Tweet Badeep Brrrrrp. Meet the Astromech droids. The mechanical all-rounders from the classic trilogy are ready to increase the power!
Astromech droids (or astro droids) are class-2 droids developed by Industrial Automaton. Usually small in size, they can be considered the most all-round droids in the galaxy. They are excellent co-pilots, superb mechanics, and excel in communicating with computers. Some can even develop quite a personality when they haven’t fallen victim to a memory wipe. By far the most famous Astromech droid is R2-D2, who has been a loyal friend of the Skywalker family ever since he served on Queen Amidala’s Royal Starship on Naboo. More recently, we’ve encountered another Astromech droid called C1-10P (Chopper). Without the quirky and mischievous Chopper, the crew of the Ghost wouldn’t have succeeded in many of their dangerous missions. But who are the other Astromech droids that are lurking in the background or co-piloting one of the Rebels Alliance’s starfighters? Let’s find out!
The desert planet in the Arkanis Sector seemed like a haven to Astromechs. Despite the fact that Jawas and moisture farmers were always keeping their eyes open for them, Tatooine cities such as Mos Eisley featured a lot of the little droids.
R1-G4 was an old and battered R1 Astromech droid sold by Nebit’s Jawa clan at the Lars moisture farm. This large Astromech may once have been employed by Kroeskin Fabrications, and it was left behind when its previous owner got captured. R5-D4, nicknamed ”Red,” was first chosen by Owen Lars instead of R2-D2. When it turned out to have a bad motivator, C-3PO advised Luke Skywalker to buy R2-D2 instead.
There have been several explanations in Legends why R5-D4 malfunctioned. Some stories made R5-D4 an unsung hero because he damaged himself so that R2-D2 could continue his crucial mission. In another story, R2-D2 sabotaged R5-D4, leaving him as the only remaining functional Astromech that the Jawas had for sale. The most crazy story, though already considered non-canon when it appeared in 1999, was that R5-D4 was actually Skippy, a Force-using droid. It’s also possible that R5-D4 was part of the R2-AG-series, a sub-line of Agromech droids.
Many of Tatooine’s Astromechs were seen during Luke and Ben Kenobi’s visit to Mos Eisley. R2-A5 was a unit with white and green markings that specialized in combat communications. The droid could be used to acquire targeting data for starfighters and gunnery systems. In the Special Edition of A New Hope, R2-A5 disappeared and was replaced by a ronto. R3-T2 didn’t have the typical transparent dome of an R3 unit. Possessing expanded memory capacities, it had escaped from a band of pirates and could enhance and sabotage hyperdrive systems. R4-E1 was a red and white Astromech that preferred to work independently, though it was owned by the Corellian smuggler BoShek. The droid was near Spaceport Speeders when Luke sold his X-34 landspeeder. Finally there was the yellow R5-A2, which, like many other R5 units, was rarely used as a navigator. Its owner was unknown.
The Rebel Alliance was always looking for more Astromech droids, not only because of their resilience and their versatility, but also because they were compatible with X-wing and Y-wing starfighters.
Several Astromechs assisted Rebel pilots during their assault on the first Death Star. R2-X2 was the droid designated to Red 10 (Theron Nett). R4-D6 was a dark blue R4 unit that served on Base One at the Great Massassi Temple, while R5-D8 was the Astromech of Lieutenant Jek Porkins (Red 6). R5-K6 was the black and red droid of Red Leader Garven Dreis, and R2-Q2, the gray unit that accompanied Biggs Darklighter aboard Red 3, rounded out the Astromechs that assisted in the Battle of Yavin.
Several Astromechs were also encountered in the icy caverns of the Echo Base on Hoth. The orange R3-A2 could coordinate piloting coordinates and approach angles during combat. R3-Y2 was encountered in the command center (though the Hasbro figure has green markings instead of yellow) while R5-M2 played an important part in the evacuation of Echo Base. With his owner Captain Valdez, this droid planned evacuation routes from Echo Base for the Rebel forces. Last but not least, R5-G19 was an Astromech that was present during the important briefing at Home One near Sullust right before the Battle of Endor.
Other Astromechs of Rebel pilots included R5-F7 (Lepira), R2-T7 (Grizz Frix), and R5-P9 (Ekelarc Yong).
What you may perhaps not immediately realize from watching the movies is that there were also a lot of Astromech droids working in the service of the Galactic Empire.
R2-Q2 (who looks like Biggs’ droid and has the same name) spent several decades working with the Imperial fleet in the Expansion Region. It was brought aboard the Tantive IV after the ship got captured by the Devastator above Tatooine. R3-M3 was a Astromech that worked aboard the first Death Star, similar to R4-I9 (this droid hasn’t been officially identified in the movie itself, but at least one dark blue R4 unit appears in a behind the scenes clip on the Death Star). R4-M9 was the second Astromech droid brought aboard the Tantive IV to retrieve data from its computer banks. R2-Q5 and R5-J2 were two black Astromechs that operated aboard the second Death Star and were present when Darth Vader arrived.
After all these years and publications, a few Astromechs from the classic trilogy still haven’t received a proper name. You can spot unidentified Astromechs in Mos Eisley, Echo Base, X-wing starfighters (Wedge’s Astromechs in both Death Star assaults), or aboard the second Death Star. There are also some broken Astromechs in Jabba’s droid pool and an unnamed Astromech waiter aboard Jabba’s Khetanna.
Selected Reading: Ultimate Star Wars (2015), Decipher CCG, Hasbro 3.75” action figures, The Visual Guides (previously on StarWars.com), The New Essential Guide to Droids (2006), Star Wars Adventure Journal 7 (1995).
Tim Veekhoven (Sompeetalay) from Belgium is president and co founder of TeeKay-421, the Belgian Star Wars fanclub. He has contributed to Star Wars Insider (Rogues Gallery), Build the Millennium Falcon, and has written four character back stories for What’s the Story?