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This page describes the various Imperial military technologies used by the Imperial armed forces in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. Sometimes considered to be covered by the term "wargear" which also includes weapons as well as the less lethal technologies described below, this equipment is grouped according to the appropriate category. With the evolution of the Warhammer 40,000 setting over some 20 years, many types of equipment have been described in the various editions of the game. Some of these are no longer in use in the most current editions. Whenever appropriate, the history of the weapon is described, including some of the more notable units that are known to carry that weapon. Imperial armaments, weapons and vehicles have their own, separate pages.
The Imperium of Man is an immense, galaxy-spanning empire. There are several armed branches of the Imperium's military and police forces, and much of their equipment is common to multiple branches. The armed forces of the Imperium include, but are not limited to the Space Marines, the Imperial Guard, the Adeptus Mechanicus, the three Ordos of the Inquisition, the Adeptus Arbites and the Orders Militant of the Adepta Sororitas, better known as the Sisters of Battle.
Mesh Armour is a bodysuit usually made from carbon-ceramic polyfibres. Phased out of use by the Imperial Guard in the 31st Millennium, its use is — and always was — far more common among the hive gangs on the major hive worlds. The gangs preferred to use Mesh Armour for personal protection as all a ganger needed to make a suit was a powered nanoloom, water, and some powdered bone.
Cheap and easy to produce, flak armour comprises several layers of ablative thermoplast materials and impact absorbent carbon fibres. Flak armour is usually designed as a vest or a sleeveless jacket which covers the upper torso. Useful for protection against shrapnel and low calibre weaponry, the flak jacket is the standard issue personal armour of most Imperial Guard regiments.
Comprised of rigid plates made of armaplas or ceramite, carapace armour is made up of plates that are moulded to fit the wearer.Usually a carapace suit will cover the torso and major joints with separate plates for the limbs along with a helmet, although it is also available in full body-suit form. Most wearers are in a relatively fit condition compared to other flak-wearing troopers, due to the armour being so heavy.It can realistically be expected to stop a large variety of mid-range weaponry. During periods of relative peace, and during training exercises, some Space Marines will don carapace suits -- such garb befits a Space Marine during times of wait. Space Marines Scouts are allowed access to carapace armour as they are not yet worthy enough to wear power armour and their Black Carapace has yet to have grown in so they are unable to properly interface with the armour. Carapace armour is also used by Imperial Guard Stormtroopers, Kasrkin squads and some regiments of high-tech Imperial Guard.
Possibly the most prominent feature of the Space Marines is their Power Armour, a suit of ceramite plates with artificial myo-fibre bundles and mechanical servos that replicate the wearer's movements and enhances a Space Marine's already superhuman strength, as well as allows them to easily withstand environmental conditions and enemy fire that would kill a normal human. The suit is directly linked to the nervous system of the Space Marines via the Astartes' Black Carapace implant. There are eight known versions of Power Armour to have been used by the Space Marines throughout Imperial history.
- Mk I Thunder Pattern Power Armour; the first power armour created for the Space Marines. It was developed from the armour worn by the techno-barbarians that plagued Holy Terra near the end of the Age of Strife. It was used during the Emperor's campaign to retake and unite the Terran solar system before the Great Crusade. It was by no means unique to the first Space Marines - in fact, the techno-barbarian warriors the Emperor fought during the conquest of Terra wore it too, and the Emperor's forces were wearing it even before the first Space Marines were developed. However, because it was designed with Earth-fighting in mind, it is not fully enclosed, with no means to support the wearer in a vacuum. Only the upper body is powered, due in part to the fact that during the Conquest of Terra, ranged weapons were difficult to make due to technological constraints, and so a warrior's upper-body strength was his most important asset. It takes its name from the thunder symbol the Emperor had before adopting the double headed eagle.
- Mk II Crusade Pattern Power Armour; was developed towards the end of the Age of Strife and was used during the dawn of the Imperium during the Emperor's Great Crusade to retake the lost worlds of man. It was designed as a fully enclosed suit with life-sustaining systems that now allowed the Space Marines to fight in deep space and on alien worlds with hostile atmospheres or environments. The armour was made up of circular armour rings fitted under and over each other, making this armour relatively simple to repair (similar in principle to the Lorica segmentata used by the legions of the Roman Empire). These precious relics are still used during ceremonial procedures by some Chapters and given to champions as battle armour in others. These suits are also referred to as Crusader Armour.
- Mk III Iron Pattern Power Armour; it was soon realised that fighting in the tight corridors of spaceships was very dangerous. The Iron suit was designed to give greater protection to the Marines. The frontal armour was much thicker (thereby giving greater protection), but the rear armour was thinner to compensate. The wedge-shaped helmet (designed to deflect incoming fire) formed the basis of the distinctive Corvus beak helmet.
- Mk IV Maximus Pattern Power Armour; this armour was to be the replacement for the old Mk2 armour of the Great Crusade; it was the first armour to incorporate many components used in modern armour. However, it was made from rare alien materials, and when the Horus Heresy broke out soon after it was issued, it was discovered that most Legions cut off from supplies could not find the materials needed to make it or repair it, and they often suffered irreparable damage by relatively minor battles.
- Mk V Heresy Pattern Power Armour; this armour was developed as a solution to the supply problems of the Horus Heresy. It was easily made from the most basic of materials, and it was easy to maintain. Almost all soldiers used spikes to hold the armour layers together, making the studs shown universally on all examples of this armour. In time, it became traditional for the studs to be found on the head, lower legs, and left shoulderpad of the armour. Due to the sub-standard materials used in the construction of this armour variant, it had a tendency to over-heat quickly, and many Marines had to endure sub-standard performance by turning down the power output of their backpack to prevent intolerable heat build-ups.
- Mk VI Corvus Pattern Power Armour; this classic variant can be traced back to the time of the Horus Heresy and is still commonly used in contemporary Chapters. It is characterized by the beak-like muzzle on the helmet and a studded auto-reactive shoulder plate on the left shoulder of the armour. The beak or muzzle led fans to nickname this variant "Womble armour" or "Beakie armour", and a dictionary of the Orkish language in the 2nd Edition Ork Codex listed Marines as "beakies". This was the style of the first Space Marine models released by Games Workshop and did not get its Mk6 terminology until after models with the Mark 7 styling were released. Models with this style were not part of new releases until the launch of the next range of 28 mm plastic models.
- Mk VII Aquila Pattern Power Armour (also known as Imperator armour) is the contemporary variant most commonly used by the Space Marine Chapters. Characterized by the grim looking Vox Caster (external vocalizer) on the faceplate, and the plastron displaying the Imperialis (a winged skull), which has given the armour different names such as Armorum Imperator or Eagle Armour ("Aquila" being the name of the two-headed eagle which symbolizes the Imperium). A variant of the Aquila helmet is known to exist, yet is no different from the regular helmet, save an armoured trim around the external vocalizer.
- Mk VIII Errant Pattern Power Armour; this is an update to the Aquila pattern armour, and is distinguished by a raised collar at the front and armoured plating for the torso power cables. Full versions of this armour are almost never seen; however, it is common to find parts of it being used by Astartes officers and Veterans on the battlefield.
One design feature of Mks VI through VIII is their adaptability; it is fairly common within most Space Marine Chapters to see a suit combining parts originally created for three or four suits, salvaged from dead brothers on the battlefield. Mk VII armour, in particular, was created with this simple modularity in mind.
The Sisters of Battle and several high-ranking members of the Inquisition also use power armour, but they are not directly linked to their suits in the way Space Marines are, which decreases the armour's effectiveness.
Space Marine Techmarines may choose to craft a suit of power armour of extraordinary quality; such suits are referred to as Artificer Armour. Artificer Armour is crafted from the finest materials and with the utmost care. Due to this attention to detail Artificer Armour provides more protection than normal power armor but does not suffer the compromise of lessened mobility, like Terminator Armour. It is often highly decorated and embellished with ornamentation and devotional scripts. Most Techmarines wear Artificer Armour of their own crafting; it's construction a final test of their acquired skills following their tutelage under the Adeptus Mechanicus on Mars. Artificer Armour is kept in the Chapter Armoury as a reward for devoted service by a veteran marine, or as standard equipment for specialized position in the chapter. In-game Artificer armour is available to any model with access to the armory.
Tactical Dreadnought ('Terminator') Armour was developed for close-quarters fighting, where staying power was more important than maneuverability. The technology was originally developed to enable maintenance crews of space ships to operate in hard vacuum or in other adverse conditions. It was combined with power armour technology and brought about the invention of Terminator armour during the Great Crusade. It was hoped that it would replace power armour, but was relegated to its current role due to a lack of maneuverability.
It is manufactured from a ceramite plasteel alloy as an exoskeleton with servo assisted interfaces with the users own neurological and muscular systems to enhance movement. It is the heaviest armour in any Imperial arsenal, is able to withstand tremendous punishment, and serves as a solid heavy-weapons platform in open-field combat. The First Company of most Space Marine Chapters uses Terminator Armour extensively, and only those Marines who earn the Crux Terminatus are permitted to wear it. It is also said that a piece of the Emperor's own armour that he wore during the final battle with Horus is built into the "Crux Terminatus" but if this is true, in order to put a piece of the relic into each suit of Terminator Armour ever made, only the tiniest slivers of the sacred artefact is put within. Less frequently, high ranking members of the Inquisition have been known to wear Terminator armour. Notably, members of the Ordo Malleus can be seen wearing such suits.
An Auspex is a general term for handheld scanning devices used by squad leaders and officers in all Imperial fighting forces to survey friendly and enemy positions and to gain information on surrounding terrain and buildings. Generally they have a series of antennae and a small liquid crystal display screen, though some appear to have the ability to link with orbital sensory systems on space stations and Imperial Navy starships equipped with more powerful sensors.
Bionics are mechanical replacements for injured or missing body parts. These can vary from subtle augmentations designed to replace damaged limbs or organs to radical alterations of the human body. Techpriests of the Adeptus Mechanicus often replace at least one of their organic limbs with bionic ones or augment their bodies with various entirely new cybernetic appendages like servo arms or Mechadendrites.
Cameleoline is a special fabric often used in camouflage attire by special forces of the Imperium. It changes colour to their surroundings, helping the wearer to hide.
Frenzon is a collective term for a cocktail of psychoactive drugs injected into a recipient (willing or unwilling) in order to manipulate their psychological state. They are only used by a few Imperial units.
Jump Packs are bulky, vectored thrust engines that can be worn by a single soldier, designed to be attached to the Space Marine's, Sisters of Battle's and Chaos Space Marine's existing powered backpack. They are used to make powered jumps across the battlefield, allowing the troopers wearing them to quickly engage their foes. Jump Packs are thus used by assault troops, primarily the Assault Marines of the Space Marine Chapters, and the Seraphim of the Sisters of Battle. Jump Pack-equipped infantry are often dropped from low-flying Thunderhawk Gunships and deep strike into combat, as the Jump Pack also functions as a makeshift anti-gravity parachute.
Varying from containing a simple first aid kit to a full diagnostic computer and a suite of sophisticated drugs and synthetic flesh, the med-pack generally helps a medic to heal wounded or ill troopers in a battlezone. Sometimes in particularly vicious and dangerous warzones, medics will have to scrounge for medical supplies and beg for the necessary drugs from aid stations and passing Munitorum cargo transports.
The Narthecium is a med-kit/med-pack used by Space Marine Apothecaries and are fully automated units. They carry drugs and equipment that are geared to repairing the hardier constitution of a Space Marine, and thus can be dangerous to use on normal humans. A Narthecium also includes a Reductor, an instrument which allows the Apothecary to withdraw the precious gene-seed from a fallen Space Marine's progenoid glands so that the Astartes' gene-seed returns to his Chapter.
Sisters of Battle Hospitallers have a scaled-down version of the Space Marine Narthecium, usable on normal human anatomy - and, in the service of the Inquisition, for torture. Many an Imperial servant has had reason to thank the gentle touch of the Hospitaller, and many an Imperial enemy has had bad experiences with this 'gentleness'.
A servo-arm is a special tool used by members of the Adeptus Mechanicus to assist them in repairing mechanical equipment. They can also be used to great effect in close combat, being roughly as effective as a Power Fist.
The refractor field is a common sight amongst Imperial Guard regimental officers and other less elite Imperial organisations. The refractor field confers reasonable protection against most attacks, though less than styles of conversion fields. When issued to Imperial Guard officers the circuitry for a refractor field is often enclosed in a gorget mounted below the officer's neckline.
The Rosarius is a powerful conversion field generator issued to Space Marine Chaplains and members of the Eccleisiarchy and Inquisition. A conversion field by its very nature provides much greater protection than a refractor field, and is thusly a much rarer sight. The most common users of a Rosiarus are Space Marine Chaplains, who are gifted one on a pendant (usually a skull-cross or Imperial Aquila) by the Eccleisiarchy to show the bond between the latter organisation and the Adeptus Astartes. Senior priests and Inquisitors can also sometimes be seen wearing one of these pendants.
As an aside, it is notable that the Iron Fathers of the Iron Hands Space Marines - who embody a combined function of Chaplains and Techmarines - are gifted a Rosiarus not by the Eccleisiarchy but by the Adeptus Mechanicus, showing a stronger bond between the technologically-minded Marines with the latter organisation over the former.
The Iron Halo is a Space Marine relic of which only one generally exists in a Chapter at any one time. It will usually be given to one of the senior Captains or other officers as a reward for exceptional service. Some chapters, like the Dark Angels, issue one to each of their captains. The Iron Halo incorporates a powerful conversion field similar to that used in a Rosiarus (it provides the same level of protection) and is often seen mounted on top of a Marine's backpack.
The Storm Shield is a hand-held shield used by both Space Marines and members of the Inquisition and their Chambers Militant, most commonly seen carried by Terminator Assault Squads in conjunction with the Thunder Hammer. It contains a conversion field of lower strength and smaller size than those used in a Rosiarus or Iron Halo, only providing sufficient area and energy to absorb close-range attacks in melee. A Storm Shield is carried like a normal medium or heavy shield, tying up the bearer's hand and forgoing the use of a second hand weapon.
The combat shield is a cut-down, buckler-style version of the Storm Shield, but it is unclear whether it uses a conversion or refractor field. It is used exclusivley by the Space Marines, and like the Storm Shield is only useful in melee situations. Unlike the Storm Shield however, it does not tie up the user's hand (being strapped to the forearm) and allows the use of a second hand weapon or firearm.
A targeter is a device issued to some elite Imperial Guardsmen and Space Marines. It usually appears as a scope of some sort attached to a firearm.
A device that produces a signal which can be locked onto by teleporting troops, thereby increasing their chances of arriving on-target, as well as the added benefit of increasing their chances of surviving.
An ancient technology dating back well before the Horus Heresy, teleporters are still used by the Imperium, but are considered rare and valuable devices. They are not fully trusted by even the most experienced Imperial commanders, as a malfunction could be fatal. They are used mostly by Space Marines to assist during certain types of assaults. Usually the devices are only present on battleships, as the transport of something even the as small as a human takes immense power. Use of teleporters is almost exclusively the province of Terminators, with a few exceptions given to specialised chapters such as the Grey Knights. One notable instance of teleportation gone horribly wrong was during the Siege of Haddrake Tor, when the ruinous powers of Chaos used sabotage to disrupt the teleport homers of the besieging Imperial Fists' Terminators and caused many of the First Company to be entombed in solid rock, including the Captain of the First Company, Kleitus.
A communications array, similar to a radio, that can be as small as helmet mounted links to massive banks of equipment at the HQ. Usually a squad or platoon will have a link to HQ via one vox unit and vox-beads for trooper-to-trooper communications. Command units usually use more complex versions of vox casters -- known as master voxes. These can receive and transmit on multiple frequencies at once, making them ideal for coordinating many squads simultaneously. In absence of any vox communications, troopers are taught to sign to each other when in battle.
Space Marines and Sisters of Battle (and high ranking members of the Inquisition and Adeptus Mechanicus) have miniature vox-casters built into their power armour (or cranium in the case of the Adeptus Mechanicus). Most of these are short ranged and used only for squad to squad communication.
The Imperial Infantryman's Uplifting Primer
The Imperial Infantryman's Uplifting Primer is a small book issued to all guardsmen in the Imperial Guard that is full of prayers and descriptions of basic tasks an infantryman must perform. Regulations and forms are also part of the book to ensure each trooper has his own book. Troopers are encouraged to read and memorize most of the primer, while disgruntled regiments may refer to these books as "toilet-paper" (and occasionally use them as such). The Primer was published by the Departmento Munitorum, yet some sections appear to be subtle satire against the Imperium itself from a Loyal, yet disgruntled Guardsman, for example the sections on Duty to Commissars.
- The dozer blade is, as its name suggests, a bulldozer shield attached to the front of an armoured vehicle to allow it to move through rough terrain easier. In Imperial Guard armies, they are referred to as rough terrain modification and can take other forms, such as chainsaws attached to hydraulic arms.
- An electro hull is a special modification in Imperial vehicles designed to protect tanks from infantry assaulting it. Electro hulls were present during the second edition of the Warhammer 40,000 game, but were removed from the rules with the release of the third edition.
- Some Imperial vehicles have additional armour plates bolted or welded onto their hulls. These are collectively referred to as extra armour, and minimize the damage and shockwaves suffered by the vehicle and its crew whenever it is hit. In-game, this is represented by minimizing the effect of any damage to the vehicle's crew, allowing it to function in light of potentially-paralyzing hits.
- Found in Imperial Guard armies, improved comms is an upgrade to a vehicle representing improved communications equipment, such as that found in modern battlefield command vehicles.
- A pintle mount is an option to add an anti-personnel weapon to an Imperial vehicle. This weapon is used, either by the vehicle's commander/vereran guardsman or by remote control, to engage secondary targets and immediate threats while the gunner focuses the vehicle's main firepower against enemy armour or major objectives.
- Storm Bolters are the most common weapon used with a pintle mount, although heavy stubbers are also used by the Imperial Guard. The Black Templars deviate significantly from this usage, mounting multi-meltas to their Land Raider Crusaders. The Chaos Legions also use pintle-mounted weapons, usually a combi-bolter, although combi-flamers and combi-meltaguns are also used.
- Searchlights are attachments found on various vehicles of the Imperium.
- Smoke launchers are attachments found on various vehicles of the Imperium.
- Void shields are devices usually employed by warships and Titans of Imperial manufacture (some vehicles now under the power of Chaos still maintain these devices). The void shield or field is a powerful defence system that can stop all but the most powerful weapons. A void shield appears as a shimmering curtain possibly akin to looking at something through a thin layer of water. The circuitry in void shield systems create a strong smell of ozone prior to being activated. Any object coming into contact with the shield once activated is not damaged but makes a sizzling sound. Void shields (on Warhammer 40k Tabletop Titans) currently have an armour value of 12.
- Any objects, unless fired at or striking the shield with phenomenal power simply bounce off or are halted in mid-air. Organic materials, liquids or simply energy with harmful potential (e.g. a laser) are stopped or dissipated. Explosive munitions will detonate on contact. Any object caught in the field when activated is simply sliced in half. For instance, a human body caught in the beam will be sliced in half as if viewed in cross-section and munitions caught in this way are destroyed explosively. This makes the void field deadly, if impractical in offense rather than defensive situations.
- Void shields are usually layered, meaning that a Titan or Starship isn't protected by just a single void shield but by several layers of individual shields. The front shield will absorb the incoming fire until it overloads and collapses, at which point the second layer shield becomes the front shield until it collapses, at which point the third shield becomes the front shield, etc. Meanwhile the tech adepts aboard the Titan or Ship would repair and restart the downed shields and so create a new layer. Theoretically, this means that Titans and Ships are invulnerable unless the enemy can sustain heavy enough firepower to collapse all void shields faster than they can be restarted.
Chaos Space Marines
It should also be noted that much of the weaponry and equipment used by the Chaos Space Marine Legions also come from this list - especially the equipment wielded by Space Marines. Since the Horus Heresy, the Imperium has made some advances in technology; thus much of the Chaos Marines' equipment is of older design, or the Chaos Marines simply have restricted or no access to some of the items listed above.
For example, the Chaos Marines possess plasma weapons - however, their plasma cannons, being much older, are simply too large to be carried by a man; thus they are always vehicle-mounted. Rather than Stormbolters, which were designed around the time of the Heresy, the Chaos Marines possess older combi-bolters - which are essentially two normal bolters combined into a single gun, but the effect is not quite as effective as the Stormbolter. This has, however, given Chaos pintle-mounted combi-bolters a special utility unknown to Imperial vehicles: the weapon can be adapted to consist of a single bolter combined with a single-shot flamer or meltagun.
Further still, the Chaos Marines have extremely limited access to jump packs (which were designed shortly prior to the Heresy), and no access to assault cannons, psycannons or the special ammunition types for bolters (except inferno bolts), as all of these were invented after the Heresy. Furthermore, the psycannon which was developed as an anti-daemonic weapon would be unsuitable for the Chaos Legions as it is anathema to the forces they serve.
However, some equipment is replaced by similar daemonic gear. For example, some Chaos Marines can be seen with mutated wings, which act similar to jump packs. While Chaos Marines do not have Artificer Armour (a type of power armour which is well crafted so that it affords better protection), they can have their armour mutated by the powers of Chaos, creating Daemon Armour, which is similar to Artificer Armour. Lastly, the Iron Warriors Legion is known for salvaging Imperial siege equipment, such as the Space Marine Vindicator.
- Codex: Imperial Guard (2nd Edition)
- Codex: Imperial Guard (4th Edition)
- Codex: Imperial Guard (5th Edition)
- Codex: Space Marines (4th Edition)
- Codex: Space Marines (5th Edition)
- Codex: Space Wolves (5th Edition)
- The Guns of Tanith (Novel) by Dan Abnett