The Thrawn campaign, also known as the Thrawn crisis, was a series of innovative military and political maneuvers executed by Grand Admiral Thrawn in 9 ABY as the Supreme Commander of the Galactic Empire. Thrawn's attacks, feints and policies constituted the first major internal and external conflict for the New Republic, and nearly succeeded in toppling the fledgling government.
Thrawn himself referred to his offensive as the "Mount Tantiss campaign", since two key elements of the campaign were pieces of technology he had located inside Emperor Palpatine's private storehouse inside Mount Tantiss on Wayland.
- "I am Grand Admiral Thrawn. I have been away, but now I have returned. I know some of what has occurred. You will fill in the details of the rest when I come aboard. Rejoice, Captain, for the Empire will rise again."
- ―Thrawn greets Gilad Pellaeon
Following the campaigns after Warlord Zsinj's defeat, Imperial Space had been pushed back to a bare quarter of its former territory. Additionally, as the Empire lost ground, its sources of crewmen dried up. Instead of Academy graduates, Loyalist officers like Captain Gilad Pellaeon had to make do with recruits trained on the job, and were even forced to order conscription raids to press men into service.
However, the New Republic was not in a much better state. During the relentless battles after Zsinj's death, the Empire and the New Republic had both suffered appalling fleet losses. With the Kuat shipyards almost completely destroyed by KDY itself, both sides were forced to either capture each other's ships or rely on lesser, overstretched shipyards. Given the scale of the fighting and the Empire's ever-increasing fragmentation, a speedy recovery for either was unlikely any time soon, and fleet sizes on both sides were incredibly finely balanced. Consequently, by the end of 8 ABY, Mon Mothma ordered a suspension of New Republic operations in order to rebuild its forces, entrench the government and integrate its territories. Imperial Space was poorly developed economically, and she was content to let a strategy of economics slowly win over systems. Thus, the Empire continued to hold its territories beyond the Hydian Way in the New Territories, while Zsinj's former empire between the Hydian and the Perlemian Trade Route became a region of divided loyalties known as the Borderland Regions. Meanwhile, the New Republic occupied a salient along the Celanon Spur from Ord Mantell captured during the post–Zsinj campaigns, and nominally controlled the galaxy south of the Perlemian. However, many of these systems had yet to return representatives to Coruscant, and the New Republic's authority was largely theoretical beyond the major trade routes. For a brief time, an uneasy peace existed.
In 9 ABY, however, approximately two years after the capture of Coruscant, reports started to reach the New Republic of a Grand Admiral commanding the Imperial fleet. This man was Mitth'raw'nuruodo, a Chiss better known by his core name, Thrawn. Returning from the Unknown Regions, Thrawn had taken control of the Galactic Empire and started a new campaign against the New Republic.
Raising his flag on the Star Destroyer Chimaera, Thrawn took the popular and respected Captain Gilad Pellaeon as his second-in-command. Thrawn earned the admiration of the Moffs through his suppression of pirate bases in Imperial territory, and warlords like Ardus Kaine and Delak Krennel agreed to a temporary military confederation. Ars Dangor's Ruling Council on Orinda gave him the nominal position of Supreme Commander, but in reality the Council and the Moffs hoarded military assets as much in fear of each other as the New Republic. The force truly available to Thrawn consisted only of the dozen Star Destroyers and their support lines still remaining in Death Squadron after the defeat at Endor, of which only six—the Chimaera, the Judicator, the Death's Head, the Stormhawk, the Nemesis and the Inexorable—were judged fully loyal. Thrawn split the squadron into two fleets: the fleet of six Loyalist Star Destroyers led by the Chimaera under his personal command, and a second force of six ships led by Captain Dorja aboard the Relentless. Thrawn additionally reaffirmed the service of the Noghri to the Empire, using them as bodyguards and commandos.
Thrawn viewed his strategy as a series of interlocking pieces that added up to "the only puzzle worth solving... the complete, total, and utter destruction of the Rebellion." During this early period, Thrawn used individual Star Destroyers to raid New Republic worlds in the Borderland Regions like the Draukyze and Saarn systems to test their reactions. The initial phase of Thrawn's plan aimed to alleviate the problem of his limited military forces. He hoped to acquire any capital ships he could which included stealing New Republic warships using mole miners, and locating and seizing the lost Katana fleet, and build an army of clones to crew his new fleet. To build the clones, Thrawn sought Palpatine's hidden supply of Spaarti cloning cylinders, which he planned to use at an accelerated pace to fill his ranks with loyal crewmen, soldiers and pilots. But to keep the accelerated process from creating mad, unstable clones, Thrawn planned to use the ysalamir, a creature able to create a Force-blocking bubble. Thrawn learned of the creatures years earlier when he noted during his time in the Unknown Regions that Myrkr had been avoided by the Jedi Knights for the last 300 years of the Galactic Republic. The ysalamiri were also crucial to Thrawn's plan to rein in Joruus C'baoth, the mad Dark Jedi clone that guarded Palpatine's secret stores (though Thrawn had initially expected to find a different Guardian). While the Spaarti chambers would provide Thrawn with acceptable soldiers, he lacked sufficient officers to command his new fleet and determined that C'baoth could provide coordination between the Imperial forces as Nial Declann did at Endor (although Thrawn believed it was the Emperor himself who used battle meditation).
To uncover the location of his prizes, Thrawn launched a raid against the comprehensive archive computers of Obroa-skai. The raid also provided Thrawn with a wealth of up-to-date information—Thrawn's most lethal weapon—on the New Republic, its allies and the state of the galaxy at large. After the final raid, which provided Thrawn with the information he required, a skirmish with a New Republic pursuit force afforded Thrawn his first opportunity to display his tactical brilliance by detecting the species of the pursuit force's commander—an Elomin. He initiated an attack using a Marg Sabl maneuver that the Elomin commander would be unable to counter, and defeated the task force with a numerically inferior force.
From the partial data dump recovered from Obroa-skai, Thrawn was able to gain the location of Wayland, the site of Mount Tantiss, Palpatine's secret storehouse. Chimaera ventured first to Myrkr, where Thrawn encountered Talon Karrde, who was convinced to aid the Imperial commander despite his preference to remain neutral. After collecting a suitable number of ysalamiri, Pellaeon and Thrawn traveled to Wayland. Protected by nutrient-rack-mounted ysalamiri, Thrawn convinced Joruus C'baoth to aid his campaign in exchange for Luke Skywalker, Leia Organa Solo and her unborn twins. C'baoth, enticed by the offer of young Jedi minds to shape, pledged his assistance and allowed Thrawn access to the wonders of Mount Tantiss, including the Spaarti chambers and the schematics for a working cloaking shield.
Mount Tantiss was seeded with ysalamiri and, using exceptional warriors like Maximilian Veers and Soontir Fel as templates, the Spaarti cylinders began churning out thousands of clones, whereupon Thrawn began his military campaign in earnest. Thrawn made use of the ancient stateless strategy: he used mobility to strike at where the New Republic was not, forcing them to either overstretch their forces in an effort to defend everything, or concentrate their forces to defend a handful of important planets, and so lose legitimacy elsewhere. With the Inner Rim recently liberated from Imperial hands, Thrawn carefully aimed his attacks against a number of Inner and Mid Rim worlds. He feinted at Bpfassh in order to draw New Republic forces away from other systems, then raided Lando Calrissian's mining operation of Nomad City on Nkllon, stealing fifty-one mole miners. Noghri Death Commandos additionally raided Bimmisaari and Kashyyyk in an effort to capture Leia Organa Solo.
The feint at Bpfassh left the shipyards at Sluis Van poorly defended. A cloaked freighter delivered the mole miners stolen from Nomad City and their TIE fighter escort into the system, which were used to drill through the ships' hulls and place boarding parties aboard the docked New Republic starships. Thrawn intended to steal the nearly one hundred starships, but was foiled when Lando Calrissian used the command codes he'd memorized to activate the mole miners' plasma cutters, sending them boring through the starships' command centers and disabling the ships Thrawn intended to capture. Though Thrawn did not achieve his objective, the ships were denied to the New Republic as well.
Fortunately for Thrawn, his loss at Sluis Van coincided with the arrest of Admiral Gial Ackbar, potentially the New Republic commander most likely to provide a challenge. Unbeknownst to the New Republic, Thrawn was making use of Delta Source, a Clone Wars-era audio surveillance system installed in the ch'hala trees in the Grand Corridor of the Imperial Palace. Not knowing the source of the leak, the New Republic government came to believe that it had a traitor in its ranks, and Ackbar was arrested at the behest of Borsk Fey'lya after Thrawn planted information implicating him in the treason.
Despite the Sluis Van setback Thrawn's campaign was not stalled, merely delayed. In the meantime, Thrawn carried on his guerrilla strikes on Republic worlds while he built up strength, inflicting damage to Taanab and a convoy near Sarka. His efforts focused not on destroying Republic convoys but stripping them of defenses, forcing the New Republic to deploy more vessels to such convoys or abandon whole regions entirely, weakening them either way. Thrawn sought a new source of ships for his clone crews, seeking the Katana fleet, a pre-Clone Wars force of 200 Dreadnaught-class heavy cruisers that had disappeared after a hive virus had driven its crews insane. Thrawn kidnapped Captain Hoffner, who had stumbled across the "Dark Force" years before, at Pantolomin, and his former navigator Talon Karrde to uncover the fleet's location. The New Republic raced to intercept Thrawn, but in the ensuing battle for the Katana fleet, Thrawn escaped with 178 of the Dreadnaughts, enabling him to launch his main campaign earlier than even he expected. With his burgeoning clone army and his new cloaking device, coupled with the "Dark Force," Thrawn had tipped the scales far into the Empire's hands and was poised to sweep away all resistance.
The new Imperial fleets renewed the offensive by striking up the Corellian Run at several sectors. Thrawn's acquisition of the Katana Dreadnaughts augmented his fleet's ability to the point that it was able to immediately attack more than twenty New Republic systems. Thrawn made a series of feints at Ando, Filve and Crondre that forced the New Republic fleet at Ord Pardron to sortie. Thrawn then destroyed the undefended military base at Ord Pardron, in turn allowing him to capture the major agricultural world of Ukio.
Imperial forces located in the New Territories eagerly awaited to advanced on the Core Worlds, while inner systems fortress worlds readied their forces to join his invasion fleets. Meanwhile, in the Deep Core, warlords that heard of his campaign began to stir like fire, tempting the New Republic to deploy rapid-reaction fleets to defend Coruscant, Kashyyyk, Mon Calamari, and Bothawui.
As the Republic reeled from that offensive, Thrawn committed more forces to other fronts. Further feints stripped numerous worlds of defenses, with Thrawn besieging Qat Chrystac and Ketaris, tying up New Republic resources. He committed to capturing Wistril, destabilizing more than a dozen New Republic sectors, and he secured Imperial territory further by capturing border worlds such as Ord Mantell and Generis, erasing the Celanon Spur salient. The Grand Admiral launched a second raid on Nkllon, giving him four months' worth of strategic resources to continue his offensive.
The New Republic fleets were crushed in individual sectors, as Thrawn's massive Dreadnaught fleet gave him a numerical advantage in each separate theatre, be it a sector-scale or planetary-scale battle. Advancing from Ord Mantell, Thrawn feinted at Mrisst to drawn the Coruscant Sector Fleet away from the capital, and launched a daring attack on Coruscant itself. Garm Bel Iblis took command of the Coruscant defense, putting Thrawn, seemingly, in the position of committing himself and taking immense casualties or retreating. Demonstrating his tactical genius, Thrawn instead deployed two dozen cloaked asteroids. These asteroids blockaded the planet, and by faking signals for more than three hundred asteroids, Thrawn effectively knocked Coruscant out of the war while dedicating hardly any material to the effort.
The New Republic let Thrawn rampage as they hastily patched together a counter-offensive at Bilbringi. Hundreds of systems either declared neutrality or returned to the Empire as the New Republic's defeat seemed imminent. The since-released Admiral Ackbar pinned his hopes on retrieving a CGT array from the Bilbringi Shipyards, the only type of sensor that could detect cloaked objects, and so end the Siege of Coruscant. He also hoped to capture the yards and destroy the belief that Thrawn was infallible in one attack, and New Republic assembled a fleet from all over the galaxy, withdrawing individual vessels and reshaping battle groups to provide the vessels. Ackbar feinted at Tangrene and struck at Bilbringi with the belief they would have their "second Endor" and defeat the Empire. Instead, Thrawn laid a trap and engaged the beleaguered New Republic Fleet in a decisive battle to cripple the New Republic.
While Thrawn proved to gain strategic and tactical superiority with a smaller force, his armada did not represent the full strength of the Imperial remnants. The cloned Emperor Palpatine, already consolidating power on Byss, arranged for a significant portion of the Imperial forces to ignore Thrawn and return to the Deep Core. It is unclear if Palpatine intended for Thrawn to be a distraction while he continued to rebuild his strength, or if his extended out-of-body period affected his mind to the point of considering Thrawn a threat rather than a loyal officer.
Writing in 55 ABY, Lenang O'Pali declared in Mitth'raw'nuruodo Reconsidered: A Patriot's Perspective his belief that Palpatine had recalled Thrawn from the Unknown Regions in order to restore the Empire to prepare to repel the upcoming the Yuuzhan Vong invasion. He cited Thrawn and Palpatine's discussions of the Vong (then known only as the "Far Outsiders") during their first encounter during the events surrounding the Outbound Flight Project in 27 BBY, and believed that Thrawn saw the New Republic as an inefficient, corrupt government that would have to be replaced by an orderly, militarized one in order to resist the Vong. It should be noted that O'Pali's piece was highly partisan, pro-Imperial, and revisionist.
The Battle of Bilbringi, and Defeat
On the eve of complete victory, with practically all the New Republic could spare caught before him, Thrawn was defeated by a culmination of numerous factors, too numerous for even his genius to deal with at once.
On Honoghr, Princess Leia had unveiled the damage Thrawn had been continuing to the Noghri homeworld, rather than healing it, and they secretly turned against him, sabotaging his efforts. At the Battle of Bilbringi, Thrawn's bodyguard struck, killing the Grand Admiral. With the Smugglers' Alliance and Rogue Squadron coordinating, the shipyards defenses were breached, and two New Republic Assault frigates were marching on the yards. Thrawn's death, at this exact moment, meant that Captain Gilad Pellaeon had to take command, and he chose to retreat, unable to turn the tide.
On Wayland, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Talon Karrde, Luke Skywalker, Lando Calrissian and Mara Jade confronted the insane Jedi Master Joruus C'baoth, killing him and destroying the clone facilities, ruining the supply to the Empire. On Garos IV, the Committee of Seven for Garosian Unification finally recovered their world, removing the source of Hibridium for the cloaking device technology, ruining that advantage the Empire had gained equally. Regardless, the limits to the cloaking device would prevent the Empire from reusing it again without Thrawn's genius.
With these losses, Thrawn's new Empire, ruling half of the galaxy, was left entirely rudderless, its offensive impossible to sustain, and its advantages negated in a few hours. Without Thrawn, the Empire collapsed, assisted by the clone Emperor's efforts to consolidate his own forces.
- "None of you needs to be reminded that in the past few weeks our war against the remnants of the Empire has changed from what was once called a mopping-up exercise to a battle for our very survival."
- ―Admiral Ackbar
The Battle of Bilbringi marked the conclusion of the Thrawn campaign. As the fallen leader's forces fell into retreat, the New Republic was allowed a brief respite before the reborn Emperor would emerge to launch another near-fatal assault. To quote Admiral Gial Ackbar's analysis of New Republic military losses:
"The New Republic sustained considerable losses in the Thrawn campaign: ten percent of our forces killed, thirty percent wounded—but those are just averages. On the worlds Thrawn actually hit, the devastation was significant."
Notably, this meant that the New Republic, which only lost a third of its territory to Thrawn, had lost forty percent of its forces—weakening its control over even more of its territory than it actually lost.
In addition, the campaign further fractured the political unity of the New Republic, giving rise to Borsk Fey'lya's political career, though Fey'lya's actions during the campaign had nearly destroyed his career. The Mid Rim resented that the New Republic had been unable to defend it during Thrawn's efforts, and New Republic forces found themselves engaged in a political quagmire after Coruscant fell to the Empire, forcing them further Rimward.
On the positive side, the campaign led to the creation of the Smugglers' Alliance, the return of Garm Bel Iblis, an increase in the organization and size of the New Republic military, the liberation of the beings of Wayland and the Noghri, and a spark of interest in Luke Skywalker to seek out other Force-users that would eventually led to his creation of the Jedi Praxeum. In the aftermath of the campaign, Ackbar led New Republic fleets back into the Outer Rim, destroying Delak Krennel's Ciutric Hegemony. However, this left the Core Worlds lightly guarded and vulnerable to a new Imperial offensive out of the Deep Core under Palpatine's command.
From the Imperial perspective, the Thrawn campaign may have been more damaging to the cause of the New Order than not. Following Thrawn's death, the disparate forces he had united fell into the Imperial Civil War after a single collaborative initiative in the retaking of Coruscant. Imperial insiders criticized Thrawn's campaign for focusing on the reclaiming of territory, but not planning on methods of holding those planets and star systems. It is unclear, however, if each of these pieces was a carefully planned segment of Palpatine's plan for reemergence, or if Thrawn did indeed have a plan that he was unable to implement before his death.
Gilad Pellaeon's role as Thrawn's second-in-command further raised his profile within the Galactic Empire, and he was further sought for that role in the years after Emperor Palpatine's final death by such warlords as Treuten Teradoc and Natasi Daala. His reputation would ultimately elevate him to Supreme Commander in his own right by 19 ABY.
- Formation of Thrawn's confederation:
- Thrawn's early raids:
- Obroa-skai information raid (44:4:15)
- Destruction of the Elomin task force (44:4:15)
- Mission to Bimmisaari
- Battle of Bpfassh (44:4:25)
- Mission to Bpfassh (Between 44:4:25 and 44:4:27)
- Raid on Nomad City (44:4:27)
- Mission to Kashyyyk
- Rescue on Myrkr
- Battle of Sluis Van (44:5:17)
- Taanab operation (44:5:18)
- Battle of Sarka (44:5:30)
- Battle of Linuri (44:6:3)
- Raid on New Cov (44:6:8)
- Mission to Honoghr (44:6:10)
- Rescue on the Chimaera
- Raid on Pantolomin
- Battle for the Katana fleet (44:6:29)
- Thrawn's main campaigns:
- Battle of Sheris (44:7:6)
- Battle of Bimmisaari (44:7:10)
- Battle of Baros (44:7:20)
- Battle of Svivren (44:7:24)
- Battle of Ord Pardron (44:7:29)
- Battle of Crondre (44:7:29)
- Battle of Filve (44:7:29)
- Battle of Ando (44:7:29)
- Battle at Ukio (44:7:29)
- Battle of Eriadu (44:7:30)
- Mission to Poderis
- Battle of Woostri (44:7:31)
- Battle of Ord Mantell (44:8:1)
- Destruction of Nomad City (44:8:1)
- Battle of Qat Chrystac (44:8:1)
- Raid on Coruscant
- Ambush on Trogan
- Raid on Bilbringi
- Battle of Yag'Dhul (44:8:7)
- Battle of Anchoron (44:8:8)
- Battle of Mrisst (44:8:10)
- Siege of Coruscant (44:8:11)
- Fall of Generis (44:8:19)
- Battle of Ketaris
- Battle of Ithor (44:8:21)
- Battle of Abregado-Rae (44:8:22)
- Battle of Xa Fel (44:8:23)
- Assault on Mount Tantiss (44:8:27)
- Battle of Bilbringi (44:8:27)
- Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds (Mentioned only)
- Tatooine Ghost
- Heir to the Empire (First appearance)
- Dark Force Rising
- Dark Force Rising audiobook
- "Stand at Bhir'khi Pass"—Star Wars Adventure Journal 9
- The Last Command
- The Last Command audiobook
- X-Wing: Isard's Revenge
- Star Wars: Dark Empire (Mentioned only)
- Shield of Lies (Mentioned only)
- Specter of the Past (Mentioned only)
- Specter of the Past unabridged audiobook (Mentioned only)
- Vision of the Future (Mentioned only)
- Vision of the Future unabridged audiobook (Mentioned only)
- The New Jedi Order: Dark Tide I: Onslaught (Mentioned only)
- The New Jedi Order: Force Heretic I: Remnant (Indirect mention only)
- Dark Nest I: The Joiner King (Indirect mention only)
- Heir to the Empire Sourcebook
- Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game, Second Edition
- Dark Force Rising Sourcebook
- Dark Empire Sourcebook
- The Last Command Sourcebook
- Star Wars Miniatures Battles Companion
- The Jedi Academy Sourcebook
- The Thrawn Trilogy Sourcebook
- Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game, Second Edition, Revised and Expanded
- Star Wars Gamemaster Screen, Revised
- Cracken's Threat Dossier
- "Special Military Unit Intelligence Update"—Star Wars Adventure Journal 15
- The Essential Chronology
- The Official Star Wars Fact File 5 (THR1–4, Grand Admiral Thrawn)
- (Indirect mention only)
- The New Essential Chronology
- Star Wars: The Official Starships & Vehicles Collection 13
- The Complete Star Wars Encyclopedia
- The Essential Atlas
- The Essential Guide to Warfare
- The Essential Reader's Companion
Notes and references
- The New Essential Chronology
- The Essential Atlas
- Heir to the Empire
- The Last Command
- Dark Force Rising
- The Thrawn Trilogy Sourcebook
- Heir to the Empire Sourcebook
- The Essential Guide to Warfare, p. 205
- The Essential Atlas, p. 199
- The Essential Guide to Warfare, p. 201
- Before the Storm
- The Essential Guide to Warfare, p. 202-3
- The Essential Guide to Warfare, p. 203
- The Essential Guide to Warfare, p.204
- The Essential Guide to Warfare, p. 209