Starship Weapons are those massive weapons designed to work in the vast reaches of outer space against other starships with their incredibly potent defences. The most common types of starship weapons are Weapons Batteries, Lances, and Torpedoes.
"Weapons battery" is a generic name for the Macrocannons, Plasma Batteries, Laser Cannons, Railguns, and Missile Launchers that make up the vast majority of spaceborne weapons and can be fired in a multitude of ways, from one concentrated blast to a pattern determined by the captain. Nearly all warships are well-armed with gun ports and weapon housings for weapons batteries. While the weapons batteries of many different factions like Chaos and the T'au have a similar end effect to those employed by the Imperium, several of the intelligent starfaring races such as the Tyranids and the Necrons use weapons batteries that are significantly different in how the weapons output is produced from the norm across the human-settled galaxy.
Ork weapons batteries (or "Gunz") are notable for their questionable reliability, with individual weapons often failing or running out of ammunition, yet with others simultaneously being repaired (or even improved), right in the midst of an ongoing battle. In addition to their usual weapons batteries, many Ork starships are also armed with so-called "Heavy Gunz" that are extremely short-ranged, but deal immense damage.
The T'au also make use of large Railguns mounted on warships that require massive amounts of energy to fire despite the advanced T'au superconductors. Because of this, power is routed to a single barrel at a time. The sequence is timed to ensure the first barrel is reloaded before it is charged again. Railguns function as standard weapons batteries.
The Tyranids' equivalent of weapons batteries fire short-ranged, compact, organic pods containing highly caustic pyro-acid that will melt through the hulls and innards of any voidship they hit. The impact alone is capable of harming starships, but so ravenous are the acids released into the target ship's bulkheads that there is a chance of causing additional damage over an extended period of time, until the stricken vessel can bring the spreading damage under control.
The idea behind Lances is simple: use an ultra-heavy directed energy cannon to hit an enemy with a blast so powerful that it punches straight through its armour. Like weapons batteries, each starfaring race has its own Lance-type weapons, many of which have effects that are drastically different from those technologies employed by the Imperial Navy.
Eldar Pulsar Lances fire a barrage of potent energy beams, rather than a single powerful one, leading to multiple hits on the target. The end result is a weapon that is nearly twice as deadly as its Imperial counterpart.
The Dark Eldar Phantom Lance is a battery of dark matter-powered lasers that can strike twice as hard as other races' lance weaponry, making them much more dangerous than their Imperial equivalent in starship combat.
Ion Cannons fire blasts of directed energy that vaporise the object struck, magnifying the energy discharge. Armour is of no value against them. They function the same as Imperial Navy starship Lances in all respects.
The Tyranids use slow-moving bio-plasma blasts in a manner similar to the way that the other races dependent on inorganic technology use lances. Bio-plasma energy moves very slowly, which limits it to extremely short ranges but allows it to bypass Void Shields unhindered.
Torpedoes are large anti-starship missiles used in naval space battles. They are a highly versatile weapon, as they can be used by any spacecraft from the largest battleships to the smallest planet-side missile defence silos. Up to 200 Terran feet long and powered by a powerful Plasma Reactor that also forms part of the warhead, torpedoes' extremely limited tracking abilities are made up for by the sheer size of the blast they can produce, making a near miss almost as good as a direct hit. The threat they pose when fired in large salvos also allows them to force an enemy fleet to maneuver to avoid them, allowing canny admirals to limit the enemy's tactical options and "herd" their ships, providing an advantage even if they are evaded successfully. Torpedoes are made even more effective by the difficulty of hitting them, which results in fighters and point-defense turrets being the only weapons that can be counted on to consistently engage and destroy them. Larger weapons like weapons batteries, lances, and Nova Cannons can still work as anti-torpedo weapons if the situation proves desperate enough, though their small size (compared to a starship) means they are relatively difficult to target with main weapons.
Torpedoes come in many forms and varieties beyond the "standard":
While the Imperium's normal plasma warhead torpedoes are standard weaponry, they also have access to the largest array of specialist versions:
- Barrage Bombs are highly effective at planetary bombardment.
- Guided Torpedoes are remotely guided, which makes them highly accurate but vulnerable to jamming.
- Melta Torpedoes punch through an enemy's hull and sets the ship ablaze.
- Seeking Torpedoes home in on enemy ships, but tend to detonate prematurely.
- Short Burn Torpedoes have more powerful (if less fuel-efficient) engines intended to increase their speed.
- Vortex Torpedoes implode and create a ship-shredding Warp rift.
- Rok-Buster Torpedoes are designed to burrow deep into Ork Roks before exploding.
All Eldar Torpedoes carry sophisticated scrambling systems and targeting sensors, making them highly accurate and difficult to shoot down.
Vorpal Torpedoes are maneuverable weapons outfitted with Distortion Warheads that open temporary rifts into the Warp. A few Vorpal Torpedoes were utilised by Prince Yriel during the Battle of Duriel to destroy a Norn-Queen Hive Ship. These appear to function similarly to the Imperial equivalent of Vortex Torpedoes.
Eldar Sonic Torpedoes are a specialised variant of the standard Eldar Torpedo. This variant uses a sonic warhead that causes a massive sonic explosion, causing extreme damage to enemy starships.
Leech Torpedoes emit an electromagnetic ionisation field that drains a target's engine power, making the victim easier to chase down, cripple, and then board.
Boarding Torpedoes are a cross between a torpedo and an assault boat that are used by many of the starfaring races. Instead of a large explosive, they deliver raiding parties into an enemy starship's interior.
Weapons batteries, lances, and torpedoes are far from the only weapons used in space battles.
- The Imperium's Nova Cannon is one of the most powerful weapons in the galaxy. It fires a 50 metre-wide shell out to a predetermined range at significant fractions of lightspeed, where the shell detonates in a massive explosion that can cripple cruisers and wipe out entire escort squadrons.
- The Bombardment Cannon is a linear accelerator that fires heavy Magma Bombs, and is found almost exclusively on Space Marine Battle Barges and Strike Cruisers. Despite being designed primarily for planetary bombardment, it is nonetheless a fearsome anti-starship weapon able to rip through even the thickest of starship armour.
- Star Pulse Generators create a pulse of energy that radiates outwards from the firing ship in all directions, dealing damage to all enemies within its blast radius.
- Lightning Arcs release stored solar energy as powerful electromagentic energy tendrils that envelop a target starship and probe for any weaknesses to exploit and tear apart.
- Many Tyranid bio-ships have evolved massive claws and mandibles capable of ripping, chewing, and tearing their way through any starship unlucky enough to find itself in the Tyranid craft's clutches.
- The huge tentacles used to "feed" on planetary atmospheres are also a major threat to enemy starships in space battles, as they can be used to deposit vast numbers of rampaging Tyranid combat organisms into an enemy ship.
- T'au Turrets are extremely sophisticated defensive starship defensive systems, combining a range of kinetic and directed energy weapon types with overlapping fire zones.
- Gravitic Launchers are massive Railguns where mass drivers trigger the initial acceleration before the T'au starship's gravitic field is pulsed to squeeze the missiles toward the enemy at enormous speed. The missiles are drone-controlled and exceptionally dangerous.
- Battlefleet Gothic Rulebook
- Battlefleet Gothic Armada
- Battlefleet Gothic - To Unite the Stars: Tau Vessels
- Imperial Armour Volume Eleven - The Doom of Mymeara, pg. 162
- Valedor (Novel) by Guy Haley, pg. 286