***The below article reflects Chapter Approved 2018***
Yes, I know the above picture isn’t a Fire Support Hammerhead, but it is a Hammerhead! The Fire Support Hammerhead Gunship is a lot like the standard Hammerhead Gunship but replaces its regular armament of either Rail or Ion with a choice of either Fusion, Plasma, or Burst Cannon. The chassis remains the same, and the Hammerhead Gunship is able to effortlessly glide over the battlefield, laying waste to all those in its path. Hammerhead ships, in general, make up a large part of the T’au Empires firebase in the fluff and the Hammerheads directly contributed to T’au victories during the Damocles Gulf Campaign.
On the tabletop, a Fire Support Hammerhead is a single model unit, Heavy Support choice. It is accompanied by two MV1 Gun Drones.
|7 to 13||12″||3+||3|
|4 to 6||6″||4+||D3|
|1 to 3||3″||5+||1|
Gun Drone stats can be found here in the Tactical Drone article.
The Fire Support Hammerhead comes equipped a twin T’au plasma cannon (48″ Heavy 4 S7 AP-3 D2) which can be swapped out for either a twin heavy burst cannon (36″ Heavy 16 S6 AP-1 D1) or a twin fusion cannon (24″ Heavy 2 S8 AP-4 D[D6], roll 2 dice while within half range and take highest for damage). Instead of being accompanied by the two Gun Drones, it can instead replace them for either two burst cannons (each 18″ Assault 4 S5 Ap0 D1) or two smart missile systems (each 30″ Heavy 4 S5 AP0 D1, doesn’t need LoS and target cannot claim cover bonus).
Hammerhead’s special rules:
- Hover Tank
- Basically, measure (for the purposes of range and whatnot) from the hull instead of any base it might be on.
- Explodes on a 6 for D3 mortal wounds within 6″.
- Attached Drones
- If accompanied by drones, they are considered to be embarked when the Hammerhead is set up. Whilst embarked, the Hammerhead is considered to be equipped with their weapons in addition to his own. Both Gun Drones can detach at the start of your Movement phase by disembarking as if from a transport. From that point on, they are treated as a separate unit and cannot reembark or reattach.
The Gun Drones’ special abilities can be found here in the Tactical Drones article.
The Fire Support Hammerhead Gunship was one of the numerous units to see a point reduction in Chapter Approved 2018. Its chassis is the same cost as regular Hammerhead chassis, a drop of 17 points. There was no change in weapons, so the unit saw an overall reduction of about 10%, depending on loadout.
Speaking of loadout and weapons, it’s important to note for the uninitiated that all of the main weapons include the word “twin” in their names – the doubling of shots comes baked into the listed profile, you don’t further double that number. This point is the reason why the “twin heavy burst cannon” has a different weapon profile than twin “heavy burst cannons” would have.
The best loadout depends on what you’ll be shooting with it. The twin heavy burst cannon and two regular burst cannons are unsurprisingly the most efficient loadout at killing GEQ’s (guardsmen equivalents) and MEQ’s (marine equivalents). However, this loadout does require you to be within 18″ of your target to be in the range of the gun drones. This isn’t always problematic as you could detach your gun drones from the gunship to go off and do other things. But that too has its drawbacks (namely the BS reduction to the drones when they detach). While the anti-GEQ and anti-MEQ loadout are very efficient at killing those specific targets, its varying threat bands on its weapons will usually put the chassis in more danger than you care for.
The twin fusion cannon and burst cannons are the keys against vehicles and since both of these weapons have more of a midrange profile (24 and 18 inches), this loadout feels less clumsy to me. This loadout is still just as dangerous though as most of the anti-tank weapons you’ll see at least have this sort of range if not longer. While the anti-infantry loadout is fairly efficient, the anti-tank loadout is not quite as efficient and other T’au anti-tank options are more efficient overall.
The twin plasma cannon falls in the middle of the pack and is a typical case of “jack of all trades, master of none”. I don’t advocate for it. No matter what main weapon you take though, you should always take the maximum number of seeker missiles you can, as for 5 points apiece, they are a good buy.
A well-recommended way to run these Hammerheads is in a T’au sept detachment with Longstrike. Longstrike adds +1 to hit for the Fire Support Hammerheads so you can get their BS effectively to 2+, which is very uncommon for T’au. This helps you use your markerlights for other, more markerlight-dependent units. It’s very nice to have a semi-self reliant unit in a T’au army for a change. Even without Longstrike (as he will presumably be targeted first by your enemy), these hammerheads have a BS3+, which is better than most other T’au units can say.
One of the disadvantages of having so many shots on a single weapon (16 in the most extreme case) is that you run the risk of overkill against some target units. Take, for example, a target unit of 5 Fire Warriors. Having the Hammerhead hitting on 2’s with Longstrike is excellent but with average dice rolling, you’ll end up wasting some shots. Of course, there are large enough units to mitigate this drawback (40 cultists or something like that), but it is something to consider when deciding whether or not to include this Hammerhead variant in your list.
You also have to consider what role you want them to play and the other choices in that same role. For me, I like the twin heavy burst cannon and 2 sms loadout and like to use it to clear infantry. Another star in that role is the Riptide with a heavy burst cannon and two sms. For a given 600 points, you can either take two Riptides kitted out this way, along with about 4 shield drones for Saviour Protocols or you can take Longstrike and two Fire Support Hammerheads. Each choice has their pros and cons, but for me, I think the Riptide pair wins out simply due to their much better resiliency with the better save, more wounds, and Saviour Protocols. Saviour Protocols really demands a certain response and care from your opponent unlike just firing a bunch of las cannons downfield at your hammerheads. When it comes down to it, the firepower for points of the Fire Support Hammerhead is ok, not great but ok – the main reason I find them lacking is that they are T7, Sv3+ and with no way to guarantee they stay safe.
As mentioned before, if the T’au player really wants to take advantage of all of their weapons the Fire Support Hammerhead is armed with, they will have to be within 18-24″ in most cases. If they don’t, they’re losing out of firepower. Any S8 and above gun with at least this sort of range will give any Hammerhead reason to pause. Furthermore, it has no invulnerable save so any high AP shot is going to pass straight through to damage.
All Hammerheads have the <FLY> keyword so you will not be able to just tag it in close combat and shut down its shooting like other vehicles. Also like other vehicles, its presence in close combat is nonexistent so you will have no trouble damaging it in close combat with a dedicated close combat unit. Just make sure you factor in all the other T’au units within 6″ of it and their For the Greater Good ability. It’s also worth mentioning that the Fire Support Hammerhead, nor the regular Hammerheads from the T’au Codex have For the Greater Good special ability, though Longstrike himself does. T’au does also have a stratagem to let a <Vehicle> hit on overwatch on 5’s, so remember that when you charge the twin heavy burst cannon wielding Hammerhead.
The point reduction seen from Chapter Approved 2018 was welcome, but not enough to make the Fire Support Hammerhead Gunship a clear winner in my eyes. It’s a great garage-hammer unit, but I’m not quite sure that a list with a firebase made around these would be able to compete at the top tables of a GT. If you want to be able to run a fun all tank T’au list, this is a great unit for that. However, the Fire Support Hammerhead suffers from the same drawbacks as the other Hammerheads suffer from, namely a comparatively weaker stat line and reduced resiliency. With so many great buffs and stratagems for <Battlesuits>, it’s hard to justify taking a unit that although it has a similar number of shots as a Riptide, it completely misses out on a lot of synergies via Stratagems or special abilities.
Are you willing to take the Fire Support Hammerhead after CA2018 or not?
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