Warhammer 40k Wiki
Warhammer 40k Wiki

A Necron Cairn-class Tomb Ship

A Cairn-class Tomb Ship is the largest type of Necron starship that the Imperium of Man has encountered to date.

Gigantic vessels that stretch more than fifteen kilometres across at the beam, Tomb Ships are heavily-armed with potent Necron ship-based weaponry like the Sepulchre, Lightning Arcs, Star Pulse Generators, and Particle Whips as well as smaller Gauss Weapon defence turrets.

Tomb Ships are more than a match for the Imperial Navy's battleships, and often leave nothing but destruction and carnage in their wake.

As with all known Necron vessels, Tomb Ships possess an unknown form of drive technology that allows the ship to undertake interstellar travel without the need to enter the Warp. The Tomb Ship's drive technology eliminates the spacecraft's momentum, allowing it to travel at extreme speeds and with extreme acceleration without suffering from relativistic limits, whilst also giving the spacecraft an agility that few other void ships can match.

In truth, however, Tomb Ships, like all Necron spacecraft, primarily rely upon the use of Dolmen Gates to serve as portals into the Webway, which allows them to cross the vastness of space without resorting to the use of the Warp since the undying Necrons possess no psykers.


A Necron Cairn-class Tomb Ship

Fortunately for the Necrons' enemies, Tomb Ships are very rare, having been encountered only seven times by Imperial forces in the late 41st Millennium since the Necrons' reemergence from hibernation on their Tomb Worlds, according to Imperial records.

Each time, the Tomb Ship was part of a large Necron force that included at least three Scythe-class Harvest Ships. All of the Tomb Ships thus far encountered by the Imperium have been of the same design, which is indicative of a starship that was developed to the pinnacle of its design many millions of Terran years ago.

There has as yet been no indication of the existence of a type of Tomb Ship other than the Cairn-class save for the single rumour of a Necron starship larger than the average space hulk that is alleged to have engaged an Ork fleet, though this remains unconfirmed Ork hearsay. Imperial agents are eagerly seeking more information about this possible threat.

Notable Encounters

  • 992.M41 Orphean War – During the Orphean War, two Cairn-class Tomb Ships designated Sun Killer and Dead Hand were part of the Necron invasion fleet that assaulted the planet of Amarah Prime. When Battlefleet Orpheus engaged them and their fleet, the two warships proved to be nigh-unstoppable opponents that annihilated everything in their path. The Dead Hand was under the command of Kutlakh, the Phaeron of the Maynarkh Dynasty, and served as his personal flagship. The Dead Hand was eventually severely damaged and forced to disengage from the attack on Amarah Prime under the combined assault of multiple boarding parties composed of Minotaurs Astartes commanded by their Chapter Master, Asterion Moloc.

Notable Tomb Ships

  • Dead Hand - The Dead Hand was the flagship of the Necron Maynarkh Dynasty's vast dynastic fleet. The Phaeron Kutlakh led the undying legions of the Maynarkh Dynasty when they first awoke from the Great Sleep, and he was swift to prosecute the sector-wide Orphean War against the Imperial forces encroaching upon his domain beginning in 991.M41. Under his command, the Imperial Orpheus Sector in the Segmentum Tempestus fell swiftly until the only bastion of Imperial defence left was the world of Amarah Prime. Whilst the Maynarkh legions undertook an extermination mission on the planet’s surface, Kutlakh led the dynasty’s fleet from the Dead Hand against the Imperial Navy's Battlefleet Orpheus and the contingent of battle barges and strike cruisers contributed by the Minotaurs Chapter of Space Marines. When the Minotaurs' Chapter Master Asterion Moloc and his elite 1st Company teleported onto the Dead Hand in a last-ditch boarding assault after the fleet engagement, Kutlakh tore through Moloc's Terminator bodyguards and was about to deal the finishing blow to the Contemptor Pattern Dreadnought known as Ancient Geryon when Moloc intercepted and engaged him in personal combat. Though equally matched, the combat ended when the Tomb Ship was hit by a broadside of firepower, causing Moloc to fall out into the void and leaving the Necron fleet to disengage.
  • Sun Killer - The Sun Killer was a Tomb Ship in the fleet of the Necron Maynarkh Dynasty. It participated in the Orphean War and was part of the Maynarkh fleet that assaulted the final Imperial redoubt of Amarah Prime in the Orpheus Sector. Like its counterpart, the Maynarkh flagship Dead Hand, the Sun Killer withdrew from Amarah Prime following the successful assault upon the flagship by the 1st Company of the Minotaurs Chapter of Space Marines.
  • Inevitable Conqueror - The Inevitable Conqueror was the flagship of the phaeron of the Sautekh Dynasty, Imotekh the Stormlord. The vessel was crippled during an assault by the Black Templars Space Marines, whose leader, High Marshal Helbrecht, sought revenge against the powerful Necron Overlord who had bested him in combat once before and had sworn an Oath of Venegeance to find and slay the Stormlord. Helbrecht would get a chance to fulfill his Oath of Vengeance in 985.M41, when his Crusade fleet detected Necron acitvity around the world of Davatas. Moving swiftly to intercept, Helbrecht rejoiced when their quarry was identified as the Inevitable Conqueror, Imotekh's personal Cairn-class Tomb Ship and flagship. Moving in with all haste, the Black Templar battle barge Sigismund managed to land crippling blows on the Inevitable Conqueror 's propulsive array, stranding it in place. Intending to get his revenge on his opponent personally, Helbrecht ordered an immediate teleport and boarding torpedo assault upon the Necron Tombship and within solar minutes, the decks of the Inevitable Conqueror were swarming with vengeful Black Templars Astartes. Alas, Helbrecht would not even get the satisfaction of seeing his opponent: while Imotekh's pride urged him to fight, logic won out, and the Stormlord teleported himself and many of his most valuable assets away from his flagship to his unengaged escort ships. The Necrons immediately accelerated away from the fighting and made good their escape. Fuming with impotent rage, Helbrecht could only gain a meagre measure of satisfaction from ensuring the total destruction of the Inevitable Conqueror by setting it on a collision course with the closest star. The frustrated Helbrecht reaffirmed his Oath of Vengeance, swearing once again that he would see Imotekh definitively dead. Those Black Templars with some familiarity with the undying Necrons fear that their Marshal has bitten off more than he can chew. While Helbrecht is certainly capable of besting the Necron Phaeron in single combat, preventing the undying mechanical fiend from teleporting to safety and destroying Imotekh outright may prove to be an impossible feat for a single Chapter of Space Marines, no matter their zeal.


A Cairn-class Tomb Ship accompanied by various other Necron starships.

Tomb Ships are composed entirely out of necrodermis, a unique living metal which comprises the undying mechanical bodies of every Necron warrior, vehicle and starship.

The material's regenerative properties and hardy nature means that Tomb Ships are immune to the detrimental effects posed by celestial phenomena such as solar flares, radiation, gas clouds and nebulae, and are also able to repair their armour at a rapid pace during an engagement.

However, standard Necron combat protocol dictates that a clean disengagement is preferable to a fight to the end, and Tomb Ships will do this by "fading out," where the vessel in question dematerialises into an unknown extradimensional space; taking it out of the battle.

The standard armament of a Cairn-class Tomb Ship includes:

  • Sepulchre – A Sepulchre is only utilised by the largest Necron vessel in a given fleet. When a Sepulchre is used to attack an enemy ship that has foolishly come within its range, a wave of palpable psychic force is generated and sent outwards in all directions. The enemy’s crew are then paralysed by visions of horror, and if discipline is lost, then the crazed crew are likely to do damage to their own ship as they rampage uncontrollably through its confines.
  • Star Pulse Generator – A Star Pulse Generator sends out a massive pulse of energy when activated. Whilst other Necron ships are shielded from this attack, enemy vessels within the field of force’s radius are usually severely damaged if not destroyed outright by the immense energies released.
  • Lightning Arc Batteries – Lightning Arcs use stored solar energy and, when activated, release it as a forest of living energy tendrils which envelop targets and probe for weaknesses. Lightning Arcs act as the main weapon batteries for Necron ships, but are different from the equivalents used by the other starfaring species of the galaxy in that the arcs they fire are able to split up and guide themselves to their own targets, providing a mass-strike ability like no other known ship-based weapon. A Lightning Arc battery is usually able to cover all angles of approach except for the rear.
  • Particle Whip Batteries – Particle Whips are the preferred ranged weapon of Necron warships, and work by projecting a magnetic field across a short arc. This arc is sufficient to be "cracked" like a whip and the anti-matter particles within the stream detonate upon impact with normal matter. When a target is hit, the beam’s power acts in a similar way to a strike from a Lightning Arc, albeit focussed upon a smaller area like a Lance weapon. A Particle Whip battery is usually able to cover all angles of approach except for the rear.
  • Portal – Portals are vast stone gateways located within a Necron warship that act as extradimensional conduits for boarding enemy vessels. More precise than conventional Imperial Teleporters, they are most commonly used to flood enemy starships with a relentless host of Necron Warriors and swarms of Canoptek Scarabs.


  • Battlefleet Gothic Armada, pp. 73-75
  • Dark Creed (Novel) by Anthony Reynolds, pg. 130
  • Battlefleet Gothic Magazine, pg. 6
  • Imperial Armour Volume Twelve – The Fall of Orpheus, pp. 51, 56-57
  • Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2 (PC Game)