Chapter 11 - Combined Arms

TTP3 Index
1. Intro 5. Communication 9. Ground Vehicles
2. Basic Infantry Skills 6. Leadership 10. Air Vehicles
3. The Company 7. Battle Drills 11. Combined Arms
4. Attachments & Crew-Served Weapons 8. Tactics 12. Finale

Working as Mechanized/Motorized Infantry

The intent of this section is to be oriented around vehicles that are commonly encountered in missions, and oftentimes are crewed by "non-specialized" players (as opposed to more combat-oriented armored vehicles like tanks). These vehicles are typically intended to be used to safely convey troops to a fight and support them the whole way, including participation in the fight as well as everything leading up to and resulting from it.

We will start off with a rundown on the pros and cons of mechanized and motorized support, as seen from the eyes of the infantry it is tasked with supporting.

Dismounts move with an AMV while on patrol

Pros & Cons of Mechanized/Motorized Support in Combined Arms Operations

The pros and cons of mechanized/motorized support in the combined arms role are as follows.

Pros

Cons

Note that mechanized vehicles share many of the traits of armor, and additional information about their strengths, weaknesses, and employment uses can be learned by reading the armor section later on this page.

Convoy Operations

Guidelines for Convoy Operations

Speed is Life, but Cohesion is Important

Speed in a convoy tends to result in security. This is due to the fact that speed makes it harder to engage the vehicles with threat weapons such as RPGs, command-detonated explosives, and more. However, one must be careful to balance speed with cohesion - if a convoy is spread out too far, the mutual support of each vehicle's weapons, and the security they bring, is lost. This leaves individual vehicles subject to the massed fires of the enemy, which can cause a lot of trouble in short order.

To maintain convoy cohesion, the first vehicle must be aware of their speed and the proximity of those behind him. The convoy commander and other vehicle drivers can facilitate that situational awareness by communicating with the lead vehicle and other vehicles, giving them guidance on their speed, interval, sectors of observation, and more.

If the lead vehicle needs to unexpectedly brake hard for some reason, the driver will say "BRAKING, BRAKING, BRAKING" loudly over comms to help to prevent the trailing vehicles from piling into him when he brakes.

Interval

Maintaining good interval is a key aspect of multi-vehicle operations. Depending on the terrain, vehicles should keep from 20 to 100 meters of spacing between each other. This helps to lessen the effects of enemy explosives such as satchel charges and IEDs and makes it harder for the enemy to mass fires on multiple vehicles at once.

It is particularly important to maintain good interval when stopping temporarily, taking corners or other types of turns, and halting the convoy.

Route Selection & Actions-On

Situational Awareness & Security

Actions on...

Contact - Push Through

If ambushed, our standard procedure is to fight through it while mounted and not stop until we have exited the kill zone. If the enemy begins firing on a convoy, all gunners should immediately bring their weapons to bear and put out a heavy volume of return fire. Even if the gunners cannot see the enemy, they need to be firing in the direction that they are taking fire from. Once an ambush is initiated, the lead vehicle driver needs to be particularly vigilant in his scanning of the road. The odds of an IED or other explosive being placed in the path is extremely high, and it will require split-second timing to avoid such devices.

When an ambush occurs, "push through" is done unless otherwise stated. Leaders can also emphasize this by stating "Push through!" upon making contact.

Contact - Dismount & Assault Through

The alternate method of dealing with contact as a convoy is to assault into the contact. This is done with the verbal command of "Assault through!". When this order is given, troops dismount while vehicle gunners lay heavy fire onto the enemy positions. The dismounts and vehicles then proceed to maneuver towards the enemy and decisively engage and destroy them. When the enemy has been defeated, troops remount and continue on with the mission.

Note that when assaulting through, the infantry and vehicles are still ultimately interested in continuing on the convoy. They have some freedom to maneuver off of the convoy route to take the fight to the enemy, but they do not want to get pulled too far away.

Disabled Vehicle

Most of the types of damage that can result in a disabled vehicle cannot be worked around in Arma 3. Because of this, our standard procedure for a disabled vehicle is for the other vehicles to drive around it, halt in a safe area (out of the kill zone, if it's an ambush), and recover the vehicle crew if they're still alive.

It is up to the crew of the disabled vehicle to get out of their vehicle and fight their way to friendly forces. Stopping more vehicles within an ambush kill zone would only result in casualties and more disabled vehicles.

When a vehicle is disabled, anyone who sees it states "Vehicle down!" on comms to indicate it.

In the event that tow ropes are available, disabled vehicles can be dragged out of a killzone. You will generally need to pacify an area before towing becomes a safe option, though desperate situations can force it to be attempted while still under fire.

It may also be possible to push disabled vehicles with a working one - something worth trying if the situation makes it more dangerous for a crew to disembark than be pushed.

Canalizing Ground

Canalizing ground is any sort of ground in which vehicles are heavily restricted in how they maneuver within it. When this sort of terrain is encountered, infantry are dismounted to move ahead and sweep the area before the convoy is committed to moving through it. It is important to keep the dismounted infantry within range of the supporting fires of the convoy vehicles while conducting this sweep, too.

Convoy Halts

When halting a convoy, simply stacking the vehicles up on the road one-after-the-other is not the ideal way to do things. While this can be used for very brief halts, the better choice for reaction-to-contact or longer-duration halts is either the Herringbone formation (preferred, as it's the easiest to do) or the Coil formation.

Note, of course, that infantry should conduct dismount drills and provide local security whenever convoy halts are made, as described previously.

Herringbone Formation

The standard formation to use when halting a convoy is known as the "Herringbone". In this, the vehicles pull off to both sides of the road in an alternating manner - the first vehicle pulls off to the right, second to the left, third to the right, and so on. The vehicles stay angled at about a 45° angle relative to the road. This formation is easy to execute and allows for the convoy to get good security when halted while also spreading the vehicles out a bit more than otherwise. This formation can be used in open terrain as well, in which case the direction of movement becomes the "road" and vehicles move relative to it.

Coil Formation

The other formation that can be used is more geared towards armored vehicles. When executing a "Coil" formation, the lead vehicle stops and faces forward, the second vehicle pulls to the left and faces left (angling his strong frontal armor to the left), the third vehicle pulls to the right and faces right, while the trail vehicle turns around or spins in place so that it is oriented towards the rear. This allows for the vehicles to place their strongest armor in the direction that they're covering and provides excellent 360° security.

Working with Armor

Armored vehicles are powerful force multipliers in the combined arms battle. When properly employed with the support of infantry, the combination is difficult to match.

The most common armored vehicle assets that BLUFOR units will have with them, in increasing order of power, are the IFV-6c Panther, AMV-7 Marshall, and M2A1 Slammer main battle tank. The Panther, built on the same chassis as the Slammer, is medium armor but lightly armed, while the Marshall is medium armor and armaments, and the Slammer is heavy armor. Legacy systems include vehicles like the AAV7, Stryker, LAV-25, Bradley, and M1 Abrams.

Being familiar with and knowing how to work with armor are critical skills for infantry and vehicle crews to have. It starts with knowing what the pros and cons of armored employment are in Arma 3.

Pros & Cons of Armored Vehicles in Combined Arms Operations

The pros and cons of armored vehicles in the combined arms role are as follows.

Pros

Cons

Infantry/Armor Coordination

As you can see from the above list, the key to successful infantry/armor integration is mutual support. An armored vehicle without infantry is vulnerable, just as infantry without armored support are vulnerable.

When in close terrain (such as dense woods or urban environments), it is beneficial to have infantry dismounted and moving on all sides of the armor. Infantry should lead the armor in such a situation, to prevent the armor from stumbling into an anti-armor trap or ambush.

Armor/infantry coordination in close terrain requires a great deal of communication back-and-forth. Armor need to know where the friendly infantry are, where the enemy is, while infantry need to communicate to the armor where it should move, whether there are any friendlies close to the armor (perhaps in its blind spot), where they suspect the enemy to be, and so on and so forth.

Infantry bring the following benefits to armored vehicle crews when employed together.

What Infantry Provide to Armor

Infantry cross a street as a Slammer covers them

Guidelines for Infantry when working with Armor

A Slammer demolishes a building as infantry wait behind it

Guidelines for Armor when working with Infantry

Armor as Overwatch

One of the defining attributes of armor when in support of infantry is the ability for it to stand off from the battle and deliver accurate fires from beyond the effective range of the enemy.

This can be brought to bear with infantry by providing overwatch of infantry elements as they move to contact. An armored vehicle can suppress the objective with machinegun fire, take out fortified positions with cannon fire, and provide immediate accurate fire upon any threats that might emerge to oppose the infantry. This allows for the infantry to rapidly move up to the enemy positions with the minimum of risk.

Having an armored vehicle many hundreds of meters away from suspected enemy positions also helps to lessen the likelihood of enemy anti-tank gunners being able to engage the armor. This comes most into play with unguided anti-tank rockets like the RPG-42; guided weapons tend to have much longer effective engagement ranges and are not as easily defeated by range.

In short, armor is much more effective against infantry at a distance than infantry are against armor at a distance. Take advantage of this at all times, and especially when providing support to dismounted infantry elements.

An Panther provides overwatch to the infantry it had transported into battle

Breaching with Armor

Breaching a wall with the help of an armored vehicle is a good way to surprise defending enemy forces and give your infantry a fighting chance. Typical enemy defenses focus on natural "choke points" such as a central entry to a compound that is otherwise walled off. Breaching a wall in an unexpected place and attacking through the breach is an excellent way to catch the enemy off guard and destroy them before they can shift their defenses.

General Procedure for Mechanical Breaching

The process for breaching with any armored vehicle is fairly simple.

  1. Assess the situation, decide on a breach location. Be on the lookout for mines, satchel charges, IEDs, or any other devices that might be in place to protect against the possibility of a breach at the location chosen.
  2. Once the breach point is finalized, the breach vehicle proceeds towards it at full-speed and smashes a hole in it. When about to impact the obstacle, the breach vehicle fires smoke dischargers if available. This will mask it upon breaching and provide concealment to the infantry.

  3. After creating the hole, the vehicle immediately reverses out of the breach point to clear a way for the infantry. The reasoning behind having the breach vehicle withdraw after creating the breach versus charging into the unknown is simply that it increases the survivability of said vehicle. While a tank might be able to drive through the breach point, plant itself on the other side, and obliterate everything that opposes it, lighter infantry fighting vehicles will end up being disabled or outright destroyed by things like AT-4s, RPGs, and other light anti-tank weapons. It's a safer bet to simply have the infantry secure the area before bringing light armor in.

  4. Infantry proceed in from either side of the breach and assault through it while the breach vehicle provides overwatch.

Notes about Ballistic Breaching

Bear in mind that walls can also be breached with cannon and machinegun fire. HEAT rounds from tanks will flatten walls, while a box of .50cal bullets will crumple some as well. Note too that "prepping" a breach point with .50cal rounds from an APC can soften up a wall and make it easier to breach.

When breaching a wall from a stand-off location via cannon or machinegun fire, the breach vehicle simply ensures that no friendly forces are within a danger radius of the breach point. Once that is confirmed, they direct fire onto the breach until it opens, at which point they shift fire to allow the infantry to storm in.

An AMV knocking down a wall via 40mm cannon rounds in order to create a new route for infantry

Working with Helicopters

Helicopters provide infantry with both transportation and fire support. They are the most tightly-integrated air asset available to ground troops and act as a major force multiplier. Helicopters are commonly employed in a support role, and all players are expected to be familiar with their employment in the combined arms fight. That familiarity begins with knowing the pros and cons of their combined arms role.

Pros & Cons of Helicopters in Combined Arms Operations

The pros and cons of helicopters in the combined arms role are as follows.

Pros

Cons

Standard Roles & Positions When Working With Helos

When infantry are embarked in helicopters, they end up taking roles that complement those of the standard helo crew. This includes two primary roles - the Navigator and the Door Gunner. Since these roles are only typically used when ferrying troops to combat, it makes sense to use those same troops to man the positions that benefit them.

Navigator

A variety of issues make it beneficial for each helicopter pilot to have a passenger act as a navigator. This typically will take the form of the senior passenger (ie squad leader or fireteam leader) acting as the navigator. The navigator will board the helo first, into the copilot seat. This gives him the ability to see clearly in the direction of flight, as well as use the imaging turret sensors on those aircraft that have them.

A navigator allows the pilot to concentrate on flying without having to try to switch back and forth between his map to try to watch his route, which helps to reduce the risk of 'controlled flight into terrain' (CFIT). The navigator also acts as an additional set of eyes that can scan the terrain for enemy threats, suitable LZs, and more. Navigators do not plot the helicopter's route to the LZ - instead, they help guide the pilot along the route that was chosen during planning, allowing the pilot to focus more fully upon his flight duties.

Navigator Guidelines

Navigators use several verbal techniques to help assist the pilot's flight.

On My Mark - When a navigator gives a pilot a heading, he may precede the heading with "On my mark", which indicates that the pilot does not turn to that heading until the navigator has given the word. For instance:

Navigator: On my mark, make your heading two seven five.

(The navigator watches the map and waits for the aircraft to reach a specific point)

Navigator: Mark, make your heading two seven five.

(The pilot makes his course correction after hearing the navigator say 'mark')

Time/Distance to Action - A navigator can assist the pilot by telling him approximately how far he has to go to reach a given waypoint, landing zone, or other important point. Most people seem to be able to estimate distance better than time, and thus it's best to give these heads-up calls in distances instead of seconds. For instance:

Navigator: Maintain this heading. In one kilometer you will cut due west... 500 meters to turn... Stand by to turn on my mark... Mark, make your heading due west.

Terrain Visualization - A navigator who can accurately tell the pilot what terrain features he will be seeing next, and how to guide himself to the next waypoint with their help, is an invaluable asset. This only requires that the navigator can read the contours of a map with accuracy. For instance:

Navigator: When we exit this valley there will be a small hill to our front-left. Pass it on the southern side and then prepare to make a hard right turn to the south. The landing zone is a large field in front of a forest that will be visible after your turn, set down as close to the treeline as you can.

Door Gunners

Not to be confused with a "Crew chief", who is part of the helicopter's crew, "door gunners" are instead part of the squads or teams embarked upon the helo. These gunners help to maintain security during flight, and debark with their parent unit once at the LZ. If engaged en route, the door gunner communicates with the crew chief and pilot and assists them in returning fire on enemy contacts.

Like the crew chief, the door gunner is also responsible for communicating the proximity of obstacles to the pilot when in close terrain and attempting to land. This can be done with simple concise verbal commands to the pilot to tell him which way to move the helo to avoid obstacles, such as "Tree left, move right 10 meters". Infantry leaders ensure that the most level-headed and competent players end up as door gunners.

A door gunner, noted by his camo and not the flight suit that a crew chief would wear, stands by to man the M134 on a Ghosthawk

Door Gunner Guidelines

Airborne Assaults

An airborne assault is simply an assault which uses helicopters to move the infantry into position. Airborne assaults are planned by the highest leadership element in game - usually the Platoon or Company Commander in a cooperative environment.

A Ghosthawk en route to an LZ

Planning the Assault

Landing Zone (LZ) Considerations

The first thing that must be considered for a airborne assault is where the landing zone(s) will be. Things like equipment loadout, force composition, main objectives, etc are typically done on the mission-makers side, so they are not generally planned for at the platoon level. The platoon gets the orders [in the form of a mission operation order] and acts on them.

When choosing a landing zone, the following must be taken into consideration. In short, you use METT-TC and OCOKA, but specific emphasis is made on the following elements of it.

After the primary LZs are chosen, a set of alternate LZs should be determined based on the possibility of enemy contact at the main LZs. Alternate LZs should typically be position 500 or more meters further away from the expected enemy positions than the primary LZs, as an additional safety measure.

Coordination

Once the LZ(s) and alternate LZ(s) are decided on (and clearly marked on the map), the next step is to coordinate the overall assault. At this point, the following needs to be hashed out.

The scenic route

Loading Up

Leaders load their troops and get accountability

When it comes time to board the helos, element leaders will direct their teams to the appropriate helos and get everyone loaded up. The element leaders board last, after getting accountability for their troops, and then tell the pilot that all troops are loaded. The squad leaders report to the Platoon Commander when their squads are fully loaded.

How to approach a helo when loading

When boarding helicopters, approach them from the side. This is for two reasons, one of which is modeled by default, and one of which is modeled in some realism mods.

The first reason is because many helicopters have door gunners, and a good practice is to avoid crossing their line of fire. This may not come into play much during boarding at a friendly location, but it will be a large factor of hot extractions and disembarking. Get in the practice of not crossing the gunner's line of fire when embarking or disembarking from a helo.

The second reason, seen in some realism mods, is so that the tail rotor does not turn you into flying chunks of meat. Being off to the right or left of the helo means that the tail rotor would have to move a great deal to strike you, which means you'd likely have enough time to get the hell out of the way before being minced.

Infantry rush to a Ghosthawk that just landed

Spread loading

It is important to ensure that critical elements such as anti-tank, demolitions, and other mission-essential roles are spread-loaded throughout the different helos. This is done to ensure that the loss of one helo does not cripple the assault. Squad leaders are each in a different helo, and the Platoon Commander (or Company Commander) spreads his PltHQ element out through all of the helos to ensure that the PltCo, PltSgt, and Plt Medic are not all lost if their bird goes down.

Contingency Planning

It is important that the overall assault coordinator clarifies the actions that will be used for any unexpected situation in advance. I will describe the standard procedures for them, which are standard operating procedure (SOP) and thus in effect unless the assault coordinator specifically says otherwise.

Actions On: Downed Helo

One of the most damaging events to an airborne assault, particularly one done at the platoon level, involves a helicopter being shot down before reaching or upon reaching the landing zone. Thanks to the damage model of Arma 3, helicopters can oftentimes land semi-successfully after taking heavy damage. While this will likely result in many wounded and likely several killed in the helo, the chance for people to survive is significant and must be acknowledged. Just because a helo goes down does not mean that all hands aboard were lost!

A Tigris lands a critical missile hit on a Ghosthawk. When an aircraft is going down in flames, you can reasonably expect no survivors.

The steps for reacting to a downed helo start as soon as it looks like an aircraft is going down. These steps are typically carried out by the pilot, navigator, copilot, or door gunner - the roles most likely to have a good visual on things.

  1. Observe the crash. If the helo goes down in view of others, the speed of the helo upon impacting the ground, as well as whether it landed in trees/on rocks/etc, can give a good rough idea of whether any survivors are likely.
  2. Identify the manner in which the helo was shot down. It could have been from SAF, HMGs, RPGs, missiles, etc. Knowing what caused the crash helps the other helos to change their tactics accordingly.
  3. Communicate the threat type if known, and that a helo went down. Identify the helo if known (ie: "Bravo's helo"). Give an idea of whether there are any likely survivors.
  4. If necessary, call out an LZ shift for the troop transports. For example, "LZs shift 500m west!", spoken so that all aircraft pilots can hear it, to ensure that the landing is not made in an area with unexpectedly heavy enemy activity. All that is needed is a compass direction and a distance, or a verbal description if appropriate to the terrain. This call requires a rapid evaluation of the enemy threat posed as well as sound judgment.
  5. Continue with the landing. Getting troops on the deck becomes even more important if a helo has been lost - the longer they stay in the air, the more likely it is that another helo will go down.
  6. If CAS is available, it can proceed to do a visual recon of the downed aircraft, to see if survivors are visible and provide close air support if so.
  7. Once all troops are offloaded, if no CAS is supporting, a transport helo can be dispatched to do a visual recon of the downed helo. This aircraft can provide support via their defensive machineguns, but the enemy threat may make it impossible to orbit the area. For example, if a Tigris shoots down a helo, there's no reason for another helo to fly into that danger area - they can't help against a threat like that.

Bear in mind that the mission commander will be involved in the decision-making process for a downed helo scenario and will be giving orders as needed. The ultimate goal is to rescue any survivors of the crash, but it will be up to the commander as to how exactly that will be done, given the tactical situation at the time.

Sometimes it will be rather obvious that nobody walked away from a crash...

Actions On: Heavy LZ Contact

The other "worst case" scenario involves landing in heavy contact, where the helicopters are coming under concentrated and accurate fire before they get on the ground, or are ambushed upon landing.

The threat to the landing force must be rapidly evaluated. If the helos can land safely and offload their troops, and the troops will be in a position to effectively engage the enemy, the landing should continue as planned. If the threat is particularly high or the LZ has been compromised by the positioning of enemy forces, shifting LZs becomes necessary. Announcing an LZ abort or shift of LZs is critical to ensuring that trailing aircraft know not to continue their approaches.

Note that consideration must be paid towards any friendly elements that are already on the ground - if one helo disembarks troops and the second is shot down, the third should make every reasonable attempt to land close enough to support the players already on the ground. If all helos are on the ground and disembarking troops when an ambush is sprung, they may be faced with a tough decision - offload the rest, or abort the drop, hope that the people on the ground can hold out, and drop the rest of the troops close enough that they can move to support their comrades in short order and potentially attack a vulnerable flank or rear of the ambushing forces. Whatever the case, the decision must be made rapidly and announced clearly so that a coordinated response can occur.

Actions On: Emergency Landing

An emergency landing is typically the result of unexpected damage to the aircraft. Fuel leaks or damaged tail rotors can cause this, as can outright engine failure. It can happen anywhere - at the LZ, over random enemy territory, in friendly territory, and even over water.

The steps for dealing with an emergency landing are as follows.

  1. Identify the type of emergency and begin immediate actions to deal with it.
    1. Fuel leaks are a problem when they make it impossible to get to the current destination. Fuel leaks are relatively easy to deal with, provided that you have time to fly out of hostile fire before setting down.
    2. Damaged tail rotors make landing very tricky. It is best to maintain a high speed to lessen the effect of the tail rotor, get out of enemy territory, and then find a nice, open field to land in.
    3. Engine loss is the most serious emergency. Autorotation must be immediately executed for there to be any hope of survival. Autorotation is covered in detail in the helicopter chapter of this guide.
  2. Declare an emergency. The pilot will communicate on command channel that his aircraft is having a serious problem which requires an emergency landing.
  3. Communicate where you are attempting to land, so that other helos and the Platoon Commander are aware of where to search for you.
  4. Upon a successful landing, immediately get mounted infantry out and into defensible positions. Security is the immediate concern. If the landing position allows for the defensive guns of the helo to be employed, use the helo crew to man them.
  5. Communicate with higher as to where the landing was made, the status of forces on the ground, and anything else relevant.
  6. If wounded are present, establish an aid position from which any accompanying medical personnel can provide aid.
  7. Make a decision to either guard the crash site and await pickup, or push out to a more defensible area. Act upon that decision and communicate it to higher.
  8. Continue with the mission if possible, or await further guidance from the Platoon Commander.

Executing the Assault

Preflight

The final step before lift-off is the pre-flight checklist. This is done by the Air Assault Coordinator to ensure that every relevant step has been completed.

Conducting the Assault

Once the pre-flight checklist has been mentally and verbally run through (as necessary), the air assault coordinator gives the order and the helos take off to begin the airborne assault.

At this point the pilots of the assault elements move via their assigned routes to their respective landing zones, maximizing their use of the terrain to conceal their approach. Depending upon the forces available, an attack or recon helicopter may precede the transport helicopters to the LZs to sweep the area for enemies. Artillery can also be used to "prep" an area or lay smoke to conceal the landing from known or suspected enemy positions.

Having an attack helo orbiting the landing zone during an insertion allows for rapid support should the aircraft take fire near the LZ.

At the Landing Zone

Assuming that none of the above-listed contingencies happen (downed helo, heavy contact, emergency landing), the following steps take place at the landing zone.

  1. The helo comes into range of the LZ and prepares to land. Speed and altitude drop accordingly. It is important that the pilot's approach is smooth and fast, as it minimizes the amount of time the embarked troops are in a vulnerable position.
  2. The doorgunner and crew chief scan the LZ area and suppress any contacts as necessary. The helo crew scans vigilantly to ensure that the helo is not about to set down into an ambush. If they see anything suspicious, they immediately report it to the pilot.
  3. Helo touches down at the LZ.
  4. Pilot announces "Go, go, go!" loudly, which the senior infantry leader on the helo repeats. It is important to let the pilot make this announcement, since he is the one that knows whether or not the landing is complete. "Jumping the gun" and hopping out too soon can result in rather nasty falls.
  5. Upon hearing "Go, go, go!", all infantry immediately dismount, and the door gunner and crew chief hold fire to avoid hitting any dismounting infantry. The door gunner dismounts after his fellow infantry are safely out. Note that when disembarking, every player should avoid crossing the door gunners' lines of fire if possible. Even though the door gunner and crew chief are supposed to hold their fire when troops are debarking, there may be times when they have to risk it and fire anyway. Obviously, running in front of something like an M134 can end your day in a real harsh way. To play it safe, players should do their best to avoid crossing the lines of fire of the doorgunner and crew chief. As a door gunner or crew chief, you should exercise a great deal of caution when firing in the five seconds after touchdown during which the troops are disembarking and moving out.
  6. Senior element leader (ie: squad leader) oversees the dismounting process. He steps away from the aircraft a few paces, takes a knee if possible, and watches the passenger section of the aircraft.
  7. All infantry immediately head to their assigned areas. A typical squad insertion involves the fireteams spreading out on either side of the landing zone to provide 360° security. Each fireteam moves away from the aircraft, spacing out and orienting outward to defend against any nearby threats. If hard cover and concealment is around, the infantry naturally integrate it into their movement and defensive plans.
  8. When no troops are left on the helo, the senior element leader tells the helo pilot that ground forces are clear of the helo. The crew chief is also observing the cargo area and will tell the pilot as well - either can be used as the signal for lifting off.
  9. The helo takes off. Upon hearing that ground forces are clear, the crew chief resumes firing suppression of any enemy forces around the LZ. The pilot then begins his post-insertion mission, which oftentimes is that of aerial reconnaissance and support.
Troops leaving a Ghosthawk in the LZ

Assuming that everything goes according to plan, an entire platoon can hit an LZ, unload, set up a perimeter, and have their transport aircraft flying out of the LZ area in under a minute.

Extractions

Getting troops on the ground is only part of the problem. Oftentimes they will need to be extracted as well - sometimes from a clear LZ and sometimes from the midst of a heated firefight.

Helo extractions can take several forms. At the highest level you have a full multi-squad extraction of all friendly elements that requires several helos to achieve. At a lower level you may see an extraction of something like a scout/sniper team, forward observer, or other small element. The main point for the infantry on the ground is to do everything they can to minimize the risk of the helo being shot down when it comes in to make a landing. This requires good choices of landing zones, posting security, good lanes of fire and observation, and good communication and coordination with the helo.

Procedure for Calling an Extract

  1. First, give a heads-up to the pilot along with a general area he should start to head for. This allows the aircraft to be making progress towards the area before the specific LZ has been decided on.
  2. Identify a good extraction area and mark an LZ on the map. Oftentimes the tactical situation will require you to choose an LZ that is difficult to observe and fire into. Forcing the infantry to run a bit further, provided that it reduces the chance that the helo will be shot down, is an acceptable side effect.
  3. Communicate the LZ position to the extract helo(s). Use clear and concise language and ensure that you tell the helo about the situation at the LZ - specifically, mention any expected threats, whether the LZ is hot or cold, the terrain, and the intent in choosing it. For example - if you picked an LZ on a specific side of a hill, make sure that the pilot(s) know that you did so because you expect an enemy threat to exist on the other sides of the hill.
  4. Move to and secure the landing zone. Clear the area of hostiles and think about where enemies could position themselves that would be a threat to the incoming helicopters.
  5. Post security. Security elements will watch for the enemy and hold them off if necessary. They will be the last to board the helos. Security elements must be confident that their leaders will tell them when to board the helos, so that they can focus on providing security and not being distracted by watching the aircraft come in, land, et cetera. Typically the entire squad will be employed as the security element.
  6. Guide the helo in verbally and visually and deploy smoke if available to help it on final approach. The senior element leader on the ground will communicate with the pilot to ensure that he is coming to the correct LZ. If operating in visually cluttered terrain, smoke can be deployed to help reduce the amount of time it takes for the pilot to locate the LZ. The senior leader on the ground will talk to the helicopter pilot until he has touched down, giving him feedback on where he is landing, where friendly troops are, where the enemy is expected to be, and correcting him as necessary.
  7. Board rapidly and get out of there. Once the helo is on the ground, security elements are called in and board the helicopter. The process of boarding must be done very rapidly, with each team leader guiding his teammates to the helicopter as quickly as possible. The last person in should be the overall element leader, who is accountable for his troops. Once they're in, he boards the aircraft and loudly states "We're in, go, go, go!", at which point the helo takes off and the crew chief and door gunner, if available, fire heavy suppression to cover the aircraft as it gains speed and altitude.

Working with Close Air Support

Close air support (CAS) is the use of aircraft to directly support ground forces. It comes in two main forms - that of fixed-wing (jet) support, and rotary-wing (helo) support. Both have their pros and cons, and both are major force multiplies for the infantry. This section will cover the basics of CAS and how it is employed by Shack Tactical.

Pros & Cons of Close Air Support in Combined Arms Operations

The pros and cons of CAS in the combined arms fight are as follows.

Pros

Cons

The Forward Air Controller (FAC)

About the FAC

A "Forward Air Controller " or "FAC" is a player who is tasked with coordinating air elements in the support of ground forces. The FAC is expected to be knowledgeable in the employment of any CAS elements, be they fixed-wing (jets) or rotary-wing (helicopters). The more familiar the FAC is with the aircraft, the better he will be able to direct its employment. The best FACs have extensive experience as a CAS aircraft pilot.

The primary job of the FAC is to locate enemy targets and call in air strikes on them. He acts as the 'eyes on the ground' for the CAS aircraft and increases the effectiveness of the air support with the information he is able to relay to the aircraft.

It is of great importance that a FAC is used when player-controlled aircraft are operating in a close air support role. Without his support, the CAS aircraft cannot reach the same level of responsiveness and effectiveness.

A recon player spots for CAS from a concealed position

Considerations for the Forward Air Controller

An F-35 returns to base after a successful run

The CAS Request

A standard CAS request is as follows. This can be expanded on or condensed as the situation dictates - this should simply serve as a guideline of what information can be useful and how to present it.

Standard CAS Request Procedures

  1. Establish comms with the aircraft. This call allows for the CAS aircraft and FAC to establish that CAS is needed and warn the pilot that the full CAS request will follow.

    "Hawg, this is _______, requesting immediate CAS"

  2. Describe the target. The FAC gives a brief description of the target to be attacked. This helps to give the CAS aircraft an idea of what ordnance he will use.

    "Target is an enemy infantry squad"

  3. Describe the target location. The FAC clearly describes where the target is located. Map markers are good to use for this, combined with some kind of visual reference that can be seen from the air.

    "They're in a treeline to the west of Bravo's position, 600 meters out. Marked as 'treeline ei 3'."

  4. Define control, time on target, and ordnance to use. Whether the strike happens ASAP or at a designated time or in response to a specific call, and if necessary, the type of ordnance requested.

    "Give me bombs and rockets on that target ASAP."

  5. Elaborate as necessary. Anything not covered already, as time and the situation allow.

    "The treeline runs north-west to south-east, approach from either. Friendlies are located 600 meters east of the treeline in good cover. The enemy is spread throughout that treeline; hit it all over."

An example of how that might be condensed in a gaming environment is as follows:

"Hawg, need immediate CAS on enemy squad at marker 'treeline ei 3' 600m to the west of Bravo. They're all over the treeline, hit it ASAP with whatever you've got."

CAS Terms & Meanings

There are several standardized words and phrases used when communicating with the aircraft. They're broken down below into "Terminal Control" and "General" sections.

Terminal Control

General

Target Designation with Lasers

Lasing a target is by far the best method for CAS strikes. There are a few guidelines to keep in mind when utilizing this method.

Lasing a column of BTR-K Kamyshs

Target Designation WITHOUT Lasers

CAS without laser designation is a bit trickier. Follow these guidelines.

A "dumb" bomb on the way to inflict serious pain

Guiding with Map Marks

Map markers are as accurate as the player placing them, and with good players, they can be pin-point precise. The main problem with map marks is that it requires the pilot to spend time looking at the map, which can be problematic.

Guiding with Landmarks

Depending on the type of landmark and distance of the target from it, landmarks can be either excellent or merely acceptable guides. The key thing to keep in mind is that the landmark must be something that can be easily seen from the air. The type of air asset (jets naturally are moving much faster than helos) will dictate what type of landmark is suitable. Landmarks can be natural parts of the terrain (ie boulders, a prominent cluster of trees, the bend of a river) or man-made (buildings, destroyed vehicles, smoke columns).

Guiding with Munitions or Smoke

This is the least desirable way to orient aircraft on a target, since it typically alerts the target and gives them a bearing on friendly forces. In a pinch, infantry can utilize smoke (preferably launched via a 3GL or other UGL) or a Mk32 to designate a target for aircraft. Tracers can also be used to designate targets. Guiding a CAS strike with munitions can be very difficult, and should be avoided when possible. Efforts should be made to accomplish the guidance in another fashion before resorting to this, particularly when stealth is a concern.

The CAS Aircraft/Pilot

The CAS Pilot

Flying as a CAS pilot is a demanding but ultimately enjoyable role. As a CAS pilot you have the capability to dramatically influence the course of a battle with the timely delivery of your ordnance. Becoming a proficient pilot takes time and is best done offline at first, with simple bombing scenarios and navigational drills to get you up to speed on how best to approach targets, navigate, deliver dumb ordnance, etc. The finesse comes in putting this into play in a live session and being able to communicate with ground elements and safely put bombs on target without friendly casualties. To that end, here are a few CAS tips.

Basic CAS Aircraft Guidelines

AH-99 Blackfoot on station, orbiting

CAS Munitions

Folding-Fin Aerial Rockets (FFARs)

In Arma, these are a bit more powerful and precise than their real-world counterparts and are quite useful weapons. FFARs give an aircraft a large number of high-explosive warheads which can be fired with good precision at the enemy. They have a moderate blast radius and are very effective against infantry, vehicles, and light armor. These are best employed from rotary-wing aircraft, but still pack a punch when employed from fixed-wing craft. FFARs can be used effectively in any quantity required, from a few rockets fired at a single target to an entire barrage being placed on an area target.

Guided Rockets

The AH-99 Blackfoot is armed with DAGR rockets that can lock onto and guide towards ground targets. These rockets have limited maneuverability and a narrow launch cone - fast-moving ground vehicles or large amounts of correction required will tend to cause them to miss their target.

Anti-Tank Guided Missiles (ATGMs) & Air-to-Ground Missiles (AGMs)

Hellfires and Mavericks fall into this category. They are lock-on, fire-and-forget (in Arma) missiles that are perfect for knocking out tanks and other priority vehicle targets.

The AGM-65 "Maverick" is fired by the A-10 Warthog and will knock out anything on the battlefield with a single hit. TOWs and Hellfires are carried by helicopters, by comparison, and do a slightly lower amount of damage that is generally capable of taking out armored vehicles with a single hit.

'Dumb' Bombs

These come in a variety of sizes, from 500 to 2000 pounds. They are a bit on the difficult side to be accurate with, due to the lack of a CCIP (continuously calculated impact point) feature on the heads-up display - though some realism mods do introduce such functionality. However, if you can get these to land close to a target, you'll probably obliterate it. These are extremely effective in the urban environment, against all types of vehicles, and of course against infantry. Most buildings can be flattened by 'dumb' bombs, killing everything inside of them in the process.

Laser-Guided 'Smart' Bombs

Same as the dumb bombs, except fitted with guidance fins and a laser tracking package that allows them to guide in on a spot of reflected laser energy. With proper employment these are the deadliest CAS munitions around. Landing one of these on-target will obliterate it and everything around it. The only tricky part is practicing good FAC/CASAP coordination to ensure that the right target is lased, and that the delivering aircraft is able to drop the bomb where it's needed.

Cannons

The effectiveness of CAS cannons depends largely upon the type of cannon. The 20mm cannons on the Banshee and Cobra are best at destroying light armor, vehicles, and infantry. Naturally, the Cobra and Banshee are best able to engage infantry with their cannons due to them being rotary-wing aircraft that feature a swiveling cannon. The Banshee, on the other hand, is a less-than-ideal platform for its 25mm cannon due to its high speed and the requirement for very high precision and sustained hits to cause damage to heavier targets. A Banshee pilot is much better off using his bombs than trying to score kills with the cannon, though the cannon can be used to good effect against light targets.

On the other side of things, the Apache has a very powerful 30mm cannon that can make short work of most everything on the battlefield. The A-10 Warthog has an even more impressive 30mm cannon that can tear through most tanks like a knife through tinfoil. Both of these aircraft can do an enormous amount of damage with their cannons and should view them as a primary rather than secondary armament.

Working with Artillery

Artillery is long-range fire support that can act as a massive force-multiplier to the troops it is supporting on the ground. An infantry platoon supported by a battery of 155mm Howitzers has far, far more firepower at its fingertips than a Company (four platoons) of enemy infantry without artillery support.

Pros & Cons of Artillery in the Combined Arms Fight

Pros

Cons

An artillery battery in the middle of carrying out a fire mission

Artillery Realism

There are several aspects of realistic artillery support that are not seen in games with more casual action-based artillery (ie BF2) or mods/scripts that don't model it ballistically (ie the typical "map click" scripts for OFP/Arma). Some of these elements are as follows.

The Forward Observer

The Forward Observer is the platoon's direct link to artillery support. He is tasked with calling for fire in accordance with the Platoon Commander's direction, adjusting fire, and generally being all things artillery.

The proper use of artillery requires that the person calling it in is knowledgeable on the previously-listed aspects (and more) and is competent as a "Forward Observer". Artillery in the hands of a skilled FO is a huge asset, whereas without that skill the artillery will only end up churning dirt and making loud but ineffective noises.

Forward Observer Tips

Forward Observer & Artillery Terms

Term Meaning
Shot This is sent from the firing unit once the first rounds are fired. The FO at that point knows that rounds are on the way. The FO can use this term to communicate to his platoon that a friendly artillery unit has begun firing.
Splash This is sent from the firing unit five seconds before the first rounds impact. The FO at this point should observe the impact area to watch the effects of the artillery. Adjustments will be called if necessary to get the rounds on target. When Splash is called, all friendly units within "danger close" distance of the target should ensure that they are in good cover in case the rounds are off.
Rounds Complete Firing unit has fired all rounds for the fire mission. Depending on the number of rounds and the trajectory used, "Rounds Complete" can sometimes come before the first round ever hits.
A Sandstorm MLRS battery begins a fire mission at night

Artillery Rounds & Fuzing 101

The following table of artillery round types and their effects is taken from the Chain of Command's "Artillery Module" manual for VBS1.

Round Types

Round Type Description
High Explosive HE is usually TNT or Composition B, and takes a PD (QUICK), VT, delay or Mechanical Time fuze. Effective against personnel, vehicles, and structures. HE/VT is also effective against stationary armored vehicles. HE/Delay is good for targets under vegetation, and for flipping vehicles.
White Phosphorous (Willy Pete) Bursts on impact, or in the air (with fuze time). On bursting, the shell spreads burning white phosphorus, for marking, screening, obscuring and incendiary effects. It is useful against vehicles, ammunition, POL and enemy observers.
Illumination A base-ejecting projectile that expels a burning illuminant and a small projectile. The parachute drifts over the area, and provides illumination for maneuver or adjusting fire (with continuous and coordinated illumination). It can also be used to mark targets.
Smoke The Artillery Module models improved smoke effects, that is, felt wedges impregnated with WP, which can provide 5-10 minutes of smoke over a large area.
Remote Anti-Armor Mines (RAAMS)

The 155mm howitzer can fire Remote Antiarmor Mines (RAAMS); Part of the Family of Scatterable Mines (FASCAM), RAAMS typically spread over a 400m area, arm shortly after impact, and will trigger when armored vehicles run over them.

Arma 3 introduces anti-personnel mines as well, delivered via the Scorcher or similar artillery pieces.

Copperhead Copperheads are special 155mm projectiles employed by later versions of the M109 series and the M198 howitzer. Approximately thirteen seconds before impact, the Copperhead's laser light sensor becomes active, and it uses fins to guide itself to the laser light source. It fuzes on impact with a shaped charge capable of destroying or disabling armored vehicles.

Because of their relatively high cost, low volume (one platoon fires a single Copperhead every thirty seconds), and restrictive employment considerations, Copperheads are best used against enemy command vehicles and centers, and other high-value targets. Copperheads are ideally used in priority fire missions, and the reduced response time they bring.
Improved Conventional Munitions (ICM)

ICM is a base-ejection projectile with a MT fuze and a number of submunitions. APICM grenades saturate the target area with shrapnel, and are highly effective against personnel in the open. DPICM submunitions are capable of penetrating 2cm of armor, and have an antipersonnel effect as well. DPICM is highly effective against personnel in the open and soft vehicles. It is also effective against armor. ICM shells and sheaves assume a target with a 200m-radius. (instead of 100m for HE). ICM should never be fired High Angle.

Arma 3 refers to these as 'cluster' shells.

Sense and Destroy Armor (SADARM) Sense-and-Destroy Armor rounds are third-generation artillery shells carried by 155mm Howitzers. They deploy two sensor-fuzed munitions which parachute over the battlespace, and scan (using radar and infrared) for suitable armor targets. When they find such a target, they fire a penetrator to destroy or disable it. SADARMs are highly effective, and are called as any other round. If they do not find a suitable target, they self-destruct. The observer should ensure that no friendly units are in the area. SADARMs can be used effectively in CANNOT OBSERVE conditions, especially counter-battery fire.

High-angle fire from a Scorcher battery

Fuze Types

Term Meaning
Quick Fuze quick is a point-detonating fuze, and is used with HE and WP projectiles. Fuze quick is effective against standing and prone personnel, armored and soft-skinned vehicles. Fuze quick is useful for adjusting fire and engaging targets on ridgelines; but it is not recommended against entrenched troops or those on uneven ground.
Delay A fuze delay functions 0.05 seconds after impact. A fuze delay allows penetration of dense woods and light earthworks.
Time Fuze time has a mechanical or electronic timing device that functions a set time after being fired. Fuze time, when used with HE and WP, should be adjusted to obtain an effective HOB; then these projectiles are useful against troops and vehicles in open and in trenches, as well as in rough terrain. Because of the variations between fuzes, fuze time should never be used for High Angle fire with these projectiles. Time fuzes are the only fuze used for Base-Ejecting projectiles (e.g., Illumination, ICM, SADARM) and smoke.
VT VT (Variable Time) fuzes arm approximated 3.5 seconds before anticipated impact. They then use a radio signal to determine the shell's proximity to other objects (especially the ground). When they pass within a set distance of other objects (for example, 8 meters), the fuze functions. HE/VT is effective against all targets that Fuze Time is, except that it is not recommended for targets under canopy, such as those in woods.

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