Imperium of Man (41st and 42nd Millennium)
“In the grim darkness of the 41st Millennium, there is only war.” This is the starting slogan of Game Workshop’s Warhammer 40K Sci-Fi universe, where mankind is besieged by many threats in the form of alien and traitor attacks. In order to defend its vast domain, the Imperium of Man employs armies equipped with highly advanced and slightly less so (but present in almost unlimited numbers) vehicles. One of these is the huge Macharius heavy tank.
The Warhammer 40K universe
The Warhammer 40K universe is set at the end of the 41st and the start of the 42nd millennia in the future. While many different factions (T’au, Necrons, Eldar, Orks, to name some) are part of the large universe, the main protagonist is the Imperium of Man. This is a vast galaxy-spanning human civilization besieged by many external and internal threats (aliens, heretics, demons, to name a few). The Imperium of Man is led by the immortal God-Emperor, who has remained immobile for over 10,000 years on the golden throne on Terra (Earth). The Emperor is worshiped as a God who protects his people from many threats.
The Imperium is a totalitarian regime in which untold billions of Imperium citizens live under harsh conditions, surrounded by oppression from their planetary lords, technology stagnation, fear of the Xenos (aliens), with only the faith in the God-Emperor that keeps them going forward. In order to defend Humanity, the Imperium calls to service fast armies of supersoldiers (Adeptus Astartes/Space Marines), Armies of the Tech Priesthood of Mars, and from its many Forge Worlds (controlled by the Adeptus Mechanicus), the ever-vigilant Inquisition, and many other military organizations. Lastly, but probably the most important and the one that always responds first, are the countless billions of soldiers of the Imperial Guard (Astra Militarum). These ordinary humans have to fight the horrors of the Universe with nothing more than a Lasgun (basically an AK 47 of the future) and faith in the God-Emperor. They are supported by countless armored vehicles, including tanks, such as the immense Macharius Heavy tank.
Warhammer 40K is the property of Games Workshop company (also its sister company, the Forge World, which sells the Macharius scale models), together with other franchises like Warhammer Fantasy or the Age of Sigmar. Games Workshop is well known for selling their Warhammer 40K models, along with different types of accessories necessary for painting and assembly of these models. It also possessed a vast library (Black Library) that includes a series of rules and storybooks that describe many different stories of this – to some – fascinating science fiction universe. This company traces its origins back to 1975 in London when a small workshop for building and selling wooden game boards was opened. During the early 1980s, the first series of board games, that would eventually evolve into the Warhammer (both fantasy and Sci-fi universes), appeared. Over the years, these would evolve into one of the largest and best-known board games in the world.
History of the Macharius Heavy Tank
Given the nature of the Warhammer 40K setting, spanning a history of over 40 millennia old, things are often described as being lost or forgotten. Such is the case of the Macharius tank, which is described as having been used in the distant human past, but due to huge cataclysmic events, simply forgotten. Its design and construction methods were understandably lost in the vast and sometimes abandoned archives of many distant forge worlds (worlds involved in the production of various types of equipment, spaceships, military vehicles, and weapons) spread across the known Universe. On one such forge world, named Lucius, in search of old technologies long since lost, Magos (basically meaning engineer) Nalax came across fragments of a heavy tank. After years and years of painstaking research, he finally gathered all available information, which allowed him to finally reconstruct the long-forgotten heavy tank. He then went to the main forge world of Mars to petition the High Fabricator-General (essentially the highest authority of all forge worlds) for this new design to be formally accepted. Unfortunately for Magos Nalax, he never lived to see the final verdict of his petition, as the whole acceptance process took over 200 years. After years of testing and tedious discussions, this tank was finally approved for production and received the name Macharius in honor of one of the greatest generals of the Imperial Guard, Lord Commander Solar Macharius.
At the same time when the production of the Macharius was approved, forge world Lucius received the STC (Standard Template Construct, which refers to a computer possessing the necessary schematics on how to build certain technologies, ranging from simple tools to spaceships) for the production of the massive Baneblade super-heavy tank. It appears that the work of the Magos Nalax would be forgotten. But due to the huge demand for weapons of war and the slow production of the Baneblade, it was decided that the Macharius would be put into service. The Macharius was initially supplied to the newly created Death Korps of Krieg regiments, which specialized in siege and attrition warfare. It was later supplied to various units spread across the Galaxy as well.
The real-life design inspiration of the Macharius (and most other Imperial Guard vehicles) mostly consists of World War One and World War Two vehicles. With the hull and suspension units being taken from the First and the armament and turret design from the Second World War.
The Macharius hull can be divided into several different components. These are the rear positioned engine compartment, central fighting compartment with the turret placed on top, front driver compartment, and the two large suspension compartments. The Macharius tank is constructed using a combination of welding and bolted armor plates.
The superstructure of the Macharius occupies a large portion of the tank’s center and rear, partly extending over the rear parts of the tracks. While most parts of the Macharius’ armor plates are flat, a portion of the front superstructure armor plate (above the driver’s compartment) is placed at a 45° angle. While the flat armor provided relatively less protection than angled armor of the same thickness, it would be necessary in order to increase the internal space needed for the large crew, ammunition, and other equipment. Two protected observation ports and what could be some sort of camera or other sighting device are placed on this plate.
The driver’s compartment is placed on the vehicle’s right front side. This compartment has a simple box shape with a small cupola, which has five observation ports, placed on top of it. In front of it, another single-piece hatch with an observation port is located. On its left side, a firing point armed with heavy stubbers is placed. The weapon mount has a small gun sight and a larger armored periscope on top of it. While the driver’s side view is partially blocked by the suspension and track frame, the top observation ports provide a limited field of vision to the sides.
Engine and suspension
The Macharius is powered by an LC400 V18 P2 engine that can run on any type of fuel. The fuel is stored in two large tanks placed on both sides of the engine. Additional fuel can be carried in two horizontally placed fuel drums at the rear of the vehicle. The overall driving performance for a tank built so far in the future is quite poor, with the maximum speed being 26 km/h and the off-road speed being even less at 18 km/h. There is no information about its operational range. The engine itself is positioned in the rear of the vehicle. It can be reached either through a two-part hatch or a larger single-piece metal plate with a ventilation grill located on top of the engine compartment. The engine is equipped with two large exhaust pipes.
The Macharius’ suspension and track frame are completely enclosed by armored shields. This overall design is heavily inspired by the British tanks from the First World War. The suspension consists of 9 road wheels and an unknown number of return rollers. The drive sprockets are likely located to the rear, while on the front, an idler with a track tension screw is placed. The tracks are mostly completely exposed to enemy fire, and given their large size, can be easily destroyed, leading to immediate immobilization.
The inspiration for the Macharius turret comes more or less from the German Panzer II tank. It has the same overall basic shape, being slightly enlarged and with some other differences. The Macharius turret has a hexagonal shape with the round commander’s cupola placed on the right side. The rear armor plate is slightly angled. The side armor consists of two plates. The rear smaller one narrows toward the back armor plate. The longer front side plates also narrow toward the gun mantlet. The gun mantlet is surrounded by two highly curved plates on both sides. Above the gun mantlet, a movable armor plate serves to provide additional protection when the guns are in a level position. The turret’s top armor is mostly flat and slightly curves toward the gun.
On top of the turret, there is what appears to be a round-shaped ventilation port protected with an armored cover. Next to it is a protected telescope sight. What possibly is a targeting acquisition sight is located on the left side. Behind it, a small hatch is added to the rear of the side armor. Given its size, it seems unlikely that it is used for removing spent cartridges. On the back of the turret, a large three-part storage bin is installed.
On the right side of the turret top, a large round-shaped commander’s cupola protrudes out. A two-part hatch is placed on top. In order for the commander to have a good overall view of the surroundings, he is provided with 16 small vision ports.
The main armament of the Macharius consists of twin-linked large battle cannons placed in the turret. These are 120 mm smoothbore cannons that fire armor-piercing high-explosive rounds (APHE). With this armament, the Macharius is ideal for dealing with enemy armor but also large concentrations of infantry thanks to its large explosive blast radius. The total ammunition load for these two guns is 40 rounds. The turret can rotate 360o, while the elevation of the main armament ranges from -2° to +28°.
Secondary weapons consist of two hull-positioned heavy stubbers, with two more placed on the sponson mounts in the hull sides. The heavy stubbers are basically equivalent to modern-day heavy machine guns and operate the same way. The weapon mount is protected with a round shield that rotates as the stubbers move. The firing arc of the side sponson mounts is 20° to 130° and the traverse appears to be around -10° to +10°. This unusual firing arc essentially prevents these guns from firing directly forward. The gunners observe their target through small vision ports. To the rear of the sponson mounts, a large square-shaped hatch is placed.
The sponson weapons can be replaced with either two heavy flamers or two heavy bolters. Heavy bolters are enlarged machine guns that are specially designed to fire rocket-propelled and mass-reactive 2.5 cm shells simply known as bolts. The hardened tip is capable of penetrating most infantry armor (and light vehicles), obliterating the target with its explosive charge from within. The heavy flamer is basically an enlarged flamethrower with extended range and potency for destruction. The ammunition for the heavy stubbers consists of 1000 rounds and 600 rounds for the heavy bolters. One more heavy stubber can be added on the commanded cupola, which has to be operated by him. The Macharius can also be outfitted with a one-shot Hunter-Killer anti-armor missile launcher.
The overall turret armor was 220 mm thick, while the gun mantlet was 150 mm thick. The superstructure is 200 mm thick and the hull 150 mm thick. This overall armor thickness, together with the bolted armor, does not look very impressive for a vehicle produced in the far future. Its strength probably relies on the materials used in the construction of its armor plates. They are probably made using futuristics materials that are extremely resistant to heat, ballistic impacts, and other weapons. For additional protection and tactical use, smoke launchers can be installed on the tank.
Given its immense size, the Macharius needs a large crew in order to work properly. In the turret, the commander, gunner, and two loaders are positioned. In the hull are the driver, comms-operator, (radio operator), and two more gunners. The comms-operator is tasked with operating the two hull positioned stubbers. The hull gunners each operate a sponson weapon on the hull sides. It is highly likely that the Macharius was provided with a number of targeting, communication and other cogitators (computers in Warhammer 40K) to help the crew better operate the vehicle.
The Macharius tank’s first major combat use was during the 17 year-long sieges of Vraks, the capital city of the planet Vraks Prime. The Imperial authorities were overrun by insurgents who then proceeded to plunder the enormous war material storage depots present on the planet, including tanks, artillery, and other weapons needed to prepare for the Imperial retaliation. The capital Vraks was reinforced with many trenches, minefields, bunkers, and other defensive systems. The Imperium responded by sending in the 88th Siege Army to retake the planet, composed of units taken from the Planet of Krieg which were specialized in siege warfare. The subsequent battle lasted 17 years, leading to some dozen or so millions of dead and the complete destruction of Vraks Prime. The Macharius was used in this operation by the 88th Siege Army, providing the Imperials with strong fire support. Thanks to its long tracks, it was capable of crossing the many trenches that covered the killing fields of Vraks. Following the end of this campaign, the Macharius was slowly distributed to various other Imperial armored formations.
Sub-version based on the Macharius
The Macharius tank had two versions with a different main armament, along with several other variants based on the chassis.
A specialized anti-tank sub-version of the Macharius is the so-called Macharius Vanquisher. It is named after its improved main armament, the twin-linked Vanquisher cannons. These cannons fire special anti-tank ammunition at high velocity. Besides the change in the main armament, the secondary weapons are unchanged.
Another variant of the standard Macharius tank is the Macharius Vulcan. Like the previously mentioned Vanquisher, its name derives from its new main armament, the five-barrelled Vulcan Mega-Bolter. Two of these are mounted in the turret instead of the battle cannons. They are able to fire over a thousand rounds per minute and are excellent at destroying enemy infantry formations and lightly armed targets. In order to accommodate the extra ammunition needed, the crew had to be reduced to six crew members.
This version of the Macharius, unlike the previously mentioned vehicles, received a number of overall design modifications in order to accommodate the massive and extremely potent Omega-pattern Plasma Blastgun. This weapon (while prone to malfunctions or even explosions) creates extensive heat that then melts any armor without any trouble. In order to house the massive weapon, it was placed inside a new rear open-top fighting compartment on top of the Macharius hull. Additional changes include the removal of the two superstructure positioned stubbers. The inspiration for the vehicle was probably taken from German World War II self-propelled vehicles (like the Wespe or Marder series) that usually featured a powerful gun but only limited armor protection.
Praetor Armoured Assault Launcher
The Praetor is basically equivalent to a modern-day MLRS (Multiple Launch Rocket System). It uses the chassis of the Macharius tank with a front-mounted fighting compartment with two front weapon mounts. To the rear, a large rocket launcher can be raised or lowered under armor. Depending on the need, this vehicle can be equipped with different types of missiles, including anti-vehicle, anti-air, etc.
Gorgon Heavy Assault Transport
The Gorgon was designed to fulfill the role of a transport vehicle on the front lines, mainly for short distances. It is capable of transporting a whole platoon of some 50 men. While heavily armored, it is completely open-topped, exposing the men inside to enemy projectiles that come from above. Another noticeable feature is the large forward-mounted armored ramp.
Crassus Armored Transport
The Crassus is another type of transporter. In comparison to the Gorgon, it is fully enclosed. It is armed with four weapon mounts. There is a large hatch on the rear of the vehicle that acts as the entry point for the infantry that is being transported.
While the Macharius looks intimidating, the creators of this vehicle took inspiration from historical tanks and kitbashed them without much consideration of how its overall design would function. For example, while it is heavily armored, its tracks are completely exposed and present a huge target. The maximum speed is described as being less than 30 km/h. On the other hand, it fits perfectly into the Imperial Guard’s overall aesthetics and logic. For the Imperial Guard, more advanced weapons are rare while less advanced vehicles are used in such huge numbers. The Guard often employs simple tactics, counting on an overwhelming force of men, armor, and artillery which is enough to bring down any kind of resistance but not without huge cost in life and war materials.
|10.9 x 7 x 4.8 m
|8 (Commander, Gunner, Driver, Two Loaders, Radio Operator and two sponson weapon Gun Operators)
|LC400 v18 p2 Multi-Fuel
|26 km/h on-road, 18 km/h off-road
|150 to 220 mm
- W. Kinrade (2007) Armour Volume FIve The Siege Of Vraks – Part One, Forge world