Ewoks, Tree Trunks, and Imperial AT-STs

"AT-STs are ... not reconaissance vehicles" [Editor's note: yes, RSA insists the AT-ST is representative of heavy Imperial armour, not a recon or scout vehicle ... even though it's called the AT-ST All-Terrain SCOUT transport. This is akin to judging modern armoured divisions by looking at Hummers]

Mr. Anderson decided that a good way to discredit the fighting ability of the Empire would be to rightfully point out the lack of armor on the AT-ST. This is reasonable, but the step he takes immediately following it is not. He states that the AT-ST's lack of combat protection indicates that the fighting ability of the entire Imperial army must be weak. The first step in this is to make the AT-ST to represent a full-fledged fighting vehicle, as opposed to the official literature's designation of it as a scout.

He dismisses the EU classification of it as an "All-Terrain Scout Transport," in keeping with his unusual canon policy. However, Anderson ignores the fact that AT-AT walkers have also been seen. The existence of such walkers precludes the AT-ST as being the largest and most powerful Imperial walker, and suggests that it has another function. From what can be seen, the vehicle would likely qualify as a light armored vehicle or a mechanized infantry unit.

Moreover, any decent military analyst will know that scout vehicles are frequently used for patrol, and are even used in some combat missions. They are not as effective as full-fledged fighting vehicles, but they are used in a pinch, and are sometimes even used if more powerful units are available.

"AT-STs are evidently the premiere small combat vehicle of the Empire, not reconnaissance vehicles or transports (how does one do much transporting in a two-seater?). We have witnessed their frontline combat use at Hoth alongside the larger AT-ATs, and we see them serve as the primary fighting vehicle in the thick forests of the Endor moon."

Thus, the walker's use in combat on Hoth and Endor is not surprising, even if the AT-ST is a scout. Moreover, Anderson neglects a canon analysis of the AT-ST's function when he determines that it cannot be a transport, even of light equipment. After Chewbacca and some of his furry friends attack an AT-ST, the rear of the vehicle is seen to be empty. That space would almost certainly be used during a transport mission, and is seen to be sufficiently large for at least three armed men to sit in cramped conditions. Such a space may also be used to store weapons or other small items of military value, which the AT-ST could carry over somewhat difficult terrain. This is a vehicle whose functions appear analogous in almost all respects with the modern US Army's Humvee line of trucks, which serve as armed scouts, patrol vehicles, and even light transports. They have even been used as combat vehicles for elite units.1

Additionally, Anderson's claims that the AT-ST is not canonically a scout are completely unfounded. He cites that, in the battle of Hoth, an AT-ST was used during the battle. During multiple shots of approaching Imperial AT-AT's, however, there is nothing to be seen of the AT-ST in question. When it is finally observed, the Alliance's artillery had already been largely eliminated, and the AT-ST was being used to attack Alliance infantry, which is a correct application of a scout during combat. The only possible explanations are: that the AT-ST was dispatched by Imperial forces while they were moving, or else moved up as a reinforcement for the rest of the attack, and following the elimination of Alliance artillery. In either case, the use of the AT-ST in this manner does nothing to disprove its primary function as a scout. The same can be said of the Battle of Endor, in which AT-AT walkers are clearly too large to fit in the terrain. Moreover, the use of scouts against infantry is a perfectly acceptable, and even encouraged method of combat. Scouting vehicles are faster and more heavily armed than infantry, and since the AT-ST is armored against very small arms fire in Star Wars, it follows that the use of AT-ST's in such a scenario is also reasonable.

Every single one of Anderson's calculations regarding the strength of the armor ignores a basic principle of the AT-ST. That is, the armor is not its primary means of protection. This seems like a very unusual thing to say. In all modern fighting vehicles, armor is the primary means of defense against weapons fire. However, the design of the AT-ST, and canonical incidents shown in RotJ, demonstrate a different method of defense. When struck by catapult fire from a primitive Ewok weapon, the AT-ST's cabin section clearly displaced significantly to the side, to help the walker absorb and dissipate the effects of the impact. The amount of force transferred by such weapons to the walker decreases exponentially as the amount of time involved in the impact increases. This will not allow the walker to shrug off the effects of weapons that fire very powerful, high velocity ammunition such as the ones used in most modern tanks, but it will easily allow it to shrug off small arms fire or catapult shots. One of the few factors that each of the destroyed AT-ST's at Endor had in common was that each of them had been subjected to an impact in which the walker could not shift its cabin section to help absorb the impact. In the case of the logs, the other log would have prevented such a movement. In the case of the AT-ST that fell to the ground, it could not effectively raise itself off the ground with its legs perpendicular to the proper angle for doing so. In the case of the walker destroyed by weapons fire from another walker, its armor was overwhelmed and the walker was destroyed without ever shifting, as evidenced by the fact that the drive section of the walker remained upright, even after the cabin had been completely destroyed. Thus, his comparisons with most modern weapons are completely irrelevant, due to the fact that they disregard the primary defense of the AT-ST.

In the case of the swinging log attack, Anderson ignores the possibility that the hit to the grenade launcher ignited the explosives stored there. This would cause a massive conflagration, much like the one that we see in the film. It may also create sufficient heat to have a significant impact on the deformation of the AT-ST during the shot, and would have imparted considerable energy to the logs, which Anderson correctly points out did "bounce" off slightly. Incidentally, it is not entirely clear why he feels that this is remarkable. It simply means that the impact was fairly inelastic, and the materials strengths of both the logs and the walker were too great to absorb all of the energy that was transferred by the hit. In fact, it would be enormously suspicious if we did not see such movement on the part of the logs, after impact.

Frankly, comparing AT-ST armor to 30mm anti-tank cannons is an exercise in stupidity. Of course the Vulcan cannon is going to be able to penetrate the armor of the AT-ST. In fact, such ammunition tears through many modern battle tanks. Note also Anderson's inconsistency on the page. He claims that AT-ST armor is not incredibly dense, and cites as evidence for this assumption the falling AT-ST. What he fails to comprehend is that having a more dense AT-ST would actually make the material that comprised it more likely to bend and warp upon impact, because it would strike the ground with more force from its greater mass. He is correct in stating that AT-ST armor is not enormously strong compared to its mass, however this seems a foregone conclusion and is not what he stated.


1Bowden, Mark. Blackhark Down. March 1999. Atlantic Monthly Pr. Atlanta, GA.

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