A TX4 Piranha is a type of lightly armoured combat scout skimmer used by the Tau Fire Caste - a mobile weapons platform that is capable of great speed and manoeuvrability. Using its jet-thrusters and anti-gravitic engine, a Piranha is a fast moving craft that is extremely hard for a foe to hit, its twin crew well able to hug the terrain and make the best use of any cover. Furthermore, a Piranha's weaponry allows it to punch well above its own weight, either using its Burst Cannon to slaughter enemy infantry, or using a Fusion Blaster to blow apart battle tanks many times its own size. Along with a nose-mounted main armament, a Piranha carries two Gun Drones -- either retained on the vehicle to add firepower, or detached into AI (Artificial Intelligence) mode to perform some other mission. When operating as lone hunters, Piranhas are dangerous enough, but it is when they are fielded in teams that they become truly lethal.
The first time the TX4 Piranha was initially encountered and identified by the Imperium was during a diplomatic mission on the Tau Sept world of Dal'yth, where it was being used as an unarmed diplomatic transport vehicle for Water Caste negotiators. However, it was during the Taros Campaign that the Piranha was first field-tested in a military application, and has subsequently been code-named the "Piranha" by the Imperium.
During the Taros Campaign's Battle for Hydro Processing Plant 23-30, Piranhas were widely deployed in support of Remote Sensor Towers already in the area to provide Seeker Missile support. This caused the 114th Cadian Regiment's relief column to be constantly harassed by missile strikes and day-long battles were fought between Chimeras and Piranhas. This led to the relief column being delayed long enough for Tau Hunter Cadres to overrun the plant. Piranhas also played an important role in the desert warfare on Taros, harassing enemy forces with the support of Hunter Cadres and eventually pursuing the Tallarn regiments of the Imperial Guard as they withdrew back to their landing zones in the closing stages of the campaign.
Since the Taros Campaign, the Piranha has been upgraded in terms of armour and armament, and has proved notably successful as a support asset for Pathfinder Teams. Piranha's have been a favourite of the Fire Caste since their introduction during the Second Sphere Expansion, swiftly proving worthy of the praise being heaped on it. Places within Fire Caste Piranha training programs are highly contested, and those who successfully graduate enjoy enhanced status amongst their comrades.
The design of the TX4 Piranha consists of a sleek and light design of a central, open-topped chassis that can seat two crew members. A Piranha is powered by complex dual anti-gravitic and jet-propulsion motive systems so that the vehicle almost glides over a planet's surface. The anti-gravitic engines generate "cushions" of air upon which the Piranha floats, and its armoured bulk is then driven forwards by its two powerful jet engines mounted on the sides of the main chassis. By manipulating the anti-gravitic plates so that the Piranha is pointed slightly skywards, a Piranha pilot can gain extra lift from the Piranha’s engines to clear the many obstacles and terrain that often litters a battlefield; obstacles that more mundane tracked vehicles can never hope to traverse.
Two winglets are mounted on the side of the main engines. Each of these winglets fulfils a role similar to that of the lift fins on a Devilfish chassis, providing extra lift to keep the vehicle off the ground and also providing space for two recesses specifically designed to carry a Gun Drone. Mounted on the front of the central section of the Piranha is a chin turret, which can be fitted with a Burst Cannon or a Fusion Blaster. The armour of the vehicle is made from a dense nano-crystalline metal, named Fio'tak in the Tau Lexicon, that is light, malleable, strong and corrosive resistant, reducing the weight of the vehicle whilst also providing excellent protection. A Piranha carries two crewmen. The crew member in the front seat is the pilot, while the crew member behind him operates the chin-mounted weapon system. However, when the Piranha is used in a non-combat role, the second seat is often reserved for important Tau dignitaries such as an Ethereal.
Piranhas are used in a wide array of capacities, and formations range in size from lone vehicles to a team of up to five working in conjunction. These agile craft have countless uses within the Tau military: their speed and heavy firepower allows them to serve in capacities as varied as armoured escort, reconnaissance in force, tank hunting, flank attackers, supply line raiding, mobile reserves or even, in extreme circumstances, sudden-strike assassination.
Larger schools of these deadly skimmers can use their Burst Cannons to annihilate enemy infantry units, while smaller formations are ideal for eradicating scouts or dealing with unexpected enemy squad deployments. Lone Piranhas that are equipped with the deadly Fusion Blaster are proficient hunters of enemy tanks. Using its speed, the skimmer will attempt to manoeuvre so as to target enemy vehicles in their more vulnerable side and rear armour. During an attack run, Piranhas are a blur of motion, and the crew are more likely to trust their speed and jinking ability over any amount of armour. Using its jet-thrusters and anti-gravitic engine, the Piranha glides over a planet's surface, and its twin crew are well able to hug the terrain and make the best use of any cover.
Piranhas are usually found supporting Hunter Cadres in the niche role of acting as a light combat, raiding, and reconnaissance vehicle that can harass infantry and armour alike. Piranhas commonly clash with enemy scout forces during missions, and have been used by the Tau to provide armoured fire support in defence of an area by acting as part of a rapid-response force for Tau Pathfinders. In a reconnaissance role, the Piranha is a direct match for an Imperial Guard Salamander as it can tackle other light vehicles. This is a desirable asset since first contact with an enemy is often a clash between scout forces. It is thought that the Fire Caste observed and learned from the Imperial Guard's deployment of Salamanders how to deploy and use Piranhas, and have adapted the same tactics for their Piranhas. However, this is pure conjecture by Imperial observers.
On the battlefield, Piranhas often seem to be everywhere at once -- hurtling over friendly troops to counter-attack approaching infantry, racing along the flanks to launch devastating enfilades at enemy armour, or streaking from behind cover to destroy vulnerable foes. After so many training drills that stress using coordinated attacks and mutual fire support, Fire Warriors are well accustomed to the thrum of a Piranha soaring just over their head and they no longer turn to follow the sudden swoosh of air as they streak past.
Piranhas have the ability to bring firepower quickly to wherever it is needed, but they are even more dangerous when working in conjunction with Pathfinder Teams. Using Marker Lights, Pathfinders often set up Piranha strafing runs, ensuring that the skimmers' volley of fire is as devastating as possible. In return, Pathfinders that find themselves in danger of being overrun can request quick strikes by Piranha teams to help wipe out approaching enemies or, at the least, buy time for the Pathfinders to reposition.
Piranhas are also commonly equipped with potent Seeker Missiles, allowing them to strike at enemy armour from long range with the support of other Tau units outfitted with Marker Lights, such as Pathfinders. Piranhas are lightly armoured, however, and their only true defence is their speed and manoeuvrability. Piranhas have also been identified operating as armoured support for teams guarding important strategic locations such as Tau airfields; where they act as a rapid response force. In this way, they act as security where heavier combat vehicles are not generally required. In peacetime, Piranhas can also fulfil the role of an armoured personnel carrier, transporting important Tau diplomatic officials and Ethereals to and from locations where they are needed.
Known Tactical Formations
- Firestream Piranha Wing - When a number of Tau Hunter Cadres fight together, they make use of a higher-level scouting force consisting of a number of Piranha squadrons. These so-called Firestream Wings are often called "Piranha Swarms" by Imperial troops. The are responsible for not only scouting terrain ahead of a multi-cadre force, but also disrupting enemy forces. The primary function of a Firestream Piranha Wing is to hunt and eliminate isolated enemy forces. These Piranhas are often fitted with Seeker Missiles, and their chin-mounted Burst Cannon is replaced with Fusion Blasters; making them exceptionally lethal armour hunters, especially when homing in on Marker Light targets acquired by other units. For this reason, the wing often includes a Tetra scout speeder team to support them in their hunt. A lone Piranha leads the formation, whose crew are a specially designated Target Acquisition Team trained to optimise the firepower of their comrades' craft by spotting vulnerable prey for elimination. The formation's lethal assault is enough to utterly shatter lone enemy formations and eliminate enemy scouting forces wholesale. However, during extended combat operations, the Piranha crews can withdraw; undergoing swift repairs and taking on fresh Drone replacements at their base before plunging back into the fight. The Firestream Wing's secondary function is to disrupt the deployment of enemy forces. They achieve this through a highly complex communications array mounted upon the wing's command vehicle. This array gathers sensor data from all of the Piranhas in the wing, and decrypts any communications it intercepts and identifies. The orders contained in the signal are altered, the encryption re-applied, and the signal reconstructed before being transmitted onwards to the intended recipient. Should the signal prove impossible to replicate, the system is capable of jamming any type of communication it can detect. The re-transmitted signal is intended to disrupt enemy orders, changing dispositions without the enemy command being aware of the subterfuge. Enemy units will often find themselves deployed kilometres out of line, and either ambushed or unable to take part in the battle. Soon, the entire enemy army is in disarray, allowing the Piranha wing and following Tau units to engage the enemy entirely on their own terms. The Tau have become so adept at this process that they can analyse and jam almost any signal, and succeed in disrupting even entirely alien forces whose technology they have not encountered before.
- Firestream Piranha Squadron - Piranha Firestream Squadrons are intended to provide heavy supporting fire for beleaguered Tau ground forces. They carry extra ammunition for their weapons, but only have a limited amount of fuel. Should a Tau attack falter or a defence line start to crumble, Firestream Squadrons will quickly be despatched from a large central reserve to stabilise the situation, screaming swiftly into battle and using their firepower to stem the enemy attack, before returning to their base to refuel and have any losses replaces before going to battle once more. A Firestream Piranha Squadron consists of five Piranha squadrons as standard.
- Infiltration Cadre - Infiltration Cadres are expected to advance into harm's way to locate high value strategic targets to attack -- they serve as the eyes and ears of the Fire Caste. Usually operating deep behind enemy lines, the warriors of an Infiltration Cadre are prepared to fight unsupported against superior foes, using every iota of their skills in stealth and evasion to stay alive while hammering the enemy with fire. However, a properly deployed Infiltration Cadre is never truly isolated, for by activating their intervention request beacons or concentrating their Marker Lights in a neutralisation lattice, the Cadre can call in massive reinforcements to screaming volleys of Seeker Missles to turn the tables upon their foe. Infiltration Cadres are usually made up of three Pathfinder teams, two teams of XV25 Stealthsuits, and a TX4 Piranha squadron.
Primary and Secondary Weapons
A TX4 Piranha is primarily armed with an underslung nose turret weapon and a hull-mounted secondary weapon system. The nose-mounted primary weapon can be one of the following:
- Burst Cannon – A Burst Cannon provides rapid-firing suppressive anti-infantry fire that can harass and mow down enemy squads. A Burst Cannon can also act as a fearsome self-defence weapon that can complement the fire of supporting squads.
- Fusion Blaster – A Fusion Blaster is an anti-vehicle Melta Weapon effective against a range of light and heavy vehicles, and allows a Piranha to fulfil a tank-hunter role on the battlefield. However, a Fusion Blaster can also be used to great effect against heavily armoured infantry.
Piranhas are also armed with two Gun Drones which ride with the vehicle in specially designed recesses. These Gun Drones are able to lend the Piranha their additional weight of fire to pin down enemies, or can detach themselves from the Piranha to move off independently and perform missions of their own.
TX4 Piranhas can also be equipped with any of the following Tau vehicle upgrade 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.
- Flechette Discharger - Flechette Dischargers line the hull of the Piranha and fire high-velocity flechettes at infantry which try to assault the vehicle.
- 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.
- Target Lock - A Target Lock computer automatically identifies potential targets and plots fire plans accordingly. This grants the gunners more choice and accuracy in engaging various targets.
- Targeting Array - Computer-aided Targeting Arrays are sophisticated targeting systems that aid the gunners' aim in firing upon enemy targets.
- Seeker Missiles - Piranhas can also optionally have up to two Seeker Missiles in addition to their primary and secondary armaments. Each Seeker Missile is most effective when fired and guided by Marker Lights. Seeker Missiles are especially deadly when mounted on Piranhas, as their ability to rapidly position themselves on the flanks of a battlefield allows the Seeker Missiles to strike at more vulnerable side or rear armour of enemy vehicles.
With the success enjoyed by Piranha squadrons during both the Taros Campaign and other conflicts across the expanding Tau Empire, it was inevitable that other vehicles based on the design would soon emerge from various Tau Septs. The TX-42 is the newest incarnation of the original Piranha, intended to fulfil the role of a heavy gunship designed for frontline operations in support of Tau armoured units instead of a lightly armed reconnaissance craft. Compared to its progenitor, the TX-42 carries a much heavier weapons load, including twin-linked Rail Rifles, twin-linked Missile Pods, twin-linked Fusion Blasters or twin-linked Plasma Rifles. TX-42s retain the ability to carry a small number of Seeker Missiles into combat, which can then be launched by other Tau Empire units using the Marker Light network to direct their weapons fire.
The TX-42 also features a reworked crew compartment, providing much greater protection to the two-man crew enclosed within. Although the compartment remains open, the increased armour allows the TX-42 to brave weapons fire that would have quickly destroyed the Piranha, allowing it to deliver pinpoint heavy weapons strikes in even the heaviest fighting.
Still in the prototype stage of development, the TX-42 has yet to be mass-produced. In fact, it has so far been reported in use only amongst forces originating from the Sa'cea Sept. These forces are expanding through the Perdus Rift region as part of the Tau's Third Sphere Expansion and appear to be conducting tests of this new vehicle in combat conditions. Should these tests prove successful, it is likely the design will quickly spread to Tau cadres across the Empire.
- Ghovah - The most famous Piranha pilot was Ghovah, from the Vior'la Sept, who claimed over 1,000 kills during his service fighting for the Tau Empire. His most famous victory, however, occurred after his retirement from the frontiers to a training position. An Ork invasion thrust Ghovah back into battle when the Greenskins attacked Vior'la's largest moon. Only Ghovah s half-trained Piranha cadre stood between the mechanised greenskin army and the destruction of the vital food producing moon base. With Ghovah leading the way, the Piranha squadrons darted in interweaving patterns to attack the columns of ramshackle Ork vehicles. Piranhas with Burst Cannons concentrated on the lightly armoured Warbikes and Trukk transports, while the Fusion Blaster-equipped skimmers dealt with the heavily plated Battlewagons and tanks. The Orks broke off their drive towards the Earth Caste agri-centres and attempted to engage Ghovah's Piranha teams. In the ensuing battles, the agile skimmers feinted and fled, setting the Orks up for repeated counter attacks. The greenskins finally broke when, even while losing control of his crippled Piranha, the elder Tau steered his vehicle straight into the Warboss's battlewagon, causing it to erupt in flames. Ghovah’s unstinting skill and sacrifice were noted and he was, posthumously, named a hero of the Tau Empire.
Ordo Xenos Departmento Analyticus Technical Specifications
|Serial Number||85673-908461||Main Armament||Burst Cannon in chin turret|
|Vehicle Codename||Piranha||Secondary Armament||2 Gun Drones|
|Crew||2 (Pilot, Co-Pilot)||Traverse||120°|
|Weight||4.5 tonnes||Elevation||From -46° to +5°|
|Length||5.7 metres||Ammunition||2000 rounds|
|Width||6.4 metres||Armour Type||Nano-Crystalline Alloy
Composition Unknown to the Adeptus Mechanicus
|Max Recorded Speed||160 kilometres per hour|
|Summary:||Light Combat Vehicle; Can also mount a Fusion Blaster and Seeker Missile Rack|
- Apocalypse: Reload, pg. 46
- Apocalypse Warzone: Damocles, pg. 54
- Codex: Tau Empire (7th Edition), pp. 26, 92
- Codex: Tau Empire (6th Edition), pg. 47
- Codex: Tau Empire (4th Edition), pg. 39
- Deathwatch: Rites of Battle (RPG), pg. 195
- Imperial Armour - Apocalypse, pg. 80
- Imperial Armour - Apocalypse (Second Edition), pg. 82
- Imperial Armour Update 2006
- Imperial Armour Volume Three - The Taros Campaign, pp. 181-183
- Imperial Armour Volume Three - The Taros Campaign (Second Edition), pp. 152-153, 263
- War Zone Damocles: Kauyon, pg. 185
- War Zone Damocles: Mont'ka, pg. 187