The Thunderhawk’s big older brother and predecessor, the Stormbird was to the Legiones Astartes of the Great Crusade what the Thunderhawk is to the Astartes Chapters of the 41st Millenium: a primary means of transport and air support for Space Marines. The Stormbird, however, was much bigger, able to carry up to 50 Space Marines as well as dreadnoughts and rhinos, protected by void shields, and armed with a ton of firepower. So it was basically an Imperial Manta for all intents and purposes. It replaced the Skylance used by the Thunder Warriors.
- Length: 29-50m; approx, depending on Pattern
- Wingspan: 29-50m; approx, depending on Pattern
- Mass: 350-500 tonnes; approx
- Crew: 4 crew including 50 Astartes
- Acceleration: 1500-2000 kph approx
By the time of the Horus Heresy, though, while some of the bigger Legions insisted on keeping their Stormbirds in service, most had begun relying more and more on the smaller and easier to produce Thunderhawk. After the Codex Astartes reforms, the ability to carry half a company’s worth of marines all in one aircraft wasn’t even arguably economical anymore, and the remaining Imperial Stormbirds were finally mothballed. A rare case of a weapon disappearing from the Imperium's arsenal, not so much because of a lost ability to produce it, but because it simply didn't fit into the changing playbook of Astartes tactics anymore. One would think they would have re-purposed them for anti-Titan operations, into heavy bombers or for transporting vehicles full time.
If the Wrymworld size chart is correct it would be possible to fit a Fellblade or two inside this thing. All they would have to do is convert that empty space for Fellblade cannons, Turbo-Laser Destructors (kind of odd that the Thunderhawk is the only Space Marine plane with an actual anti-Titan weapons isn't it?) or maybe even weapons used by Knights. With enough left over for all the ammunition or power generators, coolant, and anything else they would need. However in the Imperium efficiency and creative thinking is considered Tech Heresy. This is even worse now that the Horus Heresy novels revealed it actually had a dedicated STC loadout that carried macrobombs.
As of the 41st Millennium, it’s currently unknown if there are any Stormbirds still left in Loyalist vaults, though Traitor Legions like the Word Bearers are said to still have a few around, and if Forge World’s recent release of the model and 40k rules for the Stormbird is anything to go by, odds are there probably will be a couple of chapters that will be revealed to, surprise, surprise, still have their Stormbirds as well.
It is interesting to note, though, that Forge World's stormbird is almost an entirely different aircraft from the one pictured in older fluff. Where the old Stormbird looked like a giant Valkyrie with two tiltrotor turbofan engines each almost as big as the aircraft itself, the Sokar-pattern Stormbird is basically just a Thunderhawk on steroids (The old Stormbird was also fluffed as having a 100-marine carrying capacity, rather than the Sokar's 50). A bit odd, as Forge World has generally tried to maintain the Rogue Trader look when updating the old material.
As it turns out, the Sokar is simply one of several very different patterns of the same general classification of aircraft (unlike the Thunderhawk, the Stormbird is not a standard template design, more like several STC patterns in the same role), and the Sokar itself is actually among the smallest of them. Legions variously fielded Condor- (Sons of Horus), Khonsu-, and Apophis-pattern (the Wolves deployed 30 on Prospero) Stormbirds, the latter being known as "sun-killers" for their size and appearance. There was also the Warhawk-pattern Stormbird, which can carry 100 marines like the Rogue Trader version and, given its description as "monstrous and fat-bodied", likely looked like that version as well. The Sokar Pattern developed from these Warhawk and Nephoros class and used by the Yndonesic Bloc during the Unification Wars.
Half a company of Space Marines is something you'll never see outside of Apocalypse level games and is already too much money for most players. Therefore (almost) no one would bother fielding an entire company just to stuff them into one vehicle. The most likely variant to see release in the coming decade or two would be the Stormbird pattern equivalent to Turbolaser Thunderhawks. With something akin to a rapid fire Volcano Cannon or a precursor to Macro-Accelerator Cannons. Though it would just as much of a longshot for Forgeworld to release a new mold for the Sokar before 2040.
The Sokar, Khonsu and Apophis, sharing a naming convention (derived from minor Egyptian gods) are likely the last generation of Stormbirds to enter general service before the Crusade.
One notable Stormbird is the one Nathaniel Garro had pimped out for his personal use by Malcador so that he could cruise around the galaxy hunting down members for his loyalist A-Team.
Funnily enough, the reasons the Imperial Manta was mothballed in the fluff are also kind of represented in the crunch. The Stormbird is one of those units that could be tentatively referred to as Mega-Super-Heavies (like the Reaver, Warlord, and the actual Manta for instance). Units that are just so big and so expensive that outside of the very biggest games (as in, boards where Basilisks run out of range), they have close to zero practicality. In the case of the Stormbird, a Thunderhawk probably would be a more economical option most of the time. With all that said, though, the Stormbird certainly delivers your points worth. The Stormbird has 14/13/12/ and 12 HP. It comes with five turreted Twin-linked Lascannons (so right then and there, you got more laser dakka than a Terminus Ultra), six Dreadstrike Missiles (S10 AP2 Ordnance, small blast) which can be replaced with a single use 3D6 Apocalyptic Barrage that hits like a Battle cannon. It can buy an Orbital Strike, with Strength D AP1, Massive blast, Indirect fire only and multiple use for the low, low price of 150 pts. Its 2 Void Shields can become a 12" bubble if you go into hover mode, which is a safe idea since you also get Armoured ceramite and a 5++ invul. Transport capacity of 50 can carry pretty much everything including Dreadnoughts and (possibly fully loaded) Rhinos which take up 10/25 slots respectively. Good thing the Age of Darkness FoC limits you to 25% spending on LOWs and no one actually has the money to play Apoc with FW, right?
8E Sokar Pattern Stormbirds are different. 2117 points to put one on the field, though you are rewarded well. 40 wounds, T9, 3++ save and 5++ Invuln makes it a tanky bugger. Four twin Lascannons, three twin Heavy Bolters and a battery of Hellstrike Missiles add to the firepower of the thing, and it retains it's 50 Marine transport capacity, as well as it's expanding Void Shields. Power of the Machine Spirit allows the plane to fire all 32 of its shot even if it moved. Though most players won't even bother because it's better to have it camp at optimal Lascannon range. Though it lost its Orbital Strike capability.
While it can't kill Super Heavies as fast as a Turbolaser Thunderhawk like its HH counterpart. The Void Shields and two squads of Lascannon Devastators(4 cannons per squad plus the Sarge) should allow it to outlast anything smaller than a Warlord. Airborne and a Move of 50" with an Advance of 20" allows it to scream across the map at a -1 to hit - and you really need all the dice you can with that T9 3++ save to begin with - and drop Assault Terminators right in your gunline.
The only image of a Stormbird people had for years (and the basis for many an awesome scratch-build) before Forge World came out with the Sokar Pattern.
One of said scratch-builds. The new Stormbird model is cool and all, but work like this kinda makes you wish Forge World had stayed closer to the original.
|Vessels of the Traitor Legions|
|Space Station||Blackstone Fortress|
|Battleships||Battleship (Gloriana - Planet Killer) - Ark of Omen|
|Cruisers||Light Cruiser - Cruiser |
Heavy Cruiser - Grand Cruiser
|Others||Silver Tower of Tzeentch|
|Siege Carriers||Siege Carrier|
|War Machines||Chaos Harvester - Nurgle Plague Tower - Woe Machine|
|Titans||Questor Scout Titan - Slaanesh Subjugator |
Feral Scout Titan - Ravager Battle Titan
Chaos Warlord Titan - Chaos Emperor Titan
|Superheavy Tanks||Baneblade - Fellblade - Plaguereaper |
Tower of Skulls
|Oceanic Battleships||Oceanic Battleship|