Power Armour is an advanced form of powered combat armour, worn primarily by the Space Marines and the Chaos Space Marines. It is a completely enclosed suit of combat armour composed of shaped Adamantium and Plasteel plates, encased in a Ceramite ablative layer. Each suit possesses a full suite of life-support functions for operation in hostile environments, an automated medicae system to provide some level of first aid to a wounded wearer and a highly advanced and fully integrated tactical targeting and threat analysis system known as Auto-senses. The suit would be heavy and cumbersome to wear but for the electrically motivated fibre bundles within the armour that replicates the wearer's movement and enhances his strength beyond its already considerable superhuman baseline (for Space Marines). Whilst Power Armour is most commonly associated with the Space Marines of the Adeptus Astartes, the Sisters of Battle and many Inquisitors also use powered armour of one sort or another. Typically, however, these armours may not contain the same strength-enhancing properties or life-support functions of Space Marine Power Armour, nor do they always provide the same level of protection.
Power Armour is fully sealed, isolating the wearer from the outside environment and protecting him from chemical and/or biological weapons and toxic atmospheres. It also commonly includes numerous auxiliary systems such as radio frequency communicators, auto-senses, etc. Space Marines go through an arduous process where they receive various biogenetically-engineered implants culminating with the implantation of the Black Carapace which allows the Astartes a direct and instinctual neural interface with his Power Armour, transforming it into effectively a second skin. The advanced systems of Space Marine Power Armour also monitor the Space Marine's biological functions, feeding the collected medical information to the Astartes and, if necessary, to the Chapter's Apothecaries when he is wounded. The armour's backpack contains the suit's main power source -- a sub-atomic microfusion generator and a back-up solar power converter and 100 solar cell batteries to store the absorbed solar energy. The backpack also contains the armour's environmental and life support systems and additional movement stabiliser thrusters for low and zero-gravity combat.
Space Marine Power Armour Technical Specifications
- Mark VII Power Armour - The Space Marine depicted to the right wears a suit of Mark VII Power Armour, sometimes called "Armorum Impetor" or "Aquila Armour", although with this particular set depicted here the Chapter Artificers have replaced the breastplate with one converted to fit from an older suit of Mark V Heresy Pattern armour, with the reintegration of the chest Aquila and the suit's power cables relocated to the interior. All of the marks of Space Marine Power Armour have many variants. Some do not contain all of the original features of that design, while others, as in this case, utilise parts recovered from older marks of armour. Power Armour is usually personalised by each Space Marine who wears it and is always revered as a sacred relic of the Chapter. Suits or parts of suits can be ancient, dating all the way back to the time of the Great Crusade or the Horus Heresy, and are often reused many times. Like all Power Armour, the suit depicted here contains an exoskeletal array of actuators and fibre bundles which replicate the muscular commands via a cybernetic neuronal interface that literally plugs into the wearer's spinal column through the Astartes gene-seed organ implant known as the Black Carapace to his central nervous system. Through this interface, the heavy armour becomes a literal part of the wearer and responds to his movements and mind-impulse controls without adding any encumbrance, despite the armour's weight when inert. Whilst appearing heavy and unwieldy, this Space Marine will experience little weight gain and retains almost his full array of unarmoured movement and agility. The muscle fibre bundles and actuators actually increase the already considerable genetically-enhanced strength of the wearer, allowing him to lift heavier loads or jump greater distances than when not wearing the suit. The outer, armoured layer of this armour consists of shaped Adamantium and Plasteel plates, encased in a Ceramite ablative layer. The armour is shaped to deflect as well as to absorb the energy of incoming blows. The shoulder plates of this suit contain small, auto-responsive plates which burst outwards in a micro-explosion to counteract the energy of an incoming attack and prevent penetration. Beneath the armoured protection lies the internal workings of the suit's life support and combat systems. The armour contains numerous life support systems. The lower back holds a liquid high-protein food store, which when combined with the Space Marine's genetically-enhanced metabolism produces no waste and keeps a Space Marine's body functioning without the need for any other nourishment. During combat, there is no need for this Astartes to stop to eat or drink as the suit provides all of his needed nutrition and hydration. The suit also has its own back-up power supply and a solar array to recharge this supply, meaning the suit can continue to operate for a short time without its backpack. The suit contains a de-tox injector with five doses. This will counteract the effects of most common poisons and other toxins. The injector can also be used for stimulants and, in contravention of Codex Astartes proscriptions, some Chapters have used it to administer combat drugs. The palm of the gauntlets contain sensors to read information from the weapons held in the hands and to pass genetic identification codes to the weapons. Without the proper code, a Space Marine's Bolter or other weapon will not function. The soles of the boots are magnetic, as well as being constructed of a micropore adherent compound, meaning a Space Marine will not slip on even the slickest of surfaces or in zero-gravity. The magnetic function can be turned off or on as needed by the Astartes through his mind-impulse link with the suit.
- Backpack - The main power source for the suit of Power Armour is located in the suit's backpack. This highly-efficient sub-atomic microfusion reactor core provides the power for all internal systems. The suit does contain a reserve power supply and a back-up micro-solar panel array in case of emergencies. The reserve power source can be recharged via the solar panel, and when fully charged should provide enough power to last for a standard month (as long as all non-vital systems are disabled) without the need for major maintenance or resupply. Thermal waste dissipators form the characteristic nozzles on either side of the backpack. This thermal waste can also be used for limited manoeuvring in zero-gravity. The backpack also contains the suit's supply of oxygen and air purification system that allows the wearer to breath in toxic or vacuum environments. Combined with the Space Marine's own Multi-lung organ implant, the wearer can operate unhindered in any atmosphere, as well as underwater and in hard vacuum. Air intakes are also located on the backpack. The lower part of the backpack is the armour's temperature regulation system. In combat, with the suit functioning at maximum capacity, heat can build up quite rapidly. Settings for heat control can be adjusted depending upon the environment the suit is operating in, obviously retaining more heat in frigid conditions or the -278 degrees centigrade environment of deep space than in tropical or desert conditions. In planetary environments, the suit's internal Cogitator will always optimise conditions to match the world's mean average temperature. Within the armour, the wearer will experience only minor temperature fluctuations as the suit maintains the correct temperature to keep the Space Marine operating at peak physical efficiency in any environment.
- Helmet - This Space Marine's upgraded Mark VII helmet contains most of the suit's actual combat-related systems. All of these helmet sensor and diagnostic systems are referred to by a single term -- Auto-senses. Features include the primary, thought-activated, Vox-link. This Space Marine's helmet also has an additional Vox-booster and scrambler attachment, intended to block enemy attempts to intercept Imperial communications channels. The right eye also includes a range-finder, targeter and target recognition friend or foe upgrade to the helmet's basic suite of Auto-senses. Such equipment is most common in Devastator Squads, but is not limited to them. The visor displays tactical information. This includes maps of a given area, waypoint markers, a compass, as well as called-up data on the Astartes' own weapon, passed through the weapon's grip and the palm of the gauntlet. Primarily this data would include an ammunition counter display, but also gives emergency warnings about overheating and weapon jams. This helmet also incorporates visual magnification up to x4, which when combined with the wearer's Occulobe organ implant means a Space Marine can see clearly in most combat conditions. The visor also includes basic infa-red scanning and night vision capabilities. Through his Auto-senses, the Space Marine can access full diagnostic information on the armour's operating status and absorb data about the external environment, such as atmospheric composition, barometric pressure, the presence of harmful chemicals and toxins, etc. Diagnostic sensors are positioned in various places on the suit to scan for such information. The helmet can also display biological information about the Space Marine himself, including heart rate (for both hearts as Astartes possess two), blood pressure, toxin levels, the workings of the Larraman's Organ or Oolitic Kidney implants, and assessments of the degree of physiological damage caused by wounds. These bio-status read-outs can also be broadcast via Vox to Space Marine command units for monitoring during battle and training. As well as containing the suit's communications array, the helmet's ear pieces screen the wearer from sonic attacks and includes amplifiers to the Space Marine's Lyman's Ear implant, giving sharper hearing and allowing the Space Marine to filter out or enhance speficic sounds. The Lyman's Ear also means a Space Marine is unlikely to become dizzy or disorientated, even when hit by strong blast waves. The grill on the helmet contains a microphone, allowing the wearer to talk normally through the helmet or amplify his voice over a short distance, which is sometimes useful during the din of battle. If the external environment is conducive to human life, the grill can open to allow the wearer to breath the ambient atmosphere rather than use the air purification equipment or the suit's internal air supply. Finally, the helmet visor incorporates an auto-reactive photochromatic visor that protects the wearer from light level changes, dimming or blacking out completely should the wearer be exposed to sudden, dazzling light.
- Relics and Insignia - Strapped to the left shoulder plate are two engraved skulls. These are sacred relics which may belong to former owners of the armour or to fellow squad members of this Space Marine who were killed in battle. They may also be the skulls of worthy foes that this Astartes now carries as trophies of his victory. Many such sub-cults exist throughout the Space Marine Chapters, with each following its own rituals and traditions, often inherited from the culture of the Chapter's primary recruitment world. These relics will be gifts from the company Chaplain, rewards for exceptional dedication or bravery in battle. The plastron chest eagle or Aquila is worn as the symbol of this Space Marine's loyalty to the Emperor of Mankind. Aquilas are commonly worn on the chest plates of all Space Marines since the Horus Heresy, when the Emperor decreed that this honour was now available to all of the Space Marines who had remained loyal to the Imperium rather than just to the Astartes of the corrupted Emperor's Children Legion, who had joined Horus in his rebellion. The Chapter badge is commonly worn on the left shoulder plate and is sometimes repeated on the right knee-plate. The right shoulder plate commonly bears the Astartes' squad designation markings (a large arrow in the case of a Tactical Squad) and the squad number in Roman numerals. Underneath this is a name scroll. This personal cloth scroll bears the Space Marine's name, and like all the non-Codex-approved additions to this armour, will have been donated by the company Chaplain to reinforce the Space Marine's faith and morale. As a Veteran, this Space Marine bears his own personal heraldry; a shield pinned to the right shoulder plate, bearing the symbol of a sun. The meaning of this is unknown, but it may hark back to a time before this Space Marine was recruited. Finally, this Astartes' Bolter bears twelve kill markings scored onto the weapon's case, probably earned on previous missions.
- Bolter - As a member of a Tactical Squad, this Space Marine's primary weapon is the Bolter, also sometimes called a Boltgun. This weapon is a standard Mark IV Pattern Bolter with a sickle magazine containing twenty bolts. Each bolt is a .75 calibre, rocket-propelled, armour-piercing, mass reactive, explosive round. Bolts explode after first penetrating a target and are capable of destroying small vehicles as well as having a horrific effect upon infantry. The weapon has single shot and semi-automatic settings, firing a burst of three bolts in quick succession. The Bolter also includes a palm print sensor for genetic identification coding and can only be activated by this specific Space Marine's genetic signature.
- Grenades and other Wargear - In addition to his Bolter, this Space Marine carries other combat equipment or wargear. Hanging from his utility belt are two Frag (Fragmentation) Grenades. He also carries three spare magazine pouches for his Bolter. The cylindrical object hanging from his back, below the backpack, is harder to identify. This may well be a shaped demolition charge for destroying fortified emplacements. Not visible here, the Space Marine will also be carrying Krak Grenades effective at penetrating heavily armoured targets and as a Veteran may also possess a Mark II Macragge Pattern Bolt Pistol as a secondary weapon.
- Combat Knife - The Space Marine's last weapon, and his only close combat weapon, is his Astartes Combat Knife. This highly ornate piece, bearing a dedicational Aquila crossguard, heavy pommel and a 50 centimetre-long blade, would be a full-bladed sword in a mortal's hands. Used for hand-to-hand combat, it is kept honed to a keen edge. It is also used during the Chapter's ceremonies and rituals and will have been blessed by a company Chaplain before battle. It is not a bayonet and cannot be fitted to the Mark IV Bolter as it must be wielded by hand. Hand-to-hand combat and knife-fighting is part of all Space Marines' basic training, instilling skills which will continue to be honed throughout a lifetime of service to the Emperor.
History and Development
Power Armour has been in use since before the Age of the Imperium, worn by the techno-barbarians that dominated Terra during the Age of Strife. It was also worn by the early genetically-engineered warriors that formed part of the Emperor's retinue during his unification of Terra towards the end of the Age of Strife in the 30th Millennium. In the armour's earliest incarnation, the suit was not fully sealed or life-supporting, this being unnecessary while its use was still confined solely to Terra. Over the history of the Imperium, Power Armour has developed into many different forms. Need, circumstances and the recovery of new materials and lost advanced technology, so-called Archeotech, has shaped the armour's evolution.
Mark I Thunder Power Armour
The first Power Armour suit type created for the Space Marines was the Mark I Thunder Power Armour, though the name was assigned after the fact and at the time of its use the suit was simply called "Power Armour." It was developed from the powered combat armour worn by the techno-barbarians that plagued Terra near the end of the Age of Strife. It was used during the Emperor’s campaign to retake and reunite 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 of genetically-enhanced warriors were wearing it even before the first true Space Marines were developed. However, because it was designed with fighting in a terrestrial environment 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 Emperor's 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 bolt and lightning symbol the Emperor used during the Unification Wars on Terra before he adopted the double-headed eagle known as the Imperial Aquila during the Great Crusade. The emblem gives the suit its common present-day name – Thunder Armour. This early armour was produced on a completely local basis. There was no standard design, individual suits varied heavily and their exact designs were often a matter of personal taste. The main part of the armour is the massive powered torso which encloses the chest and arms. Coiled energy cables beneath the armour plating transmit energy from the power pack on the back to the arms, greatly increasing physical strength. Since the fighting on Terra during this period was primarily close-quarters, the strength of a warrior's chest and arms was of paramount importance. The legs of this armour are not powered at all, but are enclosed in tough padded breaches, though simple steel plates were sometimes also used. Although uncommon, the best-equipped warriors sometimes wore armoured greaves and armoured boots. However, this ancient suit of Power Armour was noticeably noisier than later models, perhaps due to the unpowered legs, making stealth operations nearly impossible in it.
Mark II Crusade Power Armour
Mark II Power Armour was developed towards the end of the Age of Strife and was used during the dawn of the Imperium by the Space Marines who carried out the Emperor’s Great Crusade to reunite the lost colony worlds of Mankind in a new Imperium of Man. After the conquest of the main planets of the Solar System by the Emperor's new armies of Space Marines, the Adeptus Mechanicus factories on Mars were set to work constructing a new and far more advanced type of Power Armour for the Emperor's newborn Space Marines. This armoured suit is commonly referred to as "Crusade Armour," since it was designed with the planned Great Crusade in mind. It was the first fully enclosed suit of Power Armour, making it suitable for the conquest of space and operations in a vacuum. It was designed as a fully enclosed suit with life-sustaining systems that now allowed the Astartes to fight in deep space and on alien worlds with hostile atmospheres or environments. The armour was made up of microscopic circular armoured rings of ceramite fitted under and over each other, making this armour relatively tedious to repair. The larger armour plates composed of these microscopic rings were linked together to allow for a greater ease of movement and most of the power cabling for the suit was threaded inside the plating. The backpack retained a similar shape to that of the Mark I suits but now contained advanced life support equipment such as air-scrubbing, fluid recycling and emergency medical first aid systems as well as the power supply for the armour. The helmet was set in a fixed position, but did allow the occupant to turn his head inside the suit. The helmet also contained electronic sensory devices and miniaturised cogitators (computers) that monitored the surrounding battlescape and fed visual and auditory signals directly to the Astartes' cerebral cortex through a neural feedback mechanism. This further enhanced the Astartes' already superhuman sight and hearing, while at the same time dampening any blinding flashes or deafening explosions. These so-called "autosenses," as well as the other internal improvements, all became standard equipment in every subsequent pattern of Imperial Power Armour. At the present time, these suits of Power Armour are extremely precious relics of the few Chapters that still possess a suit or two and are still used during formal ceremonies and rituals by some Chapters. These suits are often given to the Chapter's champions as actual battle armour in others. Though quieter than the Mark I, Crusade Armour also is not intended for stealth, though the sight of an Astartes wearing this armour draws every Space Marine's mind to the glory of the Great Crusade before the disaster of the Horus Heresy and provides a major enhancement to unit morale.
Mark III Iron Power Armour
As the Great Crusade reached the planets towards the core of the galaxy, some of the worlds encountered were the Squat homeworlds, which were not pleased to find themselves the object of a galactic conquest, Emperor of Mankind or no. The Squats' independent and stubborn nature along with the conditions of the fighting in the Squats' underground cities spurred the creation of this new armour type. High casualties suffered by the Legiones Astartes on these worlds and in other similar environments such as during boarding actions during the Great Crusade led to the development by the Adeptus Mechanicus of the Mark III model of Power Armour. The Mark III was best suited for spacecraft boarding actions and combat in confined subterranean tunnel complexes with little cover. This armour was ideally used by Space Marines when cover was minimal and combat was a matter of a simple frontal assault. Because of this pattern of Power Armour's great strength, it became known as the "Iron Armour" or Armorum Ferrum in Imperial High Gothic.
The Mark III was never intended to replace the Mark II armour but instead was a specialised suit to provide heavier protection than the normal Mark II suit when fighting in conditions similar to that found on the Squat homeworlds, in mines, subterranean complexes or the tight corridors of a spacecraft. It has more frontal protection than the Mark II Armour, but the weight of the rear armour was lessened to compensate. The suit uses a heavy armoured helmet with sloping plates designed to deflect shots to the left and right, thus inspiring its name as the Iron Armour pattern. The helmet inspired the Mark IV and VI helmet designs. The wedge-shaped helmet (designed to deflect incoming fire from the front) formed the basis for the later distinctive Corvus Beak helmet of the Mark VI pattern. Iron Armour clanks and grinds with the slightest movement, making it all but useless in stealth operations. However, the presence of such an imposing and ancient suit of Power Armour is a great honour for all Space Marines and can greatly boost unit morale in combat.
Mark IV Maximus Power Armour
As the Great Crusade reached its climax and the Imperium reached its zenith in terms of technology and strength, the Space Marine Legions found their original suits of Mark II armour wearing out. While some Legions chose to continue local production and maintenance, the Adeptus Mechanicus of Mars designed a new variant, which was to be called the Mark IV or Maximus pattern since it was produced during the days of the Imperium's greatest glory.
At the Mark IV stage of Power Armour development, Space Marine armour began to take on an appearance recognizable to that of contemporary Power Armour patterns, its primary change being the abandonment of the separate abutting plates of armour in favour of larger, inflexible armour casings incorporating flexible joints. This marginally reduced an Astartes' mobility but was far easier to produce and maintain, and the suit was actually lighter and provided its wearer with more overall mobility due to the lessened weight, while not reducing the actual level of protection the suit provided compared to its Mark II counterpart.
Technical secrets from the Dark Age of Technology recovered on newly conquered worlds during the Great Crusade allowed the Mechanicus of Mars to develop the more efficient mark of armour, improving the quality of protection and reducing the suit's weight at the same time. Improved armouring of the suit's power cables allowed the main arm and chest power supply cables to be safely relocated to the exterior of the armour, while the use of new materials reduced the size and number of cables. The various systems contained within the suit's backpack were miniaturised and made more efficient, allowing the backpack to be smaller, lighter and to make use of an altered exhaust system that provided a shape much closer to that of the Mark VI and Mark VII patterns of armour in widespread use at the present time.
The Mark IV suit's helmet was a completely new design, the basic shape inspired by the sweeping front of the Mark III. In Mark III and later versions the helmet was no longer fixed to the armour's neck plates, but moved with the wearer's head while still maintaining an environmental seal. This advancement represented the Artificers' increasing experience with neural connector gear and the new materials which flooded into the Martian workshops as the Great Crusade progressed.
Mark IV Power Armour was envisioned at the time to be the ultimate and final type of Space Marine armour, able to offer the best protection in a variety of conditions. Many of the Space Marine Legions were entirely or partially re-equipped with it by the start of the Horus Heresy in the early 31st Millennium. As a result of its widespread production and use prior to and during the Horus Heresy, Mark IV suits are the most common of the pre-Heresy armour patterns still in service with the Adeptus Astartes of the late 41st Millennium. This pattern of armour is the type of Power Armour still worn by most of the original Chaos Space Marine Traitor Legions, as they usually have access only to the technology they took with them into the Eye of Terror ten millennia ago. However, some Chaos Space Marines mix and match more modern pieces of armour with their ancient Mark II and Mark IV suits to replace damaged portions. Those Space Marines who have turned Renegade since the Horus Heresy obviously wear the Power Armour that was current to the era when they first turned against the Emperor. Chaos Space Marines often strip more modern pieces to upgrade their armour from the bodies of Loyalist Space Marines killed in battle. Among Loyalist Space Marines of the late 41st Millennium, being granted the right to wear a suit of this ancient form of Power Armour is a great honour and such an Astartes will be given greater respect than normal by his fellow Battle-Brothers and Space Marines from other Chapters.
Mark V Heresy Power Armour
The equipping of the Legions with Mark IV armour was only partially complete when the Horus Heresy broke out. Many of the newly-equipped Legions turned against the Imperium while many of the Loyalist Legions possessed only Mark II Power Armour. With the extensive amount of war damage and constantly mobile operations that defined the warfare during the Heresy, resupply for the Loyalist Space Marines Legions' damaged equipment was difficult or impossible. This suit of Power Armour was developed by Space Marine Artificers and Techmarines as a solution to the supply problems caused by the Horus Heresy. It was manufactured from the most basic of materials, and it was easy to maintain. Almost all of its users used molecular bonding studs to hold the armour layers of plasteel and ceramite together, and these studs became a distinctive marker of this pattern of Power Armour. In time, it became traditional for the studs to be found on the head, lower legs, and left shoulder plate of the armour. Since the highly advanced Mark IV suits became so difficult to maintain, the Mark V was defined by its flexibility, as it was capable of being repaired with either new or old materials, depending upon their availability. In many cases, older, heavier power cabling was used, which created a weak point on the armour's throughout the armour's composition. To deal with this problem, many Chapters' Techmarines reinforced these suits with an extra plate of ceramite fitted over the top of the original plates with molecular bonding studs, which as noted above were responsible for the armour's distinctive appearance.
Due to the sub-standard materials used in the construction of this armour variant, the Mark V had a tendency to over-heat quickly, and many Space Marines had to endure sub-standard performance by turning down the power output of their backpack to prevent intolerable heat build-ups. The helmet appears to be an early version of the Mark VII helmet derived from a modification of the Mark IV helmet, although it is significantly more primitive in its design. After the Heresy, most examples of this pattern of Power Armour were dismantled and used for spare or replacement parts with other patterns of armour as the Chapters who emerged from the Heresy perhaps did not want to be reminded of those dark days of civil war and betrayal. However, this pattern of armour is still commonplace among the Traitor Legions of Chaos. Heresy Armour carries memories and allusions to the Imperium's darkest hour, but also its greatest victory and the Emperor's Ascension. Other Astartes will offer a wearer of this pattern of Power Armour solemn respect. But members of the Inquisition, who know that this pattern of armour is particularly common among Chaos Space Marines, will be instinctively suspicious of any Astartes with such a close connection to the Traitor Legions.
Mark VI Corvus Power Armour
This classic Power Armour variant can be traced back to the time of the Horus Heresy during which it was developed as a proper replacement for the Mark IV armour by the Adeptus Mechanicus and is still commonly used even in contemporary Space Marine Chapters. It is characterized by the beak-like muzzle on the helmet and a molecular bonding studded auto-reactive shoulder plate on the left shoulder of the armour. The Mark VI suit, much like the Mark V, was intended to extremely easy to repair and maintain by Space Marine Legions engaged in the constant warfare of the Heresy. It was built with dual technology circuits that allowed the easy replacement of rare or sophisticated parts with more common or basic alternatives with no degeneration in protection or performance. It also included new fail-safes such as duplicate power cabling. The left shoulder plate, which usually took the brunt of enemy fire, retained the molecular bonding studs found on the Mark V variant so as to be more easily replaceable. The Mark VI pattern of Power Armour is the lightest form of the technology and has gained a reputation among Space Marine Techmarines as having the smoothest fit between its moving parts, despite the complete interchangeability with the Mark VII pattern of armour. This small difference means that Mark VI suits are often fitted with Jump Packs and used by Assault Marines, even if they still use a Mark VII helmet.
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 referred to Space Marines as "beakies". This armour represents the style of the first Space Marine models released by Games Workshop in the 1980's and did not get its Mark VI terminology until after models with the Mark VII styling were released.
Mark VII Aquila Power Armour
This version of basic Power Armour was also known as Imperator Armour. It is the contemporary variant of Power Armour most commonly used by the Space Marine Chapters of the Imperium. Mark VII armour was developed during the last stages of the Horus Heresy, and remains in use as the most common form of Power Armour more than 10,000 standard years later. It represents the final major development of Mark VI armour. While the final battle for Mars was underway with the Traitor Legions during their invasion of the Solar System, the Imperium realised the planet would eventually be lost. Adeptus Mechanicus armour development teams were transferred to Terra to continue their tasks, incorporating their latest work into the armour type that would become the Mark VII. As Mars fell to Horus, the new type of armour began reaching the Loyalist Space Marines on Terra and Luna.
The Mark VII armour is characterised by the grim looking Vox caster (external vocalizer) on the faceplate, and the plastron displaying the Imperial Aquila or the Space Marine honour known as the Imperialis (a winged skull), which has given the armour different names such as Armorum Impetor ("Eagle Armour") or Aquila Armour ("Aquila" being the name of the two-headed eagle which symbolizes the Imperium of Man). During the Great Crusade, the Emperor had decreed that only the Emperor's Children Legion could wear the Imperial Aquila, the symbol of the Imperium and the Emperor himself, upon their chest plates, as a sign of the great respect he held for the Emperor's Children and their Primarch Fulgrim's quest for perfection. But once the Emperor's Children allowed themselves to be corrupted by Slaanesh, the Emperor decreed as the Traitor Legions' final assault began upon the Solar System that every Loyalist Astartes was now worthy of bearing the Aquila upon his breast. As the Mark VII is a further development of the technologies introduced in the Mark VI, both have a great deal in common, and parts from one pattern of armour are readily interchangeable with parts from the other in Space Marine Armouries. A Mark VI helmet, for example, would fit straight onto a Mark VII suit, with no need for any reengineering by the Techmarines and Artificers.
Mark VIII Errant Power Armour
The Mark VIII Errant pattern is an update to the Aquila Mark VII pattern armour, the first suit of new Power Armour produced by the Imperium since the Horus Heresy, thus illustrating the extreme stagnation of Mankind's science and technology over the past ten millennia since the fall of Horus and the Ascension of the Emperor. Mark VIII armour is distinguished by a raised collar or gorget at the front, and enhanced armoured plating for the Mark VII's torso power cables which were vulnerable to weapons fire. The new pattern also addressed the vulnerability issues of the Mark VII's neck joint, which had been know to act as a "shell-trap", (a round could hit the chest armour and deflect up into the neck joint). The new gorget required a new helmet design, which caused problems for backward compatibility with the earlier helmet types, which cannot be easily fitted to a Mark VIII neck joint without extensive modification. Mark VIII armour has gone into only limited production thus far, and is seen in limited numbers on the battlefields of the late 41st Millennium. Full versions of this armour are almost never seen; however, it is common to find parts of it being used by Space Marine officers, Sergeants and Veterans on the battlefield as a sign of their rank and the appearance of the Mark VIII has taken on an air of authority among the Astartes. The Mark VIII is not widespread in the Imperium yet and it will take quite a few centuries before the Forge Worlds of the Imperium have brought every Chapter up to the new standard.
One design feature of Power Armour patterns Mark VI through Mark VIII is their extreme ruggedness and high level of adaptability; it is fairly common within most Space Marine Chapters to see a suit combining parts originally created for three or four different patterns of suits, salvaged from dead Battle-Brothers on the battlefield. Mark VII armour, in particular, was created with this simple modularity in mind.
The many different Loyalist Space Marine Chapters of the present utilise all these different Power Armour patterns in differing ratios. Some choose to equip their Astartes with the most advanced patterns of armour available to them, while others cherish the older patterns and seek to maintain them for as long as possible in a combat-ready state. It should be noted that the Mark I, II and III patterns of Power Armour are no longer in general usage by any Chapter's Battle Companies and are extremely rare relics of any Chapter lucky enough to still possess a complete suit of these types, though the Mark II and Mark III can be seen with slightly greater frequency among the Chaos Space Marines of the Traitor Legions. The Consecrators Chapter, one of the Successor Chapters of the Dark Angels that inherited much of the original Dark Angels Legion's equipment during the Second Founding, will actually avoid the use of any suits newer than the Mark VI, and thus appears on the field as a Space Marine Legion from the legendary days of the Horus Heresy. In many cases, only sections or portions of the more ancient patterns of armour remain, adapted to fit with more recent suits of Mark VI or Mark VII armour. However, even a single shoulder plate or gauntlet that has seen millennia of service and countless battles is a treasured relic of a Chapter that brings much honour to the Astartes who has earned the right to wear it.
The No Helmet Custom
It is fairly common to see a Space Marine in combat without his helmet, especially among sergeants and officers, and many Astartes choose to remove their helmet when there is no immediate danger present. Despite the added risk this practice presents, or perhaps because of that added danger, many Astartes see this practice as an honourable act of courage and even defiance to the Emperor's enemies. The absence of a helmet does mean that the Astartes loses the Autosenses that are housed within his armour, so those Space Marines who favour this custom often utilize earpieces or ocular enhancement devices, either as temporary additions or bionic replacements. Additionally, to insure a correct environmental seal, some of the proper rituals must be followed, which can take several more minutes.
In addition to the loss of their suit's Autosenses, a Space Marine who chooses not to wear his helmet in combat cannot take advantage of the suit's environmental and life support systems, which means that this custom cannot be indulged in during combat in a vacuum or a hostile atmosphere. When the helmet is off, the suit's Vox link, while still usable through transceivers implanted in the armour's collar, can provide audio transmission only instead of the pictographic and videographic transmissions that are also possible when the helmet is worn. However, an Astartes commanding his fellow Battle-Brothers in the field will often find their respect and unit cohesion enhanced due to the pride they take in their leader's unflinching willingness to face increased risk.
Of course, if a major fire-fight does break out or an Astartes unit enters an area of a hostile environment, putting one's helmet on as quickly as possible may be the only prudent course. While the proper battle-prayers and rituals for donning a complete suit of Power Armour usually take a considerable amount of time, it is possible to replace a helmet quickly when the need is urgent. After the helmet is replaced, it make take a few more minutes for the suit's Autosenses and full Vox link to become available, as the armour's Machine Spirit takes time to reactivate after an abrupt reawakening. Additionally, to insure a correct environmental seal, some of the proper rituals must be followed, which can take several more minutes.
Amongst the Astartes, it is the Space Wolves who are the most fervent practitioners of this custom. In their case, it is no mere show of courage as the Canis Helix gifts them with a preternaturally acute sense of smell, rivalling that of natural wolves or trained scent-hounds. Many Space Wolves are able to follow their targets, or the very flow of battle, thanks to minute changes in scent when fighting helmetless. The Space Wolves consider the added risk of a well-placed sniper shot to the head acceptable when equated with the ability to scent ambushes or the very moment an enemy will break or charge. This habit of gaining information about a situation by scent is so natural to the Space Wolves that many feel sligthly disoriented and claustrophobic when forced by circumstances to don their helmets.
Other Imperial Power Armours
Although Power Armour is most closely associated with the Adeptus Astartes, it is also used by the Sisters of Battle and some more martial-minded Inquisitors of all three Ordos. However, the Sisters of Battle and Inquisitors who use Power Armour do not possess the Black Carapace gene-seed organ implant, and so can not be directly linked to the suit's advanced movement enhancement and fire control systems in the way Space Marines are, which decreases the armour's effectiveness. Some high-ranking members of the Adeptus Mechanicus, the Machine Cult, use Power Armour. Enginseers of the Imperial Guard use it to protect them from enemy fire as they tend to the Machine Spirit of the Guard's vehicles.
Tactical Dreadnought Armour, more often called Terminator Armour, is one of the strongest forms of personal Power Armour in existence and it is the heaviest and most resilient model the Imperium of Man has to offer. It was developed for a mid-range of uses between true Dreadnought Armour and standard Power Armour. It is composed of a Ceramite/Plasteel alloy exoskeleton with servo-assisted interfaces that link into the user's own neurological and muscular systems to enhance movement. It is able to withstand tremendous punishment, and serves as a solid heavy-weapons platform in open-field combat. Due to its size, it is best deployed in close quarters such as the corridors of a starship, where the standard-issue storm bolter can be most effective. The elite 1st Company of each Space Marine Chapter uses Terminator Armour, and only those Astartes who earn the "Crux Terminatus" are permitted to wear this precious and rare model of Power Armour.
The elite Grey Knights Space Marines who serve the Inquisition's Ordo Malleus as its Chamber Militant wear Aegis Armour, a type of Power Armour that is incredibly well-crafted, anointed and inscribed with prayers and wards, ritually consecrated and psychically charged to protect its users from the psychic powers and sorcery of Chaos-worshipping Heretics and daemons. The suits are generally based on components from Mark VI, VII and VIII Power Armour designs, with a modified helmet design that is reminiscent of the Mark III.
Artificer Armour is the name given to individualized and heavily modified suits of Power Armour provided only to Space Marines who have proven themselves worthy of the honour, such as company Captains, members of the Chapter Master's Honour Guard, or particularly skilled Veterans of the 1st Company or the various company Command Squads.
Though Artificer Armour and Power Armour are similar in appearance, Artificer Armour is as far beyond standard Power Armour as Power Armour is beyond the Carapace Armour used by the soldiers of the Imperial Guard. Ingeniously designed damage control mechanisms and superdense materials allow most suits of Artificer Armour to offer a much greater degree of protection than standard Power Armour, even rivaling that offered by Terminator Armour in some cases. Artificer Armour cannot, however, make use of weapons as powerful as those available to Astartes in Terminator Armour. A suit of Artificer Armour is an extremely valuable relic for a Space Marine Chapter and will usually have belonged to the Chapter's greatest heroes. Many elements of the suit will have been replaced or repaired over the long years and its heraldry altered for each wearer, but it is still held to be the same suit of armour and so is venerated for its history. Techmarines also wear a form of Artificer Armour. These suits are rarely as old and venerated as the others possessed by the Chapter, but are essentially suits of Power Armour that have been heavily modified and improved by several generations of Techmarines. Such suits usually contain a vast array of mechanical interfaces and built-in servo-tools to aid a Techmarine in his duties for the Chapter.
Adepta Sororitas Power Armour
The Militant Orders of the Adepta Sororitas, better known as the Sisters of Battle, use a lighter, less bulky version of Power Armour. This armour does not increase the strength of the wearer to match that of the Space Marines, but does provide the same level of ballistic and energy pulse protection.
Space Wolves Runic Armour
The Space Wolves Space Marines grant valiant members of their Chapter specially crafted suits of Power Armour inscribed with psychic Runes of Protection by the Space Wolf Rune Priests (essentially that unusual Chapter's unique Librarians). These runes provide the wearer of Runic Armour with an enhanced defence against psychic attacks. This armour is created by the Space Wolves Chapter's Iron Priests (Techmarines) and officially codified by the Adeptus Mechanicus as the Mark XII Lupio pattern, though the suits can look like any of the standard patterns of Power Armour described above, though because of their antiquity, many of these suits are earlier patterns than the Mark VI.
Chaos Power Armour
At the time of the Horus Heresy in the early 31st Millennium, Mark II Crusade Pattern Power Armour had all but disappeared from the Space Marine Legions, replaced by the much improved Mark IV Maximus Pattern, with the exception of those Legions still fighting on the Eastern Fringe of the galaxy. Even so, during the fierce battles to come, both sides were forced to reinstate older marks of Power Armour to replace their losses as well as scavenging and cannibalising armour from the battlefields. The armour of the Traitor Legions that fled into the Eye of Terror still reflects these turbulent times, often featuring distinctive studded and rivetted plasteel plates rather than the smooth ceramite of the later designs. Exposed power cables that blend with sinew and vein remain a common feature of Chaos Power Armour and most Chaos Space Marines individualise their armour with crests, horns, skulls and chains. Quite often, a Chaos Space Marine's Power Armour will have been altered by long exposure to the Warp. It may have sprouted spines or bony ridges, be covered in a layer of scales, or flicker with arcane and corsucating energies. The competition for new or replacement armour parts is fierce amongst the Traitor Legions.
Chaos Space Marines who have only recently become Renegades may have armour that has changed hardly at all from their former Chapter's standard livery, except for the deliberate defilement or removal of badges or symbols of allegiance to the Emperor of Mankind. Some Chaos Space Marines thus possess suits of the advanced Mark VIII Errant pattern armour, which is much coveted by other Traitor Marines and can earn the wearer greater prestige among the Forces of Chaos.
- White Dwarf 129, "Space Marine Armour" by Rick Priestley, reprinted in Warhammer 40,000: Compilation (1st Edition)
- How to Paint Space Marines
- Codex: Space Wolves (5th Edition), pg. 61
- Codex: Chaos Space Marines (6th Edition), pg. 37
- Deathwatch - Rites of Battle (RPG)
- Imperial Armour Volume Three - The Taros Campaign, pp. 48-50