In the Star Wars universe, the term “walker” describes a specific subclass of armored fighting vehicles in service throughout the galaxy. While walkers come in many different shapes and sizes, all of them share one thing in common. They all use legs to move instead of the more mundane wheels, tracks, and repulsorlift systems other AFVs use.
Numerous different walkers were built over the course of history in the Star Wars universe. However, 5 stand out from the crowd as being especially useful and/or memorable. These are my top 5 walkers.
If you’re looking for odd walkers, you can’t get much more odd than the AT-AP.
AT-AP (All Terrain-Attack Pod) is a walker used by the Galactic Republic, and later by both the Galactic Empire and the Rebel Alliance. It’s armed with a fixed, forward-firing mass driver, a dorsal laser cannon turret, and a chin-mounted repeating blaster. Its most notable feature is its third leg at the front, making it a tripedal walker. Said leg is retractable, and is used to stabilize the walker over rough terrain and when firing its mass driver.
The AT-AP is very similar to the M3 Lee in concept. Both of them mount their main guns in a fixed mount, and thus both of them suffer from the same issues. While its mass driver is powerful and accurate, it would’ve been much better off mounted on a proper turret, as was the case with the Lee.
Thus, I rate the AT-AP at fifth best.
Technically speaking, these are 3 different models of walkers. However, if you look at them, I think you’ll agree with me when I say that they’re all variants of the same basic design. The base model, of course, is the AT-AT.
The AT-AT (All Terrain-Armored Transport) was used exclusively by the Galactic Empire (not including captured examples). The walker is armed with twin chin-mounted heavy laser cannons, and a pair of medium blaster cannons on its temples. The walker is quadrupedal, and it’s friggin’ huge. Canon sources list it being a staggering 65.6 feet long and 73.8 feet tall. Yet in spite of its size, it’s actually capable of reaching 37 mph, which is remarkably quick for a walker of its size and weight. My mind boggles at the how. Maybe it runs like an elephant?
The AT-AT and its derivatives have many flaws. Its massive size and height allows enemies to see it from literally miles away. The same size also makes it an easy target for orbital bombardment should an enemy have starships in orbit. Since AT-ATs are vulnerable to fire from other AT-ATs, a starship would have no trouble wrecking it. The fact that all of its weapons are mounted in its head limits its arc of fire in a narrow cone forward, making it highly vulnerable to flanking attacks.
In spite of these flaws, the AT-AT still is an immense engine of destruction. It fulfills the role of breakthrough tank and APC all at once, and its height combined with its surprising speed makes it useful as a mobile command center. This is why I place the AT-AT family at fourth best.
The SPHA (Self Propelled Heavy Artillery) was a large dodecapedal (meaning “12-legged”) walker used by the Galactic Republic, and later by the Galactic Empire during its early years. And when I say “large”, I really do mean it.
The SPHA measures 460 feet long, and towers over the battlefield at 67.6 feet tall. This walker is nearly the size of a modern Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, and has vastly superior firepower to boot. There are several variants of the SPHA, but the most iconic one is the SPHA-T, used during the Battle of Geonosis. This version mounts a heavy turbolaser that is capable of shooting down starships, making it a potent anti-orbital/antiship platform.
So while the SPHA is massive, even bigger than the AT-ATs, its ability to mount anti-starship weaponry gives it much more utility than the AT-AT. And while it’s much slower than the AT-AT due to its top speed of 21.7 mph, its ability to shoot down starships makes up for it. Thus, I rate the SPHA at third best.
Now we’re getting to the really good walkers. You might be surprised by my choice, but I really do believe that the AT-ST (All Terrain-Scout Transport) is a good walker.
The AT-ST is a scout walker, designed for recon, escort, and fire support. In many ways, the AT-ST is a prime example of a light tank being used as armoured cavalry. It measures 14.8 feet wide, and is 29.6 feet tall. It’s armed with twin blaster cannons on its chin, and cheek-mounted light blaster cannons and concussion grenade launcher. A modern comparison would be a vehicle armed with an autocannon, coaxial machine gun, and coaxial automatic grenade launcher. Most surprisingly, it’s capable of reaching nearly 56 mph on flat terrain. My guess is that its gait mimics those of large flightless birds, allowing it to reach those high speeds.
For its role, the AT-ST is the perfect vehicle. It’s fast enough to chase down its intended targets, and heavily armed enough to destroy most targets it’d expect to face. Its poor initial performance on Endor is due to enemy ingenuity and overconfidence on the part of the crew, rather than anything wrong with the walker.
Overall, I rate the AT-ST as second best.
Now to bring you the shining crown of the walker family. Behold, the All Terrain-Tactical Enforcer! Or AT-TE for short.
The AT-TE was the main walker of the Galactic Republic, and is later used briefly by the Galactic Empire (and more so by the Rebel Alliance) before being replaced by the arguably worse AT-AT. Its hexapedal design gives it good stability, and redundancy in case of leg failure. It’s armed with a mass driver in a dorsal turret, along with 6 laser cannons (4 in front, and 2 in rear). Its has a top speed of 37 mph, and measures 72.2 feet long and 31.4 feet tall. And oddly enough, its feet can be magnetized, allowing it to scale metallic surfaces, including buildings.
The placement of these weapons allow the AT-TE to engage targets in any directions with both the primary and secondary weapons. Its lower height also makes it a much smaller target than the AT-AT. While it’s much less protected than an AT-AT (Hailfire droids were able to one-shot AT-TEs with alarming regularity), the overall design is still far superior to the AT-AT. The weaknesses in armament and armor could’ve easily been solved, had any effort been devoted to it.
Thus, I rate the AT-TE as the best walker.
Clearly, the Empire (or the First Order) needs to make an upgraded version of the AT-TE to replace the AT-AT. Also, whoever decided to retire the AT-TE should be cut into cauterized pieces with a lightsaber and fed to a sarlacc.