- "The AAT serves as the Trade Federation's front line assault vehicle. Designed to wipe out enemy troops, the AAT boasts a powerful laser cannon capable of punching through enemy ranks. A fearsome sight on any battlefield, the AAT is one of the Trade Federation's most formidable weapons."
- ―Captain Panaka
The Armored Assault Tank (AAT-1 or AAT) was a medium-sized repulsor tank used mainly by the Trade Federation and the Confederacy of Independent Systems prior to the rise of the Galactic Empire. The tank had heavy frontal armor that gave it the capability to plow through walls, and it was heavily armed with a payload of 57 shells. The tank required a crew of four battle droids to be fully operated and was able to carry six additional battle droids onto the battlefield. The tank's reactor and power and communications gear were kept in the rear for protection.
The vehicle was designed by the Baktoid Armor factories, with its most important parts placed in the back. Piloted by OOM pilot battle droids, AATs comprised a significant portion of the Trade Federation's ground forces. They were used to fight armies of pirates in the Outer Rim Territories before they were finally deployed in the Federation's Invasion of Naboo in 32 BBY. Ten years later they would be used heavily during the galactic Clone Wars between the Galactic Republic and the Confederacy of Independent Systems. Though AATs did see a little action after the Republic transformed into the Galactic Empire in 19 BBY, these instances were very rare.
The Armored Assault Tank was a formidable vehicle; it was augmented with heavy inches-thick frontal armor that allowed it to plow through walls, and had heavy weaponry. It carried a payload of 57 shells, but once exhausted, the AAT had to return to its carrier to have its shovel-shaped lower hull completely replaced, fully replenishing its supply.
The AAT's launch tubes could be equipped with a variety of ammunition. The three standard-issue ammunition types were "bunker-busters", high explosive shells used for destroying enemy structures such as outposts; armor-piercing shells, used for penetrating heavy armor on tanks; and high-energy shells for anti-personnel and anti-vehicle use. As they were fired, these shells were surrounded by high-energy plasma, which improved their penetration and reduced friction, thus increasing speed.
Its crew consisted of four battle droids (one commander, one pilot, and two gunners), and could also carry six B1-Series battle droids on the hand grips on the outside of the tank. The commander typically sat inside the turret of the primary blaster cannon, while the gunners and pilot were positioned in the main hull of the tank. The gunners operated both secondary blasters, and the commander controlled the main turret. The droid's programming allowed for only simple tactics, but the tank was effective nonetheless.
The reactor, along with key power and communications gear, was kept in the rear for protection, as with many other Baktoid vehicles. The AAT used heavy-duty repulsors to keep it off the ground and propel it forward. While this method was relatively quick, it was sluggish compared to the Gian and Flash speeders of the Naboo, and the later GAT. Like other repulsorlift vehicles, the Armored Assault Tank was unable to penetrate deflector shields.
Enemy forces could destroy an Armored Assault Tank by dropping EMP or explosive grenades into both the main turret and the pilot hatch. Additionally, the tanks were vulnerable to portable missile launchers, other vehicles, or Jedi with lightsabers.
Prior to its most notable use in the Invasion of Naboo, the AAT-1 was deployed by the Trade Federation to several Outer Rim worlds, engaging them in battles against each other, to prove that they had both battle-scars and battle-readiness. When the Invasion of Naboo had started, the AATs had already engaged in fierce combat against armies of pirates, proving that the tank was ready for war. Trade Federation strategy dictated that two AATs escort an MTT.
In 32 BBY, the AAT was one of the primary vehicles used in the Trade Federation's invasion of Naboo, and was deployed throughout the city of Theed, where their maneuvers caused damage to many buildings. AATs were instrumental in securing the planet, and fought in other important battles of the invasion. During the course of the invasion, commander OOM-9 ordered the creation of additional units at mech factories. Notably, two Jedi ambassadors stole an AAT to fight their way through Theed to reach Naboo's Queen, Padmé Amidala. AATs also battled the Gungan Grand Army on Naboo's open fields. Droid commander OOM-9 led the battle against the Gungans from an AAT. As a result of Anakin Skywalker destroying the Federation's Droid Control Ship, they were left in their final battle positions when the Trade Federation's droid forces were deactivated and were thus captured by the Naboo.
A heavy variant of the AAT known as the Heavy AAT also engaged in battle during the Invasion of Naboo. Although the AAT had many primary weapons and defenses, the bottom interior was the weakest part. The original designer also worked on shielded or faster variants.[source?]
Shortly before the outbreak of the Clone Wars, the Trade Federation joined the Confederacy of Independent Systems, and hence AATs were assimilated into the rapidly growing Confederate armies. During the assimilation process, they were all repainted with the CIS standard blue and gray paint scheme and fitted with heavier double laser cannons on the flanking turrets. They would see action during the first battle of the war, and would be used extensively during the Dark Reaper Crisis, as well as the Battle of Muunilinst.
The Heavy Artillery Gun, also used during the war, had a design similar to that of the AAT.
During the war, they showed vulnerability to PLX-1 portable missile launcher fire, with a single missile from this capable of destroying it if aimed at the correct location. Advanced Recon Commandos also displayed capability of jumping inside the tank and blasting it apart from the inside. Also, they seemed inferior to the Republic TX-130 Saber-class fighter tank.
During the Second Battle of Geonosis, many AATs were deployed for use by the Geonosian Rebels against the Republic Forces. Later, after his defeat, Archduke Poggle the Lesser used a damaged AAT to transport supplies to the Progate Temple.
The AAT-1 also saw action during the Battle of Coruscant alongside Octuptarra combat tri-droids, and on a multitude of other worlds, including Muunilinst, Felucia, Aargonar, Maridun, and Murkhana.
However, following the Imperialization of the Trade Federation by the Galactic Empire, stormtroopers would sometimes utilize AATs during a few battles in the Galactic Civil War (possibly including the Battle of Tatooine).
Behind the scenes
The revised rough draft script of Episode I described the Trade Federation invasion spearheaded by AACs, or Armored Attack Craft. George Lucas' original design ideas for the battle tank resembled more of an assault helicopter: a low-flying armored gun. As the design developed, the AAT began to draw more tank-like characteristics, as well as animalistic qualities (the arm-mounted cannons, for instance, suggest claws and horns). The forward curve of the tank was inspired by the design of a shovel.
In Star Wars: Battlefront, AATs were going to be part of both the Separatist and the Imperial faction. The Imperial variant was cut from the final version, but its code remained hidden in the game's source. Some fans managed to unearth this and other unit-codes left behind and restored them to functional status. These files are available for free on several modding sites.
In the 2001 video game Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds and its 2002 expansion pack, AATs serve as the "mech destroyer" unit for the Trade Federation. Players are provided them in several missions of the campaign, and more may be built at mech factories for 100 units of food and 175 units of carbon.
In Star Wars: The Clone Wars, the AAT is missing its anti-personnel blaster cannons. It is also missing the two gunners. Instead, it is manned by a commander and pilot.
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Notes and references
- Star Wars: Complete Cross-Sections
- The Official Star Wars Fact File
- The Essential Guide to Warfare
- Star Wars Roleplaying Game Saga Edition Core Rulebook
- Star Wars: Complete Cross-Sections states their first use was before the Invasion of Naboo. The New Essential Chronology establishes on page 40 that the invasion takes place in 32 BBY.
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars game
- Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds: Clone Campaigns
- Star Wars: Demolition
- The New Essential Guide to Vehicles and Vessels
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars – "A War on Two Fronts"
- Star Wars: Battlefront
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars – "Ambush"
- Star Wars: The Phantom Menace: The Expanded Visual Dictionary
- Star Wars: Complete Locations
- Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds
- Star Wars: Episode I Jedi Power Battles
- Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace
- Star Wars: Clone Wars
- Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith
- Star Wars: Republic: The Battle of Jabiim
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars – "Defenders of Peace"
- Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader