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A study of 'Star Wars'

Raytheon.com examines the technology in the legendary trilogy

Note the lack of explosions. Mainly because there is no oxygen in space. (NASA image)

When you work with advanced technology, you think about it all the time. Even when you’re watching movies.

And especially when you’re watching Star Wars.

After all, many of the inventions in the original trilogy have real-life counterparts in our laboratories: high-energy lasers, for example, or power systems for remote bases. We build parts for spacecraft, too.

And let's face it – we're a company of more than 30,000 engineers, and many of us grew up dreaming of building our own landspeeders someday. So with the first entry in the new trilogy finally upon us, we just couldn't help ourselves: we took a look at the original films and how the heroes and villains used – or should have used – the fantastic technology of the Star Wars galaxy.

Here’s what we found.

Nobody had good cyber

First, the Empire. Think back to “Episode IV: A New Hope,” where R2-D2 simply plugs in to the Death Star’s network and disables the trash compactor that is about to crush Luke, Leia, Han Solo and Chewbacca.

That sort of activity is what IT security professionals call an anomaly – a rare occurrence that warrants further investigation. It’s a good thing the Death Star lacked an insider-threat detection system, which would have helped the Empire corner the rebels right then and there.

The rebels, meanwhile, could have used stronger cyber when they tried to deactivate the tractor beam. R2 saw it on the Death Star network but could not deactivate it. If he had, Gen. Kenobi never would have had to embark on the heroic trek that led to his fatal confrontation with Darth Vader.

Side note: Thank goodness Jabba the Hutt didn’t know about multi-factor authentication. If he did, there’s no way a disguised Leia ever could have operated the carbonite cell and freed Han.

A good jammer could have handled the tractor beam

Speaking of Han, what was he thinking flying a ship without electronic protection? Had he spent a little less time kicking around Mos Eisley and a little more time brushing up on electronic warfare, he could have acquired (in a card game, we imagine) a jammer to detect and thwart the tractor beam that sucked in the Millennium Falcon from space.

We're not saying our jammers could thwart the Death Star's tractor beam. But we're also not saying they couldn't ...

The base on Hoth needed backup power

Now let’s take a look at “Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back.” The movie begins with a defeat for the rebels, after the Empire destroys the generator that powers the protective force field around the secret rebel base.

If only the rebels had thought to build a backup power supply. Something that could harness and store energy from those fierce Hoth windstorms. Raytheon builds exactly those kinds of systems – independent energy grids that can power remote military bases, factories, hospitals and more.

Obviously this isn't Hoth, but still. Same idea.

Leia’s unencrypted distress signal jeopardized the rebellion

When Leia sends her desperate cry for help to Obi-Wan in the opening moments of Episode IV, she fails to encrypt her message before uploading it to R2’s memory.

Granted, she had a few other things on her mind – namely the invasion of her ship by stormtroopers and Vader himself – but considering that Obi-Wan was the rebellion’s only hope, she could have invested a few seconds to ensure nobody else could see the holographic message.

Both sides were masters of directed energy

We’ve spent a lot of time addressing the faults of the Rebel Alliance and the Empire, but we have to admit there were some technologies they both mastered. Directed energy, for one.

They had it covered – the Jedis with their lightsabers, Han with his blaster, the stormtroopers with their rifles, and, of course, Emperor Palpatine and his force lightning.

And pretty much everything that carried people had some sort of powerful laser (except, notably, for Luke’s landspeeder, which probably could have used some self-defense.)

The victory went to the best-trained troops

The deciding factor in the battles of the original trilogy was the same thing that has determined victors since the dawn of warfare: training.

The Empire had the obvious technological advantage. But Palpatine and Co. was fatally weakened by the incompetence of its ground troops. Stormtroopers are famously bad shots.

Now take a look at the other side. We’re not sure how thoroughly the rebels trained their pilots (after all, Luke went from whiny teenager to war hero in, like, a couple of days) but Jedi training was another matter altogether. There’s a reason they were the most fearsome fighters in the galaxy.

There’s no telling what the new movies will hold, but as long as the good guys and the Jedi keep their training game up, we suspect the Force will be with them.


Published: 12/14/2015

Last Updated: 12/14/2015

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