This week’s plane of the week is the fictional Incom T-65 X-wing starfighter, as seen in Star Wars episodes 4-6. Brought to you absolutely spoiler-free by the Mos Eisley Chamber of Commerce. Visit Mos Eisley! You’ll never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy!
The X-wing fighter is a fictional starfighter from the original Star Wars trilogy and the Star Wars expanded universe. They are depicted as the primary interceptor and dogfighter of the Rebel Alliance and the New Republic.
Industrial Light & Magic’s (ILM) Joe Johnston sketched and Colin Cantwell built models that eventually became the final X-wing fighter in Star Wars. The X-wings were designed to appear more “traditional” than the Empire’s TIE fighters. ILM built miniatures in various scales, with wing markings indicating which prop represented which pilot. When ILM fell behind on generating X-wing footage, Star Wars producer George Lucas and his editors temporarily used World War II dogfight footage for initial editing cuts. Each X-wing model was built around a hollow core made from surgical tubing, which allowed lighting, cooling, and electrical connectors for the wing motors to be installed and maintained. The cockpit windows were made from faceted glass so that accurate reflections could be filmed. Although the movie’s initial script and novelization describe the X-wings as belonging to “Blue squadron”, limitations in bluescreen photography led to the markings on the filming models, as well as the squadron affiliation being changed to red. Had they stayed blue, the X-wing markings would have showed up black. The same thing happens to Luke’s astromech droid R2-D2 in the flight scenes. His blue marking show up black in the film.
In addition to miniatures, the production crew made a single, full-size X-wing for scenes in the Rebels’ Yavin IV base hangar; combined with cardboard cutouts and careful editing, the Rebels appear to have dozens of fighters. The production crew also made a full-size X-wing cockpit that was used for all actors; the astromech droid visible behind each actor was changed for each starfighter. Background noise pitch and tone also varied between X-wings to further differentiate the characters piloting them. George Lucas liked taking real sounds and modifying them to use in the Star Wars films. For example, the TIE fighter engines are a mix of an elephant roar and tires on wet pavement. Unfortunately, I could not find any information on the original sound of the T-65 X-wing engine.
The following is canonical information on the X-wing as depicted in the Star Wars films and is here presented as fact.
Incom T-65 X-wing starfighters were manufactured by Incom Corporation. They had two pairs of wing-like strike-foils, or S-foils, mounted at the rear of the craft on opposite sides. Each of the four Incom 4L4 fusial thrust engines were attached to the wings next to the fuselage. The foils on each side locked in place flush against each other; during combat, however, the foils were folded out to increase firing accuracy and range. This also gave the craft its distinctive “X”-like appearance when viewed from the front or rear. The craft’s four Taim and Bak KX9 laser cannons were placed at the tip of the wings. The single pilot sat in the cockpit, which was in the center of the fuselage, and the astromech droid had a socket in the rear between the engines. The two proton torpedo launchers were located in grooves near the middle of the underside of the fuselage. In the cockpit, the pilot had access to the flight controls and a targeting computer. The fighters measured 12.5 meters in length, with a mass of 10 metric tons. They were additionally equipped with a long-range hyperdrive system and shields which could be adjusted around the craft. Painted stripes on the rear of the S-foils identified each craft. They cost 149,999 Imperial credits new or 90,000 credits used. As Imperial credits are typically considered to equal about three American dollars, that would value a brand new T-65 at $449,997 in 1977 dollars. You of course can no longer buy a brand new T-65, as they’ve been replaced by the Incom T-70 X-wing, so you’d only have to pay $270,000 for one now. What a steal!
Perhaps the most iconic craft in the Star Wars, the X-wing has a long story and many writings on the subject of its development. However, all the comic books and novels have been decanonized with the purchase of Star Wars by Disney so that they could produce more movies without conflicting stories. I have only written information that I have found is not affected by the decanonization. That is, information that I feel would not conflict with the universe as presented by the new films. For example, the Star Wars Wikia has a lot of information on the development of the X-wing that takes a different direction than the T-70 X-wings shown in The Force Awakens. As such, I have chosen not to present it here.
Next week: the second generation of X-wing.