Jeremy hopes the Force is with him as he pursues a forensics career in the swamps of Louisiana.
Rebels vs. Imperials in Space
Throughout the original Star Wars trilogy, fans may notice that despite being outnumbered and out-funded, the Rebels seem to have superior spaceships than the Imperials—what gives? Well, the Empire's initial TIE (Twin Ion Engine) Fighters adopted a quantity over quality doctrine, intending to overwhelm via sheer numbers rather than actual virtue, explaining their spec deficit.
But eventually, the Imperials realized their perspective's downsides and gradually began producing better starships, many rivaling the Rebellion's best—which reign supreme? These are the ten best Imperial TIE variants in Star Wars!
10. TIE Brute
Best seen in Solo: A Star Wars Story, Brutes, or Heavy TIE Fighters, are basically standard TIEs but with superior laser cannons, offering a healthy dose of both speed and firepower. That said, they share many of the regular TIE's flaws, including a lack of shields or hyperdrive, relying on swarming tactics to stay safe (best defense is a good offense).
9. TIE Automated
Deployed by the resurrected Emperor's Imperial remnants in the legends timeline, these ships are also called TIE Drones. They use self-flying Separatist technology to steer the craft electronically, disregarding the need (and expense) of an actual pilot. This also means the ship doesn't have to worry about life support systems and is a surprisingly moral craft (which I'm sure was Palpatine's priority).
The trade-off is that droid pilots have limited ingenuity and can be outwitted by more experienced pilots. Still, the Automated's low cost makes it easy to mass-deploy, and it wields superior speed and armor compared to standard TIEs.
8. TIE Boarding Craft
While it lacks a catchy name, the Boarding Craft carries up to 20 stormtroopers or other soldiers to their destination, useful when breaching a ship instead of destroying it. Darth Vader pilots one (off-screen) when he engages Leia's Tantive IV ship at the start of A New Hope.
While not designed for combat, the ship can hold its own thanks to heavy lasers and a targeting computer. Variants called the TIE Lander and TIE Reaper also help transport Imperial troops.
7. TIE Striker
Featured in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Strikes are designed for atmospheric environments rather than the vacuum of space, outspeeding standard TIEs in their preferred terrain. They also pack better weaponry, including proton bombs, making the craft an interesting blend of dogfighter and bomber.
However, most targets that require heavy bombing—capital ships and the like—usually hit back with their own turbolasers, explaining why the Empire wisely later swapped speed for armor with...
6. TIE Bomber
Almost identical in appearance to the Boarding Craft, the TIE Bomber utilizes its extra compartment space for bombs instead of troops. This makes it one of if not the slowest TIE, but its devastating payload plus heavier shields and armor essentially provide a flying tank.
Not optimized for dogfighting, Bombers rely on other TIEs to protect them from enemy fighters as they bombard their targets, but they're equipped with regular lasers when the need arises.
5. TIE Interceptor
Described by ace Rebellion pilot Antoc Merrick as "the design I'm most worried about", the Interceptor is one of the galaxy's fastest starships, rivaling the Rebellion's A-wing. The Empire installed some with shields and hyperdrive, letting upgraded Interceptors compete with even the renowned X-wing.
The Interceptor arguably strikes the ideal balance (at least in Imperial terms) between cost and quality, strong enough to counter Alliance craft yet cheap enough to mass-produce.
4. TIE Advanced
Darth Vader's preferred ship, the Advanced wields hyperdrive and shielding, monumental upgrades from standard TIEs. These features raise price, explaining why the Empire didn't manufacture them en masse, but the ship was considered an equal to the Rebellion's X-wing, which is often cited as the best starship of its time.
Still, while slightly faster than a standard TIE (which are by no means slow), the Advanced's biggest flaw is its lack of maneuverability, a result of its heavier armor.
3. TIE Phantom
A modified version of the V38 assault craft, Phantoms have shields and hyperdrives, but their most distinctive trait are their cloaking capabilities, able to evade sensors and become invisible to the naked eye. These make them ideal stealth units, able to sneak into enemy territory for recon or surprise attacks.
Phantoms also possess five lasers, one on each wing tip plus two under the cockpit, and their self-destruction protocols make them near-impossible for foes to capture.
2. TIE Avenger
Essentially a further-evolved Advanced, the Avenger is the fastest TIE yet, has hyperdrive and shields, and greatly improves upon the Advanced's limited maneuverability. They also have customized payloads, bearing lasers plus torpedoes, bombs, missiles, or even tractor beams.
Some pilots consider this the best TIE ever produced thanks to its shields and smaller frame making it difficult to both hit and destroy, but it's narrowly surpassed by the...
1. TIE Defender
Heralded by Grand Admiral Thrawn and highly praised by Darth Vader (arguably the best pilot in the galaxy), the Defender earned the respect of many high-ranking Imperials. Armed with six heavy lasers canons as well as concussion missiles, they hit hard and hit fast are are noted to outclass Rebellion Y-wing bombers.
Defenders are remarkably agile considering their larger size and the only TIE outfitted with electronic-disrupting ion canons. As if that weren't enough, Vader's recommendations yielded the TIE Defender Elite, which further improves upon the craft's speed, hyperdrive, and shields, offering the best TIE to date.
First Order TIEs
While standard TIEs lack quality, they're intimidating in swarms and usually backed by the awesome power of Star Destroyers, giving the Empire dominance in space despite TIE flaws.
Years later, the First Order would continue building upon TIE designs, resulting in ships like the TIE Echelon and TIE Baron, but for now, vote for your favorite Imperial ship and I'll see you at our next Star Wars countdown!
© 2020 Jeremy Gill
Jeremy Gill (author) from Louisiana on January 23, 2020:
Thanks! I'm considering bumping the Striker up a few slots after reading Poe's thoughts regarding it in "The Rebel Files", where he notes how much better it performs in atmosphere than other TIEs. Situational yet powerful ships.
I appreciate it! Thrawn's one of few non-film characters iconic enough to appear in both legends and canon timelines, so anything he praises deserves notice.
Filipe Baião from Lisbon on January 23, 2020:
The Interceptor will always be my favourite from the original movie. But the Striker and the Avenger are also pretty good. Nice Hub!
Tim Truzy from U.S.A. on January 23, 2020:
I've just read Star Wars: Thrawn': Treason. The Tie Defender is awesome. It definitely deserves the top spot. The Defenders played key roles in the book. This is an excellent review of all of the Ties. Thanks.