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The newer model.

The Barracuda is the Tau Empire's air superiority fighter, roughly equivalent to the Imperial Navy's Lightning Fighter. In the lore, the Barracuda is supposed to be slower than the Lightning and Thunderbolt, while being more maneuverable (than the latter, at least). However, in the rules, all three are exactly as fast as each other and the Lightning and the Barracuda are equally agile and armored. The Imperial and Tau vehicles do differ in one major respect: Imperial flyers have armored cockpits, while Tau cockpits also function as escape pods. Truly, the cowardice basic rationality and actual fucking concern for soldiers' lives of the alien knows no bounds.

  • The Barracuda is getting a new model, as of May '16. Look into the new model before you purchase china-forge or older painted models. A face-lift, in addition to increased customization, makes for a very exciting next few months for the interceptor. Here is a link.
  • As of July 23, the new Barracuda (now labeled the AX-5-2) has been released. On top of the aforementioned facelift and increased customization options, Forge World has realized that people that fork over a unicorn's soul for their models also generally want to get the most out of the kit, and the new Barracuda model is designed specifically with magnetization in mind, complete with detailed instructions.

The Barracuda's primary air-to-air weapon is a heavy ion cannon as long as the fuselage. This is supported by a pair of auto-targeting burst cannons in the wingtips, and supplemented with missile pods in the wings for ground attack. It can also take up to four seeker missiles to lend additional anti-armor support to markerlight-equipped ground forces. Once it eliminates all flying targets, Barracuda can start bombarding ground-pounders with overcharged ion cannon blasts and hails of missile and pulse fire, vaporizing everything that isn't AV13-14 or Sv2+. Tau usually avoid using it as a dedicated strafing runner though because of it's limited survivability compared to their regular bombers like Tiger Shark or Sun Shark.

The old barracuda model.

The new Barracuda AX-5-2 update also adds the ability to replace the ion cannon with either a short range heavy burst cannon, or a short range railgun. All of these weapons lack the alternate fire and range of their traditional counterparts, Riptide and Hammerheads respectively, but are otherwise identical. The Barracuda may also replace its auto-targeting long-barreled burst cannon with auto-targeting cyclic ion blasters. On top of the new firepower, the AX-5-2 also gets an invulnerable save against glancing and a weaker save against penetrating hits, as well as being able to boost its Jink save by +1.

Barracudas also serve as interceptors of the Tau space fleet, and have been proven quite capable of going toe-to-hoof with the likes of Fury. The fact that Mantas rarely need interceptor escort to fight off enemy interceptors means Tau may focus their Barracuda wings on defense against enemy ordinance, and if you know anything about Battlefleet Gothic, the one who wins the ordinance game while fleets are closing usually wins a battle.

Forces of the Tau
Command: Cadre Fireblade - Ethereal - Ethereal Guard - Tau Commander
Troops: Drone Squadron - Fire Warrior Team - Pathfinder Team - Stealthsuit Team
Auxiliaries: Great Knarloc - Gue'vesa - Kroot Carnivore Squad - Kroot Hound
Krootox - Lesser Knarloc - Nicassar - Vespid Stingwing
Battlesuits: Battlesuits (XV02 Pilot Battlesuit - XV15 Stealthsuit - XV22 Command Suit
XV25 Stealthsuit - XV46 Vanguard Void Suit - XV-8 Crisis Battlesuit
XV88 Broadside Battlesuit - XV9 Hazard Battlesuit - XV95 Ghostkeel Battlesuit
XV104 Riptide Battlesuit - XV107 R'varna Battlesuit - XV109 Y'Vahra Battlesuit
KV128 Stormsurge Ballistic Suit - KX139 Ta'Unar Supremacy Armour
Vehicles: Devilfish - Hammerhead - Piranha - Sky Ray - Tetra
Flyers: Barracuda - Manta - Orca - Razorshark - Remora - Sun Shark - Tiger Shark
Spacecraft: Warsphere