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Argument: The Rebels Had a Really Stupid Strategy to Blow up the Death Star


(Image: Disney)

The Battle of Yavin is the event Star Wars fans most commonly think of as the destruction of the first Death Star at the end of Episode IV. The Rebels concocted a risky plan to take out a much more powerful force. It was, through skill, courage, and a lot of luck, successful. The Empire faced a major setback in its plans as a result.

Hooray! And Jordan Freiman of Death and Taxes magazine joins you in the celebration. But he also argues that the Rebel Alliance demonstrated extraordinary stupidity in its battle plan.

The crux of his argument is that the famous trench run, which was modeled after a real-life bombing campaign by the Royal Air Force during World War II, was completely unnecessary. As Spock commented upon Khan's tactics in the Battle of the Mutara Nebula, it demonstrated two-dimensional thinking. Instead of flying down a long and dangerous trench toward the Death Star, the Rebel fighters should have flown directly at it, perpendicular to point of impact. Frieman explains:

Just because the exhaust port is at the end of the trench, that doesn’t mean you have to use the trench to get there. You have spaceships! And the exhaust port is facing upward! You even show it facing upward in your little diagram. Why not just fly straight down towards it? Flying through the trench makes everything more difficult. You have no room to maneuver and, more importantly, rather than hitting the port with a straight shot, you now have to angle the proton torpedoes to go straight and then curve down. That’s so much more difficult!

Also, you know how everyone groans when he says “the shaft is ray shielded, so you’ll have to use proton torpedoes.”? Why is everyone groaning? How would you even hit that thing with a laser if you’re approaching it from the side? USE YOUR HEADS!

If I remember correctly, the point of the trench run was to get so close to the surface of the Death Star that the space station's anti-ship weapons could not be brought to bear against it. The trench run began at the point closest to the Rebel fleet. Flying directly toward the exhaust port would have required the X-wing squadron to be exposed for a much longer time

Content warning: foul language.

-Thanks, Miss Cellania!


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They also have the rubber science of "deflector shields" to work with. Quite possibly the area of the thermal exhaust port, being a hole in the armored hull, is very heavily shielded from a direct attack. The Rebels' trick is to push their fighters through the shields at a weaker point (over some more heavily armored or less vital part of the hull) and then scoot, using the trench as cover, to the secondary thermal exhaust port. Note that there might be numerous secondary thermal ports, but this one is conveniently located right at the end of the trench -- that being the "design flaw" referenced in the film.
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