When your Empire extends across most of the galaxy, you have a lot of planets to control. And while most of the official video footage beamed out to all those adoring Imperial citizens features the Imperial Navy, let’s not forget those hard-working Imperial Army types who keep the surfaces of the planets safe and secure.
Don’t think the Imperial Army has any gear with which to make a good propaganda video? Then you’ve never seen the TIE striker.
How many types of TIE fighters are there?
It can be hard to keep it all straight, I know. There’s the TIE fighter, the TIE interceptor, the TIE bomber, the TIE defender, the TIE Advanced X-1… All capable craft, and each variant designed for a specific role in the fleet.
But while all of them are atmosphere capable, none of them are specialized to keep the Empire safe in atmospheric conditions. Compared to the vacuum of space, a typical atmosphere is a hot soup of gases and obstacles, and the typical starfighter performs sub-optimally in air-based combat.
A TIE for every purpose
You might think the Empire already has enough kinds of small fighting ship, but remember that we’re talking about an organization big enough to build not one but two battle stations capable of destroying planets.
Funding a specialized atmospheric fighter program was probably a rounding error in the pages of somebody’s budget reviews. In any event, the Empire created a new model of TIE designed specifically for this environment.
The TIE bad boy of Star Wars: Rogue One
Made famous by their defense of Scarif against the Rebel attack where the plans to the Death Star were stolen, the TIE striker has clear design links to the rest of the TIE family with its round canopy, cylindrical body and broad solar panels. But even a quick review reveals the horizontal wings and elongated body. These aren’t just to make the TIE striker look cool – they’re actually design features.
Each wing is designed to capture solar radiation for power like other TIEs, but the horizontal configuration provides extra lift to the striker in flight. The longer body allows for increased payload and the vessel is equipped with four laser cannons and a load of proton bombs perfect for taking out surface targets.
This extra weapons capability makes the striker formidable near the surface, but also means that it’s not a light-weight vehicle. Thankfully, the powerful engines and the extra lift provided by the horizontal wings gives it remarkable maneuverability.
How fast is the TIE striker?
Because it’s optimized for atmosphere, the TIE striker is very fast near the surface with its sharp, angled wings perfect for cutting through air with minimal resistance. A striker could outrun a standard TIE fighter in atmosphere and could play fast escort for hours in support of the lumbering TIE bombers.
Some strikers are even refitted with smaller, lighter frames to give them extra speed, but most examples of this ship are set up for their primary role of surface engagement.
In the heat of the action
A TIE striker pilot has to be highly trained, ready to switch between air superiority and ground support roles in moments. As the scenes in the movie Rogue One clearly illustrate, ground battles are chaotic, messy and rapidly evolving.
The performance of this TIE variant against X-wings, U-wings and ground soldiers on display in the film speak volumes to its capabilities, even if no article featuring a detailed description of its performance is readily available.
You want reviews on how good the TIE striker is? Just ask any of the Rebels on the ground at Scarif. Oh, wait…
Can TIE strikers fly in space?
The TIE striker is capable of flying in the vacuum, but in that environment it will definitely fall short of its more specialized starfighter cousins. Because of its larger hull and nimbleness in atmosphere, the ship is often used to ferry people and cargo to and from orbit, but unless otherwise ordered it will generally stay close to the ground.
The TIE striker: a fan favorite
When it roared onto the screen, the TIE striker was an instant favorite in the fan community and many pages of positive reviews have filled the interwebs. Some of this, let’s be honest, is just because the TIE striker looks cool, and it’s a really interesting twist on the classic TIE design.
It’s already found its way into Star Wars games and LEGO, so even if our official access to the craft is limited to a single (awesome) movie, hours of play time by fans of any age can bring the community together.
But will we see it again at the movies? Search any article these days and the mood is pessimistic for more Star Wars feature films set around the time of A New Hope… with one intriguing exception.
The Top Gun of Star Wars?
Star Wars: Rogue Squadron is currently in the works, with the promise of being an amazing spectacle following a group of Rebel pilots at some point in the galaxy’s history near A New Hope or Return of the Jedi.
This is exactly the right time in history for these new heroes to face off against the TIE striker, and if you think starfighter battles are epic, just imagine the reviews from a dogfight between X-wings and TIE strikers through towering clouds, past snowy mountains, down winding canyons and across dusty deserts.
We might hurl our cookies as we watch, but I think the fan community will lose their minds over something that amazingly awesome. I can’t wait for the first video links to an official trailer – I suspect it’ll play on loop for hours in my household…