40K Lore: Dark Angels’ Ravenwing, Deathwing, Ironwing & More

The Dark Angels have six rare formations, some unused in millennia. Come loremasters and learn the secrets organizations of The Unforgiven.

The Dark Angels were the first – the original Astartes Legion deployed by the Emperor of Mankind. Over the Great Crusade, and down through the centuries they have taken to the battlefield in many rare formations – some unseen since the Horus Heresy. Some are well known, while others are almost legend. Let us take you through what is known:

The Dark Angels fielded six specialized formations called Wings of the Space Marine Legion during the Great Crusade and Horus Heresy.


The Ravenwing is a highly specialized formation where speed is more important than heavy firepower. To this end, all of the marines in the company ride into battle on Bikes or Land Speeders on land, including specialized vehicles such as the Land Speeder Vengeance and Darkshroud. In the air, the Ravenwing employs Dark Talons and Nephilim Jetfighters. The Ravenwing’s hidden role within the chapter is that of mobile hunters, eternally prowling for their traitorous ancestors, The Fallen. Instead of the usual dark green panoply of the rest of the chapter, the Ravenwing’s armour and vehicles are painted jet black, echoing the original colours of the Dark Angels Legion. The Ravenwing also contains specialized sub-formations, such as Ravenwing Command Squads and Ravenwing Black Knights, the latter of whom are the most hardened veterans of the Ravenwing with access to the 2nd Company’s Inner Circle. Ravenwing Squads come in two primary varieties, attack or support.

The origin of the Ravenwing dates back to pre-Imperial times; originating from a mounted cavalry section of The Order who rode black horses and “could survive alone in the deadly forests of Caliban, heroic figures in matt black armour and winged helms.” While its title originates from Caliban, its role was designed by the Emperor during the Unification Wars as part of the Hexagrammaton.


The Deathwing is unique among the Space Marine chapters in that the entire Dark Angel’s First Company fights exclusively in Terminator armour. The company’s armour is a bone white colour, rather than the dark green of the majority of the Chapter, or the black of the original Legion . This alteration of the color scheme applies only to the Dark Angels, not to their successor Chapters. The Deathwing’s insignia is a variation of winged sword worn by the rest of the Chapter – the blade of the sword is depicted as being broken in Deathwing iconography. More so even than the regular Dark Angels, the Deathwing are notoriously stubborn and resistant, refusing to buckle under extreme pressure from enemy advances, even when it would be more advantageous to retreat.

The Deathwing is not solely a tactical formation – promotion to the Deathwing also means that an individual is bestowed many of the darkest secrets of the Chapter. The most closely guarded of these secrets is that of the betrayal of Luther and the Fallen, and the subsequent fate of their Primarch, Lion El’Jonson.

The Deathwing itself contains multiple specialized sub-formations, such as Deathwing Command Squads and the dreaded Deathwing Knights, who comprise the elite of this already veteran Company.



Ironwing was developed by the Emperor himself in the Unification Wars for the purpose of exterminating threats to mankind too dire to be allowed to endanger the coming Great Crusade. Ironwing units were equipped with heavily armored vehicles such as Land Raiders and Dreadnoughts for their missions.

Here is an card from EPIC showing three of these formations. The Land Raider Company when used by the Dark Angels was named “Ironwing”


The speciality of Dreadwing was total warfare where the voted-lieutenant bearing title Dreadbringer used Destroyer Marine Squads supported by other types of squads to bring total anihilation of a foe on specific battlefield. The Dreadwing utilized mass armored assaults of Land Raiders, Spartan Assault Carriers, Mastodons and Fellglaives with advanced weaponry. They were also known to employ sinister and shunned weapons of mass destruction such as Phosphex Rad and Vortex WeaponsAs of M41, the unit no longer exists.


A Great Crusade era formation, consisting of Assault Squads with Boarding Shields. The Stormwing specialized in naval boarding operations. As of M41, the unit no longer exists.


The Firewing was one of the six “wings” of the Hexagrammaton during the Great Crusade and Horus Heresy. Its purpose is not known, lost to the mists of time. Like all Dark Angels wings save the Deathwing and Ravenwing it did not endure into the 41st Millennium. There are however, heraldric links between the Firewing and the Consecrators, a Successor Chapter of the Dark Angels.

~Secrets within Secrets. How many of these did you know of?

  • James Regan

    weird that that marines just sort of stopped using anything but the first company for surgical boarding strikes by 40k- some of the other re-organisations make sense, but why did they lose their specialised boarding squads in favour of less well equipped units or having to rely on their veterans- obviously effective enough against human space ships anyway, but having more poorly equipped troops boarding against orks or eldar seems to make no sense, assuming you can’t always just send the 1st company equivalent.

    • Lord Fangio

      If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say the Stormwing had a very high attrition rate. If you are changing your organisation from 10,000s of troops to just 1000, then it makes little sense to keep such a specific skill set that needs high recruitment rates.

      Terminator armour can do the job better than any boarding shield. If not available then normal marines with storm shields or boarding shields (if they still exist – haven’t really read of them outside of HH books), can do the job. They don’t need to be grouped into a specific wing anymore

    • Bernd Lurk

      10k years is a lot of time. Assume the Dreadwing is sent to the other end of the universe in a secret mission and gets wiped out (like lost in the Warp or om-nom-nommed by some Nids, including some heroical mass suicide of the guys left), then the best tech and specialists are gone, including their ships. Then some blue guy comes along and reforms the structure of the legions and the first thing cut are the ordered reinforcements. Maybe the guy in charge dies on occation and nobody asks about the lost brothers under his command (they are surely fine and we have our problems here in the current war).
      Then you cut the order of 500 boarding shields because there is no room in the new army structure and you can use termies instead.
      Then you distribute your forces into equal parts, now you need some losses here and there, one/two forge worlds burning to the ground and you are left with the basics: power armour & bolters.
      Then your hover bikes get shot down, but service and training was difficult anyways, so just use normal bikes instead because mass production is really cheap…

  • batweb

    I thought the fluff was now the wings represented the emperors original 6 legion formations where each one had a specific role. Then became an ad-hoc designation within the DA once they had been reformed into companies etc..
    So you could be a tactical marine of 2nd squad 3rd company and also in the Dreadwing, when the Deadbringer called the Dreadwing to form you left your normal job to go off phosphexing or whatever.
    Why the formations became permanent after the heresy is still a mystery.

  • 6Cobra

    Emperor: “This threat is like no other we have faced. It is a threat to mankind so dire that it imperils the very Great Crusade! Against a threat like this, I must unleash a military power unlike any other ever assembled. Send in… the ten Landraiders of the Ironwing!!”

    Which in addition to being not a uniquely incredible force for only the gravest threatds (even if it was a thousand Landraiders,) it’s also redundant with the Dreadwing which uses a Landraider-heavy armored assault in conjunction with phosphex.