- "At the Academy I never thought I'd be fighting smugglers off Nal Hutta. Get me back to the Lortan fanatics."
- ―Soontir Fel
The Battle of Nar Shaddaa, also referred to as the Incident at Nar Shaddaa, was a conflict between an Imperial task force and a collection of smugglers and pirates attempting to defend their homes on Nar Shaddaa. It was fought in orbit above the Smugglers' Moon, in the Y'Toub system in 4 BBY.
Despite the fact that they were up against a well-trained Imperial strike group, the small group of smugglers were able not only to stand up to the Imperials, but force them out of the area around Nar Shaddaa. Led by Mako Spince and Han Solo, the smugglers bested the Imperial forces. Though the smugglers suffered severe casualties, they dealt the Empire many losses in return.
Unknown to the smugglers was that Admiral Winstel Greelanx had been ordered to lose the battle by Emperor Palpatine, who wished to discredit Moff Sarn Shild of the Hutt Sector. Concerned with Shild's growing desperation for power, the Emperor planned to deal Shild a major blow by causing him to lose his political support in the fallout from the calamitous loss.
In response to growing Rebel activity, Emperor Palpatine ordered that Imperial Moffs crack down on lawlessness and sedition in their local sectors. Moff Sarn Shild was tasked with restoring Imperial authority in Hutt Space. Shild, who entertained thoughts of leading an insurrection of his own, renounced his ways and stood up to the Hutts, hoping to advance through the Imperial ranks. For the first time, Shild refused the Hutts' bribery. He planned to make an example of Nar Shaddaa, the Smugglers' Moon, which was the focal point of everything the Empire wanted to control. Shild intended to destroy the planetary city, proving to the Hutts that they could not expect to undermine the Empire forever. To that end, Shild ordered Admiral Winstel Greelanx to crush any opposition in the Y'Toub system, then execute Base Delta Zero on Nar Shaddaa.
Horrified at the incalculable financial devastation this would cause (not to mention the lives of billions, though this mattered little to the Hutts), the Hutts convened on Nal Hutta to decide on a course of action. They hired the pirate Captain Drea Renthal to defend their planet. Also, they agreed to deliver an unprecedented bribe to Admiral Greelanx. Han Solo was selected by Jiliac and Jabba to offer the bribe to Greelanx, who accepted it in return for his battle plans and a promise to withdraw as soon as he could justify it, giving the smugglers a fighting chance. What neither Solo nor the Hutts knew was that Greelanx had already received a private communiqué from the Emperor himself, ordering him to lose the battle; the bribe was merely icing on the cake.
With Mako Spince, a former classmate at the Imperial Academy, Han devised a defense strategy. The smugglers of Nar Shaddaa united to defend their home from the Empire, and an impressive fleet of ragtag ships was assembled. Solo's strategy called for hiding the smuggler ships among an orbiting scrapyard of derelict ships close to the system's hyperspace arrival point. The ships would then attack the Imperial vessels from behind while Mako led a frontal offensive aboard Jiliac's personal yacht. Han's friend, the magician Xaverri, showed up to help the smugglers and was able to cast her greatest illusion ever—the image of a fleet of hundreds of ships that would distract Greelanx long enough for the smugglers to break through their shields. Captain Renthal, knowing that the additional firepower of the smugglers' ships would increase her chances of success, agreed to coordinate with them.
Solo and Mako knew when the Empire would attack, but did not tell anyone. A small handful of other smugglers were aware that they had the Imperial battle plan, but even they were kept in the dark. Instead, they drilled the pilots daily until the plan was well-practiced. While leaving to practice his duty as forward scout, Roa was alarmed when he detected Imperial vessels and realized he was no longer on a drill.
The smuggler fleet was a collection of ships belonging to many smugglers on Nar Shaddaa who agreed to set aside their differences and defend their mutual home. The Spacebarn owned and operated by Shug Ninx was a blur of activity with smugglers modifying their ships, adding weaponry and shields day and night. During the battle, Han Solo flew the Bria, Vuffi Raa flew the Millennium Falcon with his master Lando Calrissian manning the ship's weapons, Salla Zend flew the Rimrunner, and Roa piloted the Lwyll. Mako Spince commandeered Jiliac's yacht Dragon Pearl to use as the fleet's flagship, and found pilots for its six Z-95 Headhunters. Dozens of other freighters, a few more Headhunters, and some CloakShape fighters rounded out the smugglers' force. Renthal's fleet consisted of the modified Corellian Corvette Renthal's Fist, the ex-Imperial patrol craft Too Late Now, the light corvette Minestra, the bulk transport turned starfighter carrier Golden Dreams, six Y-wing starfighters, and her own Headhunters.
Hutt Space was not a priority for the Empire, and the strike force reflected that fact. Greelanx's flagship was an older Dreadnaught-class heavy cruiser called Imperial Destiny, and it was one of the largest ships in his fleet. The remainder of his fleet consisted of two more Dreadnaughts, four Neutron Star-class bulk cruisers, a pair of Carrack-class light cruisers, and sixteen Guardian-class light cruisers, along with forty-four TIE fighters. Fortunately for the smugglers, Greelanx was not able to procure any Imperial-class Star Destroyers, which would have surely spelled doom for Nar Shaddaa.
When Greelanx's fleet arrived, he deployed his ships in an utterly orthodox fashion, with the Guardian-class patrol ships in a shell formation and the larger capital ships deployed to the rear in wedge formation. The two Carrack-class cruisers were deployed to either side of the fleet to detect any flanking attempts. Roa in the Lwyll and a pair of other smugglers in small freighters fled toward the debris field which orbited Nar Shaddaa. One of the Carrack-class ships, the Vigilance, its four TIE fighters, and the Guardian-class ships gave chase. The intention was for some of the smugglers, the First Strike Element, to ambush the Imperial ships. Unfortunately, Falan Iniro in the Take That! jumped the gun after mishearing Mako's command "Prepare to evade" as "Prepare to engage", and was followed by two other freighters. Iniro's ship was quickly destroyed, but Niev Jaub was able to ram his crippled Bnef Nlle into the Vigilance.
Mako then ordered the attack to begin slightly ahead of schedule, and the battle began in earnest. The Dragon Pearl entered a slugging match with the larger and more powerful Vigilance, and suffered heavy damage, but managed to batter down the cruiser's port shields. Mako then withdrew as quickly as the damaged yacht could manage, and called in Renthal's Minestra and Too Late Now to finish off the cruiser. The pirates blasted a hole in its hull, then disabled the engines and took out its bridge. At the same time, the First Strike Element's freighters took out multiple TIEs, and the Millennium Falcon and Rimrunner teamed up to take out three Guardian-class cruisers, including the Lianna Guard, which fell victim to the Rimrunner's rear-firing missile launchers. During this stage, the Too Late Now and several freighters were lost, but the Imperial losses were even greater.
In light of the smugglers' unexpected success, and momentarily forgetting his orders from the Emperor, Greelanx moved his Dreadnaughts and bulk cruisers toward their fleet. The First Strike Element fled in an intentionally "disorderly" retreat. As the Imperials gave chase, they were drawn toward Illusion Point, the most critical part of the smugglers' plan. When they reached that point, Xaverri activated her phantom fleet, and the Imperial sensors detected what appeared to be a large mercenary fleet approaching from Nal Hutta. The Imperials turned to face this new threat, and the bulk of the real smuggler fleet, the Main Strike Element rushed in to attack their exposed flank. To provide some added credibility to the illusionary fleet, Han improvised a somewhat reckless plan for the Bria, the Millennium Falcon, and the Rimrunner to perform a microjump into the midst of the false ships and make their own attack run.
While the Imperials were distracted, Mako took the Dragon Pearl back into the fray. Despite the ship's damage, it and an escorting Y-wing managed to quickly destroy the bulk cruiser Liquidator in an attack from behind. At the same time, the Renthal's Fist destroyed the Arrestor with similar ease. The other five Y-wings targeted the Peacekeeper, which was still distracted by Han, Lando, and Salla's attack. While the Dreadnaught was much more durable than a bulk cruiser, two proton torpedo attack runs managed to batter down its rear shields. With the shields down, numerous smugglers swarmed the heavy cruiser and quickly knocked out its engines. The cruiser was caught in Nar Shaddaa's gravity well and was destroyed when it collided with the moon's planetary shield. While continuing to strafe the cruiser, Roa was caught in the shockwave of its explosion. He barely managed to land the damaged Lwyll, and escaped the ship just before it exploded.
Having lost nearly half his fleet, Greelanx realized that he now had a valid excuse to withdraw. To the astonishment of his subordinates, especially Soontir Fel of the Pride of the Senate, the Admiral ordered a retreat. Fel obeyed the order, but withdrew as slowly as he could manage so as to pick up any TIE fighters that survived the battle. Of the forty-four which had entered the battle, only fifteen remained, and Fel managed to get them all into his ship's docking bays.
The Battle of Nar Shaddaa was an embarrassing defeat for the Empire. Not only did it demonstrate that they could be beaten by hastily-organized and informally-trained pilots, which greatly encouraged the Rebellion, it demonstrated the dangers of corrupt officers. When Solo delivered the bribe to Greelanx as promised after the battle, he witnessed from inside a closet Greelanx's execution at the hands of Darth Vader, who would not listen to the Admiral's pleas that he had followed orders. Moff Sarn Shild committed suicide, which was just as the Emperor—perfectly aware of his plans to rebel—had wanted it. Killing Greelanx was merely tidying up a loose end. Due to how close they came to ruin, the Hutt Grand Council voted to double the amount of taxes the Hutts paid to the Empire in order to prevent further attacks and reprisals.
The Empire made no further advances against the Hutts, although they kept their eyes on them at all times. Four years later, a raid on Rebel forces using Nar Shaddaa as a major node in their supply network met with greater success, though Hutt interests were apparently not specifically targeted.
In large part because of the events of this battle, the official field manual for officers within the Imperial Military, Imperial Handbook: A Commander's Guide, specifically noted that the Empire must not underestimate smugglers when dealing with them, and also implied that because of the battle as well as the Hutts being vital for economic stability in the Outer Rim, they cannot do any aggressive actions against the Hutt Cartel, the employers of most smugglers, without first being cleared by Imperial Command beforehand, even with their lack of tolerance towards lawlessness. The Rebel General Han Solo, himself a former smuggler, while reviewing the book, took issue at the Empire's description of the event as merely being an "incident", pointing out that the smugglers at Nar Shaddaa "kicked [the Empire's] tails!"
Behind the scenes
The Battle of Nar Shaddaa takes place in the novel The Hutt Gambit. It would later be shown, from Soontir Fel's viewpoint, in X-Wing Rogue Squadron 25, published three months later. Oddly, the latter source makes no mention of the fact that the smugglers were victorious in the battle.
- The Hutt Gambit (First appearance)
- Rebel Dawn (Mentioned only)
- X-Wing Rogue Squadron 25
- The New Jedi Order: Agents of Chaos II: Jedi Eclipse (Indirect mention only)
- The Essential Chronology (First identified as Battle of Nar Shaddaa (3 BBY))
- The New Essential Guide to Characters
- The New Essential Chronology
- The Official Star Wars Fact File 123 (NAR1-2, The Battle of Nar Shaddaa)
- The Official Star Wars Fact File 130 (NAR3-4, The Battle of Nar Shaddaa)
- The Official Star Wars Fact File 140 (FEL1, Baron Soontir Fel)
- Unusual Suspects"—Star Wars Gamer 6 "
- The Complete Star Wars Encyclopedia
- The Essential Atlas
- "Han Solo: The Early Years"—Star Wars Insider 106
- Millennium Falcon Owner's Workshop Manual
- The Essential Guide to Warfare
- Star Wars: Imperial Handbook: A Commander's Guide
- Lords of Nal Hutta