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Strike Cruiser

A strike cruiser of the Adeptus Astartes

A strike cruiser is the second most common type of capital starship 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.

Space Marine Strike Cruiser

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 one hundred 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 capital-grade starships in the Imperial light cruiser tonnage class that are used for the same basic tasks.

Blood Ravens Strike Cruiser

A strike cruiser and escort vessels of the Blood Ravens Chapter in orbit above a world.

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.



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 Space Marine 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 Chapters of the Adeptus Astartes of the Second Founding.

Vanguard Light Cruiser


An Ultramarines vanguard cruiser in space dock.

Fleet-based Chapters also make use of vessels in the light cruiser tonnage class 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:

Grey Knights Strike Cruiser

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.

Like other Space Marine Chapters, the Grey Knights' primary mode of transportation is the strike cruiser class of Imperial starship that is exclusive to the Adeptus Astartes. However, the Grey Knights' starships are specially modified in several ways. One is the hexagrammic and anti-Daemonic wards that are built into the entire voidship from bridge to landing struts and every bulkhead in between, similar to those that are placed on the power armour and under the skin of the Grey Knights themselves. These wards lend the ship added protection from the forces of Chaos. Also, the Grey Knights' strike cruisers are constructed with significantly more advanced armour than the starships of other Chapters. This is to allow them to close with more powerful foes and reach their destination safely, since the Grey Knights must fight more powerful enemies than the standard Adeptus Astartes.


A Grey Knights strike cruiser in the Warp.

Finally, the landing and Drop Pod bays are enlarged to be able to deploy larger numbers of Space Marines faster. The Chapter serf crew of Grey Knights strike cruisers are all strictly mind-wiped to prevent the possible taint of Chaos corruption, and are given a key word which will kill all the crew members on a Grey Knights strike cruiser and destroy the ship should it fall into the hands of the forces of Chaos.

The modifications to the Grey Knights' voidships are made possible by two factors. The first is their fortress-monastery's location onTitan, a moon of Saturn in the Sol System and in close proximity to Mars, the greatest Forge World in the Imperium. This provides access to technology, materials refinement and fabrication techniques that were forgotten or are impossible to replicate anywhere else in the Imperium, which also explains the high quality of all Grey Knights equipment. Secondly, these efforts are made possible by the prodigious resources the Ordo Malleus provides the Grey Knights due to their position as its Chamber Militant.

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 into realspace 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.

Grey Knights strike cruisers are armed with port and starboard side weapons batteries and a prow-mounted Bombardment Cannon, as well as multiple attack craft and Drop Pod launch bays as well as a teleportarium.

The Grey Knights' Chapter 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 than 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, barrage bombs, weapons batteries and a dorsal Bombardment Cannon in addition to a limited amount of Eagle Interceptor 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


  • Battlefleet Gothic Armada 2 (PC Game)
  • Battlefleet Gothic Compendium 2010 (Specialty Game), pg. 50
  • Battlefleet Gothic Magazine 10, pp. 22-23
  • Codex: Grey Knights (5th Edition), pp. 11-12
  • Codex: Space Marines (5th Edition), pg. 17
  • Codex: Space Wolves (7th Edition) (Digital Edition), "The Disappearance of Russ"
  • 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
  • The Ultramarines Omnibus (Omnibus Novel) by Graham McNeill, "Warriors of Ultramar," Ch. 5
  • Nightbringer (Novel) by Graham McNeill, Ch. 4
  • 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
  • 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 Two (First Edition), pp. 161, 188
  • Imperial Armour Volume Ten - The Badab War - Part Two, pg. 46
  • Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate - Daemonhunters (PC Game)