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 -- they are the apex of the Tau's military technology. Only the greatest heroes of the Fire Caste stride to war in these mighty armoured machines, and they are the pride of the caste as well as one of the most important symbols of the Tau Empire. Battlesuits can easily lay down a withering hail of fire to destroy both infantry and vehicles, and possess the resilience and speed to shrug off heavy fire. 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 usually 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 the advanced technologies that have 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 -- tools that allow them to defeat any foe and master any situation. A pilot ensconced in a Battlesuit can weather some of the harshest conditions the elements can muster, glide through the void, and annihilate foes he could never hope to vanquish otherwise. Most Tau Battlesuits share several similar features and the latest upgraded equipment, such as advanced sensors or Blacksun Filters, advanced Multi-Tracker target acquisition system, recoil absorbers, an internal environmental seal, and a Tau Jetpack. Many marks of Tau Battlesuit carry wholly unique gear to better aid them in their designated role. There are always new system upgrades and weapon fittings in the works for Tau Battlesuits by the Earth Caste, usually prototypes that are put into full scale production only once they have been exactingly tested. 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 corrosion-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 Fire Caste believe that warfare is an art form, a discipline to be studied, practised, mastered and applied. First among their teachings is the Code of Fire, which promotes mobile, rapid warfare and a clear disdain for close combat, favouring instead the application of ranged firepower. The first Tau Battlesuits were developed as a direct result of this martial philosophy, providing Hunter Cadres of the Fire Caste with increased mobility and superior firepower to better destroy their enemies.
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. Though lumbering and inefficient when compared to their descendants, the T-series allowed the Fire Caste to engage foes otherwise beyond their abilities, and also gave the Earth Caste a critical opportunity to pioneer and field test many technologies that would be crucial to their development of later models. The original fossil fuel-powered T-series was quickly replaced with the V-series, which instead was powered by fission reactors.
Though early marks the V-series inundated their pilots with deadly radiation, later models were able to account for this problem, at which point Battlesuits began to be a mainstay of the military forces of the Tau Empire. 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 -- augment with anti-grav 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. The greatest development, however, was the nanocrystalline alloy fio'tak that was dense, durable and incredibly light. Comparable in protection to Space Marine Power Armour, it enabled the Earth Caste to build more resilient Battlesuits without hampering manoeuvrability, an important consideration when taking into account the Fire Caste’s desire for fast, mobile warfare. The result was the X-series Battlesuits, the most successful of which has been, and remains, the XV8 Crisis Battlesuit. 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.
Yet the Earth Caste did not stop there. As the Tau Empire expanded across the stars, the Hunter Cadres encountered new and more deadly alien races, prompting the Earth caste to develop new Battlesuits to fulfill particular battlefield roles or face certain foes. The compact XV15 Stealth Battlesuit, for example, was developed for scouting and infiltration missions, but was upgraded to the bigger XV25 following the Kappa Mortis Incident. The Great War of Confederation saw the development of the High-yield Missile Pod armament for XV88 Broadside Battlesuits to better tackle the Ork hordes that assaulted their lines. The XV104 Riptide was developed following contact with the Imperium’s vast armies in the Damocles Gulf Crusade, and the KV128 Stormsurge as a direct response to the Imperium's super-heavy tanks and Titans. The Earth Caste, it seems, never rests in its quest for technological superiority.
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 variants 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 Battlesuit 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, or is in the final stages of field-testing.
- 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
There are also variations on the standard XVx naming convention consisting of a " - " followed by 2 other numbers, indicating a variant on the suit itself without altering its battlefield role. For example, the XV8-02 Crisis "Iridium" Battlesuit is a variant on the standard XV8 Crisis with upgraded armour composites; it is not a Battlesuit of mass class 8 that is currently in field testing stages of development, which would be indicated by an XV82 designation.
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 Battlesuits 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. By the time a Fire Caste warrior has reached this stage, he is a veteran of many battles, extremely experienced in the way of mobile warfare and equipped with a set of wargear perfectly suited to support his style of combat. Further service and success in the role of Shas'el will then lead to a promotion to the highest Fire Caste rank of Shas'o.
Only the greatest commanders and warriors are assigned experimental weaponry or even entirely unique Battlesuits. Such prototypes have turned the tide of many battles where the Tau Empire might have suffered grievous defeats without their pilots' intervention. In the hands of their esteemed wielders, their equipment can become the stuff of legends within the Tau Empire, for the tools and weapons heroes use to accomplish their greatest deeds are tied to their stores.
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 other than 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 other than 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 miniaturised 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 Crisis 'Iridium' Battlesuit – The XV8-02 Crisis 'Iridium' 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.
- 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.
- XV85 Enforcer Battlesuit – The XV85 Enforcer Battlesuit is a larger and sleeker variant of the standard XV8 Crisis Battlesuit that provides better protection and joint movement for the pilot, and can mount additional support systems or weapons due to its more powerful reactor. It is produced in limited numbers, and is issued almost exclusively to Tau Commanders.
- XV86 Coldstar Battlesuit – The XV86 Coldstar 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 XV86 is fitted with integrated interface armour.
- 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.
- XV95 Ghostkeel Battlesuit - The XV95 Ghostkeel Battlesuit stands at the pinnacle of Tau stealth technology, a Battlesuit created specifically for use behind enemy lines in the most gruelling conditions. Its Shas’vre pilot is a highly skilled Stealth Team operative, one of the few warriors in a cadre trusted to operate autonomously for extended periods of time. A huge, deadly and nigh-undetectable weapon of impressive killing capacity, the XV95 Ghostkeel Battlesuit is a formidable display of Tau war technology. A lone Ghostkeel is capable of appearing from seemingly nowhere, unleashing a storm of incredible firepower with its weapons, and disappearing into the mayhem and confusion of battle. This Battlesuit bristles with a vast array of advanced countermeasures, making it invisible to enemy sensors -- weapons simply refuse to lock-on, and the few that manage to loose off a shot are baffled by a spectacular display of flares and electronic countermeasures.
- 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.
- KV128 Stormsurge - The KV128 Stormsurge Ballistic Suit is the latest development in Earth Caste technology. Mag-lifted into battles by Manta gunships, these colossal walking tanks are akin to mobile artillery pieces, their weapon systems capable of obliterating even the most heavily armoured foes. An absolute colossus of a machine, piloted by graduates of the Ves'oni'Vash, the KV128 Stormsurge is designed as an extreme heavy-weapons platform. Not as manoeuvrable as a Riptide, instead relying on thick armour and devastating weapons, these hulking, squat Ballistic Suits are capable of changing the course of a battle in seconds with a decisive volley of astonishing firepower. Fitted with thrusters to counter recoil, bristling with pulse weaponry and Missile Pods, the Stormsurge is the Tau Empire’s Titan-killer.
- KX139 Ta'unar Supremacy Armour - The KX139 Ta'unar Supremacy Armour is larger than any other current class of Tau Battlesuit. It is intended to meet a threat that the Tau Empire has not yet prepared for; the defence of worlds within their growing domain from the counter-expansion forces of other races. Lacking the manoeuvrability of other battlesuits, the KX139 Ta'unar Supremacy Armour was designed for static defence, carrying massively destructive, long range weapons. Encountering increasing numbers of enemy heavy assault elements, from Imperial Knights to the towering alien monstrosities of the Tyranid Hive Fleets, Tau heavy flyers were often outclassed. Earth Caste engineer Fio'o Ke'lshan Sho'aun developed the KX139 to mount a dynamic yet stoic defence against such foes. Armed with a pair of Tri-axis Ion Cannons and a Pulse Ordnance Multi-driver, this KX139 Ta'unar Supremacy Armour Battlesuit is ready to engage enemies at range and dominate the battlefield.
- Codex: Tau Empire (7th Edition), pp. 9-10
- Codex: Tau Empire (6th Edition), pp. 12, 28, 41, 70-71, 73
- Codex: Tau Empire (4th Edition), pp. 25-27, 32, 34-35
- Codex: Tau (3rd Edition), pp. 16-18, 22-25
- 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
- Imperial Armour Volume Three: The Taros Campaign, pp. 271-177, 283-284
- Rogue Trader: Tau Character Guide (RPG), pp. 24-25, 32-33
- White Dwarf Weekly Magazine #91 (24 Oct. 2015) "Mantle of Heroes"
- White Dwarf Weekly Magazine #88 (03 Oct. 2015) "KV128 Stormsurge"
- White Dwarf Weekly Magazine #89 (10 Oct. 2015) " XV95 Ghostkeel Battlesuit"
- White Dwarf 400 (AUS), "XV8 Battlesuit Commander", pg. 15
- White Dwarf Weekly 91 (AUS), "Mantle of Heroes", pp. 18-21
- Warhammer 40,000: Dataslate - Tau Firebase Support Cadre (Digital Edition)
- Warhammer 40,000: Rulebook (5th Edition), pg. 171
- Fire Warrior (Novel) by Simon Spurrier
- Forge World – XV107 R'varna Battlesuit Experimental Rules Datasheet
- Forge World - XV109 Y'vahra Battlesuit Experimental Rules Datasheet