The Skitarii are the warriors of the Adeptus Mechanicus. They generally have more advanced weaponry and equipment than their Imperial Guard equivalents, due to the technological expertise of their Techpriest masters. Bionics are quite common and devices such as weapon links and sensory feeds are also common amongst them.
They are also the bodyguards of the Adeptus Mechanicus Survey teams. They were present at the First Encounter with the Eldar. The Eldar of the Biel-tan craftworld slaughtered the Skitarii present and only one ship was able to escape, though the crew died from lack of food and oxygen.
Skitarii is the Adeptus Mechanicus' official term for all military forces under its command (except for the Titan Legions, though the Legions may possess their own Skitarii forces). It is a term equivalent to 'the Imperial Guard' as it generally includes almost all combat personnel and armour that the Mechanicus possess. Skitarii are also known as Tech-Guard (or Tech Guard) to outsiders, and the singular form of Skitarii is Skitarius. "Skitarii" however is often also used in published background to reference only the augmented infantry1.
Skitarii are often armed with similar equipment to Imperial guard, though this can vary massively based on which Magos, Mechanicus Organisation or Forge World has raised and equipped them. There is little standardisation or central command of Skitarii across the Mechanicus, as each individual regiment is the personal army of a particular Magos. For example, the Skitarii of the Titan Legion Invictus are gene-bulked humans with weaponised limbs and augmetic armour4, whereas a different type of Skitarii investigated the dead world of Tarsis Ultra, and were seen to be wearing something similar in both function and design to Terminator armour.2
Skitarii can also be divided into several types, based on their battlefield role.5
- Hyspasists: These are the basic tech-guard infantry, and are armed with lasguns. They are more augmented than the normal Imperial Guardsman, and may have received emotional-suppression surgery.
- Sagitarii: These are the heavy weapon operatives. These only include dedicated heavy weapons squads, as heavy weapons attached to Hyspasist squads are still called Hyspasists.
- Balisteria: These are the artillery units. The range of artillery goes from Thudd guns to the massive Ordinatus pieces. This includes both the vehicle/machine, as well as the crews manning them.
- Cataphractii: These are the armour units. The range of armour goes from small transports to heavy walkers and superheavy tanks such as Baneblades.
- Praetorians: These are the elite of the Skitarii. They are super-enhanced (bionically/cybernetically/chemically/genetically etc) humans who are augmented with a huge array of cybernetics and heavy weapons. They are, essentially, a sort of counterpart to Obliterators. However, many old sources also suggest that Praetorians are instead an elite Skitarii type following the fashion of Imperial Guard storm trooper units, but with slightly more augmentations, putting them somewhere between storm troopers and Space Marines. In the short story Deux es Mechanicus, Praetorians are in fact servitors, rather than living humans. They move on tank treads and are armed with powerful weaponry, such as plasma cannons*3. All of these are completely plausible, and based on the preferences of the Magos who build them.
- Tribunes: These are the Skitarii officers. Though all skitarii bow to the authority of Adeptus Mechanicus Magi and Archmagi, these are all personnel of high ranking roles. The skitarii have low-level leadership roles, and these are filled by the tribunes.
- 1:Warhammer 40,000 4th Edition Rulebook pg.122
- 2:Planetkill (Anthology)
- 3:Deux es Mechanicus from Let the Galaxy Burn
- 4:Titanicus by Dan Abnett, Black Library
- 5:Citadel Journal, issue 21, Adeptus Mechanicus Detachments: Skitarii Tech-Guard of the Forge Worlds (1997)
- 6:Horus Heresy Collected Visions pg.41
- 7: Know No Fear (Novel), by Dan Abnett, Absolute//Overwhelm, Part 2, pg. 128