- "We do not belong on the ground. Our home is the sky, as the enemies of the Tau Empire know to their cost."
The Barracuda air superiority fighter is the most common atmospheric combat aircraft used by the Tau Air Caste. Faster than the Imperial Navy's Marauder bomber, but lacking the high maximum speed of the Thunderbolt or Lightning fighter, it makes up for this lack with its sophisticated electronic systems and the natural talents of its Tau Air Caste pilots. In a dogfight, the Thunderbolt and the Barracuda are very closely matched, with the Thunderbolt having the edge in speed, and the Barracuda having the greater manoeuverability. Imperial pilots often have a hard edge of combat experience that the pilots of the Air Caste find hard to match, though the superior handling and armament of the Barracuda often proves decisive in encounter between Tau and Imperial combat aircraft.
Utilising the natural advantages of its Air Caste pilots, the Barracuda excels in its main role as an air-to-air combat interceptor. Barracuda are commonly used by the Tau to intercept enemy fighter squadrons that are assaulting Tau ground forces, attack enemy air transports and their fighter escorts on their way to the front, and escort Tau transports such as Orcas and Mantas as they deploy Hunter Cadres. Barracudas are also commonly tasked with carrying out ground attacks in direct support of Hunter Cadres and providing overall air support for Tau ground forces in combat. Barracudas often strafe and harass enemy troop movements and also disrupt enemy supply lines and bases, which was common during the Taros Campaign. Barracudas are also capable of operating in the hard void of space, where they fulfill the Attack Craft role for the Tau Navy. Barracudas can be transported through interstellar space via larger Warp-capable carrier vessels such as the Custodian, Protector, and Emissary-class starships.
The Tau forces deployed to seize control of the former Imperial Mining World of Taros during the Taros Campaign in 998.M41 included a large contingent from the Air Caste which formed an integral part of the Tau's overall strategy for securing victory. Winning the air war against the Imperial Navy was vital to the Tau's plans, and Barracudas and Thunderbolts fought daily for control of the skies. Flying from well-concealed desert air bases on the Iracunda Isthmus, the Barracudas eventually won the battle. As well as engaging in dogfights, the Barracudas also targeted the Imperial Guard's supply columns, operating in unison with infiltrating Pathfinder teams to destroy Trojans and the supplies vital to keeping the Imperial Guard fighting. Due to these severe losses, Imperial troops on the frontlines quickly began to run out of basic supplies such as water, causing much of the Imperial offensive to grind to a halt. Imperial Guardsmen on the ground also faced the ever-present danger of low-level Barracuda strafing attacks where the Tau fighters would commonly slip low over the desert, hugging valleys and ridge lines only to rise suddenly in a whirl of firepower that raked the sand and sent everybody diving for the nearest cover. Although exact figures are unknown, it is thought by the Imperial Navy that the Tau Air Caste deployed an estimated 150 aircraft on Taros.
The most deadly Barracuda pilots encountered so far by the Imperium are those whose squadron name is believed to translate into Low Gothic as "the Gift of Silence." This single Barracuda squadron has thus far accounted for the loss of 27 Imperial bombers and 18 interceptors. It has also claimed an Imperial Guard Tetrarch Heavy Lander as it made planetfall, resulting in the loss of an entire Imperial Guard regiment.
Barracudas have also been fielded in large numbers in the Canis Salient of the Jericho Reach, to try and achieve air superiority over the many conflict zones against Imperial forces in the Achilus Crusade.
A Barracuda is armed with a nose-mounted, pilot-aimed Ion Cannon. This is the aircraft's primary weapon for use in dogfights, backed up by two Drone-controlled Burst Cannons in the wings which can also be used as effective anti-infantry weapons during strafing runs. For ground attacks, the Barracuda is armed with wing-mounted Missile Pods built into the chassis and can also carry an additional armament of up to four Seeker Missiles which are not controlled by the pilot, but by a Marker Light operator on the ground. Barracudas are also equipped with a Targeting Array as standard for improved accuracy. Different Air Caste Septs have been identified operating slightly different versions of the Barracuda. Some are equipped with Blacksun Filters for night-fighting, whilst others with Disruption Pods and Decoy Launchers for additional protection.
All Tau pilots are derived from the Tau Empire's Air Caste. Air Caste members live almost exclusively off-world in orbital space stations and habitats where, over time, their long-term exposure to lower gravity has affected their physiognomy. This means that even when operating in a gravity well, the pilots of the Air Caste have developed superior three-dimensional awareness and marginally better tolerance for high rates of acceleration and extreme gravitational effects at high speeds than that of their human opponents. Physically, this makes a Tau pilot naturally better suited to the rigours of air-to-air combat than a human pilot, able to make tighter turns and hold them longer while being capable of pushing the gravity envelope further.
The Barracuda's design is similar to the general design of most Tau aircraft, being low and thin in height with a relatively large wingspan that deploys weapons such as Missile Pods and mounted Drone-controlled Burst Cannons. The aircraft's armour is made of the same unknown nano-crystalline alloy used in many other Tau vehicles and aircraft. The shape of the Barracuda's airframe is highly aerodynamic, which allows it to perform feats of manoeuverability that Imperial aircraft simply cannot match. While this leaves it more fragile than its ground attack counterparts the Sun Shark and Razorshark, it also allows it to engage in aerial duels with enemy fighters very effectively. The Barracuda features advanced electronic systems that achieve faster target locks than the Imperial Thunderbolt. The Tau aircraft's greater manoeuverability is combined with the natural adaptation of Air Caste pilots to produce a craft that is extremely nimble and agile in flight, providing it an often decisive advantage in aerial dogfights. The design of the Barracuda also includes a built-in escape pod. In the event that the aircraft sustains mortal damage, the pilot can eject. The entire cockpit capsule disconnects and provides limited anti-gravitic mobility that can return the pilot safely to the ground. However, once on the ground, the pilot must look to his own resources to make good his escape and avoid capture or death at the hands of the enemy's ground forces.
Barracudas can also be equipped with any of the following Tau vehicle support systems:
- Automated Repair System - Automated Repair Systems consist of dispensers which release tiny maintenance Drones which swarm over damaged weapon and drive systems, repairing them in the midst of battle.
- Advanced Targeting System - An Advanced Targeting System assists the vehicle's gunner by identifying targets of particular value or danger, and plotting fire plans to counter them.
- Blacksun Filter - Blacksun Filters allow the vehicle's gunners to accurately see and target enemies in low-light conditions.
- Decoy Launchers - Decoy Launchers are a form of defensive measure that is mounted near the engines. They are capable of firing clouds of reflective strips and sophisticated electronic decoys, which are combined with flare and chaff launchers to protect the vehicle's thruster arrays from enemy missiles.
- Disruption Pod - Disruption Pods display distorting holographic images in the visual and electromagnetic spectra to make the vehicle harder to target.
- Point Defence Targeting Relay - Designed to provide superior covering fire for nearby Fire Caste units, a Point Defence Targeting Relay automatically targets and engages enemies that try to assault the vehicle or nearby friendly units.
- Sensor Spines - Sensor Spines feed data to an advanced ground-following flight control system. This allows the vehicle to avoid hazardous terrain that could otherwise damage the vehicle's drive systems.
Ordo Xenos Departmento Analyticus Technical Specifications
|Serial Number:||85673-908461||Main Armament:||Nose-mounted Ion Cannon, Wing-Mounted Missile Pods|
|Designation:||Air Superiority Fighter|
|Vehicle Codename:||Barracuda||Secondary Armament:||
Two Wing-Mounted Drone Controlled Burst Cannons
|Vehicle Type:||Atmospheric Aircraft|
|Weight:||7 tonnes (empty)||Elevation:||+0° to -0°|
|Length:||11.4 metres||Ammunition:||8 Missiles, 8000 Rounds|
|Width:||12.5 metres||Armour Type:||35 millimetres of Nano-Crystalline Alloy, Composition Unknown to the Adeptus Mechanicus|
|Max Recorded Speed:||2100 kilometres per hour at 5000 feet; cruising speed 1400 kilometres per hour|
|Summary:||Frontline Combat Aircraft; also carries Seeker Missile racks|
- Aeronautica Imperialis, pp. 93-99
- Apocalypse (4th Edition), pg. 158
- Codex Tau Empire (6th Edition), pp. 72, 95
- Codex: Tau (3rd Edition) pp. 13, 15
- Deathwatch: Rites of Battle (RPG), pg. 192
- Imperial Armour Aeronautica, pg. 58
- Imperial Armour Apocalypse (2nd Edition), pg. 80
- Imperial Armour Update, pg. 30
- Imperial Armour Volume Three - The Taros Campaign, pp. 79, 194-197, 213-215, 28
- Imperial Armour Volume Three - The Taros Campaign (Second Edition), pp. 154-157