First seen lurching out of the smoke and mist, the AT-ATs (All Terrain Armored Transports) represent Imperial might and movie-magic in The Empire Strikes Back. Though they resembled four-legged behemoths, they were created using cunning techniques in stop-motion and modeling. They loomed larger than life during the Battle of Hoth and gave the Empire a decisive victory.
AT-ATs (or Imperial walkers) are one of the most interestingly designed vehicles in the Star Wars Saga. They are distinctive looking and incredibly powerful, but the Rebels were able to counter the AT-ATs in due time. That was the first time any insurgents had any luck against the Empire's most formidable displays of tactical force. Below you'll find 10 other fascinating facts you didn't know about AT-ATs.
10 THEY ORIGINATED DURING THE REPUBLIC
In the waning days of the Old Republic, before the Galactic Civil War began, another era of turmoil necessitated the need for the AT-AT. During the period known as the Clone Wars, the Grand Army of the Republic experienced success on the battlefield with the AT-TE and the AT-PT, other versions of the "walkers" the Empire would go on to use.
Decades later, Commander Maximillian Veers would resurrect the design when The Empire needed to crush the Alliance to Restore the Republic. This "Rebel Alliance" stood no chance against the walkers on Hoth, where they and other Imperial forces crushed the outer defenses of Echo Base.
9 THEY CAN CARRY A LOT OF CARGO
AT-AT walkers stand 15 meters in height and boast a large cargo area in their mid-section. The longest part of the walker holds 40 stormtroopers, 5 speeder bikes, and a variety of heavy weapons and artillery designed to squash insurgents wherever they oppose The Empire. They can also carry a pair of their smaller counterparts, AT-ST's.
To unload its cargo, the AT-AT "kneels" down using the mid-joints on its legs until it is three meters off the ground. Once there, the AT-AT can release troops using a rear assault ramp. The command crew remains in the "head", consisting of a pilot, gunner, and commander.
8 AT-AT PILOTS HAVE TO BE STRONG
Not just anyone can control an AT-AT. Pilots are drawn from the ranks of only the most hardened combat soldiers. The controls aren't easy to learn, and maneuvering the giant walkers requires a certain level of dexterity, as well as an understanding of the walker's movements through different terrains.
Pilots remain in specially insulated suits, with full armor and life support, just in case their walker should get stranded or separated from the rest of the armed forces. The advanced design of their Imperial field life support will ensure they're nice and warm even amidst the icy glaciers of Hoth.
7 THEY'RE FIRST INTO BATTLE
AT-ATs were the first deployed into battle by the Imperial Army on hostile worlds. Transported to battle on Star Destroyers, they were loaded onto short-range landing barges to be taken to the front lines, full of stormtroopers, speeder bikes, and heavy weaponry.
The point of the walkers was to pummel enemy forces into submission and clear a path for smaller ground transport vehicles, as well as waves of troops. AT-ATs could release squads onto the battlefield and continue marching forward, providing cover fire with their laser canons, and crushing insurgents with their powerful legs.
6 THEY'RE MEANT TO INSPIRE TERROR
Widely considered invincible throughout the galaxy, the sight of AT-ATs bearing down on a settlement was enough to drive away inhabitants and easily gain an Imperial victory. Even battle-tested soldiers know to surrender to walkers, so terrifying is the appearance of the lurching metal beasts.
The extent of their armored defense systems, their long-range heavy laser canons, and their ability to be modified for specific environments all contributed to the myth that they couldn't be taken down. The Battle of Hoth proved otherwise when the snow speeders of Rogue Squadron were able to create a plan of attack to incapacitated the AT-ATs.
5 THEY CAN WITHSTAND HEAVY DAMAGE
The hide of the AT-AT is incredibly resilient. Its armor plating can withstand typical blaster fire, anti-vehicle shells, and bombardments from blaster canons. Because of this, typical barrage weapons that might be used against other military vehicles have no effect on them.
The AT-ATs' powerful drive motors can get them to speeds up to 60 KPH over flat terrain, and about 40 KPH over obstructed terrain. Due to the fact that they were so heavily fortified, Rogue Squadron had to use an unconventional method to subdue them; harpoon cables bound around the legs.
4 THEY'RE INCREDIBLY POWERFUL
Aside from being extremely well-protected and durable, AT-ATs are also well-equipped with assault weaponry. On the front of their "heads" resides a long-range heavy laser cannon, specifically designed to fire at targets such as the turrets of Echo Base's outpost stations on Hoth.
Above the long-range canons are the short-range medium blasters, primarily intended for taking out immediate threats like opposing ground troops and airspeeders coming at them. The blasters can rotate independently, with both them and the canons being controlled by the gunner who has access to a 360-degree holographic targeting system.
3 THEY'RE SURPRISINGLY MANEUVERABLE
To look at them, one might wonder how the Imperial Army would benefit from armored transport vehicles that resemble a four-legged creature. Their maneuverability quickly deposes all doubt as to their functionality, aided by their four legs (versus wheels) and their rotating "head".
The swiveling head can swing 90 degrees to the left or the right, as well as up to 30 degrees up and down, which allows for an impressive range of motion and field of fire. That aspect, when combined with the holographic targeting system, gives the AT-AT a distinct advantage.
2 THEY HAVE ONE WEAK SPOT
For all its titanic power, invincible armor, and impressive assault weaponry, the AT-AT does have one weakness. The small area where the swiveling "head" of the walker connects to the passenger compartment is unarmored, due to the fact that it's made of materials that allow the head to turn from side to side.
This region's vulnerability was exploited by Wedge Antilles who, after toppling a walker with his snowspeeder's tow cable, was able to fire a shot into its "neck." The well-placed shot destroyed the entire walker, which went up in a ball of flame.
1 THEY INSPIRED THE FIRST ORDER'S GORILLA WALKERS
The All Terrain MegaCaliber Six, or the Gorilla Walker for short, is one of the First Order's most deadly assault vehicles. Used in their skirmishes against the Resistance, these heavily armored vehicles are much larger than AT-AT walkers (134 feet high) but are still derived from the same basic construction.
Along with being similar in shape to the AT-AT, the Gorilla Walker has been made more stable, with thicker legs, and a MegaCaliber Six turbolaser mounted on its back. With the powerful cannon on its back, the Gorilla Walker was not designed to be a troop transport like the AT-AT, but a siege vehicle.