TIE Fighter Size

An analysis of proposed size and scale reference

Why it matters

ILM studio models for ANH (clearly not in same scale)

ILM studio models (clearly not in same scale)

The TIE Fighter size is probably one of the most contentious in all of Star Wars. This is due to several issues including filming models that had relatively large pilots, while the full-size cockpits made the pilots seem much smaller. Moreover, the official dimensions have also changed over time, from 6.4 meters to 8.99 meters to the current Rogue One size of 7.24 meters.
 
Likewise, models and toys don't always get the dimensions correct either, sometimes having narrow wings and/or overly small cockpits. On top of all of this, the new TIEs seen in Rebels and The Force Awakens are different.
 
To the majority of people, this isn't a big deal. Yet, when building models, especially dioramas, it becomes important. Granted a 1/144 TIE is pretty similar to a 1/170 TIE, which is why the F-toys line can fudge the scale for their vehicles look similar. However, it's still worth looking into the various differences and trying to come up with a better way to determine the size.

Studio scale pilot too big?

Studio scale pilot

Studio scale pilot

Now, the studio scale pilot of the TIE Fighters was a 1/24 figure, which led many to believe that these TIEs were 1/24 scale. However, I have several issues with this:

  • ILM used the 1/24 figure in the X-wing and Y-wing studio scale models. Now, look at the picture of the models lined up together. If they are all 1/24, then they should be the same size in-universe. But, we know that isn't true (the y-wing is double the length of a TIE Fighter). Also, ILM never said those models were in the same scale.
  • You'll notice the pilot is grey and not black, like a TIE pilot. Moreover, you don't really see the pilot figure in the movie, so I don't think ILM meant for them to be representative for the true TIE pilot.
  • The pilot seems severely oversized compared to the full-size cockpit. Look at where the pilot's eyeline should come (also where the centerpoint of the camera hits when the camera is looking though the cockpit). The 1/24 pilot would be looking through the outer ring of the cockpit, where as the full-size set pilot and camera are looking just a little above the center octagon.
  • Finally, look at the diagram of the Rebels TIE Fighter cockpit. The pilot's eyeline matches that of ANH where the camera hits. This supports the argument that the 1/24 pilot is too big and that the cockpit of a TIE is quite roomy.

The canopy as a baseline

Perhaps the one and only constant feature among all TIE variants is the iconic octagonal canopy. We know that the same parts were crafted for Vader and his wingmates in ANH. We also know that the studio Interceptors and Fighters shared the canopy molds in RotJ. Photos suggest that the Bombers and Fighters in TESB also shared the same canopy.

Yeah, that included a few assumptions on my part, but also consider this. The Empire was all about efficiency and similarity. Using the same canopy on all of their TIE models is akin to countries using the same tank chassis for different roles (often with drastic variations). Even the reference books suggest that the Interceptor used the same cockpit module as the standard TIE, which is why the laser cannon hardpoints are still there below the canopy. So, it's not a huge leap to believe that the Empire would cast one standard canopy to be used on all TIE variants.

So, how big is the canopy? Looking at movie stills, the full-size cockpit sets, and the models, you can see that the canopy is roughly the same height as a human, perhaps a little smaller. I would estimate it to be around 1.6-1.7 meters. Concept art from Rebels showing a Stormtrooper inside a TIE suggests 1.6 meters for the canopy. 1.7 meters seems to match the official sizes best. 1.6 meters matches the Bandai kits the best. It's worth noting that a difference of .1 meters does very little to change the scales of vehicles.

From this, I estimated the following to be the rough sizes:

  • TIE Advanced x1 - 6.2 meters
  • TIE Fighter - 7.3 meters
  • TIE Bomber - 8.3 meters
  • TIE Interceptor - 9 meters

With the release of Rogue One, the Visual Guide lists the TIE Fighter at 7.24 meters, almost a perfect match of my estimates. Yay me and extreme geekiness.

TIE v1

TIE v1 screenshot

 
 

The following table shows TIE variants arranged by scale estimated from a canopy of 1.6 meters, since it matches the references and Bandai suggested scales the best. Then, I took the length of the model and extrapolated what the full TIE Fighter size should be.

VariantMakerCanopy sizeEstimated ScaleModel LengthEstimated Length
Advanced x1Bandai2.23 cm728.5 cm6.12 m
Advanced x1Fine Molds1.99 cm807.47 cm6.35 m
Advanced x1Bandai1.113 cm1444.31 cm6.2 m
Advanced x1F-toys9.9 mm1623.83 cm6.2 m
FighterBandai2.23 cm7210.1 cm7.27 m
FighterFine Molds1.99 cm808.91 cm7.57 m
FighterBandai1.113 cm1445.03 cm7.24 m
FighterF-toys9.9 mm1624.49 cm7.23 m
InterceptorBandai2.23 cm7212.15 cm8.75 m
InterceptorFine Molds1.99 cm8011 cm9.35 m
InterceptorF-toys9.9 mm1625.61 cm9.1 m
BomberF-toys9.9 mm1625.13 cm8.31 m
CrawlerF-toys9.9 mm1625.43 cm8.8 m

Exceptions to my “canopy” rule

While the canopy size of 1.6 meters works for nearly all TIEs (so far as I can tell), there are a few exceptions.

  1. TIE Striker - unusually small canopy. The 1/72 Bandai kit has a canopy of 1.915 cm (2.23 cm for other TIEs). I'm not sure why it would be so much smaller, perhaps to make it more aerodynamic in atmosphere. Interestingly, the mock-up model ILM made had a large canopy similar to other TIEs.
  2. First Order TIEs - These fighters were overall smaller. Bandai's 1/72 kit has a 2.13 cm canopy, which corresponds to it's smaller size compared to older TIEs. At that size, the canopy would be 1.53 meters.

4 Comments

  1. How come the tie advanced, a.k.a darth vader tie, be smaller than the regular tie? Could you please check your measurements again? Thank you.

    • Well, I’m using the canopy as a baseline and comparing that to the Bandai kits, which seem to be the most accurate. If they are 1/72 scale exactly, then the TIE Advanced x1 is indeed shorter than the regular TIE. It’s hard to tell from the Trench Run scene, where the forced perspective skews the sizes. But if the cockpits and canopies are essentially the same size, then Vader’s TIE is smaller.

  2. No reason a new, improved TIE like Vader’s couldn’t be a bit smaller than the standard line fighters; making the ships compact was obviously a goal of the entire TIE Fighter program.

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