The Stormbird, officially designated the Warhawk VI by the Mechanicum, was used by the Legiones Astartes as their primary means of deploying forces into combat as well as their primary source of air support during the Great Crusade and Horus Heresy eras in the late 30th and early 31st Millennium. Before the development of the Thunderhawk gunship, the Stormbird was often considered the lynchpin of any Space Marine Legion, as it was able to fulfill many combat roles. The Stormbird was fully void-capable as well as functioning as an orbital drop ship, a heavy ground attack gunship, or as a bomber. This aircraft was able to quickly carry Space Marine forces from orbiting starships down into the midst of a battle, while at the same time providing supporting fire against enemy ground or air targets.
A Stormbird was bulkier and larger than a Thunderhawk and also less agile in flight. However, the Stormbird could carry up to the equivalent of a modern Space Marine company, between 60 and 100 Space Marines, far larger than the Thunderhawk's current carrying capacity. The Stormbird had missiles slung under both wings and a powerful kinetic cannon mounted on its nose. Stormbirds were piloted by two Space Marines sitting back to back along with two Servitors hardwired into the vessel. It is not known what a Stormbird actually looked like, yet early drawings of the Thunderhawk show organic, large, and Vertical Take-off and Landing (VTOL) capable Imperial landing craft dropping Space Marines on a target and it is assumed that the Stormbird looked much like these early pattern Thunderhawks, only larger.
The Stormbird was the Imperial dropship used by the Space Marine Legions during the Great Crusade in the late 30th Millennium just before the outbreak of the Horus Heresy and the introduction of the Thunderhawk gunship still used in the late 41st Millennium by almost all Space Marine Chapters. The Stormbird was void-capable as well as versatile in atmospheric flight. During the Great Crusade, many of the more venerable Legions, such as the Luna Wolves, made every effort to keep the old, heavy-duty machines in service. They had been delivering Legionaries into war since before the beginning of the Great Crusade in 800.M30. By the latter years of the Great Crusade, most Imperial Expeditionary forces had become reliant on the smaller, standard construct Thunderhawk pattern.
The Stormbird played a similar tactical role for the Astartes to that of the Thunderhawk gunship today, and it had many weapons for supporting the troops who deployed planetside from its front hatch. Stormbirds were first manufactured on Terra by the Yndonesic Bloc for use against the Panpacific techno-barbarian tribes during the Unification Wars that united all of Terra under the rule of the Emperor of Mankind before the start of the Great Crusade in circa 800.M30. A Stormbird's wings could be folded or collapsed back against the Stormbird's chassis in some manner when the aircraft was not in-atmosphere.
During the Horus Heresy, Captain Nathaniel Garro used a personal Stormbird provided by Malcador the Sigillite to criss-cross the galaxy in search of potential Astartes drawn from all of the Space Marine Legions, Loyalist and Traitor alike, who remained loyal to the Emperor and willing to destroy any threats to the Imperium. These Space Marines would later become the heart of the Grey Knights Chapter. Like his own Power Armour after he entered the service of the Sigillite, Garro's Stormbird was a uniform grey, with no Legion colours or other insignia or markings.
Since the time of the Horus Heresy, while the Stormbird has been phased out of Imperial service by the Adeptus Astartes in favour of the Thunderhawk, these aircraft are still seen in use amongst several of the Traitor Legions, most notably the Word Bearers.
Adeptus Mechanicus Technical Specifications
The Adeptus Mechanicus technical specifications for this ancient craft are not yet publicly available.