Monday, September 12, 2016

Virtual Wings: Incom T-65B X-Wing PIREP

Note: I've realized that while I like doing history and pseudo-history blogs, I'm no David M. Vanderhoof. I really enjoy aviation and simulator games, and these mesh well with the games I cover on my Play Something Oldschool broadcasts, so I'm going to turn these into more of a PIREP (Pilot Report) kind of thing.

Stat screen captured from the Star Wars: X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter database.
Luke Skywalker, Wedge Antilles, Tycho Celchu, Poe Dameron. All the greats of the Rebel Alliance and the New Republic flew the Incom designed X-Wing starfighter. I'd been invited by a private security firm whose name I promised not to reveal to come and experience the full range of craft used on both sides during the Galactic Civil War. Never one to turn down an offer to fly something new, I accepted.

First up was the icon, the signature fighter of the Alliance and New Republic space forces, the T-65B X-Wing. While the upgraded T-85 and T-70 models have rendered it obsolete, the T-65B is the Death Star killer, and the craft I was going to be flying today.

The bird I got showed her years, however, the security firm kept her in excellent condition. While primarily used for training, a recent shape stenciled under the cockpit showed that the old fighter was still proving more than a match for many of the pirates of the Outer Rim.

Strapping in and starting up was conventional, and certainly familiar to anyone who spent part of their youth racing T-series Skyhoppers. Incom patterned the X-Wing's cockpit after their successful T-16 Skyhopper, which both simplified pilot training, and ensured good cockpit ergonomics. 

The canopy frame rails offered a bit less visibility than the Z-95 Headhunter's bubble, but the extra pair of sensors from the Astromech droid riding in the socket behind me mostly made up for that. The Novaldex 04-Z power generator spooled up with a quick whine, and the fighter lifted off its landing skids and exited the hanger on repulser power without a bobble.

I brought the shield and weapon capacitors up to maintenance levels and cruised out to the target practice area the company had set up. The X-Wing had earned its keep as a Space Superiority fighter, its four wingtip mounted laser cannons and two proton torpedo launchers providing more than enough to take on both other starfighters and capital ships with equal aplomb. This model sported a common modification to the warhead launchers, replacing the stock proton torpedo launchers with a general purpose warhead launcher capable of carrying and firing any of the common warhead types. Proton torpedoes remain the standard choice due to their mix of speed and damage.

With shields and weapons maintaining charge, I indicated 100 MGLT. Transferring all power to the engines revealed a maximum speed of 150 MGLT, while pushing max charge into both shields and engines gave a top speed of 50 MGLT. In typical combat configuration, with an increased charge going to the weapons, the X-Wing held at a solid 88 MGLT, a solid, if unspectacular number, that matched exactly the same as the TIE Fighter.

Running the X-Wing through a basic obstacle course revealed sharp, but well mannered handling. The X- is not a twitchy fighter, but responds well to pilot inputs while settling into new headings quickly, a must in a stable gun platform.

Target practice demonstrated both the strengths and flaws in the wing-tip mounted lasers. The wide spread ensured a high probability of getting hits, but a lack of any zero point for the weapons meant that at typical combat ranges several shots would go to waste. I've heard that at less than 100m, a TIE Fighter could be bracketed by all four lasers and not be hit by any of them, should the TIE pilot be fortunate enough to be at the precise center of the X-Wing's bolts.

The final exercise on the card was a simulated dogfight against up to four of the company's TIE Fighters, the T-65 X-Wing's primary foe. All of the company's TIE's have been retrofitted with shields, but for this exercise they would simulate the shieldless versions favored by the Imperials.

One-on-one proved almost laughable. The TIE grazed my shields with a pair of hits, but a pair of hits from my own cannons reduced him to (simulated) wreckage. Two, and then three fighter engagements proved similar. My shields took greater damage, but each time I was able to shrug off hits that the slightly more maneuverable Imperial fighters couldn't. It was only with the final four-on-one engagement that the company pilots were able to completely overwhelm my shields and take me out.

The cruise back to base gave me ample time to think about what I'd seen. To a large extent, the X-Wing had become the icon of the rebellion because it was the right fighter for the right job. Its hyperdrive had allowed the Rebels to strike anywhere, at any time, with tactical flexibility that the Imperials couldn't match. Every combat engagement saw the rebels significantly outnumbered, and required them to maintain a significantly favorable kill ratio just to keep their heads above water. Even then, the mortality rate among pilots was extremely high.

I came away from the flight impressed by the capabilities of the X-Wing. It had earned its workhorse reputation, and continued to produce in corners all around the galaxy.


Everyone with even a passing familiarity with Star Wars knows the X-Wing. It is one half of one of the most iconic starship pairs in all of science fiction. It appears in every good Star Wars movie, the best Expanded Universe novels, and nearly every video game starting with the early 80's Star Wars arcade title.

To see the X-Wing in action, check out a few of my previous mission playthroughs.

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