- "How about you get into this armor and try to see out of this damn helmet?"
Stormtrooper armor was a distinctive white plastoid body armor over a sealed black body glove worn by Imperial stormtroopers, and in this respect appeared similar to their Clone Wars Phase II clone trooper armor predecessors, having acquired its color from the austere tastes of its Kaminoan creators. The complete set of eighteen pieces completely encased the body and typically had no individually distinguishing marking outside of rank. In fact, the casual first-time observer sometimes mistook the Stormtroopers as a form of battle droid.
It also protected the troopers from very harsh environments as well as projectiles and kinetic energy weapons. The armor significantly reduced damage to the wearer from a blaster bolt, but it could be completely penetrated by a more powerful cannon blast. The body glove allowed for operation in warm or cold climates, however it could protect the trooper from almost any environment -- from total vacuum conditions to the very extremes in cold and heat for a very limited period of time. The Imperial Army soon acquired the use of the armor in the later years of the Galactic Empire.
Rank was indicated with colored pauldrons. In certain situations, Stormtroopers sometimes wore camouflage armor to help them blend in with different environments. The Stormtrooper corps instituted this reform after the embarrassing defeat at the Battle of Endor.
Private ownership of stormtrooper armor was strictly forbidden by the Empire.
- "Our body armor isn’t able to withstand direct blaster shots, but it is designed to survive the most extreme conditions."
The most obvious function of the armor was protection against weapons fire and battlefield hazards. The armor, and the body glove worn beneath, were designed to disperse the energy of a blaster bolt and insulate the wearer, lessening injury. Although standard armor lacked the durability to make the wearer immune to cannon fire, it could partially deflect or disperse energy from low, medium, and high-energy blaster bolts; though the wearer may be incapacitated, survival would allow the trooper to receive advanced medical treatment that may return him to service. It also deflected stun beams, and served as excellent protection against explosions and shrapnel, thereby drastically reducing the effective casualty radius of fragmentation weapons used against troops wearing such armor. It was almost impossible to kill a stormtrooper with a slugthrower unless the bullet was abnormally large, specifically armor piercing, or if it hit the body glove or visor lenses. Although this armor provided less protection from blaster weapons than wartime Phase I and Phase II armor, it offered superior protection from the elements.
Stormtrooper armor was fitted with air filters and fully sealed against chemical and biological attack; the armor could even protect the wearer against vacuum for a limited time. A back-mounted tank contained 20 minutes of emergency oxygen. The aforementioned body glove also provided limited thermal protection.
Most stormtrooper armor was integrated with standard personal ray-shield projectors (in direct contrast of clone troopers) in order to survive open blaster fire in case cover was nonexistent or limited or a certain exposed ground had to be taken and/or held for a certain lapse of time, it also improved hand-to-hand combat making standard troopers capable of surviving contact with light sabers (although did not provide any protection towards vibroblades), nevertheless, the power consumption of shield projectors was very high and they tended to overheat and fail under sustained blaster fire or under prolonged contact with a light saber and unless the trooper carried a power generator (which were very bulky) the shield projector could take several minutes until it could be reactivated once it failed, these factors made personal trooper shields very rarely seen on prolonged engagements and/or where terrain had a certain degree of immediate and surrounding cover. Also lack of experience from novice cadets towards blaster and lightsaber firepower made the shield projector an underestimated and underused piece of equipment.
- The gloves were powered up during Hand-to-Hand combat (power gloves).
- The stomach armor contained a Manual Suit Seal and environmental controls.
- The thigh armor had a reinforced alloy plate ridge
- The lower right side, near the knee contained the suits system power cells.
- The left upper side of the shin armor had a knee protector plate for comfort from a kneeling firing position.
- IFF circuitry was in the back of the suit for identification and command purposes for identifying each other.
- A Proper Resonator to open secure doors
By 130 ABY, stormtrooper armor had reportedly been further strengthened to absorb and diffuse direct blaster hits. However, during the Battle of Borosk between the 407th and 908th stormtrooper divisions, it was observed that direct blaster hits seemed to render troopers incapacitated, although it is possible that the effect of the blast was dissipated and the trooper survived.
By this date, slight modifications had been made to stormtrooper armor in the breathing system and back plate, and the leg armor were modified with separated knee pieces, which brought a visage likeness to the clone trooper armor.
Also, in a return to the convention followed in the early years of the Clone Wars, the armor of NCOs were distinguished by different colors. For example, sergeants were identified by yellow-green stripes that ran the length of their arm, similar to the Katarn VI armor.
In the early years of the Galactic Empire stormtroopers made use of Phase II clone trooper armor.
- "I can't see a thing in this helmet!"
- ―Luke Skywalker
Stormtrooper helmets consisted of four-layer construction. The outer layer was made of plastoid composite armor, the next layer was an anti-blaster mesh, followed by magnetic shielding, and finally an inner insulator. Cellular padding helped prevent head injury.
Over time, the helmets evolved and implemented new technology. For example, earlier models included only simple eye lenses with very few visual modes available, such as infrared view and basical targeting systems, but as technology increased, the helmets began to feature more advanced visual targeting systems including:
- Automatic polarizing and anti-flash blinding lenses protected the trooper against intense glare and provided them with enhanced combat vision or "Holographic Vision Processors" (which allowed vision through many barriers such as smoke, darkness and fire.
- Multi-Frequency Targeting and Acquisition System (MFTAS) helped with the stormtroopers' perception in darkness as well as smoke and other visibility obscuring conditions.
Additionally, stormtrooper helmets contained features such as:
- Built-in comlink (see below)
- Advanced Breathing Filters (which acted as protection against chemical and biological attacks, as well as toxins)
- Cooling and atmosphere control systems
By 130 ABY, stormtrooper helmets included updated sensors. The helmet's appearance was also slightly modified to appear as a cross between the Phase II clone trooper armor and the original stormtrooper helmets. A number of variations were also introduced to accommodate alien species that were newly allowed to enroll in the Stormtrooper Corps. Still, Stormtrooper helmets shared a very common difficulty. A helmet needed to be powered by using a general code provided by a central system . This was meant to prevent piracy or stealing of helmets. By doing this, if by any reason the helmet was stolen, the thief could not be able to access any of the visual modes of the helmet, making it hardly difficult to see through it.
A comlink with frequency changing options was built into the trooper's helmet. The comlink used linked encoding sequences to rotate frequencies every few seconds while keeping all troopers in the unit synchronized. If a trooper's helmet was removed without the trooper first hitting the comlink's control stud (most likely found on the under-rim of the helmet), the frequency coding routine was automatically deleted from that helmet.
The Comtech Series IV helmet speaker used three-phase sonic filtering for clear sound (for troopers, it was connected to the audio pickup). It also had a vocoder for talking to non-stormtroopers. Video recorders were included in some helmets.
Utility belt and backpack
Stormtroopers were also equipped with a utility belt. This could include:
- A high-tension wire
- Two grappling hooks
- Four spare blaster power packs
- Three ion flares
- Energy rations
- A spare comlink
- Three water packs
- Two medpacks.
- Two Blast Energy Sinks to protect the trooper's hips and absorb blast energy
- A Thermal detonator
- Combat de-ionizer
The backplate of the standard armor contained a power pack as well as a small supply of air (see above). In certain deployments, stormtroopers were equipped with backpacks. These backpacks could contain:
- An extended air supply
- Additional communications gear
- Cooling systems
- Mortar launchers
- A heater (contained in the snowtrooper backpack)
- Additional rations
Behind the scenes
Stormtrooper armor as portrayed in the films is highly ineffective as combat protection and is generally hindering to the wearer. It largely contributes to the now infamous stormtrooper effect and has given rise to much fan speculation and outright mockery. However, this is countered by numerous role-playing, and other such sources, wherein stormtrooper armor is, on average, the best available armor, for protection versus weight/mobility restriction, and advantages, only being limited by its illegality to purchase, thus requiring exorbitant prices on the black market.
Stormtrooper armor is similar to the real-world compound of kevlar, a synthetic fiber used in body armor for soldiers and police officers. Kevlar stops low-to-medium powered handgun rounds and is only reliably defeated by rifles or specialized armor-piercing ammunition, very similar to the effect stormtrooper armor has on solid projectiles.
Replica Stormtrooper armor is popular among fan groups, such as the 501st Legion, but is often produced illegally, in breach of Star Wars copyright. In 2008, George Lucas sued Shepperton Design Studios over its production of unlicensed stormtrooper armor.
In Episode IV, the mouth grill size on stormtrooper helmets is inconsistent. When a few stormtroopers go with imprisoned Leia Organa Solo, it is clearly seen that one on the right has a long grill, while the one on the left has a short one. This being due to the fact that two different designs were used for the helmets in the film. The first and most numerous being the stunt helmet which has a larger frown and the Hero helmet which has a smaller frown among other differences.
There are several anecdotes about the armor itself known to the film crews. The molded plastic back plate has two bars and a circular impression, comically called the "twinkies and donut" as if the backpack was an emergency food storage unit. The canister on the rear belt was originally going to be a lightsaber/laser sword due to early drafts of the artwork and film script having swordplay be fairly common, and laser swords carried by nearly every character.
The armor was also noted to be somewhat uncomfortable to wear, and actors in it would tend to prefer to sit on saw horses rather than in normal chairs.
- The Star Wars Sourcebook
- Galaxy Guide 3: The Empire Strikes Back
- Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game, Second Edition
- The Movie Trilogy Sourcebook
- Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game, Second Edition, Revised and Expanded
- Star Wars Gamemaster Screen, Revised
- "Shape-shifters"—Star Wars Adventure Journal 12
- Star Wars: Rebellion: Prima's Official Strategy Guide (Picture only)
- Star Wars Galaxies: An Empire Divided Quick Reference Guide
- The New Essential Guide to Weapons and Technology
- Star Wars: The Complete Visual Dictionary
- (Picture only) (Packaging)