TIE Fighter Size
An analysis from having too much time on my hands
Why it matters?
I guess it doesn't really matter, but I'm a curious person. So to begin, the TIE Fighter size is probably one of the most fluid 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. So again, not a big deal, but I enjoy digging around for photos. Lots of cool people enjoy calculations.
Studio scale pilot too big?
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 upper ring of the cockpit, whereas 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 in-universe explanation. 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 using the Bandai and F-toys models (not perfect I know). Now, I no longer use these for scale estimates, but I'll leave them here for those curious.
- TIE Advanced x1 - 6.2 meters
- TIE Fighter - 7.3 meters
- TIE Bomber - 8.3 meters
- TIE Interceptor - 8.8 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 my geeky boredom.
Here are the latest sizes from the TIE Fighter Owner's Workshop Manual. These are probably the closest canon will get to being accurate.
TIE Fighter - 7.24 m
TIE Bomber - 7.8 m
TIE Interceptor - 7.7 m
TIE Advanced x1 - 5.8 m
TIE Defender - 8.8 m
TIE Advanced v1 - 3.2 m
Now, I loved Rogue One, and I love that Rogue One gave us accurate lengths for many ships. The team even rotated the TIE canopy for interior shots to match the mistake of the original film. But, they shrunk the canopies on their TIE's, both the Fighter and Striker. It's not like they didn't have the room on the digital model. They could have easily went with a larger-sized/more accurate canopy.
It's worth noting that subsequent digital TIE Fighters, such as from Mandalorian or Andor, had the same small canopy. However, the TIE Bombers and TIE Interceptors went with larger, accurate canopies.