Why did the New Republic and Galactic Alliance keep using the X-Wing?
Without a doubt one of the most iconic Starfighters in the Star Wars Universe is the Incom T-65 X-Wing. Originally developed for the Empire before being stolen and utilized by the Rebel Alliance, these Starfighters took down 2 Death Stars and became the work horse Starfighter for the Rebel Alliance and Later New Republic. These ships were so effective that they stayed as the standard issue work horse Starfighter for the New Republic and later Galactic Alliance for over 40 years. The reason for this as stated in the novels is usually just because the pilots liked them better than other newer fighters that came around. While true this does not even begin to explain why these ships stayed in service for so long. So here is the complete version of why these ships stayed in service.
First the obvious one. Pilots preferred the X-Wings to other fighters. Which is true as people tend to be more comfortable with things that they are familiar with. And there are real world examples of this as the U.S. military for years have for years been looking for a replacement to the M16 type weapons they have been using since the 60s but, that is difficult as the troops are too comfortable with the M16 style rifle. And so far they haven’t found one that fixes the issues with the old rifles but that the troops can feel comfortable with. In the New Republic there was a similar scenario as when the E-Wing came out they tried to start utilizing it with the hope it would replace the X-Wing however the pilots preferred the X-Wings, which with upgrades (I’ll get to those later) were better than the E-Wings so the switch never happened.
Pilot preference is however only one side of the coin, the other being training. With the X-Wing being the main fighter every pilot is given some flight training with it. Not only this but pilots who amass a lot of combat hours (which as I talked about in a previous article was extremely common amongst Rebel Alliance pilots), gain extra knowledge to the quirks of the craft, and thus how to exploit those quirks to their advantage. These tricks are then shared among pilots who also try them and improve the tactics. Making the pilots better as time goes on. Further compounding this is that pilots who either age out of combat service or retire, can become combat instructors who can pass down this knowledge of the tricks and quirks to newer pilots, giving them a head start that they didn’t have, making each generation of pilots better. While any experienced pilot can fly pretty much any craft this extra knowledge gained drastically increases their combat effectiveness. This however can only be achieved if the same craft remains in service for an extended time, and if the X-Wing was replaced by something all of this would be lost and the pilots would have to start over with the new craft.
There is of course a down side to this in that your enemy also will find out these quirks and tricks and similarly develop ways of countering them. However, in the case of the NR and GA they never really had to face an enemy that could use this against them. The Empire while yes they fought for a long time, utilized inferior Starfighters, resulting in it being hard for their pilots to develop counter strategies as it was unlikely they would see an X-Wing more than once, let alone survive an encounter as I talked about in a previous article. The Vong who they fought for 4 years did develop counter tactics, but their pilots were also over reliant on the Yammosks, who did the majority of their fighting. Not to mention their culture was often slow to change and adapt to new ideas. So again could not properly utilize this knowledge. The Confederation did have extensive knowledge of the X-Wing and many of their number had flown in or with X-Wings, but again like the Empire due to the inferiority of their own craft coupled with how short the war was they weren’t able to utilize that knowledge effectively.
The pilots however are not the only people benefitting from this experience, as the maintenance and technicians who have to work on and repair these Starfighters also benefit from having the same Starfighter to work on for a long time. Each craft is different, uses different parts, different fluids, and these parts vary in how durable they are and how often they need to be replaced. The fewer craft the technicians need to worry about the better they can service the craft they are responsible for. A technician will learn these things and get faster and more efficient at servicing these craft. This information is also shared to other technicians though mechanic work is more of a hands on type of job so the transfer of that information is slower than that of the pilots but still effective.
This is of course only a small part of the issue. As in reality training a technician or mechanic to a new craft actually doesn’t take as much time, and unlike a pilot they are at a significantly lower risk of death during the learning period. What really makes switching to a new craft an issue when it comes to the technical and mechanical side is the logistics of the parts. As mentioned earlier different craft have different requirements for what parts, fluids etc. they need. And different craft have different levels of durability for those parts. As a result, when switching to a different craft the technicians will notice that different parts need to be replaced. However, these parts will not be readily available as the parts that needed replacing for the previous craft. This is because while manufacturers can predict some of what will need to be replaced they can’t predict everything, which is why cars have recalls fairly consistently. It is highly likely that with a newer craft that technicians don’t know as well these craft will require certain parts to be replaced in larger quantities than the technicians were expecting. And if it is happening to them it is likely happening all over the galaxy. This leads to a shortage to these parts and craft that are in need of these parts to be out of commission until the production line keeps up.
With the older craft these things have already been figured out. The factories would be producing the parts in the needed quantities and the mechanics would be getting the parts they need as they need them. When you switch craft there is a transitional period where the factories have to change their procedures to build the new parts, droids reprogramed to make these new parts and workers retrained. Raw materials need to get to the factories, and the finished products need to be distributed to where they are needed in the quantities they are needed. This takes time to figure out and implement and during that transitioning time craft are getting damaged and falling into disrepair and waiting for the new parts. This is of course a short term issue but not one that can be handled in the middle of a war (which covers roughly half the time frame that the X-Wing was in service) or when something else needs to be done, like rebuilding efforts after the Vong war, or the Demilitarization before the Vong War. So the New Republic and Galactic Alliance simple didn’t change the Starfighters.
This isn’t to say that the T-65 X-Wing stayed the same throughout this entire period. In fact, the T-65s that were used by the rebel alliance had all but been completely replaced in just a few years after the liberation of Coruscant. The new models were usually given a J prefix making the XJ2-XJ7 models of the X wing as well as the Stealth X. The Stealth X being the most advanced of these models followed closely by the XJ3. Other more advanced models like the XJ4, Xj5, and KJ6 did proceed the XJ3 but these were more specialized to different tasks and different units making the XJ3 the most advanced general purpose variant of the X-Wing and thus the most heavily produced. Now this seems contrary to what I have laid out so far, as wouldn’t upgrading and changing the base line Starfighters like this cause the same problems as switching craft like was outlined earlier?
The short answer is yes and no. Pilots for one wouldn’t have too much to get use too. In fact, these upgrades would be beneficial as the improvements made to the baseline X wing was to make fix mistakes not make them. These changes would be to remove the negative attributes the craft had, meaning the pilots could fly the craft normally and be just fine, but also not have to worry as much about the flaws of the previous version. These changes included adding backup shield generators, improving targeting systems, maneuverability avionics and the strength of the laser cannons (later variants shooting blue lasers) Some variants even added a third torpedo tubes and an increased stock of Proton Torpedoes taking the payload from 6 to up to 12. All small changes designed to make the pilot’s lives easier while not changing too much that their foreknowledge and experience in the craft would diminish.
The mechanics of course had to learn how to repair and do maintenance on the new systems of course. But due to the modular design this was easier as instead of an entirely new craft they just had to learn how to service a few new parts and systems. In fact, the avionics changes in particular increased the durability of parts so they would have to be serviced and repaired less frequently. This even extends to the logistical sides, as now instead of providing an entirely new craft they just have to update a few parts. The manufacturers of the old parts would have to switch over obviously but the majority could stay the same and do what they had always done. This decreases the interim period between implementing new upgrades drastically and keeps more craft that are damaged during that interim period flying than if a full switch had been implemented.
Changes to certain parts also comes with the bonus of having a significantly lower cost to their development. As R&D, testing, and implementing a new craft would be extremely time consuming and costly. When you just have to worry about certain parts and not an entire ship you can better focus on improving that part as again you are only concerned with making one part work as opposed to making an entire spacecraft work.
Simply put yes the pilots preferred the X-Wings to the other replacements that were put forth, but this is not the only reason that the New Republic and Galactic Alliance continued to use them for over 40 years. Keeping the same craft with minor upgrades is significantly easier on not only the pilots, but the technicians, the factories, and logistical side of things, than making a new craft. It is also cheaper, takes less time to do and neither government had a reason or a good time to make any change in what they used for their workhorse Starfighter.
As always thanks for reading, let me know your thoughts and if you agree or disagree with what I have laid out, and until next time...