email thomas












By Thomas Wheeler

Among my favorite types of Star Wars figures to collect are Clone Troopers and Astromech Droids. So when a recent "Battle Pack" set of Star Wars figures turned up as a Target exclusive, that included Clone Troopers and an Astromech Droid, all of them with distinctive markings, I knew I had to have the set.

It's official name is ARC-170 ELITE SQUAD, and it retailed for $19.99. That came down to about $4.00 per figure, which was also not a bad deal at all, really.

The ARC-170 is a Starfighter that carried one pilot, one co-pilot, a gunner, and an astromech droid. It was a precursor to the X-Wing.

According to "Wookieepedia", the "ARC" in ARC-170 stands for "Aggressive ReConnaissance." That sounds like a polite euphemism for "Go in, have a look around, and if you see the enemy, blow him away and save the rest of the army the trouble." Granted, these were transport vessels, so they carried troops with them.

The ARC-170 was jointly produced by Incom and Subpro Corporations. Like their other starfighter designs of its time, such as the lighter Z-95, and the heavier PTB-625, and NTB-630, the ARC-170 had a narrow spaceframe flanked by large engines. The ARC-170 also possessed an S-foil system, which helped to radiate heat, something that aided the fighter's shielding. This also provided additional stability during atmospheric flight.

Using its front deflector shield projectors to disperse heat generated from air resistance, the ARC-170 could reach hypersonic speeds when flying in an atmosphere.

The ARC-170 was a departure from other starfighter designs of the Clone Wars era. Fighters such as the Alpha-3 Nimbus and the Eta-2 Actis were built to be small, fast, and maneuverable, at the cost of heavy weapons, shields, and hyperdrives. On the other hand, the ARC-170 was large, rugged, and capable of long independent operations.

The ARC-170 was often sent on dangerous scout missions and raids deep in enemy territory. To allow the ARC-170 to perform these missions, the fighter was equipped with a Class 1.5 hyperdrive, and its nose was filled with powerful sensors, scanners, and jammers.

The ARC-170 carried enough consumables for five days of operation. However, the supplies and additional equipment had a price and the ARC-170 was quite slow. Durable armor and shielding, as well as two tail guns, helped the ARC-170 to survive when surrounded by swarms of smaller, faster enemy fighters, although it remained vulnerable to enemy anti-fighter guns.

The ARC-170 Elite Squad set from Target consists of two Clone Pilots, two Clone Troopers, and one Astromech Droid. No actual ARC-170 fighters, although that is a toy that can be purchased separately.

Let's consider the figures in individual designations, shall we?

CLONE PILOTS - Although they don't wear the standard armor of Clone Troopers, they're still clones. They appeared a fair bit in "Revenge of the Sith" and have had a couple of figures of them produced to date. There's clearly a proto-Empire influence in the design, as the figures resemble both AT-AT Drivers and TIE Fighter Pilots. The original Clone Pilot wore a grey uniform with white trim, making him look very similar to an AT-AT Driver. There was a later Pilot figure dressed in all black, clearly a nod to the TIE Fighter Pilot.

The Clone Pilots in the ARC-170 Elite Squad use the same body mold as the two previous Clone Pilots, and it's not a bad set of molds, even if the articulation is a little limited compared the "Super-Articulated" levels that it is very easy to get used to with most Clone Troopers.

The figures' uniforms are grey, with white helmets, white gloves, and white boots. Their helmet visors are red, and one can see their lower faces in the helmets. Unlike the original Clone Pilots, there is dark blue detailing over the top of the helmet, and their chest and back harnesses are dark blue, which is a color quite prevalent in this set, as you will see.

Articulation is good, but not great. The arms do not move out to the side, and the elbows have that rather annoying "diagonal cut" articulation instead of a more standard back-and-forth movement. Still, it's reasonably well concealed in the uniform design, and it's not impossible to get one of these Clone Pilots to hold a decent-looking pose.

The Clone Pilots are also poseable at the head, wrists (glove tops), waist, legs, and knees (with swivel).

The profile on the back of the box reads, for the Clone Trooper Pilots: Clone pilots fly ARC-170 fighters that see combat action during the Clone Wars, from Coruscant to Nelvaan and Cato Neimoidia. Special helmets remove combat glare, and their chest plates have forced-ox rebreathers in case of severe damage to the fighter.

CLONE TROOPERS - Here's one of the main reasons that I purchased this set. I do enjoy Clone Troopers, especially if they feature some new distinctive markings (that's not to put down the plain vanilla Clone Troopers that Hasbro offered on individual cards recently -- picked up some of those, definitely).

These two are really excellent Clone Troopers. They feature "Super- Articulated" bodies, their armor is CLEAN, not scuffed up or weathered at all, and the markings are interesting. They have a jagged, very dark blue pattern that appears on their shoulder pads and boots. Then there's the really weird feature. There's two tiny eyes painted on the front of their helmets, just above their visors.

This is a curious adaptation of a custom utilized by any number of fighter planes and their pilots over the years, and which has also made its way into the Star Wars universe -- that of painting eyes and generally a ferocious mouth on the front of one's airplane. This gave the plane a little more personality, and a rather vicious one at that, perhaps a needed attitude boost in the midst of combat.

However, I have to say, I've never seen it applied to BODY ARMOR before. I initially thought that the eyes were tiny duplications of the eyes that were used for G.I. Joe's popular TIGER FORCE vehicles from 1988, but they weren't a match. It's cool, if a little peculiar. You want to look a Clone Trooper in the eyes, but you're not sure whether to look at the darkened visor which doesn't allow his eyes to show, or the weird little eyes on the top of his helmet.

Still, these are two VERY cool Clone Troopers, with great detailing, plenty of articulation, no weathering or dirtying, and a cool paint job.

The profile on the back of the box reads, for the ARC-170 Troopers: Bred and trained for combat, clone troopers are the huge fighting force of the Galactic Republic. Within this vast army, select clones are chosen to serve as ARC-170 troopers and are put through an intense training program that includes advanced survival and gunnery skills.

ASTROMECH DROID - Here's the other main reason I purchased this set. Here we have a very cool R2-series Astromech Droid.

The molds used for this droid have turned up quite a bit lately, in several color schemes. Fortunately, they're a good set of molds. But they've been used for a black Imperial droid, Mace Windu's purple Astromech droid, the special edition R2-KT, the recent R2-B1, and I presume, somewhere along the way, for an actual R2-D2 model.

The molds make for a superbly designed and well-detailed Astromech Droid with a very interesting action feature. Turn the dome head around and the third center leg lowers and retracts. Each leg has a small wheel underneath, which allows the droid to roll along on a smooth surface. Honestly, he's better off on three legs. On two, because of the wheels, he tends to be a little wobbly.

Curiously, the foot of the center leg is very loose on this droid. This has not been the case with the others that have used this mold set, and frankly, I have no reason to think it's anything other than a slight glitch with this one particular droid. I wouldn't expect another droid from another identical set to have this. And honestly, it's pretty irrelevant, too. With all three legs firmly planted on the ground, a loose "ankle" is not a problem, and with the leg fully retracted, it isn't, either. But it is a little curious.

As for the color scheme of the droid, well -- if the Star Wars universe had any knowledge of Earth, and as such the United States, I'd be inclined to say that this is a very patriotic droid. He's red, white, and blue. That is, he has a dark blue body -- which is actually in keeping with the trim color used on both the Clone Pilots and Clone Troopers in this set, a red dome, and the two manipulator arms on his front are white. Okay, so he also has some silver trim on him, and his feet look to be sort of purple, but let's go with red, white, and blue as his main colors.

What the poor guy doesn't have is a NAME. No mention of a name is listed anywhere on the packaging, and this is not a color scheme that I recognize as being faimilar to any previously established Astromech Droid. So, I guess I'll just have to make up a name for him. Maybe one in keeping with his color scheme.

How about I call him R2-US50?

Okay, it was just a thought. The profile on the back of the box reads, for the Astromech Droid: These multi-use droids are found everywhere, thanks to their many functions that include repairing ships like ARC-170 fighters and providing navigational support. They are equipped with a variety of tools to meet almost any need or situation.

On the whole, this ARC-170 ELITE SQUAD is a very cool set. But it's also a Target exclusive, and likely was gone after Christmas. On the other hand, I have noticed lately some former store exclusive sets from a year or so back have been turning up again as general releases. Yes, they're that popular. Star Wars is one of the very few action figure lines that's really doing well these days.

So it's possible that the ARC-170 Elite Squad may be back someday. It's also possible that some Targets around might still have them. In any case, if you're any fan of the Star Wars action figure line, especially if you particularly like the Clones and the Droids, then you will definitely want to add the ARC-170 ELITE SQUAD to your collection! It has my highest recommendation!