by: Russ Amott [ ]
Originally published on:
In the fictional Star Wars universe, imagination in design ran wild with a wide variety of unusual vehicles and spacecraft created. One of the most unusual was the AT-ST, commonly referred to as the "chicken walker" because mobility was provided by a pair of gangly legs. As awkward and amusing as it might seem, it was a deadly weapon in the Imperial arsenal. The following details are provided from Wookipedia, the Star Wars wiki:
The AT-ST was a lightly armored but heavily armed high mobility scout transport. The unique mobility system of two long legs enabled it to move freely in a wide range of environments and over rough or soft terrain. On smooth open surfaces, it could attain speeds of 90kmh, although this was significantly reduced as the terrain worsened.
The "body" contained the advanced gyro system that maintained balance for the walker, and the power plant. The "head" was the command module, filled with sensors that provided a 360 degree holographic image of the battlefield and kept the two man crew generally aware of their surroundings. Primary armament was the MS-4 twin blaster cannon in a chin mount with secondary armament commonly consisting of cheek mounted light E-web laser cannon and a Dymek DW-3 concussion grenade launcher. The weapons load could be varied and substituted with other systems as needed. A light laser cannon and shield could be mounted on top and manned by a trooper for close combat operations. Applique armor could be added, or additional sensors.
The AT-ST could also be modified for construction work, as it is reported that some of the vehicles deployed on Endor had their heavy cannon removed and clamps installed for removal of trees.
The AT-ST had some vulnerabilities. The gyroscopic control plant was vulnerable and if knocked out would drop the walker to the ground. The legs could be knocked off balance and heavy impact on the head could crush it, as was seen in the Battle of Endor when a walker was destroyed by crushing it with tree trunks. The top hatch could also be forced open. The armor protection was sufficient for small arms, but heavy laser cannon could destroy it. It was most effective in urban areas and against infantry and light armor. It was least effective in heavily wooded terrain and vulnerable to primitive weapons.
It appears the standard paint scheme was overall gray, similar to that used on all other Imperial equipment. Whether this was an economic issue, or an attempt to force immediate recognition of the presence of the Empire is not specified.
Bandai have expanded their Star Wars line-up to include a new 1/48 scale AT-ST as part of their highly detailed easy assembly line.
The first thing to note is that this kit represents the AT-ST as it appeared in "The Return of the Jedi" movie. The AT-ST seen briefly in "The Empire Strikes Back" was quite different.
The box art is a black background with action shots of two walkers in battle in the forest on Endor. Photos on the box side show the completed kit, most interestingly in a variety of poses, both with the legs and the head, and not just a single fixed pose. The color photos also give the modeler an idea of how to paint the kit.
For reference in comparison with the kit parts, I went to this site: http://www.collectivemodels.com/gallery/star-wars-at-st/, which shows one of the actual props used in the movie.
Inside the box the sprues are all carefully packaged in cellophane pouches to protect the contents. All the parts are very well molded with great attention to detail. There are no visible sink marks or flaws on the kit. Ejector pin marks all appear to be on surfaces that will be hidden.
Starting from the ground up, quite literally the first sprue I looked at was the ground base. The sprue is multicolor, with the base and a figure of Chewbacca, the Wookie, molded in brown, the laser beams in clear red, and the walker parts in gray.
The base isn't too exciting, but it is designed for the modeler to finish, adding vegetation as desired. It provides a stable platform to mount the kit on. It also uses the same base connectors that the other kits use, so you can line your Star Wars kits up on a shelf. The figure of Chewbacca is, for the scale, decent and certainly as good as any other 1/48 scale figure (although as he was quite large, he is about the size of a 1/35 scale figure.) The AT-ST parts are for the poseable leg joints, the gyro system that attaches the command module to the base (in a large rubberized or similar highly advanced material sleeve), and various hoses that attach to various parts of the vehicle. There is also a railing for the top of the module. It appears overly thick for the scale and could be replaced by wire or thinner styrene stock.
Next up are the feet and lower legs. The foot itself appears to be okay, though maybe a bit short, and the toe attachment has a different sized cutout and connection. The wire cutter claw also looks a tad too wide. Some of the other details are not as sharply defined. The pilot figure is quite stiff in his pose, like he is constipated, but I imagine if you lived in fear of being throttled with "The Force" for the slightest mistake, you would probably be stiff and tense all the time.
The upper leg assemblies appear to be pretty good, with the offset bolt pattern along the top carefully slide molded. A note on the legs is that all sections have inner and outer parts and the joint pin is sandwiched inside the assemblies. These have a small lock tab to position the leg but they can be modified for different poses. Once you get the pose you want, you will need to glue the leg in place, but it provides for significant freedom for the modeler. The "hip" joint has a shield on both sides that match in curvature, but on the movie prop the lip around the edge is less pronounced. The rear exhaust looks correct for shape, but there is a funny detail like a pair of hatches molded on that I don't see on the prop, though it is present on a blueprint here: http://www.theforce.net/swtc/Pix/books/taosw/atstblue1.gif. The "face" of the control module looks nice for shape, though the front armor plate seems too thick. I have read that it should have a slight curve where the cheeks join the face, and it seems that way on one blueprint I saw, but it is hard to determine on the prop. The sensor between the vision ports sits too low and should be more centered. The heavy laser cannon are slide molded with the muzzles opened.
On the rear of the module, the fan housing appears to be too wide, and there are vision ports or panels molded on the upper rear boxes (fuel tanks?) that should not be there. Also, there is a box between the two objects that I can't confirm. The roof panel seems to match the blueprints, and the interior is well decked out. The seats have large tabs for mounting the pilot figures, so if the figures are not used and you have the seats empty, they will need to be removed.
The hexagonal padding on the interior seems well represented, and some detail painting will really bring the cockpit to life. There are no decals for this, though I imagine an Eduard Zoom set would make it pop right out. The only downside is that there is no interior detail for the roof plate. The engine housing looks quite busy though the "ball" at the front looks a little undersized. Also, the radiator assembly is not shown---it should be a large, finned box extending from the bottom, but is instead represented by lines molded onto the surface with a recess in the middle. Also, there should be six exhausts on each side rather than five. I can't see the top plate to determine accuracy there.
The instructions are a foldout pamphlet style, all in Japanese. There are detailed CAD images in each assembly step with careful parts breakdown to show small detail builds. A box at the beginning of each step shows what part of the kit you are working on. Assembly starts with the engine and and then each leg, and finally the module. Along the top of the instructions are separate details showing how to join the completed assemblies as main parts. As mentioned above, careful work during the leg assembly will allow them to be posed pretty much any way the modeler chooses. We will work on this shortly and see how we can make it work. At the end of the instructions, a paint guide is included. I found a translation online provided by a kind and thoughtful modeler (whose name I don't know). They are:
* Body, Neutral Gray, 45%, white 45%, black 5%, blue 5%
* Pilot uniform RLM 75 Gray Violet 50%, white 50%, drop of black
* Pilot helmet Dark green Mr. Hobby Aqueous H73
* Pilot Belt Khaki green
Markings provided are optional as either waterslide decals or stickers. They consist of a laser scorch mark seen in the movie on the lifesize mockup, hull front, and optional white or black Imperial crests, with no indication of placement for them.
Based on the above comments, you can look at the kit one of two ways. First, as a good effort plagued by errors, big and small. Second, as a great kit, well detailed and easy to assemble, at a bargain price, that may not be perfect, but is at present better than anything else out there. With careful work you can pose it anywhere from squatting (I am assuming that is how it is boarded) to standing on tip toe, and anything in between. The head and guns can also be posed. Perhaps my enthusiasm is showing through, but I really think this is a great little kit. Maybe aftermarket companies will come out with corrections. Maybe not, and we will see if we feel like scratchbuilding the radiator housing. Opportunities are endless with this kit, not just with posing but with different paint schemes, as these must have fallen into many different hands during the fighting between the New Republic and the Empire, much like old tanks here on Earth getting passed around. For most modelers, I think it looks enough like a chicken to be called a chicken, and should make for a fun build.
I purchased my kit online at HobbyLink Japan, price of just over $16. To the door it was less than MSRP. Shop around as these are in the bargain price range right now.