The TIE Fighter was developed by the Empire by Sienar Fleet Systems to fill the Imperial Navy's requirement for a simple, cost-effective starfighter. It is the basis of all subsequent starfighters in the TIE series, including the TIE Interceptor, TIE Bomber, TIE Advanced, and rare TIE Defender. The Galactic Empire had decided that to maintain order throughout the galaxy, it would build and deploy forces in overwhelming numbers to beat opponents into submission, rather than rely on smaller numbers, better equipment and superior training. The TIE Fighter, with its low cost and minimal equipment, and very large numbers, exemplified this doctrine.
TIE Fighters were designed to be deployed in swarms, operating from either fixed bases or larger, hyperspace-capable motherships, such as the ubiquitous Imperial Star Destroyer. Thus, it lacked a hyperdrive and was restricted to sublight speeds. This saved room and weight, as well as the need for the processing power required for astrogation.
To maintain simplicity and lower costs, TIE Fighters also lacked life support equipment such as those seen in Rebel fighters. The characteristic black flight suit and helmet worn by TIE pilots, instead, carries short-term life support gear sufficient for the short duration missions that TIEs are deployed on.
Pilot safety was not generally a priority in the TIE series. The TIE Fighter, along with most other TIE craft, not only lacked life support modules but also were not equipped with deflector shields or armor of any kind. One or two standard laser cannon hits were all that was required to bring a TIE Fighter's day to an end. TIE Fighter pilots instead were required to rely on the ship's good speed, outstanding agility, and statistical probability to survive long enough to be promoted to a more capable fighter, such as the very effective TIE Interceptor.
Further omissions include warhead armament. TIE Fighter's sole offensive power comes from dual lasers mounted directly under the cockpit. Thus, flights of TIEs relied again on overwhelming numbers to bring down opponents with a barrage of fire from multiple directions.
While, at first glance, a TIE Fighter may not appear to be a threat, a coordinated attack by a swarm of TIEs of various types poses a significant menace to all but the best-trained opponents. Imperial rules of engagement required TIEs to outnumber potential opponents by at least three to one before attacking, so anyone caught in a TIE Fighter's line of fire could rest assured that there were at least two wingmates nearby. It was against these odds and tactics that Rebel pilots specifically trained to fight, using their superior individual training and more capable, durable fighters to balance the fight against the Empire in their favor.