Top 10: Rebellion/Resistance Pilots

Welcome to Top 10. In this series, I will pick a subject in Star Wars and pick my top 10 rankings within that category. I initially began this ahead of Solo: A Star Wars Story by ranking the first 10 Star Wars films and enjoyed doing it so much, I thought it would be fun to make into a more regular series. Today I will be looking at the Top 10 Rebel/Resistance pilots

Though many of the pilots featured will be familiar to people who have watched the movies, I have opened this list up to the whole of canon, so I will try to say where these pilots can be found outside of the films. I want to make clear how I have created my list first of all: to count on this list, a character must have flown a starfighter of some variant in service of the Rebellion/Resistance, so characters like Han and Lando were not eligible. I am also far from up-to-date on the books and have barely touched the comic books so far, so there are possibly characters who would make the list that I could not pick due to having not yet experienced the character myself – I have heard a lot of good things about L’ulo L’ampar from the Poe Dameron and Shattered Empire comics. I will also be looking mainly at their impact on the stories as a pilot, though this does not mean their service record is the sole ranking of these pilots.

10: Tallie Lintra

Lieutenant Tallisan Lintra led Blue Squadron during the Resistance’s evacuation of D’Qar and helped protect the bombers as they made their costly – but ultimately successful – run against the First Order’s dreadnought. She survived the evacuation, but was killed along with many Resistance pilots when Kylo Ren fired 2 missiles into the hangar of the Raddus after the First Order tracked the Resistance through hyperspace. There is little known of Tallie so far, but I have found myself drawn to the character, quite possibly in part due to her A-wing being a Hero Ship in Star Wars Battlefront II and one of the ships I have most success with. I am hoping though that we get more of Tallie in future Star Wars content and would love for her to appear in the animated show Resistance.

9: Antoc Merrick

General Antoc Merrick was Blue Leader and in command of all starfighters on the Yavin 4 base at the time of the Battle of Scarif. When the Rebel Fleet arrived at Scarif, Merrick led Blue squadron through the Shield Gate and provided air support to the soldiers on the ground, their arrival proving timely and helping the Rebels gain the upper hand (for a time) against the AT-ACTs and stormtroopers. As with all the Rebels who went to the surface battle, Merrick was killed when his X-wing was shot down by TIE strikers. I really enjoyed the character in Rogue One and I think his death at Scarif adds to the Battle of Yavin as we now know that he would have likely been in charge of the Rebel fighters had he not been killed mere days earlier.

8: Garven Dreis

Dreis flew for the Rebellion as Red Leader at the Battle of Scarif and then the Battle of Yavin. He led his fellow Red Squadron X-wing pilots in providing cover for Gold Squadron’s bombing run, but after they failed quickly reacted and ran a bombing run of his own. Both his wingmen were shot down but he managed to get his torpedoes away, though they only impacted on the surface. Following his run one of his starboard engines lost power and though Luke attempted to cover him, he put the mission and the Rebellion first, ordering Luke to make his own attack run. Vader shot out another of Dreis’ engines and he was killed when his X-wing crashed into the surface of the Death Star

7: Thane Kyrell

One of the lead characters in the young adult novel Lost Stars, Kyrell deserted from the Empire as he was not happy with the way he saw slaves being treated. He was eventually recruited to the Rebellion by Wedge Antilles, where he became a member of Corona Squadron. As a member of Corona Squadron, he took part in the Battle of Hoth (where he used his piloting skills and Imperial knowledge to help bring down an AT-AT), scouted the planet D’Qar and identified it as a potential base, flew at the Battle of Endor and helped beat back an Imperial fleet from Naboo. He also took part in the Battle of Jakku, but was not in a fighter, instead being part of the boarding party sent to attempt the capture of the Star Destroyer Inflictor. A few months ago, I picked Thane as my favourite character from the Star Wars canon books and I am still hoping that we see him in more canon material, a Lost Stars sequel ideally.

6: Biggs Darklighter

The original moustached Rebel pilot, Biggs left Tatooine to join the Imperial Academy but defected to the Rebellion once he had graduated. He flew as Red 3 in the Battle of Yavin as one of Luke Skywalker’s wingmen along with Wedge Antilles. After Garven Dreis’ unsuccessful attack run on the Death Star, Biggs and Wedge followed Luke into the Meridian Trench for their own run. After Wedge was forced to withdraw from the attack run, Biggs was left as the sole protection for Luke and sacrificed himself to allow his old friend the time to destroy the Death Star. Though he may not have as long/impressive a service record as some of the other pilots on here, his sacrifice was crucial in the destruction of the Death Star and the Rebellion would not have been successful without his actions.

5: Snap Wexley

The son of Rebel pilot Norra Wexley, Temmin “Snap” Wexley was too young to be involved in the Rebellion, but at the age of 14 became embroiled in the fight against the Empire with the Rebellion on Akiva, where he met Wedge Antilles. Over the next year, he spent time hunting Imperials as part of a team led by his mother, while also being trained by Wedge as a starfighter pilot. As the New Republic forces assembled to take on the remaining Imperial forces at the Battle of Jakku, Wexley convinced Wedge to reform Phantom Squadron. Wexley and Phantom Squadron arrived at Jakku and finding the space battle crowded, they went to the surface of the planet to aid the New Republic ground forces and take out the Imperial air-to-space defences. Following Jakku, Wexley studied at the New Rupublic’s flight academy where his mother and Wedge were instructing and became a pilot for the New Republic. When Leia Organa created the Resistance, Wexley was recruited by Joph Seastriker. Wexley was one of the Resistance’s key pilots in the Battle of Starkiller Base, flying the reconnaissance mission that the Resistance planned their attack off while also flying in the battle itself. It is quite possible that Snap will climb up the list once I get a chance to read the Poe Dameron comic series and I am hoping he will also appear in Resistance. It is also possible that he could make an appearance in Jon Favreau’s live-action TV series as this is set a couple of years after the Battle of Endor, by which point he could be studying or have graduated from the flight academy.

4: Hera Syndulla

One of the best pilots in the Rebellion, I have not counted Hera’s exploits in the Ghost, just those in starfighters. Syndulla’s love for flying and piloting ability convinced the engineer Quarrie to let her use his prototype Blade Wing – precursor to the B-wing starfighter – to break a blockade around Ibaar by single-handedly destroying an Imperial light cruiser. After this mission she was promoted to Commander and Phoenix Leader. She was almost killed when her A-wing was heavily damaged as she protected her squadron when they were attacked by Mandalorians at Concord Dawn, an event which eventually led to their leader Fenn Rau joining the Rebellion. Hera also flew a stolen TIE bomber to get the Ghost crew and members of the Free Ryloth movement onto an Imperial fighter carrier they were stealing to become Phoenix Squadron’s new flagship. Despite some early issues with the setting up of the new Rebel base on Atollon, Hera was one of those who vocally opposed giving up on the base, which served them well for some time as they increased their activity in the sector. Hera also transported Mon Mothma to Dantooine in the Ghost and was there when the Rebel cells joined to become the Rebel Alliance. Hera was important in the preparation for an attack on Lothal after it was discovered that Grand Admiral Thrawn was creating the TIE defender on the planet, however the plans disappeared after Thrawn launched an attack on the base. Though Rebel losses were high, she was still able to help a number of Rebels escape, including Jan Dodonna. After word reached the Rebels that a new variant of the TIE defender was being put into production, Hera and the Spectres went back to Lothal to get more information and Hera used an old U-wing to get the information back to Yavin 4. Hera convinced the other Rebel leaders to launch an attack on Lothal and was promoted to General ahead of the attack. Hera flew an X-wing in the attack and was able to take down one of the Empire’s elite pilots, Vult Skerris, but she was captured and the majority of the squadron killed in action. She was able to withstand the torture long enough to be rescued by Kanan Jarrus and though he was killed in the escape, the Imperial attempts to stop them led to the destruction of the TIE defender facilities. Hera rallied allies for another attempt to free Lothal and they were successful. Hera also flew the Ghost at the Battle of Scarif & we also know that she was at the Battle of Endor. I hope we get more content with Hera post-Rebels to see more of her service with the Rebellion and beyond.

3: Wedge Antilles

Hera is beaten to a place in the top 3 by a pilot who used to fly under her command. Antilles was an elite pilot at the Skystrike Academy but defected to the Rebellion along with Hobbie when Sabine Wren arrived to help them leave the Empire. Antilles began to fly as part of Phoenix Squadron and was involved in the Battle of Atollon. Antilles’ piloting career was put on hold after a crash broke his leg in 3 places. He did not fly at the Battle of Scarif – instead directing the flight crew to get to their ships and redirect to Scarif – but became one of Luke Skywalker’s wingmen alongside Biggs for the Battle of Yavin. Flying under the callsign Red 2, Wedge saved Luke when he was unable to shake a pursuing TIE fighter. He joined Luke and Biggs as the third attack run on the Death Star but was forced to pull out after receiving damage to his fighter, which had been hastily repaired after Scarif. He tried to come back to help Luke but that help was not needed as by that point Luke was able to fire his proton torpedoes. Of the 30 Rebel pilots of Red, Green and Gold Squadron to fly against the Death Star, Wedge was one of only three pilots to survive. Antilles flew as a member of Rogue Squadron at the Battle of Hoth and along with gunner Wes Janson they used their tow cable to bring down an AT-AT. By the time of the Battle of Endor, Wedge was flying as Red Leader. He not only survived the battle, but was also one of the pilots to fly into the Death Star superstructure and destroyed the power regulators while Lando Calrissian took out the core. Following the Rebellion on Akiva, Antilles taught Snap Wexley how to pilot a starfighter and created Phantom Squadron. Phantom Squadron saw action during the Liberation of Kashyyyk but as this was not sanctioned by the New Republic the squadron was dissolved. The squadron – once again against orders – re-formed to join the New Republic forces at the Battle of Jakku, where they provided air support for troops on the ground and took out Imperial air-to-space defences. Following the fall of the Empire, he became head instructor of a new New Republic flight academy and that is currently the last we know of the only pilot to fly against both Death Stars. Hopefully we will see more of him in the future.

2: Luke Skywalker

Just beating Wedge to a the number 2 spot, I may not have seen Luke have as much time in the cockpit, but his actions in a fighter have been crucial. Described by best friend Biggs Darklighter as “the best bush pilot in the outer-rim territories”, Luke’s Force-sensitivity makes him a top-class pilot. Having bulls-eyed womp rats in his T-16 back home, Luke was given a chance to fly in the Battle of Yavin in part due to his part in rescuing Princess Leia Organa. Under the callsign Red 5, Luke flew with Biggs and Wedge as his wingmen. He saved Biggs from a pursuing TIE fighter during the battle and provided cover for Dutch Vander and Garven Dreis’ attack runs before leading his own attack run, having the confidence to go in full throttle due to his experiences in Beggar’s Canyon back on Tatooine. After losing his wingmen, he was just about able to hold off Vader long enough for Han Solo to arrive and clear his final run to the exhaust port, trusting the Force rather than his targeting computer to make the final shot. Commander Skywalker flew as Rogue Leader at the Battle of Hoth. Having realised the AT-AT armour was too strong for the blasters on their snowspeeders, Luke devised the plan of using harpoons and tow cables to bring down the walkers, though he was unable to do this himself as his speeder took a hit that killed his gunner, Dak Ralter. He covered Wedge on his run against a walker and prepared to cover Zev Senesca before the two of them were also brought down. While his list of battles is nowhere near as long as Wedge’s, he just beat his wingman to second place due to the importance of his actions. Had he not been successful with his attack run on the Death Star then the Rebellion was effectively over and though he was not able to directly have a large impact on the Battle of Hoth due to losing his gunner, it was still his plan of using tow cables that brought down one of the walkers and he quickly moved to becoming the wingman for speeders who were still able to make attack runs.

1: Poe Dameron

The best pilot in the Resistance. The son of Rebel pilot Shara Bey and Pathfinder Kes Dameron, Commander Poe Dameron flew for the New Republic as Rapier Leader. Unhappy at the lack of New Republic action towards the threat of the First Order, Dameron was recruited to the Resistance by Leia following a skirmish where he went up against a First Order Star Destroyer and dozens of TIEs. Dameron became one of Leia’s most trusted operatives and was sent to recover a map to Luke Skywalker from Lor San Tekka. He was captured by the First Order but escaped in a special forces TIE fighter after being freed by the defecting stormtrooper FN-2187. Though they were shot down, Poe managed to make his way back to the Resistance in time to lead the Resistance fighters at the Battle of Takodana as Black Leader, where he took out 10 TIE fighters and 3 stormtroopers in less than 20 seconds. Like Finn says, “That’s one hell of a pilot!” Dameron led the starfighter attack on Starkiller Base and took advantage of the explosives Han Solo and Chewbacca used to create a hole in the thermal oscillator, flying inside and causing enough damage to destroy the planet. During the evacuation of D’Qar, he single-handedly took out the defences on the First Order dreadnought to clear the run for the Resistance bombers. The bombers successfully destroyed the dreadnought, but at great cost, which resulted in Dameron being demoted to Captain for disobeying orders, though in hindsight destroying the dreadnought probably saved the Resistance once it became clear that the First Order could track them through hyperspace. After Leia was injured, Poe butted heads with the new leader of the Resistance, Vice Admiral Holdo, eventually leading to him sending Finn and Rose Tico on a mission behind Holdo’s back and starting a mutiny to take control of the Raddus in order to take advantage of Finn and Rose’s actions. A combination of Finn’s mission failing and Leia’s return to consciousness and explanation of Holdo’s plan saw Poe continue to grow from a hotshot pilot to a leader and that turn was completed when he aborted an attack during the Battle of Crait upon realising they would not be successful in their objective. Poe led the remaining Resistance forces deeper into the caves, following a vulptex to find a way out by escaping through the passages and finding the Millennium Falcon. I’m really looking forward to seeing where he goes from here post-Crait and I also think when I read the Poe Dameron comic series his lead at the top of the rankings will only grow.

 

What do you think of my ranking? Who makes your top 10? Let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading and May the Force be with you…

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