In Ships of the Galaxy, StarWars.com celebrates all the different kinds of craft across the saga. Strap in, punch it, and join us for the ride.
Time for another Star Wars pop quiz! What ship has been called the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy, was instrumental in the destruction of both Death Stars, and made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs (we round down at StarWars.com)? It’s the most famous YT-1300 space freighter in this or any galaxy: the Millennium Falcon. Let’s strap ourselves in and prepare for the jump to hyperspace as we explore this legendary ship.
Behind the Scenes
You may have heard that the Falcon was inspired by a hamburger, but that isn’t really accurate. As Amy Ratcliffe wrote on StarWars.com, the original design looked very similar to the ship from Space: 1999, so the team had to completely refabricate an all-new look in one day. In Amy’s article, she quotes legendary creator Joe Johnston from Starlog Magazine. “We took components from the blockade runner, like the cockpit, and stuck it on the side of a big dish with some mandibles out in front,” he said. And in Light & Magic, Johnston further explains that it was the sight of dirty dishes that sparked the initial redesign; he caught a glimpse of stacked plates at home, and imagined sandwiching two together to create a saucer-like ship. That original design ultimately became the template for the Tantive IV, while the Falcon became the ship we know and love.
Part of the magic of a Star Wars film is the verisimilitude that what you are seeing is real. According to Lucasfilm VP and executive creative director Doug Chiang, “For the original trilogy, we had an 88-foot version. For our more recent films, they varied between 110-112 [feet].” There were several complete smaller models built for special-effects shots too, depending on what was required for each scene. These versions ranged from something small enough to fit into the palm of your hand to over four feet. Serendipitously, various model kit pieces were used to assemble the original Star Wars vehicles, with pieces of Ferrari and tank models used to construct the middle portion of the Falcon. Ironically, this fits perfectly with the legacy of how several owners, such as Han Solo and Chewbacca, have continually retro-fitted the vehicle in Star Wars’ mythology.
Specs and Features
Each owner of this famous ship has extensively modified the Corellian light freighter to suit their needs. Lando Calrissian is the first known owner of the YT-1300 and added streamlined durasteel plating, while turning the two cargo mandibles at the front of the vessel into an auxiliary ship launch. With his sophisticated and discerning taste, Lando installed custom-built luxury cabins and other lavish ornate touches to the interior. However, these topical modifications belie the more notable adjustments to the ship’s engine, enabling it to reach a top speed of 745 mph in the atmosphere and allowing him to smuggle in speed and style. He also added military-grade deflector shield generators.
While the Falcon is not a character, it has distinctive characteristics. When L3-37 (Lando’s pilot droid) was destroyed during an escape from Kessel, Lando plugged the droid’s brain into the ship’s original factory-issued Microaxial Rubicon astrogation computer. This key addition to the navicomputer allows the ship to pilot faster hyperspace routes than most ships could ever dream. However, this addition, coupled with numerous modifications added to the space freighter, make for less than perfect operational performance and occasional unpredictability.
Rebellion general Han Solo added to the capricious nature of the Millennium Falcon with even more modifications, including two CEC AG-2G quad laser cannons, two Arakyd ST2 concussion missile tubes, and one BlasTech Ax-108 “Ground buzzer” blaster cannon. Unlike the ship’s previous captain, Solo preferred not to make any exterior modifications, believing the ship’s “hunk of junk” appearance would cause it to be underestimated as he and his co-pilot Chewbacca blasted away into hyperspace with their pursuers appropriately frustrated and confused.
In Solo: A Star Wars Story, Lando Calrissian owned the fastest ship in the galaxy. He was hired by Qi’ra, a higher-up in the Crimson Dawn crime syndicate, and an up-and-coming smuggler named Han Solo to steal some coaxium on the planet Kessel. However, Imperial interference during the escape led to Han Solo having to take control of the ship — and the bold move to attempt the Kessel Run, which meant piloting through a maelstrom and a close encounter with an impossibly big summa-verminoth creature. With help from L3-37, at that point one with the Falcon’s navicomputer, Han famously made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs; he would boast about it for years to come. The damage to the vehicle during the thrilling adventure took its toll on Lando’s prized possession, as it went from pristine and sleek to battered and beaten up in appearance.
Solo’s time on the Falcon changed him forever, prompting him to seek out Calrissian on Numidian Prime, where he won the ship from Lando in a legendary game of Sabacc. For 10 years, Han Solo and Chewbacca raced around the galaxy as preeminent smugglers, eventually meeting an older Jedi named Obi-Wan Kenobi, who hired the pilots to take him and a farm boy named Luke Skywalker to Alderaan. Through a series of events that would have long-lasting ramifications, the Millennium Falcon interfered with the Sith Lord Darth Vader’s TIE fighter, allowing Luke Skywalker to blow up the first Death Star and provide hope for freedom in the galaxy. Four years later, the Falcon’s previous captain, Lando Calrissian, would return to the pilot’s chair, flying the heavily-modified YT-1300 into battle against the second Death Star, blowing up the space station and beginning the end of the Empire’s grip of terror on the galaxy.
During the era of the New Republic, the now-famous ship was a key part of several victories against Imperial remnants and many semi-legal adventures for Solo and his Wookiee companion. The duo lost their beloved ship to Gannis Ducain, spending years searching for it as it eventually changed hands to the Irving Boys, ultimately ending up lost under a tarp in the junk yards of the desert planet of Jakku. It was finally discovered by the scavenger Rey, who inadvertently returned it to Han Solo. With the restored crew, and after much loss, the Millennium Falcon once again returned to the forefront of the galactic-wide conflict, helping the Resistance defeat the First Order in the Battle of Exegol, once again under the stewardship of Lando Calrissian.
It would not be possible to tell the history of the galaxy without the significant contributions of the iconic Millennium Falcon, a symbol of resistance against the forces of evil.
Dan Zehr is the host and brand director of the podcast, Coffee With Kenobi. He is the co-author of The Star Wars Book, Star Wars Character Encyclopedia Updated and Expanded Edition, and Star Wars: I Am Your Father. He is a high school English teacher, with an emphasis on Mythology and Composition, and has an MS in Teaching and Learning.
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