- "A mightier shoal of predators I have never seen; all grace and measured fury."
- — Shas'ui Kais, Fire Caste, referring to a squadron of Hammerheads
The Hammerhead gunship is the anti-gravitic main battle tank of the Tau Empire. First encountered by the Imperium of Man during the Damocles Gulf Crusade, it has since been deployed in almost all campaigns against the enemies of the Tau.
Like a hungry predator on the prowl, the Hammerhead gunship is a menacing sight. It skims over a planet's surface with its massive turret-mounted main gun swivelling back and forth to track potential targets. The Hammerhead gunship is the main battle tank of the Tau, and all enemies who have encountered it quickly grow to respect, if not outright fear, the might of its main armament -- the dreaded Railgun.
The Railgun is a linear accelerator that uses super-conductive electrodes to project a solid shot at hypersonic speeds. The vast kinetic energy generated by the round on impact has devastating effects, even at long ranges. The Hammerhead can also carry sophisticated submunitions -- a shot full of smaller projectiles used for suppressive area fire against soft targets. For close ranged protection, the Hammerhead often carries a pair of Gun Drones, although at need, these can be switched to full artificial intelligence (AI) mode and detached from the tank to carry out their own mission. Some Hammerheads do not carry a Railgun as their main weapon, but instead use the Ion Cannon -- a unique Tau innovation that shoots an ionic beam, which explodes upon contact with its target. Ideal for use against light vehicles and heavily armoured infantry, the Ion Cannon can also be overcharged; while this risks a dangerous overload, it results in a larger blast capable of destroying even more targets.
It is common to find at least a few Hammerheads deployed in support of Fire Warrior Teams. Although well-armoured, the Hammerhead is most often kept at a distance to take advantage of the superior range of its weapons. There are many accounts of single Hammerheads demolishing enemy armour with almost contemptuous ease. Although the Hammerhead gunship performs well in a tank duel, the combined arms approach of the Tau armed forces' requires much more from their main battle tank than just anti-armour capability. It was the legendary Commander Puretide who said, "Even the most rampant horde attack can be broken through application of firepower" and the submunitions blasts of the Railgun can rip enough bloody gap in charging formations to halt an incoming WAAAGH! or mash an entire wave of lesser Tyranids. Fire Warrior and Pathfinder Teams often work closely with Hammerheads, mutually supporting each other and frequently using Marker Lights to guide the gunships' powerful shots towards priority targets.
During the Damocles Crusade, the Hammerhead gained a particularly fearsome reputation amongst the Imperial Guard. Entire armoured companies were destroyed before they could close with the Tau battle lines, and whole offensives were transformed into fields of wreckage by the formidable Hammerhead gunship. Not to be denied their advance, the humans massed their remaining armour and sent them all against the Tau line, seeking to overwhelm them with sheer numbers. But the Tau are veterans of many a battle with the Orks, and they were well-accustomed to such horde tactics; the Imperial tanks were met by well-placed Armoured Interdiction Cadres -- formations of Hammerheads and Sky Rays. Although outnumbered at least five to one, the superior range and armour penetrating ability of the Hammerhead -- along with its ability to quickly reposition into cover or advance into a better firing position -- more than made up the difference. By the campaign's end, the Imperial Guard tank regiments were utterly demoralised as they grimly calculated their low odds of survival; they would never leave cover without first thoroughly scanning the horizon for the Hammerhead's distinctive shape.
In the Taros Campaign, Hammerhead gunships were used to their full potential in desert warfare, engaging Leman Russ Tanks from extreme distances with the aid of forward Pathfinder and Stealthsuit teams before withdrawing. Many new weapon variants were also identified on Taros; and as such, the Hammerhead saw use in all aspects of armoured warfare.
In the Canis Salient of the Achilus Crusade now seeking to reclaim the Jericho Reach for the Imperium of Man, Imperial Guard tank divisions have suffered great losses due to the mobility and sheer firepower of the Hammerhead.
The overall design of the Hammerhead is based off the ubiquitous Devilfish chassis, which consists of a sleek and light design powered by complex dual anti-gravitic and jet-propulsion motive systems so that a Hammerhead almost glides over a planet's surface. The anti-gravitic engines generate "cushions" of air which the Hammerhead floats upon, and its armoured bulk is then driven forwards by its two powerful multi-directional jet engines mounted on the rear sides of the hull. By pivoting the propulsion units downwards, a Hammerhead pilot can gain extra lift to clear the many obstacles and terrain that often litters a battlefield; obstacles that more mundane tracked vehicles can never hope to traverse. These jet engines are reliable and efficient compared to Imperial designs, but are still relatively noisy. There are also two lift fins mounted on the front of the tank, each with a recess to house a weapon system or a Gun Drone.
Most of the space within the tank is taken up by capacitors for its weapon systems, additional ammunition, and non-combat systems such as climate control and communications. As such, it cannot carry troops. The Hammerhead is manned by three crew members, which include the pilot, the secondary pilot who controls the tank's many sensors, communications and navigational secondary systems, and the commander who controls the main turreted gun system. Override systems are also in place inside the Hammerhead to allow any crew member to take over another's role in case of casualties. A Hammerhead gunship's primary sensors are located in an array under the tank's forward housing in the vehicle's nose.
The vehicle also features a hatch on each side along with a door in the rear to allow the crew inside to disembark if necessary. The armour of the vehicle is made from a dense nano-crystalline metal, named Fio'tak in the Tau Lexicon, that is light, malleable, strong and corrosive resistant, reducing the weight of the vehicle whilst also providing excellent protection.
The Hammerhead is an extremely efficient main battle tank design. It has a well-earned reputation as a tank killer when it is armed with a Railgun. However, it can be equipped for a variety of tactical roles ranging from anti-infantry to eliminating specialised targets such as heavily armoured enemy combat walkers. It is common to find at least a few Hammerheads deployed in support of Fire Warrior teams. Although well armoured, a Hammerhead is most often kept at a distance to take advantage of the superior range of its weapons. There have been many accounts of Hammerheads demolishing enemy armour with almost contemptuous ease.
Although a Hammerhead gunship performs well in tank duels, the combined arms approach of the Tau requires much more from their main battle tank than just anti-armour capability. It was the legendary Commander Puretide who said “Even the most rampant horde attack can be broken through application of firepower”, and the submunition blasts of a Railgun can rip enough bloody gaps in charging formations to halt an incoming Ork WAAAGH! or smash an entire wave of lesser Tyranids. Fire Warrior and Pathfinder teams often work closely with Hammerheads; mutually supporting each other and frequently using Marker Lights to guide the gunship's powerful shots towards priority targets.
- Armoured Interdiction Cadre – The Tau’s expertise in anti-gravitic technology means that their armoured vehicles are swift yet well-protected. An Armoured Interdiction Cadre is a force composed of vehicles chosen to deal with enemy formations that do not specialise in anti-armour weaponry. Using their speed, an Armoured Interdiction Cadre will manoeuvre to concentrate its firepower on its target, trusting in its armour to protect it against return fire. The vehicles of the Cadre are networked together with an interactive tactical control system, allowing the Shas’el or Shas’o commander that supervises the Cadre in the command tank to direct fire quickly and efficiently. An Armoured Interdiction Cadre will usually be comprised of a number of Hammerhead and Sky Ray gunships.
- Hammerhead Interdiction Cadre - The Hammerhead Interdiction Cadre is perfectly suited to dealing with enemy formations that lack effective anti-tank capabilities. Using their speed, a Hammerhead Interdiction Cadre is able to manoeuvre to concentrate its firepower on the target, trusting in its armour to protect itself against return fire. The lead vehicle in the formation is fitted with a sophisticated Marker Light targeting array, allowing the commander to supervise the cadre from within his tank, and direct fire quickly and efficiently by designating targets through the Marker Light system. A Hammerhead Interdiction Cadre typically consists of three to five Hammerhead gunships.
A Hammerhead can be mounted with a variety of primary and secondary weapon systems. Primary weapon systems are turret-mounted and can be changed between battles to suit specific missions. Hammerhead primary weapons systems are often extremely powerful in nature, and have been known to include:
- Railgun - Railguns are linear accelerators that use superconductive electrodes to fire projectiles at hyper-velocity speeds. The vast kinetic energy generated by the round on impact often has devastating effects, and is effective against heavily armoured vehicles even at long range. However, a Hammerhead’s Railgun can also fire submunition rounds that consist of a sophisticated bundle of smaller projectiles which can provide suppressive area fire against soft targets such as enemy infantry.
- Ion Cannon - Ion Cannons are a unique Tau innovation that fire a stream of high energy particles accelerated by an electromagnetic field. These magnetic particles react explosively with a target on an atomic level. Ideal for use against light vehicles and heavily armoured infantry, an Ion Cannon can also be overcharged; whilst this risks a dangerous overload, it results in a larger blast capable of destroying great numbers of enemies.
- Dual Missile Pod - Hammerhead-mounted Missile Pods fire barrages of the same missiles used in Tau Battlesuit-mounted Missile Pods. They serve a similar role to Ion Cannons, but sacrifice effectiveness against armoured infantry for a chance to impact on larger groups of infantry.
- Twin-linked Plasma Cannon - Tau Plasma Cannons are more powerful and up-scaled versions of Battlesuit-mounted Plasma Rifles. They are primarily used to take down light tanks and heavy infantry, a role they often fulfil with exceptional ease.
- Twin-linked Fusion Cannon - Fusion Cannons are larger versions of the Battlesuit-mounted Fusion Blaster, and fire blasts of Melta energy capable of incinerating vehicle armour and heavy infantry alike. Both the Plasma Cannon and Fusion Cannon-mounted variants of the Hammerhead gunship were first encountered during the Taros Campaign, where they are believed to have first been field-tested.
- Twin-linked Long-Barrelled Burst Cannon - Long-Barrelled Burst Cannons utilise the same technology as Battlesuit-mounted Burst Cannons. However, the long-barrelled version used on the Hammerhead is more powerful and has a far longer range. Hammerheads equipped with long-barrelled Burst Cannons often excel at mowing down infantry hordes.
Secondary weapons are mounted in the front recesses of the vehicle and are primarily deployed to provide anti-infantry fire support. The vehicle's secondary weapons can include one of the following:
- Twin-linked Burst Cannon - Burst Cannons provide rapid-firing suppressive anti-infantry fire, acting as a self-defence weapon that can also be used to complement the fire of supporting squads.
- Gun Drones – Hammerheads can be armed with two Gun Drones which ride with the vehicle in specially designed recesses. These Gun Drones are able to lend to their Hammerhead an additional weight of fire, or can detach themselves and move off independently to perform missions of their own.
- Twin-linked Smart Missile System - A Smart Missile System fires swarms of self-guided missiles, each with a built-in Drone intelligence so they can hunt down targets that could not normally be seen or targeted.
Vehicle Support SystemsEdit
All Hammerhead Gunships are equipped with a Targeting Array as standard. These are sophisticated electronic targeting systems that assist the gunners' aim in firing upon enemy targets. Also, as with all other Tau skimmercraft based off the Devilfish chassis, Hammerheads are equipped with built-in landing gear to allow the vehicle to land on the ground if needed; either in the case of failure of the thrusters, or for when the vehicle is simply at rest and deactivated. Hammerhead gunships can also be equipped with any of the following Tau vehicle support systems:
- Automated Repair System - Automated Repair Systems consist of dispensers which release tiny maintenance Drones which swarm over damaged weapon and drive systems, repairing them in the midst of battle.
- Advanced Targeting System - An Advanced Targeting System assists the vehicle's gunner by identifying targets of particular value or danger, and plotting fire plans to counter them.
- Blacksun Filter - Blacksun Filters allow the vehicle's gunners to accurately see and target enemies in low-light conditions.
- Decoy Launchers - Decoy Launchers are a form of defensive measure that is mounted near the engines. They are capable of firing clouds of reflective strips and sophisticated electronic decoys, which are combined with flare and chaff launchers to protect the tank's thruster arrays from enemy missiles.
- Disruption Pod - Disruption Pods display distorting holographic images in the visual and electromagnetic spectra to make the vehicle harder to target.
- Flechette Discharger - Flechette Dischargers line the hull of the Hammerhead and fire high-velocity flechettes at infantry which try to assault the vehicle.
- Multi-Tracker - A Multi-Tracker consists of advanced stabilisers that allow the vehicle to fire accurately even whilst moving at speed.
- Point Defence Targeting Relay - Designed to provide superior covering fire for nearby Fire Caste units, a Point Defence Targeting Relay automatically targets and engages enemies that try to assualt the vehicle or nearby friendly units.
- Sensor Spines - Sensor Spines feed data to an advanced ground-following flight control system. This allows the vehicle to avoid hazardous terrain that could otherwise damage the vehicle's drive systems.
- Target Lock - A Target Lock computer automatically identifies potential targets and plots fire plans accordingly. This grants the gunners more choice and accuracy in engaging various targets.
- Seeker Missile – Hammerhead gunships can also optionally have up to two Seeker Missiles in addition to their primary and secondary armaments. Each Seeker Missile is most effective when fired and guided by Marker Lights.
Ordo Xenos Departmento Analyticus Technical SpecificationsEdit
|Serial Number||85673-9083119||Main Armament||Twin-linked Burst Cannons|
|Vehicle Codename||Hammerhead||Secondary Armament||
Smart Missile System
|Crew||3: Pilot, Co-pilot, and Commander||Traverse||360°|
|Weight||24 tonnes||Elevation||+28° to -10°|
|Width||6.8 metres||Armour Type||Nano-Crystalline Alloy
Composition Unknown to the Adeptus Mechanicus
|Max Recorded Speed||70 kilometres per hour|
|Summary:||Frontline Battle Tank; Main Armament also includes Ion Cannon, Railgun, Missile Pods, Fusion Cannons, Plasma Cannons|
- Apocalypse (4th Edition), pg. 160
- Apocalypse Warzone: Damocles, pg. 59
- Codex: Tau (3rd Edition), pg. 31
- Codex: Tau Empire (4th Edition), pg. 41
- Codex: Tau Empire (6th Edition), pp. 50, 103
- Deathwatch - Rites of Battle (RPG), pg 194
- Imperial Armour Volume Three - The Taros Campaign, pp. 158, 294