Part four in the series of article looks at the airpower of the Adeptus Astartes. There are 6 vehicles to cover here, two of which are super heavies, so this may be a long article. The superheavies are obviously lords of war and all the flyers are heavy support choices except the Caestus ram which is fast attack.
The legendary thunderhawk of course makes an appearance here. It's a pipe dream of many an Astartes fan to own one of these beasts (myself included) but the real question is are they worth it? Coming in just shy of 700 points they had better be! They boast a profile of 12/12/10 with 9 hull points, which isn't bad considering they are a flyer and therefore harder to hit in the first place. They do of course have armoured ceramite to bring the deadly melta weapons down a notch by removing the extra D6 for penetration. Then again, how many melta weapons are likely to hit you in the air? There are pros and cons to being a super heavy flyer, in that you are not able to jink but at the same time damage results will be pretty insignificant until such time that you finally crash and burn. As a transport, the Thunderhawk has a capacity of 30 and, being super heavy can transport different squads. (but not vehicles anymore it seems) It is of course an assault vehicle, can hover and has 3 access points.
Moving on to its offensive capability, the Thunderhawk can as a super heavy independently target units with all its armaments and fire as many weapons as it wishes per turn as if it was stationary. It also has power of the machine spirit, not that it seems to make a difference given it's a super heavy. The Thunderhawk is armed with 4 sets of TL heavy bolters and 2 lascannons as its secondary armament. I'll mention the vehicle upgrades here before going on to discuss the other armaments. There's a flare/chaff launcher (4++ Vs missiles), armoured cockpit (ignore crew stunned/shaken on a 4+), illum flares (gives friendly units night vision vs enemies within 12" of the flare marker) and distinctive paint scheme (one friendly unit in LoS may reroll morale) to choose from. None of which are awesome, especially the armoured cockpit which has no effect on super heavies anyway. (is only useful in the rare event the crew are stunned/shaken)
You have the option to swap out the hellstrike missiles for thunderhawk cluster bombs for the price of 4 power weapons. You go from 6 72" S8AP3 ordnance one one shot missiles to 6 5" S6AP4 blast one use bombs. Both of which have opposite applications, depending on whether or not you want to perform anti-vehicle duties or anti-infantry. Obviously the price difference has to be taken into consideration too. Then we get to the meat of things: the Thunderhawk cannon. This beast is a 72" S8AP3 7" blast, which being a primary weapon can roll two dice for armour penetration. Not bad, but TBH the smart money is on people taking the upgrade to turbo laser destructor for the cost of 6 power weapons. A 96" range, SDAP2 5" blast primary weapon will rain destruction down on pretty much anything, as being a blast it simply needs to hit a unit and not roll a 1 to guaranteed kill it, cover, armour and invulnerable saves be damned!
So, there she is, but the question remains is she worth it? A good comparison to make would be whether or not a bare bones Thunderhawk can stack up to three Stormravens. The Stormravens obviously win on transport capacity and the ability to carry dreadnoughts also. Plus, their combined missile, lascannon and heavy bolter quota pips the Thunderhawk also, although they have less ability for independent targetting. In terms of defence, Stormravens are more vulnerable to one shotting despite the same overall hull points. On the flip side, you have effectively spread your bets with the transport capacity and can deploy in different places at different times. They also boast a higher rear armour value, especially useful during hover mode. That being said, the Thunderhawk can carry on regardless of damage and will not suffer any negative effects such as losing weapons, locked velocity or stunned/shaken. Nothing the Stormraven has can stack up to the Thunderhawk cannon either.
In conclusion I think the Thunderhawk is an iconic unit that has enough benefits when compared to equivalent flyers to justify its cost and use. When equipped with a turbo laser destructor it indeed becomes a force to be reckoned with, with the ability to make back its points in just a couple of turns thanks to its impressive arsenal. Add into that the difficulty to hit flyers, it's resilience and the ability to disgorge 30 troops (death company anyone?) into your opponents face, I would certainly consider using one.
Boasting the same armour, ceramite and hull points as the Thunderhawk and at the cost of a pair of stormravens, the Transporter seems at first to be a good deal. Then you realise it is simply armed with 4 TL heavy bolters and has to pay for access to up to six hellstrike missiles. It has a transport capacity of 15 models (but is not an assault vehicle) and can carry up to 2 rhino sized or one land raider sized (including a spartan) vehicles.
They look nice, and I love the concept with regard to space marine fluff, but on the tabletop I just can't see them being that useful. You have to hover while stationary to unload a vehicle and allow it to move freely that turn and likewise have to hover over a stationary vehicle in order to pick it up for dust off next turn. Kind of useful in some situations I guess but considering you will come in turn 2 at the earliest, you can drop off turn 3, pick up turn 4 and then may get the chance to redeploy a decent distance away turn 6 at best. Also bear in mind you are hovering and vulnerable during turns 3/4 and 6 in this scenario. I just can't see a decent use for it to be honest.
Storm Eagle assault gunship
A slightly more humble price than the thunderhawk, a Storm Eagle costs between a Stormraven and land raider. It has the same armour as a Stormraven and an extra hull point to boast, trading the ability to carry a dreadnought for the capacity to carry 20 infantry instead of 12. The access points, armoured ceramite, assault vehicle and PoTMS rules are all the same as the Stormraven. The main hull armament is the same in the form of a heavy bolter, but you must pay a power weapons worth to upgrade to multimelta or a power fist to upgrade to typhoon launcher. Optional upgrades include a searchlight and extra armour. Optional weapons are four hellstrike missiles or two TL lascannons for the wing mounts. The last standard weapon is the vengeance launcher, a 48" S5AP4 heavy 2 5" blast weapon.
So, that's a lot of info to digest in order to compare it to the stormraven. If you were to equip with a typhoon launcher and 4 hellstrike missles, the Storm Eagle would be just shy of 300 points, with the stormraven with typhoon being about 3/4 of that cost. The benefits being the extra hull point, differing capacity and vengeance launcher (unless you count looking awesome as a perk!). I think as an anti-infantry loadout this would be pretty darn good, although using PoTMS you could target infantry with the vengeance launcher and multi-task with the lascannons aginast armoured targets. I struggle to think of many units (blood claws, crusader squads and terminators aside) that would make better use of the transport capacity than they would in a stormraven (plus they can bring a dreadnought along for fun) and in addition it does not have the skies of fury/blood/shadow rule, meaning you have to enter hover mode to disembark. (a problem if you get locked velocity) On that note, I should mention that Blood Angels do NOT get access to this vehicle, clear punishment from the mechanicus for keeping their secrets to themselves! I think I would like to use one of these beasts, just I struggle to find a role that the stormraven could not perform better and for less points. Despite the extra hull point it can still go down in one shot, especially when vulnerable in hover mode.
Storm Eagle (roc pattern)
Very briefly, this variant is the same as the Storm Eagle with the exceptions I will discuss. Its base cost is little under 300 points and it has a capacity of 14 rather than 20. However, it comes with lascannons as standard (and no option to swap out for missiles) and packs roc warheads in its vengeance launcher instead of the storm eagle loadout. These are 48", S8AP3 heavy 4 twin linked. On the surface, this is much more of a tank-hunter than the standard Eagle, kind of like comparing a Valkyrie and a Vendetta. I think I prefer this variant despite the higher cost. However, it should be noted only codex marines and minotaurs siege vanguard can take these.
Very pretty to look at and thankfully FAQd so that all SM armies can take them and the quad heavy bolters can be swapped out for TL autocannons for free. Also, it is a relic of the armoury as discussed in previous articles. For the same base cost as a Storm Eagle, the fire raptor has the same armour profile and PoTMS. However, it sacrifices armoured ceramite for extra armour as standard and has no transport capacity. This bad boy does however pack a lot of fire power and is also blessed with strafing run to make absolutely sure you hit those ground targets. Now, for the weapons.
The hull mounted weapon is an avenger bolt cannon, 36", S6AP3 heavy 7 (weep poor nephilim) and the wing mounted are 4 stormstrike missiles, which are 72" S8AP2 concussive one use. So far so good. Then we get to the side mounted turrets, which are able to fire independently and are not used to count the total number of weapons fired per turn. They can be outfitted as either quad heavy bolters (heavy 6 twin linked) or TL autocannons. Don't forget PoTMS either, which in theory means you can target each weapon system at a different target. Overall, I like the fire raptor. The weapons are all of average effectiveness and the rules conjure images of a gunship descending onto the battlefield spraying fire at every unit around it.
Caestus assualt ram
Finally we come to the ugly duckling of the family, the fast attack caestus assault ram. Kind of like an overgrown land speeder in profile, the caestus is meant for boarding actions but can still be used on the battlefield. It comes in at the cost of a land raider plus a power fist and has a host of special rules to go through so bear with me. It is more heavily armoured than most flyers, boasting 13/13/11 stats, extra armour and 3 hull points. It has a transport capacity of 10 (more on that later) and options to upgrade with a teleport homer, frag assault launchers and armoured ceramite (cos it wasn't tough enough already!!). It also has the supersonic rule also, meaning it can go further during flat out moves - it is noted that when it enters hover mode it loses the supersonic rule and can disembark as normal.
Firstly, transport. It is obviously an assault vehicle and can carry 10 models, but there's a difference here. The bulky rule has no meaning and thus you can transport 10 terminator models if you so choose. In addition, the Caestus ram may (clue in the name) choose to ram a target when zooming in which case it counts as a tank. You roll 2D6 and pick the highest for armour penetration adding +1 to the damage table. To add to the nigh invulnerability of the Caestus it also gains a 5++ against all attacks to the front armour, even those inflicted in rams. Lastly, weapons. The magna melta is pretty much the same as the one on the deimos predator and is an 18" 5" blast melta weapon - nasty! The firefury missile battery is a one use weapon that is 36" S6AP4 heavy 4 3" blast TL.
In conclusion, the Caestus is a badass. It has a sole purpose to shrug off enemy fire and deliver a lethal barrage of missile and melta fire before unloading it's deadly cargo. I can see several applications for the Caestus, perhaps using it to melta and ram a priority vehicle target on its arriving turn before disgorging its cargo through a firefury barrage the next turn. Depending how many points you wish to spend, I think frag assault launchers would be useful for terminators (unless they were mostly unwieldy anyway) and obviously armoured ceramite helps turn an already resilient beast into a nigh unstoppable one. The only real caveat is that to get maximum usage out of the unit, yet again (as with many reviews in this series) you will need to take a full squad of terminators.
We're about halfway through the unit reviews now. Next time I will look at speeders and drop pod variants. Cheers.