- "The Rebel Pilot is the first, and often the last, line of defense between the Empire and the "home fires." Imperial fleets are numerous and relentless. The Imperials must, therefore, learn that we are willing to die for our freedom. But, more importantly, they must learn that they too will die for our freedom."
- ―Gial Ackbar
Rebel pilots, also known as Alliance pilots, Rebel fighter pilots or Alliance Starfighter Pilots, were pilots who served both the early rebel movement and later the Rebel Alliance under the Alliance's starfighter corps. They fought in countless battles against the Imperial forces during the lead up to and during the Galactic Civil War. They piloted starfighters such as A-wings, B-wings, X-wings, and Y-wings, as well as low altitude vehicles such as T-47 airspeeders.
Early rebellion and early war
During the early rebellion, isolated rebel cells combated the Galactic Empire. Rebel pilots in Phoenix Squadron flew A-wing starfighters in deep space raids against the Empire's convoys. After the action at Mustafar, the crew of the Ghost joined the Phoenix Cell, but their RZ-1 A-wing interceptors were outmatched by the Sith Lord Darth Vader during the Imperial attack on the cell. Although the Phoenix Home was lost, the cell managed to escape. Phoenix rebel pilots later fought in the Imperial blockade of Ibaar, although Phoenix Leader was killed during the first strike against the Imperial starships. After the second and successful attempt to get through, Hera Syndulla was promoted to his former position.
In 2 BBY during Operation Handoff, pilots of Gold Squadron worked with members of the Ghost crew to protect Senator Mon Mothma from the Empire. After successfully bringing her to Dantooine, Mothma united the Phoenix cell and other rebel cells together as the Alliance to Restore the Republic. During the Battle of Atollon, Imperial Grand Admiral Thrawn and the Seventh Fleet defeated the pilots and forces of the Alliance, forcing the Phoenix Cell to abandon its base on Atollon. Its survivors went to Yavin 4 and became part of the Massassi Group. Captain Syndulla and a squadron of BTL-A4 Y-wing assault starfighter/bombers later undertook a failed supply mission.
Battle of Yavin
Before the Battle of Yavin started, pilots of the Rebel Alliance were given a task to destroy the Empire's superweapon, the Death Star. With the valuable information R2-D2 provided after Jyn Erso and Cassian Andor found it on Scarif, the Rebels learned that the Death Star had a small exhaust port which might be a good spot to place proton torpedoes in order to destroy the space station, because Galen Walton Erso projected the port betraying the Empire and giving a chance to the Rebels of destroying his station.
Once the mission briefing ended, members of Red Squadron and Gold Squadron were assigned to their X-wings and Y-wings. Soon after they were launched to space, they entered the Death Star's magnetic field and began the attack. During the attack run on the station's surface, they encountered turbolaser defenses. Due to the X-wings' small and fast body, the station's turbolasers weren't quite effective to the Rebel fighters. Noticing that fact, Darth Vader personally led a TIE/ln space superiority starfighter squadron in his TIE Advanced x1 to bring down the Rebels himself.
During the race in the trench, Vader killed several Rebel pilots including Gold Squadron members Jon Vander, Dex Tiree, and Davish Krail; Garven Dreis, leader of Red Squadron; and Biggs Darklighter, close friend of Luke Skywalker. As Vader took aim at Skywalker's fighter, however, the Millennium Falcon, piloted by Han Solo, appeared from above, and destroyed one of his escort TIE fighter pilots. As a result of Solo's distraction, Skywalker had a clear chance to fire torpedoes to the exhaust port. Aided by the Force, the torpedoes entered the exhaust port, reached the Death Star's main reactor, and caused a chain reaction which ultimately made the entire structure explode.
When the battle ended, the only surviving rebel pilots with the crew of the Falcon were Luke Skywalker, Wedge Antilles, and Evaan Verlaine. After the Royal Award Ceremony, Verlaine accompanied Princess Leia Organa in a mission to rescue the survivors of Alderaan.
Battle of Hoth
Although the Rebel Alliance achieved a major victory at Yavin, they were eventually forced to abandon their base and settled down at a remote ice world of Hoth. They were found by one of the Imperial probe droids searching through the galaxy, and as a result, Death Squadron came to the Hoth system.
But because of Admiral Kendal Ozzel's mistake, the Rebel Alliance noticed the approaching Imperials and activated a planetary shield generator which could protect their base from orbital bombardments. With the plan to bombard the rebel base from orbit precluded, Vader Force choked Admiral Ozzel to death and ordered General Maximilian Veers to lead the ground forces and destroy the shield generator.
While the Empire was planning the assault, the rebel defense line was formed to hold off the attackers until the rest of the Alliance members evacuate the planet. When the rebels spotted the Imperial AT-AT walkers, rebel pilots employed T-47 airspeeders to face them.
Rogue Squadron, led by Luke Skywalker, led the air defense against the Imperial AT-ATs. Wedge Antilles and gunner Wes Janson utilized tow cables to entangle an AT-AT's legs to disable the Imperial Walker. This strategy was effective by focusing on the weak spot of the walker, but they were eventually defeated by the superior firepower of the armored walkers. The Empire claimed victory in the battle, while the rebellion and its pilots were forced to flee the planet. The Alliance Fleet spilt into different cells, but Imperial Commander Ellian Zahra was able to locate the Fourth and Eighth Divisions by using a signal analysis protocol she'd created. When she was attacking the Fourth Division and its pilots, however, the Millennium Falcon arrived. The Falcon and the other remaining Rebel forces escaped her grasp.
Battle of Endor
One year after the devastating defeat on Hoth, the Rebel Alliance gathered for planning a large-scale assault on the newly constructed second Death Star. When the Alliance Fleet exited hyperspace in the second Death Star's vicinity. Realizing that it was a trap, the fleet, led by Admiral Gial Ackbar, and several rebel pilots with General Lando Calrissian in charge, engaged the Imperial fleet in point-black range.
During the battle, Blade Squadron, which consisted of A/SF-01 B-wing starfighters, encountered the Imperial-class Star Destroyer Devastator commanded by Admiral Jhared Montferrat. Despite the disadvantage in firepower, two rebel pilots, Gina Moonsong and Braylen Stramm, managed to hit the Star Destroyer's navigational shielding, leading to the destruction of the ship.
When the Death Star's shield was down, several pilots, including Norra Wexley, entered the Death Star's superstructure with the Millennium Falcon, piloted by Calrissian and Nien Nunb, to reach the station's reactor core and destroy it. Meanwhile, an A-wing pilot Arvel Crynyd flew his craft towards the bridge of the Super Star Destroyer Executor. By his sacrifice, the bridge was destroyed, bringing the massive star destroyer to its end.
Inside the Death Star, Wedge Antilles took a shot on the Death Star's power regulator. The following shot by the Falcon destroyed its main reactor and they flew their way out. The Death Star exploded just after the Falcon came out, and later on Endor, the rebel pilots celebrated their victory with the Ewoks and the rest of the Alliance members.
The Battle of Endor saw the death of many pilots, including Green Leader Arvel Crynyd, Blade Leader Adon Fox, Ekelarc Yong, Grizz Frix, and Sila Kott. After the rebellion became the New Republic, New Republic pilots served in the Defense Fleet.
- "People love the X-wing pilots because they think of them as the great fighters of the Rebellion. See? People haven't forgotten the war. It's just that it was all so very long ago."
- ―Senator Varish Vicly
By the end of the Galactic Civil War, many citizenry would look back on the conflict with nostalgia, while others worried that the lessons of the war had gone unheard to the younger generation. To them, the pilots and heroes of the past were nothing more than figures in a textbook, while pilots of the New Republic enjoyed massive popularity and rejoiced in the peace of their time, without the requirement of sacrifice or hardship.
Upon the rise of the First Order, pilots of the Resistance Starfighter Corps would borrow the uniforms, codes and tactics of the old Rebellion, led by several veteran Rebel pilots of the Galactic Civil War. Among the Resistance's ranks included Nien Nunb, the ex-smuggler turned war hero, along with Gial Ackbar and other celebrated members of Alliance High Command. Furthermore, the new pilots of the Resistance would all be trained in flight maneuvers named after pilots of the old war, such as the Skywalker Swoop, Antilles Intercept, and Porkins Belly Run, along with utilizing updated X-wing fighters, such as the T-70.
Rebel pilots were trained "on the fly" by their superiors, while most new recruits already possessed keen starfighting abilities. It was common practice for rebel pilots to be taught and utilize the scatter protocol, which set up a practice of randomly choosing a path through hyperspace after each operation before rendezvousing with the Alliance Fleet in an attempt to evade any possible Imperial pursuit.
Rebel pilots wore orange, blue, green, white, grey, or red flight suits with a flak vest and life support box on top. Their flight helmets were often decorated with the Alliance starbird although could be customized with squadron insignia or images of personal significance.
Notes and references
- Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope
- Star Wars Rebels – "The Mystery of Chopper Base"
- Star Wars (2015) 44
- Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back
- Lost Stars
- Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi
- Star Wars: On the Front Lines
- Star Wars Rebels: The Siege of Lothal
- Star Wars Rebels – "Fire Across the Galaxy"
- Star Wars Rebels – "Wings of the Master"
- Star Wars: Rogue One: The Ultimate Visual Guide establishes that the mission to investigate Geonosis, seen in Ghosts of Geonosis, occurred 2 years before the events of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Star Wars: Galactic Atlas places the events of Rogue One in 0 BBY, the same year it places the Battle of Yavin. Therefore the mission to Geonosis occurred two years before Yavin, so it took place in 2 BBY. Star Wars: On the Front Lines states that the Declaration of the Rebel Alliance, seen in Secret Cargo, took place two years before the Battle of Yavin. Since the Battle of Yavin occurred in 0 BBY according to Galactic Atlas, it can be deduced that the Declaration of the Rebel Alliance took place in 2 BBY. As Operation Handoff occurred between these two events, it must also have been in 2 BBY.
- Star Wars Rebels – "Secret Cargo"
- Star Wars Rebels – "Zero Hour"
- Star Wars Rebels – "In the Name of the Rebellion"
- Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
- Princess Leia 1
- Star Wars (2020) 1
- "Blade Squadron"—Star Wars Insider 149–150
- Star Wars: The Force Awakens: The Visual Dictionary
- Rebel Starfighters Owners' Workshop Manual
- The Weapon of a Jedi: A Luke Skywalker Adventure
- Star Wars: Squadrons