Why thank you Nevar!
Well, it may have taken me two weeks, it may have driven me even more mad than I already was, I may now be completely out of black paint, but I did it. I based all of the Orcas I have.
And some background to go with them. Vessels of the Kor'vattra Part 5: Kass'l
Fast and agile, the Kass'l or Orca gunship (not to be confused with the small transport dropship of the same name) is a common sight amongst Kor'vattra fleets and battlegroups, and over the Tau'cyr many a Kor'el and their ship has been saved from certain destruction by a valliant Kass'l squadron. An aging vessel, the Kass'l forms the third piece of the 'classic warship trio' of the Kor'vattra, alongside the Gal'leath and Il'fannor, and for a long time was the only escort-sized warship used by the Tau.
The Kass'l's long history of service with the Kor'vattra began in the First Sphere of expansion, at around the same time as the Il'fannor class was introduced, and is based on the large cargo shuttles that had long been used to ferry freight, goods and personnel from Gal'leath class starships to terrestrial locations. While the Il'fannor was being first laid down in response to a demand for a more economical alternative to the massive Gal'leath, another demand was made by the Kor'ar'tol for a small high-performance strike ship to counter the highly numerous Ork escorts being encountered in the Tau's first wars with the Greenskins, which were proving deadly against the Gal'leath battlegroups of the early Kor'vattra. In response, the Earth Caste almost completely re-worked the cargo shuttle design, keeping some of the basic hull structure but completely replacing the original engines with powerful new drives and the cargo space with heavy naval weaponry, as well as adding extra armoured plating, re-enforcing the internal structure, boosting shields and upgrading the sensors and communication suites to military levels. Somewhat infamously however, the Earth Caste were unable to create a gravitic drive capable of etheric translations that could fit on such a small vessel, and instead developed the large docking ports on Tau capital ships to extend the gravitic sheath in such a way that it could transport smaller ships. These 'grav-hooks', as they were soon named, would be used to carry the Kass'l into combat.
The result was a fairly effective escort in it's own right, but the Kass'l truly came into it's own after first contact was made with the Demiurg. Upon formalising an alliance and trading agreements with the Demiurg, the nomadic aliens worked with the Tau to develop a new form of weapon- the ion cannon. After perfecting the new technology, the Tau began to apply it to as many areas of combat as possible, equipping both vehicles and starships with ion weaponry, though the naval-grade ion cannons mounted on starships were far larger than the vehicle-based one many are more familiar with.
When the high-powered armour piercing capability of an ion cannon was mounted on the fast-moving Kass'l, it created a ship with a potent anti-ship punch and the mobility to bring it to bear wherever it was needed. This made the Kass'l a formidable ship, and they began to be readily deployed to guard the sides and rear of the much slower capital ships, or make long range strikes at enemy fleets in support of strike craft. One of the key uses of the Kass'l in the conflicts of the First Sphere however, were 'hunter-killer' missions. Used during wars with the Orks, a pair of Il'fannor class starships would travel near an Ork fleet, carefully staying just outside of their range. They would then disengage their attendant Kass'l, which would form a 4-ship squadron and proceed to launch a series of vicious hit-and-run attacks on key targets in the enemy fleet before falling back to their parent ships and disengaging at maximum speed. Such missions crippled several Ork fleets, and delayed numerous others until more substantial forces could defeat them, ultimately saving many new colonies from invasion and swinging the conflict decisively in the Tau's favour, though a considerable number of Kass'l were unfortunately lost during such raids.
Unlike other major powers, who use escorts independently to patrol regions of space or flank enemy fleets in engagements, the escorts of the Kor'vattra are primarily intended to directly support the capital ships, in much the same way as Fire Caste infantry are often used to support armour in ground battles. The Kass'l in particular is primarily used in Kor'vattra fleets as a rapid-response force, using their speed and agility to intercept threats to the main formation and neutralise them with their considerable firepower (directly equivalent to the Imperial Firestorm class frigate), or quickly moving to protect a threatened capital ship from enemy attack. Other uses within the Kor'vattra include search and rescue, scouting and convoy escort, and a few squadrons are permanently assigned to station defence forces, operating from an Orbital station to protect worlds from attack or guard trade routes. The Kass'l is even used to transport cargo on some occasions, and there exists a specialised transport variant for this very purpose, though the Kass'l gunship itself is a dedicated warship, and easily the match for any Imperial escort class. In fact, some naval analysts, observers and academics argue that it was the Kass'l, not the Lar'shi, that was the first purpose-built warship developed by the Tau.
Amongst the Kor'vattra, escort ships and their crews are greatly respected by the Fire Caste, who often liken them to their own support units. The Kass'l, with it's speed, heavy armament and use as a rapid-response force is often referred to as 'the Crisis Suit of the Kor'vattra' by battlesuit pilots, although Vehicle crews tend to consider them analogous to Hammerheads instead. There is much joking and friendly debate as to which comparison is 'correct'.
Though lacking the independence of other escort vessels, the nimble Kass'l nonetheless remains much loved by both it's crews and the crews of those ships it protects, and wherever a Kor'vattra ship is seen it is likely a squadron of Kass'l is not far behind.