Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Has 6th Edition Killed Off the Thunderhawk?

Once upon a time, the mere mention of this gunship’s name struck fear into the heart of 40k players near and far, but with the arrival of 6th edition I can’t help but wonder whether the crown jewel of my collection has become obsolete.  Having run this massive chunk of resin in several Apocalypse games, I have come to realize just how difficult it is to maneuver on the gaming table, but worth all the frustration after its main cannon tore apart the armies beneath it.

It was incredibly fast and extremely hard to hit, only a few other flyers in the game had weapons with built in anti-aircraft systems capable of hitting it at full ballistic skill, and even fewer ground based units, most deadly to flyers being the Necron Pylon and the Imperial Guard Hydra tank. With Games Workshop’s decision to expand flyers into standard games the Thunderhawk is now an overpriced gunboat incapable of keeping up with this newer generation of flyers.

As you can see in the picture above the Thunderhawk is roughly three times the size of its smaller cousin the Storm Raven (forgive the lack of paint they are a work in progress).  For the cost of one Thunderhawk you can field 4 Storm Ravens which under 6th edition rules even with 3 structure points (equals out to 12 hull points),  would spell doom for the Thunderhawk every time. The Storm Raven is more heavily armored and its missile systems are far superior to those found on the Thunderhawk.  Also with the introduction of the Skyfire rule the Storm Ravens can strike the Thunderhawk with its full ballistic skill. Under 6th edition it would only take 2 Storm Ravens 1 to 2 turns at the max to down a Thunderhawk with its missiles and other weapons.
The Thunderhawk is now going through a major identity crisis. They used to label it a multipurpose troop carrier/bomber, but with Flyers being added to every list on the planet, there would be no reason to switch from missiles to bombs on the Thunderhawk. It would need every weapon it has to fight off the newer flyers cruising around it. The Thunderhawk is not built for dogfighting that much is obvious, but a vehicle so entrenched in Warhammer 40k fluff as being the best of the best deserves an upgrade in my opinion. With Imperial Armour Aeronatica due out on the 27th of July and the Thunderhawk Gunship is listed in the Table of Contents hopefully it will receive the upgrade it deserves.
Here are some comparisons points wise when examining the Thunderhawk, for its points you can purchase 5 Necron Night Scythes loaded with 5 warriors in each or 5 Doom Scythes with Death Rays and Tesla weaponry capable of cutting through a Thunderhawks armour. 

Marines have as I mentioned above the Storm Raven with its awesome Flyer destroying missiles and two other potent  weapon systems capable of hurting a Thunderhawk, should note though the Blood Angel variant’s missiles are better at downing flyers, the Grey Knight Storm Raven’s missiles can barely harm a Rhino.

Then there is the Storm Talon which has more than enough weaponry to put a serious hurting on the Thunderhawk, and for the cost of one Thunderhawk you can purchase 6 Storm Talons.

I saved the best for last. I know there are other flyers out there, but the coup de grace is the Imperial Guard Vendetta. For the cost of one Thunderhawk you can field 7, yes 7 Vendettas all kitted out with 3 twin linked Lascannons, that’s 21 twin linked Lascannon shots, say buh bye to the Thunderhawk.
I guess the one good thing that can be said about the Thunderhawk is its transport capacity, right? Wrong!  The brand spanking new Storm Eagle from Forge World can carry up to 20 power armoured marines, or a full ten man squad of Terminators, the Thunderhawk has a carrying capacity of 30. The Storm Eagle is a little more expensive than its smaller Raven or Talon brethren, but you can still pick up 3 Storm Eagles kitted out to the gills for the price of 1 Thunderhawk.
The Thunderhawk has one thing going for it that all of these smaller flyers do not have though - the ability to take a Destroyer weapon. This is none too shabby, considering Titans are the only imperial vehicles that can normally carry a Destroyer type weapon. The problem here is the confusion regarding the FAQ Forge World just released; Super Heavy Vehicles have always been able to fire all of their weapons at different targets, and in 6th edition, the Skyfire rule states that all flyers can fire in Skyfire mode or fire at the ground.

As a super heavy flyer is the Thunderhawk bound to this rule as well? If so the Thunderhawk will have to either try and kill everything it can on the ground before being swarmed by a half dozen smaller flyers, or forgo its Destroyer shot (as it can’t hurt flyers) and use its secondary weapons against the flyers coming at it.
Now I realize that Games Workshop and Forge World will be selling thousands of the new flyers for every one Thunderhawk, but that is no reason to leave the Thunderhawk out in the cold. Hopefully they will make it right when Imperial Armour Aeronatica comes out on the 27th. What are your opinions on the new flyers? Let us know below.
Special thanks again to fellow Freshcoast40k member Maelstrom for all the hard work he put into my Thunderhawk.


  1. Great article! The Thunderhawk needs a little Codex creep to keep it above the abilities of its much less expensive siblings!

  2. Thanks, been thinking about the Thunderhawk for awhile now, it severly underperformed in the last Apoc game I played in, and it was downed by a couple small Forgeworld flyers, can't remember if they were Eldar or Tau. For 900+ points the thing should have some staying power, and using it as a transport and going into hover mode is as good as offing it yourself.

  3. Great post! I have been keeping my eye on the new IA: Aeronatica book since it was first announced, and I am very curious to see how they plan to keep a legendary unit like the Thunderhawk in the mix. My Thunderhawk has been such a critical unit in Apoc games and has usually kept my enemies on their toes. And it is such a beautiful model, so I hope that it can still be useful.