A Sun Shark bomber is a Tau aircraft designed to provide atmospheric air support to ground-based Fire Caste forces. Each Sun Shark incorporates a Pulse Bomb Generator that takes up much of its dorsal fuselage. This advanced microfactory generates, and holds stable, a shimmering orb of lethal energy. At the press of a button, this plasma bomb can be fired at the ground to detonate amidst the foe with enormous force, leaving little but drifting ash and a glowing crater to show where the enemy once stood. Exceptionally efficient, each Pulse Bomb Generator can continue to manufacture fresh ordnance for its craft almost indefinitely without the need for rearming. To ward off enemy aircraft and armour, Sun Sharks also mount arrays of missiles, their own Networked Marker Light, and a pair of nimble Interceptor Drones. These diligent protectors can detach as required, hurtling in to shoot down those enemy aircraft that threaten their mothership.
First designed and deployed sometime during the Second Sphere of Expansion, the Sun Shark bomber has proven its success repeatedly against the many foes of the Tau Empire. During the Tyranid Hive Fleet Gorgon’s invasion on the Tau Sept homeworld of Ke'lshan, the aliens quickly grew wary of the dominating Tau air attacks. High in the stratosphere, super-heavy Mantas blasted away flying terrors, while just above the planet's surface swept Sun Shark bombers, their Pulse Bombs breaking up the swarming Hormagaunt assaults with powerful blasts. Sun Sharks were instrumental in holding back the Tyranid swarms; without them, the Tau battlelines would have been overrun in short order.
A Sun Shark Bomber consists of a central chassis with two large forward-mounted wings, which are connected to additional small winglets to the rear of the main body by thruster rods. A Sun Shark’s cockpit is fully enclosed and pressurised, and its sleek design includes two Interceptor Drones, which fit into specially designed recesses in the aircraft’s wings. A Sun Shark’s primary armament is its Pulse Bomb Generator, which is mounted underneath the rear portion of its airframe. Mounted on the front of the central body is a nose-mounted Networked Marker Light.
A Sun Shark is powered by complex dual anti-gravitic and jet-propulsion motive system so that the aircraft can swiftly fly over a planet’s surface. Its armoured bulk is primarily driven forwards by its two powerful jet engines mounted on the sides of the main airframe. Additional thruster rods connected to the wings allow the aircraft to turn better than it would otherwise be able too, whilst its large wings grant it better stability in the air. The natural skills of the pilots allow the aircraft to manoeuvre with a skill, precision and extremity that only members of the Air Caste can tolerate.
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. All Sun Sharks are piloted by an Air Caste pilot, as evident by the Air Caste symbols often displayed on the bomber's wings. The pilot controls the flight of the aircraft and also operates its weapons, with the assistance of some Drone-controlled systems.
It is often the attack shoals of the Air Caste that are first loosed on an enemy world, sweeping down in great waves to clear the skies of fliers. Anti-aircraft defences are blasted out of existence from low orbit, or else marked for punitive strikes by teams of Stealth or Crisis Battlesuits. Plasma bombs fall like rain upon enemy airfields, ripping apart landing pads and runways and blasting promethium silos and grounded fighters into blazing wreckage. Those enemy aircraft that make it aloft find themselves running the gauntlet amid swarms of perfectly coordinated Tau attack craft. Tau Air Caste pilots maintain meticulously calculated formations and lay down lattices of interceptor fire that soon see even the largest and most heavily armed enemy craft spinning groundwards like flaming comets. By the time the ground war begins in earnest, enemy air assets have been reduced to a ghost of their former strength, and the skies belong to the Tau. It is at this point that shoals of Sun Shark bombers switch to targeting the foe’s ground forces. These swift-winged craft are employed in place of artillery, supporting their Fire Caste comrades by executing deadly attack runs that shatter enemy infantry and fire support formations.
Due to their unique fighting tendencies and their highly mobile nature, Hunter Cadres do not use artillery in the conventional sense that most armies do. Instead, in association with the Air Caste, they have developed the Sun Shark bomber -- a sleek atmospheric aircraft that is capable of sweeping down from the skies and blasting ground targets with its potent payload. A shoal of Sun Shark Bombers flying in tight formation can blast apart even the most surging of Ork WAAAGH!s with a single flyover; for their Pulse Bombs are devastating anti-horde weapons.
The Tau doctrine of war places great importance upon dominating the airways above any battlefield they deploy to. It is their commonly-held belief that controlling the skies is the first step in winning the engagement, and Tau aircraft such as the Razorshark and Barracuda enable this. By making the elimination of enemy flyers a priority, ground troops are allowed to concentrate on their targets without having to concern themselves with any threat from above. This strategy thereby enables the Tau to make full use of their mobile ground support assets. With no enemy flyers to worry about, the Sun Shark shoals are better able to line up their devastating bombing runs while Razorshark fighters fly circles around enemy infantry or armour, using the range and potent hitting power of their ion weapons to pick off foes from beyond the range of most return fire. With full aerial supremacy, the Tau are free to concentrate their flexible firepower when and how they need to -- efficiently isolating and destroying enemy assets one by one. In the hands of an experienced Tau Commander, the fine-tuned coordination of air attacks in the skies above the battlefield can make a Hunter Cadre very adaptable and extremely lethal.
During an attack run, Sun Sharks are a blur of motion, and their crew are more likely to trust their speed and jinking ability over any amount of armour. Using their extreme speed, Sun Sharks can rapidly pass over an enemy and release their bombs before the enemy realises the aircraft is even there. Often called in as air support by Tau Commanders to bomb enemy positions and hit key targets that would otherwise be unreachable, Sun Sharks support Tau ground forces by providing much needed heavy ordnance from the air. Many a desperate Pathfinder or Fire Warrior Team owe their continued existence to Sun Shark shoals, most notably due to the Seeker Missiles they carry, which they call in using Marker Lights. Their ability to strike enemy vehicles or make short work of armoured infantry with the help of nearby air support greatly increases their chances for survival. It is of note that Sun Sharks are also capable of operating in space, and often fulfill the role of an Attack Craft for Tau fleets in void combat by performing void-based bombing missions on enemy capital starships.
- Paradox Squadron - The stasis bombs used by Paradox Squadrons are deadly weapons whose unique destructive force can be combined to tear a rent in the space-time continuum, creating a dangerous temporal anomaly. Several bombs must be delivered at the same time and in a specific pattern in order to achieve the desired effect, requiring split-second timing and perfect formation flying by the Sun Shark crews taking part in the attack. A target caught in the resulting anomaly is propelled through the universal time-stream, reappearing in the same location but millions of years in the future or in the past. Occasionally, however, the attack backfires, and an earlier version of the target blinks into existence, with any damage it has suffered so far in the battle miraculously repaired. A Paradox Squadron typically consists of three to five Sun Shark bombers, which must be flying in an arrow-head formation to perform their specialised bombing attack.
A Sun Shark’s primary armament is its rear Pulse Bomb Generator mounted underneath the aircraft hull. This device produces a ball of deadly plasma beneath the aircraft. At the pilot's command, a pulsed induction field propels the glaring energy ball towards targets on the battlefield below. Sizzling the air around it, the pulse bomb explodes on the ground with an incandescent fury, spreading destruction over a wide radius and leaving little but drifting ash and a glowing crater to show where the enemy once stood. An extremely efficient weapon, a Pulse Bomb Generator can continue to manufacture fresh ordnance for its craft almost indefinitely without the need for rearming. Sometimes, however, a persistent glitch from the weapon’s prototype days results in a power failure, meaning the Sun Shark cannot drop further bombs until Earth Caste engineers can reconfigure the micro-power plant. At other times, the microfactory can slip out of optimal alignment during battle, requiring reconfiguration before bomb production can continue. As well as a Pulse Bomb Generator, a Sun Shark is equipped with a nose-mounted Networked Marker Light to line up bombing runs. A Sun Shark bears a tail-mounted Missile Pod as part of its armament, which can be upgraded to a twin-linked version. This gives the bomber a self-defence weapon against enemy aircraft, although it can also be used effectively against lightly armoured vehicles on the ground.
To further ensure the Sun Shark survives long enough to deliver its bombing run, the vehicle is equipped with a pair of wing-mounted Interceptor Drones. Each armed with powerful twin-linked Ion Rifles, Interceptor Drones can either stay attached to the Sun Shark, where they act in a similar way to conventional turret-mounted weapons, or they can detach from the flyer and serve as an escort. When disembarking from the Sun Shark, the Interceptor Drones will often position themselves to intervene between the bomber and any oncoming enemy fighters. Interceptor Drones also have the ability to boost their jets, giving them a rare burst of speed that allows them to better position themselves to lock onto aerial targets and attempt to blast them out of the sky. Few enemy flyers are capable of withstanding the vaporising effects of an Ion Rifle, and some Interceptor Drones have racked up impressive kill totals, a source of bragging rights for the Sun Shark's Air Caste pilots, if not for the AI-powered Drones themselves.
For further support, a Sun Shark also carries two Seeker Missiles in two cunningly hidden recesses in the aircraft’s airframe. These missiles can be auto-fired by the Sun Shark's Air Caste pilot himself, but are more effective when launched by a ground unit that has painted the target with a Marker Light. Seeker Missiles mounted on Sun Sharks are especially deadly, as the aircraft's ability to rapidly position itself on the flanks of a battlefield allows the missiles to strike at more vulnerable side or rear armour of enemy vehicles.
Sun Sharks can also be equipped with any of the following Tau vehicle support 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.
- 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.
- Apocalypse Warzone: Damocles, pg. 60
- Codex: Tau Empire (7th Edition), pp. 33-34, 95
- Codex: Tau Empire (6th Edition), pp. 48-49, 69, 102