Ion Weapons are advanced directed energy weapons utilised by the Fire Caste of the Tau Empire. Ion Weapons typically are capable of engaging enemies at long range with high-energy streams of ionised subatomic particles, vaporising flesh and metal with equal ease. These high-energy ions containing an electric charge are accelerated by an electromagnetic field and react explosively with the target as a result of the direct transfer of energy at an atomic level.
Ion Weapon technology was originally acquired by the the Tau as part of a fruitful alliance between the Syrr'Tok Brotherhood of the Demiurg and the Water Caste of the Dal'yth Sept. However, despite the eventual widespread dissemination of Ion Weapons during the Tau Empire's Second Sphere Expansion, man-portable Ion Weapons remained an impossibility due to the bulkiness of their power sources. It was only the discovery of a Mor'tonium power source during the Third Sphere Expansion that made the efficient powering of small-scale Tau Ion Weapons possible.
During the Tau Empire's Third Sphere Expansion, the discovery of a Mor'tonium power source revolutionised the technological possibilities for Ion Weapons, allowing smaller weapons to be built and the adding of an additional feature to existing Ion Weapons. Now, all Ion Weapon designs allow for the weapon to be overcharged by exposing the highly-reactive Mor'tonium power core to the environment. This exposes the wielder or vehicle to the dangerous ionising radiation emitted by the Mor'tonium, and risks overloading the weapon's primary power cells. However, overcharging an Ion Weapon allows it to generate a wide, explosive blast with increased damage compared to its normal fire mode, allowing it to vaporise entire squads of enemy infantry in a single salvo.
Known Ion Weapons
- Ar'Ka Cannon - The Ar'Ka Cannon is a unique weapon design that was constructed on Nan Yanoi ("Sword Moon" in the Tau Lexicon), one of the two moons of the world of Kaurava II in the Kaurava System. The Ar'Ka Cannon fired a concentrated "Ion Beam", which was tuned to a frequency and wavelength that only destroyed the central nervous systems of advanced organic life forms, and ignored plant life and inorganic structures. This allowed the structures and plant life of a targeted area to remain, allowing the Tau Empire to strike at their enemies in the Kaurava System without wreaking too much damage to the environment of the system's habitable planets. This allowed the Tau to maintain the targeted location's suitability for future Tau colonisation. The Ar'Ka Cannon could fire its beam at any point on the surface of any world in the Kaurava System. This weapon was unique, and the Tau built extensive fortifications at the base they established on Nan Yanoi to protect it. A modified version of the Ar'Ka Cannon was mounted on satellites orbiting above Nan Yanoi, which acted as a defence mechanism if any intruders made it past the orbital cannons and landed on the moon.
- Cyclic Ion Blaster - Cyclic Ion Blasters are experimental Tau Battlesuit weapon systems. Early prototypes of the weapon were developed to combat multiple, lightly-armoured enemies at short ranges, and functioned by generating a rapid stream of ionised radiation that is unleashed through the Ion Blaster's four barrels. Though the extremely high rate of fire of this early prototype was stable, the ionisation effect on armour was variable. Later developments almost completely changed the nature of the weapon. As a result, the Cyclic Ion Blaster's role changed to one more similar to the more stable Ion Rifle design, and now features a moderately high rate of fire with immensely more damage capabilities per shot. The real similarities of later models to their older counterparts lies in their range and armour penetration.
- Cyclic Ion Raker - A Rapid-firing heavy Ion Weapon designed for use by XV95 Ghostkeel Battlesuits. A Cyclic Ion Raker is able to atomise large groups of infantry with a stream of high-impact ionic particles.
- Ion Rifle - Ion Rifles are a recently developed form of Ion Weapon that is infantry portable. Ion Rifles are normally issued as special weapons to Tau Pathfinders to augment their offensive capabilities in the field, and allow them to engage heavy infantry and light vehicles effectively.
- Ion Cannon - The Ion Cannon was developed during the Tau Empire's early expansions into space, and is a large weapon most commonly found as a primary turret weapon on Hammerhead gunships, though numerous other Tau aircraft and voidships also make use of Ion Cannons.
- Ion Accelerator - Ion Accelerators are large Ion Weapons developed for use by the experimental XV104 Riptide Battlesuit. For their size, Ion Accelerators have a relatively high rate of fire, and their high damage output allows them to engage both heavy infantry and vehicles effectively. Indeed, Riptide Battlesuits have used their Ion Accelerators to devastating effect on even Leman Russ Battle Tanks and reinforced Imperial bunkers.
- Ionic Discharge Cannon - Ionic Discharge Cannons are large Ion Weapons developed for use by the experimental XV109 Y'vahra Battlesuit. Most likely a derivative of the Ion Accelerator, unlike most Ion Weapons the Ionic Discharge Cannon cannot overcharge its shots; instead they emit an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) upon detonation, which can overload electronic circuitry, causing anything from minor malfunctions in electronics to fires. The effects of this can also blind enemy infantry and sensors that are hit.
- Phased Ion Gun - A Phased Ion Gun is a prototype weapon system designed specifically for use by XV9 Hazard Battlesuits, as their advanced power cores allow them to most effectively wield these weapons. The Phased Ion Gun melds the rapid-firing technology of the Cyclic Ion Blaster with the power of the vehicle-mounted Ion Cannon into a stable Battlesuit weapon system. The lengthy particle accelerators that comprise the Phased Ion Gun's mechanism allow the Battlesuit pilot to engage the enemy at range with a storm of subatomic projectiles that react explosively at an atomic level, decimating heavily armoured infantry and vehicles. While the rate of fire is stable and very high, the ionisation effect remains unpredictable and varies due to the developing nature of this still-experimental technology. At its peak, a Phased Ion Gun's directed energy streams are able to bypass virtually all known forms of armour.
- Quad Ion Turret - A Quad Ion Turret is essentially a battery of four linked Ion Rifles designed as a primary weapon for Razorshark strike fighters. A Quad Ion Turret is mounted on a gimbal turret on the rear underside of a Razorshark, allowing the weapon to strike at targets in all directions. Many an enemy aircraft has found itself under assault by a fusillade of deadly ion streams as Tau aircraft streak past. Linked together as a battery, the Ion Rifles that make up a Quad Ion Turret give the weapon system a high rate of fire, and their strength allows them to engage heavy infantry, light vehicles, and aircraft with equal effectiveness.
- Tri-axis Ion Cannon - A rapid-firing, multi-chambered variant of the standard Ion Cannon whose firepower is unmatched for its size in the Tau arsenal, a Tri-axis Ion Cannon is designed to reap through enemy formations. It can adjust its power levels and rate of fire to deal with light vehicles or heavy armour with precisely controlled lethality. Currently, this weapon is only found deployed on KX139 Ta'unar Supremacy Armour as its arm weapons.
- Battlefleet Gothic: Armada, pg. 159
- Battlefleet Gothic Magazine 19, pg. 9
- Codex: Tau Empire (3rd Edition), pg. 19
- Codex: Tau Empire (4th Edition), pp. 26, 30
- Codex: Tau Empire (6th Edition), pp. 38, 44-45, 48-49, 50, 66-67, 72
- Imperial Armour Aeronautica, pp. 58-59, 62
- Imperial Armour Apocalypse II, pg. 58
- Imperial Armour Volume Three – The Taros Campaign, pp. 194, 201, 208
- White Dwarf Weekly Magazine 89 (October 10, 2015) " XV95 Ghostkeel Battlesuit", pp. 8-9
- Dawn of War - Soulstorm (PC Game)
- Forge World – XV109 Y'vahra Battlesuit Experimental Rules Datasheet
- Forge World - Tri-axis Ion Cannon