LEGIONES ASTARTES: PRIMARIS-LIGHTNING STRIKE FIGHTER TACTICA

“The Primaris-Lightning is smaller and much more maneuverable than the heavier Imperial Thunderbolt Heavy Fighter, and can be quickly scrambled during an enemy attack. The aircraft is capable of short take-off and landing (STOL) and vertical take-off and landing (VTOL).”

Ground Attack Handbook, Imperial Fleet Academy

If you’re a subscriber to the30kchannel or view the free videos from the channel on YouTube, you’ll see some familiar names of units pop up repeatedly in players armies. What won’t necessarily be immediately understandable is why people take those choices and the options they run. I’ll be discussing a lot of them in this sub-series, along with a few extras;

1. Primaris-Lightning Strike Fighter.
2. Deredeo Dreadnought.
3. Leviathan Siege Dreadnought.
4. Xiphon Pattern Interceptor.
5. Javelin Attack Speeder.
6. Land Raider & Spartan Assault Tank.

To be clear, this isn’t going to be an in depth assessment of “cheese” in the guise of Warhammer: 40,000 play styles, but a deep dive into a few choice units and providing enough information for you to either effectively play with or against the choices.

As this is a Legiones Astartes Army Tactica series, it’ll deep dive into the units. This means that i’ll be explaining what the unit as a whole is capable of, as well as highlighting the Anti-Tank functionality of its various options.

So, where do you start and what do you choose? Well, it’s all down to the individual player and your narrative. As i play fairly infantry-centric armies, i find i rely more on Fast Attack than Heavy Support to provide my reliable anti-tank punch – so, this is where we start the discussion!

Primaris-Lightning Strike Fighter, 135pts base:

The Lightning is a mean looking model with a vast ruleset that makes it a truly mission configurable, multi-role ground attack fast mover. It exists within the Fast Attack slot in the Force Organisation and is a flyer.

Basic Rules and Core Capability:

Being a Supersonic aircraft, it must move a minimum of 18″, known as Combat Speed. It can also move to a maximum of 36″ using Cruising Speed if the player chooses.

It also has Jink and Agile. What this means is that if you’re targeted in the shooting phase, you can declare that the Lightning is Jinking, giving it a 4+ cover save, however Agile enhances that cover save by 1, giving you a 3+ cover save. It’s a powerful rule, but you’re snap shooting in your following shooting phase.

Armed by default with a Twin-Linked Las Cannon, this gives it solid Strength 9, AP 2, Heavy 1 firepower at BS 4. It’s also fitted with a suite of defensive aids in the form of Chaff Launchers; providing a 4+ invulnerable save against missile type weapons and an Armoured Cockpit providing the ability to shrug off and ignore Crew Shaken and Crew Stunned results on a 4+.

It’s basic stat line is BS 4, with Front Armour 11, Side Armour 11 and Rear Armour 10 protecting two Hull Points, all for 135 points. This means that its quite weak to Autocannon, such that is fitted to the Deredeo Dreadnought and even the Kheres assault cannon will trouble it on the right platform (such as a Contemptor Mortis).

Hardpoint Weapons and Munitions:

The real multi-role ability and the core of its true capability exists in three dual hard points on the wings. There’s no rule here forcing you to take identical choices on the pylons, so you can seriously mix up your narrative and create an outright tank buster, infantry annihilator, or a mix of somewhere in between.

First up, is a Twin Linked Autocannon for 20pts. This gives you a 48″ ranged, Strength 7, AP 4, Heavy 2 autocannon fitted to the hard point. If you consider that Rhinos have Armour Values of 11/11/10, it means you’re glancing their armour on 4+ and punching holes clean through the armour with penetrating hits on a 5+. It’ll cut apart infantry well enough, however it’s tempered by the amount of shots it’ll put out and simply won’t be able to do anything to Land Raider, Spartan or Leviathan.

The Multi-laser amps up the fire rate – albeit at the cost of AP. At 36″ Range, Heavy 3, Strength 6, AP 6 it’s not going to set the world alight when used against Space Marines, but it will be more useful against weaker infantry like Ad Secularis Tech Thralls or Militia. It’s rarely seen on the table due to the high threat level in other models with better armour saves and the better munitions that can be outfitted on the Lightning.

Next up is the all-purpose choice, the Missile Launcher pod. Each pod has a choice of munitions; frag and krak. They’re all 48” Range and Heavy 1. Frag is Strength 4, AP 6 and Blast 3”, whereas Krak is Strength 8, AP 3. However, for 15pts, you can allow the pod to pack the Rad Missile munition. This is a Heavy 1, Strength 4, AP 3, Blast 3”, Fleshbane, Rad Phage munition. As long as you hit, you’ll wound infantry on 2+ and those surviving but taking a wound will drop toughness by -1. It’s a nasty weapon that most definitely has its uses on the table; especially in chemical warfare narrative armies. At 40pts for a Rad Missile equipped Missile Launcher pod, it does make it the most expensive hardpoint option on the Lightning, but hey. Chemical Biological Radiological and Nuclear warfare isn’t cheap.

A Primaris-Lightning lines up on the side armour of a Land Raider.

From here we are into the realms of One Use munitions. These tend to be fairly powerful weapons, internally balanced by the One Use rule.

Sticking to CBRN weapons – Phosphex Bombs are also available for outfitting. At 15pts a rack, they’re fairly cheap, however they do require the Lightning to overfly it’s targets due to Bombing Run. This means that you can have some fairly danger close bombing action on the go if you’re looking to slow or weaken infantry in front of your Forward Line of Troops; this stuff can scatter! It’s Bomb 2, Blast 3”, Poison 3+, Crawling Fire, Lingering Death, Deadly Cargo, One Use Only. This means that it has a fixed to Wound of 3+, Crawling fire allows you to move the template 2” in any direction as long as you cover more models than you did before and Lingering death means the area hit now becomes Dangerous Terrain. Deadly Cargo is an interesting rule whereby if you take damage, you roll a D6, on a 6 the munitions explode, causing an Explode result on the vehicle damage table – thematic! It’s an interesting and effective enough weapon!

For those facing routinely against Cybernetic Cortex armies such as Mechanicum or Pravien featuring Astartes forces then Electromagnetic Storm Charges may well interest you. Bomb 1, Haywire, Large Blast 5”, Concussive, One Use Only is a neat rule set. Haywire is the gem of the rules; once you hit, you’re rolling on the Haywire Table to determine the effect. 1 means no effect occurs, 2-5 scores a Glancing Hit and 6 scores a Penetrating Hit. At Strength 3 AP 4 you’re not getting modifiers to the Vehicle Damage tables effects. Still, it’s an interesting weapon for sure that isn’t seen often as there are other munitions that do as good, if not better job than it.

Now we start getting into the big leagues of One Use, Missile. This sort of weapon offers big reward for big risk; if you can’t get the job done with the munitions you have on the wings, you can’t rearm and fire again. Believe it or not games have been lost due to One Use munitions failing to hit their target when they needed to.

First off, the Sunfury Heavy Missile. 25pts a pylon gets you a 36” ranged Missile, Strength 6, AP 3, Large Blast 5”, with Blind, Gets Hot, and One Use Only. This is pretty useful for chewing holes through Squads in a defensive line and for causing Squads that take losses to this weapon to take an initiative test. If this is failed, the Squad is firing at BS1. Its fairly useful for silencing Death Guard Heavy Support Squads and Iron Warriors Iron Havocs – but you don’t see it fielded too often.

Finally, the big dogs. Kraken Penetrator Missile. Each One Use Only, 34 point Missile has a 36” Range, is Strength 8, AP 1 and Armourbane. This last rule means that for each Heavy 1 Missile that hits, you roll 2D6 for Armour Penetration, adding the values together. This massively increases your ability to penetrate highly armoured vehicles or those equipped with Flare Shields – which is why it’s commonly used to provide a direct counter to Spartans outright.

So, the Primaris-Lightning can be customised to fill any mission role you require it to fill. However, we aren’t quite finished with the Primaris-Lightning Strike Fighter and it’s combat capability.

Sensory Package:

The Lightning has quite the comprehensive Targeting and Countermeasures packages available to it. Ramjet diffraction Grid is a 20pt upgrade that reduces the strength of incoming fire on the rear and side arcs by -1, however the unit cannot benefit from Night Fighting. It’s situationally useful.

Ground-Tracking Auguries provides the Lightning with +1 BS when shooting Assault, Heavy, Rapid Fire or Salvo weapons at Artillery, Beasts, Bikes, Cavalry, Infantry, Monsterous Creatures of Vehicles without the flyer or skimmer type. This comes in for 10 points and is a solid bonus to its combat power.

Finally, we have the 15 point Battle Servitor Control upgrade. This confers Tank Hunters to the Lightning, allowing it to re-roll failed penetration rolls and optionally re-roll glances to try to penetrate – though the final result of the re-roll must be kept and both dice need to be rolled again.

Summary:

The Primaris-Lightning is a very flexible platform however it isn’t undefeatable. With Kraken Penetrators it has the innate potential to defeat almost all of the armour on the table and severely damage Super-Heavy Vehicles. Even Titans aren’t safe once their void shields are down.

If you’re after an absolutely monstrous amount of anti-tank capability, then the most common loadout is a Primaris Lightning with 6x Kraken Penetrators, Ground Tracking Auguries and Battle Servitor Control. This comes to 265 points. It’s a very effective force multiplier for armies using a Rite of War that limits Heavy Support choices to one; such as Night Lords Terror Assault or Raven Guard Decapitation Strike.

For those after something with a focus on decimation of infantry forces in cover, 3x Phosphex bomb clusters, Ground Tracking Auguaries and Battle Servitor Control for 205pts will certainly do the trick, whilst retaining light Anti-Tank via its organic Las Cannons.

However, as with any Flyer in reserve, it’s reliant on reserve rolls to get it to the tabletop. This can be problematic at the best of times, especially when you have a critical window to strike targets in before they over run your lines as is often the case with Spartan Assault Tanks. As such, anything that assists your reserve rolls can be exceptionally beneficial – such as Command Rhinos.

If you’re against these, a tactic such as going flat out and bursting out of your deployment into the enemy lines as soon as possible can seriously knock the effectiveness of a Lightning arriving from reserve. It’s also very susceptible to concerted anti aircraft fire and having only 2 HP makes its susceptibility a very real weakness.

Concerted anti aircraft fire effectively forces a player to Jink the 225-265pt ground attack monster, meaning it’ll be snap firing – hardly conducive to its role for the wielding player. An opposing player should remember however that the Lightning does have a 4+ invulnerable against missiles – so you’re really looking to push to engage it with Autocannons or directed energy weapons like Las Cannons or Plasma Cannonades.

One of my two Primaris-Lightning Strike Fighters before the repaint into Imperial Navy Fleet colours.

In the next article I’ll be discussing the depths of a unit that I’ve discussed in this article; The Deredeo Dreadnought!

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