The main thing one must remember when taking a vehicle role is that you ultimately are there to support the infantry. It is not your job to run around pell-mell trying to rack up an impressive kill count; instead, you should do everything you can to work with friendly forces so that you can best support the infantry.
This first section will be oriented around giving you an understanding of basic ground vehicles. From there, we'll work up to more advanced concepts like armored vehicles and crew coordination.
Since originally writing TTP3, Bohemia Interactive put out an Armor DLC that adds some welcome functionality to these vehicles. This section does not reflect those changes, which include damage model, fire control systems, customization, and more. The Armor DLC features apply to the base game as well, so have a look at the page on it for more information on what it changes.
When the tactical situation permits it, the commander of a vehicle can dismount from the vehicle to do a 'foot recon'. This is typically done when the vehicle is about to crest some significant terrain feature. Dismounting and checking over the crest 'on foot' allows for the commander to decide on where possible enemy threats might be, locate obvious threats, and choose on where and how to crest the terrain, where their gunner should be aiming when they crest, and so forth.
Ground guides, on the other hand, are infantry who walk in front of a vehicle to guide it through a tricky area. Ground guides can be used to get a vehicle positioned specifically where the infantry need it, to help guide vehicles through a potentially mined area, or to help them navigate through tight or confusing terrain.
Depending on their weight and hardiness, vehicles can be used to knock down trees, bushes, walls, and other obstacles in order to clear lanes of fire & observation for themselves or the infantry that they support. Tanks are generally able to knock down anything, whereas trucks and such generally focus on light bushes and light walls to prevent disabling themselves in the process.
Close coordination with the infantry commanders is needed in order to create effective lanes of fire that are integrated into the defensive plans of the supported infantry. Too many trees knocked down, or holes punched in walls, can compromise the ability of the infantry to put up an effective defense.
Keep in mind that in addition to clearing obstacles, vehicles can also be used to create better concealment. A tank may have a hard time finding concealment in an area where the trees have their branches at too high of a level to mask the tank - however, knocking a tree down in the direction of the enemy may suddenly provide concealment. From the enemy's point of view, it will likely just look like a bush and blend in with the natural terrain.
Different vehicles may have different capabilities insofar as sensors are concerned, but all share the same basic HUD features.
First is the vehicle radar, which is positioned at the center-top of the screen. The radar is an abstraction of more complex sensor systems and is key to a crew's situational awareness. The radar is centered around the vehicle (represented by an icon( and has two circles with the outer one displaying compass bearings as well as showing a digital compass reading of the current view direction. It's important to remember that this is the direction a given crew member is looking through their optic - be that driver, gunner, or commander - and not necessarily the heading that the vehicle is pointed. The two rings indicate ranges - the first is one kilometer, the second two. The current field of view of the gunner(s) and commander are indicated with cones extending away from the vehicle - these cones will narrow and expand based on that position's current zoom level.
Identified friendly targets will display as green dots, while identified enemy targets will show as red. Unknown or destroyed vehicles will appear grey.
On the upper-left of the HUD is the vehicle's damage readout. Red means a system is completely disabled, while shades of yellow or orange indicate damaged components. This is broken down into the following categories:
- HULL. When fully compromised, the vehicle will be destroyed, taking any embarked crew members with it.
- ENG. The vehicle's engine. If disabled, the vehicle will lose mobility.
- GUN. If disabled, the main gun will no longer be able to elevate, but can still fire.
- L-TR. The left track. Disabling one track will disable the vehicle's mobility until repaired.
- R-TR. The right track. Same story.
- TRRT. The turret. A disabled turret cannot be turned and loses any stabilization features it might have had, though the weapons will still operate. This may make it possible to employ things like the cannon of a tank by turning the vehicle in order to point the disabled turret in the right direction.
Some vehicles have optics which employ automatic laser ranging, in which case the range is displayed in the bottom-center of the view.
Finally, the upper-right section displays the currently active weapon or countermeasure, the ammo remaining in it, and is color-coded to indicate if the weapon is ready to be fired. After firing something that takes time to reload, such as a tank main gun, this HUD element will turn red while a progress bar indicates the reload time remaining. Shortly before reloading fully, this will turn yellow, then white to indicate that the weapon is able to be fired again.
Any weapon that can lock onto a target will first have to acquire the target. This is done either by right-clicking over the target, pressing "T" to lock, or "R" to cycle through available targets. When a target is acquired, it will have a green box around it. To lock the target, you must have it within a certain number of degrees of the weapon's orientation (relative to the nose on most aircraft, or the direction the weapon is facing on ground vehicles) - this may vary depending upon the specific weapon.
When a target has been acquired and locked, the box has a circle overlaid on it. At this point any guided weapon can be fired and it will automatically track and (hopefully) destroy said target. Note that when reaching the limits of the lock 'cone', the circle indicator will begin to fade out, letting you know that you're about to lose lock. Note that this applies to aircraft, ground vehicles, and also infantry launchers.
Left: Target acquired, lock-on process initiated. Right: Target fully locked
Many vehicles are equipped with smoke dischargers for defensive purposes. These dischargers are most often mounted to the vehicle's turret, allowing the smokescreen to be laid in the direction that the turret is pointed.
The vehicle commander generally has control of the smoke system. They select it as they would a normal weapon and presses their countermeasures key to deploy the smoke. The canisters will propel away from the vehicle in an arc, quickly deploying a thick white smokescreen after a few moments. This smoke can be used for a variety of purposes to screen friendly forces from enemy observation. This sort of countermeasure smoke is designed to block infrared wavelengths, meaning that it is just as effective against thermal optics as normal vision.
Many smoke systems have two or more deployments available before they will need to be reloaded at a supply position.
Bear in mind that smoke, used as a defense against enemy anti-tank assets, is only really useful if the vehicle moves after deploying it. Movement makes it much harder for any manually-guided missile systems to properly track the vehicle as well.
A Slammer deploys smoke to the front of the vehicle
Ground vehicles come equipped with a wide variety of armaments. The most common types are described in this section, with the intent being to familiarize all players with the capabilities of the different weapon systems they will see employed from vehicles.
Large-bore cannons are the main guns on tanks, or standalone artillery pieces. They are capable of causing great damage to whatever they hit, but have a relatively slow reload time. The M2A1 Slammer has a 120mm smooth-bore cannon which falls under this category.
Cannons typically have a range of ammunition types to choose from, such as:
- High Explosive (HE). Purely intended to kill light vehicles, cause damage to structures and fortifications, and blow up infantry. These rounds simply explode on impact, using blast damage, fragmentation, and overpressure as their killing effects.
- Sabot. Sabot rounds are small, incredibly dense darts of metal that are intended to punch through enemy armor with sheer kinetic force. They are generally ineffective against troops but can be used to great effect against enemy vehicles and armor. They tend to be overkill for anything below a medium armor classification.
- High Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT). Unlike sabot rounds, HEAT rounds rely on chemical means to attempt to defeat armored threats. They have a high-explosive component as well, making them dual-purpose in that they can harm both armored targets as well as infantry and other light targets. HEAT rounds are generally less effective than sabot rounds against modern armor, but handle anything less than that with ease.
- Anti-Personnel. The APERS round used by some tanks is an example of an antipersonnel round - imagine a 120mm shotgun and you get the general idea. The defining characteristic of such a round is the ability to more or less annihilate an entire platoon at a given distance in a single shot, assuming they were all exposed at the time. You really do not want to be on the bad end of these.
Autocannons are found on infantry fighting vehicles and other medium armored vehicles.
These smaller-bore cannons (20-40mm) tend to have a rapid firing rate and are capable of using sabot or high-explosive rounds. They are superb at killing infantry and other similarly-classed armored vehicles, but come up at a distinct disadvantage when faced against main battle tanks. Cannons can be used to devastating effect when engaging masked urban targets - putting HE shells into a room, or blasting SABOT rounds through walls that hostiles are hiding behind, are both superb at wrecking an enemy defense.
The AMV-7 Marshall is an example of a NATO vehicle with such an autocannon, with the BTR-K being a similar example of an OPFOR vehicle with a similar autocannon.
40mm cannon on an AMV
Every armored vehicle inevitably has at least one machinegun on it. Machineguns can range from medium-caliber like the 7.62mm M240 up to the heavy-caliber .50cal M2 Browning. They are used against soft targets such as trucks or enemy infantry, and can generally carry an obscene amount of ammo due to said ammo being stashed in the vehicle itself. Heavy-caliber machineguns can even be employed successfully against light enemy armored systems, and can also punch through walls that lighter machineguns cannot.
Machineguns come in several types of mounts on armored vehicles:
- Coaxial. Coaxial machineguns are sighted to the same place that the main gun is, and are controlled by the vehicle's gunner. Coaxial machineguns are employed to destroy infantry and soft vehicle targets, preserving the main gun ammunition for more significant threats.
- Crew-operated external mounts. These machineguns are mounted on the outside of the vehicle, requiring the crew members to 'turn out' and manually operate them, which in turn leaves them vulnerable to enemy small-arms fire.
- Crew-operated internal mounts. Some vehicles have internally-operated machineguns that can be employed by passengers of the vehicle. The BMP3 is an example of such a vehicle.
- Remote weapon station (RWS). These machineguns or grenade machineguns are mounted externally, yet use a sensor package/control system mounted internally that allows the crew to operate them without having to be exposed to enemy fire. The RWS mount that the commander of the Panther IFV has access to is an example of this type of mount.
The RWS of a Panther IFV
Anti-Tank Guided Missiles are carried by a number of armored vehicles. These missiles are capable of outright destroying most armored threats and are very dangerous to face off against. ATGMs such as the US TOW give less-than-heavy-armor vehicles a fighting chance against main battle tanks. Most common ground-launched ATGMs require some sort of guidance/tracking of the target from launch time until impact.
ATGMs can also be employed effectively in an anti-bunker/anti-building capacity when the threat of enemy armor is not present.
The grenade machinegun is exactly what it sounds like. Capable of firing dozens of grenades at a high rate of fire, these are superb weapons to use against enemy infantry, soft vehicles, and light armor. Their effects against heavier vehicles are generally unremarkable - by the time they can do enough damage, the heavier vehicle will have already blown them to scrap.
Grenade machineguns generally have a steeply arced trajectory due to their relatively low velocity, but the terminal effects of the grenades are independent of their velocity and stay lethal out to as far as they can be lobbed.
Arma simulates the degree to which a turret is or is not stabilized. There are two basic types - non-stabilized and stabilized. Stabilized turrets can occasionally come in varieties where only one axis is stabilized, though that is rarer.
A non-stabilized turret does not have any special method to keep the turret pointed in a given direction while the vehicle is moving. Because of this, uneven terrain makes it difficult for the gunner to engage on the move or when the vehicle is turning. Non-stabilized turrets are most effective when the vehicle is at a complete stop and the gunner is able to aim effectively.
Two examples of non-stabilized turrets can be found in the HMMWV and AAV vehicles. Neither is particularly accurate if the gunner is attempting to engage while moving on rough terrain. Utilization of a non-stabilized turret weapon system requires a tighter coordination between the gunner and driver for good effects to be achieved.
Stabilized turrets use special mechanisms to maintain their orientation and direction, within reasonable limits, while the vehicle maneuvers. Because of this, vehicles with stabilized turrets can engage effectively even when driving at high speeds, over rough terrain, or during turns and other vehicle maneuvers.
The M2A1 Slammer is a prime example of a vehicle with a stabilized turret.
While not a hardcore simulation-level damage system, the Arma 3 vehicle damage model does have a number of different damage effects that can present themselves based on the location and severity of the damage. This section will describe them.
For vehicles with bullet-resistant glass such as MRAPs, each window will be able to sustain a certain amount of damage before it is compromised and destroyed. Light weapons may take dozens of rounds to finally shatter the window, but heavier weapons like .50cal machineguns can quickly punch through and destroy an armored glass window.
Always remember that the armored glass is there to give you a chance to survive unexpected fire - it is not perpetually impervious to damage!
The Hunter MRAP's front windshield in the process of being destroyed by enemy fire
Non-catastrophic kill is the result of a vehicle being knocked out without it violently exploding into flames. It is likely that one or more crew members have been killed in the process, and the survivors will likely be wounded. Due to it not always being clear when a vehicle has been knocked out in such a fashion, many gunners will put additional rounds into the vehicle until they get secondary explosions, flame, or some other visual indication that the vehicle is no longer a threat.
A catastrophic kill happens when the vehicle explodes violently from battle damage. If the crew is inside when this happens, they won't have a chance and will be obliterated in the blast.
A vehicle which has been knocked out, either via a catastrophic or non-catastrophic kill, will likely have secondary explosions if the vehicle burns. Secondary explosions are caused by the vehicle's ammo or fuel exploding, and they can easily take out any nearby dismounted infantry. In addition to this, some mods introduce enhanced cookoffs that further refine the secondary-explosion system. Cookoffs can result in stored rockets igniting and launching, ammo causing turrets to be propelled into the air, or just generally send dangerous shrapnel throughout the area. ALWAYS STAY CLEAR OF ALL KNOCKED-OUT VEHICLES!
Destroyed vehicles that catch fire will cause damage to any players that get close to them. As it says above, stay clear of all knocked-out vehicles. Nothing good can come from getting up close to them.
Most wheeled vehicles are susceptible to having their tires flattened by enemy fire. This makes the vehicle difficult to control, usually with it tending to turn heavily into the tire(s) that were damaged. Drivers should attempt to keep their vehicle moving for as long as possible and attempt to get out of the kill zone before abandoning the vehicle (if necessary).
An AMV sits on the road, disabled by an explosion that took out its front four wheels
Tracked vehicles can suffer a number of different types of damage.
Tracking is known as a "mobility kill". When a vehicle is tracked, it means that they have lost the use of one (or both) tracks and can no longer move in a controlled fashion. The vehicle becomes a stationary turret - or bunker - for all intents and purposes. The vehicle crewmen should stay put if they can safely do so and fight from within their vehicle. If this is not possible, they need to immediately bail and make their way to friendly infantry positions. Reasons for bailing would include knowing that enemy ATGM or AT teams are able to re-engage them or are likely to be able to strike without possibility of prevention.
A solid hit to an armored vehicle's turret can cause it to lock up and become unresponsive. In this case, the tank may or may not be able to effectively engage the enemy, depending on whether the gun is active and how it is oriented. In most cases a tank which has lost use of its turret needs to get out of the combat zone and head back to friendly territory for repairs. When the loss of the main armament has been sustained, it is referred to as a "firepower kill".
As a general rule, you should be capable of handling vehicle role responsibilities early in your Arma career. It is important that players are familiar with all of the roles available so that they can operate as a motorized vehicle crewman, or a mechanized one, when the time comes - or gain the basic proficiency to allow them to train up as a heavier vehicle crew in the future.
To that end, let's look at the different vehicle roles available to basic infantry.
A driver does what it sounds like - drives the vehicle around the battlefield in accordance with their team leader or squad leader's directions.
The driver does not dismount unless they are explicitly told to by their team leader, or when the verbal command "BAIL OUT, BAIL OUT, BAIL OUT!" is given by themself or another player.
A summary of the driver's responsibilities follow.
- Drives the vehicle according to the directions of their team leader.
- Maintains spacing when moving with other vehicles
- Knows the overall formation being employed, also known as the 'order of march', and their vehicle's place in it.
- Stays mounted at all times unless told to dismount directly, or when a "BAIL OUT" command is issued.
- Communicates the vehicles' status and issues a "BAIL OUT!" command if necessary. If the vehicle's tires are blown, they immediately attempt to pull the vehicle into cover or concealment or out of the kill zone before giving the "BAIL OUT!" order. If this is not possible, they immediately halt the vehicle and gives the bail out command.
- Exercises good navigation techniques either by listening to their navigator's directions or navigating on their own in the absence of a dedicated navigator.
- Watches the road for any signs of satchels, mines, IEDs, explosives, etc. Dangerous explosives will require immediate evasive action - while other members of the crew should be observing as well, the driver is the one who can react most rapidly to avoid them.
- Stays alert and avoids colliding with other vehicles as well as any unexpected obstacles in their path.
The driver position in a Hunter MRAP
The navigator is often a fireteam leader. They typically sit in the front passenger seat of the vehicle and utilize their map and view of the terrain to give the driver clear, concise directions on where to go and how to get there.
- Gives the driver clear and concise direction at all times. This includes describing the route, giving advance warning of any turns that may be needed, etc. The navigator never assumes that the driver knows anything about the route - they always explicitly calls for turns and other maneuvers, and give plenty of advance warning to the driver - such as telling them that a turn is on the right, 500 meters ahead, and then updating them as the vehicle closes on it.
- Must be familiar with what the movement plan is from start to finish, in order to be able to make judgment calls if re-routing becomes necessary.
A gunner is tasked with employing the crew-served weapon system of the vehicle, or in the case of many vehicles, the Remote Weapon System (RWS). Due to their elevated position or the use of an RWS sensor, they have better observation of the terrain than the rest of the vehicle and communicate what they see to help maintain the rest of the vehicle's situational awareness.
A gunner does not dismount the vehicle unless their crew-served weapon is empty, when they are directed to by their team leader, or when the command "BAIL OUT, BAIL OUT, BAIL OUT!" is given.
A summary of the gunner's responsibilities follow.
- Employs the vehicles crew-served weapon system or Remote Weapon System.
- Maintains a high state of situational awareness and conveys what they see to the passengers of the vehicle.
- Scans a sector appropriate to the position of their vehicle in the overall vehicle formation or convoy
- Front vehicles always scan to the front
- Rear vehicles always scan to the rear
- All other vehicles watch either left or right, alternating
- Stays mounted on their weapon until it is empty, they are directed by their team leader to dismount, or the command "BAIL OUT!" is received.
Manning the RWS on a Hunter MRAP
Passengers of transport vehicles are generally infantry embarked for the purpose of transporting them to a fight. They're interested in getting safely to the fight, and their responsibilities reflect this.
- Scan for and communicate threats. While they will sometimes not have a good view of their surroundings, they will take advantage of whatever view they do have to maintain situational awareness.
- Dismount to provide local security. When required, infantry dismount to provide local security for vehicles. This is generally done during temporary halts en route to their actual final dismount point.
- Dismount to fight. Once at the final dismount point, or as required otherwise, infantry disembark the vehicles, form up into their respective units, and begin the assigned fight. This can include reacting to a convoy ambush as well as any other unexpected fights that might happen before the main objective.
Soldiers riding in the back of a HEMTT transport
When it comes to embarking troops into a vehicle, the process is straightforward so long as leaders take initiative and command, and subordinates listen for and follow directions.
Element leaders always load up last in vehicles. Their responsibility is to get their team members into the vehicle that has been assigned by their higher leadership. After being designated a vehicle, they will direct their team members to it, supervise their loading, and then load up as the last man. If they need to take the front passenger seat of a vehicle to act as a navigator, they will need to direct the person sitting in that seat to get out, then wait for them to mount up before remounting the vehicle. This is simply due to Arma not allowing you to choose which specific passenger seat you load into.
As a general rule, a fireteam will attempt to occupy the following positions in a vehicle if they're assigned to one.
- Fireteam Leader - Navigator
- Automatic Rifleman - Passenger. The AR does not take turret gunner, since doing so would mean that the fireteam's automatic rifle would be unused if the rest of the team needed to dismount while the turret gunner remained in their position.
- Assistant Automatic Rifleman - Turret gunner or remote weapon systems operator.
- Riflemen - Driver, passengers. The best driver is picked from the riflemen. In the absence of willing or capable riflemen drivers, the fireteam leader can become the driver, with another team member acting as navigator.
Due to the way Arma models vehicles and armor, armored personnel carriers and troop-carrying vehicles tend to be a bit vulnerable to enemy fire. It is a good idea to avoid staying mounted as passengers in them, due to the risk of a single RPG wiping out the entire vehicle, its crew, and the immediate family and close friends of everyone who was embarked on it at the time.
When dismounting, infantry elements should provide 360° security as a standard. They should also try to get at least fifteen meters of clearance from the vehicle to help protect against primary or secondary explosions in the event that it is engaged.
It is a good idea to have "Eject" bound to an easily accessed key combo for emergency dismounts, such as 2x Ctrl+E.
Moving on, let's look at the various other considerations that must be made regarding halts and dismounting from vehicles.
When to dismount?
To help decide on when to dismount, versus when to stay mounted, follow these basic guidelines.
- If a halt is short duration (30 seconds or less), mounted troops typically stay in their vehicles. All personnel continue to scan around the vehicle and stay alert to any potential enemy threats.
- If a halt is longer duration, mounted troops dismount and provide local security. Team leaders and squad leaders will order the dismount, at which point the "Dismount Drill" procedures are conducted. When it comes time to remount and move out, team leaders and squad leaders will say "Remount", "Mount up", or some variation thereof, which will then be repeated by everyone in earshot over direct-speaking comms. Each team leader will maintain accountability of their men each time they dismount and remount to ensure that nobody is ever left behind.
- Regardless of the duration of a halt, the driver and gunner always stay mounted. The only time they will leave the vehicle is if it is disabled or destroyed. The gunner may also dismount if the vehicle gun is out of ammo, so that they can employ their personal weapon.
5 & 25 Scan
A "5 & 25" scan involves scanning the area immediately around you and the vehicle for five meters, then dismounting and scanning for 25 meters in all directions. The idea is to ensure that the vehicle did not stop near a concealed satchel charge, mine, or enemy. The tactical situation will determine how much time you have to spend on this scan. At the very least, upon dismounting, ensure that you do a hasty 360° threat scan. Ensure you check all of the concealment-offering objects - such as bushes, brush, etc - around you as time permits. A well-camouflaged enemy will be extremely difficult to detect.
Note that due to the peculiarities of how Arma models armor and vehicle protection, the "5 & 25" scan often becomes "get out of the vehicle FIRST and scan afterward", instead of the more real-world procedure of scanning the first 5 meters while still mounted. In reality, being mounted in an armored vehicle provides a very large degree of protection. In Arma 3 this can depend heavily on the armor of the vehicle and the potential explosives used, so it can be a judgment call as to whether you'll want to dismount first or not.
Dismount Drill Procedures
The 'dismount drill' is a standard set of procedures that are executed upon dismounting a vehicle. While they can differ somewhat based on the tactical situation (ie: under fire or not), the same concepts apply at all times.
If dismounting under fire...
- Dismount once the vehicle has come to a halt or is moving slow enough that exiting will not injure you.
- Immediately return fire on known or suspected enemy positions while moving to a position that offers cover or concealment. If no cover or concealment is available, either use the vehicle as cover, or take a lower stance.
- Begin the "React to Contact" battle drill and follow it until directed otherwise.
- If the situation allows, conduct a hasty "5 & 25" scan, as described above. Ambushers will often try to get vehicles to stop in an area that has been mined or otherwise booby-trapped.
If not under fire...
- Dismount once the vehicle has come to a halt.
- Move away from the vehicle to a position that offers cover or concealment. If unavailable, take a knee or go prone to reduce your exposure.
- Conduct a deliberate "5 & 25" scan, as described above.
- Scan outward and identify likely threat avenues, key terrain, etc.
- Continue scanning the surrounding terrain for enemy threats until ordered to remount the vehicle or move out with your team leader.
Bear in mind that this same dismount drill can be used when exiting a helo or any other vehicle where you may need to immediately fight or form a perimeter and provide security.
The decision to dismount can be a command from a leader or on your own disciplined initiative. If given as a command, it will be "Dismount, dismount!". Individual initiative is important here, of course. Don't sit in a vehicle getting shot up if you know you should be dismounting to react to the threat on foot!
Do not say "BAIL OUT!" when ordering an infantry dismount! "BAIL OUT" will cause the entire crew to exit the vehicle as well, and should only be used if the vehicle is in imminent threat of being completely destroyed.
Everyone in a vehicle must scan their sectors to maintain situational awareness at all times. Vigilance will help to spot enemy ambushers and spoil their element of surprise. The sector a person scans will depend upon where they are placed in the vehicle. For an MRAP, basic sectors are depicted below. 360° coverage is the ultimate goal.
Transport trucks, unarmored HMMWVs, jeeps, motorcycles, etc, fall into the 'soft' vehicle class. These are meant to be used as transportation and will not survive any significant combat. During combat, 'soft' vehicles carry the minimum of crew - a driver and gunner at most. All infantry using them as transportation dismount to fight on foot once contact is made, or whenever it is anticipated as being imminent.
Unarmed soft vehicles fall into two general categories - transport and service. Transport vehicles are concerned with getting troops somewhere, while service vehicles carry fuel, ammo, and provide mechanical support to damaged vehicles. All of these are death traps once bullets start flying.
Left to right: GREENFOR Zamak, BLUFOR HEMTT, OPFOR Zamak, BLUFOR Hunter
Armed soft vehicles are generally vulnerable to enemy attack, yet have a powerful weapon on them that helps to counterbalance that vulnerability. HMMWVs with HMGs, GMGs, ATGMs, and such are the prime examples of this class of vehicle, while guerrilla vehicles like technicals also fit.
The following threats are the ones most commonly employed against soft vehicles. While there are plenty of other things that can destroy a soft vehicle, these are the most commonly encountered. For more information about additional threat types, read the "Armored Vehicles - Typical Threats" section below, and understand that most of those can also be employed against soft vehicles.
If you take anything away from this, it should be that soft vehicles do not stand up to serious enemy resistance and are best employed in low-intensity conflicts. If you're going into a serious fight, bring a serious armored vehicle.
Small-Arms Fire (SAF)
Small arms fire is by far the greatest and most prevalent threat towards 'soft' vehicles in A3. The key characteristics of it, as it relates to 'soft' vehicles, follow.
- Generally massed. Most infantry units will mass fire on soft vehicles to ensure their swift destruction.
- Can puncture the hull of a soft vehicle easily, wounding or killing those inside.
- Can destroy tires and cripple the mobility of a vehicle.
An OPFOR soldier blazes full-auto with their Katiba rifle
Heavy Machinegun Fire
Heavy machinegun fire typically is encountered in the form of enemy vehicles. Heavy machineguns are more than capable of quickly destroying a soft vehicle. They do everything that small-arms fire does, except multiplied in intensity. They can destroy tires, tear through the vehicle hull and kill anything they hit, destroy the engines, and generally swiss-cheese soft vehicles in short order.
Light Anti-Tank Rockets
Light anti-tank rockets, such as the RPG-7, are deadly threats to soft vehicles. One good hit from an RPG warhead is usually enough to disable a soft vehicle, if not outright destroy it.
An OPFOR soldier sporting an RPG-32
For the purposes of Arma 3, the three armored vehicle classes are light, medium, and heavy. These classifications are given based upon two things: The armor of the vehicle and the armament. They differ somewhat from the real-world classifications in some regards, but this convention is done in consideration of the way in which Arma models such vehicles.
For our purposes, light armor has the weakest armor and weakest weapons - nothing more than a .50cal MG and a grenade launcher is typical for this class. Hunter or Panther MRAPs with their HMG and GMGs fit this, while older weapon systems like Strykers, AAVs, up-armored HMMWVs, and M113s fall into the light armor class as well.
Light armor offers effective protection against small-arms fire but generally is vulnerable to anti-tank weapons like RPGs and various types of explosives.
From left to right, a Strider, Ifrit, and Hunter.
Medium armor tends to differ mainly by the armaments it has. Medium armor has at least a cannon (typically automatic). The AMV-7 Marshall, Bradley IFV, Stryker MGS (Mobile Gun System) or ATGM (Anti-Tank Guided Missile), and LAV-25 are considered medium armor due to their markedly improved lethality compared to the light armor.
Medium armor provides excellent protection against small-arms fire and some (but not much) protection against infantry-carried anti-tank weapons. Their weapons allow them to wipe the floor with any enemy infantry and some of them are even effective against heavy armor thanks to ATGMs and such.
The two center vehicles - a BTR-K and Marshall - are medium armor. Flanking them are the Marid (left) and Panther (right), examples of light armored vehicles that could be mistaken for medium.
These are exclusively tanks. The Slammer M2A1 Main Battle Tank is Arma 3's heavy armor for BLUFOR. It has tremendous firepower, great armor, and is pretty much the king of armored vehicle combat in Arma 3. Heavy armor is the infantry's worst nightmare come to menacing life.
T-100, left, and the M2A1 Slammer, right.
Armored vehicle roles differ somewhat from those of soft vehicles, primarily because they are intended to be aggressively employed in a combat role. The drivers, commanders, and gunners of armored vehicles must be knowledgeable on what that means, and capable of carrying out the following responsibilities with competence.
The armor driver is typically the junior member of the crew. Their basic responsibilities include:
- Moving the armor in a tactical fashion from one tactical position to another, at the commander's orders.
- Locating and positioning the armor in hull-down and other protected positions when possible, with the assistance of the Vehicle Commander (VC) or Tank Commander (TC).
- Scanning to the front for mines, satchels, IEDs, and other threats or suspicious objects (such as oddly parked cars) that may be placed in their path.
- Listening to the commander or gunner for movement orders.
- Staying alert of friendly infantry positions and attempting to avoid them when tactically sound. The driver should also attempt to communicate their intent to reverse when in tight terrain with infantry nearby (ie: MOUT).
AMV driver turned out
The armor gunner is responsible for employing the bulk of the armor's armaments. Their basic responsibilities include:
- Scanning for the enemy. A gunner who is not scanning constantly is not doing their job.
- Calling out contacts as they see them. This helps the armor commander prioritize their fires as needed.
- Listening for and acting on the vehicle commander's orders. An armor gunner oftentimes has a restricted view of the surroundings compared to what the commander sees, so it is important that they listen for orders and direction from those that can see more than them.
- Engaging the enemy and communicating what they are doing to the armor commander and driver. This includes letting the driver know when they are reloading the main gun, so that the armor can go turret-down if possible.
- Using the correct weapon for any given threat. The gunner should have the familiarity and judgment to not employ SABOT rounds against enemy infantry, as one example.
- Covering their sector and taking cues from other vehicles to know what sectors they should pay the most attention to.
An AMV gunner engages down a street at night
Often referred to as the 'vehicle commander' (VC) or 'tank commander' (TC), the armor commander is the senior member of the crew. They are in charge of their armor, and give orders to both the gunner and driver in order to carry out whatever mission they have been tasked with. Their basic responsibilities include:
- Directing the movement of their armor. They do this by giving move waypoints to the driver and giving guidance on how and where the vehicle should be moving.
- Coordinating with other armored vehicles or other friendly forces.
- Scanning for and designating targets for their gunner, specifying the method of engagement if needed.
- Employing the commander machinegun for close-in defense of the vehicle, or fire against light targets at other ranges.
- Orient. Command to get either the vehicle or gunner to align themselves to a specific direction. There are different orientation methods possible, described in the next section.
- Hull down. Command to get the tank into a hull down position. More details (such as orientation direction) are given as necessary.
- Turret down. Command to retreat the tank into a masked, turret-down position.
- Jockey left/right. Command to maneuver the tank into concealment, shift left or right, then pop back up. Described in more detail later.
- Firing. Gunner alert to let the crew know they are firing their weapons.
- Long/Over. Commander or gunner has observed a shot that went over the target. Gunner must adjust lower to hit the target.
- Short. Commander or gunner has observed a shot that landed in front of the target. Gunner must adjust up to hit the target.
- More lead / less lead. Gunner needs to apply more or less lead to hit the target, based on the fall of their previous round.
- Hit. Commander or gunner has observed a shot that hit the target directly.
- Up. Main gun is ready to fire. Typically given after a reload.
- SMOKE, SMOKE. Emergency command from the driver or gunner to have the commander deploy smoke immediately and have the driver maneuver evasively. Note that if smoke needs to be employed in a non-emergency situation (ie - to screen infantry movements), the command becomes "Deploy smoke" and is spoken with less of an "oh shit!" intensity.
- On target. Gunner is on-target and ready to fire. Can also use "Tally", an air brevity term.
- Don't see/Not seen/No vis. Gunner cannot see the target that has been described to him. Can also use "No joy", an air brevity term.
When directing the movement or gunnery of a tank or armored vehicle, several methods of orientation can be employed. They are as follows.
- Orient. The command "Orient" informs the gunner or driver to align with the commander's orientation using the vehicle radar. This method is extremely quick and easy for the commander and gunner/driver but will not be as accurate as giving a bearing. Example usages follow.
- "Gunner, orient." Gunner turns turret to face the direction of the commander turret.
- "Driver, orient." Driver turns vehicle to face the direction of the commander turret.
- "Driver, orient on gunner." Driver turns vehicle to face the direction of the gunner's turret.
- Compass bearing. Using the digital compass the commander will read off their bearing to allow the gunner/driver to traverse to the same bearing. This method is very accurate and generally the preferred method to use. Example usages follow.
- "Gunner, orient 235". Gunner will orient to a heading of 235.
- "Gunner, target, 115, tank." Gunner must traverse to 115 degrees to spot and engage a tank.
- "Gunner, your sector of fire is from 070 to 165." Gunner will scan an arc stretching from 070 to 165 degrees until directed otherwise.
- Clock orientation. When using the clock method, the hull of the vehicle forms the 12 o'clock reference. Note that this method is not terribly accurate and should only be used at close ranges. It can also be used by any crew member (driver, passenger, loader) that spots a target which the turret crew hasn't seen yet.
- "Driver, friendly truck in trail at our 5 o'clock". Driver becomes aware of the fact that a friendly vehicle is nearby in a given direction. If they need to back up unexpectedly, they can attempt to avoid maneuvering to the 5 o'clock position in the hopes of avoiding hitting friendlies.
- Relative direction. Relative directions are the simplest and most coarse orientations possible - this is simply the act of saying "Left", "Right", "Front-left", et cetera. Relative directions are most commonly used when guiding the driver or shifting fire from a known point. Example usages follow.
- "Driver, friendly infantry on our left, very close." Driver becomes aware of friendlies nearby, which causes them to be more cautious in their maneuvering.
- "Gunner, orient right, scan the treeline." Gunner will maintain an orientation to the right of the vehicle as it moves, scanning the designated treeline for enemy targets.
- "Gunner, from your last shot, shift right one hundred meters and engage that bush line." Gunner will shift their fire to a bush line near where their last shot landed and engage it.
Tank/Vehicle Commanders have a great many responsibilities and things they must stay aware of in order to effectively employ their vehicles and keep their crews alive. The following sections detail some of the more significant aspects of what they are expected to do.
- Ensure your crew is aware of where likely enemy threats are, and is oriented as best as possible before any contact is made. Predicting where the enemy is and looking in their general direction is far better than being caught by surprise and having to react to their fire.
- Prioritize your threat selection and engagement based on the capabilities and imminent danger posed by the enemy. Enemy armor and ATGM systems are always the highest priority, followed by unguided rocket soldiers, and finally everything else.
- Once your hull-down tank has been spotted and has received or is likely to receive incoming fire, go turret down and jockey to a new position. Jockeying is described in further detail a bit later on - it is simply the act of changing positions in a concealed manner so that the tank can pop up in a different location each time it engages the enemy.
- Avoid moving straight forward from an over watch position or battle position. Jockeying to a new position or backing away from the position and going around on the low ground are usually better choices.
- Stay on low ground as much as possible. Moving on top of of ridge lines and over hilltops will skyline the vehicles.
- You should only move as fast as your gunner can accurately observe and engage targets. Blitzing through an area will generally result in you taking fire that could have been avoided with a more deliberate movement scheme.
- Commanders must remember that the driver has restricted field of view. When referencing landmarks, bear in mind that they must be between 11 and 1 O'clock and at roughly the same elevation for the driver to be able to see them, unless they are turned out. Some tanks, like the Slammer, do not allow a driver to turn out due to the design of the turret.
- When moving, taking the time to explain the desired position for the tank to end up at as well as the route to use will allow the driver to carry out the movement with minimal supervision. This may not be possible at all times, but when there is time for it, it can increase situational awareness by allowing the commander to scan for threats instead of focus so much on navigating the driver.
- While driving in formation with other vehicles, or in close support of friendly infantry, keep in mind that your driver will not be able to see them. Commanders must guide the driver in such situations.
- There will be a short delay when ordering the driver to stop, or execute any other command, due to the time it takes for armored vehicles to come to a stop. Give commands 1-2 second in advance or give commands such as "Driver, advance 10m" or "Driver, advance to the next intersection".
- As a vehicle commander, you should always be communicating the gunner's area of responsibility. Using bearings, clock ray or landmark reference are some of the many methods to set your gunners left and right of arc.
- Set your gunner's rules of engagement and keep them updated as the situation evolves. "Hold Fire", "Priority Targets Only" or "Fire at Will" are the most common. "Priority Targets Only" will inform the gunner to only engage targets that pose a threat to your vehicle or other friendly forces. It is generally advised to have a gunner set to "Fire at will" to ensure the quickest reaction to threats.
- Use your gunner's improved optics to observe distant targets. Your gunner will be able to aim at anything suspicious that you can't identify through the commander periscope and get a clearer ID on it - you simply need to orient them on such suspicious things in the first place.
- Continually inform your crew of the positions of friendly elements to maintain their situational awareness. As the vehicle commander, the rounds that come from your vehicle are ultimately your responsibility. Ensure that they're only being sent towards the enemy.
- Your view through the commander's periscope will be different from the gunner's view through the primary gun sight, due to the commander being elevated somewhat. Remember this when working with your gunner, as terrain features could block line of sight from one of the view ports for them without necessarily obstructing your view.
- Keep the gunner's orientation in mind when moving in close terrain or urban areas. The cannon extends past the side of the vehicle when at the 9 or 3 o'clock and can collide with passing objects. While this will not damage the cannon in Arma 3, it will jar the vehicle and disrupt movement.
A commander initiated engagement (CIE) is similar to the contact report used by infantry, but tailored towards the equipment and requirements of armored vehicle crews.
It is important that the commander is quick, clear and concise when giving a Commander Initiated Engagement. Passing the vital information in a timely matter will ensure the safety of yourself, your vehicle and other friendly elements. To this end, let's take a look at the different components of a CIE.
- Alert. Identifying the position "Gunner" is the standard alert; however, the infantry word "Contact" or "Target" is also acceptable. This will alert the gunner a CIE is about to follow.
- Orient. There are three common methods to orient the gunner on target. Choosing which method will be determined by the VC's preference and the difficulty for the gunner to find the target. They are the same as those detailed above in the "Orientation" section. In addition to giving the direction, the distance is also give, typically with the assistance of the vehicle's laser rangefinder.
Describe. Quickly describe what exactly the target is - for example, whether it is a tank or an enemy squad in the open. This will confirm for the gunner what their precise target is, which is of particular importance when multiple threats may be present in a given area. Brevity should be exercised in this step as speed is very important in a CIE.
If the gunner observes the target, which should hopefully be the case, they will verbally state "On" to inform the VC they is observing the target. If the gunner cannot find the target the command "Not seen" will be used to inform the VC they need to expound on the CIE to get on target.
Once the gunner is on target, the commander will finish the CIE by designating the weapon system to be used (Coax, SABOT, HE, etc.) and end with the command "Fire".
In the interest of saving time, which in turns saves lives in vehicle engagements, the commander can give the weapon system and "Fire when ready" command after step 3. This will inform the gunner to fire as soon as the target is in sight.
Once you have given a CIE and the gunner is engaging the target, begin to scan for other targets. Your gunner will be able to observe the target and finish it, while you should be worried about any other enemy threats that may be around. Ideally, you will spot a new threat and give your follow-on CIE commands just after the gunner has finished destroying the initial threat.
The following threats are the most common ones encountered by armored vehicles. I have avoided mentioning two other possible threats - cannons and artillery - which can be read about in other sections.
Infantry anti-tank rockets are the unguided weapons most commonly found in infantry units to protect them against enemy vehicles and armor. They come in a variety of types, with some being single-shot disposable systems (AT-4, RPG-22, LAW), while others have a reloadable component with a variety of warhead types to select from, like the RPG-42.
Depending on their size and warhead, these can cause significant trouble for most armored vehicles. They will not outright destroy main battle tanks with a single shot as a general rule, but their stronger variants can do that to light and medium armored systems, and massing multiple launchers can greatly enhance their effectiveness.
Due to their unguided nature, AT rockets tend to have a relatively short effective range, particularly when employed against moving or obscured/masked vehicles. A long shot is considered to be beyond 400m, and none of them are capable of reaching a kilometer.
Anti-tank rockets are capable of causing mobility and firepower kills, as well as injuring any personnel embarked in a vehicle. The best way to avoid them is to be vigilant in scanning, utilize proper movement techniques, and be able to think like an enemy AT soldier and predict how they might be employed against you.
ATGM's come in three main types on the ground - infantry carried, such as the PCML or Titan, crew-served, such as the TOW, or crew-served vehicle-mounted. They are also featured on rotary- and fixed-wing aircraft, like the TOW, Hellfire, Skalpel, and Maverick missile systems.
ATGM's are guided missiles with powerful warheads that can wreck armored vehicles with ease. They are incredibly dangerous weapon systems. The only defense against them is doing whatever you can to not be shot at - once they're in the air, nothing short of vehicle armor and active defense systems can save you, and neither is 100% effective. Driving into thick concealment like trees or an urban area is the best option if either are nearby, as there's a chance that the missile might impact a building or tree before it can make it to your vehicle.
ATGMs such as the BTR-K's Titan can be fired in a wire-guided mode, allowing them to engage low-flying aircraft without needing to acquire a lock first.
BTR-K firing a Titan ATGM
Anti-tank mines are heavy, powerful mines that can tear the guts out of armored vehicles or destroy their mobility. They are triggered by pressure and magnetic detection, generally - if a heavy enough vehicle drives over them, they detonate, sending a fierce explosion up into what is typically the weakest armor of any vehicle. Mines are place-and-leave weapons that do not require an enemy to be nearby to detonate them.
Depending on where the mine is when it detonates, a vehicle can either be outright destroyed (such as if it detonates directly under the hull) or simply disabled (such as when it detonates under the wheels or tracks).
Anti-tank mines are best avoided through the careful observation of the vehicle crew and any attached infantry.
See the mine? No? This is why they're such a danger to tanks - good emplacement makes them almost impossible to spot while moving. This one is placed at a sharp bend in the road to make it hard to maneuver past once it disables a vehicle.
Satchel charges are explosive packs that can be used in an anti-tank capability when needed. They are similar to mines in their destructive ability, differing primarily in how they are detonated. A satchel must be either set on time detonation or remotely detonated, and if remote, the triggerman must be within several hundred meters of it to be able to send the signal.
IEDs are similar and can be triggered through a variety of different methods, including infrared, pressure, magnetic, and manual detonation. They can be buried or may be disguised as trash, dead animals, or hidden in vehicles near the side of a road.
By virtue of a manual detonation mode, a satchel charge or IED can lay dormant while lead vehicles pass it, with the triggerman waiting until a vulnerable vehicle gets near it before detonating.
Like mines, these explosives are best avoided through the careful observation of the vehicle crew and any attached infantry.
Hull down is the term used to describe when a vehicle (typically a tank) uses the terrain in such a way that only the gun/turret is visible to enemy forces. This provides the enemy with a smaller target, protects the more vulnerable parts of the vehicle from enemy fire, and allows the vehicle to fire more or less unhindered.
The illustration below shows a Slammer MBT in a hull-down position behind a small rise. From this location, the tank had perfect visibility of a major enemy avenue of approach and had a clear line of fire down that approach without having to expose anything more than the turret to enemy return fire.
A Slammer utilizing a hull-down position to cover an enemy avenue of approach
Hull down positions can be used by any vehicles that have weapon systems atop them - even a light vehicle with a RWS can benefit from a hull-down position.
In the best-case scenario, a tank can utilize a hull-down position when firing, and then retreat back below the cover (i.e. down the slope that provides the 'hull-down' possibility in the first place) to total protection during the reload before popping back into a hull-down position for the next shot. Whenever possible, a tank should not pop back up at the same location it used last - a new one should be picked each time to prevent any enemies from zeroing in on their next exposure point.
Remember that a hull-down position is relative to the location and distance from the enemy. The greater the distance of the engagement, the more likely you can get into a hull down position even in a small elevation decrease.
"Turret down" is when the entire tank is hidden behind the terrain or an obstacle.
Unbuttoning is possible in most armored vehicles from the driver or commander position. It simply involves opening and standing in the hatch. This is very useful for keeping a high level of situational awareness and should be used whenever the situation allows for it. The main drawback is that many of the unbuttoned crew members are highly vulnerable to enemy fire due to the high-profile stances they take. However, if you exercise good judgment and only unbutton when it's safe to do so, you should be fine and will definitely benefit from the increase in situational awareness.
Make sure that you have your turn-in/turn-out keys bound to something readily accessible - "stance up" and "stance down" are great for this. Having these keys bound makes it much easier to duck at a moment's notice, and generally increases the ease and usefulness of turning in/out.
Note that in some vehicles a commander may have to turn out to employ a machinegun on the vehicle. For vehicles that require the TC to stand in their hatch to use the machinegun, a careful assessment must be made as to when and where it is safe to do so.
"Jockey left" or "Jockey right" are commands that a vehicle commander can use to have their driver move the vehicle laterally left or right behind cover without exposing the larger and weaker side profile to enemy observation or fire.
Jockeying is accomplished by backing the vehicle up to mask it from frontal fires, then turning left or right and driving a short distance laterally from the previous position. Once a suitable distance has been reached, the vehicle reorients towards the threat and advances up and back into a hull-down position from which it can resume engaging the enemy. This allows a vehicle to continually appear at different locations before firing, making it hard for the enemy to predict where it will appear and thus making it more survivable.
Armored vehicles can use their impressive hardiness and engine power in some rather unconventional ways. Foremost among these is the concept of 'buddy cover' as applied to vehicles. A tank or IFV can push an immobilized or destroyed vehicle hulk in front of it, albeit at a reduced speed. This can be used to shove disabled vehicles out of the way, but can also be employed as additional protection against frontal enemy fires. A knocked-out piece of armor pushed along in such a fashion can absorb enemy fire and shelter the pushing vehicle from damage - forcing the enemy to aim more precisely to hit any exposed portions of the pushing vehicle.