TIE fighters are fictional starfighters in the Star Wars universe. Propelled by twin ion engines (hence the TIE acronym), TIE fighters are fast, agile, yet 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.
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 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 advanced X1 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 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. A TIE fighter consists of the absolute minimum necessary to function as a spacecraft, being essentially nothing more than a cockpit with an engine and weapons. 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. The First Order also upgraded the TIE fighter to have missiles and a co-pilot/gunner A TIE fighter stolen by Poe Dameron and Finn in The Force Awakens has an ejection seat, allowing both characters to survive a crash...
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