The physical differences between the TIE Vanguard and other TIE series starfighters were greater than those of the TIE/rc. Several large antennae connected to sensor arrays and communications equipment protruded from the cockpit ball, and the upper section of each Quadanium alloy solar ionization panel was shortened and swept outwards to reduce interference with the dorsal scanners.
As with the TIE/rc, weaponry consisted of a sole laser cannon that was placed on the chin of the cockpit ball; however, unlike its predecessor, the Vanguard was protected by limited shielding, thus enabling it to better protect any intelligence and other data that it had gathered.
The Vanguard was designed to perform scouting and intelligence-gathering missions, and was often deployed by Imperial forces in order to obtain information on enemy warship or fleet movements prior to a full fleet engagement. The type saw service with the Imperial Navy as early as the Battle of Yavin in 0 BBY.