Sometimes, (and probably like anyone who's watched 'Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back' a few too many times), I've thought in excessive detail about what life would be like to own my own personal AT-AT aka All Terrain Armoured Transport (summary: life would be awesome).
Formally Introducing: The All Terrain Armoured Transport (AT-AT)
The AT-AT is a war machine par excellence.
It goes almost anywhere. It carries soldiers. It's unbelievably tough. It's got massive firepower. It looks a bit like a giant robodog, with guns on its face. It makes metallic crunching noises. It's almost foolproof.
And, despite the ridiculous simplicity of the strategy used to defeat it at Hoth (a few harpoons and cables… come on) the AT-AT is in fact a spectacular and, most importantly, very effective war machine.
If we were to make a few changes of course.
So suspend your disbelief and hear me out, will ya...?
AT-AT: The Benefits
First, before we get to the obvious flaw, let us sing the praises of this delightfully fearsome war machine…
The AT-AT boasts a top speed comparable to modern battle tanks - impressive regarding the fact that it literally walks on legs that probably weigh several metric tons - it isn't as slow as you might have thought.
The head section is bristling with armament powerful and versatile enough to pretty destroy anything it looks at (you do remember what happened to the Rebel Base at the battle of Hoth). And it does with a range long enough to qualify the AT-AT as self-propelled artillery. So it could very possibly take out your house in one shot and you wouldn't even see it coming.
AT-AT strategy is simple. It mercilessly pounds the defences from a distance and simply walks through (or over) anything that remains. Each one comes equipped with 40 elite shock troops, which are then deployed behind those smoking, ruined rebel defences turrets to 'mop up'.
The AT-AT also has a weapon a little more ineffable. It's goddamned terrifying...
Example: Remember that scene in 'Jurassic Park' where you hear a rhythmic thudding, and the water in that glass starts to shudder and vibrate? You still couldn't see what was causing it, but you knew it was something big and intimidating. It turned out to be a hungry female Tyrannosaurus, one with a tendency to try and eat Jeeps. Kinda scary.
Well, the AT-AT is bigger, and could have already killed you from several kilometres away. Plus, this almost indestructible metal dinosaur is running on the skills and intuitions of highly trained soldiers, rather than simple, angry reptilian instincts.
ATAT: The Shortcomings AND THE SOLUTION
And now on to the AT-AT's inevitable and most well known shortcomings…
The AT-AT's lumbering stride…
The weaknesses of the legs and fallibility (if you'll pardon the pun) demonstrated at Hoth could have actually been solved. How? By tinkering with the weight distribution and the actual gait of the AT-AT...
The AT-AT was vulnerable to tripping because of it's centre of gravity was too high. Perhaps shorter legs, wider leg spacing, or reengineering the joints to be more flexible. Like one of those crazy Japanese walking robots that's nearly impossible to knock off balance, because it's so scarily flexible and wickedly fast at self correcting.
With the proper fixes, if cabled (again, pardon the expression) it'd halt, at the very worst, and at best, use momentum to snap the cable. Just my two credits, anyway...
Big caveat: I actually know nothing about engineering hypothetical war machines. So that's that.
On another note, The Empire was willing to spend the equivalent of £541,261 trillion in Galatic Credits for the Death Star on raw materials alone, but was presumably unwilling to commission proper market research into possible single design flaws in the AT-AT.
All in all, the AT-AT is almost perfectly designed for what it does. Scare the enemy's bowels loose, blow up anything between it and them, lumber in and let the ground troops to clean up the mess. It's like a self-propelled howitzer, a Chinook helicopter, and an Abrams battle-tank decided to raise a child 'Three Men and a Baby-style'. Then that child grew up and had babies with a dinosaur. A nearly invincible metallic dinosaur with laser cannon artillery stuck to its face.
Now if they'd just have invested some of those Death Star funds more wisely...