Star Wars: Hyperdrive Tactics and Strategies

Written: 1998.08.01
Last Revised: 1999.08.14

Planetary Bombardment

It is trivially easy to set course for a distant planet, jump into hyperspace, and arrive as close as one planetary diameter out from its surface (ref. ANH novelization). Any Imperial starship captain can easily do this, and the result will be that he appears without warning, in low orbit around a target world. This is obviously useful for hit-and-run campaigns of terror. A single Imperial warship can easily jump from one planet to the next, each time dropping into realspace for less than 5 seconds, firing two or three broadsides, and then disappearing into hyperspace again. Since a single broadside carries many gigatons of energy (ref. Slave Ship), it is obvious that hundreds of millions, if not billions, would die in any such attack. It is not difficult to make a hyperjump in a few seconds on a precalculated route, or in a random vector for a short duration. The shuttle Tydirium performed such a short-notice jump in ROTJ.

In this manner, a large vessel like a Star Destroyer, dreadnaught, or heavy cruiser could easily annihilate hundreds of millions of civilians on each of the Federation's 150 member colonies. In theory, a single warship could completely wipe out most of the Federation's population, without even having to engage the enemy's starships! This strategy is made possible by the speed of hyperdrive and the fact that Federation planets have no defenses that could possibly save them. They are "centuries" away from developing planetary shielding technology (ref. When The Bough Breaks) and it would take much longer than 5 seconds for an orbiting Federation starship to react to the Imperial warship's appearance, target it, and fire. The Federation captain would waste more time than that, simply in the process of giving the verbal orders to change course, lock on target, and fire weapons.

A more productive application of this ability would be the destruction of critical infrastructure targets. Supply depots, refueling stations, shipyards, repair yards, isolated bases of all kinds, listening outposts, etc. are all obvious targets for "hit and run" strikes (in force if necessary for larger targets, in order to ensure that they can get in and out quickly). Without their infrastructure, Starfleet's ability to fight would be slowly degraded until they are virtually toothless, without ever fighting a single battle to defend themselves. Best of all, the victor would gain control of an intact Federation fleet, which he could then upgrade and add to his own forces, for what Sun Tzu would consider a virtually ideal victory.

Dispersal of the Enemy

The Federation has only 150 member planets, but they have thousands of insignificant colonies and settlements across their territory. We have decided to augment our classical "decapitation" strategy of destroying their subspace network, by using the classic tactic of forcing the enemy to stretch his resources by tending to his wounded and endangered.

The plan is as follows: many of the Federation's most isolated and remote colonies are literally weeks or even months away from the nearest Federation starship. These colonies are generally poorly populated, under-supplied, under-equipped, and strategically useless. However, if we were to send a single warship to each colony, declare Imperial hegemony, and punish the colonists if they resist, the Federation star fleet would be unwilling to ignore their pleas for assistance. This is the effect of civilian democratic rule: a rigid code of ethics that will only make them easy targets for an adversary willing to do whatever is necessary to accomplish its goals. Obviously, this would have to be done before the subspace relay network is destroyed.

In this manner, we can easily spread their fleet around their territory, with ships or small battle groups racing in every direction at maximum speed. Once their fleet is sufficiently dispersed throughout their territory en route to their various colonies and outposts, we would destroy the subspace relay network so that the ships have no way of contacting HQ for situational updates, and no way of finding out what is happening in the more populated regions of the Federation. Of course, once the Federation ships are on their way, the besieged colonists are of no more use to us, and they can be eliminated under cover of subspace jamming (which may be redundant if the relay network is gone). We foresee two possibilities if we employ this tactic:

  1. The Federation might spread its forces all over its territory, trying to protect hundreds or even thousands of insignificant, remote colonies that they believe to be under siege or in danger. Their fleet will be weakened and dispersed, and after their subspace relay network is destroyed, many of their vessels will be completely cut off from news, with no idea whether they should carry on or return to the more populated regions.

  2. The Federation might choose to ignore its member colonies' pleas for assistance, to maintain a strong defensive presence around their primary member colonies. This is highly unlikely in our estimation and the political ramifications would be enormous. Starship mutinies and planetary defections might result from such a course of action.

The strength of this strategy is that no matter how the Federation reacts, there will be severe consequences for them. They will either weaken their military strength or their political cohesiveness. Both outcomes would fit perfectly into our plans.

Surprise Attacks

As seen in Dark Empire, it is possible for a Star Destroyer to change course in hyperspace. The Emancipator did exactly this, by tracking an Imperial starship's communications transmissions and altering course so that it would be heading on a collision course. The Emancipator dropped out of hyperspace only a few kilometres away from the target vessel, and opened fire with all forward weapons. This is a devastating method of attack, facilitated by the Federation's tendency to continually broadcast active subspace scanning signals. The Federation has some prior experience with enemies that suddenly appear without warning: the Romulans and Klingons employ their cloaking devices to achieve similar effects, and they have both been highly effective.

Federation ships may employ similar tactics with warp drive, by approaching at high warp, dropping to sublight, opening fire, and optionally, maneuvering away at warp again (this is known as the Picard Maneuver, named after one of their more well-known starship captains who invented it in a skirmish known as the Battle of Maxia). However, this tactic is not as effective as hyperdrive simply because warp drive is slower than hyperdrive. An oncoming warp-driven ship can still be detected, which makes its approach less dangerous than the approach of a hyperdrive-equipped vessel.

Tactical Retreats

In the unlikely event that an Imperial warship loses shielding in battle (perhaps if it is caught alone by a Federation battle group), its hyperdrive allows it to escape at will, with no fear of pursuit. A 10-second hyperdrive microjump in any random direction at maximum speed would put at least 3 trillion km between it and any pursuing Federation fleet (perhaps much more, depending on the level of spatial distortions in the region). At warp 9, it would take almost 2 hours for a Federation starship to cover that distance. Obviously, this is more than enough time for the ISD captain to plot a new course and escape, or perhaps even enough time to repair damage and engage the enemy.

Unfortunately, this would leave TIE fighters and interceptors stranded in the battle zone, which is one of the reasons we advocate the exclusive use of shielded hyperdrive-capable TIE defenders. Obviously, we feel that this scenario is highly unlikely since Federation starships have inferior weapons and shields, but every captain should be aware that this option is always available, and that Federation starships are incapable of pursuing at useful speeds.

It should be pointed out that Federation captains have the option to use their warp drive to escape from an Imperial vessel, in a similar manner. However, their escape is irrelevant because our strength lies in our ability to rapidly approach, engage, and destroy strategic targets, and a Starfleet retreat away from a strategic target would only hasten the eventual collapse of their infrastructure.


Wars are not fought over starships, nor are they fought over meaningless regions of interstellar space. They are fought over planets, and territory. The destruction of enemy forces is only a means to an end, and if it were possible to hit strategic targets without having to fight your way through opposing forces, any intelligent military commander would do it.

Hyperdrive allows us to attack and slaughter entire planetary populations with little or no risk to ourselves, even if the Federation somehow finds a way to erase their enormous disadvantages in shield and weapon strength.

In addition to its strategic advantages, hyperdrive has great tactical advantages. In the history of war, how many starship captains have been able to dictate the terms under which they enter and leave battles? Hyperdrive also allows us to attack enemy ships without warning, and it provides a virtual guarantee of Imperial starship survival, by providing an avenue of escape that cannot be prevented by the enemy.

The tactical and strategic advantages of hyperdrive have been greatly underestimated by Federation cultists, but that is just as well: it will leave them even more unprepared for our onslaught.