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This article is about Imperial TIE pilots. You may be looking for the First Order TIE Fighter Pilots.

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"That's fighter pilots for you. Twice the mouth because half the brain."
―Two Imperials, regarding TIE pilots[13]

Imperial Starfighter Pilots,[14] also known as TIE fighter pilots[1] or TIE pilots,[15] were an elite class within the military of the Galactic Empire. They piloted the TIE fighter series series of starfighters, a line that included the TIE/ln space superiority starfighter, which was one of the Empire's most recognizable symbols of power, the TIE/sa bomber and TIE/IN interceptor.[16] There were two nicknames for TIE pilots: the vac-heads, who operated in space for the Empire's Imperial Navy, and the ground-hogs, who operated in planetary atmosphere for the Imperial Army. Because the vac-heads had better public recognition through propaganda posters and the HoloNet News reports, the ground-hogs were often resentful of them. The rivalry between ground-hogs and vac-heads was so intense that most Imperial flight bases had separate bars for the two groups, with the notable exception of the Bright Jewel Oversector Flight Base.[2]

The precision and streamlined design of the TIE fighter was a source of pride for those pilots, who prided themselves for usually not needing deflector shields or hyperdrives, which they viewed as tools for the cowardly. Since TIE fighters were identical and interchangeable, TIE pilots might never fly the same ship twice and, as a result, rarely developed emotional ties to their craft.[1] Nonetheless, they tended to be very protective of their vessel of the day, and loved to push around lower-ranked stormtroopers. Very dedicated, TIE pilots were willing to surrender their lives for the greater glory of the Empire's New Order.[17] For this reason most TIE pilots had a life expectancy of less than a year.[18]

TIE fighter pilots could also engage in surface combat, with Squad Five participating in a skirmish on Nar Shaddaa.[19]


"The rebels are a desperate group of extremists. They'll fight with any ship, using any means necessary to undermine our authority. That is why orders must be followed without question. Insubordination like yours will get you and your wingman killed."
―Vult Skerris, lecturing TIE pilot cadet "Ria Talla"[8]

A TIE pilot in the cockpit of their fighter.

Graduates from prestigious flight academies across the galaxy underwent rigorous testing to become TIE pilots.[20] Many TIE pilots received their training at Imperial Academies spread across the galaxy. Some of the best came out of the Royal Imperial Academy on Coruscant or the Skystrike Academy on Montross, but other notable academies were located on Raithal, Arkanis, Carida and Corulag.[16][8] In addition to the use of simulator pods, cadets would spend hundreds of flight hours piloting actual TIE fighters to hone their skills. Beyond piloting, cadets also receiving instruction in other fields including mathematics, science, hand-to-hand combat, and military strategy.[16]

The final phase of testing often occurred onboard a larger battleship, such as a Star Destroyer. This was to expose cadets to realistic and relevant surroundings. During the Galactic Civil War, TIE cadets often underwent literal trials by fire, plunged into combat situations where to excel was to survive.[20] Of all the cadets who underwent the Imperial pilot training program, ninety percent never graduated.[16][1] As a consequence, those who did tended to be both proud and arrogant.[20]


As the conflict with the rebellion heated up, TIE fighter pilots were thrown into battle as trails by fire.

TIE pilots underwent intense psychological conditioning that put completion of the mission above all other considerations, including their own life. Their training emphasized close coordination with their fellow pilots, as teamwork was considered the best way to accomplish their mission.[16] However, actually aiding their fellow pilots in an emergency was their lowest priority unless there was nothing else to do, since it was preferable to bring their full force against enemy fighters. All pilots were also expected to be able to repair and maintain all single- and dual-pilot craft.[21] This included reassembling an ion engine, reprograming their targeting computer, and constructing a distress beacon out of wreckage.[22]

Besides graduating from one of the academies, TIE pilots could be volunteers from one of the other organizations in the Imperial government, so long as they were certified pilots or astrogators.[16] Commander Iden Versio and her compatriots in Inferno Squad were equipped with enhanced TIE fighters; Versio herself engaged Rebel fighters following the Battle of Endor.[23]


The Imperial Starfighter Pilot class seen throughout much of the Imperial Era[24] succeeded the earlier conscription trooper pilots[25] and clone trooper pilots. The Empire had inherited the clone trooper-based military of the Galactic Republic that came before but worked to phase out those forces[26] under Project War-Mantle.[27] Although the Empire continued to make use of clones while they were useful,[26] TK stormtroopers were introduced under War-Mantle as recruited soldiers who would replace the clones. Just as the citizen-recruited TK troopers paved the way[27] for the finalized Imperial stormtrooper,[24] the conscription trooper pilots[25] were introduced as a new pilot class[28] formed out of recruited citizens instead of cloned individuals and set the stage for the later Imperial Starfighter Pilot class.[25] Eventually, most clone troopers were phased out of active service due to their fast aging,[29][30] leaving the ranks of Imperial Starfighter Pilots to be formed out of recruited citizens trained in military academies.[8]


Flight baron Valen Rudor

Baron Rudor, with red stripes going down his helmet and sides, and white streaks below the eyes

TIE fighter pilots wore a self-contained, insulated black flight suit with pockets and zip-front, a reinforced helmet reminiscent of the stormtrooper design, and chest armor featuring an emergency atmospheric unit and a life support pack.[16][20] The flight suit was pressurized and constructed of energy-shielded fabric.[16][31] The atmospheric control box on their flight suit was attached to two flexible gas transfer tubes that plugged into their vacuum-sealed helmet. The helmet was equipped with polarized lens and ship-linked displays and communications.[16][1] On TIE pilot belts, to their right of their belt-buckle was a comlink/transponder in a shockproof case. TIE pilots also wore positive-gravity pressure boots and insulated gauntlets.[20] Imperial Special Forces troopers wore uniforms similar in design to TIE fighter pilots.[23]

TIE pilots could be equipped with an E-11 medium blaster rifle[19] or a blaster pistol.[32] Some helmets had white stripes below the eyes,[24] and some elite pilots such as Baron Valen Rudor and Captain Vult Skerris had red or yellow stripes going down the middle of their helmets and sides.[8][33] TIE pilot jumpsuits were taken by the Uprising for its stolen TIEs, creating the Uprising TIE pilot class.[34]

Behind the scenes[]

Ultimate Star Wars first identified TIE fighter pilots as "human" in 2015.[4] Star Wars Helmet Collection 6, released in 2016, stated that they were "various, mostly human," implying the existence of non-human pilots.[35] However, Ultimate Star Wars, New Edition, released in 2019, stated "human" again.[36] As Star Wars Helmet Collection magazines do not explicitly credit the Lucasfilm Story Group, then information from Ultimate Star Wars and Ultimate Star Wars, New Edition, which both have Story Group credits, take precedence.


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Non-canon appearances[]


Notes and references[]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Star Wars Rebels: The Visual Guide
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 SWInsider "Last Call at the Zero Angle" — Star Wars Insider 156
  3. Han Solo - Imperial Cadet 1
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Ultimate Star Wars
  5. Rebels-mini-logo Star Wars Rebels — "Fighter Flight"
  6. Solo: A Star Wars Story
  7. Tarkin
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 Rebels-mini-logo Star Wars Rebels — "The Antilles Extraction"
  9. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker: The Visual Dictionary states that the First Order was publicly formed five years before the Starkiller Incident, which Star Wars: Galactic Atlas dates to 34 ABY. Therefore, the First Order's official formation which include the formation of First Order TIE fighter pilot, must have happened in 29 ABY.
  10. Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens
  11. Dawn of Rebellion
  12. Star Wars Propaganda: A History of Persuasive Art in the Galaxy
  13. Thrawn: Alliances
  14. Star Wars: Commander
  15. StarWars-DatabankII TIE fighter in the Databank (backup link)
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 16.4 16.5 16.6 16.7 16.8 TIE Fighter Owners' Workshop Manual
  17. Rise of the Rebels
  18. Alphabet Squadron
  19. 19.0 19.1 Star Wars (2015) 12
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 20.3 20.4 Star Wars: Rogue One: The Ultimate Visual Guide
  21. Lost Stars
  22. Shadow Fall
  23. 23.0 23.1 Star Wars Battlefront II
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 StarWars "Confined" Episode Guide | Star Wars The Bad Batch on StarWars.com (backup link) (Trivia Gallery Slide 6)
  26. 26.0 26.1 TBBtemplate Star Wars: The Bad Batch — "The Solitary Clone"
  27. 27.0 27.1 TBBtemplate Star Wars: The Bad Batch — "War-Mantle"
  28. TBBtemplate Star Wars: The Bad Batch — "Confined"
  29. StarWars SDCC 2014: Star Wars: A New Dawn Panel – Liveblog on StarWars.com (backup link)
  30. Smuggler's Run: A Han Solo & Chewbacca Adventure
  31. Star Wars: The Visual Encyclopedia
  32. TIE Fighter 3
  33. Rebels-mini-logo Star Wars Rebels — "Empire Day"
  34. Star Wars: Uprising—Crew Member: "Uprising TIE pilot"
  35. Star Wars Helmet Collection 6
  36. Ultimate Star Wars, New Edition

External links[]