Military Tactics Used in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

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It’s my turn to nitpick on a Star Wars film, and today I’m setting my sights on Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. The film is fast becoming one of my favorite war movies of all time, and no doubt that’s due in part to the realism of the action sequences. As someone who has prior military experience, I shy away from films that don’t get things right; in other words, films that use poor acting to substitute for actual military tactics and terminology. That being said, Rogue One military tactics were spot on, and that’s due in part to the many advisors used prior to, and during filming.

Rogue One Military Tactics

The first scenes of the film presented the Death Troopers, an elite detachment of Stormtroopers with advanced training and augmentations meant to enhance their effectiveness in combat. These soldiers are armed with Blastech E-11D rifles, capable of engaging point targets at distance, and they’re equipped with tactical lights, something we have never seen on weaponry in the original trilogy.

Rogue One Military Tactics
Director Krennic walking with Death Troopers

When we first see the men in black, they are flanking Director Krennic on both sides, spread out evenly, with each leading soldier slightly to the rear of the guy in front of him. This is a modified take on a small team tactic known as a wedge formation. It’s also used by personal protection specialists, and that’s how the Death Troopers are initially portrayed in the film. If they encounter a threat to their front, each man would rush, drop, and begin engaging the target, while two members would cover Krennic with their own bodies, and spin him around, pushing him downwards as they run with him out of the area. Subsequently, the Death Troopers live up to their name by killing Lyra Erso, as well as searching the area for Jyn to kill her, too.

Later in the third act of the film, we see the Death Troopers deploy from a TIE Reaper, engaging and killing the remaining squad of Rebel Pathfinders. They are calm, collected, and take their time picking off the Rebels one by one. Obviously, these guys are not to be messed with, and whoever was responsible for their training had an extensive career in Special Operations. But the Death Troopers aren’t the only baddies we see running around, there’s also the Scarif Shore Troopers, a previously unseen bunch of tropical dudes, who like to soak in the rays on the beach. Clad in tan helmets and minimalist armor, they run around the base, generally looking awesome, and once they hit the beach, we saw more Rebels falling by the way side. All humor aside, it’s clear through the different action sequences that Gareth Edwards remained faithful to what we know as Star Wars in the original trilogy, particularly with the Empire, but there was a lot of depth that was added, that really brought out the small details in what we saw. The tactics used by the troopers of Scarif demonstrated a high level of coordination, that again, revealed a lot of training for the actors, and it added to the authenticity of what we saw. The various scenes on the beach showing the troopers taking up position behind available cover, and flanking the Rebels, are all real world tactics.

On Wobani, the location of the Imperial labor camp, we get our first look at Rebel Pathfinders, as they breach, bang, and clear an Imperial Turbo Tank, with the point man using swift weapons manipulation, scanning for threats after melting some plastic. They don’t however, handle one tiny lady so well.

The scene is a bit different on Jedha, which Jyn has already classified as a war zone. Here, we saw some awesome insurgency tactics used by Saw Gererra’s Partisan fighters. As the Imperial Stormtroopers maneuver down a street, Saw’s men set up a classic ambush from both street level, and above them in the surrounding buildings. The Partisan’s initiate the attack with explosives, which is a common real world tactic. This serves to both immobilize the assault tank, as well as stun the surviving troopers. With chaos created, the Partisans engage the troopers from every conceivable angle, taking advantage of both concealment and cover to strike their target, and fade away after the attack. This is what is known in the real world as Asymmetrical Warfare, and is a proven concept in inhospitable places around the galaxy.

Rogue One Military Tactics
Stormtroopers on Jedha patrolling the streets

This scene in particular was among my favorites, and it had the feel of what the Rebels were more than likely engaged in around the galaxy, versus an all-out ground offensive, which would be far too costly to attempt against a numerically superior force like the Empire. The only thing missing from this scene was the Cavern Angels X-Wings swooping in and striking from above.

Last, but not least, I want to explore the Rebel Alliance, and their actions. On Scarif, we see the Pathfinders deploy from the stolen shuttle, spreading out to take cover, and all the while they are displaying correct weapons manipulation and safety, by having their weapons at the low ready, muzzle down, and keeping their index finger off of the trigger. There are scenes where I saw guys using a correct sight picture to blast away at the Empire, then there were also a few times where some of the Rebels fired from the hip, particularly in a moment of panic. This is the first time in a Star Wars movie where we’ve seen fighters providing air cover and support for ground forces, and I think they blended that really well.

The initial strike on the AT-ACTs was good, as well as the scene with the U-Wing providing close air support, and dropping guys into the fight. The U-Wing has become my favorite ship, and it’s use was spot on every time, right down to the crash scene.

Above Scarif, we witnessed some heavy fighting, and awesome flying by the fighters of the Alliance, from the initial strikes on the Shield Gate, to the Y-Wings making bombing runs, all of those scenes were fantastic. Of particular note are the close ups of the X-Wings dropping out of hyperspace, banking into dives, and the interior of the cockpit, these were all scenes that were very realistic. It gave the viewer a feel for actually being in the ship during the fight, which was reminiscent of cameras used inside the cockpit of real world fighters during their sorties. One scene on the planet Scarif inside of General Merrick’s cockpit has a clear view of the surrounding battlespace, and you can see the U-Wing dropping to the beach out the Starboard side windscreen.

Rogue One Military Tactics
General Merrick’s cockpit view

I applaud the Director, Gareth Edwards, as well as all of the military personnel involved in bringing this film to life, and making it the success that it is. All of these elements combined have produced one of, if not the best Star Wars film to date, and certainly have given us a real world perspective of both ground and air combat in that galaxy far, far away.