Is there canon support for the "Transport" part of AT-AT's full name ("All Terrain Armored Transport")?

The name seems to imply they are MIFVs (Infantry Fighting Vehicles, aka Armored, ala US Bradleys or USSR's BMPs) or even APCs (Armored Personnel carriers - ala Soviet BTRs or US M113s), and not - as their usage in the films seems to imply - tanks.

What does the canon say in terms of design as well as tactical use?

NOTE: I'm perfectly OK with Legends sources.

  • I'm aware of the separate question comparing them to tanks but IMHO none of the answers actually have canon proof that they weren't tanks but transports, in the first place. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Mar 16 '15 at 19:59
  • Thaddeus' answer in your linked question has a schematic (taken from Wookieepedia) which includes a labeled "troop section". The Wookieepedia articles also cites some non-canon references (e.g. Essential Guide to Vehicles) which support the "Transport" part of the name. – Null Mar 16 '15 at 20:05
  • I don't think it's going to be possible to classify Star Wars military vehicles as we classify real world military vehicles. For example, in your linked question I posted a comment classifying the AT-AT as a tank + APC, and the AT-ST as an IFV (based on its weak armor) but with a very low troop carrying capacity. – Null Mar 16 '15 at 20:09

The Star Wars Databank (considerered a fully canon source of Star Wars info) explictly states that they're All-Terrain Armored Transports, designed for "transport and combat".

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The implication is obviously that they're troop transporters. I know of no fully canon source that indicates their capacity although there are plenty of non-canon sources such as the various schematics books.

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  • See the update to the question. I meant "including Legends" when I said "canon". – DVK-on-Ahch-To Mar 16 '15 at 20:14
  • In that case, the picture above basically answers the question. They can carry 40 troopers. – Valorum Mar 16 '15 at 20:17
  • can doesn't imply they are primarily used that way. Eg did they carry troopers on Hoth? – DVK-on-Ahch-To Mar 16 '15 at 20:28
  • @DVK - They appear to. We don't know how long there is between "you may begin landing your troops" and the assaults we see in the next scene but it looks like the first attacks on Hoth Base are by the troops that were in the AT-AT's – Valorum Mar 16 '15 at 20:32
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    @DVK ... just because a Bradley isn't carrying troops doesn't suddenly make it a tank. That the AT-AT can carry troops is all that is pertinent. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Mar 16 '15 at 20:53

The AT-AT is absolutely a troop transport. With shields against orbital bombardment being the norm in any military matter the Empire anticipates, AT-ATs serve as a way to land troops outside of the range of an area shield, penetrate that shield, and deliver troops to the target location.

That said, they are not purely troop transport. They also are heavily armed, not just armored, and not with strictly anti-personnel weaponry. They have armament that seems befitting of an armored fighting vehicle (such as modern tanks), and they pursue missions which seem tactically similar to those of modern armor.

Specifically, in the assault on Echo Base, the troops carried by the AT-AT walkers are doubtless those which we then see in the initial ground assault. The ground troops move in to secure the main buildings and capture the base. The AT-AT walkers, however, have another mission: they target and destroy the shield generator. This sort of mission, a precision strike upon a fortified target, is one which an armor unit would be well suited to.

With all of that said, the AT-AT was a poor weapon. It had a maximum speed of 60 km/h, could carry 40 troops, and had a very high center of gravity. Like the Death Star, it was large, over-engineered, and designed more to inspire fear than to be an effective weapon of war.

Compare the AT-AT to the earlier AT-TE. The AT-TE could carry a platoon of troops, was capable of scaling vertical cliffs, and didn't require the troops to embark or deploy from a platform 10 meters up. The AT-AT was less a weapon of war than a weapon of terror. They worked, but an up-armored and up-gunned AT-TE, with its lower profile and increased deployment flexibility, would probably have worked at least as well.

  • You're ignoring one very important advantage of its height - since SW blasters do not arc in gravity, it gives them a huge firing range. This came in handy when assaulting the rebel shield generator - they destroyed it as soon as it got over the horizon. So it's less armor, and more artillery. For non-arcing weapons, height above ground is the main factor in range of fire. There's a brilliant analysis of the AT-AT on stardestroyer.net/Empire/Tech/Ground/Armour-SW.html (and the rest of the site does a very in-depth analysis of SW and ST technology, logistics and tactics in general). – Luaan Jun 24 '15 at 12:56
  • @Luaan: I'm quite familiar with stardestroyer.net, unfortunately the data is out-of-date. He relies on many sources which are no longer canon (thanks, Disney). And blasters don't arc, but they do diffuse over distance - they still have a maximum effective range. Had the AT-AT walkers not had the high center of gravity, the snowspeeders would have been unable to hamper them at all, and all of them would have reached their destinations. It may have taken slightly longer to get range on the shield generators, but not notably so. – Jeff Jun 24 '15 at 14:07
  • They have a maximum distance, but it's much more than the distance to the horizon from human-eye-level. But yeah, in this particular scenario, your AT-AT would not have this particular weakness. However, it would gain new weaknesses - for example, land-mines. The good thing about the "artillery" hypothesis is that it gives a plausible reason for the height - sure, terror is a good reason as well, but while the Empire's weapons focused on terror a lot, they were still incredibly effective (unlike, say, Jaffa staff weapons). – Luaan Jun 24 '15 at 14:30
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    How are long, spindly legs supposed to be better against land-mines? Sounds like a great way to send yourself tumbling to the ground (due to a high center of gravity) when one of them gets blown off (or even just forced to stumble from the impact). – T.J.L. Sep 25 '15 at 19:23

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