The Deathwing is the elite 1st Company of the Dark Angels Space Marine Chapter. While most other Chapters allow their 1st Company squads to take to the field in a variety of configurations as befits the tactical situation, the entire 1st Company of the Dark Angels Chapter consists of dedicated squads of Terminator Armour-clad veterans. This specialty formation is also found amongst those Space Marine Chapters who are Successors of the original Ist Legion, which are collectively known as the Unforgiven. The Deathwing's mission takes precedence over all others, even though they may be called upon to fight a wide range of foes. Members of the Deathwing are indoctrinated into the outermost tiers of the Unforgiven's Inner Circle, and party to the some of the terrible secrets surrounding the existence and nature of the Fallen. Some members of the Deathwing may know the identity of those they fight, while others are unaware they were once loyal Dark Angels, but all members of the Dark Angels 1st Company, and indeed the 1st Company of every Unforgiven Chapter, know that the Fallen are the vilest of heretics and must be persecuted above all others.
The Veteran warriors of the Dark Angels Chapter serve in the 1st Company, which is known as the Deathwing. The Veteran Astartes of this company are arrayed in Terminator Armour or Power Armour as battlefield requirements dictate. However, the Dark Angels are unusual in that they maintain an entire company that is only ever fielded as Terminator Squads. Following the Horus Heresy, when the Space Marine Legions were divided into Chapters, as dictated in the newly authored Codex Astartes by the Ultramarines Primarch Roboute Guilliman, the Legion's Terminator Armour-equipped Assault Company was divided into several units each composed of 100 Astartes and assigned to a Successor Chapter formed from the original Legion.
When a Dark Angel or other Unforgiven Space Marine receives the coveted promotion to the Deathwing Company, he learns the secret truth of the Chapter and its Successors. The Dark Angels Primarch Lion El'Jonson was betrayed at the end of the Horus Heresy by his second-in-command Luther, who slew the Lion in single combat on the Dark Angels' lost homeworld of Caliban before he and those other Dark Angels who had been corrupted by Chaos were transported into the Warp by the will of the Ruinous Powers. These Traitor Marines are known today as the Fallen Angels, and the Dark Angels and all of their Unforgiven kin are sworn to bring every one of the Fallen to repentance or death before they can receive the Emperor's forgiveness.
The 1st Company of the Dark Angels is led by Belial, the current Master of the Deathwing Company. Following a spectacular victory at the world of Piscina IV during the Third War for Armageddon in 999.M41, Belial assumed the mantle of Grand Master of the Deathwing after the violent death of his predecessor aboard the Space Hulk Charnel Shrine. Shortly thereafter, Belial was elected to serve as the Grand Master of the Dark Angels' 1st Company through the unanimous assent of the Masters and Grand Masters of the Chapter. He swiftly earned the approval of the Chapter's Supreme Grand Master himself, as well as the admiration and unswerving loyalty of those under his command.
Deathwing and the Deathwatch
On a few, extremely rare occasions, a member of the Deathwing of the Dark Angels or one of their Successor Chapters takes the Apocryphon Oath and joins the Long Watch, serving with the elite Deathwatch, the Chamber Militant of the Ordo Xenos. In doing so, he sets aside his role as executioner of the Inner Circle, but not entirely, for the Unforgiven never tire in the hunt for the Fallen. The Deathwing Battle-Brother’s oaths to the Inner Circle rarely interfere with his duties to the Deathwatch. In undertaking the Long Watch he is honouring the purpose for which his very Chapter was created—guarding the Imperium from its enemies. However, there may be times when the Battle-Brother receives a sealed, keyed astropathic transmission, or a message is passed to him from another Battle-Brother of the same Chapter. There may be some task he is expected to undertake, or some enemy he must engage even while his Kill-team’s mission is undertaken. It takes great skill on the part of the Deathwing Battle-Brother to ensure his responsibilities do not clash, for were that to happen, the Deathwatch’s entire mission within their assigned sector of the galaxy would be undermined.
Battle-Brothers of the Deathwing are renowned for always taking to the field in their bone-white Terminator Armour. However, the nature of the Deathwatch's vigil influences the tactics and choices of even the most tradition-bound of Astartes, and many Deathwing who have taken the Apocryphon Oath have chosen to set aside their Terminator Armour when its effect upon the mission would be more detrimental than advantageous. These Battle-Brothers honour the traditions of the Deathwing by taking the bone heraldry and broken sword emblem of their company upon the right shoulder of their Power Armour in place of the Dark Angels' Chapter badge. A Deathwing Battle-Brother must choose to wear either his Terminator Armour or his Power Armour at the start of a mission, and cannot change that choice at any point during the mission.
The Deathwing is composed entirely of Veteran Space Marines who serve as the Chapter's Terminators. They are tasked with a mission that takes precedence over all others, even though they may be called upon to fight a wide range of foes. The Deathwing are responsible for crushing all foes of the Unforgiven, and there are no greater enemies than the Fallen. Like the 2nd Company of the Dark Angels and other Unforgiven Chapters, which is known as the Ravenwing and concentrates on mobile warfare using Bike Squads and Land Speeders, the Deathwing does not comply with the organisation of Space Marine Chapters as outlined by the Codex Astartes, though all of the other companies in Unforgiven Chapters generally do so.
Deathwing Terminator Squads
The bulk of the 1st Company is composed of Terminator Squads, indefatigable warriors who blast apart their enemies with Storm Bolters whilst advancing into melee assault range. Deathwing Terminators feature a mix of weaponry, for both long-ranged and close combat oriented roles. Terminators typically begin engagements aboard an orbiting starship, teleporting to the battlefield at a prearranged time, often homing in on a signal from ranging Ravenwing units. By the time foes see the flash signifying the arrival of the Deathwing's Terminators, it is already too late. The Deathwing appear in a blazing hail of gunfire, as if they had begun firing while en route. They live up to their name, arriving like a sword stroke to deliver the deathblow.
Deathwing Command Squad
The highest-ranking members of the Inner Circle are sometimes accompanied by a Command Squad from the 1st Company. Such a hand-picked formation of the most veteran Deathwing Terminators makes a formidable unit, ideal for a bodyguard or to be assigned special duties by a Librarian or Interrogator-Chaplain. They can be equipped for any role and often include specialists such as Standard Bearers, Apothecaries or even the 1st Company Champion. Belial, the Grand Master of the Deathwing, has personally led many a Command Squad straight into the heart of battle, forging a breach in enemy lines and crushing opposing leaders.
A Deathwing Knight is a fell-handed warrior of the Dark Angels, a member of the elite 1st Company whose glorious deeds on the field of battle are matched only by his unflinching devotion to the Chapter. Deathwing Knights are a truly imposing sight, for in them lives on some semblance of the Lion himself. They embody silent strength and a veiled, yet still palpable nobility. In the stratified Chapter organisation of the Dark Angels and the other Unforgiven, the Deathwing Knights represent the elite -- only the Masters and Grand Masters of the Chapter rank higher, and they are only chosen from among the company of the Deathwing Knights, who are also members of the Chapter's Inner Circle. None but the most fell-handed of warriors from the 1st Company are promoted into the Inner Circle of the Deathwing, and displaying skill in battle is not enough to receive the honour of knighthood. A warrior must be wholly dedicated to the Chapter, and must display an obsessive need to carry on the Chapter's secret crusade to hunt down the remaining Fallen.
When a member of the Deathwing is deemed worthy of the honour, he is brought into the Chamber of Judgments in The Rock to face a series of challenges, each of which has been individualised to test the candidate's strength, resolve and loyalty to the Chapter past any breaking point he may possess. Should the Astartes prevail in these tests, the warrior is granted the title of Knight and passes beneath the shadowed arch at the heart of the Chamber of Judgment. The Watchers in the Dark present to him a Mace of Absolution and a Storm Shield -- both priceless heirlooms from the time of the Great Crusade in the late 30th Millennium, with powers beyond even the potency of the Astartes who will bear them. In battle, the Deathwing Knights are used as a heavy shock force -- they teleport into the fight with Storm Shields locked. With incoming fire ricocheting off them, the Knights march forward to assault the greatest threat with impunity, first slamming into the foe with their Storm Shields before laying into them with their Power Maces and Flails. In the presence of a Heretic, the Knights of the Deathwing power up their ancient weapons to deliver a killing blow of earth-shattering force. The most skilled and veteran of Deathwing Knights are known as Knight Masters. They wield an even more potent ancient Power Weapon known as a Flail of the Unforgiven.
Deathwing Vehicles and Wargear
The most revered Land Raiders and Dreadnoughts in the Dark Angels and other Unforgiven Chapters' armouries are those who serve in the 1st Company. The hulls of these vehicles are painted bone white and the signs and markings of the Deathwing are laid upon them. These bone-coloured behemoths bestride the battlefield, bringing death to the foe.
Some of the longest-serving Dreadnoughts are piloted by Dark Angels who served with the 1st Company and they still bear the bone white armour of the Deathwing. These Venerable Dreadnoughts have borne witness to the Chapter's secret hunt and members of the Inner Circle still seek their advice. It is difficult to rouse the eldest of these ancient cyborgs, and many legends slumber in The Rock's Halls of Silence, powered down between actions and awoken only in dire need.
- Mace of Absolution - Bespiked, glowing with power and emanating an eerie mist from their vents, these ominous weapons are employed by the Deathwing Knights in their endless hunt for the Fallen. In the presence of the most accursed heretics, their power is amplified to awe-inspiring magnitude.
- Flail of the Unforgiven - The leaders of the Deathwing Knights eschew the maces of their fellows in favour of brutal flails. These archaic weapons are carried as a badge of office, and are a reminder to all the Fallen of their ultimate fate at the hands of the Dark Angels.
- Halberd of Caliban - The Company Champion of the Deathwing traditionally carries this massive Power Weapon, reforged from a Blade of Caliban shattered in battle long ago, and incorporating the same grim technologies that power the weapons of the Deathwing Knights.
- Foe-Smiter - This ornate Storm Bolter was wrought by Fedorovich the Great, amongst the foremost weaponsmiths of Mars during the age when the Tech-priests joined with the Emperor's forces to equip his armies for the Great Crusade. It was he who forged so many of the master-crafted weapons still prized by the Imperium today, but even then, the weapon known as Foe-Smiter was considered special. It was presented with honour to the I Legion of the Space Marines, where it was used to great effect by Brother Bartholomew -- the first Grand Master of the Deathwing. To this day, Foe-Smiter can still lay down a cavalcade of fire, and is highly prized by the Dark Angels and by the current Grand Master of the Deathwing, who always wields it.
- The Sword of Silence - In times of need, Grand Master Belial wields the famous master-crafted Power Sword known as the Sword of Silence. This sword is one of a triumvirate of legendary swords collectively known as the Heavenfall Blades. These formidable weapons are only carried by the highest-ranking members of the Inner Circle of the Dark Angels. The Chapter's lore states that these blades were forged from the core of a meteorite that struck The Rock in orbit around the Feral World of Al Baradad. The mightiest of these blades is the Sword of Secrets, carried by the Supreme Grand Master of the Chapter, and the current wielder of that sword is Azrael. The blades wielded by the Grand Master of the Deathwing and the Grand Master of the Ravenwing also utilise small amounts of the obsidian taken from that meteorite in their working. It is also said that a small portion of this meteoric substance was dispatched to each of the Dark Angels' Successor Chapters, so that the senior members of the Unforgiven's own Inner Circles would also bear the same heritage forged in steel as those borne by the Masters of the Dark Angels.
Company Combat Doctrine
The Dark Angels are known for their stoic and intractable manner, unflinching against even the mightiest of foes. The Deathwing are paragons of stoicism, unwilling to take even a single step away from the enemy when battle is joined, their prowess honed across countless battlefields so that they can weather any attack. The Deathwing favour rapid teleport attacks, appearing literally from nowhere (often collaborating with the more mobile Ravenwing squadrons on reconaissance missions to ensure the precision of their teleportation coordinates) to deliver overwhelming force against an unprepared enemy. Teleportation is the easiest way to strike from nowhere in Terminator Armour, but other methods work as effectively for a veteran of countless wars. Once the Ravenwing has located the enemy, the Deathwing are deployed to destroy them so utterly that not a single trace remains. In the case of the Fallen Angels, the Deathwing cast down all of their works and grind them to dust beneath their Ceramite boots, so that none may ever know of the stain cast upon the Unforgiven’s honour by their very existence. The fortunate are destroyed in the unstoppable maelstrom that is a Deathwing assault; the unfortunate are dragged away to the dungeons of The Rock, to suffer the attentions of the Interrogator-Chaplains and to confess their sins in the vain hope of a merciful end.
The Deathwing company badge is a variant of the ancient icon of The Order, the knightly order of Caliban that served as a precursor to the Dark Angels Legion. It is a down-turned broken blade on a red roundel, which symbolises the schism within the Dark Angels Legion that occurred due to Luther's uprising on Caliban during the closing days of the Horus Heresy.
Prior to the Horus Heresy, during the Great Crusade, the Power Armour of the Dark Angels Legion was coloured jet-black. After the Heresy, the bulk of the Chapter began to appear in dark green armour, whilst the 1st and 2nd Companies' panoply remained jet-black in honour of the original Legion colours. The Deathwing Company's Astartes later painted their Terminator Armour in a bone-white colour scheme to remember the lone squad of Dark Angel Terminators who defended a Dark Angels recruitment planet known as Plain's World from a Tyranid Genestealer invasion. These Terminators painted their armour white, the colour of death, as they believed that they would never survive the confrontation. Surprisingly, these Terminators proved successful in reclaiming the world and in doing so saved a crucial part of the Dark Angels' cultural heritage and the genetic diversity of the Chapter. Amongst the Unforgiven Chapters, only the Dark Angels' Deathwing Company Terminators actually continue this tradition. The Deathwing are both the most stubborn and most resilient of the Astartes of the Dark Angels and Unforgiven Chapters, and will often refuse to leave a battlefield even in the face of overwhelming odds, citing the tradition of the Terminators who saved the Dark Angels' recruitment world.
Space Hulk Expansion
Deathwing is also the name of the first expansion produced for the Games Workshop PC game Space Hulk. The expansion is named after the Dark Angels' Deathwing Company. It features rules for solo play of Space Hulk.
- Angels of Darkness (Novel) by Gav Thorpe
- Chapter Approved 2003 - Third Book of the Astronomican, "Dark Angels Update", p. 100
- Citadel Journal 37, "Tacticus Dark Angels", pp. 78-85
- Codex: Dark Angels (6th Edition), pp. 12, 14, 16, 19-21, 23, 26, 30, 40, 43-45, 56, 62, 64, 66-67, 78-81, 99
- Codex: Dark Angels (4th Edition), pg. 16
- Codex: Dark Angels (3rd Edition), pp. 10, 12-13,
- Codex: Angels of Death (2nd Edition), pp. 30, 37, 40, 73
- Deathwatch: Core Rulebook (RPG), pp. 45-46
- Deathwatch: First Founding (RPG), pg. 50-53
- Deathwing (Anthology), "Deathwing" by Bryan Ansell & William King
- Deathwing: Rules & Mission (1st Edition)
- Fallen Angel (Novel) by Mike Lee
- Space Hulk: Campaigns (1st Edition)
- Space Hulk: Death Angel - Deathwing Space Marine Pack (CCG)
- Space Hulk: Mission Book (2nd Edition)
- Space Hulk: Rulebook (2nd Edition)
- Warhammer: Monthly (Promotional), "Deathwing"
- White Dwarf 303 (US), "Index Astartes: Deep Strike", pg. 18
- White Dwarf 161 (US), "Deathwing Terminators", pp. 4-7
- White Dwarf 137 (US), "The Last Stand: Space Hulk Campaign", pp. 42-50
- White Dwarf 133 (US), "Space Hulk: Genestealer Invasion"
- White Dwarf 112 (US), "Terminator: Space Marine Tactical Dreadnought Armour"