Space Marine Land Raider
Across the hundreds of thousands of planets in the Imperiunrt, even amongst the most regressed and superstitious populations, the Space Marines of the Adeptus Astartes are legendary. On civilised worlds they are spoken of in hushed whispers, accompanied by ignorant tales of ancient secrets concerning bio-alchemy and geno-conditioning. The myths of primitive peoples tell of the Angels of Death who descend from the stars on fiery wings to bring retribution to the serpents of Chaos. Just as prominent are the tales of the steel chariots of the Angels -massive beasts of metal with a skin that turns any blow, whose eyes unleash bolts of lightning and in whose stomach the Angels of Death travel. This is the legend of the Land Raider.
The Land Raider is based upon the near-mythical Standard Template Construct (STC) technology, and as Such its design pre-dates the Imperium by many thousands of years. Its rediscovery is commonly attributed to the great Technomagus Arkhan Land at the very birth of the Imperium. When the Imperial Land Raider first saw combat is now a matter of much debate amongst Imperial archaeologists. Some claim it was during the Siege of Delebrion that a Land Raider first fired its lascannons in anger, others point towards the massed tank battles of Calysto Platinum and say that the Land Raider drew first blood during the mighty conflict that raged over that world at the start of the Emperor's Great Crusade. The popularity of the Land Raider in Imperial forces was nothing short of overwhelming. A whole forge world, Anvilus 9, was turned over entirely to the production of Land Raiders and the design spread throughout the galaxy with the Emperor's fleets.
At that time, the Land Raider was used by almost every human force, including the Space Marines and the Imperial army. There was not a battlefield in the first two hundred years of the Imperium that had not tested the mettle of this awesome war engine. Then the Warmaster Horus virus bombed Istvaan V and the Great Heresy engulfed the galaxy. Anvilus 9 was overrun by renegade Techpriests at the outset of the Heresy, and production of the Land Raider was suddenly reduced to a trickle from a handful of forge worlds still loyal to the Emperor's rule (many forge worlds opted to secede from the Imperium at this point, rather than joining one side or the other). With the Warmaster's forces threatening to overrun Terra, the Emperor decreed that all Land Raiders still in loyalist service were to be recalled for exclusive use by the Legionnes Astartes, who were at the forefront of the fighting.
The Land Raider proved to be essential for both sides during the bitter fighting that would decide the fate of the Imperium. It was one of the few vehicles that could, when used in sufficient numbers, hold off and even destroy the massive Titans of the Adeptus Mechanicus, whilst its ability to fight in almost any imaginable warzone, including seabeds and in highly corrosive atmospheres, meant that it saw more service than any other machine of war. The Heresy was eventually crushed by the sacrifice of the Emperor, but with the Emperor's ascension to the Golden Throne none dared countermand his order that Land Raiders were for the exclusive use of the Space Marines. Thus has it remained for the last ten thousand years.
The Land Raider is ideally suited to the highly mobile warfare employed by the Adeptus Astartes. Like Space Marines, the heavily armoured Land Raider is capable of fighting in almost any conditions, including extremes of climate, total vacuums and high gravity worlds. The Land Raider offers vita! protection and transport for a squad of Space Marines, and has enough heavy weaponry to lay down considerable supporting fire once it has dropped its passengers at the battlezone. On death worlds and in other harsh environs, the Land Raider's onboard stores allow the Space Marines to replenish the environmental and energy systems of their power armour, giving them a greater operational span.
In battle, it is common practice for the squad to disembark, leaving the Land Raider to fight independently. The Land Raider's mix of armament allows it to fulfil a variety of battlefield roles. In many respects it is used as a mobile emplacement, its thick armour able to withstand all but the most destructive land-based weaponry in the galaxy. In this role, several Land Raiders can form a defensive line against a counter-attack or create a near impenetrable enclave inside enemy held territory. Its twin-linked lascannons are the best tank busting armament found on a vehicle of such size, so much so that the Orks often refer to Land Raiders as 'Kan-blasterz'. Combined with its heavy bolters, the Land Raider is always capable of dealing with squadrons ol light vehicles and can tear a swathe through even the most heavily armoured infantry squads.
The Land Raider has advantages over nearly every other battle tank in the Imperium. Its troop carrying capacity means that it can always bring its own infantry support, regardless of how far from the battle line it must operate. The Land Raider has everything on board to tend to the needs of its crew and passengers, including medical facilities, life support and a shrine to ensure spiritual purity. Its rugged engine design can be adapted to use almost any fuel type, including a variety of gases, fossil fuels, liquids and even vegetative matter. A triple-redundant bank of analytical engines and communications arrays provide for excellent command and control facilities, allowing the Land Raider to act as a base of operations for the squad it carries, giving it an unequalled capability for deep range strikes behind enemy lines.
The Land Raider's survivability comes from its many layered composite armour which, thanks to Magos Land's STC data, can be manufactured from a wide variety of different resources and materials. Its size makes it less unwieldy in battle than the super-heavy Baneblades, Stormhammers and Shadowswords used by the Imperial Guard, without any significant reduction in protection.
One of the most famous stories in the history of the Red Talon Space Marine Chapter is that of Techmarine Clearn, his driver Marine Rillan and their Land Raider Eagle's Claw. The action took place during the first day of the Battle of Amion, during the campaign fought against the rebel Imperial forces of the self-styled King of the Further Reaches in M41.917. The battle resulted in the breaching of the rebels' main defensive lines, and led to the final defeat of the rebel forces.
Eagle's Claw formed part of the Red Talon's 6th Company, which had been split up over a wide front to support the Imperial Guard units making the attack. Clearn had been given the task of first supporting the assault and then, once the rebel lines were breached, aiding the 189th Armageddon Steel Legion as it exploited the breakthrough. By 0620 the Land Raider was 2,000 metres ahead of its original start line and was beginning to catch up with the Baneblades, Leman Russ battle tanks and Imperial Guard infantry assault teams attacking the rebel lines. As Eagle's Claw crossed the last line of rebel trenches it came under fire from rebel anti-tank teams armed with Imperial lascannons, which had already managed to knock out two of the Guard's Leman Russ tanks. The lascannon fire damaged Eagle's Claw's communications array, cutting Clearn off from the rest of the Company for the remainder of the battle. Undeterred, Clearn was able to use a belt of trees for cover in order to close with the enemy in relative safety. Bursting from the tree line Eagle's Claw swept over the rebel position. The rebels attempted to flee but were cut down by the Land Raider's heavy bolters. The Guard assault squads arrived to occupy the position and Clearn set off again, travelling east towards the main objective of Amion itself. By now the 189th had come forward and were beginning to harry fugitives from the broken enemy lines. Unfortunately, wherever they met stiffer opposition, the mechanised infantry began to suffer casualties and were forced to halt. Clearn provided assistance in two such actions, destroying five enemy tanks and killing dozens of enemy infantry in the process, but more importantly allowing the mechanised infantry to head on towards their next objective. At this point Clearn evidently decided that he would make far better progress on his own. His map told him that there was an enemy supply cantonment in a shallow valley not more than five kilometres away. He headed towards the location of the camp, and when he finally reached the crest of the valley, he found the occupants hastily stuffing their belongings into their packs as they attempted to evacuate. Clearn opened fire at once, killing or wounding sixty of the rebels before the rest made good their escape, and then using Eagle's Claw's lascannon to blow up the rebels' vital stockpiles of fuel and ammunition which had been left in the camp. This secondary objective having been reduced to a blazing inferno, Clearn decided to head towards the main objective of Amion. He soon came across files of rebel infantry retreating towards the defences of the hive and engaged them at ranges of 200 to 600 metres. Eagle's Claw remained in the area for over an hour, shooting at any sign of movement as it cruised up and down. In the process, return fire damaged Eagle's Claw's fuel cells, which started to leak fumes into the interior of the tank, rendering the air so poisonous that the crew were forced to don the helmets of their power-armoured suits.
Because of the risk of fire and explosion most men would have decided that enough was enough. Clearn, however, was not a man - he was a Space Marine, and a Space Marine of the Red Talons Chapter at that. So, although he was now completely alone, he decided to press on. Soon he found himself in the midst of the retreating rebel army, surrounded by columns of vehicles and marching men who believed they were beyond the reach of danger. When Eagle's Claw opened fire on them at close range, inflicting heavy losses, a wild panic ensued. Men ran in all directions, vehicles careened out of control and crashed into each other. It was carnage!
Now satisfied, and with no ammunition left for his heavy bolters and the barrels of three of Eagle's Claris lascannons burnt out from overuse, Clearn ordered Marine Rillan to turn for home. But he had left it a moment too late. The enemy had brought up a battery of Basilisks, which quickly scored three hits, causing Eagle's Claw to burst into flames. Clearn and Rillan leapt clear, pausing only to grab their bolters from the burning vehicle's ready rack as they did so. Surrounded on all sides by enraged rebel infantry, the fate of the two Space Marines was never in doubt. Nonetheless, they put up a stiff fight as the rebels swarmed round them. Finally, however, Rillan was shot dead, and Clearn was dragged down and kicked and hammered with lasgun butts until he was unconscious.
Hours later the burned out shell of Eagle's Claw was found by the advancing 189th Armageddon Steel Legion some 16 kilometres beyond what had been the original start line. How it had got there remained a mystery and a source of much speculation to the troops that made up the armies fighting in the campaign for many months. It was only when Clearn was freed from the cells of infamous Temple of Truth Through Pain that the full story was able to be told. But by then the colourful tales of the exploits of the Land Raider Eagle's Claw had already become legend...
Few worlds have suffered beneath the scourge of heresy and treachery like the hive world of Thranx in the Segmentum Solar. From its day of liberation during the Great Crusade to the day of its Exterminatus by the Dark Angels, Thranx was a byword for anarchy and disruption. During the 36th millennium an alien-inspired rebellion erupted amongst the monolithic equatorial heat sinks which controlled the atmosphere and heat exchanging across the rest of the world-encompassing hive. Aliens controlling the rebels sought to ransom the world for their own ends but were met by the solid resolution of Governor Count Momery. He sent his own finest mechanised regiments against the rebel positions without hesitation. At his command, ten thousand Leman Russ tanks clattered across the endless rooftops and terraces which covered the world-hive.
The Governor's proud tanks were decimated in the course of a single afternoon by rebel lascannons and Earthshaker cannons mounted high on the ziggurat-like steps of the heat sinks. As the tanks advanced across the open rooftops the rebels simply picked them off. Over five thousand wrecks were left upon the battlefield. Governor Momery was a rash man, and sent his depleted regiments again the next day, this time preceded by a massive bombardment from orbital monitors and attack craft.
Unfortunately the damage to the rebels' defences was counterbalanced by the cratering of roadways and bridges the tanks needed to advance. Two thousand more wrecks were added to the battlefield before the regiments broke and fell back again. By now the rebels were literally turning the heat up across the whole planet and millions of citizens were already dying of heat stroke and dehydration. At last Governor Momery instructed his Astropaths to request assistance from the Adepts of Earth.
By great good fortune, a battle barge of the Iron Hands Chapter of the Adeptus Astartes was passing close to Thranx and it was diverted to prevent Thranx becoming a dead world. The Iron Hands Companies aboard were depleted after a tunnel fighting campaign on Kolyma, but their vehicles were intact. Their leader. Commander Sien, determined to make a last ditch offensive using his handful of Land Raiders and the Governor's surviving tanks for support. Although his force was limited, he believed that if the rebels' defensive position could be cracked at one point, the entire ring of heat sinks could be easily rolled-up by the Governor's troops.
He led the five Land Raiders of his company forward during the night, walking ahead of them to personally examine the route while the rebels were kept busy with a bombardment from the battle barge overhead. Commander Sien mounted up and led his Land Raiders into the attack at dawn, forming a hardened tip to a wedge of Thranx Steel Legions in an assault on Heat Sink 871.
The defence was bitter, from the instant the Land Raiders appeared they were at the centre of a storm of shells and bolts raining down from above. The heavy armour of the Raiders shrugged aside much of the fire but Sien had advanced no more than 200 metres before Land Raider four, Metallus Gravus, was immobilised by a shattered track and then destroyed as rebel Earthshaker batteries found their range. The other Astartes battle tanks pushed forward, racing along a shell-torn skedway to reach the first ramp up the flank of the heat sink. Land Raider two. Quoth Karrasis, was blown apart by a direct hit from a rebel defence laser at the top of the ramp. Sien allowed the laser no time to recharge and gunned his own machine. Cestus, up the perilously narrow roadway to get a clear shot at the laser's armoured cupola. After a few tense seconds Cestus reached a firing position, only to miss with his first salvo of lascannon fire and be left fully exposed to the emplacement's return shot. To Sien's amazement the panicking rebel gunners also missed and he was able to use the Land Raider's heavy bolters to drive them away from their position. Wasting no time, Sien turned up the second ramp followed by Raiders three and five, only to find his way blocked by welded steel anti-tank obstacles. Commander Sien and his Techmarine dismounted under increasingly intense fire from rebel infantry to attach melta bombs onto the obstacles, both being lightly wounded in several places.
As they remounted, Raider five notified them that the defence laser was being re-manned. Sien detailed Raider five to keep the laser position suppressed, but as the giant tank turned to bring its full armament to bear it slipped partly off the roadway and was left with its right tracks hanging over empty space a hundred metres over the steel plain below. With commendable clarity of purpose. Raider five opened fire on the laser emplacement and knocked it out with several direct hits. Seconds later a shellburst tipped Raider five over the edge and Sien was reduced to a command of just two tanks. Sien triggered the melta charges and pushed on, Cestus leading and Raider three giving fire support, the two battle tanks ground up the second ramp, scattering enemy infantry and taking more hits as they did so. The third and final ramp was blocked by a salvaged Leman Russ, its battle cannon zeroed in on the corner as Sien made the turn.
Once again the Emperor was watching over Sien and the hit only wrecked one of his lascannon sponsons. Slewing his vehicle to bring the other weapons to bear, Sien riddled the Leman Russ with lascannon bolts. To clear his path he maintained fire on the tank until it was reduced to a molten skeleton. Crunching over the wreck brought him to the top of Heat Sink 871 where the two battered Land Raiders made short work of the Earthshaker battery atop it. With the rebels' defences fatally breached the Thranx Steel Legions swarmed into the gap and began the long process of reducing the rebel redoubts. At the end of the battle Sien counted the number of hits to his Land Raider's adamantium hide and found it had survived 132 enemy shots.