Figuring Out the Y-wing

The third episode of The Clone Wars animated series prominently features the Y-wing fighter defending the Kaliida Shoals Med-Centre. Specifically the Koensayr BTL-B Y-wing fighter, in its intended role as a fighter/bomber. The BTL-B looks much different from the single-seater BTL-A4 variant we saw in the movies. The most distinct feature is that it has full fairings installed, as per the following concept illustration (originally found here):

Fully-faired Y-wing

Fully-faired Y-wing

Here’s another angle of the BTL-B. Another feature is the rear gunner’s turret with the bubble canopy. These were originally designed for he original Y-wing designs by Colin Cantwell in A New Hope, but were left out. You can also see that the fairings totally cover the Koensayr R-200 “Ion Jet” engines, even the thrust-controlling vectral frames at the back.

Damaged BTL-B

Damaged BTL-B

Compare it with the BTL-A4 twenty years later in Massassi Base on Yavin 4, below. They’re no longer new and shiny, though they seemed to have retained their original livery – almost. The ion cannon turrets have been removed. All the fairings covering the module which houses the R300-H hyperdrive motivator and the astromech socket are gone, as well as those covering the engine cross-spars. All sorts of internal components, cabling and conduits are visible from the outside. The only major equipment that appeared to have been completely removed from the fighter is the cuboid-ish gear at the absolute rear of the central module.

Massassi Base hangar

Massassi Base hangar

Perhaps the removed gear is some sort of auxiliary power unit. The BTL-A4s seem to required a connection to external power units like such as the equipment seen in the image below. The engines are powered up before the cables from these units are disconnected. The BTL-Bs didn’t appear to require an external power connection before start-up.

Luke Skywalker

Luke Skywalker

Y-wing construction can be theorised based on what has been shown so far, based on actual aerospace technical processes.

Its primary structure seems to be internal instead of external. Instead of a monocoque or a semi-monocoque structure where its skin is its load bearing component, the weight of all the ship’s repulsorlifts, tactical systems, sensors, computers and other avionic equipment are borne by some sort of truss tube structure. Theoretically, the Y-wing can be flown with no skin on it, though it would make the fighter susceptible to foreign object damage if the deflectors are damaged. Therefore, fairing panels are fixed onto the truss tube-like internal structure giving it its shape as seen in the first and second image above.

Over the years, there would certainly be modifications, like a removal of a redundant sensor package, or the replacement of a flight computer with a larger, newer one. The overall shape of the Y-wing would change accordingly… as long as the promulgators of these modifications (whichever military force or corporation using them) have the money to make the design change and manufacture the parts for the modification. Perhaps, some of them even returned to the original manufacturer Koensayr for modifications. Every official modification made for a batch of fighters, a variant name is given like the two-seater BTL-S3 or the long-range reconnaissance variant dubbed the “Longprobe”.

Some of the surviving BTL-A4s Y-wings, after twenty years, would fall into the hands of the Rebel Alliance outpost on Yavin 4, just in time for their attack run on the Death Star.

Y-Wings in the trench

Y-Wings in the trench

Ultimately, they get to the shapes we see them in, in the image above. The Alliance – despite materiel support from various local planetary governments – must still be too low on resources to keep things spick and span. Perhaps more equipment has been removed or cannibalized. Fairings which are heavily damaged are discarded without a replacement. Even the engine vectral fairings are missing, which must reduce a fair amount of engine thrust.

Hopefully we get to see an intermediate variant of the Y-wing in later seasons of The Clone Wars.

Posted in Star Wars and tagged .

Khairul Hisham J. is a tabletop RPG artist, writer, proofreader, translator, teacher, grad student and learner-in-general.


  1. Excellent and comprehensive essay. I especially like the technical angle of the review, and you provide a lot of insight on the connection between the ships featured in ANH and those used in The Clone Wars so far.

  2. Great essay, thoughtful and well reasoned. I appreciate it being comprehensive but not obsessively detailed like some of the RPG’ish debates about Star Wars and the various technologies that exist within its universe.

    Sources such as and provide a lot of info on the Y-wing, however, much of it is based on the different works of various authors and artists. Some of the information ranges from slightly contradictory to outright silliness. The following will layout what I’ve pieced together about the Y-wing and its evolution. It is by no means official or canonical.

    During the Clone Wars, the Republic needed a starfighter that could provide a bigger punch than the V-19 Torrents and various Jedi Starfighter models. Koensayr designed the BTL-B Y-wing Bomber [I wonder why there is no number after the “B”?]. The BTL-B was then supplanted by or at least supplemented with the ARC-170, I prefer the latter. From the info and specs provided, I get the impression that the BTL-B would be utilized best as a medium/heavy bomber that needed fighter escort while the ARC-170 would be a light/medium fighter-bomber that could do fine without escorts, even being able to fulfill fighter-on-fighter missions.

    If the “political” episodes of the Star Wars: Clone Wars series are an acceptable canonical reference, then the Republic was low on money and/or material towards the end of the war and wanted to get the absolute most out of its warmachines. The BTL-B was deemed to be unsatisfactorily limited in its utility so Koensayr tinkered with it in order to get something faster, more maneuverable and more versatile out of its design.

    Sometime around the Rise of the Empire, the BTL-SB Strike Bomber was offered by Koensayr as a replacement for the BTL-B. It must have been passed over by the Empire in favor of the TIE/sa Bomber in accordance to the “cheaper, lighter, specialized” doctrine of Palpatine and his commanders. [The preceding two sentences are just fun conjecture on my part;P].

    The Emperor then put all kinds of restrictions on manufacturing companies and the vehicles and vessels they created. The companies most affected were probably those that supported the Old Republic openly, such as Incom, Slayn & Korpil and of course Koensayr. Production of V-19 Torrents, ARC-170’s and BTL-B’s was stopped, severely limited in number or only allowed to be produced with significantly lower standards.

    In order to side-step Imperial restrictions, Koensayr decided to strip the BTL-B of its “offending” components and ended up with the smaller, lighter, faster, more maneuverable and more versatile BTL-S3 Strike Fighter. While the Empire had no desire for the ship, it also had no problem with Koensayr selling it. The BTL-S3 became a highly successful export and would eventually comprise the starfighter forces of many systems’ navies, planetary defenses and diplomatic missions. Smugglers and pirates would also order the BTL-S3 in significant numbers.

    Early resistance and outright rebellion against the Empire would be fought using the BTL-S3 alongside pre-Clone Wars era starfighters that did not fall under Imperial restrictions such as the Cloakshape Fighter and the Z-95 Headhunter. To add even more versatility, Rebel technicians would even remove all of the BTL-S3’s armor to increase acceleration and maneuverability. The lack of armor was not seen as an unsatisfactory hindrance to the craft’s ability to perform its missions because early Imperial TIE Fighters did not have particle based weapon systems like the late Clone Wars era Alpha-3 Nimbus-class V-wings. Its powerful shields were considered an acceptable defense, depending upon the mission and the availability of escort fighters.

    A few years before the introduction of the T-65 X-wing, a dedicated superiority fighter was needed to counter the threat of newer TIE/In Fighters. The Rebellion would have to settle on a stop-gap design until a true superiority fighter could be found. Rebel technicians would heavily modify the BTL-S3, not only removing its armor permanently but also removing the gunner’s seat and station. The final product, the BTL-A4 Attack Fighter was nearly as fast as the TIE/In and at least as maneuverable as the much lighter Z-95. It would not be produced in large numbers or be able to fully affect the war because of the T-65’s introduction soon after. The rest is, as they say… history.

    Some important specs (again, not official canon):

    BTL-B: 2 Seat, 1 Astromech, 2 Medium Laser Cannon, 2 Light Ion Cannon, MG7 Proton Torpedo Launcher (10 Torpedoes), Bomb Bay, MGLT Speed 55, Max Acceleration 2,100

    BTL-SB: 2 Seat, 1 Astromech, 2 Taim & Bak IX4 Medium Laser Cannon, 2 SW-4 Light Ion Cannon, 2 Flex Tube Ordnance Launcher (8 Missiles, 10 Torpedoes, 16 Light Rockets, 8 Medium Rockets), 2 Bomb Bay (8 Light Proton Bombs, 4 Medium Proton Bombs, 16 Space Mines), MGLT Speed 60, Max Acceleration 2,300

    BTL-S3: 2 Seat, 1 Astromech, 2 Taim & Bak IX4 Medium Laser or Particle Cannon, 2 SW-4 Light Ion or Plasma Cannon, 2 Flex Tube Ordnance Launcher (8 Missiles, 8 Torpedoes, 8 Light Rockets, 4 Medium Rockets, 8 Light Proton Bombs, 4 Medium Proton Bombs), 2 Flex Tube Pod Ordnance Launcher (8 Missiles, 8 Torpedoes, 16 Light Rockets, 8 Medium Rockets, 8 Light Proton Bombs, 4 Medium Proton Bombs), MGLT Speed 70, Max Acceleration 2,700

    BTL-S3 (no armor): 2 Seat, 1 Astromech, 2 Taim & Bak IX4 or KX5 Medium Laser Cannon, 2 SW-4 Light Ion Cannon, 2 Flex Tube Ordnance Launcher (8 Missiles, 8 Torpedoes, 16 Light Rockets, 8 Medium Rockets, 8 Light Proton Bombs, 4 Medium Proton Bombs), MGLT Speed 70, Max Acceleration 2,900

    BTL-A4 (no armor): 1 Seat, 1 Astromech, 2 Taim & Bak KX5 Medium Laser Cannon, 2 SW-4 Light Ion Cannon, 2 Flex Tube Ordnance Launcher (8 Missiles, 8 Torpedoes), MGLT Speed 90, Max Acceleration 3,100

  3. The BTL-B, S3, and A4 are confirmed to be the same ship model, the S3 & A4’s are stripped-down and heavily modified versions of the Clone Wars Republic BTL-B. The Rebellion founded as much Y-wings as they can and they dubbed these Y-wings the S3/A4 aka the Rebel Y-wing. The Y-wings we see in Clone Wars and Original Trilogy are the same ship/model.

  4. The BTL-B, S3, & A4 are confirmed to be the same ship/model, the BTL-S3/A4’s are stripped down and heavily modified Clone Wars BTL-B. So the Y-wings we see in The Clone Wars and Original Trilogy are the same ship.

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