‘Star Wars’: Is This The New TIE Fighter From ‘The Force Awakens’?

The most recent piece of concept art purportedly leaked from the set of Star Wars: The Force Awakens shows a new take on a familiar ship, the Imperial TIE Fighter, and the guards stationed around it may have major implications for the plot of the film.

Indie Revolver revealed the image, which depicts a new, red-painted variation on the classic TIE fighter design that appeared in each of the original Star Wars films. As a more familiar, classic TIE fighter rests in one side of the image, the new iteration dominates the foreground, with asymmetrical wings towering over the pilot’s enclosure. The wings sit farther astride from the center of the fighter, giving it an impression of imposing size. A gangplank also extends from the bottom of the ship, making it appear as something of a hybrid between a classic TIE design and an Imperial shuttle.

The gangplank is reminiscent of an Imperial shuttle.

Despite the intriguing new TIE fighter design, possibly the most engaging part of the image are the guards stationed in front of the ship. As Comic Book Movie notes, the guards are the silent, red-cloaked figures who attended Emperor Palpatine in the original Star Wars trilogy. As these sentinels were only ever depicted in the Emperor’s presence, the TIE fighter concept art raises the question of just who they may be guarding in the new film.

As Indie Revlover points out, the Empire seems to be alive and well in The Force Awakens, though it is unclear who might sit at its head. Whether Palpatine himself could return, or a new villain could have taken up his throne is an object of complete speculation, but it seems that the new TIE fighter design may have some connection to the question.

A number of pieces of concept art for The Force Awakens have previously leaked online, as the Inquisitr noted, one of which depicted a similar TIE fighter in the background, though its surface was black, with red markings. That bit of production art was labeled “TIE Fighter – Special Forces,” indicating that the ship is connected to a person or group of importance in the Imperial hierarchy. The previously revealed “Chrometroopers” are just one of the suggestions that have been put forth by fans.

Whatever the connection may prove to be, fans will no doubt get their chance to see the new TIE fighters in action when Star Wars: The Force Awakens hits theaters on December 18, 2015.

[Images via io9 and Indie Revlover]