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Space Marine Terminators - Warhammer 40k’s iconic elite warriors

Terminator armor is the Space Marines' most advanced form of power armor, offering an unrivalled blend of protection, maneuvrability, and firepower.

An Ultramarines Space Marine terminator wearing blue terminator armor with a white helmet

Space Marine Terminators are masters of brutal close-range engagements, able to deal out incredibly destructive volleys of fire and withstand almost any reply sent back at them. The enemies of mankind fear the Terminators; as well they should, for they are some of the most valiant and dangerous defenders of humanity, able to stand against the horrors that lurk between the stars.

In Warhammer 40k Terminator armor is the ultimate in personal protection. Thickly armored, heavily armed, surrounded by a halo of force fields, it is reserved for the elite of the elite of Space Marine forces, themselves among the most elite of all the Warhammer 40k factions that fight for the Imperium of Man.

Here’s everything you need to know about Space Marine Terminators and Terminator armor:

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What is Terminator Armor?

Terminator armor, also known as Tactical Dreadnought Armor, is deployed by Space Marines Chapters for missions so deadly that even conventional power armor would not be enough to survive. Engagements in the densely packed confines of hive cities, boarding actions against enemy ships, and purge missions aboard drifting space hulks warrant the use of Terminator armor.

Although less mobile than standard power armor, it can weather an immense degree of punishment, and return it with gusto. Terminator armor is made of thick armor plates of ceramite and plasteel, powered by servo muscles and synthetic fibre-muscle bundles.

Three Space Marine Terminators, heavily armored warriors in the blue-grey livery of the Space Wolves, bone-white livery of the Deathwing, and Yellow livery of the Imperial Fists

The suit packs plenty of advanced technology, including cogitators for target tracking and auspexes to pierce the fog of the battlefield. All Terminator suits are environmentally sealed.

Many Terminator suits bear an inbuilt teleport homer which, in concert with a ship or ground based teleporter system, allows Terminators to conduct devastating deep strike maneuvers. The flare of a Terminator teleport strike often heralds the sudden destruction of enemy leadership, or a life saving turn of fortune for beleaguered Imperial defenders.

A Space Marine Praetor in sea green Cataphractii Terminator armor, marking him as one of the Sons of Horus.

Origins of Terminator Armour

Terminator armor was first designed by the tech-adepts of the Mechanicum, the precursor to the Adeptus Mechanicus, during the Great Crusade. It fuses standard marine power armor with elements from heavy-duty industrial suits graded for hazardous environments. Several initial prototype designs were made, though these were not standardized until the production of Cataphractii pattern Terminator armor.

Types of Terminator Armour:

  • Mark I, II, III pattern – Initial prototypes which would evolve into the mass produced Cataphractii pattern
  • Cataphractii pattern – The first mass produced version, in widespread use during the Great Crusade
  • Indomitus pattern – The most widespread design, built during the Horus Heresy as an emergency measure to replace heavy losses. Less advanced than some other designs.
  • Tartaros pattern – The last pattern of armor that would see mass production during the Horus Heresy, and the most advanced Terminator armor for most space marine chapters.
  • Aegis pattern – Used solely by the Grey Knights, uses complex runes and wards that grants additional protection against daemons and Warhammer 40k Chaos forces in general.
  • Aquilon/Allarus pattern – Reserved for the Adeptus Custodes, and some of the most advanced armor in the entire Imperium of Man.
  • Various specialist patterns – Many of the Space Marine legions iterated on the design of terminator armor available during the great crusade, such as the Iron Hands with the Gorgon pattern. These are exceedingly rare, if not outright extinct by the time of the 41st Millenium.

A Space Marine in Cataphractii terminator armor, a heavy suit of power armor with massive shoulders

Cataphractii Terminators

Cataphractii pattern Terminator armor has distinctive slab-shaped shoulders which house additional shield generators. These improve the survivability of the armor, at the expense of reduced mobility and speed. Cataphractiii armor can be caught out in open terrain, but its added survivability makes it perfect for holding the line during engagements at close range or within tight confines.

Tartaros Terminators

While Cataphractii pattern sacrifices mobility in exchange for protection, Tartaros pattern does not. The most advanced pattern of the Horus Heresy period, it was only fielded in small numbers and is an extreme rarity in the 41st Millenium. It is generally regarded as the most advanced Terminator armor, except those suits reserved for the Grey knights or the Adeptus Custodes.

A first company force of Space Marine terminators, led by a Space Marine captain

Terminator armor in the 41st Millenium

Terminator armor is scarce in the 41st millennium due to attrition from constant combat. Surviving suits are considered some of the most holy relics in a Chapter’s arsenal.

Some such panoplies are cobbled together from multiple original suits, kept barely functional through ill-understood maintenance rites. New suits can be made by a scant few forge worlds, but not enough to offset the extensive losses suffered by the Emperor’s forces every year.

A Space Marine terminator librarian, wielding a force axe

Terminator armor users

Only a select few Space Marines are permitted to use Terminator armor. All must earn the Crux Terminatus (terminator honors) to wear this relic wargear. Both Primaris and Firstborn marines may earn this privilege.

For most Chapters, the armor is reserved for the veteran 1st company. Some such companies, such as the Dark Angels Deathwing or the Salamanders Firedrakes, have a reputation all of their own. In addition it is not uncommon to see a Terminator Chaplain, Terminator Librarian or Terminator Captain on the fields of battle for the additional protection and to inspire their battle brothers.

A squad of yellow-armored Imperial Fists Space Marine terminators, led by a Terminator Captain

Terminator Armor Deployment

A Terminator squad consists of between four and nine terminators and a sergeant. Most of the squad is equipped with storm bolters and either a powerfist or chainfist, while the sergeant carries a power sword. One in five terminators may wield a heavy weapon such as a cyclone missile launcher, heavy flamer, or assault cannon.

Some squads instead focus on melee, wielding paired lightning claws or a thunder hammer with storm shield. Others act as command squads, defending headquarters elements on the field of battle.

Terminators can deploy via deep strike teleportation, Thunderhawk gunships, Stormraven gunships, or aboard heavy tanks like the Land Raider or Repulsor.

Terminator armor first appeared in the classic board game Space Hulk – you can learn more about it on our list of the best Warhammer board games. Or there’s our guide to Warhammer 40k games on PC and console – as an iconic part of the setting, Terminators show up in many of the best 40k games.