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Thunderhawk

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Thunderhawk gunships of the Raven Guard Chapter during combat

The Thunderhawk gunship is used by the Adeptus Astartes as their primary means of deploying forces during combat as well as their primary source of air support. The Thunderhawk gunship is often considered the lynchpin of any Space Marine Chapter, as it is able to fulfill many combat roles. The Thunderhawk is fully capable of functioning as an orbital drop ship, a heavy ground attack gunship, or as a bomber. The aircraft is 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. Even though the Thunderhawk is a large vehicle, it is controlled with a relatively small crew, which includes the pilot, co-pilot, gunner, and navigator.

History

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An ancient pic-capture of several Thunderhawk Gunships of the Sons of Horus Legion in flight during the Istvaan III Atrocity

The Thunderhawk gunship was first developed for service in the Legiones Astartes during the later days of the Emperor's Great Crusade in the late 31th Millennium. The Thunderhawk was designed to bridge the gap in size and capacity between the smaller Legion craft such as the Storm Eagle and the larger, much more costly Stormbird and Argo Drop Ships. Early on, the Thunderhawk was not popular with some of the Space Marine Legions, as they had grown attached to their Stormbirds and their ability to transport more units into battle than the smaller and more compact Thunderhawk, yet by the outbreak of the Horus Heresy the Thunderhawk had proved itself a worthy addition to any Legion's fleet, and was mass-produced to meet the on-going demands of the war. Eventually the Thunderhawk was widely used by all 18 of the Legiones Astartes during the Horus Heresy. The craft was produced in such numbers that after the war ended and the Loyalist Legions were broken down into smaller Chapters many of the newly formed Chapters would would find themselves with many Thunderhawks, and only a few if any of the larger craft. As a testament to the craft's design, and how easy they are to produce, the Thunderhawk has far outlived the Stormbird and Argo Drop Ships in usefulness and is still the main assault-craft used by both the Loyalist Astartes of the Imperium and the Traitor Legions of Chaos after nearly 10,000 standard years.

Construction

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A pair of Thunderhawk gunships of the Dark Angels Chapter in flight

The Thunderhawk gunship is amongst the most advanced and technologically sophisticated machines in use by the Imperium. Each and every Thunderhawk is packed with advanced targeting, sensory, communication, avionics, and navigational equipment, all of which is protected by its thick hull. The armour used in the construction of the Thunderhawk is the same as that used in the creation of the Land Raider. This special armour plating is comprised of a composite of ablative ceramite, absorption and dissipation materials, thermoplas fibre mesh, titanium rolled plates, and an adamantium inner hull all layered together to provide excellent shielding against heat, during orbital entry and exits and from energy-based weaponry. This armour has given the Thunderhawk a reputation as a very robust aircraft, and it is capable of taking large amounts of damage while still remaining in the air. The aircraft is capable of smashing its way past enemy interceptor craft and anti-air fire and safely landing its cargo of Astartes behind enemy lines, or deploying them into the midst of the foe.

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A Thunderhawk of the Red Scorpions unloading its cargo of Space Marines

The Thunderhawk's internal systems are just as robust as its outer protective armour; the vehicle's primary narrow-band, long-range communications Vox transmitter is situated on top of the aircraft's fuselage and is controlled by the vehicle's navigator and co-pilot. This system, along with its sensor array and electronic countermeasures, is capable of jamming enemy sensors and tracking equipment, making it difficult for enemy aircraft to lock-on to the aircraft. The Thunderhawk's navigational equipment, which allows the craft to easily find its landing coordinates and safely reach its destination whether it is in space or on a planet's surface, is also capable of relaying data to other Space Marine forces. If a Thunderhawk is ever shot down during combat, the vehicle will activate its emergency locator beacon, which will start broadcasting its position to the rest of the Space Marine forces, allowing the quick rescue of any survivors, and the recovery of the aircraft itself. The Thunderhawk is equipped with traditional flare launchers that are located on the lower rear section of the aircraft's fuselage, allowing it to have a better chance of evading enemy heat-seeking air-to-air weaponry.

The Thunderhawk features many unusual features: one such is its two "attack wings". These small wings are located above the craft's main pair of larger wings. These attack wings are locked down to the main wings during normal flight, but during an attack run the wings are released and while they are unlocked they are able to provide the aircraft with additional directional stability, making the Thunderhawk a very stable strike platform for the accurate engagement of enemy ground forces from the air.

Engines

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A Thunderhawk gunship entering a planet's atmosphere

While in atmosphere the Thunderhawk is powered by triple RX-92-00 Mars Pattern engines, each of which combines a rocket engine with afterburning air-breathing turbofans. These engines are mounted on the rear fuselage of the aircraft, and under both of its main wings. These engines allow the aircraft to reach atmospheric speeds of upwards of 2,000 kilometres per hour, depending on planetary conditions such as gravity and air pressure. The Thunderhawk is capable of flying in-atmosphere faster than the Imperial Navy's Marauder Bomber, yet is not as fast as a true interceptor such as the Thunderbolt or Lightning fighters. While the Thunderhawk is in space, its three engines are used as rocket boosters, with the air-breathing turbofan components of the engines isolated from the rest while the hydrogen fuel used by the aircraft's on-board fusion reactor is pumped into the combustion chamber, where it burns to create a highly pressurised, high-velocity stream of gases. These gases flow through the engine's shaped exhaust nozzle, and the forces generated by the gases leaving the engine is able to rapidly propel the craft forwards.

The Thunderhawk also features several retro exhaust nozzles that are positioned around the aircraft's hull, and these are used to vent of some of the gases from the engines and to control the aircraft's movements while it is in zero-graviy.

Machine Spirit

The Thunderhawk's many electronic systems are governed by the aircraft's M33 "Cygnus"-class Machine Spirit (onboard computer), which has a cognition speed of 40,000 co/sec and a maximum contemplation capacity of 10,000 kilobrains. The machine also contains aetheric feeding coils, alembic shielding arrays, pseudo-synaptic relays, and phlogiston feed coils. This powerful Machine Spirit is a highly revered item, and is comparable to that used in a Reaver-class Titan.

Transport Capacity

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An Ultramarines Thunderhawk unloading a Dreadnought to the battlefield

The Thunderhawk may be smaller than the Stormbird it was designed to replace, yet it is still capable of transporting a great deal of cargo. The Thunderhawk can carry up to 30 Power Armoured Space Marines, or 15 Space Marines in Terminator Armour, as Terminator Armour takes up nearly twice as much space as the normal patterns of Power Armour. The craft can also carry vehicles, such as a single Dreadnought, which takes the place of 5 normal Space Marines, or a single Assault Bike squadron, where each Assault Bike takes up the room usually used for 3 Space Marines. The craft can also take Attack Bikes into combat, where each Attack Bike takes up as much room as 4 Space Marines. When the Thunderhawk lands it opens the forward ramp located under the aircraft's cockpit, allowing all those aboard to deploy under the covering fire of the vehicle's forward fuselage-mounted twin-linked Heavy Bolters. The aircraft also has two smaller doors located on its sides, which allow infantry to exit in more peaceful circumstances.

Armament

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A Thunderhawk gunship of the Dark Angels Space Marine Chapter during the Siege of Vraks

The Thunderhawk gunship is capable of carrying a fearsome array of weaponry depending on which type of mission it has been tasked for and is able to undertake a wide array of battlefield roles. The basic armament of the Thunderhawk gunship is that of 4 twin-linked Heavy Bolters located near the front of the craft's fuselage and under the aircraft's main wings, 2 Lascannons located under the wings, and a dorsal-mounted Battle Cannon known as a Thunderhawk Cannon. The aircraft can also be outfitted with up to 6 Hellstrike Missiles, and 6 triple bomb pylons, for a total of 18 bombs. The aircraft can replace its dorsal-mounted Thunderhawk Cannon with a Turbo-Laser Destructor for extra firepower. The craft is also capable of carrying large guided bombs with various warheads, which are used during bombing missions. The Thunderhawk can also be outfitted with an amoured cockpit and illumination flares. During the later decades of the Great Crusade and the Horus Heresy eras in the late 30th and early 31st Millennia, the Thunderhawk Gunship could also be outfitted with a Flare Shield. Flare Shields were similar to present-day Imperial Void Shield technology, but were effective on a smaller scale. It is unknown if this technology is still in use in parts of the Imperium in the late 41st Millennium or if it has been lost over the millennia like so much else from that era. During these ancient times it was also common practise to equip Thunderhawks with an additional layer of ceramite plating, for added protection against enemy fire. The Thunderhawk's weapon systems are able to be swapped out to better suit whatever combat role it has been given. The basic armament of the Thunderhawk (as described above) is usually used for standard Astartes troop insertion missions. There are several other standard mission loadout packages the Thunderhawk can be outfitted with, including the following:

Troop Insertion Mission

Close Air Support Mission

Saturation Bombing Mission

Long-Range Bombing Mission

Naval Intercept Mission

Variants

The Thunderhawk gunship has a small number of known variants:

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Two Thunderhawk Transporters during flight

  • Thunderhawk Transporter - The Thunderhawk Transporter is a logistical support variant of the Thunderhawk. The Thunderhawk Transporter is used to quickly transport a Chapter's vehicles from their orbiting Battle Barges or Strike Cruisers to a planet's surface. The Thunderhawk Transporter is not designed for battle and is only armed with two sets of wing-mounted twin-linked Heavy Bolters for self-defense. The Thunderhawk Transporter is similar in appearance to the standard Thunderhawk with the exception of the missing dorsal-mounted heavy weapon and the addition of an extra engine mount. Additionally, the aircraft's 4 engines are mounted on its wings as opposed to having one mounted on the rear fuselage. The aircraft's troop compartment is removed and replaced with a set of large magnetic clamps to hold on to its cargo of vehicles. The Thunderhawk Transporter is capable of carrying up to two Rhino-sized vehicles or a single Land Raider-sized vehicle. The aircraft also sports a powerful winch which allows it to recover Drop Pods from the field.
  • Grey Knights Thunderhawk Gunship - Thunderhawks used by the Grey Knights Chapter of Space Marines differ from the standard pattern Thunderhawk. The Grey Knights Thunderhawk's armour, like most of the Grey Knights' vehicles, makes use of psycho-reactive armour plating as well as the psychically-active Aegis system, which provides the aircraft with extra protection from daemonic and Warp-based weaponry. The aircraft's standard Heavy Bolters are often replaced with devastating Psycannons and the vehicle's Hellstrike Missiles are replaced with Mindstrike Missiles. These changes allow the Grey Knights to be more effective in combat against Chaos Daemons and Renegade psykers and Chaos Sorcerers.
  • Chaos Thunderhawk Gunship - Thunderhawks are also used by the Traitor Legions and Renegade Space Marine Chapters. Chaos Thunderhawks are similar to their Imperial counterpart in nearly every way. However, Thunderhawks used by the Traitor Legions are usually twisted and disfigured by their time spent in the Eye of Terror, where they are affected by the tides of the Warp. Chaos Thunderhawks are also usually customised by their Chaos Space Marine owners and covered in blasphemous Chaotic iconography. Many Thunderhawks in service to the Traitor Legions also have their Machine Spirits (Artificial Intelligence) replaced by a possessing daemon. The Thunderhawks used by Chaos Space Marines are used to transport their ground troops and vehicles to a planet's surface and back into orbit to a waiting mothership. It is unknown if Chaos Thunderhawks are armed with different types of weapons or attachments from those available to their Loyalist counterparts.

Known Users of the Thunderhawk Gunship

Notable Known Thunderhawk Gunships

  • Gladius - The Gladius is the personal Thunderhawk of the Ultramarines 2nd Company's Captain Cato Sicarius.
  • Xiphos - The Xiphos is a famed Thunderhawk gunship of the Ultramarines Chapter.
  • Pilum - The Pilum is a well-known Thunderhawk gunship of the Ultramarines Chapter.
  • Harald IV - The Harald IV is a well-known Thunderhawk gunship of the Ultramarines Chapter.
  • Stormwalker - The Stormwalker is a Thunderhawk gunship of the Fire Angels Chapter.
  • Sunderer - The Sunderer is a Thunderhawk gunship of the Raptors Chapter.
  • Khorma - The Khorma was a Thunderhawk gunship of the White Scars Legion during the time of the Great Crusade and the Horus Heresy.
  • Perfection's Flight - The Perfection's Flight was a Thunderhawk gunship of the Emperor's Children Legion during the time of the Great Crusade and the Horus Heresy.
  • Lance of Jove - The Lance of Jove was a Thunderhawk gunship of the Ultramarines chapter that was deployed onto the planet Graia.

Notable Users

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A Thunderhawk gunship coming in for a landing

  • Avenging Sons - The Avenging Sons Space Marine Chapter deployed 5 Thunderhawks during the Taros Campaign against the Tau.
  • Raptors – The Raptors Space Marine Chapter deployed 8 Thunderhawks during the Taros Campaign against the Tau, and several during the Badab War against the Seccessionist forces.
  • Red Scorpions – The Red Scorpions Space Marine Chapter deployed 3 Thunderhawks to the planet Beta Anphelion IV to combat escaped Tyranids, and they deployed several during the Siege of Vraks and during the Badab War.
  • Dark Angels – The Dark Angels Space Marine Chapter deployed 16 Thunderhawks during the Siege of Vraks against the Traitor Forces of Apostate Cardinal-Astra Xaphan, and several during the Relief of Rael's World, and many more during the Great Crusade and Horus Heresy.
  • Grey Knights – The Grey Knights Space Marine Chapter deployed several Thunderhawks during the Siege of Vraks to combat the daemonic forces unleashed upon the planet by the Forces of Chaos.
  • Angels of Absolution – The Angels of Absolution Space Marine Chapter deployed several Thunderhawks to Vraks Prime during the Siege of Vraks.
  • Raven Guard – The Raven Guard Space Marine Chapter deployed several Thunderhawks during the Imperial raid on the Ork-held world of Kastorel-Novem, and many more during the Great Crusade and Horus Heresy.
  • Fire Angels – The Fire Angels Space Marine Chapter deployed several Thunderhawks during the Badab War to combat the Secessionist Forces of the Tyrant of Badab, Lufgt Huron.
  • Star Phantoms – The Star Phantoms Space Marine Chapter deployed several Thunderhawks during the Badab War.
  • Salamanders – The Salamanders Space Marine Chapter deployed 7 Thunderhawks during the Badab War, and many more during the Great Crusade and Horus Heresy.
  • Minotaurs – The Minotaurs Space Marine Chapter deployed 2 Thunderhawks during the Badab War.
  • Space Wolves – The Space Wolves Space Marine Chapter deployed several Thunderhawks during the defense of the Imperial Mining World of Betalis III against the Eldar of Craftworld Mymeara, and many more during the Great Crusade and Horus Heresy.
  • Blood Ravens – The Blood Ravens Space Marine Chapter deployed several Thunderhawks during the Tartarus Campaign, the Dark Crusade, the Kaurava Campaign, and the Aurelian Crusades.
  • Ultramarines – The Ultramarines Space Marine Chapter deployed several Thunderhawks during the Devastation of Boros, the Damnos Campaign, the Joran Retaliation Force, and many more during the Great Crusade and the Horus Heresy.
  • Dark Hands – The Dark Hands Space Marine Chapter deployed several Thunderhawks during the Chinchare Hrud Infestation.
  • Black Templars – The Black Templars Space Marine Chapter deployed several Thunderhawks during the Third War for Armageddon against the Orks and during their many Crusades.
  • White Scars –The White Scars Space Marine Chapter deployed five Thunderhawks on the planet of Cernis IV and another nine on the world of Quintus during [[Kor'sarro Khan]'s Hunt for Voldorius.

Notable Conflicts

Thunderhawk gunships were widely used during these famous Imperial military campaigns and Crusades:

Adeptus Mechanicus Technical Specifications

Thunderhawk Gunship
Type Orbital Dropship Operational Ceiling N/A
Vehicle Name Thunderhawk Gunship Max Speed 2,000 kilometres per hour (approx.)
World of Origin Mars Range 28,000 kilometres in atmosphere
Known Patterns I - XXI Main Armament 1x dorsal-mounted Thunderhawk Cannon, 1x wing-mounted twin-linked Lascannons
Crew 1 Pilot, 1 Gunner, 1 Co-pilot, 1 Navigator Secondary Armament 2x front fuselage-mounted twin-linked Heavy Bolters, 2x wing-mounted twin-linked Heavy Bolters
Powerplant 3 x RX-92-00 Combination Rocket / Air-Breathing Afterburning Turbofans Main Ammunition 28 Rounds / Unlimited
Weight 121.0 Tonnes Secondary Ammunition 2,400 Rounds
Length 26.6 Metres Armour
Wingspan 26.65 Metres Superstructure 55 millimetres
Height 9.8 Metres Hull 65 millimetres
Vehicle Designation: 5463-028-7108-TH 007 Transport Capacity 30 Space Marines or 15 Terminator Marines or 1 Dreadnought or 1 Assault or Attack Bike squadron

Also See

Sources

  • Imperial Armour Volume Two - Space Marines and Forces of the Inquisition, pp. 154-172, 210-214
  • Imperial Armour Volume Two, Second Edition - War Machines of the Adeptus Astartes, pp. 25, 121-129, 217-219
  • Imperial Armour Volume Three - The Taros Campaign, pp. 22, 31, 33, 54, 150-151
  • Imperial Armour Volume Four - The Anphelion Project, pp. 66, 123
  • Imperial Armour Volume Five - The Siege of Vraks - Part One, pp. 62, 145, 147
  • Imperial Armour Volume Six - The Siege of Vraks - Part Two, pg. 128
  • Imperial Armour Volume Seven - The Siege of Vraks - Part Three, pp. 57, 80-81
  • Imperial Armour Volume Eight - The Raid on Kastorel-Novem, pp. 13, 54, 58
  • Imperial Armour Volume Nine - The Badab War - Part One, pp. 5, 97, 105
  • Imperial Armour Volume Ten - The Badab War - Part Two, pp. 26-27, 54, 165-167
  • Imperial Armour Volume Eleven - The Doom of Mymeara, pg. 124
  • Imperial Armour Volume Twelve - The Fall of Orpheus, pp. 157-159
  • Imperial Armour - The Horus Heresy - Book One: Betrayal, pp. 15, 24-25, 226, 233
  • Imperial Armour Aeronautica, pp. 34-35
  • Imperial Armour Apocalypse II, p. 36
  • Imperial Armour Update 2003, pp. 4-5
  • Codex: Space Marines (5th Edition), p. 37
  • The Horus Heresy: Collected Visions, pp. 378, 408
  • Warhammer 40,000: Apocalypse (4th Edition)
  • Warhammer 40,000: Planetstrike (4th Edition)
  • Warhammer 40,000: Apocalypse (6th Edition) (Digital Edition), pp. 126, 163-164
  • Space Marine (Video Game) 
  • Dawn of War PC Game Series
  • Ultramarines Series (Novels)
  • Horus Heresy Series (Novels)
  • Angel Exterminatus (Novel) by Graham McNeill, pp. 53, 371, 397
  • The Hunt for Voldorius (Novel) by Andy Hoare
  • The Night Lords Series (Novels) by Aaron Dembski-Bowden
    • Soul Hunter
    • Blood Reaver
    • Void Stalker

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