The Thunderhawk Gunship is a large, heavily armed transport aircraft that can sometimes be found in Space Marine armies. In the Warhammer 40,000 game, it can only be fielded under specialized conditions and is rarely seen. It is seen far more frequently in Epic, as there are more opportunities to field them, even in flights of multiple gunships. Its most important role in Epic is transporting entire detachments of Space Marines. The first models were in Epic scale, initially a blocky square ship with large roof mounted turret and then the later design which has been reproduced in 40K scale.
|1995 Release of an all metal Thunderhawk|
In-game, it can transport many more Space Marines than most other units in the game. The Thunderhawk Gunship has space for at most thirty standard Space Marines, although it can also transport other aspects of the Space Marine army. It can even fit a full bike squadron or several larger attack bikes. In the background material, the Thunderhawk has been described to contain an armory, and an apothecary and a small number of techmarines are usually assigned to each gunship.
The Thunderhawk Transporter is a specialized variant of the Thunderhawk. In 2006, a resin kit of the Transporter was released by Forge World and rules for it were released with the 2006 update of Imperial Armour. This version is comparatively lightly armed, but can carry three Dreadnoughts, two Rhinos (or variants), or a Land Raider straight into combat.
Games Workshop developer Gav Thorpe experimented with house rules in a December 1997 White Dwarf article to give the Thunderhawk the capacity to transport vehicles. (At the time, the Thunderhawk was the only aerial transport in the Marine arsenal). There was the Intrepid payload, consisting of ten space marines and an underslung Rhino, to allow marines to deepstrike. There was also the Furioso payload where there is the option to replace a five-man squads with a Dreadnought (1-6 substitutions), as a way to make Dreadnoughts more deployable as they were otherwise not frequently used due to their slow speed. Gav also proposed a loadout where three Rhinos (or its variants) could be accommodated in its storage bays (recommending that such a cargo be paired with a second Thunderhawk carrying three ten-man squads), or even one Land Raider; he suggested there could be disassembly and reassembly times. It is likely that the Thunderhawk Transporter resulted from this.
These ships make brief appearances in Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War; whenever a Space Marine vehicle (i.e. a Dreadnought, Rhino, Predator or Land Raider) or a Space Marine HQ is requisitioned, a Thunderhawk flies in to deliver the vehicle/HQ to the battlefield before flying off again.