An Ion Cannon is an Tau Ion Weapon that is capable of engaging enemies at extremely long ranges with high energy ion streams; vaporising flesh and metal with equal ease. These high-energy particles are accelerated by an electromagnetic field and react explosively with the target as a result of direct transfer of energy at an atomic level. The Ion Cannon was developed during the Tau Empire's early expansions into space, and it is a large weapon most commonly found as a primary turret weapon on Hammerhead gunships, though numerous other Tau aircraft and voidships also make use of Ion Cannons. The Ion Cannon was developed using the Ion Weapon technology acquired as part of a fruitful alliance between the Syrr'Tok Brotherhood of the Demiurg and the Water Caste of the Dal'yth Sept.
An Ion Cannon is most commonly deployed as a primary turret weapon for a Hammerhead gunship in place of a Railgun. Whilst an Ion Cannon lacks the raw power of the latter armament, it makes up for it with its higher rate of fire. Extremely effective against foes such as power-armoured Space Marines and light vehicles, an Ion Cannon is more than capable of vaporising all but the most heavily armoured of infantry and vehicles. Tau aircraft also commonly make use of Ion Cannons as primary armaments, with Barracuda air superiority fighters deploying a nose-mounted and pilot-aimed Ion Cannon as their primary dogfighting and ground attack weapon. Tiger Sharks are primarily armed with twin-linked Ion Cannons for use in a ground-strafing role, and both Morays and Mantas make use of batteries of networked Ion Cannons as part of their standard armaments.
During the Tau Empire's Third Sphere Expansion, the discovery of a Mor'tonium power source allowed for further development on the Ion Cannon design. Now, as with all Tau Ion Weapons, an Ion Cannon's design allows for the weapon to be overcharged by exposing the reactive Mor'tonium power source to the environment, though this also exposes the vehicle to the dangerous ionising radiation emitted by the Mor'tonium, and risks overloading the primary power cells. Overcharging an Ion Cannon allows it to generate a wide, explosive blast with increased damage compared to its normal fire mode, allowing it to vaporise entire squads in a single salvo.
Many Tau voidships are armed with larger versions of the Ion Cannon, and utilise them in a role similar to that of the Imperial Lance. As a voidship weapon, an Ion Cannon's beam vaporises the object struck, magnifying the overall energy discharge.
Long-Barrelled Ion CannonEdit
A Long-Barrelled Ion Cannon is a variant of a Ion Cannon that, as the name implies, features an extended barrel length, providing the weapon system with greatly enhanced range. A Tau Manta mounts three twin-linked Long-Barrelled Ion Cannons in its wings, and uses them to unleash devastating saturation barrages upon enemy forces.
Tri-axis Ion CannonEdit
A rapid-firing, multi-chambered variant of the standard Ion Cannon whose firepower is unmatched for its size in the Tau arsenal, a Tri-axis Ion Cannon is designed to reap through enemy formations. It can adjust its power levels and rate of fire to deal with light vehicles or heavy armour with precisely controlled lethality. Currently, this weapon is only found deployed on KX139 Ta'unar Supremacy Armour as its arm weapons.
- Battlefleet Gothic: Armada, pg. 159
- Codex: Tau Empire (3rd Edition), pg. 19
- Codex: Tau Empire (4th Edition), pg. 30
- Codex: Tau Empire (6th Edition), pp. 49, 50
- Imperial Armour Volume Three – The Taros Campaign, pp. 194, 201, 208
- Imperial Armour Aeronautica, pp. 58-59, 62
- Battlefleet Gothic Magazine 19, pg. 9
- Forge World - Tri-axis Ion Cannon