The Battle for the Katana fleet, also known as the Battle of the Katana Fleet, was a significant event in the Thrawn campaign.
Racing to find a ghost
With both the forces of the Empire and the New Republic depleted before and during the Thrawn campaigns, the need to secure new warships soon became apparent to both sides. Following the disastrous attempt by Imperial forces to secure New Republic ships from the Sluis Van shipyards, the need became still more critical, with over forty New Republic warships disabled following that conflict.
Known to only a few, revealing the location of the Katana fleet, a formation of two hundred pre-Clone Wars Dreadnaughts, to either side would dramatically tip the balance of power for this period of the Galactic Civil War. Among those few was smuggler kingpin and information broker Talon Karrde, who had been brought into the conflict despite his best attempts to remain neutral.
Having an opportunity to meet with Grand Admiral Thrawn, Mara Jade agreed to get the location of the Katana fleet from Karrde in exchange for having the death warrants put on him and his employees cancelled. Unfortunately, Thrawn tracked Mara back to Karrde's new base and captured him. Before Thrawn could get the location of the fleet from him, however, Mara and Luke Skywalker infiltrated the Grand Admiral's flagship, the Imperial Star Destroyer Chimaera and rescued him. Extremely grateful, Karrde agreed to provide the New Republic with the Dreadnaught fleet's location, insisting that a salvage operation begin as soon as possible.
Unfortunately, Thrawn was undaunted by the loss of Karrde, and took Chimaera to Pantolomin, assaulting the luxury casino Coral Vanda in an attempt to kidnap another person who knew the location of the fleet: Captain Hoffner, whom Karrde had once crewed for.
Finding the Dark Force
Arriving at the location of the fleet with Rogue Squadron and a small team of technicians, Luke, Han Solo, Chewbacca and Lando Calrissian boarded one of the Dreadnaughts and attempted to begin the work of bringing the fleet back to New Republic space. The Dreadnaught they chose, based on Luke's Force-attuned hunch, turned out to be the Katana herself, the flagship and source for the fleet's fully-rigged slave circuitry rigging. However, their efforts were stalled by the arrival of Borsk Fey'lya onboard the Nebulon-B Escort Frigate Quenfis, who immediately demanded that Han and the others turn themselves over to them. The situation was further disrupted by the arrival of the Star Destroyer Judicator, whose TIE fighter squadrons moved to attack Rogue Squadron. A dozen dropships were also dispatched from the Judicator to board the Katana. The team aboard the Katana managed to restore power to the ship's turbolaser batteries, destroying five of the dropships with their opening salvo along with a few TIE fighters while damaging most of the other dropships. Unfortunately for them, the Katana's first salvo was also its last, as the turbolaser capacitor was destroyed by a system overload.
Instead of assisting, however, Fey'lya demanded that Captain Sarin Virgilio take the ship and retreat. Appalled by Fey'lya's lack of concern for their comrades' well being, Karrde and Leia tricked Fey'lya into admitting this over an open communications frequency. Fey'lya's forces immediately went to Rogue Squadron's assistance and Fey'lya himself was placed under arrest. Two X-wing squadrons from the Quenfis joined up with Rogue Squadron, and they began to take the upper hand over the Imperial TIEs. They managed to destroy the opening wave, as well as six of the seven dropships which survived the Katana's turbolaser attack.
Receiving word of the unexpected level of resistance, Thrawn decided to personally intervene with his flagship Chimaera. However, this plan was interrupted by the sudden arrival of Joruus C'baoth, in a hijacked Lancer-class frigate. Realizing that delaying his ship's departure to take on Master C'baoth might cause him to arrive too late to affect the battle, Thrawn instead dispatched the Peremptory in his place. Aboard the Judicator, Captain Brandei launched one of his reserve squadrons to reinforce the remaining two TIE formations and brought his Star Destroyer forward to engage the New Republic forces directly.
At that moment, eighteen freighters and starfighters from Karrde's smuggling fleet emerged from hyperspace behind the Judicator and began attacking. Mara Jade, taking advantage of her extensive knowledge of Imperial Star Destroyer design specifications, attacked a little-known weak spot in the lower-aft sensor grid with her Z-95 Headhunter, effectively blinding the Judicator to attacks from below. Brandei responded by launching his TIE/sa bomber squadron to attack the smugglers, but then Garm Bel Iblis arrived with his fleet of six Katana Dreadnaughts, having been provided the location of the Katana fleet by Han Solo. Bel Iblis's Dreadnaughts began a heavy ion cannon bombardment of the Judicator, but the battle quickly turned in favor of the Empire with the arrival of the Peremptory. Three of Bel Iblis's cruisers broke off to engage the undamaged Star Destroyer, while Karrde's ships desperately scrambled to escape. Mara Jade's Headhunter was crippled by a stray laser shot, and she managed to set it on a collision course with the Judicator's hangar bay before ejecting. Unfortunately, this put her directly in the path of the Dreadnaughts' ion cannon barrage, which disabled the locater beacon in her ejection seat.
Meanwhile, aboard the Katana, Luke, Han, Chewbacca and Lando attempted to deal with the Imperial forces that had boarded the ship, at one point making use of a damaged All Terrain Personal Transport walker that had been forced into one of the cruiser's corridors decades earlier by a crewer afflicted by the Hive virus that had doomed the fleet in the first place. Finding themselves backed into a corner and outnumbered on the bridge, Luke threw his lightsaber to cause a decompression in the corridor leading to the bridge which caused the remaining troops to be killed by lack of air. Han then used the ships' slave circuit systems to maneuver one of the other Dreadnaughts which, unlike the Katana herself, still had functional sublight engines, into the path of the Peremptory. The Star Destroyer was unable to avoid the collision, which destroyed both warships instantly. One of Bel Iblis's Dreadnaughts was damaged in the blast, but the other two quickly joined the rest of his fleet in bombarding the Judicator. Realizing that he was now outnumbered and outgunned, Brandei quickly ordered his ship to recover its remaining TIEs and retreat, bringing an end to the battle.
- "It's not going to take them years to find and train crews for their new Dreadnaughts. Maybe only a few months. Maybe not even that long."
- ―Han Solo
The New Republic's victory, however, was a hollow one. It was discovered during the battle that only fifteen of the Katana fleet's two hundred Dreadnaughts were still left. Worse was the knowledge that the stormtroopers that made up the boarding party were actually clones, leading many to fear that a new wave of Clone Wars was in the coming, and that this time Coruscant would be on the losing side. Finding the location of Thrawn's cloning storehouse then became a top priority for New Republic Intelligence.
As soon as the Katana's hull breach was patched and a ship was available, Luke Skywalker left the Dreadnaught and used his Jedi sensory abilities to locate Mara Jade's disabled ejection seat, thus saving her life.
Thrawn's acquisition of the Katana Dreadnaughts resulted in his augmented fleet being able to attack more than twenty more New Republic systems in the immediate aftermath.
- Dark Force Rising (First appearance)
- Dark Force Rising 6
- The Last Command (Mentioned only)
- Jedi Search (Indirect mention only)
- Before the Storm (Indirect mention only)
- Survivor's Quest (Mentioned only)
- Dark Force Rising Sourcebook (First identified as Battle for the Katana fleet)
- Dark Empire Sourcebook
- The Last Command Sourcebook
- The Thrawn Trilogy Sourcebook
- The Essential Chronology
- The Official Star Wars Fact File 5 (THR3, Grand Admiral Thrawn)
- The New Essential Chronology
- The Essential Atlas
- The Essential Reader's Companion