Updated: Nov 9, 2019
In the last 42 years following the release of Star Wars IV: A New Hope, the ranks of the Galactic Empire’s TIE variants have swollen to staggering proportions. There’s a TIE for practically every conceivable purpose, from unarmed reconnaissance vessels to shuttles, bombers, and turbolaser platforms. However, not all TIEs are created equal. Today we’ll be taking a look at the top five variants of one of the most iconic starships in all of science fiction.
#5: TIE/d Automated Starfighter
Introduced In: Dark Empire, 1991
The arguably the greatest asset of the standard TIE fighter is it's expendability. Cheap to produce, their strength lies in the swarm tactics used by the Empire. What could make the TIE/ln better at it's job? Remove the men behind the machines. Training, housing, and feeding a pilot costs credits. Manufacturing a droid brain takes initial resources to create and some here and there to maintain, but that cost is surely dwarfed by the needs of biological pilots.
The TIE/d, or TIE Droid, takes an already economically efficient design and raises it's expendability even further. Coupled with the fact that these mechanical menaces were pumped out by the near inexhaustible molecular furnaces of World Devastators (superweapons designed to strip worlds bare of resources to literally fuel the Imperial war machine), TIE Droids made for a great addition to the Imperial Navy.
#4: TIE/HU Multi-role Starfighter
Introduced In: Star Wars: Rogue Squadron III: Rebel Strike, 2003
Up next in our number four slot, we have the Empire's counter to the success of the Rebellion's T-65 X-Wing: the TIE Hunter. This TIE actually possess a number of similarities with it's rebellious counterpart, namely the addition of s-foils, shields, and even a hyperdrive. in terms of sheer firepower, the Hunter even manages to exceed the X-Wing, boasting 2 ion cannons and a proton torpedo launcher with a magazine of 12 torpedoes in addition to its standard compliment of 2 laser cannons.
There isn't much else to say for this craft other than that it's nice to see the Empire seeing how well X-Wings performed in starfighter engagements and deciding to create something with the speed of a TIE fighter, the maneuverability and durability of an X-Wing, and the destructive potential of a Y-Wing. How awesome is that?
#3: TIE/vn Space Superiority Fighter, TIE SIlencer
Introduced In: Star Wars The Last Jedi, 2017
As much as I love the updated designs presented in the sequel trilogy, I think we can all agree that we haven't gotten too much in the way of truly unique starfighter designs. That is, except for the Kylo Ren's personal ship, the TIE Silencer.The TIE Silencer was the result of years of technological progress and new spins on classical TIE design.
From a purely technological advancement, the Silencer benefits from having improved power distribution, better reactor technology, and more powerful cannons. While larger than most TIEs, it packs it's advanced armament of 6 cannons and 2 missile launchers into a sleek, beautiful package. Experimental stealth equipment deters enemy sensors and tracking, while deflector shields ensure it's pilot has the edge in any dogfight he should find himself in.
#2: TIE/ph Phantom
Introduced In: Star Wars Rebel Assault II: The Hidden Empire, 1995
For number two on our list, we'll be taking a look at a TIE model that's more of a prototype or proof of concept than a proven, battle tested starfighter. The Phantom is unique among its brethren for being one of the few examples of a successfully cloaked starfighter. Generally, the devices required to render ships invisible to sensors and the naked eye are quite large and costly, making them impractical for most vessels. The TIE Phantom fixes those problems, and packs them into a sleek and deadly package.
Armed with 5 laser cannons, a cloaking device, and a hyperdrive, the Phantom was capable of striking out at opponents and disappearing into the void in the blink of an eye. The only real drawback was that the fighter had to decloak in order to fire it's weapons, but clever engineering allowed the cannons to sync with the cloak to vanish the ship as soon as the ship stopped firing. Unlike most TIEs, this model was also equipped with shields and lifesupport.
#1: TIE/d Defender
Introduced In: Star Wars: TIE Fighter, 1994
While perhaps not as advanced as the TIE Silencer or as stealthy as the TIE Phantom, the TIE Defender holds a special place in the hearts of many TIE enthusiasts due to the sheer amount of features packed onto this beast of a fighter. It's such a popular design that, unlike many EU concepts from Legends, the Defender has a presence in canon as well as Legends. It may be one of the more bizarre models out there, but don't let it's awkward exterior fool you, this ship means business.
The most prominent feature of this craft is it's triad of inverted Interceptor-esque wings. Each of these wings is tipped with laser cannons, with 2 of the emplacements being ion cannons for disabling enemy ships and shields. Like the Silencer, it is also equipped with two multi-functional warhead launchers and deflector shields for defense. Perhaps the most interesting feature is the addition of an optional tractor beam, something that isn't common among any starfighter sized ship, let alone a TIE fighter. All of these features work together to create one of the most fascinating and deadly starfighters ever used by the Empire or it's successor factions.