A Critical Military Analysis of Star Wars or Why Hoth Should Have Gone Up in Flames

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I do love a bit of Star Wars. I’m not a fanboy. I mean, like, I’ve not seen any of the Episodes more than 10 times. I only own one of the dvds. I don’t really have a hat in the “old or new” debate (the old eps are best? Sure, why not!). I don’t really know any of the background beyond the films, and the awesome Clone Wars animated series (gooooo Ashoka!).

But Episode V was on tv on Saturday, and I ended up watching it, all cozy-like with my flatmate. The opening segment on Hoth with all the snoweyness and the pew-pew lazors and the big walkers was awesome. There remained, however, one teeny tiny problem. I’m a history student hoping to do a postgraduate degree in War Studies. I also grew up reading pretty hardcore military sci fi (think Dan Abnett, hallowed be his name evermore). And from a tough, no nonsense military science fiction point of view, the battle for Hoth shouldn’t have happened the way it did. At all.

If I’d been writing Hoth here’s how it would have gone down;

Firstly, combined Arms. The basis of all military strategy revolves around using the many different types of killy stuff you have available – airforce, infantry, armour, artillery, ect. The Empire committed a massive, basic tactical mistake right at the start of the attack on Hoth’s shield generator – they only used armour, namely the huge AT-AT walkers.

This makes no military sense whatsoever. Unsupported the AT-ATs are vulnerable to infantry attack, as proven when Luke takes one out single-handedly with a grenade, and air assault, which is the main cause of their downfall (he he he). They’re too big, too slow, and to be honest don’t even pack a particularly great punch when it comes to firepower – having everything aiming forward leaves their flanks and rear totally open and they’re much too cumbersome to turn easily.

Admittedly at one point a single AT-ST walker is spotted assisting the assault. Smaller, lighter and faster, AT-STs should be the perfect accompaniment to the big AT-ATs. There should still have been a large compliment of ground-pounding Stormtroopers going in with that attack though. We see them later with Vader once the base has been penetrated, but where are they on approach? Certainly not in close combat spread around the walkers.

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We’ve had this base long enough to construct large laser turrets… but let’s not dig anything deeper than a slit trench, boys!

And don’t get me started on the air support! Rebel air superiority was a major reason for the high price the Empire paid to crack the Hoth base open. TIE fighters should have seen to that. Even allowing for the fact that maybe the fleet’s compliment of fighters had been kept “upstairs” to help blockade the escaping rebel ships, that doesn’t explain the absence of the TIE bombers (which we see in action minutes later in the asteroid field) which would have been perfect for demolishing the rebel’s hasty slit-trenches, or perhaps even taking out the shield generator itself. TIE interceptors would also have made quick work of those rebel snow speeders. It’s true that the fleet may not have possessed any, but if not then why not? The whole force had been personally requisitioned by Vader with the objective of hunting down and destroying the rebel base. A good compliment of TIEs would have been essential.

All of this would have seen the Hoth base overrun in a matter of minutes, Luke dead (provided the Stormtroopers actually managed to hit something… so probably not) and Han and Leia captured or dead. The number of escaped rebel ships could also have been halved.

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F**k your X-Wings, give me a squadron of these bad boys.

But apparently the Empire’s admiralty never went to fightin’ school. Or it could all be Vader’s fault  – this is the guy, after all, who ordered his cronies to disable the Millenium Falcon’s hyperdrive rather than just, y’know, disabling the whole engine system so they couldn’t take off in the first place.

But now I’m being harsh. Star Wars is awesome, and it’s a comfort to know that even if the Galactic Empire mounted an invasion of Earth tomorrow we could probably still wipe the stars with them.

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9 Comments

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9 responses to “A Critical Military Analysis of Star Wars or Why Hoth Should Have Gone Up in Flames

  1. Stop ruining my childhood! 😛

  2. Hey! Give the Empire a break! They’re a little cash-strapped after years of war. Not to mention Vader keeps killing the officers. It’s never good to be surrounded by “Yes” men. 😀

  3. All I got was Dan Abnett. You like Dan Abnett? Do you read any 40K?

    • Read 40k? I AM 40k! Gaunt’s Ghosts. Ravenor/Eisenhorn. Anything with Space Marines or Imperial Guard or Warhammer Fantasy Skaven or Chaos in it. Rabid fanboy since the age of 7 right here. 40k fanfic was the first and most prolific writing I ever did http://www.thebolthole.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=17&t=598

      • Wow, sweet. I’ve actually only read the Horus Heresy, but have played around a bit with the 40K style of writing, which is incredibly fun, cannot blame you for pouring out fanfic for it. It’s probably one of the most entertaining canons out there, especially when you add in all the ceremony and the austerity and the hyperviolence.

        My bff is a 40K nut, that and Tom Clancey are about all he reads.

  4. Where are you planning to go to do War Studies? It just so happens that I did an undergraduate degree in War Studies at Kent, and I now work there, and it also just so happens that we have a PG War Studies programme getting up and running…

    Also, excellent post. I often get really annoyed at sci-fi and fantasy films for their lack of basic military sense (to wit, in the [otherwise outstanding] Hope trailer for The Old Republic, the incipient rebels jumping off the high ground to engage the droid and Sith army in close combat…).

    • Wow, small world! I’m hoping to do it at Glasgow (currently at Edinburgh Uni) – it’s the only War Studies centre in Scotland. I’m likely to pick your brains on the subject sometime in the near future!

      Yeah, I mean to a degree it’s fun, and fiction is fiction, but when you get cases like Hoth where the issues are so glaringly painful, even a non-military mind balks!

  5. Pingback: Star Wars Episode VII – A Review | Robbie MacNiven

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