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Warhammer 40K: The Malcador Heavy Tank

7 Minute Read
Jul 8 2024

Today we look upon one the Astra Militarum’s most ancient and almost forgotten warmachines – the Malcador heavy tank.

The Malcador is an ancient design still in use by the Imperial Guard. Thought to be older than the venerable Leman Russ, the Malcador is intended to fulfill the same Main Battle Tank role despite its larger size. The tank is commonly thought to be named after Malcador the Sigillite, known to have been a close adviser to the Emperor and for creating the Administratum. Just like its namesake the Malcador’s origins are obscure, and its usage across the Imperium is infrequent and rare, with some regions having never seen or heard of the tank.

Malcador Heavy Tank History

The Malcador dates back to the early years of the Imperium, although exactly when is a matter of mystery even to the Adeptus Mechanicus. Due to its name, it is thought the Malcador was introduced just after the Horus Heresy, a dark time of uncertainty when the Imperium was desperate for new war machines. Other Imperial records say the Malcador dates back to the period of the Age of Strife on Terra and during the early days of Great Crusade, there were thousands of these tanks rolled off the production lines of Forge Worlds of Mars and Voss. With much knowledge and production capacity lost, along with designs such as the Land Raider now reserved for an elite few, the Malcador may have been put into mass-production in an attempt to fill the void left by the apocalyptic fighting. Whatever the case may be, by the time of the 41st Millennium the Malcador has in many areas been entirely phased out of service. While a few Imperial Guard regiments continue using the Malcador out of a sense of tradition, in most cases the large part of existing tanks are either held in strategic reserves or relegated to ‘second line’ forces such as PDFs. As well very few Forge Worlds continue to produce Malcadors or replacement parts for them, though a few exceptions exist, most notably M’Khand Secundus in the Segmentum Pacificus.

It is known that Malcador Tank is a favourite vehicle of the Death Korps of Krieg, who look past the limited fields of fire of its weapons, appreciating it for its monstrous heavy armor and firepower – which mostly suited to the assault style of the Death Korps.

Technical Background

Somewhat larger and heavier than the more familiar and versatile Leman Russ, the Malcador’s bulk and heavy layers of armour plating give it improved durability. Its main armament is the venerable Battle Cannon while secondary fire comes from a hull-mounted Heavy Bolter and sponson-mounted Heavy Stubbers; in some tanks these weapons are replaced with Autocannons and Lascannons for additional firepower. The tank and its variants also mount a Searchlight and can carry a pintle-mounted Storm Bolter or Heavy Stubber and/or a single Hunter-Killer Missile.

While well-armed and durable the tank does suffer from several limitations. One is the fact that its primary weapon is mounted in a limited-traverse turret embrasure, while the hull’s shape and armoring further limits the firing arcs of its other weapons. This flaw can prove a liability on the chaotic battlefield, though an experienced commander can overcome it by supporting the tank with other combat elements. More damning to the design is its engine plant, a thermic combustor design more commonly used in agricultural and industrial machinery. While perfectly serviceable in its normal roles the engine is underpowered in relation to the Malcador’s size and weight and can be more easily knocked out by enemy fire. This poor engine performance and very poor fuel efficiency have been more responsible than any other factor for the tank’s demise in status.

Malcador Heavy Tank Variants

The Malcador has been modified into many variants over its millennia of service. Some are so rare, that they have not been seen on the battlefield in centuries.


Malcador Annihilator

The Malcador ‘Annihilator’ is thought to be a field refit of battle-damaged or incomplete Malcadors, replacing the Battle Cannon with twin-linked Lascannons and the hull-mounted Heavy Bolter with a Demolisher Cannon. While this attempt to increase the Malcador’s versatility by allowing it to perform in an anti-tank role against both regular and Super-Heavy Tanks is admirable, it remains too large and too slow to be a true “tank hunter” and lacks the durability or endurance to challenge true heavyweights like the Baneblade in open battle. When operating as part of a wider offensive though the Malcador ‘Annihilator’ can still prove its worth in the hands of a skilled crew.

Malcador Defender

The Malcador ‘Defender’ is one of the most unusual, and arguably effective, of the Malcador variants and is more common than the original design. Its limited-traverse turret embrasure has been entirely refitted with five Heavy Bolters providing complete 360° coverage around the tank, while the Demolisher Cannon and sponson weapons are maintained. Transforming its role into that of a breakthrough tank, the Malcador ‘Defender’ is a mobile fortress well-suited to close-quarters combat during urban and trench warfare, with the Demolisher used against enemy strongpoints and fortifications. The additional weaponry does require a larger crew, with eight troopers crammed into the tight, sweltering hull, and forces the commander to double as a heavy bolter gunner. That the tank seldom operates far from resupply or support helps mitigates some of the original design’s failings.


Malcador Infernus

The Malcador ‘Infernus’ is a flamethrower tank, though its role has been largely supplanted by the faster and more reliable Hellhound, and is more often found in second-line units such as Planetary Defense Forces or relegated to civilian duties. The tank mounts a massive Inferno Gun in its hull and tows a large fuel trailer behind it, where promethium is stored as separate chemicals before being mixed together in a chamber just behind the gun’s barrel. The resulting chemical ‘jelly’ jets out and sticks to any surface, burning with intense heat. While powerfully effective against enemy infantry, this huge flamer is also an effective mine-clearing device, using the sudden heat to detonate the explosives’ fuses.

However carrying a large amount of flammable fuel in a separate trailer does make for a tempting target and, if detonated by enemy fire, can result in a fiery explosion that incinerates tank and crew. Postings to an ‘Infernus’ are rarely well-received. Some unscrupulous commanders have taken to replacing the promethium with corrosive chemicals and acidic gases, turning the vehicle into a deadly toxic sprayer. This is especially common with regiments like the Death Korps of Krieg for when complete eradication of the enemy is ordered.

Besides its Inferno Gun the Malcador ‘Infernus’ also mounts two sponson Heavy Stubbers, which can be replaced with Heavy Bolters, Heavy Flamers, Autocannons and Lascannons. While the vehicle is equipped with a Searchlight it lacks typical Smoke Launchers, instead generating an impromptu smoke screen by injecting fuel into its hot engine. Some will also carry a pintle-mounted Heavy Stubber and/or a single Hunter-Killer Missile. Like other Malcador patterns the ‘Infernus’ still suffers from an underpowered engine, causing it to struggle on steep inclines and overheat.

Valdor Tank  Hunter

While sporting a different name, the Valdor Tank Hunter is an ancient variant of the Malcador super-heavy tank used by the Imperial Guard. It is one of the largest and oldest Tank Hunter used by the Imperium but is perhaps most notable for its use of arcane knowledge dating back to the Dark Age of Technology.

The system which sets the Valdor apart from other tank hunters is its primary weapon, the Neutron Laser Projector. The projector and its neutronic-coil arc-reactor, while more compact and less energy-intensive than comparable weapons such as the Shadowsword’s Volcano Cannon, still consumes much of the Valdor’s internal space. It is also risky to operate due to the relative lack of reactor shielding, especially if the containment coils are ruptured, but is nevertheless a powerful weapon most deadly against smaller tanks that lack the thick shielding and protective mass of large super-heavy vehicles.

A sponson-mounted Heavy Stubber serves as the Valdor’s secondary weapon, although it can be swapped out for an Autocannon, Heavy Bolter, Heavy Flamer or Lascannon, and it is equipped with a Searchlight and Smoke Launchers as standard. Other upgrades include a Dozer Blade, Extra Armour, a Hunter-Killer Missile and a pintle-mounted Heavy Stubber or Storm Bolter.


Who knows what other heavy tanks may be rediscovered by the Departmento Munitorum?

Author: Larry Vela
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