- "You pick the gate, sir, and my old girl will peel it open! You'll see!"
- — Colonel Kotchakis Vinnmann of the 81st Armoured Cadian Regiment praising his Shadowsword, the Angel of the Apocalypse
The Shadowsword is the sister tank of the more common Baneblade super-heavy tank of the Astra Militarum. The Shadowsword is a nearly identical super-heavy tank to the Baneblade with the exception of its armament and battlefield role as a Titan-killer. Armed with a massive forward-firing gun known as a Volcano Cannon the Shadowsword's primary focus during combat is the destruction of enemy Titans. The Shadowsword and Baneblade have been fighting alongside the forces of Mankind since the Dark Age of Technology, thus making it one of the oldest tank designs still in regular use by the Imperium. Each Shadowsword uses ancient Standard Template Construct (STC) designs that only a handful of Adeptus Mechanicus Forge Worlds have at their disposal. Each Shadowsword is individually logged, registered, and tracked on Mars, not only to see where it is but to see where it has been and the honours it has received, as a Shadowsword's deeds are celebrated as if they were those of a favorite child amongst its makers. The Shadowsword is a highly prized addition to any armoured regiment of the Imperial Guard.
Where many super-heavy vehicles excel in protracted battles, their thick armour allowing them to outlast endless waves of enemies, the Shadowsword is designed to bring a swift and crushing end to the opposing army. Equipped with a hull-mounted Volcano Cannon, among the largest weapons ever fitted to a tank, the mere appearance of a Shadowsword on the battlefield spells doom for the enemies of the Imperium.
As a Shadowsword speeds forward, the roar of massive engines is drowned out by the whir of its Volcano Cannon powering up. The ruby beam of laser light that it fires pierces the thick smog of battle, blasting through infantry, armour and xenos monstrosities with ease. Even Aeldari Wraithknights, Tyranid Bio-Titans and Ork Gargants can be toppled by a single, direct hit from a Shadowsword.
The Shadowsword and Baneblade were both originally created sometime during the Dark Age of Technology and were intended to add a staggering amount of firepower to any army. The Shadowsword was one of the most potent armour destroyers in the arsenal of the Excertus Imperialis and its reputation amongst the enemies of Mankind was dark indeed. The opening battles of the Horus Heresy had seen the vehicle deployed to stand against the god-engines of the Traitor Titan Legions and while there had been victories, they had only been won at considerable cost to Loyalist armoured regiments. The Solar Auxilia had only recently added the Shadowsword to its orders of battle, for in the past it had only rarely confronted an enemy it would be needed against. When it did, the High Commander would invariably call in a dedicated Imperial Army super-heavy tank regiment. With the eruption of the galactic civil war, all that had changed. Solar Auxilia forces were then regularly confronted by Traitor Titans, Knights, Siege-automata and other super-heavies. As a result, many Solar Auxilia Cohorts quickly integrated Shadowswords into their tactical reserves to confront these growing threats on the battlefield.
The Shadowsword is much rarer in the 41st Millennium than it was at the dawn of the Imperium due to the complexity of its main weapon, and the large capacitors and generator required to operate it. Nonetheless, the modern-era Imperial Guard and Departmento Munitorum have many ways to use the chassis of a Shadowsword that has been damaged, even if the Volcano Cannon is no longer functional.
On the battlefield, the Shadowsword's sole and unique role is that of Titan-killer. Its Volcano Cannon is able to bring down a Warlord Titan in one fell shot if the Titan's Void Shields fails at dissipating the blast. This capacity for sheer destruction makes the Shadowsword a welcome addition to the Imperial Guard's vehicle pool, for it allows the soldiers of the Imperium to engage enemy Titans without the support of the Adeptus Mechanicus' Titan Legions. If no enemy Titans are present, the Shadowsword is sometimes deployed as siege tank, obliterating enemy fortifications at long range, or as a super-heavy armour hunter. The sheer capacity for devastation of the Volcano Cannon is often enough to demoralise and put to rout those enemies of Mankind who care about their survival, but most Imperial Guard commanders are loathe to field their rare and precious Shadowswords in any other role than Titan-hunting.
This reluctance stems from the fact that for all the devastating might of the Volcano Cannon, the Shadowsword's drawbacks almost always overshadow the potential advantages of fielding it, except when hunting Titans. The Volcano Cannon was first designed as a Titan-grade weapon, and when fitted to a Battle Titan, the power required to fire comes directly from the God-Machine's Plasma Reactor. Installing a Plasma Reactor into a super-heavy tank's chassis has proven impossible for safety reasons, hence the Mechanicus devised a power converting system, which allows the weapon to draw the necessary power from the tank's engine by increments and build it up in a set of capacitors until the charge is high enough to fire the Volcano Cannon. The system has proven effective, but it imposes severe limitations on the Shadowsword. In a combat situation, the tank's engine must simultaneously propel the tank and charge the gargantuan Volcano Cannon capacitors. This results in the Shadowsword maintaining an extremely low maximum speed, forcing the tank to lumber forward slowly metre by metre. Even with the majority of the engine's energy output going towards charging the capacitors, the Volcano Cannon itself has a low rate of fire of less than one shot per minute, and has almost no traverse in its fixed setting, requiring the tank to be bodily aimed at the target. Worse, the engine of the Shadowsword must be stopped before firing the Volcano Cannon, to prevent any feedback from the capacitors with potentially catastrophic results. This makes any form of dynamic targeting impossible, and leaves the Shadowsword a sitting duck, highly vulnerable to air assault and counter-battery fire for long moments as it must restart its engine and start lumbering forward again. Additionally, the energy demands of the Volcano Cannon are so voracious that the Shadowsword's secondary armament is reduced to two twin-linked Heavy Bolter sponsons, inadequate to fend off any form of concerted assault. All these drawbacks mean that in the absence of sufficiently large and potent targets, the Shadowsword will remain in reserve and out of harm's way, carefully tended by the Tech-priests and Enginseers for those moments when its extraordinary firepower is truly required.
- Shadowsword Domination Force - Although Shadowswords rarely deploy together as a single battlefield formation, a number of units based around a single Shadowsword have been approved by the Tactica Imperialis. One such formation is the Shadowsword Domination Force. This particular unit type is first recorded as having been fielded against the second Dassinite Uprising in 334.M40, although a number of scholars claim to have traced its origins to the tumultuous wars of the Age of Apostasy. The Domination Force embodies the application of naval tactics, and is used when fighting across open, flat deserts and wastes. The unit is centered upon a single Shadowsword, which is the primary command platform of the whole force. Formed up around the Shadowsword, in such a manner as to protect and support it, is a second echelon, consisting of escorting Leman Russ Battle Tanks. Further out, forming a protective screen around the larger vehicles, are a number of Sentinel scout walkers. The force is able to dominate a large region of a warzone, for it is able to launch fearsome, mobile attacks and is a very difficult target for most foes to engage. To attack the Shadowsword itself, an enemy must first break through the expendable Sentinel screen, as well as the battle tank escorts. Many Domination forces field a support echelon of Hydra flak tanks that are able to protect against aerial attack, and some even have a wing of Chimera-mounted infantry, who specialise in actions against enemy vehicles and infantry in the manner of ship-to-ship parties. A Shadowsword Domination Force typically consists of a single Shadowsword supported by three to six Leman Russ Battle Tanks, and up to two Hydra Flak Tanks, three Sentinel squadrons, and four infantry squads in Chimera armoured transports.
The Shadowsword is armed with a full-size Volcano Cannon, a targeter-guided Laser Weapon normally found on Adeptus Mechanicus Titans. The weapon is easily able to cut through the armour of any vehicle at long range, but due to its extremely slow firing speed, and the fact that the Shadowsword needs to disengage its engine in order to fire, makes it only suitable against large and slow targets, which is why it is almost always used against Titans. The Volcano Cannon works first by using the Shadowsword's engine to run a powerful generator that, in turn, charges the large capacitors that the weapon draws its energy from. The Shadowsword is also armed with two sets of sponson-mounted twin-linked Heavy Bolters for close-range defence, and two targeting sensors located above the Heavy Bolters, where the Lascannons are mounted on the Baneblade. The forward-firing Demolisher Cannon of the Baneblade is removed due to the large amount of space the Volcano Cannon capacitors take up, and this is replaced with space for the crew. The vehicle's sponson-mounted twin-linked Heavy Bolters can be replaced with twin-linked Heavy Flamers if needed, and the targeters located above the sponsons can be replaced with Lascannons. The Shadowsword can also have an additional pair of sponson mounts attached for enhanced firepower. The tank can be outfitted with a Pintle-mounted Heavy Stubber or Storm Bolter, a Hunter-Killer Missile Launcher, a spotlight, a mine sweeper, improved communication systems, and Smoke Launchers.
There are several officially recognised variants of the Shadowsword in use by the Imperial Guard. Like the Leman Russ and Chimera chassis, the Standard Template Construct chassis that serves as the base for the Baneblade and Shadowsword is highly adaptive. The Adeptus Mechanicus has capitalised on this over the millennia, installing various Titan-grade weaponry into the chassis, lending to the Imperial Guard much-needed super-heavy firepower without having to field their own Titan Legions. These vehicles are mostly the result of an Imperial commander's need to get something done tactically that only a Titan or super-heavy tank like the Shadowsword can accomplish. On these variants the gargantuan Volcano Cannon has been replaced with one of the weapons usually found on a Titan weapon hardpoint, or a super-heavy howitzer that can obliterate enemy fortifications and troops alike. When the tank's Volcano Cannon is replaced the room left over from removing the capacitors and generators for that weapon creates a moderate amount of space for infantry transportation. Many variants of the Shadowsword are able to carry around 25 infantrymen into combat. Known variants of the Shadowsword include the following:
- Stormsword - The Stormsword replaces the Shadowsword's Volcano Cannon with a massive artillery piece known as a Hellhammer Siege Cannon. This huge weapon is capable of destroying buildings in a single shot and is perfect for dense urban combat against garrisoned enemy infantry.
- Stormblade - The Stormblade variant replaces the Shadowsword's Volcano Cannon with a Plasma Blastgun. This weapon allows the tank to still pursue its role as a Titan-killer, and is a common replacement when the Volcano Cannon of a Shadowsword no longer functions.
- Banehammer - The Banehammer variant of the Shadowsword replaces the Volcano Cannon with an artillery piece known as a Tremor Cannon. This huge weapon's shells are fused to explode only after the force of their impact has already buried them in the ground. These shells not only cause a huge explosion when their fuses go off, but they are capable of creating a large shock-wave that can knock enemies off their feet, or at least slow them down enough for Imperial artillery pieces to bombard them into oblivion. This allows the tank to keep large groups of fast-moving enemies, such as the Tyranids, from getting too close to Imperial frontlines, while they are fired upon by other allied units.
- Doomhammer - The Doomhammer, which actually started as a variant of the Banehammer, is itself a variant of the Shadowsword that replaces the Volcano Cannon with a weapon known as a Magma Cannon. This weapon is very similar in function to the Volcano Cannon, but possesses less range and firepower, which means that it needs to be closer to its target to fire an accurate shot. This weapon may be weaker than the Volcano Cannon, but it is still very capable of crippling or destroying outright an enemy Titan.
- Banesword - The Banesword variant, named after both the Baneblade and the Shadowsword, is armed with a weapon known as a Quake Cannon. The Quake Cannon is one of the largest and most powerful siege guns used by the Imperium, and is fully capable of destroying almost any fortified structure in a short amount of time. The Banesword is considered by many Imperial strategists to be the best siege tank in the Imperial Guard's arsenal, as its unparalleled firepower and extreme armoured protection are unmatched by any other vehicle.
- Stormlord - The Stormlord is a relatively new addition to the Shadowsword variants officially recognised by the Adeptus Mechanicus. The Stormlord trades in the anti-armour and anti-Titan weaponry of all the other variants in favour of an anti-infantry role. The tank replaces the Volcano Cannon with a Vulcan Mega Bolter, a weapon usually found only on Titans. The massive capacitors and generators required for the use of the Volcano Cannon are completely removed and since the weapon's ammunition does not take up any space there is a large area available within the tank's heavily-armoured hull for infantry transport. The tank can carry up to 40 infantrymen, and is highly prized for both its transportation capacity and its extreme firepower.
Regiments Known To Deploy Shadowswords
- 6th Cadian Armoured Regiment - Fought during the defence of Betalis III against the Eldar of Craftworld Mymeara.
- 11th Death Korps of Krieg Tank Regiment - Fought against Traitor Forces during the Siege of Vraks.
- Vraksian Traitor Militia - Fought against Loyalist Forces during the Siege of Vraks.
- 12th Cadian Armoured Regiment
- 81st Cadian Armoured Regiment
- 53rd Palladius Regiment
- 3rd Mordian Heavy Tank Company
- 8th Pardus Armoured Regiment
- 12th Tallarn Armoured Regiment - Fought against the Tau during the Taros Campaign
- Alpha Three - 3rd Mordian Heavy Tank Company.
- Angel of the Apocalypse - Command vehicle of the 81st Cadian Armoured Regiment of the Imperial Guard which was destroyed on the world of Golgotha by the Orks directly preceding the outbreak of the Third War for Armageddon.
- Castigatus - A Shadowsword of the 8th Pardus Armoured Regiment.
- Creed's Vengeance - A Shadowsword of the 12th Cadian Regiment of the Imperial Guard.
- Duty's Honour - A Shadowsword of the 53rd Palladius Regiment of the Imperial Guard.
- Iron Duke - A Shadowsword of the 2nd Phyressian Armoured Regiment, named after a local hero of Phyressia.
- Iron Saint - The Iron Saint was the personal Shadowsword of Major Pious Korren of the Armageddon Steel Legion during the Third War for Armageddon in 998.M41. Pious Korren was born into a family which traditionally served in the Imperial Navy, and the young Pious reluctantly joined the fleet, never fitting in, showing little interest in his job, and frequently getting into disciplinary problems. He was dismissed by the Fleet Commissariat shortly before Ghazghkull Mag Uruk Thraka launched his second invasion of Armageddon. The young Pious, stranded on his homeworld, found himself trapped at Hive Volcanus. Pious signed up for the nearest Planetary Defence Force militia unit and proved an exemplary officer cadet in the ground forces, quickly earning the rank of 2nd Lieutenant and assigned command of a Leman Russ Tank squadron. Towards the later stages of the war, Pious was one of the highest-rated tank aces of the entire Steel Legion, having scored hundreds of Ork vehicle kills, including three Stompas. Over the course of the war, the crew of Major Korren's Shadowsword, the Iron Saint, have transformed from a band of inexperienced rabble to a group of skilled veterans at armoured warfare. The Iron Saint gained its greatest fame during the Battle of Anthrand Plain, where Pious and his crew single-handedly destroyed an enormous number of Ork vehicles over the course of a single night.
- Lux Imperator - Lux Imperator was a Shadowsword with the 7th Paragonian Super-heavy Tank Company. The Lux fought in both the Indranis and Kalidar Campaigns. It was destroyed by an Ork Gargant and salvaged by the Orks during its first engagement in the Kalidar Campaign, on the Kostoval Plains of Kalidar IV in 397.M41. In the Battle of Hive Meradon, during its use by the Orks against the 7th Paragonian's Baneblade Mars Triumphant, the Machine Spirit of the Lux Imperator caused the energy of its Volcano Cannon to discharge through the vehicle instead of firing normally, killing its Ork crew and subsequently allowing for its recapture by Imperial forces. This episode proved a considerable source of shame for the Machine Spirit of Lux Imperator, which caused several malfunctions in the field during the Geratomran Reconquest that shortly followed the war on Kalidar. Only through vanquishing a worthy enemy, in this case a Warlord-class Battle Titan, was Lux Imperator's soul finally cleansed.
- Tormentor - The Tormentor was the heavily modified Shadowsword used as the personal transport of Perturabo, the Primarch of the Iron Warriors Legion, during the Great Crusade and the Horus Heresy. It boasted additional armour plating on all sides, and a radically reshaped super structure to accommodate the massive Primarch and his robotic bodyguards. It was outfitted with enhanced weaponry and proved the most potent main battle tank in the IV Legion's armoury when deployed to brutal effectiveness against the Loyalist Astartes during the Horus Heresy.
Adeptus Mechanicus Technical Specifications
|Vehicle Name:||Shadowsword||Main Armament:||1 hull-mounted Volcano Cannon|
|Forge World of Origin:||Mars, Lucius, Estaban VII, Triplex Phall||Secondary Armament:||2 sets of sponson-mounted twin-linked Heavy Bolters|
|Known Patterns:||I - VII||Traverse:||2 degrees|
|Crew:||1 Commander, 1 Driver, 1 Main Gunner, 1 Remote Gunner, 1 Comm-Operator, 1 Engineer||Elevation:||-2 to 12 degrees|
|Powerplant:||MR507 v18 Multi-Fuel||Main Ammunition:||Unlimited|
|Weight:||316 Tonnes||Secondary Ammunition:||1600 Rounds|
|Height:||6.3 metres||Superstructure:||220 millimetres|
|Ground Clearance:||1.2 metres||Hull:||210 millimetres|
|Max Speed On-Road:||25 kilometres per hour||Gun Mantlet:||200 millimetres|
|Max Speed Off-Road:||18 kilometres per hour||Vehicle Designation:||0427-658-0212-SS120|
|Transport Capacity:||N/A||Firing Ports:||N/A|
- Codex: Astra Militarum (8th Edition), pg. 55
- Imperial Armour - Apocalypse, pg. 6
- Imperial Armour, pp. 22, 23, 37
- Imperial Armour Update, pp. 19-20
- Imperial Armour Volume One - Imperial Guard and Imperial Navy, pp. 91-98
- Imperial Armour Volume One - Imperial Guard (Second Edition), pp. 8, 100-105, 267, 270
- Imperial Armour Volume Three - The Taros Campaign, pp. 261, 307
- Imperial Armour Volume Six - The Siege of Vraks - Part Two, pp. 58, 111, 133
- Imperial Armour Volume Eleven - The Doom of Mymeara, pg. 30
- The Horus Heresy - Book Two: Massacre, pp. 58-59
- The Horus Heresy - Book Four: Conquest, pg. 286
- Warhammer 40,000: Apocalypse (6th Edition), pp. 149-150, 271, 411
- Warhammer 40,000: Munitorum - Volcano Cannons (Digital Edition)
- Angel Exterminatus (Novel) by Graham McNeill, pp. 381-387, 417, 447, 464-468, 475-476, 535-536
- Gaunt's Ghosts Omnibus: The Saint (Novel) by Dan Abnett, pg. 57
- Gunheads (Novel) by Steve Parker pp. 60-65, 110-127
- Baneblade (Novel) by Guy Haley
- Shadowsword (Novel) by Guy Haley
- White Dwarf 352 (UK), "Liber Apocalyptica - Titan Killer!", by Andy Hoare, pp. 34-37
- Forge World - Astra Militarum Super Heavy Tanks: Shadowsword Arkurian Pattern