An Airbursting Fragmentation Projector is an experimental weapon developed by the Tau Empire during the Third Sphere Expansion. The weapon operates by firing a proximity-fused explosive projectile on a trajectory computed by a simple on-board Drone intelligence within the warhead itself. This AI full calculates the precise height and distance of each submunition it fires so as to provide optimum explosive damage across a wide area. The Airbursting Fragmentation Projector is currently still undergoing field tests and thus is considered a special-issue weapon to Tau forces due to its experimental nature. Its use is only entrusted to a number of senior Fire Caste Tau Commanders.
The Airbursting Fragmentation Projector has undergone numerous improvements throughout its development period, but all versions are the same in that they fire scatterings of fragmentation bomblets over a wide area. These bomblets are fired at a height calculated by a simple Drone-based Artificial Intelligence within each bomblet to cause optimum damage, and have a proximity fuse that is intended to detonate the explosive projectiles at the right moment. The weapon functions in a similar way to traditional artillery in that the munitions are fired at a high angle and explode directly above the target. Line-of-sight to the target is not needed due to the indirect fire trajectory of the munitions. This also means that the munitions will bypass and negate the effects of any cover the foe might be using. Airbursting Fragmentation Projectors are most effective when there is at least five metres of clear space above the enemy.
Despite the Airbursting Fragmentation Projector having a far shorter range than conventional artillery, it is able to be used on the move far more effectively. An Airbursting Fragmentation Projector has a significant area of effect that is on a par with the far larger weapons used by many other races, which furthers its usefulness as a Battlesuit-mounted weapon. This weapon is especially effective against hordes of lightly armoured troops such as Tyranid Gaunts, Ork Boyz and Imperial Guardsmen, as proven during the operations of Commander Flamewing who operated in the Zurcon System of the Jericho Reach during the Achilus Crusade.
In Flamewing's hands, the weapon proved extremely effective against Tyranid swarms when the munitions were programmed to detonate over the centre of hordes where the enemies were most densely packed, causing maximum damage to a large number of foes. The Airbursting Fragmentation Projector has also proven useful against stealthy foes which make intelligent use of cover, and those gifted with chameleonic abilities; whether this is gained through the use of equipment such as Camo-Cloaks or an innate biological ability like that possessed by Tyranid Lictors. In these cases, an Airbursting Fragmentation Projector will bypass any cover used and also saturate the area with bomblets, meaning that a hit is almost guaranteed against the enemy even if they cannot be clearly seen.
- Microburst Fragmentation Launcher – A Microburst Fragmentation Launcher is a very rare and experimental variant of an Airbursting Fragmentation Projector, and has thus far been only entrusted and issued to Tau Commanders piloting XV46 Vanguard Commander Variant Void Battlesuits. A Microburst Fragmentation Projector features a similar range to a standard Airbursting Fragmentation Projector, but fires projectiles that detonate with more focused, concussive, explosive force, sacrificing a large blast for more power per shot. It also has a far faster rate of fire, and is smaller and more portable; allowing the XV46 to use it more effectively in the close confined environments it is designed to operate in.
- Codex: Tau Empire (6th Edition), pg. 65
- Codex: Tau Empire (4th Edition), pg. 25
- Deathwatch: Mark of the Xenos (RPG), pp. 5, 10
- Deathwatch: Tempest Rising (RPG), pg. 139
- Deathwatch: Ark of Lost Souls (RPG), pg. 142
- Rogue Trader: Tau Character Guide (RPG), pg. 37