"Those with superior reach can dictate the terms of battle and impose their will upon their foe. Remember, the first step on the path to victory is often the most important."
A Sniper Drone Team is a specialist unit of the Tau Empire's Fire Caste, which consists of three Sniper Drones controlled by a Tau Firesight Marksman. The teams specialise in assisting a Hunter Cadre by lending pinpoint accurate anti-personnel sniper support where it is needed.
Ensconced in cover far from the front lines of battle, a Firesight Marksman scans the battlefield, using advanced optical sights to select prime targets. Above him float the rest of his team -- a group of Sniper Drones, each of them equipped with an underslung Longshot Pulse Rifle. The Longshot Pulse Rifle is a lethal weapon that can send its plasma pulse over a great distance. A well-placed shot is capable of taking out any target, and there are many accounts of Sniper Drone Teams single-handedly throwing enemy forces into disarray with their ability to rain down sniper fire from long range. As a result, Sniper Drone Teams are a deadly addition to any cadre as they are adept at picking off enemy leaders or eliminating key infantrymen, such as those carrying heavy weapons.
Although the Sniper Drones are equipped with impressive artificial intelligence, it is the Firesight Marksman, a Shas'la, who is the brains behind the operation. He is masked by a small stealth field generator, meaning that he can secret himself into dense terrain where he will blend in, minimising the threat of return fire. The marksman is equipped with a drone controller, with which he commands his deadly charges, seeking out the most vulnerable quarry. Sniper Drones are modified from the standard Tau Drones, for they carry a Longshot Pulse Rifle and stabilising fins, as well as their own mini-stealth field generators.
All members of Sniper Drone teams, whether they be Drone or Tau, are equipped with stealth-field generators to camouflage them perfectly against their background environment and allow the team to secret themselves in dense terrain; making them extremely hard to target, let alone be seen, by enemy forces. This minimises the threat of return fire whilst the team performs its role. Sniper Drone Teams are commonly found operating in groups of two to three teams where their combined fire can pin down even the most determined enemies.
During fighting against the humans attempting raids in the Perdus Rift, a lone Sniper Drone Team claimed an entire Space Marine Terminator Squad -- each member shot directly through the armoured eye lenses of their helmets. Many Tau Commanders station Sniper Drone Teams behind their own gunlines, as this affords extra protection for Fire Warrior or XV88 Broadside Battlesuit Teams. Others use Sniper Drone Teams to dominate open territory -- deploying them in positions that overlook swathes of the battlefield, often covering the approach towards intervening friendly units. Thanks to their anti-gravitic jets, the Sniper Drones can move, momentarily steady themselves, shoot at their quarry, and then move back behind cover, making them very hard to target with ranged weapons. This particular technique was used to perfection in the battle against [[Hive Fleet Gorgon]] on Ke'lshan, with the threat of fire from massed banks of Sniper Drones causing even the largest Tyranid monstrosities to cease their headlong charges and instead attempt to move through cover.
Firesight Marksmen are equipped with a Pulse Pistol, in case a foe attempts to close with them, and more importantly, a Marker Light. This is used to support nearby comrades or to launch Seeker Missiles, although some marksmen prefer to keep themselves out of the line of fire, exposing only their Drones to incoming shots. A marksman can command up to nine Sniper Drones, but when fielding that many, it is common to add additional controllers. Should all marksmen on the team be slain, the Sniper Drones have enough artificial intelligence to continue the fight, and Earth Caste engineers have been amazed to arrive upon a battlefield many hours after its conclusion to find the Sniper Drones still hovering on duty, their sniper rifles still turning, looking for new targets.
Sniper Drone Team Components
"I guide the Empire's fury."
- —Tahm'eo, Firesight Marksman
Although Sniper Drones are equipped with impressive artificial intelligence, it is the Firesight Marksman, a Shas'la, who is the brains behind the operation. Ensconced in cover far from the front lines of battle, a Firesight Marksman will scan the battlefield using his targeting platform, his advanced optical sights helping him to select prime targets. All Firesight Marksmen who work with Sniper Drones are Fire Warrior officers of the rank of Shas’la who have experience in the elimination of high-priority targets through long-range sniping. Tau Firesight Marksmen are always equipped with a support targeting platform that incorporates numerous technologies to aid them in their role of directing their Sniper Drones. The platform incorporates a Marker Light, which the Marksman can use to feed targeting information to nearby Tau forces to make their firepower more accurate and effective, and a Drone Controller so that the Marksman can guide and direct his Drones’ deadly firepower more effectively using his targeting platform to seek out the most vulnerable quarry. The Marker Light is especially important, as it allows the Marksman to support nearby comrades or to launch Seeker Missiles, although some Marksmen prefer to keep themselves out of the line of fire and exposing only their Drones to incoming shots. All Firesight Marksmen are also armed with a Pulse Pistol for basic personal defence, in case a foe attempts to close in on them. A single Marksman can command up to nine Sniper Drones, but when fielding that many, it is common to have up to two additional Marksmen as part of the team. Should all Marksmen on the team be slain however, Sniper Drones possess sufficient artificial intelligence to continue the fight, and Earth Caste engineers have been amazed to arrive upon a battlefield many hours after its conclusion to find the Sniper Drones still hovering on duty, their sniping rifles still seeking new targets.
Sniper Drones are a type of Tau Drone (small, disc-shaped, semi-sentient machine) employed extensively alongside Tau units in a sniper support role during combat. Sniper Drones consist of an advanced processor unit, which individually has only a basic intelligence (approximately equal to that of a small animal such as a pterasquirrel), and moves about by way of a compact anti-gravitic generator and a much modified variant of the Tau Jetpack. This allows the Sniper Drone to hover over the ground and skim over most obstacles.
Sniper Drones are modified from standard Tau Drones, for they carry a Longshot Pulse Rifle as their main armament, and are equipped with additional stabilising fins as well as their own mini-stealth field generators. A Longshot Pulse Rifle is a lethal variant of a standard Pulse Rifle that can send its plasma pulse over an even greater distance than normal. A well-placed shot is capable of taking out any target, and there are many accounts of Sniper Drone Teams single-handedly throwing enemy forces into disarray with their ability to rain down sniper fire from long range. With these powerful ranged weapons, Sniper Drones can pin down enemy units with extremely accurate sniper fire, allowing other Tau units to move in for the kill. Sniper Drones have also been equipped with Targeting Arrays, which enhance their basic Drone targeting capacities to make them more accurate, and a Target Lock which allows them to fire upon numerous different targets simultaneously and effectively.
Sniper Drones will always stay within close proximity to their Tau Fire Warrior controller, and can act as a form of robotic bodyguard if necessary by getting in the way of incoming enemy fire or close-combat opponents during the course of a battle.
A Drone Controller is an electronic device that can be used by the Tau to further enhance their control over their robotic companions. A Drone Controller acts as a hub of digital communications between the Drone's operator and any Drones that are nearby the user. It serves as an advanced interface between the operator and the artificial intelligence (AI) combat programs of the Drones, and is often used to direct the Drones’ firepower far more efficiently and with a level of accuracy far greater than would otherwise be possible on the battlefield. This system is especially effective in Sniper Drone teams, as Sniper Drones can fire with near perfect precision using the data of the Firesight Marksman’s targeting support platform.
Thanks to their anti-gravitic jets, Sniper Drones can move forwards, momentarily steady themselves, shoot at their quarry, and then move back behind cover on the battlefield, making them very hard to target with ranged weapons. This particular technique was used to perfection in the battles against Hive Fleet Gorgon on Ke'lshan, when the threat of fire from massed banks of Sniper Drones caused even the largest Tyranid monstrosities to cease their headlong charges and instead attempt to move through cover.
The Fire Caste combat doctrine, as laid down in the Code of Fire, instructs all warriors to fight closely together, with each member of a team doing his utmost to protect not just his comrades, but also any nearby teams in his Hunter Cadre. Using overlapping fields of fire, even Drones are able to provide mutual support on the battlefield in the case of enemy assaults.
Ordo Xenos Departmento Analyticus Technical Specifications
- Codex: Tau Empire (6th Edition), pg. 46
- Codex: Tau Empire (4th Edition), pp. 29, 31, 40
- Imperial Armour Volume Three - The Taros Campaign, pg. 282
- Deathwatch: Mark of the Xenos (RPG), pg. 12