Death Stars: Hangar Complement

This page examines the hangar and docking capacities of the Death Star battle stations.

Hangar Complement


According to the blueprints in TBSFF, the starfighter complement of the Death Star I was:

1831     TIE Fighters
2904     TIE Assault Craft
806     TIE Boarding Craft
1384     Scouts

The scout ships may be the hyperdrive-capable TIE Scout ships later described in STAR WARS: The Roleplaying Game and STAR WARS Customisable Card Game. The TIE Assault Craft probably include what are known as TIE Bombers and other, similarly heavy TIE designs. The twin-pod TIE Boarding Craft are shown in The STAR WARS Sketchbook but were left out of the original movie; they have since been shown in STAR WARS Incredible Cross Sections. They serve functions similar to the (non-TIE) assualt shuttles which appear in the TIE Fighter computer game and Roleplaying Game books. The Death Star Technical Companion estimates a slightly greater fighter capacity: 100 wings. This is 7200 TIE craft of various classes.

When the Emperor arrived at Endor, swarms of TIE Fighters flew in formation past his docking bay. The fighters were in flight groups of four. If they were evenly spaced around the entire circumference of the battle station then they must have numbered in the tens of thousands. This is necessarily a minimum estimate of the total fighter complement carried by the battle station. The nearby Imperial warships (a few dozen destroyers plus a communications ship and the dreadnought Executor) have relatively little volume, and thus they cannot have contributed more than a small fraction of the parading fighters. Therefore we should take ten thousand as a tentative approximate scale for the total fighter complement of Death Star II. Considering the station's 900km diameter and >2800km circumference, a complement of tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands is more realistic than the earliest published estimates of a few thousand.

Mandel blueprints with an estimate of the starfighter complement, predating roleplaying games. [The Technical Book of Science Fiction Films]

One TIE fighter apparently sitting in a hangar, aboard the first Death Star. It's not clear whether it is suspended from the top of the wings or sits directly on the deck. Either way the wings are taking the weight, which is not mechanically advantageous. TIEs ought to have more efficient long-term roosts. Or perhaps the gravity was deactivated in this fighter's resting-place? [ANH]

Deadly TIE Interceptors patrol space surrounding the second Death Star. [ROTJ]

* * * * *
Countless TIE Fighters fly in formation to honour Emperor Palpatine's arrival at Endor. They may well encircle the battle station's entire equator. Days later, the rebel fleet arriving at Endor hoped to assualt a poorly-defended and incomplete battle station but were met by an overwhelming maelstrom of Imperial starfigters. They must have underestimated the fighter complement of the battle station, the fleet or both. [ROTJ]


TBSFF blueprints for the Death Star I indicate eight different classes of carried ships. Most of these types are unfilmed but they may fit a logical spectrum of Imperial Starfleet vessels. Only the star destroyers (of which six are carried) are clearly identifiable. The landing craft might include Acclamator-class assault ships [AOTC], the smaller dropships of the roleplaying games [mentioned in The Imperial Sourcebook and Death Star Technical Companion], or perhaps smaller vessels such as the Sentinel-class landing ships [ANH:SE] and TIE landing craft [Marvel SW comics #56,57]. The corvettes may be the similar to Corellian corvettes commonly used by merchants, pirates and Rebels, although it may be a higher-performance, exclusively-Imperial design.

The cruisers, battleships and corvettes must be of different sizes. They probably express the “dagger” style which is common to the Imperial Navy large combat starships. This style is universal in the films, and is presumably the optimal shape for large combat vessels constructed with the Empire's technology. (The Rebel Alliance uses other designs only because of its poverty: it accepts whatever combat-modified civilian vessels it can find.)

The starships listed in the blueprints are:

6     Star Destroyers
10     Battleships
39     Heavy Cruisers
17     Light Cruisers
81     Fighter Tenders
190     Troop Transports
714     Corvettes
509     Tanker Drones

This complement shows a mysterious population inversion. The medium-sized vessels (the destroyers) are less common than the larger cruisers and battleships. Perhaps this is because a larger number of destroyers are expected to spend most of their time in a halo screening the Death Star, making independent hyperspace jumps while the big ships are reserved in their docks.

The Death Star Technical Companion estimates a larger size for the Death Star I, but a much smaller starship complement. However the count of minor support craft is greatly increased.

4     Strike Cruisers
3600     Assault Shuttles
2840     Blastboats
1860     Drop-Ships
13000     Support Craft

None of these are genuine, full-scale (“dagger”-style) warships. They are minnows and littoral craft. The largest, the misleadingly named “Strike Cruisers”, are only equivalent to small Star Frigates on the Kuat Drive Yards scale.

There is almost no consistency between these separately published ship counts. How can they be reconciled? Perhaps the troop transports are a subset of the drop-ships? This is unlikely, since in conventional terminology a drop-ship is a vessel designed to carry numerous troops and heavy equipment from space into a ground battle zone by performing a high-speed descent, whereas a troop transport is a more ordinary vessel which accomodates and transports soldiers between battles. Perhaps the best reconciliation of the two sources would be to simply append the counts or take the higher counts in overlapping categories.

Both sets of numbers may be unrealistic underestimates. The surface of a Death Star is so vast — essentially an artificial world with a cavernous interior — that it could carry virtually unlimited numbers of docked craft. The only possible limitation on the carrying capacity for larger starships is the width of the hangar aperture that engulfs them. The equatorial trench is high enough to fit the standard mile-long star destroyers, but such ships would need a large-sized bay of a kind that hasn't (yet) appeared in closeup. Larger docking apertures could be consistent with the polar areas, which remain poorly observed. Alternatively, large warships may mate with the battle station at suitable mooring towers built a few hundred metres high. Such towers are the predominant structure at the wharfs for big ships on the Emperor's resort world of Byss, in the Deep Core enclaves. The Emperor's observation tower on the Death Star II was a renovated and upgraded version of a mooring tower [ITW:SWT]

The star destroyer Devastator returns to the Death Star, flying in as if it intends to dock. [ANH]

Blueprints indicating many warships carried by the first Death Star.


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