A Fire Warrior is a member of the Tau Fire Caste and thus serves as the primary soldier and the core combatant of the Tau Empire's multispecies armed forces. Fire Warriors are efficient, professional soldiers. They are well-equipped,and their absolute belief in the Greater Good and their fanatical trust in the Ethereal Caste makes them deeply determined soldiers, grim in defence and aggressive on the attack.
What would become the Fire Caste before the unification of the Tau race were once ground-dwelling hunter gatherers. They did not have the membranous wings of what would become the Air Caste, who were employed during the pre-Tau Empire period as messengers (very much like their contemporary forebears). Racial progression saw these earth-dwellers build walled cities on the ground, while their racial cousins built fortresses and cities on high-altitude mesas and plateaus. However, an age of great suffering befell the Tau, sparking inter-racial wars, spreading disease, and unleashing famine upon the fledgling civilization. The intervention of the Ethereals, shrouded in myth and legend, unified the race by their unerring charisma, and all sub-races of the Tau were given specific roles in society in a Caste system, and the caste names reflecting the element of nature that best suited them.
Fire Warriors are bred to be naturally more ferocious and aggressive than other Caste members. They are more heavily muscled, stouter, and broader than their racial brethren. Fire Caste members are slightly shorter then the average human, standing roughy 5'5" - 5'7". However their depth-perception is comparatively poorer than those humans, as is their reflexes, causing them to be comparatively poor melee fighters. A note of exception are the Fire Warriors of O'Shovah, who actively train in close-quarters combat, to prepare for conflicts with their hated enemies, the Orks. Fire Warriors believe hand-to-hand fighting to be barbaric, and leave this role of battle to the Kroot mercenaries, who are far more able than the Tau in the chaos that is melee combat. However, Fire Warrior's bonded by the ta'lissera brotherhood ritual are armed with ceremonial swords, despite these not being ideal for combat.
Historically, the Tau have not had the numbers to fight prolonged conflicts like the Imperium of Man. The Kroot are currently the numeric mainstay of the Tau military forces, and their numbers allow the Tau to fight planetary battles where they would otherwise be limited to small-scale raids. Fire Warrior commanders (Shas'O) are schooled in two military doctrines; Kau'yon, or Way of the Patient Hunter, or Mont'ka, the Killing Blow. Shas'O are discouraged from using static defense or bloody assaults. In defense, the Tau abandon their position in favour of a more suitable one. Shas'O who bitterly hold onto a position are frowned upon, and are considered to lack imagination by their peers. In attack, Shas'O attempt to draw the enemy from their defenses, and then destroy components of the enemy one by one. Costly assaults are considered an unnecessary waste of life and resources, with the general idea that once the enemy is defeated can ground be taken.
Kauyon (Way of the Patient Hunter)
The Kauyon is the more methodical, patient method of neutralizing the enemies of the Tau Empire. This strategy employed by Cadres is similar to the way a Tau hunter traps and kills his prey. A unit is used as bait to lure the enemy into a well-prepared kill zone. When the enemy is brought into this zone, the trap is pounced from all sides. Battlesuits are used to flank the enemy, Kroot assault, and heavy weaponry is fired at tactically important targets.
Mont'Ka (The Killing Blow)
The Tau strategy of the Mont'Ka depends on aggressive troop movement and direct attacks on key tactical targets and is the more aggressive of the two Tau strategies. Tau Battlesuits, Fire Warriors mounted in Devilfish APCs and Hammerhead Gunships are the key components for success when this strategy is adopted by Tau Hunter Cadres. This method is a highly mobile form of warfare, intended to knock the enemy off-balance in a quick and brutal fashion.
A Fire Caste warrior starts his military career as a Shas'saal, roughly equivalent to a cadet in Imperial military terms. After completing his training, the Fire Warrior becomes a Line Trooper, or Shas'la. Passing a Trial By Fire is the only way for a Fire Warrior to increase his rank. Shas'ui are veteran warriors, and act as Sergeants or Team Leaders for Fire Warrior Teams. Sha'ui are granted the privilege of piloting a Tau Battlesuit. Fire Warriors either the rank of Shas'vre serve the bodyguards of the Shas'el, the officers who serve as Tau battlefield commanders. They are proven Battlesuit pilots and are loyal to their Shas'el. Shas'el are the field commanders of Tau units in combat, and direct the battle at a tactical as well as strategic level, making them equivalent to Imperial Guard colonels or regimental commanders. Shas'o serve as the highest ranking military officers in the Tau Empire. They can be considered to be equivalent to Lord Generals in the Imperial Guard and entire Fire Warrior Hunter Cadres are theirs to command. Commander Farsight, a renegade Fire Caste commander and Tau hero (depending on one's perspective) was of this rank. A Shas'el can only advance to Shas'o after repeated success in the fire of battle, to establish the strategic and tactical brilliance demanded by the Fire Caste. After the Fire Warrior has gained the Shas'o rank, he is allowed to leave the military and retire, perhaps to the paradise worlds of the Empire.
Tau Fire Warriors wear a standard-issue combat uniform, armour and equipment that is common to all members of the Fire Caste when they are in the field. Their body armour is constructed in two layers. The outer face is a hard, ultra-dense nanocrystalline metal, bonded to an inner layer of high-performance, thermo-set, molecular polyethene. The inner layer of the armour acts as a form of energy-absorbent padding for the dispersal of impact energy from kinetic or directed energy weapons. This helps blunt trauma effects from high-velocity impacts. The highly advanced materials used in the armour's construction are very resilient to penetration and are quite lightweight compared to more conventional materials used by the Imperium of Man like Plasteel. The construction techniques are unknown to the Adeptus Mechanicus as they are forbidden from investigating dangerous alien technology by the Ordo Xenos of the Inquisition. The elongated and thickened left shoulder plate acts as an additional protective shield, especially when the Fire Warrior is kneeling with the weapon at his shoulder, covering that side of the warrior's body with extra armour. The Fire Warrior pictured here proclaims his allegiance to his species' homeworld of T'au by carrying the symbol of that Sept of the Tau Empire on his left shoulder plate and chest.
It is thought that the distinctive domed Tau combat helmet includes many different tactical systems. Communication equipment, night vision sensors, targeting and range-finder information and access to the command communications network for his unit. It is believed that the helmet also includes some form of digital visual relay uplink so that Tau commanders can see what each of their warriors is experiencing, but this remains uncomfirmed. The markings on the helmet pictured here are rank insignia, indicating that this Fire Warrior is of the rank of Shas'ui, broadly equivalent to that of a platoon Sergeant in the Imperial Guard.
This Tau Fire Warrior's personal weapon is a Pulse Carbine, which is a short-barelled, more lightweight version of the standard Tau Pulse Rifle, which is issued to scout units and for use during special operations. The carbine sacrifices the Pulse Rifle's range for greater portability and is especially useful at close quarters. Like the Pulse Rifle, the Pulse Carbine generates an electromagnetic induction field which is used to propel subatomic particles through the weapon's barrel. The particles react to the field by breaking down into a highly-energetic plasma state, referred to as a pulse. Power is provided by a power cell, which must be replaced after 50 shots are fired. Tau power cells are a standard fit for all Tau weapons. A Pulse Carbine includes an under-slung Photon Grenade Launcher as standard-issue. The single-shot Photon Grenade Launcher fires a standard-issue Photon Grenade over a short distance. The Pulse Rifle and Pulse Carbine also mounts a remote thermal sight, which combines with the weapon's advanced stabilisers and recoil reduction to make it highly accurate during aimed fire. Most Fire Warriors' only other weapon besides their Pulse Rifle is a Bonding Knife. Not intended for actual use in combat, this ceremonial knife is a symbol that the warrior and his unit have performed the Ta'lissera ritual and that all the members of the unit are bonded together as one. It is a rite of deep significance to the Fire Caste as they pledge themselves to fight together to the last of their number. A common Fire Caste saying is "Only in death are the bonded parted." As well as the knife itself, the Fire Warriors of a bonded unit often stencil the symbol of the Bonding Knife on their armour. On this Fire Warrior, it is present on the right thigh guard.
From a Fire Warrior's belt hangs a sensor unit. The purpose of this device remans unknown to the Imperium, although since it is commonly issued to Tau unit leaders it is believed to be some form of sensor or tracking technology. Hanging from the webbing braces of the pictured Fire Warrior are two pouches intended to hold additional Pulse Rife power cells and two smaller signal flare pellets. These are believed to be used for visual communication or as a back-up to radio wave communications for marking a Tau unit's location. The standard-issue webbing belt contains pouches for extra power cells and a container for Photon Grenades. These can be armed and thrown by hand or loaded into the Pulse Rifle or Pulse Carbine's Grenade Launcher. A Photon Grenade is primarily used as a defensive weapon, detonating with a powerful sonic blast and multi-spectrum light that is intended to dazzle and disorientate the enemy. Although non-lethal, the effects can be severe and long-lasting. Many Tau Fire Warriors are also issued with Electromagentic Pulse (EMP) Grenades. These weapons emit a brief but powerful electromagnetic pulse that overloads electronic circuitry, causing melt-downs and malfunctions. EMP Grenades cannot be fired from the Pulse Rifle or Pulse Carbine's Photon Grenade Launcher and must be thrown manually.
The Fire Warrior's one-piece coveralls are fabriacted from a composite nanocular thread, which has a microscopic, super-dense mass of fibres that help prevent projectile punctures and slashing penetrations, while still remaining felxible for easy movement. The material the fatigues are fabricated from is also chemically treated to retard flames and the effects of most toxic gases and chemicals. The fatigues are hard-wearing and suitable for use in most planetary environments. They can be issued in a variety of colours or camoufalge patterns.
The Fire Warrior pictured here also carries a bulky container believed to be a water evaporator and storage unit. Every Tau infantry unit was issued one for the Taros Campaign in 998.M41 on the Desert World of Taros, to provide an emergency level of water in the arid desert conditions prevalent on that Imperial Mining World. A Tau's physiological ability to resist the effects of dehydration are unknown at present, but are believed by the Mechanicus' Magos Biologis to be far in excess of that of humans, given that the Tau evolved on an arid homeworld.
Tau technology is among the most advanced of any starfaring species in the galaxy, behind that utilised by the Eldar and the Necrons. Each Fire Warrior is armed with the Pulse Rifle and a ceremonial Tau Bonding Knife. Basic Fire Warrior armour includes shoulder plates, thigh guards, chest guard, a helmet, and vambraces. The helmet provides infra-red capability, displays remaining ammo, and the status of the suit of armor as a whole. Fire warriors may also equip themselves with a smaller Pulse Carbine, a weapon that, despite its less-efficient practical combat range compared to the Rifle, has a slower, but more stable firing rate. In addition to this the Pulse Carbine has an under slung grenade launcher, that fires photon grenades to disorientate enemies.
Fire Warriors also have the ability to call indirect missile fire from projectile platforms in the form of Sky Ray and Hammerhead Gunships, to handle enemy armour. Pathfinders also have hardwired beams that upload battle information to Team Leaders and Tau vehicle commanders, greatly increasing their battle accuracy.
Veteran Fire Warriors of the 'vre and 'el rank are armoured in Tau Battlesuits. These suits of powered armour provide a significant increase in maneuverability thanks to hardwired jet packs, while also increasing the flexibility of the trooper due to hardwired fire points. Lighter suits also have the ability to use shield that disrupts the outline of the trooper, effectively making him invisible. With their Battlesuits, Fire Warriors can mount heavier weaponry, and stabilisers built into these Battle Suits allow this weaponry to be fired while moving. The weaponry of a Battlesuit trooper is diverse, allowing him to engage a wide spectrum of enemies, from heavily armoured Adeptus Astartes to the main battle tanks of the Imperial Guard.
As the scientists of the Tau Earth Caste do not consider science and technology to be elements of the sacred like the Tech-priests of the Adeptus Mechanicus, Tau plasma weaponry is highly advanced. It does not suffer from a tendency to overheat like Imperial plasma weapons,and so can be fired without endangering the user. However, Tau plasma weaponry has a slower rate of fire than its Imperial equivalents.
Jet technology is used extensively by the Tau Empire and this is reflected in the vehicles available to the warriors of the Fire Caste. Devilfish APCs, Skyrays, Hammerheads, Piranhas, Gun Drones and Tau Battlesuits use this technology as a form of propulsion, allowing teams of Fire Warriors to deploy rapidly and Tau gunships to hover across the battlefield.
Rail Gun technology is also extensively used by the military forces of the Tau Empire. The Hammerhead Gunship's main turret weapon is a Rail Gun, while Tau starships are equipped with extremely powerful Rail Cannons that can punch through conventional Ceramite armour like toilet tissue. The Earth Caste also dabbled with the development of man-portable Rail Gun technology, but field tests exhibited dangerous risks to the user, overheating the Fire Warrior helmet HUD because the power source for these Rail Rifles was too unstable for a hand-held weapon system. Improved Rail Gun technology has allowed Tau Pathfinders the use of Rail Rifles that are used as sniper weapons.
- Codex: Tau (3rd Edition)
- Codex: Tau Empire (4th Edition)
- Deathwatch: Core Rulebook (RPG), pp. 328-333 (see in particular section on Inquisitor Adrielle Quist concerning Imperial desire to acquire more advanced Tau technology)
- Deathwatch: Rites of Battle (RPG), pp. 228-232
- Games Workshop: Specialist Games Catalogue, pg. 101
- Imperial Armour Volume Three - The Taros Campaign, pg. 80-81
- The Art of Warhammer 40,000, pp. 202-209
- Fire Warrior (Novel) by Simon Spurrier