Stormbird is a catch-all term that refers to a series of various super-heavy dedicated attack landers that were once used by the Legiones Astartes as their primary means of deploying forces into combat as well as air support and general planetary transport during the Great Crusade and Horus Heresy eras in the late 30th and early 31st Millennia. Unlike the spacecraft used later, the Stormbird series is based on an incredibly old and incomplete STC (Standard Template Construct) design and as such consists of multiple classes and patterns of super-heavy flyers. These super-heavy spacecraft were used nearly exclusively by the Space Marine Legions before the development of the smaller and much easier to produce STC-based Thunderhawk Gunship and 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 of functioning as an orbital drop ship, an assault lander, a heavy ground attack gunship, a bomber, or as a ground bastion or firebase. This spacecraft 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.
All known Stormbirds were bulkier and larger than the Thunderhawk and also less agile in flight. However, some Stormbird classes, such as the Warhawk IV, could carry up to the equivalent of a modern Space Marine company, up to 100 Space Marines or the equivalent in vehicles or cargo, far larger than the Thunderhawk's carrying capacity. Some Stormbirds had missiles or bombs slung under both wings while other classes included powerful kinetic cannons mounted on its nose. Stormbirds were piloted by two Space Marine or Legion Serfs along with either hardwired Servitors, Space Marines or Legion Serfs operating the craft's various weapons. While various classes and patterns of the Stormbird have been described, it is not known what most actually looked like, yet descriptions of some classes include folding wings, armoured cockpits with view slits, multiple large engines, and magnetic launch rails used aboard Imperial starships to quickly launch the craft into the void. However, one of the more modern Stormbirds, the Sokar Pattern, has a nearly full technical data sheet available at present, including telling pict-captures.
The Stormbird originated as the Warhawk and Nephoros-class assault transports and were first utilised by the Yndonesic Bloc for use against the Panpacific techno-barbarian tribes during the Unification Wars on Terra, and were later adapted by the Emperor for His early Space Marine Legions, replacing the aging Skylance Gunships used earlier on. The Stormbird was used in great numbers by the Space Marine Legions during the Great Crusade in the late 30th Millennium before being slowly replaced by the Thunderhawk Gunship by the outbreak of the Horus Heresy. The Thunderhawk Gunship is still used in the late 41st Millennium by nearly all Space Marine Chapters, the Stormbird being an incredibly rare sight even amongst the Traitor Legions. 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 and the Death Guard, 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, STC Thunderhawk and Thunderhawk Transporter. During this time, even as most Stormbirds were retired from service, there were some that were kept exclusively as transports for a Legion's Primarch. These Stormbirds were specially outfitted or adorned and made use of pennants associated with the carriage of such an important individual.
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 smaller Thunderhawk, these spacecraft are still seen in use amongst several of the Traitor Legions, most notably the Word Bearers. However, as the dreaded End Times draw near, many Space Marine Chapters are starting to bring their oldest and most powerful weapons and vehicles out of their deepest armouries and reliquaries, and one day the Stormbird may fly in Imperial service again.
At least one variant of the Stormbird, the Warhawk-class Stormbird, made use of massive cavernous launch bays aboard Legion starships that included a series of large magnetic rails. The Warhawks were launched from the rails at extreme speed. At the ends of the rails were large protective blast doors that would open when the spacecraft were launched. When opened, gravitic integrity fields would energise to protect the inside atmosphere from rushing out from the bay into the void. The spacecraft were stored on loading bays at the head of the launch rails, and their wings could be extended and retracted for easier storage within the crowded landing bays.
The following is a list of known uses for the various Stormbird classes:
- Void and Atmospheric Transportation of Troops and Cargo - The Stormbird could carry infantry, vehicles, combat walkers, cargo, and important individuals from starship to starship, or to a planet's surface.
- Void and Atmospheric Assault Transport - The Stormbird could be used to land forces into the launch bays or onto the outer hulls of enemy starships, or land forces on a planetary surface while under fire.
- Ground Force Fire Support - The Stormbird could use its various weapon systems to support Imperial ground forces during combat, including during an extraction.
- Assault Bomber - The Stormbird could be outfitted with Macro-bombs for surface bombardment and orbital uplinks to call down a bombardment from orbiting starships.
- Bastion or Firebase - The Stormbird, once landed, could use its various weapon systems to protect disembarking forces and provide additional firepower against enemy forces near the landing zone. Some Stormbirds could divert unused engine power to extend their Void Shields outwards to provide additional protection to ground forces.
- Medicae Duty - Some Stormbirds were converted to be used as medical craft and were outfitted with medical equipment such as gurnies, medicae mechines, and many other medical tools. These craft had armoured bucket seats that lined the craft's fuselage where Apothacaries and other medicae personnel sat during flight.
- Funerary Duty - Some Stormbirds were used for funerary duty, scouring the battlefield for fallen Astartes to return their bodies to the bosom of their Legion.
- Personal Transport - A Stormbird was the go-to choice for personal transportation during the Great Crusade, as its imposing size would insure all eyes were upon it as it landed. These craft were used during this time to transport the great Primarchs themselves, some even possessing personalised spacecraft with symbolic heraldry or even special upgrades or weapons. During the Horus Heresy, former Death Guard Battle-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 and the Chamber Militant of the Inquisition's Ordo Malleus. 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.
The following is a list of notable Stormbirds:
- Firebird - The Firebird was a heavily modified Stormbird which served as the personal transport for the Primarch of the Emperor's Children Legion, Fulgrim, during the Great Crusade. The Firebird was part of the arsenal of the Pride of the Emperor, Fulgrim's personal Gloriana-class Battleship. Fulgrim had personally designed and constructed the Firebird in the armorium decks of his flagship. Its wings had a greater span than a standard Stormbird, curving in a graceful backward sweep, and its hooked prow gave it a fearsome visage that struck terror into the hearts of the Primarch’s foes. It is known that the Firebird took part in the Cleansing of Laeran. When the Firebird came in from orbit, fiery re-entry would wreath its wings and body giving it the visage of a burning Phoenix.
The Stormbird was one of the few widely-used Imperial vehicles that was not based upon an intact Standard Template Construct (STC) design, as such the Stormbird had many different patterns and variants. The following is a list of all known craft designated as a Stormbird:
- Warhawk-class Stormbird - The Warhawk-class of Stormbird was the most common of the different Stormbird classifications, and was one of the original assault transport classes utilised by the Yndonesic Bloc during the Unification Wars on ancient Terra. There are known to be at least four different marks of the Warhawk class. It is believed that the Warhawk's wings could be folded or collapsed back against the Stormbird's chassis in some manner when the aircraft was being stored aboard an Imperial starship. Described as monstrous and fat-bodied, the Warhawk IV had a massive transport capacity of up to 100 seated Astartes, using rear-facing cage seats that had weapon locks for safe stowage. The seat restraints were manually locked in place when the Astartes sat down but would automatically release upon landing. The seat restraints could also be manually released in case of an emergency. The seating was completely removable to facilitate the transportation of cargo, vehicles, or for other more specialised purposes.
- Nephoros-class Stormbird - The Nephoros-class Stormbird was one of the original assault transport classes utilised by the Yndonesic Bloc during the Unification Wars on ancient Terra. No other information about this class is known.
- Sokar Pattern Stormbird - The Sokar Pattern Stormbird was one of the later patterns of Stormbird developed during the Great Crusade and was used as the design precursor to the smaller, more widely produced Thunderhawk gunship. It was conceived as a specialised, high-durability orbital assault craft -- almost a mobile bastion and firebase -- which could land a Space Marine strike force and withstand heavy ground fire while its passengers forced a landing zone.
- Khonsu Pattern Stormbird - Utilised exclusively by the Pre-Heresy Thousand Sons Legion during the Great Crusade era.
- Apophis Pattern Stormbird - Utilised exclusively by the Pre-Heresy Thousand Sons Legion, this was the largest known Stormbird pattern, widely known for its ominous appearance and vast wingspan, which earned it the title of "Sunkiller."
Adeptus Mechanicus Technical Specifications
The Adeptus Mechanicus technical specifications for this ancient spacecraft are not yet publicly available.
- The Horus Heresy Legiones Astartes: Age of Darkness Army List (Forge World Series), pg. 92
- The Horus Heresy - Book Five: Tempest (Forge World Series) by Alan Bligh, pg. 217
- The Horus Heresy - Book Seven: Inferno (Forge World Series) by Alan Bligh, pp. 94, 98
- Horus Rising (Novel) by Dan Abnett, pp. 16, 18, 139, 141-142, 144-145, 148-149, 151-152, 156, 182, 184, 202, 305
- False Gods (Novel) by Graham McNeill, pp. 29, 43, 88-89, 91-93, 98-99, 101-103, 115, 175-177, 180, 182-183, 201, 205, 222, 227-230, 334
- The Flight of the Eisenstein (Novel) by James Swallow, pp. 61-62, 92, 96, 107, 160-162, 172-173, 359-364
- Fulgrim (Novel) by Graham McNeill, pp. 23, 31, 53, 55, 85-91, 133, 137-138, 146-147, 149, 243-245, 300-302, 305, 309, 472, 474, 499
- Angel Exterminatus (Novel) by Graham McNeill, pp. 52, 249, 278-280, 287-288, 332, 371, 397
- Promethean Sun (Novella) by Nick Kyme
- Garro: Oath of Moment (Audio Book) by James Swallow
- Garro: Legion of One (Audio Book) by James Swallow
- Dark Disciple (Novel) by Anthony Reynolds
- The Beast Arises - Book 1: I Am Slaughter (Novel) by Dan Abnett, Chapter 15