- "Three hours ago, Admiral Ackbar and I watched a test flight of a new starfighter. It's a single-pilot craft, hyperdrive equipped. To say the craft is well armed would be a massive understatement. To our knowledge, Ackbar and I believe this craft may be the most well armed starfighter in the galaxy."
- ―Carlist Rieekan to Alliance High Command
The A/SF-01 B-wing starfighter, also designated as the A/SF-01 B-wing assault starfighter, more commonly referred to as the B-wing, was a heavily armed Rebel Alliance single-pilot starfighter and bomber manufactured by Slayn & Korpil. The B-wing saw action during the Galactic Civil War and was subsequently substituted by the B-wing Mark II.
- "This is one of my most advanced designs! Fast, agile, and narrow attack profile. And it packs a punch."
The A/SF-01 B-wing starfighter, manufactured by Slayn & Korpil, was a relatively poor dogfighter, but it was primarily designed as a "blockade buster" to attack and destroy large capital ships. As such, it was equipped with weaponry and systems normally reserved for much larger craft. Indeed, the B-wing boasted more firepower than most patrol ships and corvettes. At the same time, it was slower and less maneuverable than a Y-wing, gave off a significant infrared signature, and required more maintenance than any other Rebel starfighter.
The primary airfoil took up the length of the hull, with the cylindrical command pod at one end and a weapons pod at the other, and an engine cluster in between. Two S-foils just below the engine on either side of the main airfoil provided similar functionality to those on the X-wing starfighter but featured more advanced actuator technology and locking mechanisms. Anti-gravity generators and repulsorlift projectors were mounted in the S-foils.
The command pod featured a cockpit for the pilot, life support systems, flight computer, comlink transceiver and various sensor systems such as a long-range forward scanner, short-range tactical sensor and weather radar. While the B-wing featured an ejector seat, the pod could also disconnect from the rest of the starfighter with a separate sublight engine at the rear of the pod. The avionics packages were on par with those used by small capital ships. Advanced targeting systems allowed pilots to synchronize attacks across multiple B-wing fighters.
The B-wing was unusual compared to other starfighters in that its command pod featured a unique gyroscopic control system that kept it stationary as the rest of the starfighter rotated around it. By keeping the cockpit module level with a horizon no matter how the body of the craft was positioned, the B-wing pilot was better able to concentrate on flying and targeting enemy ships, allowing them to evade enemy fire while staying on target. This gyroscopic stabilization also minimized the g-stresses the pilot felt performing evasive maneuvers. If however the gyroscopic system failed, it would lock the wing in place and put the pilot under more physical strain when attempting to make tight turns.
The engine cluster in the middle of the B-wing consisted of a single Kyromaster ion engine with four thrust nozzles, along with the ship's fusion reactor and Class-2 hyperdrive. At the front of the cluster was the B-wing's cooling system, with four cooling vent "intakes" on either side of the splitter plate along with the main heat radiators. Retro-thrust nozzles were also located next to the cooling system. The primary wing below the engine held the B-wing's ANv-9q sensor array housed in a protective window, along with other systems including navigation sensor array, wing status sensors, velocity sensors and sensor jammer system.
The A/SF-01's impressive array of weaponry made it the most heavily-armed starfighter in the galaxy when it was introduced. As standard its weapons pod held a SW-7a ion cannon, an R-9X laser cannon and an emission-type MG9 proton torpedo launcher. Two more SW-7a cannons were mounted at the ends of the S-foils, with a secondary MG9 in an armored emplacement between the command pod and engine cluster. The command pod featured a weapon mount that could accommodate multiple options; typically it featured a pair of twin auto-blasters with room for a second pair. Alternative weaponry included Quad lasers, and laser-guided bombs could also be carried.
The B-wing starfighter was capable of diverting power from all other systems into its energy weapons, unleashing enough firepower to vaporize a small mountain in one blast. However, attempting to maintain this level of firepower would lead to gradual system failure.
In addition to the four low-powered targeting lasers, one each mounted at the four ends of the starfighter, the B-wing had another unusual targeting feature. By continuously firing the R-9x laser cannon at very low power at an enemy, the targeting computer could receive enough data to ensure a 97% probability of hitting it with the ion cannons and/or torpedoes. Unfortunately this method also revealed the B-wing's approach vector to the enemy, so it was used sparingly and actually removed by many pilots.
The prototype starfighter, B6, built by the Mon Calamari Quarrie featured a composite-beam laser weapon that could inflict heavy damage upon cruiser-class targets, but its range was short, and use interfered with the hyperdrive. The B6 also had a second gunner's cockpit at the opposite end of the main airfoil. Neither of these features were included with later production models, where the primary weaponry focus shifted to missiles.
The first B-wing prototype, the Prototype B6 Blade Wing, was developed by Quarrie, a Mon Calamari engineer on the planet Shantipole, as part of Project Shantipole. Several of the B-wing's distinctive features, such as the gyro-stabilized cockpit and S-foils, originated from Clone Wars era starships such as the T-6 shuttle, the H-60 Tempest bomber, and the V-19 Torrent starfighter. After being won over by the spirit and piloting skill of Hera Syndulla, Quarrie awarded the prototype—and his services in improving it—to the rebellion. Sabine Wren volunteered to redesign the starfighter's weapons package, including its targeting system.
Following a successful test strike against the Galactic Empire, Bail Organa, a senator sympathetic to the rebellion, found a manufacturer that agreed to further develop the B-wing in secret. The production-line A/SF-01 B-wing starfighter was produced by Slayn & Korpil working with Quarrie, respectfully naming their collaborative worksite Allied/Shantipole Facility.
Although Quarrie described the B6 prototype as "fast" and "agile," the production versions were anything but. Despite eliminating the heavy gunner position, associated life support systems, and composite-beam laser, the production version of the B-wing was much slower and more ponderous than the other fighters in the Alliance Fleet and the Imperial Navy. It also turned out to be tricky to fly, as the gyro-stabilized cockpit design was awkward to work with for all but the most skilled pilots. The B-wing was imagined as a potential replacement for the Y-wing fighter in its role as an assault fighter. The B-wing was primarily intended to carry a heavy weapons package with the purpose of destroying capital ships, though they proved difficult to maintain and fared poorly in dogfights. These weaknesses led to the Y-wing serving in the Alliance Fleet as late as the Battle of Jakku. The B-wing, however, turned out to be an excellent bomber and assault starfighter, provided that it was provided with enough cover from more maneuverable spacecraft.[source?] Despite its weaknesses, it could gain ship-to-ship combat victories in desperate situations, and one Blade Squadron pilot earned three kills in quick succession before being shot down himself in the Battle of Endor.
B-wings participated in the Battle of Endor as part of the Rebel Alliance fleet. Several B-wings followed General Lando Calrissian to attack the second Death Star, but broke off when they realized that the shield was still up. Blade Squadron also participated in the battle, destroying the Star Destroyer Devastator. Later, the squadron participated in large-scale battles at Malastare, Kuat, and Jakku.
After the end of the Galactic Civil War, B-wings became available for civilian starship racing, and at least one took part in The Gauntlet. They still remained in use with smaller, underequipped military forces, and the Amaxine warriors operated at least one B-wing in 28 ABY.
Behind the scenes
The B-wing fighter was originally designed by Joe Johnston and Bill George for Return of the Jedi. The craft derives its name from the fact that the crew labeled the two new Rebel Alliance starfighter models in Return of the Jedi as "A fighter" and "B fighter." Bill George had so much input into the starship's development, that his colleagues nicknamed it the "Bill-Wing Fighter." Years later in Star Wars Legends the name "Blade wing" was devised as an in-universe nickname, which was canonized by the Star Wars Rebels production team.
The craft's unusually thin shape was problematic for blue-screen photography, because the model tended to blend into the star field. As a consequence, some planned sequences with the B-wing were cut from the original release of Return of the Jedi, and the B-wing is not shown in action during the Battle of Endor in the film. In fact, after the ships fly away from the still-active Death Star II shield at the start of the battle, the B-wing is hardly seen at all. The rotating cockpit design of the B-wing was based on early concept art for the Millennium Falcon.
In Star Wars Legends continuity, the B-wing was said to have been designed and produced by the Rebel Alliance after the Battle of Yavin, partly as an in-universe explanation as to why the B-wing and A-wing fighters created for Return of the Jedi did not participate in the attack on the first Death Star. However, in the new Star Wars canon, both B-wings and A-wings are featured in material taking place well before the Battle of Yavin and have been given earlier origins. The production team for the Star Wars Rebels television series, which has featured both ships, explained that the intention is to depict different rebel cells using different fighters in different parts of the galaxy. The A-wings and B-wing appear as the primary star fighters of the Phoenix Squadron in Rebels, while the rebel cell led by Jan Dodonna and portrayed in Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope used primarily X-wings and Y-wings. The Battle of Endor, intended to show the first time the entire Rebel Alliance comes together, therefore includes both sets of ships.