"These xenos craft could be called fearsome, I suppose. But give me a thousand Valkyries to fill the sky with fire, and we shall see what is left of these alien filth that is worth fearing."
- —Air Marshal Zutrov before the Battle of the Borenza Gulf
The Aeronautica Imperialis is the branch of the Imperial Navy that is dedicated to atmospheric combat aviation. The Aeronautica Imperialis usually works in conjunction with the Astra Militarum to provide combat transportation and tactical and strategic air support for its ground forces.
The might of the Imperial Navy is unimaginably vast, the embodiment of the Imperial Aquila spreading its adamantine shadow across all of the Emperor's realm. If the warships of the Imperial Navy are its titanic wings, the combat aircraft of the Aeronautica Imperialis are its talons, sweeping down to rend and tear the enemies of Mankind.
Squadron upon squadron of aircraft darken the skies as the Aeronautica Imperialis goes to war. Armoured fighter craft scream through the upper atmosphere, fighting duels with their Heretic or xenos rivals. Lumbering bombers thunder into whipping tracer fire and billowing smoke, filling the air with the howl of plummeting ordnance. To the rank and file of the Astra Militarum, such aspects of war are distant terrors, which leap into sudden focus when aircraft hurtle down to bust bunkers wide open or riddle infantry with strafing fire.
Squadrons of Valkyries, and their sister gunships the Vendettas, operate in much closer cohesion with the Astra Militarum. Possessing sturdy armour, vectored-thrust manoeuvrability and firepower equivalent to a main battle tank, these versatile Attack Craft are well-loved by the troops on the ground. Wings of Valkyries carry entire platoons of Astra Militarum infantry into battle, or sweep Tempestus Scions swiftly toward their crucial objectives. Whether the battle is fought upon the ragged flanks of a burning promethium refinery or in the carnivorous tangles of a Death World jungle, Valkyrie pilots are trained to get their passengers into position no matter the dangers at hand. Once their human cargo are away, the Valkyrie squadrons typically adopt defensive patterns and remain at low altitude, providing covering fire to the Astra Militarum while staving off enemy aircraft intent on their demise.
The ability of Valkyrie squadrons to ferry Imperial soldiers into war zones, or lift them up and bear them away from danger, is not the only strategic use of these impressive craft. The Aeronautica Imperialis can field Valkyries in vast numbers, filling the skies with armoured aircraft and drumming gunfire fit to negate even the superhuman skill and arcane technologies of the Emperor's myriad enemies. Those pilots who make it through such punishing airborne slaughters are soon hailed as veteran aces, promoted to be squadron leaders where their fervent faith and hard-earned hatred of the enemy can best aid their comrades in slaughtering the enemies of the Imperium.
Though their aircraft bear armaments blessed and thrice-blessed on the Forge Worlds of the Imperium, courage, determination and unquenchable faith in the Emperor are the true weapons of the heroic Valkyrie and Vendetta crews. Formed up in defence of their wingmen, muttering devotional prayers between barked orders and Vox-exchanges, these brave warriors of the sky battle the worst horrors of the galaxy imaginable and still emerge victorious. The mortality rate amongst Valkyrie and Vendetta squadrons is appalling, craft blown from the air by searing alien energies or crushed in the monstrous claws of winged daemons. It is a testament to sheer human courage that their comrades fight on regardless, holding formation through the deadliest fields of fire and battling their way to victory no matter the terrors inflicted upon them.
Aeronautica Imperialis Aircraft
- Death from the Skies (7th Edition), pp. 6-7, 24-25