A Strike Cruiser of the Adeptus Astartes.

A Strike Cruiser is the second major type of starship usually deployed by the fleets of the Adeptus Astartes.

While a Space Marine Chapter only rarely will deploy the might of a powerful and usually quite ancient Battle Barge, Adeptus Astartes Strike Cruisers are a more common sight, though anything to do with the Space Marines is still a rare event in the galaxy.

Often the arrival of a Space Marine Strike Cruiser is enough in itself to quell the defiance of a star system rebelling against the Emperor. The Astartes are quick to act if the surrender of the Emperor's foes is not rapid and immediate. Strike Cruisers are fast, lightly-armed starships which mass slightly less than the Imperial Navy's Dauntless-class Light Cruisers.

A Strike Cruiser of the Ultramarines Chapter.

Their primary function is to provide rapid response, as they are usually the first Imperial defenders to arrive at a threatened Imperial world. Strike Cruisers are capable of carrying one full company of Space Marines as well as all of their needed armoured support vehicles. They have been known to deploy their full contingent of Astartes within only twenty solar minutes of their arrival in orbit of a target planet.

Like Battle Barges, Strike Cruisers do not represent a single class of Imperial starship or a specific, standardised configuration of weapons systems and other capabilities, but actually represent a large range of different Space Marine starships in the light cruiser tonnage class that are used for the same basic tasks.

A Strike Cruiser and escort vessels of the Blood Ravens Chapter.

Firstly, Strike Cruisers must be fast, with a substantial troop transport capacity and multiple means for delivering troops to a planetary surface rapidly, whether that be through the use of teleporters, Drop Pods, or launch bays equipped with Thunderhawks.

Within the demands of these basic operational parameters, Strike Cruisers can actually take a wide array of different physical forms, although most of them have become outfitted with the mighty Bombardment Cannon to support landing troops from orbit.

Other Astartes Chapters also possess widely differing forms of Strike Cruiser, each shaped by the Chapter's long centuries of tradition and varying tactical doctrines. The Strike Cruisers pictured here simply represent several possibilities for this wide array of physical differences.

History

An Adeptus Astartes Strike Cruiser in flight.

The conception of the Strike Cruiser is believed to rely heavily on the original plans for the Ebon Drake, a new type of vessel originally called an "Assault Cruiser" that was developed by the XVIIIth Legion -- the Salamanders -- a scant few Terran years before the start of the Horus Heresy.

Allegedly, the Primarch Vulkan himself had a hand in the Ebon Drake's creation and also gifted its plans to several of the other Primarchs and their Legions, but only a few prototypes were built before the galaxy was engulfed in civil war.

It would not be before the beginning of the Great Scouring in 019.M31, when the victorious Loyalists set out to purge the galaxy of the Traitor Legions, that the Ebon Drake's design was refined in preparation for the construction of similar vessels for the newborn Adeptus Astartes Chapters of the Second Founding.

Vanguard Light Cruiser

An Ultramarines Vanguard Cruiser in space dock.

Fleet-based Chapters also make use of a vessel called a Vanguard Cruiser that is a refit variant of the standard Strike Cruiser intended to undertake long-range, long-duration operations independent of support from the rest of the Chapter, often serving as reconnaissance or exploratory vessels for the Chapter fleet or as Heavy Escorts.

Vanguard-class Light Cruisers are less capable of undertaking planetary assaults like normal Strike Cruisers because their weapons profile has been optimised for ship-to-ship combat, planetary exploration, reconnaissance and boarding operations.

The Vanguard-class Light Cruiser comes in three main patterns:

  • Mark I - Armed with Torpedo launchers, Macrocannons, and launch bays for attack craft.
  • Mark II - Armed with Lances, Macrocannons, and attack craft launch bays.
  • Mark III - Armed with a single Bombardment Cannon, Macrocannons, and attack craft launch bays.

Grey Knights Strike Cruiser

A Strike Cruiser of the Grey Knights Chapter.

The Grey Knights, perhaps the most elite and secretive of the Space Marine Chapters, maintain their base on Saturn's moon of Titan within the Sol System itself, close to Mars and the primary shipyards of the Adeptus Mechanicus, so their Strike Cruisers are highly advanced vessels, utilising the most advanced weapons, armour, Warp-Drives, Void Shields and other systems available in the Imperium, even by the already high technological standards of the Space Marines.

Their advanced technology is augmented by powerful sorcerous enchantments to protect them from the perils of the Warp.

A Grey Knights Strike Cruiser in the Warp.

Because of their advanced engines and Warp-Drives as well as their highly trained Navigators, Grey Knights vessels are the fastest ships in the Imperium and can respond to a Daemonic incursion long before other Imperial Forces

Grey Knights starships are also piloted by the most trusted and elite Navigators of the Navis Nobilite, capable of steering the most efficient courses through the unpredictable Warp. The Grey Knights fleet is based at the Broadsword Station, located in orbit above the moon Titan.

Punisher-class Strike Cruiser

The Punisher-class Strike Cruiser Inviolable Retribution of the Adeptus Arbites.

The Punisher-class Strike Cruiser is a cruiser used by the Adeptus Arbites. Forming the backbone of the Arbites fleet, the Punisher is primarily a patrol vessel used to bolster local Planetary Defence Force security, put down rebellions, hunt down pirate bands, and transport high-ranking Arbites officials.

The design of the Punisher is very similar to that of a Space Marine Strike Cruiser, though the Punisher possesses less armour and heavy weaponry then its Astartes counterpart.

These ships however do maintain specialised scanning arrays designed to locate pirate bases and Heretic strongholds in isolated regions of space.

Adeptus Arbites ships are few compared to their Imperial Navy counterparts and thus rarely participate in major engagements or joint fleet actions.

Nonetheless these ships boast an array of Torpedoes and Bombardment Cannons in addition to a limited amount of attack craft which are used primarily for scouting and point defence.

One such craft, the Inviolable Retribution, saw service during the Gothic War where it proved invaluable in evacuating the world of Belatis.

Olympia-class Strike Cruiser

The Olympia-class Strike Cruiser was deployed by the Imperial Army during the Great Crusade and Horus Heresy eras.

Notable Strike Cruisers

See Also

Sources

  • Battlefleet Gothic Armada 2 (PC Game)
  • Battlefleet Gothic Magazine 10, pp. 22-23
  • Codex: Black Templars (4th Edition)
  • Codex: Blood Angels (5th Edition)
  • Codex: Dark Angels (5th Edition)
  • Codex: Grey Knights (5th Edition), pp. 11-12
  • Codex: Space Marines (5th Edition)
  • Codex: Space Wolves (5th Edition)
  • Battlefleet Gothic: To Cleanse the Stars (Novel) by Andy Chambers and Matt Keefe
  • Ultramarines (Novel Series)
  • Grey Knights (Novel Series)
  • Helsreach (Novel) by Aaron Dembski-Bowden
  • Legends of the Space Marines (Anthology), "Cover of Darkness" by Mitchel Scanlon
  • The Horus Heresy - Book Three: Extermination (Forge World Series) by Alan Bligh, pg. 15
  • The Horus Heresy - Book Six: Retribution (Forge World Series) by Alan Bligh, pg. 35
  • Horus Heresy Novel Series
  • Dawn of War II - Chaos Rising (PC Game)
  • Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II (PC Game)
  • Warhammer 40,000: Fallen 9 (Comic) by George Mann
  • Imperial Armour Volume Ten - The Badab War - Part Two, pg. 46
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