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The Tau are one of the most technologically expansive races in the 41st millennium, constantly seeking ways to improve their ways of waging war. Their weapons are, of course, intrinsically tied into this pattern! Many of their weapons, especially the Railguns are an object of terror to their foes.
Airbursting Fragmentation LauncherDeveloped by the Earth Caste as a battlesuit portable weapon intended as a middle-ground between the burst cannon and the flamer the frag launcher is intended to cover an area in miniature fragmentation bomblets. Being a weapon designed by the Tau the weapon typically uses a higher level of technology than weapons from other races.
In this case the suit incorporates a powerful range-finding mechanism which assess' the position of the target in relation to the suit as well as a visual sensor that determines the target density, the attached computer then calculates the ideal distribution of bomblets. The weapon launches four controlled bombs along the determined ideal trajectory, these contain small radar systems, when they reach the predetermined height the bombs shatter spreading a dozen miniature bomblets across the target area.
These bomblets are designed to explode a second after the scattering charge triggers, exploding above the target area and filling the air with razor sharp fragments of ceramic and metallic shrapnel; these tear any unarmoured objects on the ground underneath to pieces. Because of the manner of the explosion these fragments will tear into any areas, cover provides no protection as the shards are scattered from above and at oblique angles, this cuts underneath any roofs of shelters as well as raining down upon any uncovered targets. This makes the weapon especially dangerous within urban environments where the shelter normally offered by rubble and buildings just makes the explosion of the bomblets even more dangerous as they ricochet inside around the building.
Broadside RailgunThe lighter railgun pattern utilised by the Tau Empire, this weapon has been specially designed to be fitted to the XV-88 battlesuit for close support of Hunter Cadres. Railgun's use a powerful electro-magnetic induction field to fire. By using a pair of liquid nitrogen cooled electro-magnets above and below the main barrel. A powerful magnetic charge is induced into the coils of the electro-magnets. This causes the round to be forced into the chamber of the weapon. The magnetic field is then pulsed from the rear of the weapon to the muzzle, taking the round with it. As the pulse moves at near the speed of light down the barrel this means that the round is accelerated to a velocity of approximately 0.9c or 90% of light speed, or 270,000,000 metres per second! At this speed it is the kinetic energy of the weapon which does the damage to the target, no form of warhead is required.
The round used in a Broadside Railgun is a 2mm tungsten bolt, 4mm in length. In order to prevent the round from melting due to the friction of its passage to the target the round is coated in carbon as a heat-resistant sheath. This bolt has a tendency to pass straight through most targets, including tanks, imparting enough kinetic energy to a man (or marine) sized target to cause the entire body to disintegrate! A vehicle hit by a railgun round may be destroyed by the round hitting a power-pack or ammunition, although the chances of this occurring are very slim.
More likely is the gruesome death caused by the rounds passage through the tank. As a round moves through a vehicle it will only leave an entry and exit hole marginally larger than itself, however the rounds velocity will cause items in the tank to spontaneously combust, it will also suck all of the air within the tank out through the exit hole, leaving a vacuum within the hull. The crew are unlikely to have time to asphyxiate however, as the passage of the round will also attempt to suck anything inside the tank out through the exit hole, this is invariably fatal for the vehicle's crew although will cause very little damage to the vehicle itself. The magazines built into the reinforced battlesuits can carry 200 rounds, which are fed by a powered feed unit in the back of the suits.
Burst CannonA further refinement of the pulse technology that the Tau are famous for. The Tau realised that races such as the Orks and the Tyranid were prevalent throughout the universe, and if they were going to be able to break up large formations they needed a weapon with stopping power and a high rate of fire. The fire caste realised that they needed a weapon rapidly rather than waiting for a weapon to be developed and tested. The Earth caste realised that the simplest solution was a development of a current weapon design. In order to facilitate this new weapon they took an existing weapon, in this case the pulse carbine, and converted it. By removing the sheathing from the barrel they were able to reduce the weight of the weapon by a significant amount, the barrels were places adjacent to each other with their muzzles braced by a circular mount then the weapon bodies were combined into a single unit.
The firing mechanisms were joined together in sequencing, firing half a second after each other. This created a rapid barrage of anti-personnel firepower able to break up formations of lightly armoured troops. The biggest weakness of the weapon was its lack of range, however the decision to mount this weapon on vehicles and battlesuits, trusting to their improved manoeuvrability and armour to allow the weapons to survive into range and to withdraw ahead of the enemy. Due to the weapon's mounting positions it was possible to include a much larger magazine. In the case of battlesuits a chain-fed box magazine containing 400 4mm pulse rounds, on vehicles the magazine is a belt and gravity-fed 1000 4mm round magazine.
Cyclic Ion BlasterThe progress of Tyranid splinter fleets into the Tau Empire forced the development of more weapons ideally suited to combat large numbers of weakly armoured troops. With this in mind the Earth Caste attempted to find ways to create weapons capable of firing more shots than was previously considered feasible. Following a number of failed experiments with the existing burst cannon technology it was decided that it was not possible to enhance the weapon to provide the required rate of fire and still be able to maintain a weapon that would be battlesuit portable. So the Earth Caste turned to another existing weapon system, the Ion cannon. It was already known that an Ion weapon could provide a relatively high rate of fire whilst still maintaining enough power to be threatening to a target.
By decreasing the size of the firing chamber significantly they managed to produce a weapon that was so small that it was almost portable by a fire warrior outside a battle suit, although it was not possible for them to carry the fuel and power-source for the weapon as well. However, it still had too low a rate of fire, at this point the small size of the weapon allowed another innovation, and four barrels were attached to a single, larger firing chamber. This allowed the single firing chamber to fire an unprecedented number of shots, a rate of fire of over 20 shots per second. A second, unexpected advantage to this design was discovered during the test phase, when it was found that approximately 10% of all shots were triggered at a much higher strength level due to a feature in the containment chamber, causing the bolt to pass through most types of personal armour with little or now resistance!
EMP GrenadesThe Tau's development for an infantry portable anti-tank weapon. Rather than work the same way as most armies in the 41st Millennium and create portable heavy weapons the Tau turned to technology to counter their enemies' heavy vehicles. The weapon they developed was the ElectroMagnetic Pulse grenade. The Earth Caste discovered early during the technological renaissance of the Tau that all forms of electronic equipment were vulnerable to the intense pulse of electromagnetic energy released by electrical explosions. The Earth Caste took advantage of this trait by creating a weapon which is effectively a miniature generator capable of producing a 1 GigaWatt charge.
The weapon is little more than the generator and an electromagnet. The magnet is used to fasten the grenade to a target vehicle's skin, as soon as the magnet is attached the same power supply is fed into generating excess power to the generator, in less than 3 seconds the critical charge is reached and the generator deliberately induces a short-circuit, causing it to detonate.
The power from the explosion is largely insignificant. And is unable to penetrate any but the thinnest armour, however at the same moment as the explosion an EMP is generated with a diameter of approximately 4 metres. This pulse causes all electronic equipment within the radius to suffer a catastrophic loss of power, and in some cases has been know to cause the powerpacks or other ammunition supplies within a vehicle to detonate prematurely, destroying the vehicle instantaneously!
FlamerA basic weapon which to some extent has been developed by almost every race in the universe. This weapon is considered a last ditch defensive measure by most Tau cultures, only used in defensive positions in order to prevent a position being overrun. However some Septs argue that the Flamer should be used to cull large numbers of foes in a single blast although it takes a careful and wily commander to avoid having his troops assaulted soon after a flamer attack! The weapon used by the Tau differs from the flamers used by most races due to the advanced nature of the weapon's ammunition. Rather than rely upon the 'spray and ignite' design used by most races the Tau have simplified the weapon.
Instead of the usual kerosene derivative the Tau have enhanced the weapon by adding a phosphorus based compound to the mix. Whilst this makes the fuel slightly more unstable it does mean that it will ignite in contact with oxygen, by adding a second feeder nozzle to the weapon they have made it possible for the weapon to be used in a vacuum or low air atmosphere by the simple extent of adding a small oxygen bottle to the weapon, causing oxygen to be mixed in with the fuel. The flamer is designed to cause a pressurised plume of liquid to travel up to 15metres, with a maximum dispersion of 5 metres at the target. The fuel bottle fitted to a flamer carries enough fuel to be used for ten 5 second bursts.
Fusion BlasterThe fusion blaster is a Tau development of a near universal weapon system. The weapon relies upon molecular agitation in order to impart massive heat and explosive damage to its target. Within the body of the weapon is a powerful electro-magnetic wave generator. This produces a massively powerful ray of electro-magnetic radiation capably of disrupting the molecular structure of any surface that it comes into contact with. The beam interacts with everything it comes into contact with, instantly increasing the energy state of the molecules, and thus the surface temperature.
It is this interaction that causes the distinctive hissing noise associated with all fusion and melta weapons as the very air is superheated by the passage of the beam. In effect the beam from a fusion blaster uses an object's own mass against it making it capable of negating all but the most powerful forms of armour. The largest drawback of the weapon is the rapid dissipation of the beams energy during its passage through any form of atmosphere. This makes the weapon very short ranged, but does give it the advantage of immense destructive power during its first few metres of range, this gives it massively enhanced armour piercing qualities.
Hammerhead RailgunThe larger version of the ubiquitous weapon that has become an image of terror for all enemies of the Tau. The rumour of railgun fitted hammerheads can cause tank commanders to seek cover, although this specialist ammunition fitted to this larger version can break up all but the heaviest infantry formations just as easily. With its larger bore the hammerhead railgun carries a 5mm tungsten round, 10mm in length, this round is arguably the single most destructive piece of metal in the universe, when these rounds leave the muzzle of the gun they are travelling at almost 0.94c, 94% of lightspeed. However, what makes the hammerhead version of the railgun so destructive is its advanced sub-munition round.
No item as small as these rounds could survive the strains placed upon them by the firing of a railgun, so a different approach was required. The sub-munition rounds are created by careful manipulation of the round during its construction, although they appear to be a standard round in fact the entire round has been constructed from a hundred tiny, carbon-coated tungsten needles bonded together by an iron-cobalt sheath. When the round is fired this sheath melts due to the frictional force imparted upon it causing the needles to disperse across an area rather than a single round, this allows the hammerhead to destroy large groups of enemies or a single tank depending on the foe.
Ion CannonOften considered a secondary weapon for the Hammerhead not possessing the sheer destructive power of the railgun. The Ion Cannon is actually a weapon with a different battlefield role, designed to eliminate heavily armoured troops and lighter vehicles, in fact this makes the weapon ideal for combating Space Marine forces where many of their strengths are combated by this weapon. The cannon forces a stream of energised electrons into a firing chamber, these are collected by the tank as it moves through atmosphere, although it can also be modified to accept its fuel from the tank's air supply in vacuum operations.
Once in the firing chamber the electrons are given a further charge, in effect an overcharge, stripping them of all cohesion and rendering them into pure ions. The two focussing arrays above the main barrel generate a 100mm wide tube of energy, which contains the beam of ions keeping them controlled all the way to their target. When these ions contact solid matter they react explosively, imparting all of their excess energy into what they contact. The lack of any form of firing mechanism allows the ion cannon to have one of the highest rates of fire of any heavy weapon.
Kroot RifleFor hundreds of years the Kroot had been using a very simple weapon as the cornerstone of their battles. Classically when the Kroot had originally begun to develop intelligence and, inevitably, warfare their preferred weapon was a double ended spear. Their high levels of manual dexterity had allowed them to use a weapon most races would find unwieldy and awkward with ease. However, when they began to develop ranged weapons they didn't lose their prevalence for hand-to-hand combat, and their first guns and rifles were developed with blades on both ends so that they doubled as a spear similar to the weapon of their heritage. The Kroot began gun development in a similar fashion to humanity, with simple muzzle-loading flintlock smoothbore weapons.
However, the very evolutionary strength which makes the Kroot so versatile also causes their technological development to be very slow, and in the hundreds of years after the development of their first firearms up until their discovery by the Tau Empire the weapons had only advanced as far as simple rifling and breech-loading single-shot weapons still using a derivative of gunpowder to fire a lead projectile.
The technological advances produced by the Tau changed all of this! Whilst the weapons appeared identical the Tau replaced the gunpowder charge with a basic, low-powered energy-based charge, which was attached to a light discarding-sabot round, effectively producing twenty or more generations of research and development for the Kroot in a single year. This advanced the Kroot's weapons to a weapon comparable with the Bolter of the Space Marines even if it was not quite as powerful as the Pulse rifle. Although the Kroot insisted on keeping the blades on their weapons, and the Tau, planning on using the Kroot as shocktroops were not likely to complain! Kroot rifles carry a 10 round magazine, containing 15mm discarding sabot rounds which effectively produce a 5mm supersonic titanium round, although the weapons can only be fired semi-automatically.
Kroot GunThe larger cousin of the Kroot rifle this was originally developed by the Kroot to be used as a form of weapon recognisable to humans as a Carronade. These were small cannons which were used aboard ships to fire grapeshot across the decks of enemy ships to kill huge numbers of men. The Kroot recognised that in all of their internal battles and most of their battles against the Orks and humans a close assault phase of the battle was inevitable.
In order to give them an advantage in the last moments before the actual assault the Kroot pressed large numbers of the evolutionary cousins, the Krootox, into their battle lines carrying a single Kroot Carnivore and an oversized Kroot gun on its back. These Kroot Guns were filled with shrapnel and grapeshot, but could be filled with whatever was available at the time, packed down over a gunpowder charge. Effectively creating a giant shotgun to be fired into their enemies' line at the last moment to break-up the assault. With the arrival of the Tau this changed.
The Kroot replaced their original doctrine with the possibility of mounting an anti-vehicle weapon to their battle-line. The rounds for the Kroot gun were extensively redesigned, replacing the separate powder charge with rounds with an integral charge. Once again this was an energy based charge, similar to the charge on the new rounds in the Kroot Rifles, triggered by an electrical impulse into the round. Rather than making the round a discarding sabot round the Tau developed the Kroot Gun round so that it mounted a small but exceedingly potent plasma warhead contained within a magnetic containment bottle.
When the round contacted the target the containment field would collapse allowing the plasma to be released, destroying the target in a single instant of self-immolation. Each round for a Kroot Gun must be loaded individually, although the introduction of a breech-loading mechanism has allowed this to be done surprisingly quickly, especially by a creature as deft and sure-fingered as a Kroot.
MarkerlightIf the Pulse Rifle and Railgun can be considered some of the most terrifying sights within the Tau battlelines, it is not being able to see the markerlights of the Tau which puts sheer unbridled terror into the hearts and souls of experienced Tau fighters. The image of a small pair of dots crossing over a comrade's chest just before a weapon destroys them has caused more than one squad of brave warriors to break! The Mark of the Valkyrie it has been named by some imperial forces, the Devil's Flashlight by those with a more macabre sense of humour!
And this is all true, most often those picked out from the crowds by a markerlight's target designator will rarely survive the next few seconds. Despite the pleasant rumour that these beams are small red dots visible to the naked eye this is not always the case for a race such as the Tau. In fact the Earth Caste have discovered that a blue-green colour is actually the best colour for penetrating long distances through the type atmosphere that Tau warriors can breath in. And the target designating part of a beam is usually in these colours. However, the Tau appreciate the effect of fear on their foes as well if not better than many, and they know the effect that a visible "red-dot" can have upon troops! With this in mind there are two parts to a markerlight's construction.
The main functional part of the target designator is a low power green-blue laser generator that sends a narrow focus 0.5mm beam to the target. This judges range and bearing from the position of the markerlight's position, this information is transferred by a secure data-link to the command-and-control centre included within a command battlesuit who then designates a unit to fire using this highly accurate firing data. The data is then transferred once again via data-link to the shooter, whose gun has its targeting array mated to the frequency of the markerlight which then guides the weapon onto target before the shooter then takes the shot.
Recently the Tau have made a further development of the markerlight, allowing them to be networked, this means that a squad's Shas'ui or Shas'vre can take control of their own squads markerlight feeds, and allow other members of his squad to fire using this data. Markerlight powerpacks contain enough charge for a dozen designations; most Pathfinder units will carry substantial spare powerpacks within their Devilfish, whilst a squad containing a Shas'ui with a markerlight will normally have a spare powerpack on each squad member. Marker Drones and Stealth troopers with markerlights feed directly from their own onboard powerpacks, giving them near unlimited capacity, more than enough for the duration of most battles.
Missile PodDesigned as a direct fire weapon the missile pod is considered by many to be the consummate crisis battlesuit weapon. Capable of a reasonable rate of fire the weapon can be used in an emergency to break up an opposing infantry unit, although it is of limited use against large units. However, the weapon also possess' a high destructive power easily capable of destroying most light vehicles, as well as being powerful enough to penetrate the weaker side or rear armour of most vehicles. The missiles carried by the missile pod are identical in size to the missiles in the smart missile system, a 4cm diameter and 15cm in length. However, unlike the SMS missiles the guidance systems within a missile pod's missiles is very basic, freeing up much more space for a warhead and a drive system making these missiles faster, longer-ranged and more destructive!
The missiles accelerate from launch to 4 times the speed of sound allowing only the most minor of corrections to the flight path of the weapon. In a similar fashion to the SMS missiles missile pods carry two missiles within each firing tube, with a protective cap between the missiles. However in a missile pod the missiles fires volleys from a single tube, pushing the second missile into place and firing it in less than 2 seconds. The reloads for the pod are carried within the ammunition hoppers of the battlesuit, after expelling a missile tube the pod rotates upwards and a new tube is slid into place by the automated reloader. Most suits carry enough reloads for a pod to be completely reloaded twice, but after that the suit must have its ammo hopper reloaded.
Neutron BlasterThe Vespid have been harvesting the crystals of their floating islands for hundreds of years, partly for decorative purposes but mainly for their ability to focus energy into a narrow and massively intense beam. However the Vespid lacked the technology to make a portable weapon from these crystals until their amalgamation into the Tau Empire. The Tau were fascinated by these crystals and realised that they had a unique ability to focus an internally produced radioactive energy into a focussed beam rather the usual omni-directional nature normally associated with radiation.
When placed under an electrical charge the crystals become energetic. A simple beam of weak laser energy can then be passed through the crystal causing it to release an immensely powerful beam of radiation, somehow 'piggy-backing' the radiation onto the laser. However the focussing properties of the crystals tend to cause the radiation to dissipate more rapidly than normal making the range of the weapon very short for all that it is immensely devastating for such a small weapon.
The other disturbing feature of the Neutron Blaster is the hazardous nature of its power source, which is lethal even in relatively small doses to all creatures except Vespid. The theories abound for what allows Vespid to survive this radiation, ranging from the harmonics produced by the Vespid's wings caused the crystal to mitigate the effects of the radiation. Because of the low power requirements of the weapon a simple power pack in the weapon produces enough energy for the weapon to be fired at least 30 times, and a Vespid Stingwing is capable of carrying an additional half-dozen reloads.
Photon GrenadeThe Tau realised early in their campaign for Empire that their greatest weakness in warfare was close combat; to this end they concentrated some of their research and development into a counter to their enemy's strengths. They knew that the most devastating part of an assault is on the charge so the Earth Caste concentrated their research into countering an enemy at the critical point of their charge. The weapon they developed was a grenade built around a compact power-source. The grenade was designed so that when the grenade was thrown the charge would trigger a high-powered actinic flare; the flare flooded the light spectrum in all levels from ultra violet to infra-red causing light sensing equipment to flare-out and dazzling naked eyes.
Combined within the high-intensity flash was a deafening explosion, the noise was designed to be loudest in the sub-sonic frequency below the human audible frequency. This frequency was specifically selected because experimentation upon human test subjects discovered that low frequency noises didn't just disturb mental processes, but also caused acute discomfort in human bowels and digestive tracts. With further research it is hoped that the Earth Caste will be able to develop a similar set of frequencies for all races that they encounter during the crusade for the Greater Good.
Plasma RiflePlasma weapons are a weapon used by many races of the 41st millennium, in some cases, such as the Imperium, they are merely copying existing designs, making crude but powerful weapons, but in the case of the Eldar and, to a slightly lesser extent, the Tau the weapons are used with a full understanding of their workings and operation. The plasma rifles used by the Tau use a relatively simple method of firing. A small portion of hydrogen is fed into a firing chamber, once inside the chamber six miniature laser's fire into the centre of the chamber where the hydrogen is contained by a magnetic containment field. These lasers cause the hydrogen to superheat and all of its molecular bonds to break down, reaching a plasma state.
At this moment the containment field is modified so that one side of it elongates into a tube extending down the length of the rifle's barrel and extending some metres ahead of the muzzle. When the field containing the plasma is opened down this tube the plasma expands rapidly in this case down the length of the barrel and then down the containment tube. The plasma will transfer energy into any surface that it comes into contact with, causing the target to heat up rapidly quite possibly immolating itself. This gives the weapon a heavy punch with a well respected ability to cut through most personal armour in use. The ammunition sources for a plasma rifle are surprisingly little, a single hydrogen containment bottle can hold enough for over a hundred shots, and the energy requirements for the rifle are fed entirely by the power plant of the suits carrying them, meaning that the rifle can continue firing after most weapons have run out of ammunition!
Pulse CarbineWith the development of a more maneouverist style of warfare the Tau realised that that the Pulse rifle was too limited in its capabilities. It relied on delivering long range punch, but it lacked middle-ranged assault firepower. With this in mind the Fire caste leaders presented the earth caste with a challenge. They wanted a weapon with the stopping power of a pulse rifle, but more capable of being fired "from the hip" during an advance or tactical retreat. The weapon would ideally be capable of being combined with some capability to disrupt enemy formations just prior to an enemy assault. The result of these requests was the pulse carbine. A simple refinement of the pulse rifle the carbine had a shortened barrel and the rifling mechanism was removed.
These changes caused the weapon to be capable of a slightly higher rate of fire than the rifle, and meant that whilst its maximum range was reduced it was equally as accurate at all ranges, even whilst being fired on the move. In order to fulfil the full extent of the fire caste's demands the earth caste came up with a new innovation, an under-slung secondary weapon. In this case they fitted a grenade-launcher designed to rapid fire photon grenades; a careful redesign of the weapon caused the grenades to follow a flat trajectory.
This was achieved by fitting a basic aerofoil to the grenades causing them to spin increasing their range. The weapon was a huge success, in battle dome trials the weapons even proved capable of disrupting Kroot formations. The Grenade launcher is fitted with a 10 round magazine whilst the pulse magazine is identical to the pulse rifle magazine, allow exchange of magazines to occur between units. The weapon is designed for single-shot fire as well as 4 round burst fire with a grenade automatically fired down the same trajectory every two pulse rounds. There was originally no feature in the design for single shot of the grenades, however it was discovered early in the battle testing that it could be favourable to disrupt enemy formations so this was incorporated into all later weapons.
Pulse PistolBy utilising the same technology as the pulse rifle the pulse pistol was developed as a 'hold-out' weapon to be issued as a side-arm to air caste atmospheric pilots and to battlesuit pilots. The charging and firing mechanisms are the same as the pulse rifle, although the shortened barrel does mean that the weapon sacrifices a lot of range, although it still maintains the high kinetic energy charge of the larger pulse weapons. The pulse pistol also uses a smaller ammunition calibre than the rifle and carbine, using a 20 round magazine, containing 1mm rounds, however the pistol has no full-automatic capability, and can only fire semi-automatically or 4 round bursts.
Pulse RiflePulse weapons are unique to the Tau, being as readily identified with the emergent Empire as their Railguns. Pulse weaponry uses a kinetic positive-ionic energy field within the weapon's main body to charge the rounds from the magazine with a huge quantity of energy. These rounds are then forced into the firing chamber where a small magnetic induction coil at the rear of the weapon induces a massive magnetic pulse which is also positive in its nature. This repels the charged round at high speed down the barrel of the weapon. Within the barrel a secondary magnetic field protects the barrel from contacting the round, and, by inducing a twist upon this magnetic field, the Tau have managed to produce a rifling effect in the weapon.
It is this high muzzle velocity and rifling which combines to create the Pulse rifle prodigious range. As the round exits the barrel its high speed and energetic state combine to create a plasma-like state, where the round exhibits many plasma characteristics, but maintains its solid state. When the round contacts the target it is the solid state of the round which penetrates any armour, but the real damage of the weapon is caused by the transfer of stored kinetic energy into the target. The magazine of a Pulse Rifle contains 60 3mm iron-cobalt rounds, although when firing on full-automatic the weapon can deplete a full magazine in less than 20 seconds, for this reason the weapon is normally restricted to semi-automatic or 3 round burst fire.
Rail RifleThe smallest of the magnetic induction weapons used by the Tau. Earth Caste researchers began investigating a counter for the sniper rifles used by so many enemies. The magnetic induction was a natural development being the weapon which was closest in operation to a sniping weapon, single shot with a prodigious range. All they needed to do was make it so that the weapon could be carried and used by a Tau warrior not wearing a battlesuit.
This took longer than expected due to a number of sacrifices that had to be made with the power in the weapon. Eventually a working prototype was produced. The weapon worked upon the same principle as other, larger railguns using magnetic induction to accelerate a carbon coated-tungsten needle, in this case 0.5mm in diameter and 2mm long, up to speeds of 0.8c, 80% of light speed.
The weapon has its main powerpack contained within a backpack worn by the carrier; this maintains a charge to the weapon to keep the electromagnetic sources charged, however for making the actual shot an additional charge is required, this is provided by a second powerpack which carries enough charge for a single shot. This limits the utilisation of the railrifle, however the sheer power of the weapon makes the Fire Caste willing to accept the weapon, its ability to cut through all but the thickest personal armour makes the weapon of immense use, pathfinders issued with the weapon are normally highly thought of. The magazine of the railrifle carries 10 rounds, but it is the powerpacks which limit the utilisation of the weapon not the size of the magazine.
Seeker MissilePerfectly embodying the Tau culture of combined arms operations the seeker missile is designed to provide squads of pathfinders and firewarriors with long-ranged anti-tank firepower. The weapons appear to be quite weak at first glance, and very simple when compared to other Tau weapon systems. The missile is approximately 2metres in length utilising a simple ram-fed turbo-jet propulsion system, this limits the missile to less than twice the speed of sound. However, this low speed allows the weapon to make the most of its unique form of guidance.
The missile's low speed and advanced aerofoils allow it to be enormously manoeuvrable, capable of twisting through streets and down cleared avenues within forests, in fact there are reports of tanks within a tree line firing out through up to 10metres of woodland without the missile hitting a tree. The missile can only be fired at a target being indicated by a markerlight, the decision to fire the missile is made by the battle commander who simply allocates the missile to a markerlight and the missile is fired without any input from the tank carrying the missile. The strength of the missile lies within its advanced radar and lidar system within the sensor head, able to detect items as small as 100mm in diameter, and able to smash through most objects smaller than this without significant deflection.
The warhead of the seeker missile is uncompromisingly designed for anti-tank work, utilising what would be described as a High Explosive Anti Tank warhead. The HEAT warhead employs a dual shaped-charge method, where the first warhead explodes just before contact with the target, projecting a jet of plasma directly forward from the body of the missile, this cuts a hole in the armour, at this point the missile contacts the target and the second shaped charge triggers at the rear of the missile. This charge forces a third explosive forward through the hole already blasted in the armour into the body of the target. Now the final and largest explosive charge explodes within the target, inside the armour with obvious results.
Secondary damage is also caused by the second shaped charge triggering any remaining fuel in the missile body showering the target in burning fuel. The only exception to this method of firing is the Sky Ray missile gunship, this tank carries a control system that is activated should the tank be commanded to take up an anti-air defence role, in this case the tank commands its own missiles without recourse to the battlefield commander.
Smart Missile SystemConsidered a high quality secondary weapon by many Tau Commanders this weapon is utterly terrifying to opponents, especially to the technophobic Imperium. The concept of weapons fired from a concealed position with no requirement for a spotter or any form of target indication this is the ultimate fire-and-forget weapon! The missiles in these launchers are actually miniaturised drone guidance units, attached to a drive unit and warhead.
The weapon system uses interpolation from all units in the army to determine likely positions for enemy units, this information is then fed to the drone guidance units in the missiles and the missiles are launched. The missiles then travel to the projected target area and begin searching for an actual target using the same sensor units fitted to a gun drone. Once a target has been identified the missiles close in on the target in a terminal acquisition phase accelerating to a 4 times the speed of sound, making the whipping noise that is normally the first warning that smart missiles are in the area.
The warhead of a smart missile is a simple contact explosive, designed to concentrate the explosion into a narrow area in order to cause the highest possible amount of damage to the target although it is not possible to fit a heavy warhead to the weapon restricting the missiles to anti-personnel and light vehicle use. Ammunition for the SMS is contained within the body of the launcher, the missiles are stored in a 'two-up' style with a single reload being available behind the first missile, between the two missiles is a solid protection cap designed to prevent the launch of the first missile from prematurely detonation the second. The cap is forced out of the launcher when the second missile is moved into the firing position by a pneumatic ram, the cap being expelled upon the battlefield. The weapons can be reloaded during battle but it requires physically fitting new tubes of missiles into the launchers, although this is the work of seconds due to the design of the weapons.