How to bring down an AT-AT with an A-10
If the Empire ever makes it here from its galaxy far, far away, America is going to be in a tough pickle.
And the Empire has already had a long time to get here. So what would it look like if the Empire landed one of its most feared vehicles — the All Terrain Armored Transport — in the plains of the midwest?
Surely, the Air Force would be hard-pressed to take them out, but here are five strategies that the beloved A-10 should try first:
Strategy 1: Punch out the walker's teeth
The AT-ATs armor is too thick for firing at it center mass, but aiming at the crew cabin in the "head" will give the A-10 pilots a good chance of hitting the laser turrets mounted around it. These weapons have only light armor and the barrels are largely exposed.
See all the laser turrets near the walkers' "faces"? Those are the "teeth" and you should avoid them. (Illustration: BagoGames/CC BY 2.0)
This won't take down the walker entirely, but it would turn it into a stomping reconnaissance tool instead of a lethal, anti-armor and anti-bunker monster.
Strategy 2: Low flying pass to hit the Imperial walker's fuel slug
An A-10 fires an AGM-65 Maverick missile in training. (Photo: Public Domain Jim Haseltine)
The walkers use a solid "slug" of fuel kept in a tank in the belly of the beast. This is the same type of fuel that powers starfighters, and everyone knows how spectacularly they blow up.
To hit this tank, the A-10s will need to conduct flights at near ground level and should approach from the walker's 1, 5, 7, or 11 o'clock to avoid its limited skirt armor. Pilots should launch the TV-guided AGM-65 Maverick missile with its 300-pound, shaped-charge warhead and a delayed fuze.
Even if the missile doesn't make it to the fuel tank before it explodes, the blast should cut through some of the drive mechanisms for the legs, granting a mobility kill and possibly causing the AT-AT to topple.
Strategy 3: Cripple its feet
On Agamar, Jedi brought down an Imperial walker by blowing up relatively small explosives near its vulnerable feet. (GIF: YouTube/Super Star Wars)
Speaking of mobility kills, the AT-AT relies on ankle drive motors and terrain scanners in the "feet" to keep it balanced and moving forward. But the metal supports around these feet aren't particularly strong.
In at least two occasions, Sith and Jedi have cut the feet off of a walker.
While A-10s don't have a plasma saber to cut through the leg, the shaped charges in the AGM-65 with a contact fuse could slice deep enough for the remaining support to snap under the massive weight of the AT-AT.
Alternatively, the pilot could fire the Maverick missile against the foot itself in an attempt to cut through the armor to disable the sensors and motors inside, increasing the chances that the foot will trip on the terrain, similar to the effect in the GIF above.
Strategy 4: Wait for it to discharge troops and fill it with 30mm
(Photo: US Air Force Senior Airman Chris Drzazgowski)
The AT-AT is a troop transport, and patient A-10 pilots could wait for it to attempt and discharge its stormtroopers and speeder bikes. When the walker opens to release its deadly cargo, pilots would have only a short window to attack through the open armor panels.
This is a job for the GAU-8 Avenger. Pilots should fire a sustained stream of 30mm through the opening. Don't get shy, the crew compartment is connected to the transport area only through a thin tunnel. Even with high-explosive rounds, the A-10 needs to get a lot of ammo into the troop transport section to guarantee that at least a few bits of shrapnel bounce through the cabin.
Strategy 5: Cut its head off
Watch out for falling debris. (GIF: YouTube/Cervisia Spark)
In the Battle of Hoth, snow speeders managed to get a mobility kill on an AT-AT by wrapping its legs up in a tow cable. Before the walker crew could escape, a flight of snow speeders fired on the AT-AT's flexible neck section, the tunnel between the crew cabin and the troop transport area.
Just two blasts to the neck section set off a massive explosion that destroyed the walker and rained debris for hundreds of meters. While it isn't known what in the neck caused the massive, second detonation, there's no reason to think that an A-10's GAU-8 Avenger couldn't punch through this vulnerable section.
To hit it, pilots should conduct nearly vertical attacks from high altitude, sending the 30mm rounds into the neck joint perpendicular to the armor.