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Star Wars Geekdom 101 -Explaining The Empire

Zardnaar

Legend
Since the early days of the old legends EU the star wars fans have debated how a rag tag bunch of rebels managed to defeat the Empire. Even in the Return of the Jedi with the destruction of the Death Star and the super star destroyer Executor (Vaders flagship). Other debates revolve around why diod the Empire make crap fighters like the TIE fighter and Imperial Star Destroyers with so many flaws.

In the old legends continuity the Empire survived but it took another 15 years to defeat, while in the new cannon there was another battle at Jakku around a year after Endor where the Empire formally surrendered. Put simply people can't seem to comprehend how the powerful empire was defeated due to how big the imperial fleet was espciaically in the new cannon where the rebel fleet as seen at Endor is basically all of it at least with the large Mon Calamari star cruisers. Most of the things that caused the Empire to fall however have comparisons IRL.

1. Political Succession.
In all the Star Wars media the Emperor did not plan on having a political successor. In the old legends he planned to live forever while in the new one in the event of his fall Operation Cinder was going to burn the galaxy down. IRL real empires have fallen sometimes very fast when the leader has died. For example Alexander the Greats empire or the various Mongol empires or even Charlemagne empire. You need a clear and stable succession and the Empire lacked that.

2. The Empire was spread thin.
In the old legends the Imperial fleet had 25000 star destroyers (the rebels 6-20 Mon Cals), plus countless TIE fighters and smaller ships. However the Empire has around 1-1.5 million worlds + 50+ million colonies. Not all of the worlds require a military presence but that is 1 Star Destroyer for every 40-60 odd major worlds and things like Cloud City are a colony. The Empire massed 30 odd Star Destroyers at Endor which is roughly a sector fleet that means over 1000 worlds did not have ISDs that could be used to suppress them. This leads to.

3. The TIE fighter. In the movies TIE fighters are basically fodder and in most games and RPGs they are also fodder. They are outclassed by the old clone Wars vintage ARC 170's and the new X-Wings. The empire is rich why did they build a crap fighter? A real life example is the Japanese Zero which was designed to be very light due to a lack of resources. See the previous point about the Empire being spread thin. The Empire did design better fighters (TIE Interceptor, TIE Advanced in the movies, TIE Avenger+ Defender+ others in Rebels and the old EU). However you an have 5 TIEs for every TIE defender or you can have 3 of them for every 2 TIE interceptors. They were already spread thin and producing TIE Defenders instead means 80% less TIEs which could mean somewhere between 40-80% less systems. Additionally after the clone wars who was left to fight? The rebels were small later on and if the TIE fighter was a Zero the X-Wing was a Mustang or F4 Corsair.

4. The Imperial Star Destroyer (ISD I and ISD II)
The ISDs have a lot of firepower but they also have a few design flaws such as the underside of the ship, a lack of point defence (AA guns), and exposed bridge and shield generators. In the old EU they were known for having lots of mechanical flaws as well. They were also quite tough and as I said they have a lot of firepower. This doesn't mean the empire was stupid however, consider the clone wars. The ISD is designed for the Star Wars equivalent of Jutland while the Rebels are the Star Wars equivalent of the Viet Cong. For much of the same reasons the US toys like the Abrams and F-35 would be fine in a conventional war those days are mostly past us IRL, while in Star Wars the empire designed its ships for fighting other capital ships and/or slagging and intimidating planets. And in the aftermath of the Clone Wars this was perfectly sensible.

5. Political Fragmentation.
In both the new canon and the old canon the Empire fragments. This would be comparable to the collapse of the Soviet Union which lost 80% of its MiG 29's either to the new countries due to the fragmentation or due to things like a lack of money to maintain what they had. The USSR had no wars comparable to the Star Wars universe in the 19809's/90's but the Empire in the old legends did suffer form mass desertion, fleets going rogue (the warlords) and mass surrenders and defections to the New Republic.

6. Economics. To fund the imperial build up taxes and exploitation were heavy in the Empire falling especially hard on the Outer Rim world. With the defeat at Endor a lot of worlds rose up in revolt or were otherwise unavailable to the remaining Imperial authorities. The old legends touched briefly on this as things like new ships, TIEs and recruits became very scarce and even the Warlords were mostly using up the imperial arsenal or plundering worlds to build a few new ships. Some SSD were actually mothballed due to this (lack of crews) while other fleets more mostly used on the defensive perhaps due to a lack of fuel if they used up what they had on offensive operations. By the Thrawn Trilogy even his core fleets ISDs did not all have a full load of TIEs.

So what should the Empire have done? Its easy to criticise being but alot of the decisions the Empire made were actually rational, they just guessed wrong in terms of what they would have to face and to much power was tied up in the Emperor and Vader. Even IRL nations have duplicated the decisions that in universe the empire made. For example the imperial ships were more like Zeros and British capital ships while the Rebel ships were more like US and Imperial German ships. Also see the British battlecruiser theory- speed, firepower, armor what do you focus on? Well the Empire should probably have built less ISDs and replacing them with smaller ships and not build Super Star Destroyers and the Death Stars at all. They did have some excellent ship designs such as the Lancer frigate (AA screen), and the strike cruiser (fast heavy cruiser equivalent), and the Victory Star Destroyer II. A lot of those ships could have done the same job and done it cheaper. For example for the same price you can have 3 Victory Star Destroyers with less than half the crew of an ISD, or you can build around 6 strike cruisers with half the crew requirements of an ISD. Some of the smaller imperial ships also have a faster hyperdrive than the ISD's which would lend themselves to an emergency fire fighting mobile reserve.

Realistically you would also need to build the same number of TIE fighters, but you do keep a few higher priced models around, maybe not TIE defenders (which are F-35/F-22 equivalents read expensive) but things like shield equipped TIE interceptors (Thrawns innovation), and cheaper TIE Avengers and TIE Advanced can match an X-Wing. Even if they did not have a hyperdrive you could put them on smaller ships like the Strike Cruisers and Victories and respond to rebel strikes much quicker and 2-3 Victories are just as good as an ISD for terrorising a planet. The smaller ships are cheaper and if you don't build the dozen or so SSD they did build let alone the Death Stars the cheaper smaller ships+better TIEs do become affordable. You also free up a lot of crews using the smaller ships. You actually don't need the ISDs at all but that is using hindsight and they were developed and were going to be built regardless I would just scale their production back a bit but even then if you tuck with them by not building the Death Stars and SSD class you would have enough resources left over to fix the Imperial Navy vs any potential foe including unconventional warfare.
 
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jonesy

A Wicked Kendragon
So what should the Empire have done?
You talked about the logistics of the Empire warmachine. I've sometimes wondered about another angle of the whole shebang. Why was it necessary for the empire to become evil? What was Palpatine's endgame plan? He was perfectly happy playing a good guy up to a certain point to gain control, but then when he finally has the control he throws the disguise away and starts blowing the galaxy up? I get the part about getting rid of the Jedi since they were his ideological enemies, but why harass everyone else as well? Why couldn't he just frame the Jedi to remove them, and once done normalize the situation? Without "The Emperor" there would have been no Rebellion either. Where was Order 67, a.k.a Let's Pretend The Empire Is Your Best Friend?
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
Was the Empire Evil?

It was certainly draconian, and I can see that arising as a consequence of trying to maintain order across all the diverse planets and peoples of the Galaxy.

Now, it does appear that the Empire was Humanocentric and I do wonder if the 'evil' aspect of the Empires expansion was them forcing non-human species out to the fringes while promoting Human colonisation
 

Dioltach

Legend
Was the Empire Evil?

Well, they built the Death Star. Not only that, they actually called it the Death Star. No pretense that it was anything but a weapon of mass destruction and intimidation: they didn't call it the Peace Moon, or the Mobile Defence Unit, or the Emperor Palpatine's Silver Jubilee Space Station.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
Death Star - Space Force - Fat Boy, sometimes the popular names used by Politicians arent all that well thought out :)
 

Aeson

Hero
There was an alien only bioweapon created during the Emperor's time but not deployed. that seems pretty evil.
 

jonesy

A Wicked Kendragon
Emperor Palpatine's Silver Jubilee Space Station
"Any dance challenge made by the Rebels against this station would be a useless gesture, no matter what advanced techniques they have obtained. This station is now the ultimate force of fabulous in the universe!"

"As you can see, my young apprentice, your friends have failed. Now witness the glitter of this fully blinged and glamoured party machine!"
 

Zardnaar

Legend
Was the Empire Evil?

It was certainly draconian, and I can see that arising as a consequence of trying to maintain order across all the diverse planets and peoples of the Galaxy.

Now, it does appear that the Empire was Humanocentric and I do wonder if the 'evil' aspect of the Empires expansion was them forcing non-human species out to the fringes while promoting Human colonisation

Palpatines empire was its guilty of ost of the crimes Stalins USSR and Nazi Germany committed at least in the old legends. It did evolve into a meritocratic autocracy and then a light side monarchy.
 

Derren

Hero
A real life example is the Japanese Zero which was designed to be very light due to a lack of resources.

What?
At the beginning of the war the Zero was one of the most formidable fighters in the world which outclassed everything the americans had and achieved a 12:1 kill ratio.
It was designed light to increase its range and to give it its very good turn rate, not because of a lack of ressources.

As for the rest, discussions about the economy and logistics in star wars is about as sensible as discussions about which superhero is stronger. Whatever the writers want to happen happens with no internal logic behind it.
 
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Zardnaar

Legend
What?
At the beginning of the war the Zero was one of the most formidable fighters in the world which outclassed everything the americans had and achieved a 12:1 kill ratio.
It was designed light to increase its range and to give it its very good turn rate, not because of a lack of ressources.

As for the rest, discussions about the economy and logistics in star wars is about as sensible as discussions about which superhero is stronger. Whatever the writers want to happen happens with no internal logic behind it.

It was also because the Japanese were not very good at aero engines. Western designs would use armor and a more powerful engine and the best at engines were the British and Germans (the Mustang became good with a UK engine the Rolls Royce).

Later on the US for example made planes with better performance+ armor and it turned into a turkey shoot. For the same reason Japan struggled to make high performance fighters and high altitude interceptors. Its another reason Japan basically cloned the ME 262 off German blueprints delivered via subs.

The Zero's reputation is basically over rated much like the T-34 tank. It sacrificed everything and had a weak engine by western standards. Japan was also having massive resource problems, oil being the main one but even the puppet state of Manchukuo out produced Japan proper in steel one year and they were also short of Aluminium another reason the Zero was so light. Japan went to war with an 18 month oil reserve, German wartime oil production was less than prone year of UK oil imports.

The Zeros kill ratio was vs obsolete planes at the war start where the USA was not prepared. Much like the eastern front bloated German kill ratios they were shooting down late 20's and early to mid 30's designed planes. The Axis made a lot of mistakes allot of them were not because they were stupid but because they were desperate (Operation Blue comes to mind).
 

Later on the US for example made planes with better performance+ armor and it turned into a turkey shoot. For the same reason Japan struggled to make high performance fighters and high altitude interceptors. Its another reason Japan basically cloned the ME 262 off German blueprints delivered via subs.

Materiel differences are hardly the whole story.

IJN forces were well trained, well equipped, but logistically fragile -- Yamamoto knew when the war started that if the US could not be brought to the negotiating table quickly the Japanese would be ground down despite initial significant superiority in equipment and trained and experienced pilots.

While the introduction of fighters like the Hellcat and Corsair were materially superior to their Japanese equivalents when they were introduced, by the time of their introduction it almost did not matter -- the Japanese training pipeline could not replace the loss of experienced pilots from Coral Sea, Midway, and the Guadalcanal campaigns. By the time of the Central Pacific drives and the Philippine campaign, the Japanese faced an opponent with more equipment, superior equipment, and the IJN had fewer inexperienced pilots to crew what equipment they had. The Marianas Turkey Shoot would have been a thing even had the US still been flying Wildcats, if perhaps slightly less lopsided.

//

One can argue the Empire's preference in fighters for quantity over quality is a reasonable choice; it doesn't allow development of highly superior pilots as few of them live long enough, but if you can bury your opponent in materiel it does not matter much (cf: Russia vs Germany, Eastern Front).
 

Zardnaar

Legend
Materiel differences are hardly the whole story.

IJN forces were well trained, well equipped, but logistically fragile -- Yamamoto knew when the war started that if the US could not be brought to the negotiating table quickly the Japanese would be ground down despite initial significant superiority in equipment and trained and experienced pilots.

While the introduction of fighters like the Hellcat and Corsair were materially superior to their Japanese equivalents when they were introduced, by the time of their introduction it almost did not matter -- the Japanese training pipeline could not replace the loss of experienced pilots from Coral Sea, Midway, and the Guadalcanal campaigns. By the time of the Central Pacific drives and the Philippine campaign, the Japanese faced an opponent with more equipment, superior equipment, and the IJN had fewer inexperienced pilots to crew what equipment they had. The Marianas Turkey Shoot would have been a thing even had the US still been flying Wildcats, if perhaps slightly less lopsided.

//

One can argue the Empire's preference in fighters for quantity over quality is a reasonable choice; it doesn't allow development of highly superior pilots as few of them live long enough, but if you can bury your opponent in materiel it does not matter much (cf: Russia vs Germany, Eastern Front).

If Japan had designed a better fighter they probably would have had less pilot issues. They built the Zero because they could not really design a better fighter until later in the war and they still struggled with engines. There is stories of Zeros running out of ammunition and not being able to destroy a wild cat.

The Empire could churn out the pilots and they had their elite squadrons as well. They were also using a 20 year old design, it would be like using the MiG 15 vs Vietnam era jets.
 

Derren

Hero
If Japan had designed a better fighter they probably would have had less pilot issues. They built the Zero because they could not really design a better fighter until later in the war and they still struggled with engines. There is stories of Zeros running out of ammunition and not being able to destroy a wild cat.

The Empire could churn out the pilots and they had their elite squadrons as well. They were also using a 20 year old design, it would be like using the MiG 15 vs Vietnam era jets.

That happens when you don't hit. 2x20mm isn't really undergunned and in line with what most other planes of that time carried.

Talking logistics and economy in Star Wars is totally useless as they only follow the demand of the plot with no internal logic. Think about it, we are talking about entire planets. No matter if it is TIEs or X-Wing, a industrialized planets could build hundreds of either of them in a few months in a war economy.
 

Eltab

Lord of the Hidden Layer
If Japan had designed a better fighter they probably would have had less pilot issues.
Not so. The Battle of Midway wiped out something like half Japan's highly-trained-and-experienced pilot cadre in one day, by blowing up the aircraft carriers (with airplanes and pilots aboard). Japan did not have a robust system to rescue downed pilots, and no backup plans for the battle in case things went badly. The Zero's design was not a part of that disaster.

A little-known sidelight to that battle (because folks back then were able and determined to keep secrets secret) was that the US got ahold of a nearly-intact Zero after the battle, figured out its design parameters, and designed the next generation of their own fighters to be better than that. The Hellcat was specifically intended to be a Zero-killer.
 
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Eltab

Lord of the Hidden Layer
(W)e are talking about entire planets. No matter if it is TIEs or X-Wing, a industrialized planets could build hundreds of either of them in a few months in a war economy.
This might be a good time to look up the Traveller supplements High Guard and Trillion Credit Squadron, which propose rules for building fleets of starships. It would give us a framework to work around.

You noted correctly that the Star Wars movies have no such framework in place.
 

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