Thanks for the A2A. I agree with what the others have said, especially Rahbar Al Haq and Mike Prinke.
In a dogfight, there is very little comparison. TIE fighters are more maneuverable – I agree with the others that your sources are wrong about that.
I’m gonna stop there, because in a universe where almost all space combat is conducted with guns, that is the critical factor: TIE fighters are more maneuverable. It might be different if X-wings were much, much faster than TIE fighters, but they aren’t – sources disagree on this, but at the very least the two fighters are nearly matched in speed, and some suggest that the TIE is slightly faster. Regardless, it’s clear that X-wings are not significantly faster than TIEs, and in that context, maneuverability wins.
Oh, sure, the X-wing has better armor, it has shields, and it has more cannon. All of that is absolutely true. But take a look at any X-wing vs. TIE fighter match-up on screen, and tell me that TIEs are under-gunned. Exhibit A:
Heck, can you tell me how many extra seconds of life that armor and those shields give an X-wing under fire from a TIE fighter? Does all that extra survivability translate to even one extra second of reaction time? It does not. The armor and shields might keep you alive from a glancing burst, and that’s not nothing. But when an X-wing gets caught, it’s dead. And they get caught often. How many times have you heard a Rebel pilot crying out in panic, “I can’t shake him!” or “Need a little help here?”
It’s worth emphasizing that this is true both at the “duel” level and in larger furballs. Unlike their Mitsubishi A6M Zero – Wikipedia real-world counterparts, TIEs have radios, which means the Rebel pilots don’t have any greater inherent ability to coordinate. A well-coordinated team flying inferior machines can beat a bunch of individuals, however talented, in superior machines. At the very least, superior coordination is its own weapon in a dogfight. But Imperial pilots aren’t any more or less able to coordinate than Rebel pilots. If anything, they’re more likely to have superior coordination, because they’re much more likely to have a mothership nearby that can serve the AWACS role.
What Rebel fighters do tend to have is superior pilots. However, as we see throughout Star Wars media, Rebel fighters get shot down pretty darn frequently. If the pilots we see on-screen happen to be veterans, that’s only because you don’t get to see the pilots who are already dead. By contrast, how many chances to die does a TIE pilot really have? As we see in media such as Rebels and Rogue One, and even A New Hope, the Rebel Alliance was never particularly big, and the Imperial war machine underwent a massive peacetime expansion.
So in your average TIE vs. X-wing matchup, the odds are that the X-wing pilot has survived more combat encounters than his TIE pilot counterpart. That’s not necessarily because he has the superior machine or even better odds of surviving any given encounter, though; it’s just that Rebel pilots have a much higher overall operational tempo than Imperial pilots. Any given Rebel pilot is going to be pushed much harder than any given Imperial pilot.
But the machines? TIE fighters are better than X-wings at dogfighting at all scales of conflict, no question.
Now, it is true that there are things X-wings can do that TIE fighters can’t. TIE fighters aren’t intended to blow up big targets, and they don’t have either the sensor package or the hyperdrive to permit long-range independent operations. You can’t send a TIE fighter to scout something outside of the current star system. You can’t send TIE fighters to blow up a large enemy ship, at least not easily. X-wings can do those things.
Why doesn’t the Empire care about that sort of capability? Well, first off, remember that they had just fought a very intense war in which hyperspace-capable fighters played a significant doctrinal role. Whether it was “generals” whose war engine of choice was the hyperspace-capable interceptor
or a navy whose main striking capability was built around carriers
in preference to battleships
the Imperial Navy had institutional experience with fighter-centric warfare. And they probably noticed that, despite the hundreds and hundreds of fighters their Venator squadrons could deploy, fleet actions still ended up with the capital ships having to slug it out, in engagements both small
Meanwhile, the Confederate Navy’s main striking power was built not around carriers like the Venators so beloved of the Republic Navy (and perhaps, particularly, by the Jedi) but rather around turbolaser-centric designs such as the Munificent
and the Recusant
while even their big Providence “carriers” were more heavily weighted in favor of turbolasers than starfighters
Following the war, the Imperial Navy seems to have decided that the Separatists had the right idea when it came to ship design. In terms of combat philosophy, the iconic Imperial class is more like an up-scaled Munificent than an iteration on the Venator. An Imperial star destroyer has very few starfighters, but it has lots of turbolasers, and they’re all gigantic.
And I don’t think it’s hard to see why. Even the Rebellion seems to prefer to deploy actual warships in support of its fighters whenever it can, and we almost never see swarms of Rebel fighters taking down Imperial warships all by themselves. This is true in Rogue One, and it’s true in Rebels, and it’s true throughout the original trilogy.
This is something that I think Star Wars fans tend to overlook. So much of Star Wars is “World War II in SPAAAAAAAACE” that we tend not to notice the places where it isn’t that. In World War II, carriers beat battleships decisively. Everybody knows the stories of great sorties of carrier-based aircraft sinking enemy ships many times their size, while their own side’s cruisers and battleships sat helpless over the horizon or their enemies’ cruisers and battleships fell to airborne torpedoes and bombs.
But Star Wars isn’t actually like that. Remember what happened at the Battle of Scarif in Rogue One? Yes, the Rebels managed to disable one Star Destroyer with an ion torpedo run. But that ion torpedo run was supported by Raddus’ entire fleet, which was actually slugging it out, and they still couldn’t actually destroy their disabled prey except by sacrificing a ship to ram it, and even the actual ramming didn’t destroy the Star Destroyer; they had to push it into a space station.
Star Destroyers, compared to Rebel starfighters, are incredibly tough. The Battle of Midway this ain’t.
You see the same thing in Rebels, in a slightly different way. Here, a prototype B-wing destroys an Arquitens light cruiser, which is the sort of image people like me (who grew up on X-Wing and TIE Fighter) are used to.
But notice the way it’s presented. The Rebels go in with all the bigger ships they can muster (not many, in this particular instance), even though they’re throwing corvettes against light cruisers. They don’t expect to be able to take on those Imperial light cruisers without the support of real starships. The Arquitens that the B-wing destroys is an old model, dating back to the middle of the Clone Wars. It’s not exactly a modern design. And Agent Kallus’ reaction isn’t, “Oh, well, that’s what happens when you let a bomber get a clean run on a warship.” No. He says, “That’s impossible.”
All this to say, the advantages of an X-wing’s versatility are sometimes … overstated. Yes, it’s literally more versatile than a TIE fighter. But what does that versatility actually get you? Can you throw a dozen X-wings at an Imperial space station and watch them trash it?
No. They just don’t have the firepower for that.
Once you acknowledge that you’re going to need to bring heavier firepower along anyway to engage all but the most vulnerable targets, then the TIE fighter’s specialization makes a lot more sense. Imagine if you were one of those X-wing pilots at the Battle of Scarif. You’re attacking a fairly hardened target this time, not bombing some helpless research facility.
To be fair, TIE fighters couldn’t have done this, not on their own. Versatility isn’t entirely useless.
But that’s okay! Because you have proton torpedoes. You have versatility.
And what happens when you unleash those proton torpedoes on that big fat space station? Absolutely nothing. If anything is taking down this target, it’s going to be those big, hyperspace-capable starships behind you.
At which point you realize you are sacrificing dogfighting capability for a hyperdrive and torpedo launchers that have earned you exactly zip. And by the way, there are dedicated enemy dogfighters up here hunting for your blood.
I imagine a lot of Rebel pilots felt that way throughout the war. Even if you wanted a hit-and-run raid, as a Rebel commander, you wanted to conduct it with starships as well as starfighters, which significantly reduces the military value of those hyperdrives and torpedoes. We’ve already seen how much value the shields have. The fact of the matter is that the Rebels used the last war’s starfighter doctrine because they had to. It wasn’t the more effective strategy. It was what they could afford.