‘AT-ATs have a lot in common with tanks,’ Lynn Taylor, former A-10 Warthog pilot.
The All Terrain Armored Transport, or AT-AT walker, from the Star Wars universe, is a quadruped mechanized infantry combat vehicle used by Imperial ground forces.
The AT-AT (pronounced either casually as ‘at at’, or using only the letters ‘A.T. A.T.’) was first introduced in The Empire Strikes Back (as the Galactic Empire’s main units against Rebel Alliance infantry during the Battle of Hoth) and also appears in Return of the Jedi (as the vehicle used to transport Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader to their shuttle on the forest moon of Endor) and in Rogue One (in the AT-ACT variant, used to respond to the attacks of Rebel infantrymen of the Rogue One unit during the Battle of Scarif, although later defeated by the arriving Rebel Red Squadron of starfighters).
Could an AT-AT be killed by an A-10 Warthog?
‘But first, a few key points to keep in mind…
- An aircraft is nothing more than a weapons delivery platform. So it’s not so much a matter of whether an “A-10” could drop an AT-AT, but rather what weapons the A-10 carries that could do the job.
- We scarcely have reliable and publicly available data on modern tanks, let alone data that we can compare straight across for Star Wars machines. So, wild assumptions are necessary, especially when it comes to armor.
- We’re also going to disregard any peripheral factors, like where the A-10 would take off or land from, or enemy air defenses that would need to be dealt with first, etc. (That said, the A-10 does have tactics, techniques, and equipment to deal with many anti-air threats. Plus, close air support is a team sport, and if they actually portrayed air support in the Star Wars universe battles, you can bet the speeders would have been supported by other craft.)
‘Now, down to business…
‘AT-ATs have a lot in common with tanks:
- Thick armor
- Tough target from the front
- Softer on the back side (and likely the top?)
- Some critical bits that you really want to target
‘The weapon of choice would be an anti-armor missile like an AGM-65 Maverick. It’d be great if the Hawg carried the AGM-114 Hellfire, but it doesn’t. The trick with the Maverick is that it usually targets center of mass, unless you’re in ship mode. You’d probably want to go that route in this case to blast the bottom of the beast and hopefully break the drive motor. Or you could use a laser Maverick and poke any of a number of other fun targets such as the neck.
‘Now, when most folks ask questions like these, they’re pretty much focused on The Gun. So, let’s look at that, too. Based on how (in)effective the T-47 airspeeder cannons were, I’m going to say that you’re probably not going to penetrate most parts of the AT-AT, even with a 30mm armor piercing incendiary round. (Side note… the airspeeder cannons did not appear to be very precise, or maybe it was pilot inexperience with the airspeeders.)’
‘That said, Hawg drivers are used to picking out soft spots and laying down some precise fire to make an impact. There are a few spots on the AT-AT that would make tempting targets, and would likely be soft enough that a few well-placed rounds could provide at least an M-kill.
‘You might be tempted to try to shoot through the front windscreen and kill the crew. My guess is that’s probably not going to work. First of all, it’s an extremely small target. You might get some rounds to land there, but I expect a 30mm armor piercing round would, at most, crack what I assume is a thick transparisteel viewport.
‘Targets that I’d be interested in testing out include:
- The fuel slug tank. This is a tail-on shot, which is where you want to be against an AT-AT.
- The drive motor. I’m not gonna lie. This would be a tricky and dangerous shot from the front. But, if that’s what it takes to save the guys on the ground, Hawg drivers would give it a go and see how well it works. •
- The neck.
- Another side shot, but simply chewing up the neck would likely not have any real effect on the AT-AT’s combat capability. At most, you’re going to be providing more air conditioning for the narrow hallway between the cockpit and troop transport sections. The Gun isn’t going to saw through the neck and make the cockpit fall off… though that would be pretty cool. However, it might be vulnerable in other ways. See below.
- The knee joint. This is a side shot, which is still relatively safe against an AT-AT. You can bet these are armored, too, but probably not as heavily as the front. If you can poke through the casing enough times to chew up the knee gears or weaken the support structure, that could ruin the AT-AT crew’s day as much as having a tow cable wrapped around its legs.
‘Now, according to the Wookipedia article All Terrain Armored Transport, it says about the neck:
If punctured, it can lead to a reactor breach, although it was considered an unlikely scenario, it nonetheless was considered potentially catastrophic.
‘If that’s the case, then I’d go for the neck first, last, and always. It would be the AT-AT’s Achilles heel. In fact, (SPOILERS) there’s an episode of Rebels where an AT-AT gets hit in the neck with a cannon that couldn’t damage it any other way, and the results were spectacular. So, maybe there is something to that.
‘The neck is big enough that The Gun could easily hit it from over a mile away and pepper the entire neck area with a mix of armor piercing and high explosive shells. Given that the concern about the vulnerability of the neck appears in the Imperial Handbook: A Commander’s Guide, and given the Empire’s penchant for designing fatal flaws in its equipment, maybe we should give the neck vulnerability more credence.
‘Rogue One always makes me smile because it includes the closest thing to close air support you ever see in Star Wars films. In the Battle of Scarif, there is a great clip of a door gunner focusing fire on the knee of one of the AT-ACTs. The results are impressive. Most impressive.
‘Yes, there are some design differences between an AT-AT and an AT-ACT, but I think they’re close enough to be an apples-to-apples comparison (even though they may be Red Delicious vs. Golden Delicious varieties).
‘It’s at least worth a shot to see what happens. If either the neck or the knees end up being prime soft spots, then we can go AT-AT hunting with the Hawg, loaded up with both Mavericks and The Gun, and it’ll end up being a bit of a turkey shoot.’
‘Bottom line, I’d place better than even odds that your A-10 vs. AT-AT encounter would go something like this:
‘May the Force be with you!
Photo credit: U.S. Air Force and Unknown