The Air Caste of the T'au traditionally functioned as messengers, but now fill the ranks of the T'au Protection Fleet (the Kor'vattra) and the T'au Merchant Fleet, working as pilots and starship crews.
The Air Caste lives almost entirely off-world, and due to their constant exposure to zero and low-gravity environments have developed long, slender limbs and hollow bones and so possess a skeletal and muscular structure of reduced strength compared to the T'au genetic baseline.
Prior to the unification of the T'au castes, during the time of the Mont'au, the Air Caste were said to possess membranous wings, allowing them to glide on warm air currents. The T'au use the titular prefix of "Kor" to designate someone of the Air Caste.
They are amongst the least encountered of the T'au castes by outsiders, presumably because of their reduced muscle mass and duties within the merchant and military fleets of the T'au Empire, unlike the Water and Fire Castes' members who more often operate outside of the borders of the empire.
T'au pilots tend to be superior compared to their human counterparts because they have a better depth perception and higher acceleration-tolerance, but lack real combat experience compared to the best Imperial fighter-pilots.
T'au battle plans are works of holistic genius, carefully orchestrated manoeuvres that encompass great swathes of any engagement area. Central to many of these strategies is the establishment of total air superiority. Achieving this goal falls to the brave and selfless pilots of the Air Caste.
Teams of Air Caste combat craft sweep through the skies above almost every battlefield the Fire Caste fight upon. Fighter and bomber teams are fully integrated into the combat strategies of the T'au military, coordinated centrally by Coalition-level command elements and working in perfect concert with the ground forces of the Fire Caste. Their efforts ensure that ground-based cadres can manoeuvre freely, pursuing their own objectives without fear of attack from on high.
Nearly all T'au campaigns begin with a massive Air Caste combat deployment. Each team of fighters or bombers is tasked with achieving specific objectives and provided with ample support to achieve their goals in optimal time. Teams of Razorshark strike fighters switch between high altitude dogfights and ground attack runs, fearlessly scouring the skies of monstrous beasts or obliterating the war engines of the enemy.
While the Razorshark Teams eliminate priority threats, whole contingents of Sun Shark bombers plunge low to perform daring bombing runs against key enemy installations. Airfields, generators, flak batteries and command assets are pounded into submission by energised ordnance to pave the way for full-fledged ground assault by the Fire Caste.
Air Caste pilots display incredible selflessness, braving unbelievable odds to destroy their targets. They will gladly scream between the questing, building-sized tendrils of a Tyranid Hive Ship or dare the drumming fire of Space Marine Hunter squadrons, stoically accepting their casualties as sacrifices to the Greater Good.
Still, the T'au do not believe in senseless martyrdom; their air groups never commit without a coherent plan and clear target, and they quickly pull out if it becomes apparent that no amount of determination and technology is going to win the day.
Such judgments are left up to the pilots themselves, T'au Commanders relying upon the experience and wisdom of their flight crews in the field. Such trust is well placed. The pilots of the Air Caste are born into their role, biologically adapted to flight thanks to their willowy frames and hollow bones.
Coupled with bodies that can absorb tremendous g-forces is the Air Caste pilots' exceptional training. These skyborne warriors have learned to fly from their earliest days, their entire lives devoted to the absolute mastery of the pilot's art. Most T'au team leaders and fighter aces have more experience than a whole squadron of other species' pilots, all of which they turn to the pursuit of victory for the Tau'va.
Notable Air Caste Members
- Supreme Admiral Kor'O'Vanan - The Supreme Admiral Kor'O'Vanan commanded the T'au Navy fleet that confronted and defeated the Hive Fleet Gorgon at Kel'shan. He fought at Sha'draig, the first T'au colony world invaded by the Gorgon, and eventually deemed the situation irretrievable in 843.901.M41 and ordered a withdrawal. His fleet broke through the blockade and attempted to evacuate all the surviving ground forces, but Shas'el Vorcah remained behind and launched a series of suicide missions that eventually drove the Gorgon from Sha'draig, but not before it was almost completely consumed by Ripper swarms. Kor'O'Vanan engaged the Gorgon at the Battle of Sol'ai Rift as it left the Ka'mais System in 550.902.M41. At first the battle favoured the T'au, until a cluster of Ramsmiter and Razorfiend bio-ships appeared with near immunity to the T'au's Ion Weapons and the T'au fleet had to withdraw. The T'au managed to destroy many of the Gorgon's Narvhals, the bio-ships which the Tyranids used to travel faster than light, hoping to buy time for the Kel'shan Sept to further fortify against the imminent invasion of the Hive Fleet. Hive Fleet Gorgon was finally defeated at Kel'shan. However, three Hive Ships survived and fled towards the edge of the galaxy. Kor'O'Vanan ordered his fleet to pursue. He caught and engaged them at Delmarra, where he managed to destroy one, though the Custodian-class Battleship Firestar was lured into Delmarra's asteroid belt and irreparably damaged. The two remaining Hive Ships continued to flee and Kor'O'Vanan continued his pursuit, mistakenly believing that these surviving ships had to make physical contact with other Tyranids to transfer their knowledge of how best to combat the T'au with the Hive Mind.
- Codex: Tau Empire (7th Edition) (Digital Edition), "The Castes"
- Codex: Tau Empire (6th Edition), pp. 8-12
- Codex: Tau Empire (5th Edition)
- Codex: Tau Empire (4th Edition)
- Codex: Tau (3rd Edition), pg. 9
- Codex: Tyranids (5th Edition), pp. 18-21
- Death from the Skies (7th Edition), pp. 20-21
- Fire Warrior (Novel) by Simon Spurrier, pg. 120
- Warhammer 40,000: Conquest (Living Card Game) (Tau Courier picture)