Star Wars: You Mean the Empire Had a Walker That Wouldn’t Fall Over All Along? – The AT-TE Breakdown
The AT-AT is easy to knock over, but it turns out the Empire had a better design the whole time. We break down the AT-TE.
The Galactic Empire was known for its brutal occupation tactics and the heavy material it employed. From oppressive starships to its stormtroopers, the might of the Imperial forces was well known. But nowhere was it as viable as in its fleet of combat walkers. The dreaded AT-AT or even AT-ST, whom a startling number of video game protagonists have taken out, are iconic. But before the Empire was the Empire, it had a better walker design: the AT-TE.
The All Terrain Tactical Enforcer, or “six legs” as it was called, was a multipurpose tank. With six legs, six turrets, and a seventh main mount, it was one of the main ground vehicles for the Grand Army of the Republic during the Clone Wars.
AT-TE Design & Origins
The AT-TE’s design came from an unexpected origin. It was originally developed on the ice planet Rothana, located deep in the Outer Rim. There, one of Kuat Drive Yards’ subsidiary companies, Rothana Heavy Engineering, developed a ground vehicle based on a creature native to the planet’s arctic regions. Every AT-TE would be inspired by the arctic horny whelmer.
Arctic horny whelmers were ten-legged creatures that were bulky, slow, and persistent. With low centers of gravity, they could withstand Rothana’s gale-force winter winds. They could also climb the rockiest of cliffs. Their sturdy form and squatting stance could be seen mirrored in the AT-TE’s sturdy, flexible design.
Two armored halves, connected by a flexible concertina section, comprised the walker’s main body. Six articulated legs gave it stability and mobility across a variety of terrain.
But this stability came at a price: the walker’s squat legs meant it had a relatively low top speed. AT-TEs were inevitable though. Especially since their footpads were equipped with terrain sensors, tractor-field generators, and magnetic systems that enabled them to scale sheer and even metal surfaces. They could also survive the vacuum of space.
Loadouts & Capabilities
AT-TEs carried heavy firepower. Their role as tanks and low speed meant they had to take heavy hits and strike back even harder. To that end, they carried 6 Maad-21 heavy laser cannon turrets. They were ball-mounted around the hull to provide wide firing arcs.
But the biggest and deadliest weapon was the Firefont 04 mass driver cannon. The mass driver cannon meant the tank was also a mobile artillery vehicle. AT-TEs could bombard enemy positions, intercept incoming rocket fire, and even shoot down enemy aircraft.
Heavy armor protected against most small arms fire. Shielding protected against EMP and ion weaponry. It took serious artillery to crack the hull of an AT-TE.
In addition to their firepower, they could also carry two full squads of clone troopers (20 troopers) as well as a set of All Terrain Reconnaissance Transports and an onboard IM-6 medic droid.
The primary tour of the AT-TE was during the Clone Wars. Large-scale battles across open fields were much more common in those battles.
And the vacuum seal meant that they could even be used in the occasional space battle, such as in the Battle of Devaron. At the Battle of Devaron, Jedi General Anakin Skywalker famously deployed two AT-TEs against a star frigate, allowing Skywalker and a strike team of Clone Troopers to retrieve a rare Jedi Holocron.
But by the time of the Empire, the AT-TE was falling out of favor. And for no good reason, either. During the rise of the Empire, a single AT-TE faced three AT-AT walkers singlehandedly and defeated them all.
Perhaps it was because they weren’t as imposing. Or fast. Or as roomy as an AT-AT walker. Fortunately for the Rebellion, they eventually ended up in the hands of Rebel Mechanics. And were long gone by the time the Battle of Hoth came around.
May the Force be with you