The Millennium Falcon's True Purpose
Illustration of a YT-1300 freighter pushing cargo modules.
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The Millennium Falcon's True Purpose
Now that the Millennium Falcon is parked outside Docking Bay 5 (the current home of Hondo Ohnaka Transport Solutions) in Black Spire Outpost on the planet of Batuu, I stare at it in wonder every day that I shuttle in from Surrabat to work at Savi & Son Scrapyard. Some travelers stare at in awe, apparently impressed that it “made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs,” even though it’s well-known across the galaxy that it’s then-pilot, the infamous rogue Han Solo, actually took a shortcut in order to make that impressive claim. Others (mostly Stormtroopers and the occasional high-ranking First Order officer) stare at it in suspicion, contemplating whether it might possibly be carrying any contraband. For my part, however, I don’t stare because I care about the Millennium Falcon’s speed records or controversial cargo. After all, there have been far faster and more dangerous ships.
I don’t stare at the Millennium Falcon because it looks nice, because it doesn’t. In fact, Savi has a much more dependable and maneuverable craft, the YT-1400, which is depicted in the image at right. While Savi uses his craft (dubbed the "Wandering Myna") to gather junk and scrap metal from across the galaxy, the Millennium Falcon is (affectionately) called a “hunk of junk.” However, despite its battle scars, underneath all of its after-market armor, regardless of its military-grade weaponry, the Millennium Falcon captures my attention simply because is nothing more than a glorified TY-1300 space freighter.
Before it was known as the Millennium Falcon, the versatile YT-1300 and its brethren were the workhorses of the Old Republic, the backbone of the galaxy. Thanks to solid engineering and cost-saving Corellian manufacturing techniques, space freighters like the Millennium Falcon transited the skies, shipping goods to far-flung corners of the inhabited reaches of outer space. At one time, they were more common than TIE fighters. But now, those days have been left behind us. Many have forgotten or perhaps never even seen what a TY-1300 was capable of, what it was designed for, or what its true purpose was. But I remember. It seems strange that a new generation of younglings are growing up without that knowledge.
Many travelers who have had the opportunity to tour (or perhaps even pilot) the Millennium Falcon have remarked with surprise at just how much space is in inside. Their surprise is understandable: when one thinks of a space freighter, they envision a tightly-packed cargo hold and cramped crew quarters. Yet the Millennium Falcon seems flush with room for crew members and other travelers on board. In fact, there seems to be remarkably little to no hold space for cargo, but that’s because we are looking in the wrong place. Travelers seeking the cargo space that gave the Millennium Falcon its "freighter" designation shouldn’t be looking inside the ship; they should be looking outside. Or, more specifically, the front.
Anyone who grew up in the days before the Empire came to power would remember the excitement of seeing a Corellian freighter flying overhead, pushing a long train of cargo pods to its final destination. That’s right, I said push. The YT-1300 series was designed to push freight. The two long, reinforced arms cantilevered out in front of the freighter held the cargo in place, while the offset cockpit allowed the pilot and crew to see where they were going, looking around the cargo instead of into it. Of course, those freighters never seemed to go very fast. Why is the Millennium Falcon capable of such greater speeds? Well, of course the many owners of the Millennium Falcon modified the engine assembly, but the primary answer is remarkably simple: freighters needed a lot of power to push their heavy loads.
The designers of the freighter didn’t realize they were creating one of the fastest ships in the galaxy; if they had, they would have made it more streamlined. Instead, they were focused on designing the most powerful thrust-per-weight ratio possible, to maximize the utility of the freighter. The massive power generation capability, which was later harnessed by Han Solo to power shield and weaponry functions, was actually intended to provide auxiliary power to the anti-gravity drives of the freight pods. Everything was designed with this single purpose in mind.
When Lando Calrissian began searching for a ship to provide excellent smuggling capabilities, he almost completely overlooked the Corellian freighter, because it was so…well…boring. But then, he realized that was exactly what he needed. The Empire would be looking for small, exotic ships bristling with guns or large, lumbering cargo vessels full of cargo space. They wouldn’t be looking for a pancake-shaped freight pusher without any freight. By itself, a TY-1300 looks like a semi-truck without a trailer, or a train engine without any train cars. And everyone knows that a train engine has only enough room for its crew and its power unit. But Lando was looking to fly light; he could easily convert some of the crew space to secret smuggling compartments, and no one would be any the wiser.
However, in the process of making the necessary conversions, a few other adjustments were made as well. Originally, the cockpit was mounted to a circular bearing, designed to rotate much like that of a B-wing Starfighter. This design permitted the freighter to rotate into a “sideways” configuration, permitting a slimmer profile and providing a better vantage point for the pilot. This vertical orientation is also known as the "sunfish" configuration, crucial when squeezing through tight cargo bays. Lando decided he wouldn’t really need the rotating cockpit and welded it permanently into its horizontal position, since no freight would be sticking out front to obscure the view.
He also added an after-market escape pod, inserting it into the former freight-docking port on the front. Naturally, an innocent and slow-moving freighter has no need for an otherwise-superfluous escape pod. However, a smuggler has a multitude of reasons for needing to suddenly escape (being attacked, boarded by a hostile party, caught in a Star Destroyer’s tractor beam, to just name a few). Without freight hampering its speed, the modified TY-1300 could reach remarkable speeds. Even though its basic design meant that it wasn’t quite as maneuverable as a TIE or X-Wing fighter, it could pack a remarkable punch with powerful shields and lasers. But once Han Solo won the Millennium Fighter as his own in a game of Sabacc, a reputation of smuggling began to accompany the ship, replacing its previously respectable reputation for dependability and impressive freight capacity.
And so, on my way home in the evenings, I go out of my way to stop by Docking Bay 5. I stand under the shadow of the towering petrified trees of Black Spire Outpost and stare at the Millennium Falcon, illuminated by the glare of Ohnaka Transport Solutions’ floodlights. I stare, not because it’s fast, feared, or fabulous, but because it is one of the best (and last) remaining ships of a remarkable line of space freighters. Despite its modifications and battle scars, the Millennium Falcon stands proudly as a silent testament of hard work and Correllian ingenuity. The galaxy was brought together by freighters such as these, but Star Destroyers and X-Wing Starfighters are undoing the cohesion that once existed. If these conflicts continue, who knows if we will ever see a freighter like the TY-1300 again? So I stare. And wonder.