A Scythe-class Harvest Ship is a Necron starship that has been a part of every Necron fleet so far encountered by the Imperium of Man. The Harvest Ship is more common in Necron fleets than the larger and more powerful Cairn-class Tomb Ships and more akin to a Cruiser in its combat role. The vessels are so named because they have been present when the Necrons "harvest" the population of various inhabited worlds as part of their ongoing research into what they have termed "apotheosis", the return of their consciousness to organic bodies. The Necrons seek an organic, intelligent species that is compatible with their own neural physiology and can be used as new hosts for their return to life. To this end, they routinely harvest the populations of many different intelligent species for a series of grisly biomedical experiments that will help them achieve their goal.
All of the Harvest Ships encountered by the Imperium appear to belong to the same class, with the only difference being the inclusion of a Sepulchre-like chamber on some of the starships, though this does not change their outward appearance, nor does it appear to function in the same manner as the Sepulchre portals used on Tomb Ships for boarding operations. Harvest Ships have proved to be incredibly resilient and difficult warships to destroy. To date Imperial ships have only been able to disable a Harvest Ship on three occasions, and in all three cases it required the firepower of several Imperial Navy capital ships to achieve the feat. The Harvest Ship’s resilient design, combined with its armament of sophisticated and devastatingly effective Necron weaponry, makes it a match for all but the largest Imperial spacecraft.
As with all known Necron vessels, Harvest Ships possess an unknown form of drive technology that allows the ship to undertake interstellar travel without the need to enter the Warp. The Harvest Ship's drive technology eliminates the spacecraft's inertia, allowing it travel at extreme speeds and with extreme acceleration, whilst also giving the spacecraft an agility that few other ships can match. In truth, however, Harvest Ships, like all Necron spacecraft, primarily rely upon the use of Dolmen Gates to serve as portals into the Webway, which allows them to cross the vastness of space without resorting to the use of the Warp since the undying Necrons possess no psykers.
- 666.M41 Yuctan Incident – The Yuctan System was a sparsely inhabited Imperial star system close to the Eastern Fringe, and the site of the first naval encounter between the Necrons and the Imperial Navy in 666.M41. A minor Imperial fleet of 6 Escort ships and 1 Light Cruiser were destroyed, with the only survivor being a single Cobra-class Destroyer. By the time a full Imperial fleet could be dispatched to the region to deal with what is now called the Yuctan Incident, the Necrons had disappeared, and the system was found devoid of all human life. Although similar and unexplained events had taken place up to this time, the incident at Yuctan was the first fully documented account of a Necron "harvest" of a populated world, as they sought fresh subjects for their research into "apotheosis," the restoration of their consciousness to organic bodies.
- 962.M41 Bora Culpa Incident – Harvest Ships were sighted around the Imperial planet of Bora Culpa in 962.M41. The population of the world was found to have vanished after a later reconnaissance mission by the Space Wolves Space Marines.
- 992.M41 Orphean War – During the Orphean War, at least twenty Scythe-class Harvest Ships, as identified using data from the Ordo Xenos, were encountered by the Imperial Navy's Battlefleet Orpheus. Belonging to the Maynarkh Dynasty's Phaeron, Kutlakh the World Killer, they destroyed many times their number in Imperial warships and had shattered the combat effectiveness of Battlefleet Orpheus by the time they disengaged.
Harvest Ships are composed entirely out of Necrodermis, a unique living metal which comprises the undying mechanical bodies of every Necron warrior, vehicle and starship. The material’s regenerative properties and hardy nature means that Harvest Ships are immune to the detrimental effects posed by celestial phenomena such as solar flares, radiation, gas clouds and nebulae, and are also able to repair their armour at a rapid pace during an engagement. However, standard Necron combat protocol dictates that a clean disengagement is preferable to a fight to the end, and Harvest Ships will do this by "fading out," where the vessel in question dematerialises into an unknown extradimensional space; taking it out of the battle. The standard armament of a Scythe-class Harvest Ship includes:
- Star Pulse Generator – A Star Pulse Generator sends out a massive pulse of energy when activated. Whilst other Necron ships are shielded from this attack, enemy vessels within the field of force’s radius are usually severely damaged if not destroyed outright by the immense energies released.
- Lightning Arc Batteries – Lightning Arcs use stored solar energy and, when activated, release it as a forest of living energy tendrils which envelop targets and probe for weaknesses. Lightning Arcs act as the main weapon batteries for Necron ships, but are different from the equivalents used by the other starfaring species of the galaxy in that the arcs they fire are able to split up and guide themselves to their own targets, providing a mass-strike ability like no other known ship-based weapon. A Lightning Arc battery is usually able to cover all angles of approach except for the rear.
- Particle Whip Batteries – Particle Whips are the preferred ranged weapon of Necron warships, and work by projecting a magnetic field across a short arc. This arc is sufficient to be "cracked" like a whip and the anti-matter particles within the stream detonate upon impact with normal matter. When a target is hit, the beam’s power acts in a similar way to a strike from a Lightning Arc, albeit focussed upon a smaller area like a Lance weapon. A Particle Whip battery is usually able to cover all angles of approach except for the rear.
- Portal – Portals are vast stone gateways located within a Necron warship, and act as extradimensional conduits for boarding enemy vessels. More precise than conventional Imperial Teleporters, they are most commonly used to flood enemy starships with a relentless host of Necron Warriors and swarms of Canoptek Scarabs.
Some Harvest Ships have been known to be upgraded with a:
- Sepulchre – A Sepulchre is only utilised by the largest Necron vessel in a given fleet. When a Sepulchre is used to attack an enemy ship that has foolishly come within its range, a wave of palpable psychic force is generated and sent outwards in all directions. The enemy’s crew are then paralysed by visions of horror, and if discipline is lost, then the crazed crew are likely to do damage to their own ship as they rampage uncontrollably through its confines.
- Battlefleet Gothic Armada, pp. 73-74, 76
- Imperial Armour Volume Twelve - The Fall of Orpheus, pp. 51, 56-57