In Rogue One, we see the Rebellion taking down AT-ACTs by using ion guns (about the size of a carbine) to disable its legs until it falls over. Why were these tactics not used at the Battle of Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back?

Sure it's cold rolling down the window of a snowspeeder to fire the gun, but it works. While the harpoons and tow cables that Luke suggested were effective, it seems strange that the Rebellion didn't use these tried and true tactics. I see no reason to think that the Rebels didn't have ion guns if their arsenal had them before.

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    Have you seen the answers to Why in Rogue One do the AT-ATs blow up when attacked and not in the Empire Strikes Back? It seems like the vehicles in Rogue One are AT_ACTs, which have less armor. EDIT- wow, looks like I'm not the only one who noticed this. Commented Dec 19, 2016 at 17:24
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    “I see no reason to think that the Rebels didn't have ion guns if their arsenal had them before.” They are a scrappy rebellion. Their ion guns might all have been blown up. “it seems strange that the Rebellion didn't use these tried and true tactics.” The rebels on Hoth might not be aware of them, if no-one who used those tactics on Scarif survived to describe them. Commented Dec 19, 2016 at 17:57
  • Perhaps they simply no longer needed to wield the wierding module?
    – Broklynite
    Commented Dec 19, 2016 at 20:43

2 Answers 2


They have exactly one V-150 Ion cannon on Hoth.

The ion cannon will fire several shots to make sure that any enemy ships will be out of your flight path. -- Leia in Ep. V.

Note that Leia uses the singular form. This means the Ion cannon is busy, and re-targeting between orbital shots and ground-level shots seems to be too time-consuming. X-Wings were not available for ground defense either since they were needed to escort the transports. The movie only shows the ground battle and mentions the battle that appears to happen in orbit only orally, but does not depict it.

I see no reason to think that the Rebels didn't have ion guns if their arsenal had them before.

The base on Hoth wasn't ready (the Empire attacked soon after it had been established), and the Rebels were in hiding. They were not prepared for an attack by the Empire and had to make due with what they had on hand and needed to improvise. They could probably have brought in more ion cannons if they wanted to and if they had more time, but neither was true. The whole point of the base was that it could be abandoned easily, you don't put in too much resources nto an expendable base.

That being said, the walkers in Rogue One and Ep. V are not the same. The former are AT-ACTs, while the latter are much more heavily armoered AT-ATs.

  • Another two points would probably be 1.) That it is questionable if the ion guns are hoth proof (aka cold proof as most of the rebel equipment was not) 2.) If the AT-AT hadn't corrected this design flaw already so that they wer less vulnerable. as far as I know nothjing in canon there yet about thes
    – Thomas
    Commented Dec 19, 2016 at 18:56
  • The ion cannon does work, so it at least seems to be possible to hoth-proof it. There is nothing in the films that says they specifically adapted it, though.
    – Polygnome
    Commented Dec 19, 2016 at 19:00
  • if we think about infantry equipment and vehicles they had to make them hoth proof (some only finished during the film even). So it could be they first made high prio equipment like the large guns hoth proof.
    – Thomas
    Commented Dec 19, 2016 at 19:01

I recall from a Legends novel (2nd in the Heir to the Empire trilogy, i think) that the ground artillery with the dish was an ion canon and the white ones with the single top mounted turret were anti-infantry. Neither seemed to work well in low temperatures and both were blasted by the relentless mechanical warbeast which is the AT-AT.

One ion canon did strike an incoming walker in a knee joint in the Battle of Hoth, but that didn't fuse the joint as was intended nor short any servo motors to disable the joint. Still, one would think that if the walker was in range of the ion canon that the canon would be also in range of the heavy blasters mounted 50 meters up in the air on the head of the walker.

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