Dark Angel Whirlwind

5th Edition

Whirlwinds in action
Load the Castellans!
Image: zigoR.de

Love them or hate them? There is something quite satisfying in dropping pie-plate templates over hordes of infantry, but what else are they good for?

This has been born on the back of an old 3rd Edition tactica written by Inkaras. It has been extensively revised and rewritten for 5th Edition 40K and updated again since the January 2011 DA faq update.

Compared to many other 40K units the Whirlwind is a refreshingly simple beast to use. So let's start from the basics…

1. Why take them?

The Whirlwind is a very attractive proposition for points-strapped DA armies requiring a bit of anti-infantry punch from long range. The Ordnance Barrage rules are such that distance guesswork is no longer a skill needed when using them effectively. You can use them in two ways now to fire: indirectly (not requiring LOS) or directly (requiring LOS). This is covered in the next section below. You also get to use a massive blast template. Even with average scatter of 3" its size means that hopefully something will still be over the target unit.

You also have a choice of ammunition to use at a maximum range that can reach a lot of table area. There isn't much that can effectively hide from it providing you deploy sensibly.

They are of use against any horde army with high armour saves and in these circumstances can make a huge impact — especially if fielded en masse.

Don't underestimate the value of pinning units either. It can totally wreak your opponent's plans whilst giving you more freedom to operate. The more time he's worried about which units going to get pinned next the more chance he's going to make a tactical mistake or a serious compromise in his gameplan. And with two (or more) Whirlwinds it just gets funnier.

It should also be mentioned that as it deploys usually out of view it can operate without serious risk of reprisal — unlike a Predator or Vindicator for instance. Its very position is its safety. If your opponent needs to deep strike or outflank to get to it then he isn't going go for something else.

The Whirlwind is all about being annoying.

2. What you get

The Whirly for what it does is very cheap, mainly because it is abased upon the Rhino chassis with the same AV values too. It also comes with some nice free equipment:

  • Whirlwind missile launcher

Of the greatest interest is obviously missile launcher. With this you get a choice of two ammunition types to fire, the Vengeance or the Incendiary Castellan missiles.

These are both of fairly moderate Str and AP. The real meat comes in the use of the 5" template and, with the Castellans of ignoring cover saves, very useful in the 5th Edition gaming environment. Helpfully the January 2011 now alllows the DA to choose which missile type they want to fire on a per turn basis as per Codex Space Marines — all in all a nice boost for our whirlies and about time too.

Given the similarity of the two missiles, the Castellan is the better choice despite its lower strength. Remember it isn't a tool to hit vehicles (although it can) so Str isn't such an issues here. But high AP is as it bypasses the armour saves of many.

  • Smoke launchers
  • Searchlight

Of these the first two are pretty much known quantities.

Smoke launchers

This now works as per Codex Space Marines and it allows the vehicle a 4+ cover save while smoke is in use.

You also get relatively thin armour as standard and this is the vehicles real downside, as it is really only proof against small arms fire. Autocannons and missile launchers are more than capable of hurting the Whirly, and these weapons (and equivalents) are pretty common in quantity in many armies. Rear armour value is a handicap if it is assaulted as it drags down all faces to its AV10.

3. What options are there?

The DA Codex allows a few options for useful upgrades:

  • Extra armour
  • A dozer blade
  • A hunter-killer missile
  • A pintle-mounted storm bolter.

But to be honest none of these are worth taking on the Whirlwind and here's why:

Extra armour

Useful on a transport yes, but not on the largely static Whirly. Spend the points elsewhere.

Dozer blade

Useful on transports and tanks, but not required on a vehicle that remains static for most of the time.

Hunter-killer missile

Keep well clear of this. Just not worth the points on a Rhino, well just not worth the points full stop.

Pintle-mounted storm bolter

The use of the storm bolter is greatly diminished by the fact that if used correctly, the Whirlwind should be firing its missiles every turn meaning it can't be fired at the same time anyway. Spend the points elsewhere.

4. A few points on moving and firing

Moving, firing and the Whirlwind can be a bit confusing so shown here are a few basics to get things rolling.

Whirlwind firing works like this

  • If the Whirlwind is stationary it can fire either its pintle storm bolter (if taken) or the missile weapon but not both weapon types together.
  • The missile launcher is an Ordnance weapon. This means you can opt to fire this directly using true line of sight, or indirectly, without true line of sight. Firing directly you scatter using 2D6 minus the vehicles BS as per usual for any blast weapon. Firing indirectly (barrage) you scatter the full 2D6 but you do not subtract your BS. In both cases if the weapon causes enemy models to be removed, the enemy unit takes a pinning test. The benefit of firing blind is that there is a –1 Ld modifier in the pinning test.
  • You may move a Whirlwind at combat speed and fire its pintle storm bolter as at Str4 it is a defensive weapon. Or, you can fire the missile launcher but only directly. But you can't fire the storm bolter and the missile launcher together in the same turn.
  • If you move at cruising speed it may not fire any of its weapons.

5. Whirlwind deployment

Due to its relative fragility and its indirect fire-capable weapon to initially deploy behind some kind of hard cover or at least out of LOS of any high strength weapon seems prerequisite. Unfortunately this isn't always feasible, in which case place behind another vehicle or partially hidden if possible. If you are forced to deploy in open ground angle the Whirlwind so it at least presents as much of its frontal armour to the greatest number of enemy units that threaten it.

In all cases though as the Whirlwinds missile launcher has a massive range you can safely deploy on the very back edge of your deployment zone and hammer away without the risk of not reaching anything. Just take care to position a Whirlwind so its missiles to cover as much table as possible — preferably with an objective or two in range — and generally avoid sticking it in a corner as it isn't a Basilisk!

It might be worth positioning a Dev squad or a tac combat squad with a heavy weapon or another tank nearby as a defensive deterrent against units deep striking, outflanking or Scouting or against roaming bikes and skimmers looking for the cheap Kill point from your Whirly.

6. Whirlwind tactics

As with most Space Marine vehicles, it is always preferable to use more than one. Other than that tactics are very very simple indeed — stay hidden and shoot.

And the best thing to shoot at is infantry models — preferably in large units — the Whirlwind is primarily an infantry killer. So make sure to prioritise your targets to inflict the maximum damage each turn.

Against MEQ

Here the best use of Whirlwinds is not so much in what they kill but in the psychological effect they have on your enemy. He's sitting there removing models (granted maybe not a lot but still) and wondering whether to weather the storm or send something in to put it out of action. Still, even a pinned unit or two of marines could be enough to swing a game.

Against non-MEQs

Then there's the added bonus of fighting non MEQ models like Eldar, Tau, Imperial Guard, Tyranids and Orks. Here the Whirly shine like the god of destruction it really is. To these they are about the same as the bigger brother Vindicator templates. No save due to AP and because of T3 they wound on a 2+ or 3+ depending on missile fired. It's almost as good against Orks.

Whirlwinds are great for thinning out large units of annoying Firewarriors or fast-approaching nids. Use the impact of the barrage template to soften up units before assaulting them — or just by tieing them up for a turn by pinning. Then move on to the next unit. It can be very frustrating.

Then there's two odd ones

Armoured companies… useless.
Tyranid Godzilla lists… forget it.

Other tactical stuff…

If you are in the unfortunate position of having the missile launcher blown off don't despair. The Whirly can earn its points for the remainder of the game using a variety of 'annoyance' tactics:

Active terrain

You can jam it into narrow parts of the battlefield — perhaps between two bits of terrain or the terrain and table edge — and force you opponent to either destroy it or detour around it. Either way its time and firepower wasted on a tank that can no longer do its primary job.

Additionally plugging holes in terrain is also a good use for these walls on wheels but once in position they are largely static. This can be very useful for creating fire lanes; forcing enemy units to take different routes across the battlefield; or in Cities of Death for creating additional obstacles for enemy troops and armour to negotiate.

The LOS blocker

The trick here is to roll it right up to an enemy heavy weapons unit and park it right in front, ideally blocking LOS beyond. In order to regain LOS the heavy weapons unit will either have to move (losing a turn of heavy weapon shooting) or attempt to destroy the Whirly for good. It's a turn wasted for your opponent and less firepower coming your way.

Tank shocking in turns 5 and 6

In objective based games, the front of your Whirly can be one of your greatest weapons. You can use the empty transport to Tank Shock and push an enemy unit out of scoring range of an objective. Remember that they don't have to fail their morale test (but that is a bonus) to be pushed back — but they do have to move out of the way and remain in unit cohesion. Just make sure you are lined up correctly the turn before, you wouldn't want to force one or two of his models closer to the objective by accident. If they fail their morale test so much the better as they have to fall back, however against Fearless or high Leadership units pushing back is as much as you can hope for.

Remember that although the enemy unit might be pushed back, you must have a scoring unit nearby to make the whole exercise worthwhile.


The Whirlwind being a tank can ram, but with a frontal armour of 11 and a maximum Ram Strength of 6 it's not going to work too well except under the best conditions or against similarly light(ish) vehicles and skimmers. As you'll be taking at least a Str5 hit in return, it seems like a risky thing to do so use with caution.

7. Conclusion

A Whirlwinds is a steal at 85 points. The ability to throw around a large blast template per turn is fantastic, and one that can pin at that. The Str4 AP5 ignoring cover saves can take out a couple marines with a solid hit, and is the bane of IG and Eldar armies. You've got your points back if you kill six marines. If you pin a unit once it might well change the course of a game.

The Heavy Support slots though are choc a bloc with excellent competition. However as long as your primary heavy hitting anti-tank capability comes from elsewhere in your list then honestly as a fire support unit the Whirly is a bit of a no brainer.

Hope you enjoyed the tactica.

Inkaras / Isiah

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