This page describes wargear and weapons wielded by the Fire Caste of the Tau Empire. The Tau are an intelligent, humanoid alien race, first discovered by the Imperium of Man in the late 35th Millennium. They were at a hunter-gatherer stage of development at this time, and were earmarked for cleansing to open their homeworld of T'au up to human settlement. The combination of Warp Storms and the outbreak of the Age of Apostasy within the Imperium in the 36th Millennium prevented this from occurring, and during the next six millennia of isolation the Tau were able to evolve, unite, and develop an extremely advanced level of technology. Also during this time, the Tau have incorporated numerous alien species into their fledgling Tau Empire, the most significant of these being the Kroot and the Vespid. This page will describe the various weapon types and common equipment used by the Tau Fire Caste and their Kroot, Vespid and human allies.
The Tau Empire uses a variety of advanced weaponry developed by the Earth Caste that are often technologically superior to those of other races. Technologies such as Pulse and Rail technology are such examples, and can be seen as 'trademark' weapons of the Tau. However, the Tau Empire also has developed weapons for allied races such as the Kroot and Vespid. Another feature of Tau technology is that it constantly being adapted and developed to meet the ever-changing needs of the battlefield. As such, there are several pieces of Tau weaponry and wargear that have been designated as experimental for various reasons. As such, they are special issue and only given to experienced commanders who can field-test the weaponry.
Airbursting Fragmentation ProjectorThe Airbursting Fragmetation Projector is a experimental weapon used by the Tau Empire which fires scattering of fragmentation bomblets over a wide area at a height calculated by a simple AI within each warhead to cause optimum damage. It functions in a similar way to traditional artillery in that the munitions are hit the target from above and line-of-sight to the target is not needed. However, the Airbursting Fragmentation Projector has a far shorter range than normal artillery but is able to be used on the go very easily. Because of the indirect arcing nature of the weapon, the warheads will often explode above a target and thus ignore any cover that the enemy units was hiding behind. This weapon is especially effective against hordes of lightly armoured troops such as Tyranid Gaunts, Ork Boyz and Imperial Guardsmen.
Burst CannonA multi-barreled weapon capable of sustaining high rates of fire, Burst Cannons are an offshoot of Tau Pulse Weapon technology. They are usually mounted on Tau Battlesuits and vehicles, providing heavy anti-infantry support. They are similar to present-day miniguns and are able to maintain a high rate of fire without overheating. They usually have 4 barrels are short-ranged like Pulse Carbines, but this is usually offset by the maneuverability of the models commonly armed with them. In the Dawn of War - Dark Crusade, Shas'O Kais is equipped with a Burst Cannon by default.
Long-Barrelled Burst Cannons are a variant of the standard Burst Cannon that usually has up to double the range due to the extra length of the barrelling and increased force used in firing. Remora Drone Fighters and Hammerhead gunships can be armed with twin-linked Long-Barrelled Burst Cannons, and many Tau aircraft such as the Manta and Barracuda are armed with them.
FlamerThe Tau Flamer is very similar the Flamers used by Space Marines and Imperial Guardsmen in role and use, but differs slightly in construction through the use of more stable Tau technology. Flamers can be mounted on XV8 Crisis Battlesuits and are commonly used to engage massed hordes of lightly armoured enemies. Flamers are also a lethal weapon when used by Crisis Battlesuit fighting in dense terrain.
Ion technology was originally given to the Tau Empire by the Demiurg. Since then, the technology has been adapted to use in various weapons. Ion weapons generates a stream of high-energy particles which are fired by the manipulation of an electromagnetic field at nearly the speed of light. The particles react explosively with the target as a result of direct energy transmission at the atomic level and can go through all armour easily if the ionisation effect is good.
- Cyclic Ion Blaster - The Cyclic Ion Blaster is a four-barrelled, weapon with an extreme rate of fire. It employs fragile Ion technology that can cut through any armor if it scores a well-placed hit. While the rate of fire is stable, the ionisation effect remains unpredictable, which is why the weapon is still classified as experimental.
- Ion Cannon - An alternate turret-mounted weapon for the Hammerhead Gunship and also appearing on Tau fighter aircraft and starships, the Ion Cannon is the most common adaptation of Ion technology. Although the firepower of the Ion Cannon is significantly less than the Railgun, it has a high rate of fire that is very effective against heavily-armoured infantry such as Space Marines, and lightly-armoured vehicles.
- Phased Ion Gun - Phased Ion Guns are experimental weapons which seek to develop the rapid-firing technology of the Cyclic Ion blaster and vehicle mounted Ion Cannon into a stable Battlesuit weapon system. The long accelerators of the Phased Ion Gun allow the pilot to engage the enemy at range with a storm of projectiles that react explosively on an atomic level, decimating heavily armoured infantry and vehicles. While the rate of fire is stable, the ionisation effect remains unpredictable, which is why the weapon is still classified as experimental. It differs from the Cyclic Ion Blaster in that it sacrifices some of the firing rate for extra force per shot. Currently, they can only be mounted on the experimental XV9 Hazard Battlesuit.
Before the Kroot race was found by the Tau Empire, their ranged weaponry consisted primarily of primitive slug throwers that relied on the use of chemical propellants, solid ammunition, and the transfer of kinetic force. Once the Kroot had been absorbed into the Tau Empire, their weapons were upgraded to utilise the charged pulse rounds that are favoured by the Tau. This granted far greater stopping power and penetration.
- Kroot Rifle - Kroot Carnivores often favour the use of "Kroot Rifles" which can be seen as their standard weapon. Kroot Rifles are are also fitted with blades near the barrel and stock, which are a throwback to early traditional Kroot fighting staves. Combined with the incredible hand speed that Kroot possess, the Kroot Rifle is not only an effective ranged weapon but also a assault weapon as well.
- Kroot Gun - The Kroot gun is a larger calibre version of the Kroot Rifle. This heavy weapon has the equivalent range and firepower to Autocannons used by the Imperial Guard, and is primarily used to engage light vehicles. This Kroot Gun is significantly heavier than the rifle, and thus must be mounted on the back of a lumbering Krootox. They can also be mounted on Great Knarlocs.
- Kroot Bolt Launcher - The Kroot Bolt Launcher is a primitive and effective weapon used by the Kroot long before they met the Tau Empire. As with the Kroot Rifle and Kroot Gun, the Tau have aided the Kroot by replacing the original basic sharpened bolts with impact-infused explosive tips, which are a smaller version of the warheads used in Tau Missile Pods. This made the weapon far more dangerous and have a significant area of effect. The actual bolt-thrower is operated by an ingenious hand-crank system which drops the bolts from the magazine into position before quickly drawing the bow-string. This system allows the weapon to keep up a high firing rate with little effort from the crew. The Kroot Bolt Launcher is only found mounted on Great Knarlocs.
Fusion WeaponryTau Fusion weapons are similar to Imperial Melta Weapons in that they use small fusion reactors to produce blasts of intense heat. They usually have short ranges, but are more dangerous the closer they are used to the target.
- Fusion Blaster - Tau Fusion Blasters are primarily anti-vehicle weapons, and are most commonly used by XV8 Crisis Battlesuits. Many Battlesuit pilots have become adept at stalking and hunting down enemy armour, using their high mobility gained from their Jetpack to outflank the enemy and attack the more vulnerable rear and side armour. Fusion Blasters can also be used to eliminate heavy armoured enemy infantry though, as the sheer heat from them will melt all kinds of armour and often the wearer inside too. They are the equivalent of Imperial Meltaguns, and can also be mounted as twin-linked weapons on Drone Sentry Turrets.
- Fusion Cannon - Fusion Cannons are larger versions of the Battlesuit-mounted Fusion Blaster, and fire blasts of Melta energy that can melt through vehicles or heavy infantry. Currently, they can only be mounted as a variant turret for Hammerhead gunships, were first encountered during the Taros Campaign, where it is believed to have first been field-tested. They have a extended range compared to the Fusion Blaster, and also have a blast radius that allows to destroy closely packed groups of enemy vehicles and heavy infantry
- Fusion Cascade - Fusion Cascades are experimental, cutting-edge fusion blaster variants that can be used with the high-tech systems of the XV9 Hazard Battlesuits . The Fusion Cascade engulfs its target in powerful melta energy, and fires in bursts, meaning that despite each charge being less powerful than an Imperial equivalent, it can overwhelm its target through weight of fire.
The Marker Light is one of the most advanced technologies of the Tau Empire, and adds to the Tau military's already great flexibility in battle. Essentially an advanced laser range finder that greatly increases the accuracy of Tau ranged weapons systems, the Marker Light allows Tau Fire Warriors and vehicles to:
- Fire more accurately upon targets
- Be able to see and target enemies in darkness clearly
- Call in Seeker Missiles on the target, either from Skyrays or missiles mounted on other Tau vehicles
- Pin enemy units under fire from Tau troops more easily
- Allow shots to strike more accurately at targets who take cover
Marker Light technology is commonly employed by Tau Pathfinders, and on Tau vehicles like the Tetra and the Skyray. Fire Warriors who achieved the rank of Shas'ui in the Fire Caste can also upgrade their Pulse Rifle or Pulse Carbine with a Marker Light, along with XV25 Stealthsuits who have attained the rank of Shas'vre. Marker Light Drones also carry Networked Marker Lights and act as fire support for other Tau units. The Tetra Scout Speeder also mounts a High Intesity Markerlight, which emits a far more powerful beam than normal Marker Lights. Drone-controlled gyros keep it steady as a Tetra moves, giving greater accuracy and also allowing multiple strikes to be performed on the one target. Networked Marker Lights are more advanced versions, and allow the user and his unit themselves from the Marker Light, whereas normal Marker Lights don't allow this. The Skyray is a notable example of its use, where its twin-linked Networked Marker Lights allow for its own Seeker Missiles to be launched at the target.
The Tau Empire use a range of different kinds of Missiles, often in very different roles from the Imperium. These Missiles tend to range more in role and also often have drone-controlled intelligences built into them
- Missile Pod - Missile Pods are small silos of missiles which are primarily mounted on XV8 Crisis Battlesuits and act as medium to long-range mobile fire support weapons. They are commonly shoulder or arm mounted and function using a relatively simple multiple missile delivery system. The missiles housed in these pods are fired in a straight lines from the firer to the target. These missiles can carry enough punch to destroy lightly armoured vehicles, and well-placed shots can even bring down heavier tanks. They are similar in power and role to Imperial Autocannons. Hammerhead mounted Missile Pods fire barrages of the same missiles used in Battlesuit-mounted Missile Pods and are far larger in size. They serve a similar role to Ion Cannons, but sacrifice effectiveness against armoured infantry for a chance to hit more at a time due to the the blast radius caused by the number of missiles being fired at one location..
- Smart Missile System - Tau Smart Missile Systems can be carried by XV88 Broadside Battlesuits and Tau vehicles based off the Devilfish chassis. Smart Missile systems fire swarms of small missiles, each with a built-in low level drone intelligence. These AI allows the missiles to actively seek out or 'home in' on enemy targets that have been designated by the user, and will often bypass any intervening terrain, whether by by going over or around it. Smart Missiles are smaller than the Missiles used in Missile Pods, and as a result have a shorter range and less power. However, they make up for this though the number of missiles that can be fired at once, making them effective in an anti-infantry role.
- Seeker Missile - A Seeker Missile is a Tau weapon system that consists of a single high strength missile which strikes a target that has been designated using a Marker Light. Seeker Missiles are commonly used in place of artillery as Tau battle doctrine dictates that all forces should always remain mobile. The Tau Fire Caste generally does not rely on static defensive positions unless absolutely necessary.
In addition to their skill with Pulse Weapons, the Tau have developed Plasma Rifles that do not suffer from the fatal overheating problems of plasma-based weaponry used by other races (save for the Eldar Starcannon). The only drawback is the reduced weapon power level.
The standard infantry weapon of Tau Fire Warriors, Pulse Weapons use electromagnetic induction fields to convert subatomic particles to a plasma state and propel them out the barrel of the weapon. There are several different types of Pulse Weapon in use by Tau forces:
- Pulse Rifle - The Pulse Rifle carried by Fire Warrior Teams is superior to the Bolters used by Imperial forces. The effective range and hitting power of a Pulse Rifle is one of the greatest of any standard-issue weapon used by any force in the galaxy, and often outranges the heavy weapons of other races.
- Pulse Carbine - Pulse Carbines are used by Pathfinder teams and are fitted to Gun Drones. They are also used occasionally by Fire Warrior Teams, although most players prefer not to make use of this option due to the short range. Although as powerful as Pulse Rifles, Pulse Carbines are smaller, trading range and rate of fire for portability and an underslung Photon Grenade Launcher, which can dazzle and disorientate targets. Tau Pathfinders often use a Pulse Carbine with an integrated Marker Light above the barrel. Gun Drones are armed with Twin-linked Pulse Carbines.
- Pulse Pistol - Pulse Pistols are small hold-out weapons issued to Tau Battlesuit pilots and the controllers of Sniper Drones. They have an extremely short range, but are more powerful than an Imperial Bolt Pistol.
A weapon unique to the Vespid Stingwings, the Neutron Blaster is a hybrid product of Vespid and Tau technology. Mounted at the barrel of each weapon is a highly energetic and unstable crystal, which has been harvested from the deepest layers of the lighter-than-air stalactite islands the Vespid call home. This is combined with an efficient neutron projection system to produce a weapon capable of bypassing all but the most effective armor. Neutron blasters can only be used by the Vespid, as the constant ultrasonic tone emitted by the Vespid's wings are required to modulate the crystal used in the weapon. Due to their power rating, armor penetration, and relative number of shots, most players have dubbed the Neutron Blaster the "Marine Killer".
Railguns are fearsome Tau weapons due to their long range and excellent armour penetration ability. These weapons fire a single, solid projectile at hypervelocity through the force generated by a fluctuating strong electromagnetic field, although the vehicle-mounted version can also fire a sophisticated bundle of submunitions. Railguns have been used for some time by Tau Battlesuits and vehicles, and the technology has been scaled-up to the point where massive railcannon batteries are mounted on Air Caste starships. However, it was only recently that the Tau began to experiment with man-portable weapons based on railgun technology.
Although weaker than its larger counterparts, the Rail Rifle is still powerful enough to be an effective anti-tank weapon. To use a rail rifle, the bearer must also be equipped with a hard-wired targeting device. During trials, one of the main flaws of the rail rifle was that the massive energy requirements needed to power the electromagnetic linear accelerator would overload the targeting device, causing feedback in the hard-wire interface, which in turn would kill the rifle's bearer (the current required to accelerate the projectile to a practical speed takes up an enormous amount of power). This flaw has been fixed through constant field-testing, and was authorised for use by frontline Pathfinder teams just prior to the declaration of the Third Sphere Expansion. The rail rifle is now also mounted on drones, which form part of 'sniper teams', along with their tau controller.
Drones Independent artificial intelligences, Tau drones are used for a variety of civil and military functions. They normally require regular instructions from a Tau to function, although if four or more drones are networked to operate in unison, they become capable of operating independently of their Tau controllers. Drones that are linked to a control device cease to function if the controlling Tau is killed, or if the drones move more than a set distance from the controller.
Drones are designed to fulfill a set role. The most common drone designs are:
- Gun drones are armed with a pair of pulse carbines and are the most common drone type used by the Tau Fire Caste. They can accompany any Tau possessing a control device, whether he be in a battlesuit or leading an infantry team. In addition, gun drones are often used as weapons systems for the Devilfish APC and Piranha skimmer.
- Shield drones are assigned to protect elite commanders, along with members of the Ethereal caste. They are equipped with powerful energy shields and are programmed to block weapons fire intended for their controller with their shields. If necessary, the drone will physically intercept the incoming fire.
- Marker drones are equipped with an advanced markerlight system, and through the use of the control device can improve the accuracy of the operator and anyone else in the operator's team.
- Sniper drones are a recent development for the Third Sphere Expansion. A single Tau equipped with an advanced control and targeting system can utilise up to three sniper drones to provide accurate anti-personnel fire. The drones themselves are armed with a rail rifle, and project a distortion field that makes the drones and their operator difficult to hit.
- Heavy gun drones are larger, more powerful drones armed with a pair of Burst Cannons. Heavy gun drones also have the option of replacing one of their Burst Cannons with a Markerlight.
- Drone Sentry Turrets are airdroppable turrets often used to hold areas ahead of the main Tau advance. They are armed with a variety of Battlesuit weapons, such as Missile Pods and Plasma Rifles.
- DX-4 technical drones are used as a standard utility drone but are often employed on battlefields as mechanics or medics. Used in cityfights as the combat engineers strategem.
- Remora drone stealth fighters are used to attack vulnerable ground targets, protected by sophisticated stealth and jamming technology.
Battlesuits are issued to the more experienced warriors of the Fire Caste. They are exoskeletal suits that give the wearer extra strength, better sensors, and more protection, as well as the ability to carry heavier weapons into battle. The advanced technology of the Tau allows weapons of incredible power to be mounted on comparatively small chassis – the Battlesuit is no exception. A single Fire Caste pilot is seated inside an armoured cockpit, controlling an swift and agile suit of the same rough size as a Space Marine Dreadnought. Devastating plasma rifles, missile pods and fusion blasters as well as infantry-shredding burst cannons and anti-tank railguns are among the loadouts available to the Battlesuit, and many variants have been developed by the Tau scientists of the Earth Caste. All Battlesuits of the same type are given a designation: XV, followed by two digits. The first digit indicates the mass class of the suit: '1' being a complete exoskeletal version of standard Tau body armour, while '8' represents the heaviest available Battlesuits. The second digit indicates the role or status of the particular suit design: '2' marking an experimental design, '5' representing stealth capability, and '8' being heavy fire support. Variations of a suit may be given other numbers as well.
From Forge World releases, it can be surmised that the following role numbers exist:
1 - Special Systems (modified battlesuit to include arms such as the smart missile system)
4 - Spotter armed with a Markerlight
9 - Heavy Armour (Note - this maybe a mistake as the Tau use a base-9 numerical system, therefore they do not have a numerical designation for the number 9. It most likely should be marked as XV87, not XV89)
The XV15 (up until the start of the Third Sphere Expansion) and the XV25 Stealthsuits are equipped with burst cannons and holographic camouflage, and are capable of equipping a fusion blaster in place of the burst cannon. Teams of up to six Stealthsuits operate independently of the main Tau force, and are given broad parameters within which to operate. Most Stealth Teams are not factored into Tau battleplans, and the appearance of a Stealthsuit-equipped team can be a surprise to both forces. Stealth Team members are perceived to be eccentric, and are said to delight in employing new and unpredictable tactics.
XV8 Crisis Battlesuit
The mainstay of the Tau's battlesuit forces, the XV8 Crisis Battlesuits are worn by Fire Caste commanders and Fire Warriors who have proven themselves veterans in battle. Each Crisis suit is capable of mounting up to three powerful weapons, and can be equipped with a variety of support systems, including drone controllers, fire control and targeting systems, or a shield generator. Some of these support systems are built into the suits, some are attached on the outside.
Variants of the XV8 Crisis Battlesuit include:
- XV-81, which has a Smart Missile System mounted on its back;
- XV-84, which carries a markerlight;
- XV-89, which comes equipped with heavier armor.
Crisis Suits are typically deployed in either a team of three, called a Ta'ro'cha by the Tau, or a single suit, called a Monat. As Crisis Suits can be outfitted with a number of different weapons, code names for certain successful configurations have come into use by the Tau (and adopted by Tau players) to quickly describe the configuration of their Crisis teams.
- Vior'la Crisis Suit Configurations
- Death Rain - Three Shas'ui all with twin-linked missile pod, drone controller and 2 gun drones.
- Sun Forge - Three Shas'ui all with twin-linked fusion blaster and shield generator.
- Burning Eye - Shas'vre and two Shas'ui, all with twin-linked plasma rifle and target lock.
- Vior'la Monat - Shas'vre, bonded, drone controller and two gun drones, burst cannon, fusion blaster, hard-wired multi-tracker.
- Fire Spiker - Three Shas'ui all with a fusion blaster, missile pod and target lock.
- Tau'n Crisis Suit Configurations
- Brightwind - Shas'vre with burst cannon, plasma rifle, multi-tracker and hard-wired drone controller with two gun drones. One Shas'ui with target lock, fusion blaster and missile pod, one Shas'ui with missile pod, plasma rifle and multi-tracker.
- Darkfall - Shas'vre with twin-linked missile pods, drone controller with two gun drones and hard-wired blacksun filter. One Shas'ui with shield generator, flamer and drone controller with two gun drones, One Shas'ui with flamer, fusion blaster and drone controller with two shield drones.
- T'au Crisis Suit Configurations
- Fireknife - Shas'ui (Team Leader) with plasma rifle, multi-tracker, missile pod, hard-wired drone controller with two gun drones, bonded. Two Shas'ui with plasma rifle, multi-tracker, missile pod, bonded.
- Blinding Spear - Shas'vre with plasma rifle, burst cannon, multi-tracker, hard-wired drone controller (two gun drones). Two Shas'ui with plasma rifle, burst cannon, multi-tracker.
- Soul Cleanse(Monat) - One Shas'ui with flamer, fusion blaster, shield generator, hard-wired drone controller with two gun drones.
One special Crisis suit is used by the renegade Tau Fire Caste Commander Farsight. In addition to the Shield Generator and Plasma Rifle it also sports the fabled Dawn Blade, making Farsight both devastating in range and close quarter combat (in fact, he is almost as devastating in close combat as a Daemon Prince), which is highly unusual for a Tau unit which normally concentrates on ranged combat at the expense of close quarters effectiveness. The Farsight Enclaves are also known to command more Crisis Battlesuits than any other Tau force (although at the cost of a reduced number of Broadsides).
The most heavily armed Tau warriors on the battlefield, pilots of the XV-88 Broadside Battlesuit have access to a twin-linked railgun system mounted on the suit's back,and a smart missile system or twin-linked plasma rifles on the arms.
- A variant of the Broadside, the XV-88-2, has a different weapons mounting, moving the railguns further downward to lower the suit's center of gravity, and mounting the secondary weapons on the suit's upper back, over the shoulders. It also has a different styling of its armour, making it look more distinct than the Crisis Suit. The XV-88-2 is available as a miniature from Forge World.
- Codex: Tau Empire (4th Edition)
- Imperial Armour Volume Three -- The Taros Campaign
- Dawn of War - Dark Crusade (PC Game)
- White Dwarf 285 (AUS), "Chapter Approved - Tau Rail Rifles" by Pete Haines