40K Retro: Three Decades of Jetbikes

Take a look back at the fastest rides of the GW universe – the jetbikes of the Grimdark.

Let’s break the jetbikes down by faction and go back in time with the minis.

 

Craftworld Eldar

Contained within the body of the jetbike are powerful anti-gravitic motors, allowing the craft to attain such great velocity that without an Eldar’s enhanced reaction speed it would be lethal to ride. Through subtle manipulation these motors can also send the bike into a steep climb or sharp dive, though its shape naturally inclines it towards level or upward flight. Long, curved vanes on either side of the bike allow for incredibly sharp mid-air turns. Like most Eldar technology the jetbike is mentally attuned to the natural psychic abilities of the Eldar. Small patches of psychotropic crystals, within the bike’s handlebars and the rider’s gauntlets, allowing the rider to control the craft through mental commands. For an Eldar to master the jetbike is an exhilarating challenge that can take years of practice to reach their full potential, but those who do are said to build a rapport with their steeds comparable to the horsemasters of legend.

Jetbike armament consists of twin-linked Shuriken Catapults, although special craft known as Shrieker Jetbikes instead mount a single Shuriken Cannon. Jetbikes are most commonly used by Guardian Jetbike Squadrons for a number of battlefield duties, particularly the Wild Riders of Saim-Hann. The only known Aspect Shrine dedicated to the jetbike are the Shining Spears, a rare group found on only a few Craftworlds, but they are so in tune with their steeds that they can perform complex maneuvers with but a single gesture. As well, many war-leaders of the Eldar are also known to ride into battle on jetbikes, including Farseers, Warlocks and Autarchs. Those Autarchs who were once a member of the Aspect Shrine themselves will often ride alongside Shining Spears into battle.

The current models are set up like sportbikes and look crazy-fast. It’s cute that GW modeled some without scatter-lasers.

The previous laid back cruisers looked more like they were ready for some long haul trips. 

And the original from the 1980s. You can still find these guys on eBay, but good luck getting them to stay on flying bases.

Dark Eldar

Reaver Jetbikes (riders are often referred to as Reavers) are the twisted Dark Eldar cousins of the Eldar Jetbikes. Using advanced anti-grav technology, these ultra-fast vehicles race ahead of the main force, able to strike at the most vulnerable locations in the enemy’s battle line.

Back in Commorragh, they perform in death-races of a Wych Cult‘s arena. Some of them receive their bike as a trophy on the arena floor, while others may have simply murdered or stolen their way to it. No questions would ever be asked even if a new contestant would appear on the tracks with a recognizable jetbike of another.

Piloted by members of Wych Cults, the bikes themselves are adorned with all manner of spikes, blades and trailing snares. The favored method of attack is in close combat, using the speed of the vehicle to rapidly close on the enemy and to slash with the hull mounted blades as the Reaver swoops past. Riders are highly proficient with this method of attack, able to disembowel and sever limbs with relative ease.

The pilots will often retool and adjust not only their bikes but also themselves in every way possible to gain an advantage over other Reavers, from wearing flexible ‘second skins’ that cut down air resistance to having their bone structure hollowed (much like Scourges) to cut down on their racing weight.

All blades all the time – the Dark Eldar Raiders will cut you to ribbons before you know they are there.

Going back to 3rd Editon we see their predesessors – all blades, chains and top-knots.  The Reavers have a fine heritage to embrace.

Harlequins

The current Harlequin Skyweavers are fantastic looking. They are variants of the current Craftworld jetbikes modified to take a passenger. What’s not to love? They are known to be highly ornate and decorated, making it stand out against the other decorated members of a Harlequin troupe. They are mostly decorated with symbols of the Laughing God. They are armed in a very similar way to standard Eldar Jetbikes, carrying twin-linked Shuriken Catapults and the rider a Close Combat Weapon. Very often riders also carry a Shuriken Pistol and sometimes the Shuriken Catapults get upgraded to a Fusion Gun or Shuriken Cannon. If the unit is designed for close assault, some riders exchange their close combat weapon for a Harlequin’s Kiss or Power Weapon and the squad can be led by a Troupe Leader. Harlequin jetbikes are also fitted with special Holofields to protect the rider which standard Jetbikes do not have.

The current Harlequin Skyweavers are fantastic looking. They are variants of the current Craftworld jetbikes modified to take a passenger. What’s not to love?

Now let’s go back to White Dwarf 107 in 1988. Trust me – that laughing cowling became quite a collectible bit for decades.

Necrons

For some reason everyone forgets about Necron Tomb Blades… They are …awkward.

The Imperium

Oh don’t think the Imperium didn’t get in on the action.

Great Crusade & Horus Heresy

Imperial jetbikes were common among the Space Marine Legions during the Great Crusade and the Heresy, typically operated by Sky Hunter Squadrons. The last known version was the Mk14 ‘Bullock’ jet-cycle, equipped with integrated auto-drive, and additionally, some were equipped with bio-scanners, energy-scanners, communicators, and auto-aim devices linked to the vehicle’s weapons. Standard weapons were twin forward-firing bolters. They could seat a single rider. The jet-cycle was capable of both flight and hover modes, and of aerial-drop separation (dropping out of drop ships before the ships land).

Modern Imperium

The technology used in the production of these jetbikes has long since been lost to the Imperium. The only jetbike known to survive into the 41st Millennium is Corvex, used by the Grand Master of the Ravenwing company of the Dark Angels chapter, currently Sammael.

Jetbikes and their technology are now distrusted by Mankind as being alien and inhuman, particularly in the examples of the Eldar and Tau. Sammael’s jetbike was built to the highest standards, mounting a plasma cannon and twin-linked storm bolters. It is possible that some Second Founding chapters of the Dark Angels maintain other examples of jetbikes in their armouries.

 

 

For quite a while the Master of the Ravenwing screamed across the skies on “the only operational jetbike in the Imperium”.  Apparently the Dark Angels didn’t look that hard because now we have these guys:

The Adeptus Custodes Gyrfalcon pattern jetbike. Now THAT is a spear! Eat your hearts our IG Roughriders.

The old Rogue Trader Marine Bullock jet-cycle.  Looking good Brother!

Don’t think the Imperial Army didn’t get in on the jetbike action.

The Horus Heresy

 

Finally we take a look at the Legion jetbike hotness from Forge World:

 

The Scimitar pattern jetbikes – all heavy weapons all the time. Note the similarity to the above Custodes jetbikes.

~Which ones are your favorite models and who is still rocking some of these on the tabletop?

  • NNextremNN

    Custodes jetbikes don’t have 40K rules (at least not now) and the other haven’t been seen for centuries so I think Samael is still the only one with a jetbike in 999.M41

  • Luca Lacchini

    Oh sweet IG jetbike, how I miss thee… and is that a teardrop rolling down my cheek whenever I look at the two I have collecting dust over that bookshelf, along a Guardsmen manned Land Speeder?

    • Cheyennevan

      Feeling your pain there. I have 10 IG jetbikes using as roughriders, and 3 IG Landspeeders as proxy Tauros vehicles.

      • Luca Lacchini

        My narrative-bent friends sometimes let me use my LS as an artillery spotter/recon unit (think of it as a WH40K Kiowa copter).
        I understand Land Raiders and Dreadnoughts being phased out of the Imperial Guards armory; but jetbikes and Land Speeders just hurt.

    • Goatsplitter

      Could be worse, I traded all mine away over 20 years ago for God only remembers. I really miss the two land speeders.

  • Shawn Pero

    Ork Deffkoptas are classified as Jetbikes as well

    • euansmith

      Whoppa-whoppa-whoppa-dakka-dakka-dakka-whoppa-whoppa-whoppa.

      • Nyyppä

        Ork version of S-O-S?

        • Raven Jax

          “In the event of a crash, you can no longer use your deffkopta to kill things. Please draw your sidearm and use that to kill things instead.” – Ork Deffkopta user’s manual

    • Andrew

      Gonna totally make some dead ‘ard Orky jetbikes one of these days.

  • DJ860

    I had a little giggle as I scrolled through the sleek, mobile looking Eldar bikes, then next up was the Necrons, which look like they’ve all crashed into a brick wall, crumpled, then continued to drive.

  • euansmith

    The Pete Knifton illustration of the louring Space Marine on his Bullock Jet Bike is one of my favourite 40k images. That rider really does not look best pleased to see us.

    • AircoolUK

      I loved his 40K work, especially the Squats and mining gangs.

    • Rafał Pytlak

      I bet that Marine name ends in “Dredd” and he is the law.

  • AircoolUK

    I’ve still got a couple of MK 14’s kicking around somewhere, still unpainted.

  • Walter Vining

    Lawmaster, with rapid-firing cannons and a range of 500 kilometers. Yours… if you can ever get it to work.

  • Sorien

    You’re lack of Deffkoptas is disturbing.

  • Sorien
  • luke-vdv

    I still prefer the 3rd edition Dark Eldar Jetbikes. So cool and speedy! It looked like just touching them could kill you.