- "Squints are good, Wedge. Real good."
- ―Derek Klivian, to Wedge Antilles, in combat with elements of the 181st Imperial Fighter Group
The 181st Imperial Fighter Wing was an elite TIE unit serving the Galactic Empire and its descendants. At its height under the Empire, it was a three-squadron unit known as the 181st Imperial Fighter Group and distinguished by the red bloodstripes that marked the wings of its TIE interceptors. Initially the 181st Imperial Fighter Wing of the Galactic Empire, it suffered from an abysmal reputation. Commanded by Colonel Evir Derricote, the 181st had lax discipline and low morale. It enjoyed a tremendous improvement with the arrival of Captain Soontir Fel in 0 BBY. Fel took command of the second squadron of the wing and quickly whipped it into shape with intense discipline and drilling.
When called to fight in the Second Battle of Ord Biniir, Fel's squadron significantly outperformed its Rebel opposition. It so happened that the battle occurred on the same day as the Imperial loss at the Battle of Yavin, and the success at Ord Biniir was propagandized heavily. Fel was promoted, and the unit was downsized to a group of three squadrons and completely reformed with an elite roster. While Derricote remained in command, Fel was the true force behind the unit's success as it became one of the Empire's premier fighter groups.
Fel took formal command in 3 ABY, when he was promoted to colonel and given the title of Baron of the Empire. Fel led the 181st for another two years before he was captured by the New Republic during the 181st's defeat at the Battle of Brentaal IV. Turr Phennir became the unit's commander, continuing to lead it through the turbulent times of the Empire's fall, becoming a general in the Imperial Remnant and finding the 181st a place there. The organization survived the changeover from the Remnant to the revived Galactic Empire, serving Fel's descendant Emperors, and eventually was reorganized as a wing once more.
- 1 History
- 2 Organization
- 3 Equipment
- 4 Uniforms and insignia
- 5 Commanders
- 6 Members
- 7 Behind the scenes
- 8 Appearances
- 9 Sources
- 10 Notes and references
- "I noticed discipline seems to be a secondary concern here."
"We're all here waiting for the Empire to find a mission that will be as humiliating as it will be lethal."
- ―Soontir Fel and Evir Derricote
During the early years of the Galactic Civil War, the 181st Imperial Fighter Wing was an extremely disreputable fighter wing serving the Galactic Empire, nicknamed the One-Eighty-Worst. Commanded by Commander Evir Derricote, who spent most of his time gardening, it was regarded as a unit where careers went to die. Discipline was sloppy and morale was low, with the men simply whiling away time until they expected to be sent to their deaths by the political enemies who had gotten them transferred into the wing. Shirtsleeves were the normal dress, drunkenness was common, personnel left their barracks in a state of disarray, and military regulations were ignored. Pilots did not even salute or rise for Derricote. Derricote provided extremely little in the way of leadership and was resigned to the squadron's condition, preferring to attract as little notice as possible from his superiors and keep from drawing any missions.
In 1 BBY, the unit was stationed on Heurkea Floating City on Dac as part of the Imperial occupation of that world. The 181st pilots flew constant patrols; there were at least two 181st TIEs in the air at all times except for full-wing debriefings once every five days. At one point, members of the Alliance to Restore the Republic, a recently formed group rebelling against the Empire, arrived on Dac to recruit Gial Ackbar, a prominent member of the native Mon Calamari, into the Rebellion. Viceroy Bail Prestor Organa of Alderaan, leading the expedition, and Ackbar captured Derricote during their mission, while the advanced droid PROXY used his holographic abilities to impersonate Derricote at one of the full-unit briefings and issue orders that kept the pilots occupied while the Dac resistance attempted to assassinate Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin, who commanded the occupation. They failed, and released Derricote to spread word of the resistance's determination.
In 0 BBY, Captain Soontir Fel arrived in the unit to take command of the second squadron of the wing. He had formerly been an accomplished TIE pilot before becoming an instructor at Prefsbelt Fleet Camp. Two of his top students defected to the Rebel Alliance after graduating, and Fel was disgraced. As a result, he received a punitive transfer to the 181st, where Derricote had received a promotion to colonel. A strict disciplinarian, Fel began reshaping the 2/181st into a regimented, drilled, high-performance squadron with Derricote's permission.
Eventually, the 2/181st was given the assignment to retake Ord Biniir, which had fallen to the Rebel Alliance with an entire wing of starfighters defending it. Fel led the squadron through the Second Battle of Ord Biniir, in which the squadron performed extremely well, driving the Rebels off the world. As it so happened, that victory occurred on the same day as the Battle of Yavin, which saw the Empire handed its greatest loss yet with the destruction of the Death Star.
- "Many wanted in for many reasons. I wanted those who wanted in for the glory of the Empire."
- ―Soontir Fel
Fel was promoted to major and decorated in a ceremony on Coruscant that propagandized the victory at Ord Biniir, attempting to play down the other events of the day. The unit was transferred to Coruscant, where it was downsized to a group of three squadrons and rebuilt as an elite unit. The 181st Imperial Fighter Wing became the 181st Imperial Fighter Group, and while Derricote retained command, it was Fel who was the real force behind the rebuilding process.
Fel oversaw the recruiting of new, elite pilots. He accepted only those with skills that met his expectations and attitudes that would be conducive to building an elite squadron. He wanted dedicated, hard-working pilots, not glory-seekers. One of his recruits was Captain Turr Phennir, who quickly became one of the unit's top pilots. Fel spent the next several years drilling the squadron, and their performance on the battlefield drew praise. They became renowned as an elite unit, feared by Rebel pilots and celebrated in the Imperial Navy, and Fel served as a powerful recruiting symbol for the fighter corps. In time, the 181st came to be considered the very best TIE unit in the Empire.
In 3 ABY, the 181st was assigned to ambush an arms convoy near Derra IV and briefed by Darth Vader himself. In the battle, the second squadron was assigned to prey on the transports while Fel led the first squadron in picking off the fighter cover. The third squadron took on targets of opportunity in the dogfight. The Rebel convoy was routed in a major victory for the Empire, and a ceremony was held on Coruscant to honor the 181st's achievements, over which Galactic Emperor Palpatine himself presided. Derricote was promoted to general and transferred out of the unit. Fel was promoted to colonel and given a barony and command of the 181st. Phennir was promoted to commander and made a squadron commander and Fel's executive officer.
Fel in command
- "These are our heroes. Long may they serve."
- ―Palpatine, in a ceremony honoring Evir Derricote, Soontir Fel, and Turr Phennir
The 181st continued to serve under Vader, becoming attached to his Death Squadron. They fought at Hoth, where they targeted escaping transports. After that battle, they upgraded to the TIE/IN interceptor and participated in the crushing of Prince Xizor, the head of Black Sun and Vader's rival, in a battle against his private navy over Coruscant. The unit began a practice of marking red stripes on the wings of the interceptors of any pilot with over ten kills, a feature that soon became a trademark of the unit.
The 181st fought at the Battle of Endor, protecting the communications ships of Death Squadron - the battlecruiser Pride of Tarlandia and the Imperial-class Star Destroyers Chimaera and Avenger. In particular, Saber Squadron, one of the unit's components, was assigned to protect the Avenger. Red Leader Wedge Antilles later reflected on the trepidation he felt when he saw the red stripes on the wings of the squadron's TIE Interceptors. The 181st inflicted heavy casualties on the Rebel Green and Blue Squadrons, but the fighter group was outnumbered and was receiving contradictory orders. The Alliance was able to concentrate its starfighters on the Tarlandia, allowing Gemmer Sojan to destroy the ship with his A-wing. The loss of the Pride of Tarlandia seriously disrupted the Empire's communications and contributed to the lack of coordination that allowed the Rebels to destroy the Death Star.
The Battle of Endor was a massive loss, with both Palpatine and Vader killed and the second Death Star destroyed. The fleet and the 181st retreated in confusion to Annaj. Several commanders began splitting away, taking their resources and going rogue as warlords. In the midst of the chaos and political infighting for control, the 181st remained loyal to the de jure successor government of the Empire on Coruscant led by Sate Pestage. At this time, Fel recruited Tan Maarek Stele, a famed TIE pilot, into the 181st.
The Battle of Brentaal IV
- "I detest what you are doing here. Not because you're playing politics and working to rule the Empire yourself, but because you are making my men pay for it. Because the 181st Imperial Fighter Group is here, our enemies and friends all believe we intend to win this fight."
"I intend for you to win this fight."
"No, you expect us to die preventing the Rebels from stopping the evacuation and looting of this world. Those saved will be impressed and support you for saving them. And they will know it was you, I'm sure."
"You will enable them to escape."
"I will save them because they are Imperial citizens and that is my duty."
"And I will save the Empire because that is my duty. Your sacrifice will be feted on thousands of worlds."
- ―Soontir Fel and Ysanne Isard
Nine months after Palpatine's death, one of the 181st's squadrons was assigned to the moonbase garrison protecting Brentaal IV, a Core World in the New Republic's invasion corridor. It had been scouted by Rogue Squadron, and Ysanne Isard, the Director of Imperial Intelligence and a major figure in the government under Sate Pestage, dispatched the fighters to guard it from a possible invasion attempt. In short order, it was attacked by the New Republic. The 181st pilots there flew against the elite Rogue Squadron, and while they provided solid opposition, they were eliminated by the Rogues and the moonbase was taken.
In response to the loss, Isard dispatched Fel and the rest of the 181st to defend Brentaal IV. The planet was under the command of the incompetent Admiral Lon Isoto, and Fel came to strongly suspect that Isard was deliberately setting up the world to fall, sacrificing the 181st to make Pestage look like a fool and usurp power from him. Fel's suppositions were correct. Isoto was convinced the attack would come on Vuultin, his capital, but Fel thought it more likely the New Republic would attack Oradin, which had the spaceport facilities to land troops. At Isoto's insistence, Fel kept the 3/181st in Vuultin, but concentrated his forces at Oradin. Dissatisfied with Isoto's orders, Phennir suggested to Fel that he take command of the world and strike out on his own as a warlord, but Fel, ever a man of duty, refused.
When the New Republic struck, the 181st answered. The Rogues attacked Vuultin, thinking the 181st was headquartered there, and Aggressor Wing, a Y-wing unit, was sent to support the occupation of Oradin. The Vuultin fighters shot down a handful of Rogues, including Wes Janson, while Fel and his Alpha Squadron savaged the Y-wings in the Oradin theater. Phennir led attacks on the landing craft. While the main attack was clearly aimed at Oradin, Isoto recalled all Fel's forces to Vuultin, where his headquarters were under attack. Phennir again urged that Isoto be left to his own devices, but Fel complied with his orders. The 181st withdrew, and Phennir provided a rearguard, charged with destroying as many Oradin assets as possible as they withdrew. The Rogues, however, departed Vuultin before Fel's fighters ever got there, while Oradin fell.
Isoto, mistaking the losses inflicted on the New Republic for victory, held a celebration in which the members of the squadron were awarded a medal concocted by Isoto for the occasion, the Oradin Diamond. Fel refused any reward, understanding that Isard was sacrificing Brentaal IV and the men of his fighter group. That night, a convoy arrived from Coruscant, looking to evacuate the wealthy Imperials of Brentaal IV. The 181st scrambled to defend the evacuation. The battle moved from Vuultin to space as the evacuation got underway, and Tycho Celchu of Rogue Squadron nearly killed Phennir, who shepherded the evacuation when Fel battled Antilles and was captured via a surprise ion cannon attack by Colonel Horton Salm of Aggressor Wing. Brentaal IV fell, but many of its wealthy were evacuated safely.
The unit under Phennir
- "The real One Eighty-first is still serving the Empire with loyalty and skill, under Turr Phennir."
- ―Teren Rogriss, to Garik Loran
The 181st continued to be the Empire's most elite unit, with Phennir becoming its commander as Fel defected to the New Republic. Fel was vilified as a traitor for his defection, and the loss at Brentaal IV was blamed on him; the 181st, however, retained a strong reputation. During Phennir's leadership, in 7 ABY, Warlord Zsinj had actor Tetran Cowall impersonate Fel, commanding an impostor 181st consisting of an even mix of pilots and droid-piloted TIEs packed with explosives that flew as their wingmen. It was designed as a trap for Wedge Antilles of Rogue Squadron, who was known to have searched for Fel after he had disappeared in 5 ABY. While the ploy fooled New Republic analysts for a time, the Empire maintained the true 181st, and Antilles eventually exposed the plot, to no gain for Zsinj.
The 181st remained in Imperial service, and may have been present at the Battle of Bilbringi; at least one interceptor in 181st colors was present at the battle, but as it was common for veterans of the unit to retain the trademark red stripes even after transferring out of it, it is not clear that the unit was participating in Thrawn's attack. After the Empire crumbled in 10 ABY, some 181st pilots or former pilots went rogue, serving with warlords like Leonia Tavira. The 181st Imperial Fighter Group as a unit, however, became part of the Imperial Remnant, formed in 12 ABY by Admirals Natasi Daala and Gilad Pellaeon. Phennir retained command and was promoted to the rank of general, with the three squadrons of the 181st maintaining their elite reputation.
Following the reunification of the Outer Rim Moffs and warlords into the Imperial Remnant, the 181st participated in the Orinda campaign, Gilad Pellaeon's first offensive against the New Republic. Deployed from Borosk aboard the Star Dreadnought Reaper, Phennir's squadrons assisted in the capture of Orinda and six other systems along the Entralla Route. When the New Republic counterattacked with the Dreadnought Lusankya, Phennir and the 181st skirmished across the Mid Rim with their old adversaries, Rogue Squadron. The 181st won at Hewett and Tartaglia, and fought alongside the Pellaeon's Reaper at Darkon, and again at Traval-Pacor. The 181st fought Rogue Squadron to a draw at Orocco, and successfully halted Wedge Antilles' drive up the Entralla Route at Tyan. When New Republic reinforcements led by the Endurance moved in, the 181st fought a holding action at Obredaan before retreating to Orinda itself, where they participated in the decisive battle of the campaign which saw the destruction of the Endurance and the retreat of the Lusankya.
Diplomacy on Adumar
- "You eight pilots have brought considerable delight and knowledge to Adumar, but it has all been in circumstances somewhat different than those that brought you fame. I would now like to rectify that. Would you—and it would please us greatly if you would—lead units of the Cartann armed forces in action against our enemies, so that we might grasp the full measure of your skill and honor?"
"It would be my tremendous honor to demonstrate what we have to offer the people of Cartann and Adumar."
- ―Pekaelic ke Teldan and Turr Phennir
In 13 ABY, Adumar, a world colonized by exiled insurrectionists ages ago, rediscovered the wider galaxy. The Adumari, who idolized combat pilots, decided to accept envoys from both the New Republic and Imperial Remnant before choosing with which state to ally. The Remnant sent Phennir and three other 181st pilots aboard Admiral Teren Rogriss's Agonizer as their diplomatic point men, receiving a heroic reception in the nation of Cartann. They did not learn that the New Republic was also in talks with the Adumari until Phennir bumped into Antilles at a diplomatic reception at the palace of Cartann's perator, Pekaelic ke Teldan, the night of their arrival.
The pilots spent much of their time familiarizing themselves with the local fighter, the Blade-32. On their first day, they were introduced to the Adumari practice of challenging opponents to aerial duels. They accepted a challenge from four Adumari pilots, and shot each down in a dogfight. They continued in this pattern for some days, achieving great honor among the Adumari with their aerial victories, and spending their evenings at dinners with Adumari nobles. They exceeded the popularity of the New Republic pilots, who insisted on using simulated weapons in their duels, which was held by the Cartannese to be less honorable.
Eventually, the perator of Cartann came to the decision to institute a world government unilaterally, promising to conquer any nations that resisted. The next day, the perator requested of both sides that they aid him in the war that would have to be waged against the recalcitrant countries; Antilles refused, and his party was exiled from the court. Phennir agreed to lead the Cartann air forces. When Antilles accepted command of the forces of the nations arrayed against Cartann and led them in a surprise morning attack on Cartann, the pilots of the 181st flew for Cartann in their TIE interceptors, using their superior speed to cut repeatedly through the enemy forces, which had nothing to match their starfighters. Mass-fire tactics from Antilles and his Red Flight killed one of the pilots, but the TIEs shot down Celchu, one of the Red Flight combatants. After that exchange, Phennir avoided any units flying in formation. When Red Flight recaptured its X-wings, they killed another 181st pilot in their first pass, though the TIEs damaged Derek Klivian's fighter. The third of the pilots died in a dogfight with Antilles, and Phennir departed the field, retreating to the Agonizer. Shortly thereafter, Cartann surrendered to Antilles.
Rogriss, unwilling to execute orders that would have him bomb the world and break his word to the Adumari that he would depart peacefully, sent the Agonizer and Phennir away before defecting to the Adumari. The 181st returned to Adumar with the Imperial assault force that was organized once Agonizer made contact with the Remnant. Elements of the wing escorted bombers sent to strike at the planet while Phennir flew an advanced TIE Defender in the space battle. Antilles, however, was able to damage Phennir's craft and force him to withdraw, quickly followed by an Imperial retreat.
Serving the emperors
The 181st survived the Yuuzhan Vong and Second Galactic Civil Wars. When Jagged Fel, son of the unit's former commander, became Emperor, the 181st served in the revived Fel Empire. It was reorganized as a wing once more, and served in mobile galaxy-wide naval operations. When the Sith Lord Darth Krayt usurped the throne in a coup at the conclusion of the Sith–Imperial War, the 181st Imperial Fighter Wing continued serving the Empire under Krayt, rather than defecting as a unit to Emperor-in-exile Roan Fel's service.
- "The 181st is downsizing from a wing to a group and will be made an elite unit, and they're moving us here to Imperial Center for the refit."
- ―Soontir Fel, to Wynssa Starflare
The 181st was originally the 181st Imperial Fighter Wing, composed of six squadrons of TIEs. When it became an elite unit in 0 ABY, it was downsized to a group of three squadrons and renamed appropriately. These three squadrons were often referred to simply as the first squadron, second squadron, and third squadron, or 1/181st, 2/181st, and 3/181st; however, they also used alternate designations. The first squadron could be referred to as Alpha Squadron, with Beta Squadron and Gamma Squadron designations presumably in use for the other two squadrons. During the Battle of Endor, a Saber Squadron designation was used that encompassed both Fel and Phennir, who generally commanded two separate squadrons. This may have been a designation unique to that battle.
While the unit was based on Coruscant after its transformation into an elite unit, elements of it could be dispatched separately to various theaters of battle; the group did not always operate as a single unit. It was typical for the unit's commander to lead the 1/181st, with the executive officer commanding the 2/181st. As of late 4 ABY, the third squadron was the group's least experienced, and given the general command hierarchy, the 3/181st may have usually been the least distinguished of the three.
- "For every TIE fighter you shoot down, a thousand more will take its place."
- ―Soontir Fel
The 181st Imperial Fighter Wing was initially equipped with the TIE/LN starfighter, the Empire's most common space superiority fighter. It was not until after the Battle of Hoth that the unit upgraded to the faster, more maneuverable, and better-armed TIE/IN interceptor, a more elite fighter for what was already known as an elite unit. It was with the interceptor that the 181st pioneered their signature marking, the red horizontal stripes along the interceptor's horizontally aligned wings, and it was with the interceptor that the 181st stayed for another decade, becoming among the most expert pilots of the interceptor alive. By 13 ABY, though some TIE/D Defenders were available, the 181st was not equipped with them, not even the elite diplomatic party sent to Adumar. On Phennir's punitive return to the world, however, he flew a Defender, as did some non-181st pilots, but the fighter remained in highly limited deployment. In 137 ABY, when the 181st remained active, the primary Imperial fighter was the TIE Predator.
Uniforms and insignia
- "His spooks say the markings mean these squints were from the 181st Imperial Fighter Group."
- ―Wedge Antilles, to Wes Janson
After upgrading to the TIE interceptor, the pilots of the 181st began a custom of marking their wings horizontally with a pair of red stripes. Called the bloodstripes, these bars signified that the pilot had achieved ten combat kills. Due to the elite nature of the 181st, nearly every pilot's craft bore the bloodstripe, and it soon became a distinguishing feature of the 181st. The bloodstripes became a matter of great prestige, and pilots continued to apply them to their craft even after leaving the 181st in order to mark their past service in the unit.
The red stripes were added to the 181st's uniforms as well, which bore red piping along the arm and leg of their otherwise ordinary flight suits and uniforms. Not to be confused with the Corellian Bloodstripe, these markings retained significant prestige as well, and were also retained by proud former pilots. Not all uniforms, however, were so modified, with the 181st's pilots retaining standard uniforms as well.
- "You have sent in reports of my squadron's performance numbers?"
"And remind them we're here?"
- ―Soontir Fel and Evir Derricote
Colonel Evir Derricote was the commander of the 181st in its last days as the "One-Eighty-Worst." Unmotivated and uninterested in the unit, he was content to let discipline and morale plummet while he tended to his true passion, his gardens, and avoided attention by superior officers and political enemies. In fact, he seemingly embraced the wing's lackluster reputation, jovially commenting on their dismal status.
When the unit was reformed as an elite fighter group, it remained under Derricote's command, but he largely let Fel run things. Fel loved to garden as well, and the two spent time together tending to their flowers and plants. Derricote did not resent Fel's success, and was affably content to hitch his career to the rising star of the 181st while avoiding the serious burdens of command. At the Battle of Derra IV, Derricote took pleasure in shooting down transports, and the performance of the unit gained him a promotion to general and transfer out of the unit to command of Borleias's defenses.
- "I am Captain Fel. I command here now. There are going to be some changes around here. You will be drilled and worked and drilled even more. When I am done with you, the 2/181st will be a fighting unit."
- ―Soontir Fel
Captain Soontir Fel transferred into the 181st in 0 BBY, already a successful pilot and naval officer but undermined by the defection of two of his star students in his previous posting as an instructor. He took command of the 2/181st and quickly built it into an excellent squadron. A disciplinarian with a relentless work ethic, he believed in drilling his units to perfection. He demanded complete loyalty to the Imperial mission of bringing peace, tolerating no glory-seekers in his unit. Despite his hard command style, Fel was deeply invested in the well-being of his men, taking great pains to protect them. His performance allowed the 2/181st to excel at the Second Battle of Ord Biniir, which gained Fel a promotion to major and the 181st a reformation into an elite group. Derricote largely left command of the unit up to Fel, and Fel quickly built the 181st into one of the Empire's most elite units. The 181st became feared, and Fel became an Imperial hero, marrying star actress Wynssa Starflare. His legendary reputation was celebrated in Imperial academies and feared among the Rebel starfighter corps.
After the Battle of Derra IV, Fel was elevated to the rank of colonel and given formal command of the 181st. He also received a barony from Palpatine himself. However, the Empire's seemingly ungrateful use of Grand Admiral Thrawn in the battle plan undermined Fel's faith in both the Empire and the Imperial doctrine of Human High Culture, as did the manipulations of Ysanne Isard. While Fel continued to serve with distinction and his commitment to taking orders and protecting Imperial citizens did not waver, Isard's intended sacrifice of the 181st at Brentaal IV shattered his faith in the Empire. His capture during the battle gave him the chance to rethink his loyalties, and he secretly defected to the New Republic, joining Rogue Squadron.
- "Another day, another chance to kill Rebels. More awards to be won."
- ―Turr Phennir, to Soontir Fel
Turr Phennir first joined the 181st as a captain, recruited by Fel into the unit during its initial restructuring in 0 ABY. Phennir served well, distinguishing himself as a talented pilot. For his performance at the Battle of Derra IV, he was awarded by Palpatine, promoted to the rank of commander, and given command of the 2/181st, Fel's former squadron. He served as Fel's executive officer, and was again promoted to the rank of major within a year.
Ambitious and with little patience for political maneuvering, Phennir urged Fel to reject orders from Isoto and go rogue during the Battle of Brentaal IV. Fel resisted the idea, but ended up defecting after he was captured. Command of the 181st then fell to Phennir, who remained a distinguished pilot. Phennir oversaw the unit for the next nine years, shepherding the 181st into the Imperial Remnant and gaining a promotion to general. By that point, he was the most distinguished Imperial pilot in service, and as such was chosen to represent the Empire to the Adumari.
- "You may think, right now, that you want to be one of the 181st's thirty-six pilots. Our testing will make you reconsider."
- ―Soontir Fel
The 181st Imperial Fighter Wing had seventy-two members at any time, most of whom were considered washouts or failures or who had made important enemies or blunders. Soontir Fel, however, was able to train the 2/181st into a thoroughly competent unit. The 181st's makeup was completely renovated during the transformation into an elite 36-pilot fighter group, with Fel recruiting only the best pilots, regardless of political connections, who had the talent, work ethic, lack of egotism, and motivation to perform up to his demanding standards.
- "Let no one doubt that you are one of the greatest living starfighter pilots in the galaxy!"
- ―Maarek Stele's Secret Order liaison
A Force-sensitive and a talented pilot, Tan Maarek Stele had an illustrious career in the Imperial Navy before joining the 181st. He served under Grand Admirals Thrawn and Demetrius Zaarin, helping bring down the traitorous Admiral Harkov, and saved Palpatine from Zaarin's kidnap attempt, putting an end to the Grand Admiral's attempted coup. Stele served as an Emperor's Hand, an elite enforcer for the Emperor, and flew in Palpatine's personal bodyguard wing, the Emperor's Sword. Holding the title-rank Tan and the rank of colonel, Stele was nevertheless increasingly disillusioned with the Empire. It was only after the Battle of Endor, when he met Fel, that Stele's enthusiasm for the Empire was rekindled by Fel's absolute devotion to loyalty and honor, and he accepted a transfer into the 181st. Stele continued flying with the Empire even after Fel's defection and the formation of the Imperial Remnant, though it is unclear if he remained with the 181st.
The pilot designated DS-181-3 was a former student of Soontir Fel from his days as an instructor at Prefsbelt Fleet Camp. Talented enough to make the 181st roster by the time of the Battle of Endor, DS-181-3 flew as the wingman of his former instructor, though he was frequently instructed to hang back to provide Fel with maneuvering room while watching the group commander's back. His devotion to Fel earned him the nickname "Fel's Wrath" among his fellow pilots.
The pilot designated DS-181-4 joined the 181st Imperial Fighter Group after gaining twelve kills at the subjugation of Mon Calamari, an impressive feat that guaranteed his entrance to the unit. DS-181-4 was offered further promotions that would have taken him out of the unit, but he refused them, wishing to remain in the elite group. DS-181-4 flew as Phennir's wingman, though he was often held in a reserve position.
- "Yes, well, before I was transferred to the Prince-Admiral's ship Reckoning, I spent some time in the One Eighty-first Imperial Fighter Group. That was back when Baron Fel was in command. I was a mere Lieutenant, but a Lieutenant in that unit was the equal of a Major in any other."
- ―Lorrir, to Wedge Antilles
Lorrir was a lieutenant in the 181st around the time of the Battle of Brentaal IV, in which he fought and survived. He was transferred out shortly thereafter, but remained tremendously proud of having served within the elite unit, sometimes exaggerating its accomplishments. Wedge Antilles, upon later encountering him, regarded him as a relatively mediocre pilot, and Ysanne Isard's clone was under the impression that Lorrir was in the unit only during the Battle of Brentaal IV, suggesting he was a transfer to make up for the unit's casualties who was let go after the pressure of the battle was over.
Gunn Yage, daughter of Grand Admiral and Moff Rulf Yage, served among the elite pilots of the 181st Imperial Fighter Wing under the rule of Darth Krayt. A rising star at the time, she left the unit for the opportunity to command a squadron of her own, becoming the leader of the highly-regarded Skull Squadron.
Behind the scenes
The 181st Imperial Fighter Group first appeared in 1997 in Star Wars: X-Wing Rogue Squadron: In the Empire's Service, written by Michael A. Stackpole, as an elite unit commanded by Baron Soontir Fel. Much of its history was covered in X-Wing Rogue Squadron 25.
The 181st was also mentioned in Aaron Allston's X-Wing novels, in which an impostor 181st appeared; it was not until the second novel, X-Wing: Iron Fist, that the unit was revealed not to be genuine and not until the next novel, X-Wing: Solo Command, that the depth of the deception was shown. The genuine 181st appeared in Allston's next novel, X-Wing: Starfighters of Adumar.
In 2009, the Legacy Era Campaign Guide made a passing reference to the 181st, in which it was named a wing and revealed to be active in 137 ABY. A year later, the novelization of The Force Unleashed II, written by Sean Williams, included the 181st, becoming the earliest chronological depiction of the unit.
It is possible that the 181st was based on the historical squadron Jagdstaffel 11, commanded by the Red Baron, who was the basis for Soontir Fel's character. Like the 181st, this squadron started out as relatively undistinguished but became the best German fighting squadron of the First World War. The red color scheme of the 181st may also have been based on the red colors of the aircraft flown by Jagdstaffel 11.
- The Force Unleashed II novel
- Shadows of the Empire novel (Retcon)
- Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi (Retcon)
- Star Wars: X-Wing Rogue Squadron: In the Empire's Service (First appearance)
- X-Wing Rogue Squadron 25 (In flashback(s))
- Star Wars: X-Wing Rogue Squadron: Masquerade (Mentioned only)
- X-Wing: Wraith Squadron (Mentioned only)
- X-Wing: Iron Fist (Mentioned only)
- X-Wing: Solo Command (Mentioned only)
- X-Wing: Isard's Revenge (Mentioned only)
- I, Jedi (Mentioned only)
- X-Wing: Starfighters of Adumar
- The New Jedi Order: Dark Tide II: Ruin (Mentioned only)
- Fate of the Jedi: Outcast (Mentioned only)
- Fate of the Jedi: Outcast audiobook (Mentioned only)
Notes and references
- X-Wing Rogue Squadron 25
- X-Wing: Solo Command
- The Force Unleashed II novel
- X-Wing: Starfighters of Adumar
- Star Wars: X-Wing Rogue Squadron: In the Empire's Service
- Legacy Era Campaign Guide
- The Thrawn Trilogy Sourcebook
- The New Essential Guide to Characters
- X-Wing: Wraith Squadron
- Death Star II Limited
- Star Wars: X-Wing Rogue Squadron: Masquerade
- Shadows of the Empire novel
- The Essential Guide to Warfare, p. 137
- The Essential Guide to Warfare, p. 179
- Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi
- The New Essential Chronology
- The Emperor's Pawns"—Star Wars Gamer 5 "
- X-Wing: Isard's Revenge
- X-Wing: Iron Fist
- I, Jedi
- The Essential Guide to Warfare, pp. 211-3
- Star Wars Handbook 1: X-Wing Rogue Squadron
- Star Wars: TIE Fighter