A Tau Battlesuit is an advanced powered combat exoskeleton that forms an integral part of the Tau Fire Caste’s military forces. Tau Battlesuits incorporate many different types of Tau weapons systems and armour and are the foremost sign of reputation and honour amongst the warriors of the Fire Caste –- just as they are the apex of the Tau's military technology. Battlesuits can easily lay down a withering hail of fire to destroy both infantry and vehicles. Though the armies of the Tau rely on their skimmer-tanks and the airborne gunships of the Air Caste for long range support, the Battlesuits of the Fire Caste are considered to be the most efficient of all their many killing machines. A battlesuit requires only one pilot, and often has much the same firepower as a tank or aircraft. When a cadre comprised of heavy battlesuits is deployed, it can change the course of a war. Tau Battlesuits are worn only by veteran Tau Fire Warriors and vary in size, shape, and tactical role. There are a variety of different models of Tau Battlesuits, each geared towards a different battlefield role. Known Battlesuits range from the XV88 Broadside Battlesuit intended for heavy fire support and armed with weapons more similar to those found on the main battle tanks of other intelligent races to the lightweight XV25 Stealthsuit which is designed for infiltration and sabotage operations. The mainstay of all Tau Battlesuits, however, is the versatile XV8 Crisis Battlesuit and its multiple derivatives, which are capable of carrying a wide variety of weapons and support equipment to optimise them for fighting in any tactical situation or role.
All Tau Battlesuits represent the pinnacle of advanced technology that has been developed by the Earth Caste, and often wield powerful heavy weapons which are complemented by Battlesuit Support Systems and varying types of Tau wargear. Most Tau Battlesuits share several similar features and the latest upgraded equipment, such as advanced sensors, recoil absorbers and a Tau Jetpack. Many marks of Tau Battlesuit, however, carry wholly unique gear to better aid them in their designated role. There are always new prototypes, upgrades and weapon fittings in the works for Tau Battlesuits by the Earth Caste. All Tau Battlesuits are constructed of a lightweight yet strong nano-crystalline alloy called Fio'tak in the Tau Lexicon, which is light, malleable, impact resistant and corrosive resistant, reducing the weight of the Battlesuit whilst also providing excellent protection. Even the armour’s shape helps deflect solid projectiles, while a reflective liquid metal coating can reflect medium-grade laser fire. In the cases of heavier Battlesuits, additional nano-layers are added to upgrade the armour’s thickness and grant even better protection. All Tau Battlesuits are piloted as much as they are worn, and no matter its model, each Battlesuit is a high technology marvel that maintains a balance between offensive capability, armoured protection, speed, agility and utility. It is little wonder then that only the most experienced of Fire Warriors are promoted to the rank of Shas'ui, the first honoured grade within the Fire Caste deemed worthy to pilot a Battlesuit.
The advancement of Tau Battlesuits has mirrored the rate at which the Tau have expanded across the galaxy. The earliest prototypes were field-tested during the early stages of the First Sphere Expansion, and although they were successful, the going was slow. In 576.M39, improvements in anti-gravitic motors were combined with relatively new Tau Battlesuit technology at the time to form the first T-Series Battlesuits, which helped the Fire Caste complete the annexation of the Tash’var Sept. The original fossil fuel-powered T-series was quickly replaced with the V-series, which used fission reaction, although radiation poisoning proved problematic. It was not until the end of that first period of rapid growth that Battlesuit technology began to regularly appear within the Hunter Cadres. Not surprisingly, it was at these final stages that the Tau won their largest battles, as elite formations of newly-trained Battlesuit pilots began to refine their tactics to take advantage of what their armoured suits could do. By the start of the Second Sphere Expansion, great strides had been made in Tau Battlesuit design, particularly in the areas of power sources and the increased potency of weapon load-outs. By the end of this period, repulsor jump jet technology came into its own and the Hunter Cadres were conquering new planets in the name of the Tau Empire at a rate never before seen. At present, Tau Battlesuits have never been more successful, and continual upgrades, different marks and variants, as well as new prototypes are continually being developed to advance the Greater Good.
There is broad range of Tau Battlesuits, and each has their own specialised tactical role. All designations of Battlesuits mentioned here are their Imperial designations rather than the actual names for the different Battlesuit varuiants used in the Tau Lexicon. Imperial interrogations with Tau prisoners have yielded the term Her’ex’vre as the Tau name for their single-pilot Battlesuits. This roughly translates into Low Gothic as “Mantle of the Hero”. Her’ex’vre was then transcribed phonetically into Low Gothic as the designation "XV," which forms the foundational prefix of Imperial nomenclature for the different types of Tau Battlesuits. Numerical designators applied to a type of Battlesuit generally consist of one or two numerals placed after the XV prefix. The first number indicates the Battlesuit's mass class, with "1" being the lightest and smallest Battlesuit in the Tau arsenal, to "9" indicating a large, heavily-armoured and potently armed Battlesuit. Those Battlesuits which have a specific and confirmed specialised function are then given a second numerical designator, while those considered general combat utility Battlesuits retain only the first numeral, due to being considered the standard Battlesuit of that mass class without any real specialisation. It is of note that some Battlesuits may have a secondary operational role, and so a rare third numeral may be included in its designation. Please note that the recently introduced XV104 Riptide, XV107 R'varna, and XV109 Y'vahra Battlesuits are uniquely named, for their three numbers are meant to be read as 10-4, 10-7, and 10-9 respectively; with 10 being the mass class and 4, 7, and 9 being the designator of their tactical role.
Below are the secondary numerical codes and the tactical function assigned to them that have been identified by the Imperium. Note that these numbers should be read as "XVx1" where the "XV" designates the unit as a Tau Battlesuit, the small "x" represents the number from 1 to 9 (10 in the case of the XV104 and XV107) indicating the mass class of the Battlesuit, and the second numeral indicates the Battlesuit's operational role.
- XVx1 – Designates a Batttlesuit of any mass class believed to only exist as a theoretical prototype or developmental model.
- XVx2 – Designates a prototype Battlesuit of any mass class that has progressed to field trial testing.
- XVx3 – Designates a Battlesuit of any mass class that has not entered mass production and has been assigned permanently to its pilot.
- XVx4 – Designates a Battlesuit of any mass class approved for the command and control role.
- XVx5 – Designates a Battlesuit of any mass class outfitted with Tau stealth technology.
- XVx6 – Designates an air-space Battlesuit unit of any mass class.
- XVx7 – Designates a Battlesuit of any mass class intended to facilitate infiltration.
- XVx8 – Designates a fire support Battlesuit unit of any mass class.
- XVx9 – Designates a Battlesuit of any mass class designed for frontline assaults.
Using this system of nomenclature, the following Battlesuit designations can be rendered thusly:
- XV8 – Single pilot general heavy combat suit
- XV88 – Single pilot heavy fire support suit
- XV15 – Single pilot ultra-light stealthsuit
- XV25 – Single pilot light stealthsuit
- XV22 – Single pilot field test prototype light stealthsuit
Earning a BattlesuitEdit
Being allowed to use a Battlesuit, particularly the massive XV8 Crisis Battlesuits, is considered a high honour among the Tau Fire Caste, and is only granted to Tau Fire Warriors who have earned the rank and privilege required to be granted this responsibility. Such a privilege can only be attained after several years of progressing through the ranks of the Fire Caste as a Fire Warrior. A Fire Warrior will normally follow a standard rate of progression and advancement in the Tau military that is based around an evaluation of their skills called a "Trial by Fire." Tau Battlesuits are only piloted by those Fire Warriors who have proven themselves in battle and completed their first Trial by Fire to earn the Fire Caste rank of Shas’ui. Often, the first Battlesuit that Fire Warriors learn to pilot are the XV15 and/or the XV25 Stealthsuit, to complete their training in the arts of infiltration and ambush that they began as Pathfinders. Once their time utilising a Stealthsuit is complete, they are then given the honour of piloting an XV8 Crisis Battlesuit and becoming a member of the Fire Caste’s elite. After this service, Fire Warriors will normally move on to train in the use of the XV88 Broadside Battlesuit. Whilst some Tau Fire Warriors may skip this stage, it is considered important by many Tau Commanders for their veteran warriors seeking greater command roles within the Fire Caste to have had experience in the heavy fire support role. Once a Fire Warrior has proven himself ready for more responsibility in a second Trial by Fire, he will then be promoted to the rank of Shas’vre and lead his own XV8 Crisis Battlesuit Team. If he succeeds in that demanding role, he will go on to be assigned to a Tau Commander’s Battlesuit Bodyguard Team, and eventually will become a Tau Commander once he attains the rank of Shas'el himself. Further service and success in this role will then lead to a promotion to the highest Fire Caste rank of Shas'o. However, not all Tau find themselves suitable for advancement through all of these stages, either due to failure in training or simply because some warriors choose to take on more specialised roles that end their advancement up the general command ranks of the Fire Caste. As such, they will often stay in one role to teach the others who will follow, such as the Shas’ui who command Fire Warrior Squads, the Shas'nel who serve as Cadre Fireblades, and the Shas’vre who lead XV88 Broadside Battlesuit Teams and Stealthsuit Teams, amongst others.
- XV02 Pilot Battlesuit - The XV02 Pilot Battlesuit is a unique and experimental prototype of Tau Battlesuit developed specifically for use in conjunction with Tau vehicles, most notably the Hammerhead gunship. Shas’la T’au Sha’ng, better known as Longstrike, was chosen to trial the newly designed Battlesuit. With its upgraded interface, he could become one with his vehicle -- reacting instantaneously alongside various artificial intelligence (AI) functions within the Hammerhead.
- XV15 Stealthsuit - The XV15 Stealthsuit is the smallest and lightest of all the various Tau Battlesuit variants, and is designed for use in operations requiring a high degree of stealth. Squads of Fire Warriors wearing XV15 Stealthsuits operate as the "lone wolves" of a Tau army, specialising in covert operations such as infiltration, sabotage, reconnaissance and ambush.
- XV17 Battlesuit - Little is known about this Battlesuit apart from that it exists.
- XV22 Stealthsuit - The XV22 Stealthsuit is an experimental Tau Battlesuit that has been recently developed by the Earth Caste of the Tau Empire. The XV22 itself is of a similar mass to the XV15 and XV25 Stealthsuits, and is designed to fulfil a similar role in covert operations that require a high degree of stealth. Currently, the XV22 has only been issued to trusted Fire Caste commanders and some of their higher-ranking and veteran subordinates.
- XV25 Stealthsuit - The XV25 Stealthsuit is a relatively recent development of the Tau Earth Caste and shares many of the same features of its predecessor in the Tau armoury, the XV15 Stealthsuit. The XV15 Stealthsuit is currently being phased out of use by the Fire Caste and is being replaced by the XV25, which will serve as the new standard for all Tau stealth forces in the years to come.
- XV26 Battlesuit - Little is known about this Battlesuit apart from that it exists.
- XV46 Vanguard Void Battlesuit - The XV46 Vanguard Void Battlesuit is a newly developed Tau Battlesuit that was designed by Earth Caste mechanics of the Tau Empire out of a need for a specialised Battlesuit to explore Space Hulks.They incorporate many advanced and minaturised technologies in their armour, and are armed with an array of powerful short-ranged weapons and potent defensive systems to aid them in their exploration role.
- XV8 Crisis Battlesuit - The XV8 Crisis Battlesuit is the mainstay Tau Battlesuit utilised by the warriors of the Fire Caste, mounting fearsome ranged weaponry and a complement of technologically advanced support systems, all on a comparatively small and agile frame. XV8 Crisis Battlesuits are versatile and formidable weapons that the enemies of the Tau Empire have learned to respect. There are several variants of the XV8 Crisis Battlesuit, including:
- XV8-02 Iridium Crisis Battlesuit – The XV8-05 Iridium Crisis Battlesuit was developed following the death of Commander Pridestar to a sniper’s bullet and the subsequent rout of Fire Caste warriors during the Klodate Worlds Suppression. After this tragic event, the Earth Caste developed an experimental iridium alloy that was used to produce enough armour plates to reinforce a small series of Battlesuits. The XV8-02 prototype offers Tau Commanders and their bodyguards optimal protection that is by far superior compared to the armour of the standard XV8 Crisis Battlesuit.
- XV8-05 Enforcer Crisis Battlesuit – The XV8-05 Enforcer Crisis Battlesuit is a larger and sleeker variant of the standard XV8 Crisis Battlesuit that provides better protection and joint movement for the pilot. It is currently only available for use by Tau Commanders.
- XV8-06 Coldstar Crisis Battlesuit – The XV8-06 Coldstar Crisis Battlesuit, or simply the XV86, is a rare mark of XV8 Crisis Battlesuit that carries many wholly unique support and weapon systems. Designed for operation in a void environment, each XV8-06 is fitted with integrated interface armour.
- XV81 Crisis Battlesuit - The XV81 Crisis Battlesuit maintains a Smart Missile System mounted on its back and is intended to be used as a long-range fire support platform.
- XV84 Crisis Battlesuit - The XV84 Crisis Battlesuit is equipped with a spine-mounted Marker Light and Target Lock sensor support system intended to enhance its target acquisition capabilities in combat conditions against multiple foes.
- XV89 Crisis Battlesuit - The XV89 Crisis Battlesuit is intended for assaults against heavily-fortified enemy positions and thus is outfitted with heavier Iridium Armour plating for enhanced protection compared to the more standard Crisis Battlesuit variants.
- XV88 Broadside Battlesuit - An XV88 Broadside Battlesuit is the most heavily armoured infantry unit that can be fielded by the Tau Fire Caste, and as such are only worn by the most experienced of Tau veterans. While similar to the standard XV8 Crisis Battlesuit, the Broadside sacrifices mobility and manoeuvrability to be armed with some of the most devastating weapons in the Tau arsenal. In this way, the XV88 can engage and destroy the heaviest of enemy targets.
- XV9 Hazard Battlesuit – The XV9 Hazard Battlesuit is the most sophisticated and powerful Tau Battlesuit yet fielded by the Fire Caste, the use of which has remained controversial amongst the more traditionalist members of the Ethereal and Earth Castes. Though undoubtedly powerful, its armament is short-ranged and the armour's size and mobility difficulties make it more complex to operate than any previous Battlesuit, requiring a veteran's skills to master its use and effectively utilise its sheer power in combat.
- XV104 Riptide Battlesuit – The XV104 Riptide Battlesuit is a newly-developed, experimental heavy Battlesuit that towers over all other known forms of Tau Battlesuit save for its variant, the XV107 R'varna. The XV104 is the latest model to arrive on the front lines of the Third Sphere of Expansion, and its deadly combination of heavy protection, supreme mobility and devastating firepower makes it an extremely powerful asset for the forces of the Tau Empire.
- XV107 R'varna Battlesuit - The XV107 R'varna Battlesuit is a rare variant of the recently introduced XV104 Riptide Battlesuit, and mounts two Pulse Submunitions Cannons as its main armament. These are experimental weapons systems which fire micro-cluster projectiles capable of saturating a wide target area with a deadly storm of plasma pulses. The R’varna has far heavier armour than its more mobile, Jetpack-equipped Riptide counterpart, allowing the pilot to stand firm in the face of any foe whilst the more mobile elements of this Hunter Cadre envelop and destroy them.
- XV109 Y'vahra Battlesuit - Rushed into deployment after the success of the XV107 R'varna Battlesuit, the XV109 Y'vahra is a Class 10 Battlesuit designed for devastating frontline shock assaults. To facilitate this role, the Y'vahra is equipped with a triple-barrelled Phased Plasma-Flamer capable of vaporising even hardened ceramite, and a massive Ionic Discharge Cannon designed to incapacitate enemy war engines. The complex Vectored Thruster Array incorporated into the Y'vahra's impressive armour allows it to traverse the battlefield in long graceful bounds, slamming into the greatest concentration of the enemy and reaping a heavy toll in lives before jetting away.
- Codex: Tau (3rd Edition), pp. 16-18, 22-25
- Codex: Tau Empire (4th Edition), pp. 25-27, 32, 34-35
- Codex: Tau Empire (6th Edition), pp. 12, 28, 41, 70-71, 73
- Imperial Armour Volume Three: The Taros Campaign, pp. 271-177, 283-284
- Fire Warrior (Novel) by Simon Spurrier
- Deathwatch: Mark of the Xenos (RPG), pp. 3-4, 6-7
- Deathwatch: Ark of Lost Souls (RPG), pp. 122-124
- Imperial Armour Apocalypse II, pg. 58
- White Dwarf 400 (AUS), "XV8 Battlesuit Commander", pg. 15
- Warhammer 40,000: Dataslate - Tau Firebase Support Cadre (Digital Edition)
- Warhammer 40,000: Rulebook (5th Edition), pg. 171
- Forge World – XV107 R'varna Battlesuit Experimental Rules Datasheet
- Forge World - XV109 Y'vahra Battlesuit Experimental Rules Datasheet