The Deathstrike Missile Launcher is a mobile ballistic missile launcher of the Astra Militarum that is capable of firing the intercontinental ballistic Deathstrike Missile which is often equipped with a warhead that is classified as a weapon of mass destruction. The Deathstrike Launcher is built atop a modified Chimera chassis to which a complex launching system has been added that is capable of firing a single Deathstrike Missile.
The Deathstrike Launcher is becoming a rare sight on the battlefield due to Imperial commanders' concerns about its vulnerabilities, the danger it presents to friendly forces, and their preference for other, more mobile and flexible artillery vehicles such as the Basilisk. Deathstrike Launchers are only found on the most apocalyptic battlefields and are only ever used when the total annihilation of a key target is absolutely necessary, and only after the unit using it has been authorised to do so by Segmentum Command.
The vehicle launches a single, intercontinental, solid-fuel ballistic missile, with an operational range of several thousand kilometres. When the missile detonates everything caught within the blast radius is instantly consumed by an immense thermonuclear fireball that can vaporise almost anything, including armoured units and buildings. A single well-placed shot from a Deathstrike Missile Launcher is more than capable of destroying whole armies, due to the immense destructive capacity of the Deathstrike tactical nuclear warhead and the fact that it may need to be used whilst allies are still caught in the weapon's blast radius. Once a Deathstrike Launcher has been authorised for use, Imperial Guard regiments employing a Deathstrike Launcher usually assign highly loyal Commissars to Deathstrike Launcher batteries to ensure the weapon is fired, no matter the target or the consequences that will result for Imperial forces.
Until recently, the Deathstrike was a weapon in decline. The deployment of a single Deathstrike Missile Launcher requires a huge investment of resources. The acquisition of these weapons is a process littered with religious and administrative complexities, and can take solar months. Even the construction of a Deathstrike Missile is a procedure whose worth in the Imperium's wars must be carefully weighed before commencement. Each component must be duly sanctified and blessed with hallowed oils, then arrayed as the catechisms of manufacture are intoned in full. A cortège of Tech-priests then sets about the process of wiring guidance skulls to each of the warhead's actuators. Finally, the mounting ceremony in which the missile is racked on its firing platform is accompanied by its own solemn rites. As Deathstrikes are only requested to fulfil the direst of contingencies, the battles for which they are requested are often long over by the time they arrive at the front.
This is not to say that Deathstrike Missile Launchers have not seen use, for their formidable value and situational versatility are legendary. Over the past ten millennia they have been used against nearly every enemy of the Imperium. The warhead can be armed with a variety of horrifying payloads, each Deathstrike Missile tailored to wreak maximum destruction on its intended target. With a single successful launch, a Deathstrike armed with a Godspear warhead can bring down an enemy Titan, punching the towering war engine from its feet amid the false sun of a reactor meltdown. One well-placed missile can deliver virulent pathogens to the core of an army, wipe out the entire command structure of the foe in a holocaust of billowing plasma, or crush the morale of a wavering enemy with its sudden, god-like wrath. Most terrifying of all are the venerated Vortex Missiles. These warheads are able to sunder reality itself in a roiling wave of Warp energy that guarantees the annihilation of anything caught in their blast. Vortex Warheads are so rare that the improper launch of one is punishable by immediate summary execution.
A rare few weapons within the Astra Militarum arsenal are considered so destructive that to sanction their deployment without due cause and clear purpose is a capital offence. Such weapons are designated "Ordnance Extremis" by the Departmento Munitorum. Chief among these implements of destruction is the Deathstrike Missile Launcher.
The Deathstrike exhibits huge range and destructive capability, launching an intercontinental ballistic missile of intimidating size. Each of these colossal rockets is able to visit the wrath of the Emperor upon targets half a world away, allowing the Astra Militarum to stab deep into the heart of enemy-held territory or an encroaching army. Calculating these long-range trajectories takes time, however, and the volatile Machine Spirit of the missile must be entreated before it is sent hurtling on its martyr's journey. A Deathstrike preparing to fire quickly becomes a priority target for the enemy -- the sheer size of its armament allows even the most animalistic xenos races to understand its apocalyptic purpose. As a slow moving asset with only moderate firepower outside of its primary munition, the Deathstrike often requires its own dedicated escort so as not to present the foe with a valuable and relatively soft target. For the Departmento Munitorum, simple logistics has precluded its deployment in all but the most extreme circumstances.
It is a mark of how dark the days of the Imperium have become in the wake of the Great Rift's birth that a brutal new tactic has appeared, one that has seen the Deathstrike experience a renaissance. Held behind Imperial lines, Deathstrikes lurk out of sight, remaining undetected while they await their moment. When enemy forces threaten catastrophic breakthrough, or a suitably valuable target presents itself, waves of Imperial infantry are sent to bog the enemy down. Fed short range combat-launch coordinates, the Deathstrikes discharge their terrifying weapons directly into the heart of battle. As the missile descends, friend and foe alike are immolated amid the unleashed blast-wave. Such measures are as inhumane as they are desperate, yet in these times no sacrifice is too great to ensure the survival of Mankind.
The Deathstrike Missile Launcher is armed with a single, intercontinental ballistic Deathstrike Missile, which can be outfitted with several different types of warheads, including biological, tactical nuclear, and Titan-killer Godspear warheads, but by far the most common is the plasma warhead, which is capable of vaporizing almost anything within a very large radius by unleashing a potent thermonuclear plasma reaction. The rarest warhead used by the Deathstrike is the ancient Vortex Warhead. This weapon from the Dark Age of Technology tears open an inter-dimensional rift to the Immaterium that rips its targets apart in a vortex of raging Warp energies. The Deathstrike Missile Launcher has an operational range in the thousands of kilometres that no other Imperial artillery piece can come close to matching, and the destructive force that can be unleashed by a single Deathstrike Missile is beyond the capabilities of any other artillery weapons used by the Imperium. The vehicle is also armed with a hull-mounted Heavy Bolter for protection, even though the Deathstrike usually will never move anywhere near the front lines because of its extreme operational range. The Heavy Bolter can be replaced with a Heavy Flamer. The vehicle can be further modified with camouflage netting, a Hunter-Killer Missile Launcher, a Dozer Blade, Extra Armour Plating, a Pintle-mounted Heavy Stubber or Storm Bolter, a Searchlight, and Smoke Launchers.
Known Uses of the Deathstrike
- Battle of Septimius II (Unknown Date.M41) - Only those rare commanders with an intrinsic understanding of ballistic warfare can fully put to use the true obliterative power of a Deathstrike Missile Launcher. One such commander was Zandar At'lan of the Tallarn 115th Armoured Regiment. On Septimius II, his tank companies were engaged with Ork warbands on three fronts spanning several dozen miles. On the verge of being overwhelmed, At'lan ordered all three of his columns to withdraw into the Copper Flats. As the bellicose Greenskins gave chase, the Tallarn armoured companies were instructed to retreat along paths that intersected each other. The launch of the single Deathstrike Missile at At'lan's disposal was timed so that it struck exactly where the pursuing Orks converged. This use of Ordnance Extremis was considered exemplary by an attendant Lord Commissar.
- Battle for Entymion IV (Unknown Date.M41) - During the battle for the capital city of the world of Entymion IV, Consul Kelchenko of the Adeptus Munitorum, irritated at being relegated to carrying out artillery barrages far from the frontlines, took it upon himself to show his mettle to his Imperial Guard counterparts, and ordered a Deathstrike Missile launched at the presumed position of the Soul Drinkers. This proved to be a catastrophic mistake, however, since it opened a huge hole to the city catacombs, which served as a storage room for the Dark Eldar Prince Karhedros' reserve of Grotesques. These monstrous warriors were subsequently unleashed, along with hordes of Slaaneshi daemons upon the Imperial defenders.
- Battle of Baric VI (994.M40) - Ork Lootas infiltrated the 52nd Army Artillery Park and captured one of the three Deathstrike Missile Launchers that was stationed there and the weapon was later deployed against Imperial forces fighting for control of Baric VI from Ork invaders. The cataclysmic explosion of a Deathstrike Missile destroyed two armoured regiments and the command Baneblade, Steel Might, of the 278th Mordian Regiment. After a two-year investigation of how the weapon came to be stolen by the Greenskins, twelve Imperial generals were executed for dereliction of duty.
- Third War for Armageddon (998.M41) - During the Third War for Armageddon, the Deathstrike Batteries located in Hive Helsreach were able to assist in the defence of Hive Volcanus from the onslaught of Orks, even though they were located on opposite ends of the planet.
Adeptus Mechanicus Technical Specifications
The technical specifications of this vehicle have yet to be released for public consumption by the Adeptus Mechanicus.
- Codex: Astra Militarum (8th Edition), pp. 49, 113
- Codex: Astra Militarum (6th Edition) (Digital Edition), "Deathstrikes," "Heavy Support-Deathstrike"
- Codex: Imperial Guard (5th Edition), pp. 55, 103
- Epic Armageddon, pg. 97
- White Dwarf 366 (UK), pg. 5
- Apocalypse Datasheet
- Crimson Tears (Novel) by Ben Counter, pg. 96