As you can see in the above picture, there have been some pretty hefty changes to the TIE fighter in the 30 years since ‘Star Wars: Return of the Jedi,’ and if this photo rumored to be concept art of a new design of a TIE Fighter from ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens‘ is any indication, the changes aren’t just new colors or sizes. This TIE fighter appears to be both a fighting vessel and a transportation vehicle, something the original TIE was not capable of, as it could only hold the 1 pilot, and Imperial Shuttles (like the one Han Solo and company snuck onto Endor with) were the norm for transporting high-ranking officers, especially those who came equipped with Red Imperial Guards, such as the ones waiting at the bottom of the ramp of the TIE Fighter transport in this photo.
According to the news source that leaked the photo (Indie Revolver), the model has been named “Tie Fighter – Special Forces,” so potentially we’ll see a group of these in action for landing troops or any covert Imperial operations involving multiple units (like potentially the scene from the teaser trailer with all the Stormtroopers inside what appeared to be a landing craft). For this particular red-striped TIE Fighter- Special Forces, it seems to be the personal transport of someone high up in what remains of the Empire, with rumor having it that Gwendolyn Christie’s character is the owner of said vessel.
Whatever it turns out to be, it is comforting to see that JJ Abrams and company are appropriating the old designs and enhancing them, instead of just scrapping everything and starting from scratch. It makes sense that a functioning design like the TIE Fighter would still be around 30 years later. and that there would be many more models and variations on the classic design. Here’s hoping that philosophy works its way into most aspects of the new chapter of the ‘Star Wars’ franchise, as that will truly get me excited for ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ when it opens in December of 2015.