Imperial Hammers Elite Armor Unit

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For other uses, see Hammer (disambiguation).
"Strike To Kill."
―Hell's Hammers motto[src]

Imperial Hammers Elite Armor Unit, commonly known as the Hell's Hammers, was an elite armor unit in the Imperial Army.


Formation and early campaignsEdit

"Welcome to Spuma Flats. I trust you enjoyed the ride. The Rebel forces are at grid reference 678/446. You all know what you have to do. Good luck and good hunting."
―Colonel Zel Johans during the assault on Protazk[src]

The Imperial Hammers Elite Armor Unit, more commonly referred to as "Hell's Hammers," was formed from Grand Army of the Republic armor units[2] during the final phases of the Clone Wars.[1] As the Republic collapsed[2] at the conclusion of the Clone Wars, it was transformed into the Galactic Empire with Supreme Chancellor Palpatine declaring himself Galactic Emperor.[4] In the post-war stand-down, despite being stripped of support, the Hammers remained a unit with a professional mindset and remained ready for deployment. With the rise of the Empire, the Hammers became the core of the Imperial Army's armor units, and the model on which other units were based.[2] In service to the Empire, the Hammers were assigned to the Outer Rim Territories, where the unit was originally deployed to eliminate resistance to the New Order.[1] Their targets were often planets in the midst of an uprising or revolt, and the opposition was usually well-equipped planetary defense forces. The Hammers successes led to the unit regaining its support, and it was brought up to full regimental strength as a vanguard armor regiment in the Order of Battle. The regiment was deployed to a world in either the first or second landing wave, and were utilized to eliminate elite resistance or local armor units. The Hammers would then be withdrawn and redeployed elsewhere. As a result, the Hammers were credited with the highest number of combat landings and engagements of any armor unit within the Imperial Military.[2]

As the Alliance to Restore the Republic began to make their presence known and the Galactic Civil War erupted, the Hammers found themselves assigned to assaulting Alliance outposts, subjugating Alliance-sympathetic planets, and forcibly inducting worlds into the Empire. Working in concert with stormtroopers and regular Imperial Army soldiers, the Hammers were employed to assault the defensive perimeter of Alliance outposts, eliminating soldiers, fixed weapon emplacements, airspeeders and starfighters. With the defenses cleared, stormtroopers or Imperial Army soldiers disembarked from armored transports and were then able to breach the base. The Hammers were also deployed in traditional armor engagements; equipped with the most powerful repulsortanks in the Imperial Military, the Hammers were used to spearhead assaults into enemy-held territory, destroying and overrunning most opposition they encountered. Under the command of Colonel Zel Johans, the Hammers were a fast-moving, hard hitting assault force with a reputation for getting the job done, no matter the cost. On several occasions, the Hammers were deployed without adequate support. Despite superior opposition numbers, the Hammers always managed to achieve their objectives before being forced to withdraw as the lack of support—such as the absence of infantry to hold captured territory—made their position untenable.[1] The Hammers successes ensured that armor units were not removed from the Imperial Order of Battle, despite the rise in popularity of the All Terrain Armored Transport.[2]

During the Kwymar Suppressions,[5] the Hammers were deployed to the planet Protazk. Landing on the Spuma Flats, Colonel Johans led the Hammers in an assault on an entrenched Alliance base. Previously hidden gun towers shot at the Hammers as they raced across the plain, prompting return fire from the unit's tanks. A formation of Alliance airspeeders targeted the Hammers, and Johans detailed squad three to deal with the threat. Four tanks, including Hammer 3:2 under the command of Sergeant Arbmab and driven by Gortz, peeled off from the main assault and targeted the incoming speeders, destroying them all in return for no losses. With the airspeeders neutralized, squad three rejoined the main assault, overrunning the first of the Alliance's defensive trenches. One tank from squad three was destroyed by an Alliance laser tower, which was promptly destroyed by the squad's remaining tanks. As the Alliance troops began to withdraw, armored transports arrived and disgorged infantry and stormtrooper units for a direct assault on the base.[3]

Turak IVEdit

"We're asking a lot from Johans' Hammers, but that's why they're here. Besides, to conquer without risk is to triumph without glory and the glory here will be mine!"
―Imperial General Maltaz[src]

Eighteen months after the Battle of Yavin, the war in the Parmel sector reached its peak. After successful Alliance victories on the planets Aris V and Vohai, Imperial scouts discovered the Alliance Sector Command base on the planet Turak IV. Rather than evacuate, Parmel Sector Command decided to take advantage of the situation and engage the Imperial force that would inevitably be sent to the world with the intention of destroying them and advancing the cause of the Alliance. Imperial Moff Tallis, governor of the Parmel sector, authorized General Maltaz to command Battle Group Turak, an Imperial assault regiment, to attack the Alliance on Turak IV. Tallis also petitioned for two battalions of the Imperial Hammers to be transferred to Battle Group Turak. While the Alliance was confident that they could take advantage of the incompetence of General Maltaz, they did not factor in facing the Hammers.[6]

The Alliance base was located under the Hitak mountains on the edge of the Uratai basin, built in an abandoned mining complex. The only visible facility was a refurbished mineral processing installation at the base of the mountains, but a network of mining tunnels were located underground around the base. Base defenses included a planetary shield generator, power generator, artillery emplacements and fortifications. There were two accessible approaches to the base; the large Uratai basin to the south, and a narrow western approach. The Alliance mined the western corridor and set their defenses to focus on the southern lava plains. The forces defending the base were known as the Hitak Harriers; two thousand and two hundred troops, supported by over three hundred vehicles—including Kelliak Arms and Armor Company Freerunners, Rothana Heavy Engineering TX-130S and TX-130T fighter tanks, modified groundcars, landspeeders, combat-modified tramp shuttles, and armored repulsorcraft—defended the main base. In the tunnels surrounding the basin, a further four thousand six hundred soldiers, backed by mobile artillery, nine squadrons of combat airspeeders, and three squadrons of short range attack ships were secreted away.[6]

Battle of Turak IV

The Battle of Turak IV

General Maltaz landed the regiment—consisting of two battalions of stormtroopers and army infantry, and two battalions of the Imperial Hammers—on the Uratai basin. The two battalions of Hammers—numbering one hundred and four Ubrikkian Industries Imperial Repulsortank 1-Hs and Gorm•Talquist S-1 FireHawke Heavy Repulsortanks—charged across the plains, eradicating the Alliance defensive positions and ground troops, and shooting down the airspeeders and starfighters sent against them.[6] During the initial assault, tank Hammer 4:3—an S-1 FireHawke from 4th Squadron, Armor Troop Zerek—was on the right flank. During the advance, it took damage to its repulsorlift units and crashed into a lava column in Sector 5-7. The crew debarked and took cover while the rest of the Hammers moved on.[7] The Alliance troops fell back to the base, and waited for Imperial reinforcements to assist the Hammers. Instead, Maltaz took six of the eight companies from the reinforcing infantry battalions of the regiment to the western corridor in an effort to flank the Alliance base. Maltaz's move allowed the Alliance to encircle the Hammers' position from the secret tunnels around the Uratai basin. The Alliance launched multiple waves against the Hammers from the hidden tunnels surrounding the Uratai basin, destroying the remaining reinforcing companies and cutting off the Hammers from the rest of Maltaz's command.[6] During the Alliance advance, Alliance Operations HQ noted the predicament of Hammer 4:3 and sent reserve squads led by Commander Torv Keist to scout the situation and recover the vehicle if possible. The Hammers Regimental Command also dispatched a retrieval team of two army squads—Squad 5-Aurek and Squad 5-Cresh under the command of Imperial Commander 343.245/H5—cross-attached from Battle Group Turak to secure the area and recover the vehicle with a repulsorlift barge.[7]

Unprepared for the size of the Alliance force arrayed against him, Maltaz ordered the Hammers to hold their position while he attempted to take the Alliance base. Maltaz's forces were trapped in the mined western corridor and targeted by waves of assault vehicles. Unable to withdraw and rejoin with the Hammers, Maltaz's forces were decimated. Surviving Imperial forces rallied with the Hammers; outnumbered, they suffered heavy losses but inflicted four times as many casualties on the enemy. By the end of the battle, the Alliance had been reduced to a one-to-one parity with the Imperials from a five-to-one superiority at the beginning of the engagement. The evacuation of the base was ordered, with Alliance naval forces arriving to provide screening cover from the orbiting Imperial capital ship and starfighter escort.[6]

Only three Imperial Hammers tanks survived the engagement, along with whatever Imperial forces had managed to rally with the unit. Aerial overflights by TIE/LN starfighter patrols reported large numbers of destroyed Alliance vehicles and starfighters spread out in front of the Hammers' position. Turak IV was considered to be the Hammers only major defeat,[6] but it proved to be a source of great pride to the unit.[1] The Empire used Turak IV as a propaganda victory, and the success devastated years of Alliance gains in the Parmel sector. Despite effectively winning the battle, the Alliance considered Turak IV to be a strategic defeat due to the staggering amount of men and equipment lost.[6]

Later serviceEdit

"A major threat to Alliance interests throughout the Outer Rim, Imperial Central Command has reassessed Hell's Hammers, determining the Division to be crucial to suppression efforts, and has issued an order to rebuild Hell's Hammer Elite Armor Division to full regimental strength, granting Colonel Zel "Rancor" Johans' first class priority for fire support, material and troops."
―Voren Na'al in his report on the Battle of Turak IV[src]

Following Turak IV, the Hammers operated understrength as a battalion[1] for two years.[2] Although reduced in their combat ability, unit morale was high and the Hammers gained a reputation for surviving engagements and long odds. Once considered to be an expendable unit, the Hammers were placed at the forefront of Imperial High Command's strategy for the Outer Rim Territories.[1] The Hammers were given first-class priority for fire-support requests, new personnel and war materiel. As far as Colonel Johans was concerned, however, Imperial Command's edicts were too little, too late. He never again placed trust in his superiors.[2] The Hammers' experiences on Turak IV led them to adopt an independent mindset, prefering to plan and execute their own missions without the need for the logistical concerns of Imperial Command. While such an attitude was against Imperial doctrine, the success rate enjoyed by the Hammers led Imperial Command to ignore their actions in favor of the current state of affairs. After successfully subjugating the Alliance-sympathetic Yatir on their homeworld of Absit, Johans convinced Imperial Command that the Hammers would be more effective if restored to regimental strength.[1] Johans was promoted to the rank of High Colonel, and the Hammers were directed to the planet Brintooin for training and reconstitution as a regiment. Despite being above the command rank for a regiment, Johans continued to personally command the unit.[2]

At Brintooin Base, transfer requests were evaluated and weeks of training were conducted to select the elite of the Imperial tank corps. The surviving Hammers battalion was reduced by ten percent as Johans even put his own men under scrutiny. Johans had a goal; to create an armored battlegroup with the Hammers regiment at the core. The proposed battlegroup would be able to support the Hammers without the need to rely on rear-echelon command decisions. The battlegroup's other three regiments would be outfitted with the mobility, firepower, and logistics to effectively support the Hammers. Prospective Hammers candidates that scored ninety-nine percent in their qualification tryout—with one hundred percent being the qualifying score for the regiment itself—were transferred to the nascent battlegroup. Brintooin Base became an armored warfare training center, and other tank crews were rotated to the planet for training under the Hammers.[2]

Hell's Hammer time

The Hammers in battle

During this training period, the Hammers missed out on participating in the Battle of Hoth. The victory was claimed by General Maximilian Veers, one of Johans' rivals. Reviewing the after-action reports, Johans declared that if he had led the assault with the Hammers, the result would have been the shattering of the Alliance. Veers had used All Terrain Armored Transports, which were slower than the Imperial repulsortanks employed by the Hammers. While victory had been achieved, several transports had escaped Echo Base with high-ranking personnel, material, and starfighters. If the Hammers had been utilized, their tanks would have been unaffected by the Alliance harpoon and tow cable tactics, were armored enough to resist enemy firepower, and would have reached and disabled the planetary shield generator in a third of the time it took Veers.[2]

As the Hammers returned to active service, the Emperor was killed at the Battle of Endor. In the crackdowns that followed as the Empire began to fragment, the Hammers were deployed off-world, and the support regiments were transferred to other theatres of combat. The battlegroup that Johans envisioned never materialized on the battlefield, and the Hammers were treated as disposable assets once more. As the Empire fractured, the Hammers continued to win victories but they were outstripped by the campaigns being lost. Eventually, they found themselves fighting against other Imperial warlord factions. Finally, the Hammers found themselves squaring off against one of their own former support regiments. Johans made a decision he had been avoiding; he ordered the support unit to form up with his unit, then withdrew from the battlefield. Returning to Brintooin, he recalled all Hammer affiliated units, and put out a general call to any Imperial commanders interested in joining him; an invitation many accepted. The Hammers rested and repaired their tanks and equipment, and began training. Johans intended to wait out the Imperial infighting and rejoin a faction with a legitimate claim to the Empire. As he waited, the Alliance became the New Republic and took Coruscant. Johans aided other Imperial factions by loaning his forces to them, but was careful who he lent his support to. Warlord Zsinj attempted to bully and bribe Johans into bringing the Hammers under his command, but the colonel resisted his overtures.[2]

Seclusion on BrintooinEdit

"Allow Colonel Johans to remain in place on Brintooin. Although his units provide considerable support to other Imperial strongholds, their threat is greater if confronted than if sidestepped."
―Captain Zgorth'sth[src]

The Hammers remained on Brintooin until Grand Admiral Thrawn returned from the Unknown Regions and embarked upon a campaign against the New Republic. After demonstrating great strategic and tactical ability, Johans allied the Hammers with Thrawn. Thrawn's campaign was primarily naval in nature, and the Hammers only participated in one operation for the Grand Admiral before his assassination in the Bilbringi system. After Thrawn, the resurrected Emperor emerged from the Deep Core. Johans did not jump at the opportunity to serve, but remained attentive for orders which never came. Johans and the Hammers continued to occupy Brintooin. The planet was administrated by Governor Thalkuss, but ultimate power rested with Johans. The population of the planet credited the Hammers as the reason Brintooin remained out of the fighting, and was not the target of either a New Republic or Imperial military assault. Much of the planet relied on the Hammers for their livelihoods, staffing a factory complex dedicated to tank manufacture and design.[2]

A New Republic report on the status of elite military and paramilitary units, authored by Captain Zgorth'sth, believed that the Hammers would remain isolated on Brintooin as Johans relied on allies to transport his forces. He was unable to transport more than a battalion at at time with the resources available to him. Zgorth'sth recommended allowing Johans and the Hammers to remain on Brintooin and that a diplomatic solution was viable as a military confrontation was likely to be disastrous. He suspected that absorption of Brintooin into the New Republic would be an achievable goal.[2]


Tank crewsEdit

Tank crews assigned to the Hammers were considered to be an elite force within the Empire's armored units. Following the Battle of Turak IV, the unit was reduced by two-thirds of its operational strength. The surviving Hammers operated without a reserve, forcing the unit to rely on the talents and abilities of its crews to achieve their mission objectives in a timely fashion. Despite the decreased fighting capacity of the Hammers, their ability to survive engagements in the face of superior opposition led to high morale through the unit. The unit's self-reliance, coupled with the increased autonomy granted to the Hammers by Imperial Command, ensured that unit morale remained high. Instead of looking to other Imperial units for support, the Hammers placed their faith in each other and Colonel Johans.[1] As the unit was reconstituted on Brintooin, the standing battalion was reduced by ten percent as Johans placed his own forces under heavy scrutiny. Potential candidates had to score one hundred percent on the qualifications to earn a place within the Hammers, while those scoring only ninety-nine percent were assigned to support regiments being raised by Johans to create an armored battlegroup.[2]

Tank crews were trained in a variety of disciplines to assist them in their duties. They were physically fit and were trained in unarmed and melee combat. Crew members were skilled in the use of handheld blasters, including repeating blasters, blaster artillery, vehicle mounted blasters, and grenades. They were trained in the operation of repulsorlift vehicles, as well as hover vehicles and standard ground vehicles. Tank crews were also expected to be able to perform field repairs on their vehicles, as well as their personal weapons and armor. Crewmen were skilled in first aid and communications, and trained in survival and evasion techniques.[2]

Hammers' tank crews were equipped with field armor and helmets[2] equipped with wide-spectrum viewfinders, passive infrared sensors, computer-linked fire control targeting sensors,[1] and a comlink. They also carried survival gear and a utility bear with field supplies.[2] Although not expected to fight on the ground outside of their tanks,[1] each crew member was trained in the use of blasters,[2] and were issued with a variety of weapons including blaster pistols, blaster carbines,[1] blaster rifles, light repeating blasters, and grenades[2] for defense if they needed to debark from the tank during combat.[1]

High Colonel Zel "Rancor" JohansEdit

Zel Johans

High Colonel Zel Johans

"You can rely on Rancor. Those Rebel scum didn't even know what hit 'em. They'll be looking forward to facing stormtroopers after this!"
―Sergeant Arbmab, Hammer 3:2[src]

Zel Johans was the commander of the Hammers until at least 10 ABY.[2] Known as "Rancor" by the troops under his command, he was an inspiring leader who led the Hammers to victory time and time again. An adept commander with proven strategical and tactical abilities, he was completely devoted to the troops under his command, and they returned that loyalty. While he used the Hammers' success in the field to increase his own standing within the Imperial Army,[1] he was distrustful of his superiors after the near-destruction of the unit at Turak IV. Devoted to the Hammers, he intended to craft a dedicated battlegroup around the unit to reduce their need to rely on outside Imperial support for them to operate.[2] Johans was the driving force behind the design of the Imperial-class repulsortank, consulting on the design. His suggestions, with the exception of shields for the tanks, was incorporated into the final designs of the tank.[8] As the nominal ruler of an independent Imperial faction, Johans refused to promote himself to the rank of General, Moff, Governor, or Warlord.[2]


"The population of Brintooin is not under notable oppression, and in time, a diplomatic solution and absorption should become viable."
―Captain Zgorth'sth[src]

The Hammers were based on the planet Brintooin, a world ideal for armored combat and training as it had a wide variety of terrain including plains, deserts, marshes, scrubland, woods, and flatlands. Originally a site for the unit to be brought back up to full regimental status, Brintooin became Johans and the Hammers home base when the colonel pulled all Hammer-affiliated units out of the field during the Imperial infighting after the Battle of Endor. The planet hosted a 100-million Human population living under an Imperial rule that closely resembled the ideals of the Commission for the Preservation of the New Order. Although administrated by Governor Thalkuss, he was reliant on the continued support and presence of the Hammers. The population were loyal to the Empire as represented by Johans, and they credited the presence of the unit as the reason the planet was spared any invasions by the New Republic or other Imperial remnants. Brintooin boasted a planetary shield and defenses strong enough to withstand a siege, a fully equipped garrison, as well as the combined force of the massed Imperial Hammers. The planet economy was at the Hammers' disposal; an entire factory complex was dedicated to the production of repulsortanks, and the improvement of existing designs was constantly worked on.[2]

Regimental structureEdit

The Imperial Hammers Elite Armor Unit was originally built out of individual armor units serving the Grand Army of the Republic, and was raised to regimental strength after the rise of the Empire.[2] Comprised of three battalions and a regimental command group, the Hammers deployed two battalions to assault objectives, with the third operating as a reserve.[1] Combat losses incurred at Turak IV reduced the Hammers' effective strength to a single battalion which consisted of the battalion command, three companies known as armor troops, and a reconnaissance troop. Each armor troop was commanded by a captain, and contained four platoons referred to as squadrons. Each squadron was headed by a lieutenant and was comprised of four repulsortanks. Each individual tank was commanded by a sergeant and crewed by veteran tankers. The squadron was the smallest unit to operate independently.[1]

The reconnaissance troop was comprised of three squadrons of heavily-armored airspeeders, and a squadron of fast and lightly armored speeder bikes equipped with a single laser canon. Recon squadrons operated independently of each other to cover a wider area during operations, and were expected to retreat if confronted by the enemy. Recon troops were deployed to explore areas ahead of the main armor formation, reporting on terrain difficulty, and enemy positions, strengths and weaknesses. As the armor formations advanced, recon troops were positioned to the flank and to the rear of the advance to keep watch on the enemy movement in case they attempted to outflank the armor columns and cut them off. Airspeeders were designated to defend the tanks until such a time as the armor was able bring weapons to bear on their attackers.[1]

In their reduced state, Johans commanded the battalion personally, and as such his command group was larger than normal. The command group consisted of his personal tank squadron, a communications wagon, and a gun battery containing four Golan Arms Df.9 Mobile Emplacement Guns, and two Golon Arms DF.1 Spray Blasters. The battery provided fire support and air defense for the battalion, and each gun was repulsorlift-mounted so it could be moved into position to support assaults or cover enemy counter-attacks. The use of the gun battery was a sign of the independent nature that the unit maintained as it was not part of the standard formation for the unit on the Order of Battle.[1]

Support elements for the Hammers included thirty technicians, and ten engineers equipped with heavy repulsorlift barges. The support was responsible for supplying the unit in the field and maintaining the Hammers' vehicles. The barges were employed to recover disabled and damaged tanks, and the engineers built field fortifications when necessary. For transport, the Hammers relied on the starships of the Imperial Navy. They were dropped to the planet's surface in armored and shielded landing barges.[1]

Unlike the majority of the Imperial Military, the Hammers' reputation and value to the Empire allowed the unit to get away with putting unit markings on their vehicles. Each tank bore the insignia of the unit on the sides of the tank, along with the individual tank's numerical unit designation in red numbers and the Imperial seal.[7] By at least 10 ABY, during their seclusion on Brintooin, the Hammers had increased their numbers to four fully augmented battalions, and half an artillery regiment. However, they only had enough starship lift capacity to move one battalion off world at a time, and were reliant on allies to move the entire unit.[2]

Ground vehiclesEdit

S-1 FireHawke Heavy RepulsortankEdit


S-1 FireHawke Heavy repulsortank

The S-1 FireHawke Heavy Repulsortank was manufactured by Gorm•Talquist and saw extensive use throughout the Imperial Army. Measuring ten-point-one Imperial standard meters, the tank was crewed by three tankers and could reach sppeds of 400 kilometers an hour. Its main turret gun was a heavy laser cannon with a maximum range of five kilometers, while the secondary gun—a medium blaster cannon which could only fire forward, or to the sides of the tank—had a range of up to one kilometer.[7] The Hammers deployed S-1 FireHawkes during the Battle of Turak, where the majority of the two deployed battalions was wiped out.[6]

Imperial-class repulsortankEdit


Imperial Repulsortank 1H

The Imperial Repulsortank 1-H was the most common production model of the Imperial-class repulsortank. Of the initial production run of 1,500 repulsortanks, 1,420 were assigned to the first Death Star and were destroyed with the station in the Yavin system. The remaining eighty were assigned to the Imperial Hammers. Built by Ubrikkian Industries, each 1-H mounted a Merr-Sonn Munitions, Inc. Mark 4e/S Heavy Laser Cannon, a Mark 3/S Medium Blaster Cannon, and two side mounted weapons. The 1-H was crewed by five, including a driver, two gunners, and a commanding sergeant.[8]

Imperial-class Repulsortank Mark IIEdit

Imperial Mark II side

Imperial-class Repulsor Tank Mark II

The Imperial-class Repulsortank Mark II was employed by the Hammers around 10 ABY. Physically similar in design to the S-1 Firehawke rather than its Imperial-class predecessor, the Mark II was capable of reaching speeds of 400 kilometers an hour. It was armed with a heavy laser cannon with maximum range of five kilometers, and a medium laser cannon with a maximum range of one kilometer.[2]

Heavy recovery vehicleEdit

Heavy recovery vehicle

Heavy recovery vehicle

The heavy recovery vehicle was a large, tracked ground vehicle with a forward mounted appendage and a bubble cockpit. It was used by the Imperial Hammers to assist in recovering damaged tanks.[9]

Repulsorlift bargeEdit

Repulsorlift barges were employed by the Hammers to recover damaged and disabled tanks in the field. Attached to the unit's support element, the barges were manned by the ten engineers assigned to the Hammers.[1]



Notes and referencesEdit

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