"Sarge wasn’t so much shot, as he was pulled apart by hundreds of buzzing lights. I didn’t even have time to pray to the Emperor, and there was nothin’ left but his boots."
A Burst Cannon is a form of multi-barrelled Tau Pulse Weapon, and utilises the same plasma induction technologies found in a Pulse Rifle to fire micro-pulses of plasma accelerated to near-light speeds. With four rotating barrels to mitigate thermal stress, Burst Cannons are able to sustain ferocious rates of fire, albeit at the expense of the long ranges that many other Pulse Weapons possess. However, this drawback is usually offset by the Burst Cannon’s portability, and the manoeuvrability of units commonly armed with them. The most common Burst Cannon design leaves the weapon’s four barrels exposed to the environment, though certain Tau units make use of Burst Cannons that are fully enclosed with an armoured sheathing.
The Burst Cannon finds use all across the Tau military, although it is primarily mounted on vehicles, Tau Battlesuits, and aircraft. With heavy mountings and large plasma coils powering the weapon, Burst Cannons are a degree more deadly than smaller Pulse Weapons, and are primarily deployed as anti-infantry weapons that can scythe through massed formations, and for heavy suppressive fire; their shots are able to punch straight through most infantry armour as if it was not there. Burst Cannons are also well-suited to combating lightly armoured vehicles, which cannot defend against their powerful hails of high-speed plasma. Combat walkers, armoured transports and recon vehicles that stray within range of a Burst Cannon risk having their thin armour plating torn from them bit by bit. Even many main battle tanks are not immune to the firepower of a Burst Cannon, as a sustained burst directed at the weaker side or rear armour of a vehicle is capable of rupturing an engine or setting off ammunition stores.
Often slaved to Drone controls, a Burst Cannon makes for an ideal point-defence weapon, keeping infantry and light vehicles away from a tank hunter like a Hammerhead, or giving a squad of Fire Warriors cover as they deploy from their Devilfish transport. This is where the Burst Cannon trades the range and accuracy of weapons like the Pulse Rifle for the ability to saturate an area with plasma fire. For this reason, Burst Cannons are used extensively as part of established defences. When guided by Tau Drones, they make effective sentry guns, silently tracking back and forth and scanning for threats.
Enemies of the Tau Empire have developed a healthy respect for Burst Cannons. The weapon makes a distinctive sound when fired, the induction chamber crackling with energy as a stream of charged particles hisses across the battlefield. Imperial Guardsmen that come under fire from Burst Cannons often speak of the sound, each shot cleaving the air with a distinctive whiz-hum, not unlike the sound of solid bullets buzzing past their ear, but multiplied hundredfold as dozens of bursts are fired each second. Unlike the Heavy Bolters and Stubbers of the Imperium with their rhythmic thumping fire, a Burst Cannon makes a continuous tearing wail, with individual shots nearly indistinguishable from each other.
Long-Barrelled Burst Cannon
A Long-Barrelled Burst Cannon is a variant of the standard Burst Cannon, and features extended barrels which give it greatly extended range. It is only ever mounted on certain Tau aircraft and vehicles. It is of note that the Hammerhead gunship’s Long-Barrelled Burst Cannon also fires with more power and armour penetration per shot when compared to the standard Burst Cannon.
Notable Vehicles to Mount Burst Cannons
- Devilfish – Devilfish transports are armed with a nose-mounted Burst Cannon as part of their standard armament. It is often used to provide suppressive covering fire for disembarking Fire Warriors
- Skyray – Skyray gunships can be armed with twin-linked Burst Cannons mounted in forward recesses as secondary weapon systems.
- Hammerhead – Hammerhead gunships can be armed with twin-linked Burst Cannons mounted in forward recesses as secondary weapon systems. Hammerheads can also be armed with specialised twin-linked Long-Barrelled Burst Cannons as its primary turret weapon, which has roughly double the range of a normal Burst Cannon and more penetrating strength per shot.
- Swordfish – Swordfish are armed with a chin-mounted Burst Cannon as part of its standard primary armament.
- Piranha – Piranhas are armed with a chin-mounted Burst Cannon as its standard primary armament.
- XV15 Stealthsuit – XV15 Stealthsuits are armed with a Burst Cannon as standard weaponry, although its design features a fully enclosed armoured sheath.
- XV25 Stealthsuit – XV25 Stealthsuits are armed with a Burst Cannon as standard weaponry, although its design features a fully enclosed armoured sheath.
- XV22 Stealthsuit – Commander Shadowsun’s XV22 Stealthsuit was originally designed to be armed with two Burst Cannons, before circumstances forced her to switch to Fusion Blasters. Both Shas’O Kais and Shas’O Or’es’ka’s XV22 Stealthsuits were also originally designed to be armed with a single Burst Cannon, although upgrades have allowed them to replace it with more powerful primary weapon systems.
- XV46 Vanguard Void Battlesuit – XV46 Vanguard Void Battlesuits are armed with a Burst Cannon as part of their standard armament.
- XV8 Crisis Battlesuit – XV8 Crisis Battlesuits can take Burst Cannons weapon systems as part of their three system hardpoints, with each Burst Cannon filling a single hardpoint. XV8 Crisis Battlesuits can also take twin-linked Burst Cannons, in which case they count as a single weapon system that takes up two hardpoints
- XV9 Hazard Battlesuit – XV9 Hazard Battlesuits can take up to two twin-linked Burst Cannon weapon systems as their primary armament, although their design features fully enclosed armoured gun sheaths.
- KX139 Ta'unar Supremacy Armour - KX139 Ta'unar Supremacy Armour mounts a pair of twin-linked Burst Cannons as part of its Vigilance Defence System.
- Heavy Gun Drone – Heavy Gun Drones are armed with twin-linked Burst Cannons as standard weaponry.
- Recon Drone - Recon Drones are armed with a fold-away Burst Cannon as standard weaponry.
- Drone Sentry Turret – Drone Sentry Turrets can be armed with twin-linked Burst Cannons as their primary armament.
- Razorshark – Razorshark strike fighters are armed with a chin-mounted Burst Cannon as part of their armament.
- Barracuda – Barracuda air superiority fighters are armed with two turreted Drone-controlled Burst Cannons for anti-air defence and to back up their primary armament
- Tiger Shark – Tiger Shark Bombers are armed with two turreted Drone-controlled Burst Cannons for anti-air defence and to back up their primary armament
- Tiger Shark AX-1-0 – The Tiger Shark AX-1-0 is armed with two turreted Drone-controlled Burst Cannons for anti-air defence and to back up their primary armament
- Orca – Orca dropships are armed with pilot-aimed twin-linked Long-Barrelled Burst Cannons in their ventral turrets for the purpose of clearing landing zones during their descent.
- Moray – Moray assault ships are armed with a set of twin-linked Burst Cannons as part of their armament.
- Manta – Manta missile destroyers are armed with 16 Drone-controlled Long-Barrelled Burst Cannon turrets positioned all around its hull for close defence whilst on the ground and as anti-aircraft weapons in flight. The turrets are positioned so that all angles of approach are covered by multiple Burst Cannons.
- Codex: Tau (3rd Edition), pp. 17, 25
- Codex: Tau Empire (4th Edition), pp. 26, 35-36, 38, 41
- Codex: Tau Empire (6th Edition), pp. 65, 67, 102
- Deathwatch: Core Rulebook (RPG), pg. 366
- Deathwatch: Ark of Lost Souls (RPG), pg. 123
- Imperial Armour Apocalypse 2 pg. 58
- Imperial Armour Volume Three – The Taros Campaign, pp. 159, 162-163, 166, 170, 174, 181,183-18-7, 189-190, 194, 201, 202, 207-208, 211
- Rogue Trader: Tau Character Guide (RPG), pg. 37
- Warhammer 40,000: Munitorum - Burst Cannons (Digital Edition)
- Forge World - KX139 Ta'unar Supremacy Armour Experimental Datasheet