At the moment it is hard to image that the Thunderhawk could fly. Let alone be an effective aerial combat vehicle considering it's un-aerodynamic 'blocky' style. It looks like it would fly about as well as a brick. And a very big, and heavy, brick at that. Yet it is put forward in the background as being superb at its role. It seems to out perform many a modern day jet fighter (and space shuttles!). This post is my take on the design concept. An attempt to explain away how the Thunderhawk works in principle, and why the STC design is the way it is.
The Thunderhawk is an aerofoil-proxy design. It uses power-shields (similar in concept the power-canopy for Rogue Trader p.124) to form a proxy aerodynamic surface. This allowed the STC designers to kill two birds with one stone: not only would the shields deflect air and act as a proxy aerodynamic surface - but it would also stop bullets! (and bird strike)
In action: the shield (power-canopy) at the front cuts through the air, and because it's a shield it can be 'razor sharp' and frictionless. At hypersonic speeds this fore shield would create vacuum behind it, with the air rushing in around to contact the flat sides of the Thunderhawk and straight through the engines.
Small arms bullets would also be defected, but as they are heavier than air can't be sucked in as much as air and so wont go though the engines (which is a good thing) and if they are the nature of power-fields (as I describe them would soften the bullet)
Oh, and bird number three to kill: As it is friction less it also makes an excellent heat shield for entering planet's atmosphere from Space. Ideal for orbital drops.
Those aren't wings they're anti-gav systems!
The problem with wings is that the need a decent atmosphere to function. On thin atmosphere worlds they're a bit useless especially with a heavy tank that thinks it's bird. Conversely on thick atmosphere worlds; friction is a big problem (not with those shields though!).
Another important point is durability. Renegades and aliens aren't always happy to see Space Marines and have a tendency to open fire on sight. Wings are usually a good thing to shot at. So the Thunderhawk doesn't have wings, but heavily armoured pylons housing anti-gav systems and fat guns on the end.
It's a brick
Bricks fall pretty good; much the same as a Thunderhawk crashing through the atmosphere. Wings are we know them on planes can be a bit weedy and sheer of at hypersonic speeds, so the STC designers wouldn't use them. Bricks hurt if they land on you, planes are a bit light and just burn up on impact with the ground. Whereas a downed Thunderhawk makes a huge hole ("For the Emperor! Even our death will count towards final victory" - some random space marine being well 'ard 😀 )
Hearing feedback is very important to me in developing my ideas. Much of my designs are inspired, and crafted, by chatting to fans on forums before snowballing into a full concept you'll find here. I would like to thank all those who have contributed critiques and participated in discussions over the years, and I would especially like to thank all those who commented on this specific topic. If you would like join in, you are most welcome!
To support my work: Connect