From the snowfields of Hoth to the sands of Jakku, the iconic Imperial walker known as the AT-AT has stomped its way to victory.
With four legs, four blaster cannons, and 3,500 metric tons of cargo capacity, the All-Terrain Armored Transport, or AT-AT, is one of the more iconic vehicles used by Imperial forces throughout their various conflicts. With heavy armor and heavier firepower, the AT-AT combat walker embodied the Empire’s design philosophy just as much as a Star Destroyer. But where does this four-legged menace come from, and who designed these all terrain technological terrors?
To answer that, we must turn back to the beginnings of the Galactic Empire, which is just as much the latter days of the Galactic Republic during the time of the Clone Wars. The AT-AT is an evolution of the earlier All-Terain Tactical Enforcer, or AT-TE, which were multipurpose military walkers with six stubby legs and heavy armaments.
Manufactured by Imperial favorites, Kuat Drive Yards, the AT-AT was designed to be sturdier and more maneuverable than the stuby-legged AT-TE. It traded in the low profile for longer legs and a narrower body that was able to allow the AT-AT to surpass obstacles that might have hindered the advance of an AT-TE–but more importantly the towering height was meant to strike fear into the hearts of the Empire’s enemies.
Fear was but one of the weapons in the AT-AT’s arsenal, though. Backing up the terror imposed by these towering tanks were heavy weapons. The earliest of these designs were equipped for a sort of mixed-role combat mission, sporting two heavy laser cannon turrets, 4 anti-personnell blasters, as well as a rear-mounted dorsal twin laser turret, though this design was swapped out as the Galactic Civil War continued, swapping out the lighter weapons for more dedicated heavy firepower.
A “modern” AT-AT, such as those seen during the Battle of Hoth, carried much heavier weapons: dual Piperii-Cerlurn R-90C medium blasters located on the sides or “temples,” and a pair of heavier Taim & Bak MS-1 heavy blaster cannons fitted on the “chin.” These, combined with the AT-AT’s significant carrying capacity allowed for Imperial Assaults the likes of which the Rebellion was unprepared for.
A single AT-AT walker could carry 5 different 74-Z speeder bikes, at least 40 stormtroopers, and a complement of blaster rifles and proton mines for every soldier aboard.
These armored walkers were certainly impressive, and allowed the Imperial to eke out early victories against the Rebellion, proving to be vitally important on Kashyyyk and Seelos. But for all that their armor and weaponry gave them seemingly impenetrable strength, it was ultimately the cleverness and unusual tactics of the Rebel alliance that were able to bring them down. In fact it was none other than Luke Skywalker who discovered that tow cables wrapped around their legs could significantly hamper these towering terrors.
But for all that, the Imperial AT-AT Walker is still one of the most iconic sights on just about any battlefield.
Of course, the AT-AT would inspire later designs as well, but nothing as as iconic as the walkers on Hoth. What’s your favorite walker?