Star Wars 9: The Secret Empire Star Destroyer Fleet Explained

Star Wars 9 Star Destroyer Fleet Emperor Palpatine Sidious

A huge fleet of Empire Star Destroyers will feature in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, but what could their sudden appearance mean for the highly-anticipated conclusion to the sequel trilogy. Disney's huge D23 event took place recently, dropping a stunning array of announcements, reveals and trailers, with Star Wars 9 being one of the hottest topics. The new D23 trailer made several key reveals, including Sith Rey and her flip-saber, the Emperor's foreboding voiceover and the familiar sound of a former fallen Jedi with breathing problems.

Another hugely significant and previously unseen image was the emergence of a massive Star Destroyer fleet. These iconic ships are nothing new to the modern trilogy of Star Wars films, but this latest bunch are unique in that they are of Empire design, not First Order. The Resurgent-class Star Destroyers seen in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi are sleeker and lack the large control tower at the rear. The ships seen in the Star Wars 9 trailer, however, are the Imperial Star Destroyers of old. This type of vessel was last seen crashed into the sands of Jakku - a metaphorical sign that the Empire had been superseded.

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Apparently, reports of the Empire's demise have been greatly exaggerated, and these old-school Star Destroyers are just the latest in a series of intriguing additions to the enemy's ranks. Naturally, this latest tease generates many questions surrounding the origin and purpose of this clandestine Star Destroyer fleet.

Where Star Wars 9's Secret Fleet Came From

It seems unlikely that the return of both Emperor Palpatine and Imperial Star Destroyers in Star Wars 9 is a coincidence and the various theories surrounding the Emperor's survival could also explain the existence of this secret fleet. The novelization of The Last Jedi confirmed that, prior to his death at the hands of Anakin Skywalker, Palpatine had instigated a contingency plan, sending a large number of Empire resources, including his own personal Star Dreadnought, to the Unknown Regions to ensure the Empire would live on. Here, the seeds were sown for the birth of the First Order, with shipyards and laboratories hastily constructed in a region of space the Republic could not monitor.

Since the secret fleet in Star Wars 9 is of old-fashioned, Imperial design, the ships cannot simply be a new First Order creation, but they certainly could've originated from the Emperor's secret strongholds in the Unknown Regions. The full might of these hidden resources is yet to be revealed, and this grand new fleet of Star Destroyers may have been a project decades in the making, with construction taking place in the shadows during the events of both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi.

Assuming that all is proceeding as Emperor Palpatine had foreseen, it makes sense that the villain would commission the construction of a grand new fleet to help him regain control of the galaxy when the time was ripe and, in order to keep the project under wraps, the ships would've surely been built in the Empire-controlled parts of the Unknown Regions. The only other feasible alternative comes from a recurring Star Wars 9 rumor regarding a long long Empire fleet that the First Order have been tracking down.

How Star Wars 9's Secret Star Destroyers Are Different

Star Wars 9 Secret Star Destroyer Fleet

Although they return to the classic design of the original trilogy, the secret fleet of Star Destroyers in Star Wars 9 bears some notable changes from their predecessors. These improvements confirm that the secret fleet is not simply a remnant of the old days. The First Order haven't stumbled across a hanger full of Star Destroyers and dusted them off - these ships have either been built from scratch or are heavily modified and improved iterations of older Empire ships.

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One major change is that the docking bays on the base of the old Imperial Star Destroyers have been replaced by massive blaster cannons. This addition likely ties into the Death Star technology used by the First Order in The Last Jedi, where a miniaturized version of the Starkiller station's infamous beam was used on Crait. It certainly wouldn't be a huge engineering challenge to install these guns on the bottom side of Star Destroyers, and footage from the new Star Wars 9 trailer appears to show these new weapons in action, with a red blast churning through the landscape of some unknown planet.

Secondly, a red stripe motif is visible, running down the side of these secret Star Destroyers. This is a new feature that wasn't present on either the original or First Order era ships and shares a thematic similarity to the Sith Troopers that have also confirmed to debut in Star Wars 9. Assuming the Emperor hasn't just been on Galactic Pimp My Ride, this new red design could symbolize a more general move away from "Empire" or "First Order" and towards "Sith."

Who Controls The Secret Star Destroyers In Star Wars 9?

Emperor Palpatine and Kylo Ren in Star Wars 9

Logic would suggest that the Emperor is behind the appearance of this formidable new fleet. So far in the Star Wars 9 marketing, fans have seen red stormtroopers (the Sith troopers), a red-eyed C-3PO, Rey with a red lightsaber and now a red-striped class of Star Destroyer. It certainly wouldn't be a stretch to dub these ships "Sith Star Destroyers," given the overall pattern emerging. Logically, it would also make sense that whoever controls the Sith Troopers is likely also behind the secret Star Destroyers.

Palpatine remains the obvious candidate responsible for both additions - he must have been doing something for the past thirty years, why not paint some Stormtroopers and build some new ships. However, Kylo Ren is still the current leader of the First Order and the secret fleet of Star Destroyers could take their orders directly from him. Several reports have suggested that Star Wars 9 will see Kylo on the hunt for an unbeatable squadron of lost Empire ships which contain the Sith Troopers. Perhaps the fleet seen in the trailer footage is evidence that these rumors are true, and the ships will fall under direct control of Kylo Ren himself.

Of course, this theory entirely depends on the Emperor's relationship to the petulant First Order chief. Has Palpatine been manipulating Kylo Ren from the start? Has he been raising the young warrior to use as a physical vessel? Is the Emperor simply manipulating Kylo to exact his revenge on the galaxy? With so many possibilities, it's plausible that the secret Star Destroyer fleet in Star Wars 9 has been bequeathed from the old leader of the Empire to the new leader of the First Order as a way of striking back at the Resistance and the Jedi.

More: Every Star Wars 9 Reveal From The D23 Panel

Key Release Dates
  • Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019
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