Finally, we were getting into the interesting portion of the Imperial ships! While the TIE/ln Fighter and TIE/sa Bomber were certainly interesting from historical perspectives, the next ship, the TIE/IN Interceptor, or "Squint", was well known as a hot-rod to match the classic A-Wings. I hoped I wouldn't be disappointed.
The Squint had been designed prior to the Battle of Yavin, but was not yet in heavy use at that point. Afterwords, given the superiority shown by the X-Wings and A-Wings of the Rebel Alliance, production of the Squint had been increased. By the time of the Battle of Endor it constituted roughly twenty percent of mainline Imperial fighter squadrons.
With its bent wings and visibility cutouts, plus heavier armament and greater speed and maneuverability, the Interceptor certainly looked as though lessons had been learned from the design of the Eyeball. Unfortunately, the Empire had once again chosen to streamline production by forgoing shields, life support, and hyperdrive assemblies. This decision meant that most Squint squadrons were still reliant on external motherships for support, wore bulky environmental suits in the cockpit, and were still seriously vulnerable to any stray laser blasts during combat.
After the now familiar procedures to access the cockpit of the TIE series fighters and start up, I made my way out of the hanger by and towards the corporation's practice zone once again. With a speed of 111 MGLT, the Squint could run away from anything in the Rebel fleet save the A-Wing. Even slowed slightly for maneuvering and cannon recharge, it was still more than a maneuverability and speed match for the X-Wing, much less Y-Wing or B-Wing strike fighters.
The corporation's version had been retrofitted with shields, which was a common field upgrade even in Imperial task forces where resupply was limited and a Star Destroyer's supply of advanced fighters was a precious commodity. A slightly boosted reactor allowed both shield and laser recharge rates to be maintained without loss of speed, however, in heavy combat, speed definitely began to suffer as shields and lasers began drawing more power. Another common retrofit, a beam weapon, would further exacerbate the problem when used.
In the practice area, I matched up against a few A-Wings for some simulated combat. Without shields, I could manage 1v1 and 2v1 combat pretty well, but found myself quickly overwhelmed beyond that. With shields, 4v1 was managable.
To my mind, there was no question that had the Empire begun fielding this ship earlier in the Galactic Civil War, or perhaps had they been willing to invest in widespread adoption of shields for their Squints, the GCW might have had a dramatically different outcome.