A Look at the Lasers of Star Wars: Your Guide from AT-ATs to X-wings. By Linton Lewis.
The galaxy far, far away has gotten a lot of mileage out of lasers and similar technologies over the years, and there’s been a lot of creativity put into making each device interesting, visually engaging, and distinct.
Let’s take a look at some of the key types used by your favorite Jedi, Sith, rebels and imperials.
Blasters are powered by a substance called dedlanite and operated by way of plasma energy, the same energy utilized in lightsabers. With their variable power settings (from stun to kill) and their versatility by being able to be crafted into pistols, rifles, and more, blasters are one of the most utilized weapons in the Star Wars galaxy.
They aren’t perfect, though, since they are unable to stand up to magnetic seals, deflector shields, and lightsabers.
One specialized form of blaster most fans are familiar with is the bowcaster, or laser crossbow, the weapon of choice for Wookiees, specifically Chewbacca. This weapon is more powerful and accurate than traditional blasters, and due to its size is often difficult for humans to master.
Virtually all of the starships and vehicles with defensive capabilities seen in the Star Wars universe feature laser cannons, which are either fixed in place or mounted on a directional turret.
Examples of craft with lasers include:
- X-wings, B-wings, and A-wings
- The Millennium Falcon
- Imperial Star Destroyers
- The Ghost
- AT-AT and AT-ST Walkers
- TIE Fighters
These lasers are a distinct technology from the plasma tech found in blasters, and utilize various types of gases of different colors. Red gas is the cheaper option, while green gas is the costlier, high-quality option. Notably, the Empire, with its significant funds, uses green, while the “held together by duct tape” Rebellion utilizes red.
One type of laser cannon is the turbolaser, which is a turret found on large spacecraft like the Death Star and Death Star II.
Another major defensive weapon is the ion cannon which can fire ionized particles in a beam that results in the disruption of electronic systems on ships.
Examples of this type of tech include the rebel turrets seen during the Battle of Hoth and the cannons mounted to Y-wing starfighters.
The Death Star Superlaser
Powered by a hypermatter reactor and focused through eight kyber crystals – the same material utilized in the construction of lightsabers – the Death Star superlaser is a formidable challenge for the Rebel Alliance.
When the crystals are directed into a single beam, the superlaser is capable of destroying an entire planet, as it does with Alderaan, but can also be used to target a specific regional area, as it does on both Jedha and Scarif.
With Death Star II’s creation, some improvements were implemented. Firing time was increased and greater precision in targeting was achieved. This latter aspect allowed Death Star II to target small, individual starships, something that the original Death Star was unable to do.
According to Forbes, the cost of construction for the Death Star could approximate to 825 quadrillion dollars. Meanwhile, British energy supplier Ovo provided an estimate of 7.8 octillion dollars to run the space station for a single day.
One of the most recent technological advancements seen in the Star Wars universe has been the introduction of the axial superlaser, a cannon outfitted to the Xyston-class Star Destroyers of the Final Order, as presented in The Rise of Skywalker.
These superlasers utilize miniaturized Death Star tech, allowing them to destroy a planet, although their smaller size requires a sustained laser burst rather than a single shot to accomplish this.
Superlaser Siege Cannon
Another offshoot of Death Star tech, the siege cannon fires a sustained burst of laser energy to obliterate a fortified target, acting as a sort of futuristic battering ram.
Its use is seen during The Battle of Crait featured in The Last Jedi as the First Order attempts to enter the Resistance stronghold.
Significantly larger and more powerful than both the Death Star and Death Star II, Starkiller Base would drain a nearby star to produce energy blast lasers that could reach great distances, split into different beams, and destroy planets.
Utilizing the laser-like technology of plasma, the same tech featured within blasters, lightsabers produce a sustained, repeating beam of energy. Lightsabers are powered by long-lasting and rechargeable diatium power cells, with the energy then focused by way of a kyber crystal. Most lightsabers are made from various metals, though some Jedi selected wood from the dense Brylark tree to make casings.
In addition to their offensive and defensive capabilities, lightsabers have been shown to:
- Cut through or melt dense materials
- Operate underwater with no difficulty
- Deflect blaster fire
- Be utilized as a light source
Lightsaber colors vary and are determined by the kyber crystal selected by a Jedi, or, in the case of Sith’s red sabers, “bled” from a different colored crystal.
A breakdown of saber colors and some of their users include:
- Blue – Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Luke Skywalker, Rey Skywalker
- Green – Yoda, Luke Skywalker, Leia Organa
- Red – Darth Vader, Darth Sidious, Darth Maul, Kylo Ren
- Purple – Mace Windu, Darth Traya
- Orange – Bastila Shan
- Yellow – Rey Skywalker, Ahsoka Tano
- White – Ahsoka Tano
- Black (Darksaber) – The Mandalorians, Sabine Wren, Moff Gideon
Along with their color options, lightsabers also are available in a variety of forms. These include:
- Protosaber – Sometimes referred to as a laser sword, this prototype lightsaber includes an attached battery pack for its power supply. Recently, a team of dedicated engineers actually made a functional protosaber facsimile!
- Training lightsaber – Used by younglings, these sabers are incapable of cutting through matter and can merely lightly burn skin on contact. Grown Jedi do not utilize a fully powered lightsaber until they construct one themselves as part of their training.
- Shoto lightsaber – These miniaturized lightsabers are utilized by smaller Jedi, such as Yoda, or for those who prefer twin-bladed fighting styles, such as Ahsoka Tano.
- Great lightsaber/lightsaber club – These oversized lightsabers are used by Jedi of significant size and feature more powerful lasers and a length of over two meters.
- Curved-hilt lightsaber – The hilt design of these sabers is preferred to that of standard lightsabers by Jedi who incorporate more slashing and lunging during battle, as the sabers allow for more finesse.
- Crossguard lightsaber – An ancient form of lightsaber, the crossguard saber features the standard central blade along with two secondary blades emitting perpendicularly at small ports.
- Cane lightsaber – Used for discretion, this form of lightsaber is concealed within the handle of a cane.
- The Darksaber – The only one of its kind, the Darksaber is the creation of the Madalorians and features a black, shorter blade that more closely resembles the look of a traditional sword than standard lightsabers.
- Dual-phase lightsaber – These lightsabers feature two or more kyber crystals, which permit its blade to be lengthened or shortened during a duel.
- Double-bladed lightsaber – With its central staff and two blades emerging from either end, this variant makes for a formidable weapon when wielded by a skilled opponent. A similar model is the lightsaber pike.
- Lightwhip – Unlike standard lightsabers with their rigid blades, the lightwhip features a flexible blade several meters long. Though their energy is weaker and cannot cut as standard lightsabers do, they are effective for entangling enemy combatants.
- Contained energy axe – Utilizing a diatium power cell like a lightsaber, these axes emit a suspended, arced laser blade.
- Lightsaber pistol – This variant lightsaber features a hilt that incorporates a blaster. This allows for both concealment of the lightsaber and the ability to switch between the two weapons when needed.
- Lightsaber rifle – This weapon uses a standard lightsaber as a type of fuel, being able to produce five powerful blasts of energy before a lightsaber is melted and destroyed.
As you can see, padawans, there are many types of lasers out there in the galaxy. I hope you’ve enjoyed this in-depth look at all things that go pew pew and vooooom.
Linton Lewis works with LaserGear and TYKMA Electrox, leading manufacturers of industrial laser marking systems located in Ohio. Some of his favorite movies include Inglourious Basterds, Dr. Strangelove and the Back to the Future series.
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