3

According to what I can find online, the airspeeder's co-pilot operates the rear tow cable which is used for hauling cargo around and not intended for combat use. The Rebellion resorted to fighting with snowspeeders during the Battle of Hoth because most of the Rebellion's stronger and more valuable fighters were not yet outfitted for subzero combat, with all functioning fighters evacuated as a priority.

Seeing as how Rogue Squadron attempted to shoot down the AT-ATs first with their blaster cannons, it seems the standard approach to fighting AT-ATs was to shoot it down with a big enough gun. They seemed to not know that the speeders' blasters did not stand a chance, so I would guess the Rebellion had not tried fighting the AT-ATs with speeders before.

If the above is true, that probably means the Rebels had not already established the use of tow cables to take down AT-ATs as a known or standard attack method, and Luke was the first to come up with it, probably thanks to his Force-assisted insights.

In that case, why did the Rebels bring a co-pilot whose usual job was to carry cargo into combat?

4

The new junior novelisation of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back makes it abundantly clear that the (rear-facing) gunnery position in the speeder controls both the front cannons as well as the harpoon at the back of the craft.

You open the hatch of your snowspeeder — a small ship, outfitted with two seats inside, back to back, for a pilot and a gunner, two laser cannons, and a harpoon gun with a tow cable. That, in particular, makes you feel safe. Nothing strikes more fear in the commander of an enormous steel war machine than a harpoon gun. Someone should have told the designer of the snowspeeders that these elephoths are made of steel.

...

You grit your teeth. “Stay with me, Dak. We’re coming in.” The speeder darts between the snow walker’s tall, double-jointed legs. “Now!”
Dak might be nervous, but those young hands are steady. His blast explodes directly on the underside of the walker’s head.

The Empire Strikes Back: So You Want to Be a Jedi?

And from the earlier junior novelisation

In the main hangar, pilots and gunners were scrambling into their snowspeeders, which were lined up in rows with their cockpit canopies raised. When Luke arrived at his speeder, he found his gunner — a fresh-faced, eager kid named Dack Ralter — already in the speeder’s aft-facing gunner’s seat.

...

As Luke threw his speeder into a steep dive toward the walker’s left side, Dack squeezed the triggers for the laser cannons. Luke watched the speeder’s cannons fire and score several direct hits, all ineffective, then steered the speeder between the walker’s left legs and under the machine’s belly. He pulled back on his flight controls to bring the speeder into a rapid ascent over another walker, and Dack fired at that walker, too, without making a dent.

Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (junior novelization)

  • Are the new junior novelizations second person perspective? – CBredlow Dec 21 '16 at 22:17
  • @CBredlow - Luke's bit is. They've also got some fancy omniscient third-person, second-person perspective interludes where you get to learn how to be a Jedi. – Valorum Dec 21 '16 at 22:29
5

The co-pilot is actually the gunner, according to the star wars cross-section book. This is similar to the Y-Wing works

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  • 2
    a rear facing gunner for forward facing weapons.... +1 – Skooba Dec 21 '16 at 18:04
  • 1
    @Skooba aiming by instruments and HUD? That's more effective from space used, but acceleration... Did they had g-compensators in SW? he also can operate that rear tow launcher and probably do some engineering\navigation tasks. – Swift Dec 21 '16 at 20:06
  • It might interest you to know that the reason that the Y-Wing operates in the same way is because Lucas recycled several of the concept art ideas for the Snowspeeder; 3.bp.blogspot.com/-nCK7dFMs7Uw/UFdWtFhGtMI/AAAAAAAAAMQ/… – Valorum Dec 21 '16 at 22:13

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