Outside of Superheavies, Tau have two Flyers that you might consider playing in either Apocalypse or games of normal 40k.
You can find rules for Flyers in any of the Apocalypse books, as well as in the Imperial Armour books. The Apocalypse rules are simpler and I suggest you use those – indeed the later IA books changed to use the Apocalypse Flyer rules, suggesting the old ones are now defunct. The key rule to always bear in mind is that weapons shooting at Flyers from the ground add 12″ to all measured ranges – this hurts more than you might think.
I would caution that if you are going to use Flyers in normal 40k, you think ahead and ensure that your opponent will have some practical means of countering them, otherwise they are likely to operate with impunity. Most weapons will only hit a flyer on a 6, regardless of BS, and blast weapons cannot hit at all. The only exceptions are weapons with the anti-aircraft mount special rule or pintle-mounted weapons. AA-mount weapons are few and far between, but pintle-mounted heavy stubbers can be very effective against light aircraft armour (the highest aircraft armour on a non-superheavy you are ever likely to see is 10). Make sure your opponent has some effective AA options – some Flyers of his own would be ideal!
For a Tau opponent, you can use the Imperial Armour 3 rules for the Skyray, which let you purchase an AA-mount for your markerlights for only +30 points. Note that Seeker missiles only hit Flyers on a 4+, not a 2+ (apparently hitting on the regular 2+ made Seekers too powerful).
DX6 Remora Drone Fighter
Think UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle), and you won’t go far wrong. Controlled by a Tiger Shark or a Manta (although you don’t need one of those to field Remoras) these short-range fighters are piloted by drones, and operate in support of stealth cadres. Yes, this is a stealth fighter as well as a UAV. I’ll get on to what that means for the unit in a bit.
You will find the full rules for these in IA: Apocalpyse, but suffice to say it has minimal armour all round and the usual drone BS (boosted by a targeting array). They are Fast Attack and come in units of 1-2 models.
For weapons, it has a twin-linked, long-barreled burst cannon and a networked markerlight. It also carries two seeker missiles, which I should have magnetised but haven’t.
What is pretty special about the Remora is that it is the only vehicle model available to the Tau that gets the Stealth Field Generator. Couple that with the ‘add 12″ to fire at me’ rule all Flyers get, and you have a model that is well-protected against any ground-based target >12″ away and untouchable to any ground-based target >24″ away. It’s like a disruption pod, but better – way better, because being a Flyer the Remora is treated like a skimmer moving Flat Out as well. Depending on how you interpret the Flyer rules, this means either a 4+ cover save or that all Penetrating hits get downgraded to Glancing.
Other Flyers don’t have to add 12″ to their weapon ranges, by the way, so watch out for them.
The only option is for a BSF. Hardly worth it, since Flyers always start in reserve so will never see Turn 1 in Dawn of War.
For a self-designated fighter aircraft, how effective is it against enemy flyers? Well, only just. The burst cannons are not on an AA-mount (yeah, I know) so hit on 6s, but at least they are twin-linked, so every third shot will hit. It will only get through regular flyer armour on a 5 or 6, however, so a single Remora will only cause damage once every three Turns.
Not so hot, is it?
Sadly, none of the Remoras weapons are on AA-mounts, meaning that the markerlight hits on a 6 as well (which is a complete waste of a markerlight imho).
Against ground targets it fares a little better, and can offer decent support, able to threaten enemy armour with its seeker missiles (which always hit the side armour – a Flyer rule).
Strictly speaking, Flyers can be used to block movement in the same manner as eg. Piranha, but this is (imho) an abuse of the rules. The Flyer cannot be assaulted or rammed and is fairly safe from most weapons, making it far too good at blocking enemy movement. I suggest you house rule that other units may move as if the Flyer was not there at all.
Another house rule you might need to consider is whether or not Remoras can contest objectives. Since they always count as being >12″ away from anything on the ground, I would say not, but there is nothing in the Flyer rules to support this. Given the Remora’s maneuverability it poses a serious last-Turn objective contesting threat, so I would discuss this with your opponent before you begin. Note that even if the Remora can contest an objective, it cannot tank shock enemy units out of the way. Worth bearing in mind.
It’s gorgeous, isn’t it?
That’s a rhetorical question, by the way, since the only acceptable answer on this blog is ‘yes’.
The size is perfect, being much smaller than any other Flyer in the game, but large enough not to be mistaken for a regular drone. And the wings hinge upwards in a cool Imperial Shuttle-style (provided you don’t glue them in place).
You can scratchbuild these, and I have seen various guides using flying bases for the body and skyray turrets or piranha wings for the wings.
I have mounted mine on some brass rod to give the impression these things are properly flying. I made the mistake of using 9″ of brass rod and, one clumsy accident later, shortened the rod to 4″. FW resin can be brittle – learn from my mistakes!
By no means overpowered, there is no reason you should not use these in your regular games of 40k. Other than supreme mobility, the only threat it poses is a burst cannon than always hits side armour and a couple of seeker missiles. Hopefully your opponent will agree such a unit is unlikely to turn the tide of any battle, but will provide plenty of interesting flavour.
Your opponent will have a hard time killing them without mobile AA-mounted weapons, but if you get too close to his guns then the Remora’s weak armour won’t last long.
Next: Barracuda Air Superiority Fighter