The TIE fighter is the original design for later upgraded TIE models such as TIE/sa bomber, TIE/In interceptor, TIE/D Defender, TIE/D automated starfighter, and many more. In the early days of the Rebellion era, TIE prototype models were designed such as TIE Experimental M3, TIE Experimental M4 and the TIE Scout. The TIE Fighter was a descendant of the T.I.E. starfighter and the V-wing starfighter, both developed for the Galactic Republic, was manufactured by Sienar Fleet Systems. In addition to the T.I.E. and V-wing, it was also descended from the TIE starfighter, the first TIE model developed for the Galactic Empire.
The TIE/ln's engine was one of the most precisely manufactured propulsion systems in the galaxy and, with no moving parts, was low-maintenance. Unlike the TIE before it, the TIE/ln sported independent generators for the engine and the weapons. The lack of combat shields, hyperdrive, and life-support systems, in concert with the advanced engine design, reduced the mass of the fighter and conferred exceptional maneuverability.
Primary armament was a pair of laser cannons. These cannons were relatively powerful, and a well-placed hit on a starfighter or medium transport could damage or destroy it. It did not carry missile tubes, but such weapons could be added on if necessary.
Due to the lack of life-support systems, each TIE pilot had a fully-sealed flight suit superior to their Rebel counterparts. The absence of a hyperdrive also rendered the fighter totally dependent on carrier ships when deployed in enemy systems. TIE/lns also lacked landing gear, another mass-reducing measure. While the ships were structurally capable of "sitting" on their wings, they were not designed to land or disembark their pilots without special support. On Imperial ships, TIEs were launched from racks in the hangar bays.
TIEs were designed to attack in large numbers, overwhelming the enemy craft. Standard attack squadrons consisted of 12 fighters while full attack wings were made up of six squadrons.
The Imperials used so many that they came to be considered symbols of the Empire and its might. They were also very cheap to produce, reflecting the Imperial philosophy of quantity over quality. Contrary to popular belief, the ships did possess ejection seats, but the nature of space warfare often resulted in pilots riding their craft down to a swift end rather than ejecting and risking slow death by heat loss and oxygen starvation in the vacuum of space.
The design choices of the TIE/ln could arguably be explained by Imperial military philosophy, which viewed the starfighters and their pilots as an expendable asset. Though Imperial pilots were of an elite stock, they also considered themselves expendable, in accordance with their ideological training.
Like stormtroopers, TIE pilots had their own identification, such as DS-61-2 (the first two letters indicated the posting, the next two or three digits indicated the squadron number, and the last number indicated the pilot's ranking in the squadron). This procedure reduced them to being no more than anonymous and standardized operatives of the Imperial war machine. This attitude was further reflected by the lack of any sentimental attachment to particular TIEs by TIE pilots, unlike Rebel pilots who often grew attached to their craft. As far as they were concerned, every fighter, whether reconditioned or factory-fresh, was identical. A disadvantage of the fighter was its lack of deflector shields. In combat, pilots had to rely on the TIE/ln's maneuverability to avoid damage. The cockpit did incorporate crash webbing, a repulsorlift antigravity field, and a high-g shock seat to help protect the pilot, however these did next to nothing to help protect against enemy blaster fire. However, despite this lack of protection, the fighter was at least able to survive glancing hits, such as when the quad laser cannons on the Millennium Falcon were able to hit a TIE fighter without actually destroying it.
The side view of a TIE/ln's radiator panels curiously resembles the emblem of the Confederacy of Independent Systems, but it is not clear if the similarity was intentional. The front/rear cross-section of the fighter was designed to be small to make it difficult to hit with blasters, but these side panels proved easy targets for flanking enemy pilots. They also hampered the fighter's ability to maneuver while in the atmosphere. Due to their distinct shape, TIE/ln came to be referred to occasionally as "eyeballs" by enemy pilots.