The Whirlwind is an artillery support vehicle used by the Space Marines, it is a mobile multiple missile launcher along the same lines of the modern M270 MLRS. Another variant of the Space Marine Rhino, the Whirlwind concept first appeared as a conversion of the Rhino in the pages of White Dwarf 117 magazine in September 1989. The first actual Whirlwind kit was released by Games Workshop in 1995 during the 2nd edition of Warhammer 40,000. That original model was essentially a Rhino plastic kit with an additional metal turret composed of multiple missile launcher tubes. With the release of the 4th edition of Warhammer 40,000, the a new Whirlwind model was released based on the newly-designed Space Marine Rhino. This latest version of the Whirlwind features a fully-plastic turret assembly.
|MK I Whirlwind Circa 1989, author unknown|
Traditionally a highly mobile force, the Space Marines do not use the same array of artillery as the Imperial Guard. The Whirlwind is their sole artillery vehicle. The Whirlwind's missile launcher holds several missiles which are used to bombard enemy positions in preparation for attack. Originally, the missiles were mainly anti-personnel in nature. The 4th edition Codex Space Marines gave Space Marine players the ability to choose between two types of missiles for the artillery tank. The original Whirlwind's missiles were named Vengeance Missiles and remain anti-personnel. Introduced in the codex, Castellan Missiles are not tipped with conventional warheads per-se. Instead, they allow the Space Marine player to deploy a minefield on the battlefield in the same fashion as the actual CBU-78 Gator bomb. Codex Dark Angels introduces a third missile type know as Incendiary Castelleas which is a hybrid between the Vengeance missile and a firebomb, able to ignore cover by engulfing an area in flames.
According to the background information, the Whirlwind is a post-Horus Heresy design and is therefore not utilized by Chaos Space Marines. This justified the absence of Whirlwinds in the Chaos Space Marine army list.
Whirlwinds have also made other appearances in other media. They are fieldable units in the game, Epic 40,000 Final Liberation. They can also be fielded by the Space Marine faction in the Warhammer 40,000 Dawn of War RTS game. However, these Whirlwinds were armed only with vengeance missiles.
Additional Whirlwind Variants
The Whirlwind Hyperios variant of the Whirlwind was first seen in the Games Workshop sourcebook Imperial Armour: Volume 2 - Space Marines and the Forces of the Inquisition. It is essentially a standard Whirlwind armed with a special Hyperios anti-aircraft missile launcher instead of the usual Whirlwind Launcher. The Hyperios launcher's missiles are much more powerful than the standard Whirlwind's Vengeance missiles, but do not affect as large an area as they have a reduced blast radius. In essence, the Hyperios acts as a surface-to-air, anti-aircraft missile carrier. This variant came about to fill a tactical gap in Space Marine forces since they do not have dedicated anti-aircraft platforms as the Imperial Guard does.
The Hunter is a special variant of the Whirlwind seen only in the game Epic: Armageddon. It effectively fills the niche of the Hyperios (which does not appear in the game) as the Space Marine army's only dedicated anti-aircraft component.