to know he even exists, much less his full potential.

            So yea, he could have been hidden in plain sight easily and safely.

            Now, if you really want to bend your noodle, think about this proposition: Luke was a sacrificial lamb, the public twin who could be killed keeping Leia in reserve.

            • JSC_ltd says:

              Then of course there’s the line “Obi Wan was wise to hide you from me. Now his failure is complete,” which tells us that Skywalker is a complete surprise to Vader and the Emperor.

              The line is actually, “Obi Was was wise to hide her from me,” referring, of course, to Leia. That spurs Luke to attack recklessly and in anger, forcing us to consider for a moment (if we are watching VI after III) whether Luke might very well flip to the Dark Side.

              • actor212 says:

                Point taken.

                The credits for V…and yes, I’ve spent way too much of my work day looking for evidence here…mention Vader obsessed with searching for Luke, which could be merely in revenge for the Death Star or because he’s discovered the truth about Luke.

                The interesting thing, the real scripting screw up, is that Vader has no reaction when he realizes the Emperor lied to him about the killing of Padme (after all, if she’s dead, she can’t exactly give birth unless they managed to fly a medbot in undetected while he and Obi Wan were battling.)

    • Dave says:

      This, completely. Vader says, when the drones find something on Hoth, “Skywalker is there”. He’s consumed with Luke even since he tried to shoot him down at the end of Star Wars. I fleshed this out a while back here if you want a longer explanation: http://davesverse.blogspot.com/2011/06/why-attack-rebels-on-hoth.html

  8. wengler says:

    I don’t think the Empire’s performance was so horrible at Hoth. Remember, the Rebel Alliance started evacuating as soon as they discovered the Imperial probe. There were able to catch a fair amount of rebel forces on the ground and capture and kill a number of skilled pilots, of which the Rebel Alliance doesn’t have a whole lot of(proven when they let some farm kid with no military experience pilot one of their most expensive military fighters at Yavin).

    If anything the Empire has problems with the design of their military vehicles. Their Star Destroyers are too big, slow and unshielded against ion damage. Their AT-ATs have the same deficit and are prone to failing against very simple tether attacks. The AT-STs can’t even stand up to drug-addled carebears with logs.

    Admiral Thrawn or whoever designs these things needs some of the ol’ force choke to get someone more competent in charge.

    • actor212 says:

      So basically, it was asymmetric warfare at its finest.

      • wengler says:

        Basically. The Empire needed to reassert authority after their stunning defeat and the destruction of their most lethal weapon. Suddenly every person who had ever taken a trip to Alderaan or known someone from there thinks they can stand up successfully against their local stormtrooper garrison and take revenge for the act of planetary destruction. Every teenage boy thinks they can now blow up a fucking megaweapon the size of a small moon. The Empire needed to bring down the jackboot as quickly as possible. And they failed.

        • actor212 says:

          When you stop and think, it’s a pretty decent metaphor for Viet Nam (I would have gone later, but we’re talking about the mid to late 70s here). Sure, someone will toss his weight around, but they’re never going to get the head of the snake unless they get boots on the ground and engage the enemy on their own tactics, successfully.

    • wjts says:

      There were able to catch a fair amount of rebel forces on the ground and capture and kill a number of skilled pilots, of which the Rebel Alliance doesn’t have a whole lot of(proven when they let some farm kid with no military experience pilot one of their most expensive military fighters at Yavin).

      Although it’s not really shown in the movie, I’d imagine that the attack on Hoth probably forced the Rebels to abandon a fairly sizable amount of materiel during the evacuation. That’s not nothing either.

    • Murc says:

      If anything the Empire has problems with the design of their military vehicles. Their Star Destroyers are too big, slow and unshielded against ion damage.

      The Imperial-class Star Destroyer isn’t meant to be nimble. It’s a siege weapon, the ultimate combination of a carrier and a battleship. It is designed to anchor the main imperial line of battle and to serve as a mobile siege station during planetary assaults. It preforms both of those roles admirably; it could outfight anything the Alliance had, including Star Cruisers. Early iterations of it were, however, vulnerable to a concerted assault by starfighters; in particular, their shield generators were located on top of the bridge superstructure and could be targeted and destroyed.

      For smaller, nimbler ships, the Empire had the Victory-class Star Destroyer and the Nebulon-B class frigate, as well as Lancer-class frigate and the Carrack-class light cruiser.

      As far as their vulnerability to ion cannon goes, all ships had that; it was hardly unique to a Star Destroyer. However, it is worth nothing that ion cannons were slow-firing, hard to aim, power hogs.

      And the one featured on Hoth was no ordinary ion cannon. That was a Kuat Drive Yards v-150 Planet Defender. The KDY-v150 was a highly advanced siege emplacement that couldn’t be mounted on a starship; it drew a fuckton of power, only providable by a fixed surface emplacement, and could blow right through the shields of damn near anything in space that wasn’t the Executor. It was designed to keep ships like Star Destroyers out of bombardment range of planets.

      • Derek says:

        You give the Imperial-class far too much credit as effective space combatants. Not having point defenses against fighters and missiles is criminally stupid in a Galaxy where these have been staples of space combat for millenia. True, Lancers and the like could make up the gap, but they often weren’t available because Impstars were produced in much greater numbers. Besides which, point defenses are most effective when they’re at the point being defended. Particularly when that means being covered by the strongest shields in the fleet.

        That’s not to say they’re badly designed, merely that space combat is very far down their list of priorities. The Empire wasn’t concerned about external security threats, and didn’t think it would have to wage large space battles. It did, however, have quite a large demand for planetary-scale state terrorism (which Impstars could perform at several orders of magnitude less cost than Tarkin’s Folly).

        Overall, Impstars are monitors first, amphibs second, battleships a distant third.

        • Murc says:

          You give the Imperial-class far too much credit as effective space combatants. Not having point defenses against fighters and missiles is criminally stupid in a Galaxy where these have been staples of space combat for millenia.

          The Imperial-class had point defenses; they took the form of the TIEs it carried. Putting a ton of quads on it would have removed space that could be used to fit in more turbolaser and heavy laser batteries, thus detracting from the primary role of the ship.

          That’s established doctrine, and it makes a certain amount of sense; you offload responsibility for defending your battlewagon from fighters to your own fighters. I would note that the Alliance followed this doctrine as well; the MC-80 Star Cruiser, the Alliances primary capital ship, also had no point defenses. It’s point defense took the form of the X-Wings it had in its belly.

          I will note that these ships weren’t DEVOID of integral point defense. They had ECM suites and were capable of dealing with torpedoes and space bombs in a number of ways. The Mark. II Imperial-class specifically had a couple concussion missile launcher dedicated to that work, I think. But the point stands that they were designed to either hammer on planets or hammer on other ships. Incorporating anti-starfighter weapons would have detracted from that.

          That’s not to say they’re badly designed, merely that space combat is very far down their list of priorities.

          Hmm. So, you’re making the case that effective of the Imperial-class in space combat was more of a happy accident than anything else?

          Because they were actually rather fearsome at it. They could dish out damage and also take it, and overmatched any other ship in the galaxy in a straight-up fight. Even in the case of an MC-80 achieving space superiority, it would abrade such ships starfighter strike capacity in the process that it would have nothing to fear from the remaining fighters.

          • Derek says:

            You have a point regarding the TIEs. Still, 72 fighters for a mile long ship isn’t a lot. The design emphasis is clearly on slugging it out with slow-moving targets. And the comparison to Home One isn’t quite fair, because those were designed to fight an Imperial Navy that the Rebels knew didn’t use fighters as an arm of decision. The TIE bomber threat wasn’t all that big a deal.

            So, you’re making the case that effective of the Imperial-class in space combat was more of a happy accident than anything else?

            Not quite an accident. Palpatine was more interested in state terrorism than fighting a peer competitor navy that didn’t exist. The Death Star alone proves that much. But he wanted ships quickly, which meant going to established yards (Kuat, Fondor, maybe some license produced in Corellia) and buying derivatives of established capital ships. And he wanted to keep the Mahanian brass happy, while still portraying a familiar Clone Wars face of the Navy to the public.

            All of which meant they ended up with a ship that still had some inherent space combat capability, even though that wasn’t its main purpose.

            I actually never got the sense that they were all that effective in combat. To be fair, though, a lot of that comes from a gut instinct that capital ships in general are a shitty idea in a fighter-heavy universe. And from the Rogue Squadron books.

      • wengler says:

        The Lancers are all right, but I’d rather have a Corellian gunship any day of the week. The Carrack light cruisers are shit though.

        • Murc says:

          Any reason why?

          The Carrack was an excellent light cruiser. It was extremely robust for a ship its size and packed a mammoth armament. They couldn’t stand in the line of battle, but they weren’t supposed to; they were screening elements. They were also excellent for patrol and recon duties. So, you know, they were superb at everything a CL is supposed to be superb at.

          And yeah, of course you’d generally want a Corellian Gunship over a Lancer in most situations. The DG20 was fast and heavily armed, an excellent raider, recon, or picket ship. The Lancer had only one job; to stick with the bigger ships and put up a fuck-ton of antifighter fire. It did that amazingly well but it was shit at anything else.

  9. Major Kong says:

    I always thought the rebel snowspeeders might have been somewhat inspired by B-52s, since they had tail gunners and used spoilers for roll control.

  10. Sly says:

    Great. Now I’m going to lose an entire night playing TIE Fighter.

    • Murc says:

      That game annoyed the hell out of me.

      Don’t get me wrong, I had hella fun. But after playing X-Wing, I was like “Okay, cool. Now I’m going to fly TIE fighters and Interceptors and Bombers and see how hard it is to not have shields while I try to splash Y-Wings.”

      And then you spend the entire game in these fancy showroom fighters fighting… other Imperial fighters.

      I was disappointed.

      • Sly says:

        That mostly owed to gaming conventions; it’s not exactly fun to be cannon fodder. Besides, TIE Fighter had a better story and mission structure than X-Wing or X-Wing: Alliance. The latter had various technical improvements, but TIE Fighter’s graphics were good enough for the era.

        The bigger problem is that there hasn’t been a great starfighter sim in 10 years.

    • wengler says:

      I still remember every single ship class from playing Star Wars:Rebellion as a teenager.

      It always made me wish that they had Bulwark Battlecruisers in the movies.

  11. mark f says:

    Awesome. Guess I’m not doing any work before lunch tomorrow.

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