Sardaukar are the soldiers of House Corrino who rules the known universe (the Imperium) at the time of Dune. Until Paul Atreides organizes the Fremen on Arrakis, they are the foremost soldiers in the universe and are feared by all. The Sardaukar are the key to House Corrino's hold on the Imperial throne. They are sometimes referred to as House Sardaukar, suggesting the emperor's elite troops enjoy high social status in Herbert's feudal society.
Sardaukar are trained from infancy on the planet Salusa Secundus, House Corrino's original (and environmentally barren) homeworld as well as the formal Capital world of the Empire prior to the Butlerian Jihad. Known to the rest of the Empire as the Emperor's Prison Planet, Salusa Secundus is home to the vicious training grounds of the Sardaukar, who fight voraciously in a mock-up of natural selection - ensuring that only the best enter formal Imperial service. Like the Fremen on the planet Dune, the intense difficulties of simply surviving the barren terrain and fellow populace on Salusa Secundus leave only the toughest alive. Further, their training emphasized ruthlessness and near-suicidal disregard for personal safety. In conjunction with intense conditioning for loyalty to the Emperor, the Sardaukar are estimated as worth ten times their number in Landsraad house levies. The Sardaukar are normally organized under legions, each composed of ten brigades of roughly 30,000 soldiers each, and it is said that one legion alone can pacify any planet foolish enough to incur the Emperor's wrath. However, the Sardaukar have become far more complacent during the reign of Emperor Shaddam IV, when appropriations for training went down while the number of Bursegs (generals) increased. By the time of the novel Dune (the coming of Paul Atreides as the prophesied Muad'Dib), the Sardaukar were defeated by the Fremen on Arrakis and House Corrino lost the Imperial throne to House Atreides.
During Children of Dune, Princess Wensicia, daughter of the deposed Emperor Shaddam IV, initiates a plot for the return to power of her family and the Sardaukar. However, her son Farad'n voluntarily surrendered them to the new Emperor, Leto II Atreides. Leto later disbanded the Sardaukar and replaced them with the Fish Speakers.
The defeat on Dune, the Sardaukar's later revolt against the God Emperor, and the general decline of the Sardaukar organization all finally caused the abolishment of the Sardaukar corps. They were replaced by the female Fish Speakers, who in time, by and large, had Sardaukar blood in their veins.
Depictions in Games
The Sardaukar in the Dune 2000 video game are available only to House Harkonnen. They function as the highest level of combat infantry available to Harkonnen.
At a cost of 200 Solaris per-man the Sardaukar are quite expensive, but are highly effective. Their rapid fire weapons do respectable damage to infantry, armoured vehicles and buildings. The Sardaukar are also quite heavily armoured, increasing the survivability in combat, though they are still vulnerable to being mown down by heavy tracked vehicles such as tanks. For this reason they are best used either behind a shield of vehicles or deployed on rock formations which are accessible only to infantry.
Emperor: Battle for Dune
The Sardaukar in Emperor come in two varieties: Sardaukar and Sardaukar Elite. The basic Sardaukar comes equipped with heavy armour and a mini chain gun type weapon which is highly effective against infantry. Used in large numbers these weapons can destroy vehicles, but are not really suited to this task. Against almost any kind of infantry the Sardaukar all all but unstoppable. Their weaknesses are the same as with many infantry units. They can quickly be mown down and crushed by any large vehicle and their heavy armour is almost no protection against fire based weapons which can kill them almost instantly. The Sardaukar suffer from another notable weakness - the animation for their firing their weapons is rather long and is uninterruptible. Moving the Sardaukar during the firing animation is impossible, leaving them sitting ducks and vulnerable to being run down by tanks or targeted by long range anti-infantry artillery such as Inkvine Catapults.
The upgraded to the Sardaukar barracks allows access to Sardaukar Elite. These units have the most hit-points of any infantry unit in the game and can take immense amounts of punishment. Their equipment comes in two varieties - a medium ranged lasgun which is effective against vehicles but very weak against infantry; and a combat knife for close range combat against enemy foot soldiers. These knives will kill almost any enemy infantryman in one hit, but the Sardaukar Elite is liable to take damage as he closes the distance with his target.