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Tau Air Cavalry  by Patrick Eibel 
Much to the consternation of Imperial forces, the Tau continue to experiment with new weapons and new styles of fighting. Tau Air Cavalry forces were first spotted shortly after the beginning of Abaddon’s 13th Black Crusade, which the Tau exploited to expand their own empire. While the resources necessary to field highly mobile forces are great, their success on the battlefield will guarantee their continued use. 

Ethereal Aun’ui Elsy’eir Kor is the leading proponent of a type of fighting that the Tau in particular excel at: highly mobile strikeforces with plenty of upgraded vehicles. A typical strikeforce of 2,000 points might include as many as five Devilfish and three Hammerheads, providing excellent firepower and mobility. 

Mobility and air superiority are key priorities. Close combat should be avoided at all costs, as the Tau Air Cavalry are even more vulnerable than conventional Tau armies because they will inherently have fewer troops available to withstand an assault. Crisis Suits are used by an Air Cavalry force as Deep-Striking specialists, deployed to take out specific targets. As Tau Air Cavalry members are volunteers in an experimental project, all are extremely dedicated, and consider themselves members of a caste unto themselves. The leader of each unit that can be, must have a bonding knife (see bonding knife,” pages 26 and 28 of Codex: Tau Empire).  

An Ethereal (such as Aun’ui Elsy’eir Kor) must be taken.  He acts as the inspirational leader of the air corps and will outrank the Crisis Suit Commander.  A Fire Warrior honour guard may be taken, but if not, the Ethereal may be attached to a regular Fire Warrior unit.
As per Codex: Tau Empire, a Commander must be taken.  Either Shas’o or Shas’el may be taken and include a bodyguard.  All Crisis battlesuits must Deep Strike if the mission allows for it 

Crisis Battlesuit Team, as per Codex: Tau Empire. Battlesuits taken must be held in reserve to Deep Strike if the mission allows for it. 

Only Fire Warrior Teams may be taken, and each must be mounted in a Devilfish APC. All teams must be bonded. Shas’ui team leaders may each be equipped with a marker light and target lock. All Devilfish should be equipped decoy launchers, disruption pods, and multi-trackers. Additional equipment may be chosen as points allow. 

Fast Attack 
Pathfinder Teams are the only unit in the air corps that may begin outside their APC.  They act as a forward unit to direct the Tau attack towards strategic points in the opponent’s line.  As such, Pathfinder units may not take the rail gun upgrades to maximize the markerlights available.  You may give the team leader a target lock, a drone controller and some markerlight drones to increase the number of hits the unit can get. As with other units in the corps, a bonding knife must be taken.  The Pathfinder’s Devilfish will help the Deep-Striking units land on target to take out strategic objectives.

Piranha and Gun Drone Squadrons may be taken as per Codex: Tau Empire.  Vespid Stingwings may not be taken.

Heavy Support
Only Hammerhead gunships and Sky Rays may be used, and they should take the same upgrades as the Devilfish.  

Modeling and Painting 
Tau Air Cavalry favor the colors of the sky: blues, grays, and yellows. Earth tones such as browns and greens are never used, but fiery colors such as red and orange may be incorporated into vehicle color schemes to produce a sunburst pattern (best done by using an airbrush). 

General Tactics 
The Tau Air Cavalry forces are very delicate and cannot stand up to prolonged fights. They prefer missions (such as “Rescue”) where speed and mobility are essential. Typically, the Fire Warrior Devilfish form a wedge and speed toward the enemy line (if in range).  If possible, the Devilfish would stop within 1" of the enemy and deposit the Fire Warriors unit out the back to rapid fire.  Enemy units may be targeted with markerlights to increase the chance of being hit (by raising the Fire Warriors’ BS) or reduce the unit’s cover save.  Crisis Suits act as independent strike teams that attack specific targets in the enemy line that the Air Corp might not otherwise be able to take out – Devastator Squads, Whirlwinds, sniper teams, etc.  

Some players prefer not to spend many points on vehicles, but upgrades are critically important and should not be overlooked. Devilfish and Hammerheads are the workhorses of the Tau Air Cavalry: invest some points in them. Transports should be used for firepower and to evacuate Fire Teams that are in danger of being overrun by the enemy. 

The Tau Air Cavalry can deliver a swift blow to your opponent’s line.  That does not mean they will always succeed.  Armies that can mount an effective counter-assault once the Tau have engaged will be able to negate the Tau mobility and firepower.  Finding the balance of how many Fire Warrior teams to allocate to taking out an enemy unit without getting over extended will take some playing to determine. However, the expression on your opponent’s face when you unpack all of those Devilfish will be priceless.

Related Pages
Other Tau Themed Army Ideas

Originally posted November 2003. Revised March 2008


Fighting Tigers:
Codex <> Tactics <> Gallery <> Allies and Enemies <> Tales of the Tigers

Other Pages:
Main <> What's New <> Site Index <> The Tiger Roars <> Themed Army Ideas
Events and Battle Reports <> Campaigns <> Terrain <> FAQ <> Beyond the Jungle