“Don’t be too proud of this technological terror you’ve constructed. The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Force.”
—Darth Vader, Episode IV: A New Hope
At the heart of Star Wars, in all its cinematic and written adventures to date, is armed conflict. From the Clone Wars, to the Rebellion taking on the Empire, to the Resistance versus the First Order, nearly all of the technological wonders of Star Wars are viewed through a martial lens. In his new book, The Military Science of Star Wars, former Army major George Beahm takes us deep into the military strategy, technology, and leadership of the Star Wars universe. To celebrate the upcoming book, we thought we’d take a look at some of our favorite military technology from the world George Lucas created. What’s your favorite?
- Blasters: As Beahm points out in The Military Science of Star Wars, blasters aren’t actually that impressive as weapons. In an age as advanced as the world of Star Wars, all weapons should be smart weapons, right? The kind that direct themselves at targets? Yet blasters, the weapon carried by nearly everyone on all sides of conflicts, are “dumb” guns with “dumb” ammunition, relying on the same method of aiming: line-of-sight. Plus, since they’re energy weapons, we’re assuming blasters have to be recharged at some point, right? You know what? It doesn’t matter. It’s a freaking laser pistol, and we want one.
- Lightsabers: For many of us, the first time we saw Episode IV: A New Hope, we didn’t understand why Han was so resistant to the idea of a lightsaber. It was a sword! Made of light! That cut through everything! Rewatching as adults, we saw how young Luke looks straight down the handle and we cringed, thinking to ourselves “Oh man, Obi-Wan really should have said something…if Luke had turned it on right then, he’d have literally had a laser sword slicing straight through his head!” Despite the obvious dangers, we love the idea of lightsabers, though. We’ve all dreamt of mastering this close range weapon, of dancing through a droid or clone army deflecting blaster fire and slicing through limbs. But now we’re aware that without the years and years of practice, the limbs we’re likely to be slicing off are our own. Still, we might be willing to pay that price to play with a real lightsaber. Wouldn’t you?
- TIE Fighters and X-Wings: Some of our favorite scenes in the Star Wars movies are the space battles. They’re not exactly the most scientifically accurate (there’s no noise in space, George!), but they are visually stunning. And a large part of the credit for that goes to the spaceships involved—in particular, the face offs between the Imperial TIE Fighters and the Rebellion’s X-Wings. Watching them maneuver, rolling and turning and firing lasers, is a thing of beauty. The distinctive shapes make identifying who’s flying for which side easy in a chaotic space battle. All that said, there are some downsides to both TIE Fighters and X-Wings. Namely, they’re both single-fighter crafts, and the interiors don’t seem to have been updated much from our current F-16s. In other words, if you want to be a pilot, either today or in the Star Wars universe, we hope you’re comfortable in a diaper. That does kind of ruin the romance of watching those epic space battles for us.
- Robots and Droids: In the Star Wars universe, robots have improved to the point where (in the prequels at least) they’ve replaced the majority of human and alien armies. After all, robot armies are cheaper to build and train than traditional ones. Not to mention the number of lives saved with this kind of conflict. But what’s the difference between a robot and a droid? Droids have artificial intelligence, something the Star Wars universe has mastered. Not only do the Droids in Star Wars have the ability to learn and adapt, they have personality. R2-D2’s sassy beeps tell us he’s quick-witted and sarcastic, even if we can’t tell what he’s actually saying. C-3PO’s fussy and precise mannerisms are perfect for a protocol droid, even if he’s kind of annoying to the more casual members of the Rebel Alliance/Resistance. Don’t even get us started on the amazing, adorable BB-8. We desperately want one rolling along with us every day!
- Prosthetics: Along with the leap in technology that makes robots and droids possible, another area where the Star Wars universe excels is in the progress of prosthetics. While not strictly military tech, prosthetics are definitely something soldiers and rebels use, as Luke demonstrates after getting his hand cut off in Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. The prosthetic hand he receives is light years beyond what we have currently: it looks and feels real, includes touch and pain receptors, and connects to his brain in ways we’re only just now beginning to experiment with. Plus, if you lose a limb in the Star Wars universe and decide that the realistic look isn’t for you, you can choose to go with the straight-up robot look (again demonstrated by Luke, only this time an older Luke in Episode VII: The Force Awakens). Aesthetically, we might go with the robot hand. It looks more badass than a regular old hand.
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