'Star Wars' Collectibles & Toys Review: Hasbro's TIE Bomber with Imperial Pilot

Pros: Nice rendition of the TIE Bomber, packaging, comes with figure
Cons: Hard to find, has small parts that can choke toddlers
TIE Bomber: Using the standard TIE fighter as a starting point, Imperial engineers designed a dedicated craft to deliver explosive payloads through bombardment. Showing its TIE roots, the TIE bomber's fuselage is bracketed by a pair of solar gather panels. For its increased power requirements, the bomber boasts elongated panels with greater surface areas than the standard starfighter. – Star Wars Databank entry at www.starwars.com

Since 1978, when Kenner Toys (now Hasbro) released the first vehicles that were designed for the then-revolutionary 3.75-inch scaled “action figures” based on the characters from George Lucas’ Star Wars saga, children and adult collectors have seen various toys based on the basic TIE (Twin Ion Engine) fighter and follow-on variants, including three versions of the basic TIE, two variants of Darth Vader’s TIE fighter, and two editions of the TIE Interceptor from Return of the Jedi.

Of the four vehicles of the Galactic Empire's TIE family, the rarest to find as a toy/collectible is Hasbro’s TIE Bomber, which had only previously been done by Kenner as a die-cast miniature in the early 1980s. Very few seem to have been made, and it was originally an “exclusive” release at Wal-Mart. Produced in tandem with a “battle-damaged snowspeeder,” the TIE Bomber was Hasbro’s way to excite collectors before the premiere of Star Wars – Episode II: Attack of the Clones in 2002.

From the original Hasbro TIE Bomber package:

TIE Bombers are the prime assault bombers of the Empire. In traditional attacks, TIE fighters soften up the target, and then the TIE Bombers come in to finish the job. Their sophisticated targeting sensors enable them to hit specific targets without damaging surrounding areas. This allows them to disable vital areas so that Imperial forces can take control of the crippled vessel or space station. TIE Bombers carry a heavy and diverse payload that allows them to not only attack ships and space stations but also perform ground bombing and mine planetary orbits. In The Empire Strikes Back, TIE Bombers are deployed to locate the Millennium Falcon when it hides in an asteroid field.

Although the TIE Bomber appears only in Star Wars – Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, it is a vehicle that was intended as a twin-pod TIE boarding vessel designed for but never used in Episode IV: A New Hope. The bent-wing configuration was given to Vader’s ship so audiences would know which fighter he piloted, and designer Joe Johnston’s conceptual sketch then became the basis for the TIE Bomber.

The TIE Bomber consists of two cylindrical pods laid out side-by-side, with the Vader TIE Fighter-like bent wings at the extreme ends of the twin fuselage. The starboard pod contains the cockpit, which has a hatch on top and the typical “spider web” motif transparisteel cockpit viewport used in all the TIE models. The port pod is the missile/weapons pod, which features a forward missile port, the ventral targeting sensor suite, a bombing chute that holds three “high yield proton bombs” made of bright orange plastic, and a button on top to release bombs from the chute.

Finally, as in many of Hasbro’s post-1990s starships and vehicles, a 3.75-inch figure has been included; in this case, it’s a revamped Imperial Pilot with bending knees so he can “sit” in the seat of the TIE Bomber cockpit.

Knowing quite well that TIE Bombers will be purchased mostly by adult collectors who saw the Classic Trilogy when they were kids, Hasbro designed the packaging of its vehicles with this in mind. Taking a cue from the redesigned TIE Fighter (with TIE Fighter Pilot) packaging, Hasbro created a miniature diorama by enclosing the toy in front of a photorealistic backdrop depicting a cratered asteroid just like the ones seen in The Empire Strikes Back.

This is a beautifully executed rendition of the TIE Bomber; its pods and wings are full of authentic-looking details, with the “body” and wing framework in Imperial battleship gray, and the solar panels shaded with a darker, almost black color. Except for the bright orange “proton bombs,” the TIE Bomber looks more like a professionally-made movie prop rather than a toy.

Finally, there’s the 21st Century version of the Imperial Pilot figure; it is a refined, more articulated and more detailed version of the original TIE Fighter pilot. Whereas the 1980s version just sat there (or stood there) staring fixedly to the front, the 21st Century upgrade can move his head from side to side and has bendable knees. The basic black flightsuit with silver belt buckle and Imperial insignia on both helmet and shoulder patches is also done with better detailing than the original figure's. As a collector, I really like the added value of a figure that in the past I'd have had to purchase separately.

As with all the Star Wars action figures, vehicles, and playsets, Hasbro recommends this toy for children 4 and up since the small parts pose a clear and present choking hazard, especially for children under 3 years.