The humble Y-Wing is the only starfighter to feature in all three Star Wars movie eras, because it really is the pickup of Star Wars.
Elmore Leonard once famously pitched an ad for a Chevrolet pickup that said “you don’t wear out the sonofabitch you just get sick of looking at it and buy a new one.” And that’s basically the Y-Wing in a nutshell.
The Y-Wing isn’t the starfighter you take on a mission because you want to get there first, it’s the starfighter you take because you want to get the job done. There’s a reason that stories abound of Red Squadron and Rogue Squadron zipping about in their X-Wings or even heroic A-Wing hotshots who outrun the fastest pilots on the Imperial Fleet… but when it comes to Y-Wings their contributions tend to be more workhorse-y.
They cleared disabled a star destroyer long enough for the Tantive IV to escape the battle of Scarif (only to be caught later). They mostly died during the battle of Yavin. But they still keep coming. Y-Wings have been around since before the Galactic Civil War, and are the only starfighter to be in it for the long haul. And it’s not hard to see why.
Even fresh out of the gate a Y-wing looks like it’s survived a heavy battle. But Y-wings are designed to get the job done by themselves. They don’t need support. These are long-range fighter/bombers who can take on any mission from all-out assault to stealth recon–name a task and a Y-wing variant exists for it. Even stealth missions.
With two massive ion engines, the hallmark of Koensayr design works, a Y-wing’s distinctive frame might look workhorse, but it belies its strength. Sure, when it comes to speed and maneuverability there are better fighters, but what Y-wings lack in acceleration and maximum speed, they make up for in operational range. They carry two different power plants and are capable of sustained hyperspace jumps far beyond other fighters in the fleet.
They also are among the most heavily armed starfighters in the galaxy. In the days of the Clone Wars, the BTL-B Y-wing carried two heavy laser cannons, capable of penetrating even a capital ship’s armor, as well as proton torpedo launchers, proton bombs, and an ion-cannon turret.
Later models, such as the BTL-A4 Y-wing, which is famous for its many, many roles in the Rebellion’s campaigns against the Empire, carried even more weaponry in its proton torpedo tubes including cluster missiles, concussion missiles, ion torpedos, and limpet charges. And each Y-wing carried at least a week’s worth of food/water, so a pilot could operate behind enemy lines, in theory, for an extended period of time.
Y-wings had a reputation, both during the Clone Wars and the Age of Rebellion, for consistency. Where other fighters needed to be carefully maintenanced or were expensive, the Y-wing was cheap, durable, and could be adapted for any task. They might not be the sexiest starfighters, but they’re the core of any strike fleet. This is why they were, for a time, known as the backbone of the Rebellion.
May the Force be with you