A guerrilla fighter is faced with an entirely different prospect for battle compared to a soldier in a regular military force, and because of this, their tactics change significantly to reflect their situation. Guerrillas - sometimes referred to as insurgents - are less-equipped, lower-tech, and generally fewer in number than their regular military counterparts. They do not organize or fight in the same manner as a traditional military force, leading to their organizations being considered “irregular forces”. Their actions are based around hit-and-run tactics, sabotage, and small-unit actions focused on points of enemy weakness.
“Guerrilla warfare” is the term applied to this style of fighting, and while it is generally used at a high level to distinguish the combatants in a theater of operations, the same premises can also come into play in the event that a regular military force is cut off from fellow units and stuck behind enemy lines. Even two conventional armies fighting each other can result in these sorts of isolated units being forced to conduct guerrilla warfare as a means of continuing to resist and damage the enemy despite not having access to their side’s full range of capabilities.
Being knowledgeable about this form of warfare is essential – knowing how a guerrilla fights helps you to counter them as well as operate efficiently in that role should you find yourself in it.
The most fundamental rules of operating as a guerrilla are as follows.
Choose your targets carefully
Phrased another way, don’t bite off more than you can chew. If you’re operating as a small band of guerrillas, it’s not wise to conduct an operation in an area where the enemy is vastly superior and able to quickly react to your presence. Choose vulnerable targets, ones which are isolated from supporting forces. In the absence of isolation, work towards targets that are located in areas in which you can easily blend in with the local populace after conducting your strike. When surrounded by civilians, the enemy has two basic options – one, to tread carefully and preserve local support, or two, to be indiscriminate in their retaliation and thus erode the support of the locals. Both paths are beneficial to your guerrilla cause, albeit in different ways.
Not only must you choose your targets carefully, it's also essential to pick the right time of day to conduct your attack. Striking at dusk and having a clear operational timeline can allow you to fight while it's still light enough to see, then withdraw under the cover of darkness. Likewise, attacking at dawn may allow you to sneak close to enemy positions before it's light enough for them to see you, then conduct your attack once it's bright enough to be effective. As with all things, careful consideration must be made as to what capabilities the enemy has with regards to nightvision, sensors, and so forth.
Strike hard and fast
The most fundamental guerrilla combat action is that of the ambush – whether that be ambushing a convoy, infantry patrol, or even attacking an enemy outpost by surprise. Ambushes allow your force to pick a place where the enemy is known to be operating, stack the odds in your favor, conduct the ambush, exploit the ambush site, then fade away before the enemy can react by bringing in reinforcements or other support. All guerrilla actions, when properly planned and executed, give the guerrilla force the tactical initiative and element of surprise.
The key to being successful is to have a well-defined plan which can be executed quickly and decisively by a guerrilla force numerically capable and equipped sufficiently to accomplish the mission. It is also greatly beneficial to know what types of enemy units are in the same operational area and might be called in as reinforcements in response to your action. Knowing how far away these potential reinforcements are gives you a means by which to determine how long you have before a withdrawal is necessary.
The primary types of enemy reinforcements you can expect are as follows:
- Foot-mobile infantry. A nearby patrol might be redirected in response to your actions – in this case, having scouts and security around the action site can help to give advance warning.
- Vehicles. The vehicles can be simple transport trucks on the low end, all the way up to armored fighting vehicles or tanks. Infantry can be expected to accompany these vehicles as a quick reaction force. Knowing the routes into and out of the action site, and the times it takes to travel them, allows for an estimate of their response capabilities. You can expect the vehicles to stop short of your action site, dismount their troops, and then sweep in from there.
- Airmobile infantry. An airmobile response is a hard one to deal with, as it is capable of depositing troops anywhere in your area on short notice. The same transports that bring the troops in are also liable to hang around the area acting as scouts and observation platforms, further hindering your ability to move. On the other hand, airmobile responses are fairly easy to plan for, as they tend to originate from major airfields. Knowing the distance you are from the airfield, and the likely timetable required to call in such a quick reaction force, allows you to figure out the safety time margin in the event that an air response is dispatched.
- Helicopter support. In addition to flying troops in, the enemy may also – or in lieu of – send in helicopter gunships. These gunships are capable of mass devastation if they catch you in the act and congregated, but can be mitigated by dispersing, presenting unarmed targets by ditching weapons in hidden caches, and by simply not being present when they arrive. Never underestimate the lethality of even a small scout helicopter, as they can harm you in ways that aren’t immediately obvious – such as by calling in other forces and directing them to your location. Always remember that a helicopter gunship’s powerful optics allow it to observe in great detail from a distance – just because a helicopter is far away does not mean that it isn’t watching you or even preparing to engage you.
- Aircraft support. When done correctly, you may never even know that an enemy aircraft entered the area. With the ability to fly high and drop precision-guided munitions, the first sign that close air support has been called in may be a glimpse of a bomb smashing down near you. Aircraft are a nightmare to defend against – without some sort of anti-aircraft guided munition like a surface-to-air missile or man-portable air defense (MANPAD) you’re effectively at their mercy. The same rules apply as with all aerial support – know how far away the nearest airbase is, how long it generally takes them to react, and hope that there isn’t a sortie already in progress that can be retasked earlier than you’d expect.
In addition to sending in manned responses, the enemy may also choose to utilize artillery or unmanned vehicles. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can monitor an area for long periods of time in silence, striking unexpectedly and with great precision. Artillery fires can be called in by those you’re attacking, nearby infantry, or even responding aircraft. The best protection against all of these is to choose your battles carefully, do what needs to be done, and get out of there before the enemy has a chance to use their best tools.
Don’t become fixed or allow the enemy to mass power against you
Knowing the vast array of forces the enemy can retaliate with, and the importance of striking and withdrawing, it should come as no surprise that the last thing you want to allow yourself to do is become fixed by the enemy. Being fixed – which is to say, being unable to move due to enemy action – is the goal that any unit calling for reinforcements or support is hoping to achieve. They want you to become stationary to increase the effectiveness of their aircraft, munitions, artillery, or to give supporting vehicles and infantry a clearer picture of where the ‘bad guys’ are. Fixing a guerrilla force is the first step towards destroying it – know this, and work hard to prevent it from happening to you.
There are many ways to avoid being fixed. The simplest is to deploy your forces throughout an area, and not simply at one point. Have different sections with different objectives – some sections will act as the primary force (such as an ambushing group), while others will be security. Locate the key terrain in your area of action and either occupy it or be positioned to place fires on it. If you expect a helibourne infantry reaction, survey the terrain and attempt to identify potential landing sites. While you may not be able to defend all of these landing sites, you will at least be mentally prepared to react in the event that the enemy reinforces via one of them.
Finally, remember that the war is more than a single battle. If you aren’t winning the fight, and don’t see yourself achieving victory before the enemy can call in overwhelming support – withdraw! A timely withdrawal may not feel victorious, but it’s far better to preserve your strength and try again another day than to waste your lives on an unwinnable fight.
Work to minimize the power of enemy advantages
Being familiar with the strengths of your enemy is essential, as it gives you the opportunity to plan things to be most heavily in your side's favor. There are two fundamental techniques that can be applied to guerrilla operations against a vastly superior enemy force - both take advantage of weapon precision and capabilities as they relate to casualty avoidance.
The first is referred to as "hugging" the enemy. In this technique, the guerrilla force strives to quickly move into extremely close range of the enemy. The intent is to be so close to the enemy that any assets that would otherwise be employed against the guerrillas - such as air strikes, artillery fire, etc - cannot be employed for fear of hitting friendly forces.
The next method is to operate in areas of civilian population - towns, villages, cities - against a force that is adverse to causing civilian collateral damage. NATO forces tend to have restrictive rules of engagement when civilians are in the area - it is harder for them to call in artillery or airstrikes, and they may even be restricted from using heavier weapons like grenade machineguns. Operating within the civilian populace, striking unexpectedly, and blending back into the populace can be an effective tactic which also greatly frustrates the enemy. Civilians are akin to 'human camouflage' in this context.
Exploit the target site (quickly!)
Once you’ve successfully neutralized your target site – be that an enemy outpost, patrol, convoy, etc – begin to rapidly exploit the site for anything that might prove useful for your guerrilla force. Search enemy bodies, vehicles, buildings, etc, to locate key items and quickly distribute them to your fellow guerrillas for transport. If you have vehicular transportation, this can be used to carry heavier items away, or large quantities of smaller items.
Some of the sorts of items you should look for include:
- Intelligence. This can take many forms – maps, orders, and even the interrogation of wounded enemy personnel can supply you with information that can help to shape future operations. Capturing enemy personnel can be beneficial as well, depending on the combatant parties involved – a captive enemy soldier is a bargaining chip for the future, and can also be used to attempt to lure the enemy into a rescue operation. Captive personnel can also be used as human shields during the exfiltration phase of an operation, so long as they can be easily identified by the enemy (such as by forcing them to walk with their hands up, by removing portions of their uniform, taking their weapon, etc).
- Weapons. Try to find weapons that help you to fight the enemy’s advantages – for instance, MANPAD missiles, heavy anti-tank weapons, and heavy machineguns all give you a better chance in future battles, or even against the support that might react to your current action. Search for weapon sights, grenade launchers, suppressors – anything that can give you an upper hand. Last but not least, the basic rifles and machineguns of the enemy can prove valuable for future operations, particularly ones where deception is a factor.
- Ammunition. You can never have enough ammo – as always, prioritize the types of ammo and other munitions that are hardest for you to otherwise acquire. Grenades, grenade launcher munitions, high-caliber machinegun ammo, anti-tank and anti-personnel mines – these are all valuable finds and should help greatly with future operations.
- Gear. Look for technological items – nightvision goggles, sights, binoculars, laser rangefinders and designators, armor systems, etc. Taking enemy uniforms can permit future deception operations.
- Medical supplies. Whatever the enemy has for fixing boo-boos and such, take it! Search for medical kits, first aid kits, and any other supplies that might be present.
Remember to spread-load whatever you take away during your site exploitation – it does no good to load one person down with all manner of gear, only to have them become a casualty during the withdrawal phase and take all of that hard-earned gear with them.
Once you’ve fully exploited the target site, the bulk of your force should be enacting the withdrawal plan. A few remaining guerrillas should remain on-site to emplace a ‘farewell’ gift of mines, booby-traps, and other unpleasantries. If there is gear you can’t take with you, but don’t want the enemy to have – destroy it. Place mines in likely response avenues, within bunkers, at entry points, around enemy KIA, etc. You did damage taking the objective – you can do more when the enemy reaction force arrives, without even needing to stick around to do so.
Have a plan for withdrawal
The withdrawal plan should have been created in advance of your action, such that when the order is given, everyone knows where to go and what to do.
A withdrawal plan ideally has multiple routes, allowing for a larger guerrilla force to split into smaller parties on their way out of the area. This makes it harder for the enemy to stop or harass the withdrawing unit, as they must split their efforts accordingly and can’t simply mass fires onto one target.
In the event that enemy air reinforcements are anticipated, and depending on the enemy’s rules of engagement, it’s possible to withdraw a distance away from the action site, drop all weapons into a hidden cache (to be retrieved at a later date), then proceed back to safety while unarmed. Some nations will prohibit their pilots from firing on unarmed people, even if no one else is in the area and it seems clear that the unarmed personnel are hostiles. Others will be more aggressive about it. Knowing your enemy is very important when considering tactics such as those.
The Safe House
When operating in an urban environment, it’s essential to establish “safe houses” which can be used to store weapons, gear, and so forth. Stopping at a safe house to stash your combat gear before moving elsewhere (and thus blending in with the civilian populace) is a great counter to any enemy reinforcement possibilities. Having multiple safe houses throughout a region allows for guerrillas to fight in one area with a given set of gear, drop it off at a safe house, then move to another region, find the local safe house, rearm and reequip there, fight locally, and then drop off the gear again when done. This is a far safer prospect than trying to transport such weaponry on your person or in vehicles, where it would be subject to vehicle checkpoints and inspections.
Be Ever Vigilant
Key to a guerrilla’s survival is a mindset of perpetual vigilance. The enemy will be doing everything in their power to find you and your kind. You should never relax or consider yourself to be “safe” – always assume you are being observed. You never know when a UAV, sniper team, helicopter gunship, surveillance camera, or other sensor might be watching you suspiciously, waiting for a reason to put a bullet through your head or a missile at your feet.
Don’t act suspicious. Don’t draw attention. Be patient, be deliberate, bide your time.
Now that we’ve covered the core tenants of guerrilla operations at the unit level, let’s take some time to talk about some additional guerrilla warfare tactics. These are the sorts of low-level tactical considerations and techniques use you can use when fighting against a numerically superior enemy force.
The Importance of Displacement
When the enemy is the numerically superior force, it’s only a matter of time before they leverage that against you. Everything you do must be conducted with the overarching theme of avoiding being located, flanked, or fixed in place by the enemy. Your mobility is one of your greatest strengths – do everything you can to take advantage of it. You will generally have one opportunity to truly surprise the enemy, and that will occur when the initial engagement begins. However, it’s possible to use surprise afterwards simply by relocating often, being clever, and hitting the enemy when they’re weak or not covering a given area.
For example, consider the urban engagement. If the main guerrilla force retreats to the north, causing the enemy to pursue them, you may be able to gain a surprise advantage on the enemy by hiding in their route of pursuit, waiting until they have passed, and engaging them from behind before withdrawing in a different direction.
However you do it, don’t stay in one place long enough for the enemy to bring overwhelming power against you. Stay very mobile, displace in advance of the situation becoming critical, and always remember that the longer you can survive, the more you’ll be able to hurt the enemy in the end. Don’t go out in an early blaze of glory – that’s what the enemy wants you to try to do, as it will give them the best chance of destroying you.
Choose the Fight
A guerrilla force generally gets to choose where they’ll conduct a battle. At the lower level, do the same when fighting the enemy – choose your fights to put the odds as high in your favor as possible. Decide in advance where you’re willing to fight, when you should withdraw, and when you should call it a day. Don’t be greedy – it will get you killed!
Baiting the enemy is a tactic by which something of value is placed in a location, then overwatched by friendly forces. When the enemy attempts to take the bait, the friendly forces spring an ambush on them. At the lowest tactical level bait can take many forms. A guerrilla marksman engaging an enemy soldier in the open, then waiting their comrades to attempt to help them, is one classic form of the tactic. Other examples come in the form of shooting down enemy aircraft, disabling enemy vehicles, and otherwise placing a vulnerable enemy unit in a position from which they need to be rescued. When hostages are available, their presence can be used to draw the enemy to an area – the same can be done with enemy soldiers captured during a battle.
Friendly forces can also act as bait in larger traps. A small element of shooters may make enough noise to draw the enemy towards them, while a larger force waits further away, ready to cut off and destroy any enemy forces that attempt to engage the bait element.
When moving relative to the enemy, avoid moving directly at them or directly away from them. Take paths that make it hard for them to predict where you’re going. Avoid drawing attention and attempt to blend in with the local populace as much as possible. When operating in urban areas or where the threat of observation is high, avoid traveling in large groups - it's much easier for the enemy to identify a group of people as a threat. Aside from that, large groups tend to make good targets for powerful weapon systems. The more dispersed you are, the fewer casualties you'll take in the event you're surprised by heavy enemy assets.
One of the greatest ways to increase the effectiveness of any guerrilla strike is to work to maximize confusion in the enemy ranks. This can be done in many ways, such as the following:
- Aim for leaders and medics whenever possible. Killing leadership elements will tend to reduce the mobility and responsiveness for a unit, at least until a replacement leader steps up to take control. The higher the leadership element, the more of an effect it can have. Look for units that are using binoculars, not participating in direct combat, or otherwise acting as if they're more responsible for leadership and communication than actual fighting. Medics are easy to spot when they're tending to wounded - at other times, you may be able to identify them by their backpacks. Taking out medics tends to drastically slow down the movement of the enemy, as they no longer are able to tend to their wounds as effectively.
- Attack from multiple positions simultaneously. If two guerrilla ambush parties can fire from drastically different directions, the ambushed soldiers are placed in a dilemma as to where they can find effective cover.
- Use explosives, such as improvised explosive devices (IEDs), to inflict casualties, then target the response elements. When the enemy goes to help the wounded from the blast, engage them with small arms and machineguns. When available, a second explosive can be hidden near the first - when the enemy congregates to help the wounded from the first blast, the second can be detonated, inflicting even greater damage.
- Employ mines in likely areas of traffic. Even a single antipersonnel mine going off is enough to dramatically slow the movement of an enemy force. Mine placement is a matter of predicting likely routes that the enemy will use - if you know they'll be operating in a given area, try to think like the enemy and visualize where they'll walk, where they might set up supporting positions, and so forth.
When the enemy has great advantages in vehicles, armor, and so forth, fighting in dense urban terrain is ideal. Lure their tanks and vehicles into urban areas, then strike them with anti-tank weapons from the flanks, rear, and even above. Use roadblocks to direct their movement, then place mines where they're likely to travel. Strive to knock out a vehicle as quickly as possible - the sooner you can restrict their mobility by forcing them to slow or stop for a damaged vehicle, the easier it will be to finish them off completely. Isolating enemy armor within a city can act as a form of bait, too, causing their higher headquarters to send in elements to reinforce or even rescue them. Urban combat is a defender's dream - particularly when there are civilians in the area, restricting the enemy's ability to use their full combat power against you.
Ambushing enemy helicopters is a tactic best employed against lightly armed or transport aircraft. Ambushing an attack helicopter is a tough prospect – the dedicated gunner with their magnified and thermal-sensing optics will likely spot your ambushing forces before they can do any damage, then systematically lay waste to them with their cannons, missiles, and rockets. Likewise, transport aircraft escorted by attack helicopters should be avoided.
In the event that suitable aircraft are operating in your area, the key to a successful ambush begins with the simple act of being patient. Wildly firing at enemy aircraft is a surefire way to warn them that there are ground-to-air threats present – whereas holding fire can fool them otherwise. Fast helicopters flying at altitude are difficult prospects to engage, even when favorable weapons such as heavy machineguns are present.
The first goal of a helicopter ambush is to lull the enemy aircraft into a false sense of security. They need to believe that the area is clear of threats, or that any threats present are unable to effectively engage them. When operating against scout aircraft, guerrillas hope to lure them closer to the ground, moving at slower speeds, as they try to observe the area. For transport aircraft, one potential tactic is to observe where they enter the area from and where they leave. If the routes seem static, a suitably-equipped element can be dispatched to engage them on their next arrival from by or even underneath the route they’ve been using.
Key to defeating enemy transport efforts is to identify probable landing zones within the operational area and either cover them with fire or place scouts or ambush elements near the most likely sites. Helicopters require a reasonable amount of clear space to land in, lending to a high degree of vulnerability once they’re settling down to drop their embarked troops. The final approach phase of a helicopter troop insertion is extremely vulnerable – the aircraft must slow and descend in order to make a safe landing, making it possible to engage with both small arms as well as rockets and similar.
When engaging helicopters, aim for one of the following:
- Pilots. If you have a shot on the front of the aircraft, sweep the cockpit with fire. You’ll need to kill both the pilot and copilot to send the aircraft out of control – a light machinegun or higher works best for this.
- Door gunners. Depending on the weapon they have, door gunners may pose a very serious threat. If you do not have a shot on the pilots, engage the door gunners first, then assess and adjust from there.
- Engine. You will generally find the helo’s engine located below the main rotor, often slightly to the rear. Destroying the engine will turn the helo into either a lawn ornament or a fiery lawn ornament – either works well for you.
- Cargo compartment. Helicopters have thin armor – if any – and spraying the cargo compartment with fire can wound or kill the passengers before they ever have a chance to disembark.
If using an RPG or similar unguided rocket, simply aim for the center of the helicopter’s mass – RPGs do tremendous damage and you don’t need to be terribly precise with them against helos.
Heavy machineguns are extremely lethal when employed against helicopters, with tremendous range and punch. While HMGs should wait until aircraft are particularly vulnerable before firing, once they’ve been revealed, they can begin engaging at longer ranges as a deterrent. Helicopters that have identified enemy heavy machinegun positions will be extremely reluctant to move within their effective range, helping to keep the enemy at bay.
When equipped with nothing heavier than RPGs and small arms, effective results can be gained by waiting to engage a helicopter with coordinated massed fire. Sudden massed fire can inflict a great deal of damage on an aircraft before it has a chance to react, potentially wounding or killing the crew and passengers or causing an emergency such as a fuel leak, engine failure, or tail rotor loss. Element leaders coordinate this, either verbally, via the radio, or by a prearranged condition such as all units firing when the leader does.
Once an enemy helicopter has been shot down or disabled, the landing or crash site becomes a rescue or recovery mission for their friends. Stick around only as long as it can work for you – as with all things guerrilla, don’t let the enemy bring overwhelming power onto you. When in doubt, bug out.
One particularly devious tactic is to shoot down a transport or supply aircraft with heavy machineguns or similar, eliciting an enemy attack helicopter response, then have an anti-aircraft missile waiting for the attack helicopter when it arrives. This, of course, depends upon the guerrilla force having scrounged up such a missile system – something which is easier said than done.
Paratroopers are a means by which a force can deploy troops into enemy territory via the air, bypassing the front line and any forces arrayed to protect it. A large-scale combat drop operation requires that the enemy air defense be suppressed or neutralized in the air corridor used by the transport aircraft, while special-forces jumps may happen in a manner that works around enemy air defenses and utilizes stealth more than direct action.
Paratroopers are always part of a larger plan – the expectation is that they will be the “first boots on the ground”, securing key objectives, terrain, and infrastructure in advance of a ground force fighting its way to them. They bring only what they can carry, or what can be airdropped in to support them. Once on the ground, they are a foot-mobile force that can expect to be surrounded by the enemy at all times.
Paratroopers utilize a great deal of small-unit leadership to assemble into effective combat units after being dropped in their drop zones, take initiative to seize objectives in their area, destroy enemy air defenses, and utilize ambushes, mines, and guerrilla tactics to cause confusion, inflict casualties, and hold onto their objectives until they can be relieved by follow-on forces. They should expect no significant support until those follow-on forces arrive, though at times they may find themselves able to call in artillery or air support to strike high-value targets in the enemy territory.
Acting as a paratrooper in Arma can be a thrilling experience, and when everyone knows what to do in the role, your odds of survival and mission accomplishment are vastly improved.
Types of Parachutes
When it comes to parachuting into combat zones, there are two basic styles of parachutes used. The first is a round, static-line chute – this allows for minimal control during descent, and the deployment of the chute automatically occurs as you leave the aircraft. The second style – typically used by smaller, more highly-trained units – is a ram-air maneuverable parachute that is manually deployed by you after leaving the aircraft.
Both have their uses – when doing a large-scale static drop, the time any given paratrooper spends in the air is minimized, and the benefits of a ram-air parachute aren’t so significant. For special forces or other units that may need to land in more precise areas, the ram-air parachute gives them that capability.
For a static-line jumper, the only time they will experience true free fall is if their initial chute does not deploy. In this case, the reserve chute must be immediately triggered – whether there will be time for it to fully deploy depends on the jump altitude. Static-line jumps can happen from altitudes as low as 150 meters, at which point a reserve chute simply won’t have time to deploy.
For a non-static-line jump, free fall can begin at a variety of altitudes depending on the mission requirements. The free-fall phase is used to establish terrain orientation, check on the dispersion of other paratroopers in the drop, and close the distance to the altitude at which chute deployment has been decided on. As you fall, keep a close eye on your altimeter so that you know precisely when you should begin your chute deployment. You will find that it's possible to get upwards of 40kph of ground travel speed by diving forward in freefall - this can be used to move closer to your drop zone before you deploy your chute, and your in-air maneuverability also allows you to maintain formation with other jumpers in your unit.
As noted earlier a static-line jump handles chute deployment for you. For non-static-line jumps, chute deployment is preplanned to occur at a given altitude. There are two basic varieties – referred to as HALO and HAHO. A HALO drop – High Altitude, Low Opening – has the chute deployed at low altitude to minimize the time spent under canopy. To increase precision, a HALO jumper maneuvers their body during freefall to get as close to the desired landing site as possible before deploying their chute. As a general rule, a HALO drop should begin to deploy chutes no later than 300 meters above ground level – it can take time for the chute to fully deploy. Depending on the anti-air threat, deploying higher may be viable as well.
A HAHO drop, by comparison, has the parachutists deploying their chutes at a much higher altitude. The ram-air parachutes allow for substantial ground to be covered during flight, to the point that the plane initiating the drop can be 30+ miles from the drop zone when the paratroopers exit the aircraft. In a HAHO jump, troopers exit and then deploy their chutes shortly after beginning freefall. One member of the stick becomes the guiding element, with the rest of the unit following them in a rising column formation. This leading member is responsible for navigation to the landing zone.
Both styles of insertion give you some degree of control over your descent – with static line “round chutes” having significantly less. Parafoils give you much greater maneuverability during the descent. While in flight, you'll be able to turn, accelerate, decelerate, and flare the chute. This high level of control allows you great flexibility to choose a landing site that works best for you and your team - as long as you're high enough in the air, almost anything you can see can be reached by gliding to it. The Arma 3 parafoil can reach a forward speed of over 50kph, though this brings with it a more rapid descent rate. For maximum glide range, try to stay closer to 15 to 20kph - while you'll be in the air longer, your total ground distance covered will significantly increase.
As you descend, you'll find that wind will disrupt your flight and push you off course. This wind drift must be accounted for and monitored, particularly in low-visibility situations such as night drops. Ensure your team is navigating and adjusting the flight path during the descent, else you're likely to end up a significant distance from where you'd intended.
As you descend into the landing zone, you must rapidly assess the ground situation and any obstacles observed. Take care to avoid landing or passing near trees, power lines, or landing in urban areas or close to potentially occupied structures. While scanning for these obstacles, also search for signs of the enemy – bunkers, vehicles, foot patrols, or anything else that might indicate enemy presence. Finally, scan around to see where the rest of your stick is landing – this will be key to linking up with them once on the ground. Once you’ve determined a good landing site, one which is free of obstacles but also provides some degree of concealment, maneuver your chute towards it and prepare for touchdown.
For parafoils, when it comes to landing, attempt to land facing into the wind. You will need to reduce your descent rate leading to touchdown - if you fly in at high speed, the impact alone can kill you. Instead, try to have a low forward speed, and in the few meters before touchdown, flare back. Done properly, this flaring will allow you to touch lightly to the ground - much more softly than the heavy impact a round chute would give.
Actions on Landing
Upon landing, immediately ditch your chute and harness and move for nearby cover or concealment. If neither is present, assume a low position. Scan around for threats as well as to locate the landing sites of fellow troopers. Check your gear at this point to ensure that everything you’ll want access to is readily available, and not packed away in your rucksack.
Rolling up the Stick
After landing and taking up a concealed position, the next step is a technique known as “rolling up the stick”. This is the most efficient way to get one jump group reassembled. In this process, the people who jumped first move in the direction of the jump dispersion, while those who jumped last move in the reverse of that. This causes the front and rear of the paratrooper distribution to move towards the center point, resulting in the full stick reassembling in short order. If there are larger-scale assembly areas defined, the next step from here is to establish leadership and make your way to the assembly area. The mission briefing for any paratrooper operation should define how long paratroopers should wait in assembly areas or wait for their stick to assemble – once this time is up, whatever force has managed to reconsolidate is what you have to work with. Once the assembly time is up or the situation makes it a necessity, the assembled paratroopers move out and begin to conduct their mission.
Note that it’s entirely possible that you will end up in another unit’s drop zone, or may have stragglers end up in your assembly area. If this happens, roll with it – paradrops are a chaotic situation and you need to maintain momentum after landing. If someone doesn’t know where their stick is – take them with you and use them as part of your force. It’s far better to be working in small teams, accomplishing objectives, than to have some people standing around wondering where their buddies are.
One way in which paratroopers can be supplied with heavier munitions is by rigging pods of gear that can be deployed along with them. These pods are typically deployed at the beginning or end of a stick, and can contain additional anti-tank weaponry, anti-aircraft launchers, mortars, mines, ammo, explosives, and more. If available, once the stick has rolled up, a search should be made for the bundles and any necessary gear should be acquired from them.
Securing Key Terrain
The most essential task of any paratrooper force is to find and secure designated objectives. This is accomplished by linking up with fellow paratroopers until a large enough assault force is gathered, then moving to and assaulting the nearest high-priority objective. Speed is of the essence here - the sooner after landing that an assault can be conducted, the less likely it is that the enemy will have had time to reinforce what they perceive to be the most important areas.
Once on the ground, paratroopers may or may not have access to radio communications – depending on the era, enemy situation, and so forth. In lieu of radio comms, verbal communications, hand- and light-signals, and flares or star shells can be used for signaling and communication.
The most fundamental signal is a challenge/response – in this, a paratrooper calls out a verbal challenge to an unidentified person, who must respond with the response phrase to indicate that they’re a friendly element. The most famous of these challenge/response pairs was the Flash/Thunder combination used by airborne units during the Invasion of Normandy in World War 2. It’s up to the mission commander to determine what pair of words should comprise the challenge/response, and up to the paratroopers to remember them once on the ground.
As for verbal communications – it’s expected that paratroopers will utilize stealth whenever possible, which necessitates them communicating quietly with those near them. Speaking loudly or shouting is to be avoided, as your voice can carry a long distance and alert enemies to your presence.
Hand signals can be used to communicate with known friendlies from a distance – most typically these will take the form of signaling other units when to move or follow, or to indicate that an objective has been secured.
Flares and star shells are employed when the need for communication is more important than the risks of detection that their employment brings. For our purposes, colored flares have special meanings – green flares indicate that any nearby straggling paratroopers should move towards that location to assemble, yellow flares indicate that an objective has been secured, while red flares are a call for assistance by a unit that is in contact with the enemy and unable to gain the upper hand by themselves. Star shells follow the same color code, but last a much shorter time and are somewhat safer to use because of this. White flares carry no special meaning and are simply used for illumination.
Mining Movement Routes
Once the enemy has determined that they’re being attacked by a paratrooper unit, reinforcements will be called from the surrounding countryside. In order to delay and disrupt these reinforcements, paratroops will endeavor to mine roads leading into and through the drop zone and objective area. In addition to mining, troopers can also move civilian or military vehicles into the roads, forming roadblocks and ambush points. For more on mining, see the Engineer chapter.
Ambushes & Defensive Actions
Ambushes are essential to stopping, delaying, or disrupting enemy reinforcements. Ambushes should be set at terrain suitable for them, with the troops manning the ambush points being well-supplied with anti-tank weapons and machineguns. Due to the limited supply of heavy weapons in general, ambushes should be economical in their usage of anti-tank weapons – if a target can be destroyed without resorting to an AT weapon, it should be. Troop trucks and other ‘soft’ vehicles should be engaged with machinegun, rifle, and grenade fire, while only fully-armored vehicles should be struck with AT. Light AT should be saved for APCs and similar, with heavier AT being reserved for tanks and more threatening vehicles.
As with guerrilla warfare, if an ambush is conducted and the ambushing troops feel that they’re not winning the fight, withdrawal and redeployment to a different area is a wise way to conserve strength. However, this is not always possible – if defending a key objective, it may be necessary to signal for reinforcements and attempt to hold at all costs.
Engineers are expected to have a knowledge of a variety of specialized subjects that enhance the capabilities of any units they're assigned to. They're knowledgeable in demolitions, mine-clearing and obstacle breaching, vehicle recovery and repair, as well as how to best emplace and enhance defensive works such as bunkers and berms.
Engineers may not always be available or needed on every mission, but when present, they are a major capabilities enhancement to those they're attached to.
An engineer waits beside a CRV-6e Bobcat with two infantrymen as the Bobcat's RWS clears out hostiles
Engineers have two special items that allow them enhanced capabilities compared to other units. The first is the toolkit - this heavy item, stored in a rucksack, allows for an engineer to do basic repairs to damaged vehicles as well as defuse mines. The other item is the minesweeper - with it, an engineer is able to more rapidly scan for and detect mines around them. The bulk of these items restricts the cargo capacity of any engineer such equipped - to work around this, an engineer team will be broken down into different specializations, such as:
- Repair specialist - an engineer whose focus is towards dealing with disabled or damaged vehicles, they carry a toolkit but no minesweeper and only limited demolition gear.
- Minesweeper - an engineer with, you guessed it, a minesweeper. Their focus is towards detecting and disarming mines - to do the latter, they also carry the bulky toolkit with them. Minesweepers have limited capacity for carrying demolitions and are typically employed as the point men in a formation operating in an area where mines are suspected to be present.
- Demolitionist or Explosives Expert - an engineer whose responsibilities lie in the employment of explosives. In order to carry extra munitions, this engineer forgoes carrying toolkits or minesweepers.
A demolition unit can be an engineer, saboteur, or any unit that is carrying something like a claymore mine, satchel charge, or anti-tank mine. They are extremely valuable in the defense and are also the key to enacting brutal and deadly ambushes. In the offense, they are a critical part of cracking enemy obstacles and defenses with their satchel and breaching charges. For our purposes we've centralized the demolition information to this Engineer chapter, though it behooves other specialists to be familiar with demolition as well.
Emplacing a directional fragmentation mine
Types of Demolition
Demolition comes in several forms, with many different uses. The basic types are as follows.
- Anti-tank mines. These heavy mines will wreck the day of any sort of armored vehicle, though their effects may be limited to blowing the tracks off of heavier vehicles. At minimum, anti-tank or anti-vehicle mines will almost certainly cripple or destroy a vehicle's mobility once detonated.
- Anti-personnel mines, either pressure or tripwire-initiated, such as the claymore. These can either be directional (like the claymore, which fires a spread of ball-bearings in a specific arc) or non-directional (such as a 'bouncing Betty', which bounds into the air before exploding like a fragmentation grenade).
- Explosive or satchel charges, either command- or timer-detonated. These heavy packs of explosives can be used for a variety of purposes, to include improvised anti-vehicle weapons, the destruction of walls, knocking down buildings, etc. An Arma 3 explosive charge has a lethal range of over 20 meters, making them incredibly dangerous to infantry caught near their explosives, and requiring extreme caution when employing them in demolition operations. Satchel charges are even more devastating, projecting lethal shrapnel and blast effects out to 70 meters. Below you can see the explosive charge on the left, with the satchel on the right.
- Breaching charges. Breaching charges are focused explosives that have a small radius of effect and are capable of knocking holes in walls. These are used to create an unexpected entry point into a compound or similar, and not as an offensive weapon.
- Conceal your explosives. For mines, try to place them where the road dips so that they cannot be seen before it is too late. If you can't find a dip, place them on the road where a tree shadow overlaps them. This makes them significantly harder to spot. For blast-radius explosives like satchel charges, or directional explosives like claymore mines, you have more freedom in where you position them. Place them alongside roads in brush or tree concealment, or place them in bushes, behind logs, etc. Placing satchel charges inside of buildings that are likely to be investigated or cleared by enemy forces can also work well. Anti-tank and anti-personnel mines will generally be buried when emplaced - whereas items like satchel charges will sit on the surface.
- Know how the grass concealment feature works, and take advantage of it. Grass concealment is a method by which areas that are outside of the "grass clutter" range are made to offer visual concealment to simulate the presence of grass. This is accomplished with a semi-porous grass-textured layer that is raised about six to twelve inches off the ground. This layer obscures most everything that is beneath it. It is highly effective at concealing satchel charges and other non-buried explosives and contributes a great deal towards making them difficult to detect.
See the tripwire? Neither do they.
Minefields constructed in grassy areas are extremely difficult to detect. Lone vehicles will be helpless - the only reliable way to get through a grassy minefield is with engineers using their minesweepers to clear the way. In a pinch, infantry scouts can move ahead of the vehicles to attempt to visually sweep for mines, but it is a much more dangerous technique than using trained engineers with the proper equipment. An untrained scout has a high chance of missing mines, and it only takes one missed mine to destroy a vehicle or kill several infantrymen.
Obstacles can be used to guide the enemy into mines or other demolitions. For instance, placing a wrecked vehicle in the middle of a road may cause the enemy to drive around it due to them thinking it conceals an IED or satchel charge. To take advantage of this, place mines in the grass on either side of the road, so that a detouring vehicle runs into them.
- Know your detonation options. There are two methods - command-detonation and time delay. When using command detonation, you must be within a few hundred meters of the device or you will lose the option to set them off. Time delays are set with 30-second increments. You can increase the time to whatever you want, and as long as you are within transmitter range, you will be able to command-detonate if required. Note that satchel charges set for long delays can be used by a small force against a larger one as a diversion.
- Be creative and try to catch the enemy off-guard with your placement and method of detonation. If the enemy never sees it or has no reason to expect it, you're far more likely to kill them with your demolitions.
- When using tripwires, think about how the enemy will move through a given area. Place the tripwires in areas that are likely to have high foot traffic. Placing proximity-oriented mines in locations where the enemy is likely to take cover (such as a cluster of trees) can be an effective tactic as well. Get inside the enemy's mind and think of what they will do, and place your traps accordingly.
FIRE IN THE HOLE! If you're setting off demolitions and friendly forces are near, ensure that you announce it and clear the area before triggering your explosives. An easy way to do this is to announce what you're going to be blowing up, tell people to get clear, and then repeat "Fire in the hole" three times before triggering the detonation. For example:
Engineer: I'm blowing the fuel dump, get clear.
(pauses for a few seconds to visually check that people have cleared the area or listen for confirmation from team leaders that nobody is near the site)
Engineer: Fire in the hole, fire in the hole, fire in the hole!
(triggers the explosives)
If at any point you hear someone shout any variation of "Wait!", "Abort!", "Hold!", or "Oh noooo!", cease the countdown and proceed to once again check that everyone is clear of the danger area.
Arma 3 introduces a variety of anti-personnel and anti-vehicle mines with unique characteristics. We'll talk briefly about what you can expect to see - both so that you know how to employ them as well as detect and potentially disarm them.
The first of the mines is the basic disc-shaped anti-tank mine. This mine is triggered by the weight of a vehicle driving over it - light vehicles such as civilian cars will not set one off, but heavier vehicles like MRAPs or large trucks will, while tanks, APCs, and IFVs will definitely trigger them.
The anti-tank mine is designed to target the more weakly armored underbelly of a vehicle - either by puncturing into the crew compartment and killing the crew, or via destroying the mobility of the vehicle by destroying wheels or tracks. When emplaced, an anti-tank mine is mostly buried into the ground, leaving only a small amount of it visible to the watchful eye.
Vehicles such as the AMV7 will tend to be rendered immobile and mostly inoperative by a single mine strike, while hitting two simultaneously will catastrophically destroy the vehicle. Due to focusing their blast upwards, an anti-tank mine poses a smaller danger to infantry than most anti-personnel mines - about six meters lethal range, with a few more meters of wounding potential. Since infantry cannot trigger an AT mine on their own, simply staying a reasonable distance away from vehicles provides sufficient protection range.
Next is the SLAM mine. These mines are smaller than the disc mine and do their damage in a different manner - instead of being below a vehicle and exploding upwards, a SLAM is placed on the side of a road or similar and oriented towards it. When a vehicle passes, the mine detonates, sending an explosively formed projectile that can cut through thick armor. Arma 3's SLAM mines are designed to take out a vehicle's mobility - they'll shred tires and damage tracks, but generally won't prove catastrophic to an armored vehicle like an MRAP or higher. Their range of triggering is short, requiring them to be emplaced directly beside where enemy vehicles are expected to pass. A SLAM mine will trigger against infantry as well, though they are less ideal for this. When triggered, a SLAM's detonation will provide an all-around lethal blast at four meters, while the lethal cone in the direction it's pointed is closer to fourteen meters.
Anti-personnel (AP) mines come in a wide variety of types, with different detonation characteristics as well as employment and trigger techniques. While these are designed for usage against infantry, vehicles will trigger them as well. If the vehicle has any armor, an AP mine will be easily defeated - however, soft-skinned vehicles such as civilian cars can find themselves being severely damaged in the blast.
The most basic AP mine is a simple APERS blast mine. These require an infantryman to step directly on them, at which point they explode violently. An AP mine will kill whoever stepped on it, wounding or killing those close by in the process. The lethal range of these is approximately four meters, with wounding possible out to eight meters.
APERS mines can be emplaced with a tripwire as well - often you will find these used in doorways and other locations that canalize infantry movement. The tripwire is visible for those with a sharp eye, though it can be nightmarish to see in dense vegetation or grass. Tripwired mines will detonate in the same manner as their buried counterparts, killing those in the immediate vicinity and doing harm to those nearby. Due to being placed above the ground and spending their blast more efficiently than a buried mine, the tripwire mine has a lethal range of approximately six meters, with about ten meters of wounding potential.
APERS mine with tripwire and emplacement stake
The most devious APERS mine is the bounding mine - these have a proximity detection that will trigger if someone passes within a few meters of them, resulting in the mine bounding into the air to approximately head level before exploding. Bounding mines are extraordinarily dangerous due to their detonation height. This height of burst extends the lethal range to an incredible fourteen meters, with wounds occurring at up to twenty meters.
APERS bounding mine
Claymore mines are a type of directional fragmentation mine that focuses its killing power in the direction it's emplaced. A claymore mine is remotely triggered, and when triggered, will provide a lethal effect up to 30 meters in front of it. The sides and rear of the mine provide negligible effects upon detonation - only the frontal arc is a danger zone. Claymore mines are superb for covering expected routes of enemy advance, and employment of a claymore as the initiation for an ambush can be devastating to the enemy.
Claymore directional fragmentation charge
Mine clearing is one of the most nerve-wracking tasks for an engineer. As was discussed in the "Dealing with a Minefield" section, engineers must be supported by friendly forces in order to have a chance of clearing a path through a minefield or similar. The minesweeper tool that engineers have is capable of detecting mines out to about ten meters, and depending on the difficulty setting of Arma, you may get a visual indication when one has been detected and where it is. Without the indicator, you'll need to scan for them visually - a time-consuming process, even more so when in thick grass or otherwise cluttered terrain.
Spacing between engineers is extremely important when mineclearing. If a lane is being created - as described in the 'Dealing with Minefields' section, next - the engineers need to space themselves sufficiently to clear the lane thoroughly, without risking all of them being killed by a mine detonation. Non-engineers stay sufficiently far back as to not be at risk of being caught in a mine blast.
Once you've identified a mine, go prone and slowly crawl towards it to avoid triggering the fusing method. Once at the mine, your toolkit will allow you to defuse it. Once defused, you can place it in your rucksack or leave it there. A defused mine sits atop the ground, visually distinct from an emplaced mine, but you'll have a hard time convincing a tank driver of that. When possible, a trailing engineer should remove defused mines and stash them in a different location while the main minesweeper continues their work. The trailing engineer should place lane markers if available - at night, these can take the form of chemlights. These lane markers give follow-on forces a clear visual guide of where safe passage can be found.
In the event that toolkits are not available for mine clearing, most mines can be defeated by firing at them. It is of course recommended that all friendly units clear out of the area before attempting this technique. Note that most mines are blast-hardened - if you destroy one and cause it to detonate, nearby mines will not detonate because of that (known as "sympathetic detonation"). Grass and other vegetation, as well as the undulation of the terrain, can make it very difficult to spot and hit mines from a distance with gunfire. Generally speaking, grenades and other explosives will be insufficient to destroy mines remotely. The one exception to this is a mine-clearing line charge - something which you may see in an Arma 3 mod. These are rockets with large chains of explosive attached to them that can be fired into a minefield and then detonated, clearing a small path through it. Aside from such line charges, do not assume that your explosives will be effective at clearing out mines.
Some examples of buried mines follow for familiarization purposes.
Left: A standard APERS mine blending in with rocks on a path Right: Tripwire APERS mine, hidden next to bush trunks as camouflage
A bounding APERS mine concealed in grass
Dealing with Minefields
Large-scale minefields are not frequently encountered in the scope of Arma, but when they are, they can be devastating if not properly approached. The first sign that a minefield has been encountered is typically a vehicle having its track blown off or possibly being outright destroyed, or a sudden explosion blasting down nearby infantry. When this happens, the assessment must be made very rapidly that the threat is from mines and not ATGMs, concealed enemy armor, or enemy grenade launchers. Due to minefields frequently being covered by anti-tank weapons, it may not be a simple matter to identify the threat as mines and not simply attribute their effects to any AT weapons that might begin firing after the initial mine explosion(s).
Once the mine assessment has been made and the element leader calls out that a minefield has been entered, the most likely way to deal with it is for all vehicles or personnel to immediately attempt to back out of the field the way they came. Assuming that the identical paths can be followed backwards, this gets everyone out of any kill zone that might exist that is focused on the mined area. If a vehicle has been disabled by a mine, the crew will abandon it and head out of the minefield on foot. If an infantryman has been wounded, they apply first-aid to themself and wait for an engineer to be brought up to sweep a safe path to them.
If the minefield must be breached, engineers will need to sweep a lane to locate and disable all the mines and allow friendly passage. The engineers should focus on clearing a lane through the minefield that is about one and a half to two times as wide as the vehicles that will be passing through it, or several meters across for the purposes of infantry movement. Trying to clear the entire field takes too many people and too much time to be practical in most situations. While clearing, follow-on engineers will - if available - place markers on the edges of the cleared lane to help give a visual reference for safe passage.
During the lane clearing operation, all available vehicles and infantry will provide overwatch on the engineers. They will suppress or destroy any threats that emerge. Smoke should be employed to mask the clearing operation when feasible, and the engineers may need to crawl to clear their lane if enemy fire is heavy enough.
Note that if an engineer becomes a casualty due to enemy fire or explosives, a supporting infantryman will move in to pull them out, get them to cover or concealment, and administer first aid or call for a medic. The engineers will ignore their own wounded and dead and leave their evacuation and treatment to the supporting infantry.
Once a lane has been cleared by engineers, a single engineer will act as a "ground guide" that the vehicles will follow through the lane. This acts as a final set of eyes on the ground, scanning for any left over mines, as well as giving the armored vehicles (which may have limited visibility) a clear reference to follow through the safe lane.
Detonating clearing charges in a minefield
Engineers equipped with the proper tools are generally able to fix up a damaged vehicle to some extent. These field repairs can only do so much - at very least, they can usually restore the mobility sufficiently to allow the vehicle to withdraw to a safer area for more extensive repairs. When this proves impossible and a vehicle is just too damaged to move, recovery vehicles can be employed to tow them out of the area and to a proper repair depot.
Pushing a disabled MRAP out of the way with a CRV-6e Bobcat
When not being used for vehicle recovery, engineer vehicles can be employed to knock down trees or push wrecks or other vehicles around. In urban areas, destroyed civilian cars or other vehicles can be pushed to arrange roadblocks and canalizing features, which can then be improved by emplacement of mines. If the enemy has vehicles heavy enough to push through such a roadblock, placing an anti-tank mine or two on the near side will either deter them, force them to attempt mineclearing, or disable them if they don't see the mines in time.
The Role of Engineers in the Defense
Engineers are often given the ability to deploy obstacles, bunkers, and other defensive structures in the pre-mission phase of a defensive action. The 'Defending' section of this guide goes into detail on the considerations required for a defensive action to succeed, but we'll recap some of the concepts here as they apply specifically to engineers. The form this obstacle deployment takes may vary - in ShackTac, we have an in-house developed ‘defensive deployment system’ that allows for such things to be implemented in a mission - but the end result is the same: The placement of these items will play a crucial part in the success of your mission.
The two primary types of defenses will be either an isolated location or a linear defense with flanking obstacles such as minefields. Typically you will have a period of preparatory time that abstracts the amount of time it would take to set up a real-world defense, with engineers being given a number of different obstacles and structures that they are responsible for deploying.
In the defense, the overall commander is responsible for establishing the method of defense that will be used, as well as the placement of key structures, fields of fire, sector assignments, and so on. The commander uses the OCOKA mnemonic to determine the best means of defense - taking into consideration the terrain they find themselves in, the weapons available, probable enemy forces, cover/concealment options, and more. As an engineer, you will be reporting to the commander for guidance on where to place obstacles, and will offer your own knowledge of best practices to help guide and implement their vision for the defense.
There are two main categories of items that can be placed by engineers in the defense.
The first are defensive structures. These are man-made and are intended to provide positions to defenders to fire from while having cover from enemy fire. Defensive structures include berms and earthworks, bunkers (to include watchtowers), sandbag walls, hesco barriers, and various concrete barriers.
Note that some defensive structures are stronger than others - for instance, a hescoe barrier will tend to absorb more fire before being destroyed, while sandbag walls will not hold up so robustly.
Understanding how a defense works is key to being able to effectively employ defensive structures. Ensure you're familiar with the Defending section of this guide.
Defensive structure tips
- Ensure your bunkers and other fighting positions mutually support each other. When the enemy attacks one position, other positions should be able to support them with fire.
- Think about how the fight might progress. Plan your defensive structures such that the defense is layered and gives players the ability to withdraw to a complementary position if the first one is about to be overrun or is otherwise rendered ineffective.
- Work with the mindset of compartmentalization. If a grenade falls into your defensive structures, will it wipe out a large number of defenders? If so, you need to break the area up with sandbag walls, barriers, and similar.
- Cooperate with any heavy-weapon teams in order to give them the best possible protection. Heavy weapons are invaluable in the defense - you'll want to ensure their survival for as long as possible.
The second category is that of obstacles. Obstacles, like defensive structures, take many forms. The unifying factor with obstacles is that they are negative influences on the enemy’s maneuver and fire. Obstacles take two primary forms.
These are present in the defended area before the defenders ever arrive. For example:
- Buildings, houses, structures, walls, rubble
- Rivers and/or bridges
- High-contrast terrain differences. For instance, a large, empty clearing in a jungle is seen as a danger area for a maneuvering force, which in turn makes it an obstacle. The reverse of this could be a patch of boulders and rough terrain that would prevent vehicles from passing through it.
The commander will work to integrate existing obstacles into their defensive plan - if you see something they miss, let them know. Some existing or natural obstacles are more influential than others - for instance, deep rivers and steep cliffs can completely block enemy movement. Other obstacles can act as complementary positions and can be reinforced by deployable structures - shoring up a building with sandbag walls and bunkers can turn it into a defensible position.
Man-made, these are the things that the engineers will be deploying at the commander’s instruction, with the intent of shaping the battlefield to the best advantage of the defenders. Reinforcing obstacles include:
- Anti-infantry: Concertina wire, tanglefoot, berms, flame obstacles, antipersonnel mines
- Anti-tank: Hedgehogs, dragon’s teeth, antitank mines
- Expedient: Vehicle wrecks
Reinforcing obstacles require a good amount of consideration and care in emplacement for them to be truly effective. Hodge-podge deployment of obstacles, without a clear plan of how they will work together to shape the fight, tends towards ineffective results.
Ultimately, obstacles are meant to slow the enemy, disrupt their efforts, channel them into favorable terrain for the defenders, and just generally make things difficult for them. Obstacles are major force-multipliers and help to make a smaller force capable of defending against one significantly larger. Placing a single anti-tank mine on a bridge can be enough to drastically influence the options available to the enemy - a concept known as 'economy of force'. Strive to get the most out of whatever assets you're given to work with. Be creative!
For an obstacle to be maximally effective, it must be observed by defending forces. Without observation of the obstacle or the ability to place fires onto it in some fashion, an obstacle merely acts as a delay to enemy movement. Once observation and fire is placed onto the obstacles, they become dangerous killing grounds that provide an incredible challenge to the attacking force, forcing them to bypass the obstacle (and thus be channelized), breach it (not an easy task when under fire), or die.
Some general tips for obstacle placement follow.
- Anti-tank mines mixed in with wire obstacles help to prevent vehicles from rolling over and defeating the wire.
- Obvious antipersonnel mines in wire obstacles help to deter infantry from trying to breach.
- Fake mines (such as dropped items that look like they could be mines) can slow and confuse the enemy, forcing them to treat them as legitimate mines.
- Surprise obstacles can drastically throw off an enemy plan. For instance, placing a wire obstacle behind a breachable wall might result in the enemy attempting to breach the wall, only to run into the difficult wire - forcing them to rethink their plan and adapt on the spot.
- Funnel the enemy into kill zones in order to shape the fight. When given the choice between completely blocking off an area or leaving a gap for the enemy to take - consider leaving the gap, and ensuring that the enemy who takes that path of least resistance will be punished for it via mines, focused fires, and so forth. Guide the enemy into doing what you want them to do.
- Try to completely block avenues that are hard to defend or general weaknesses. Use sturdy obstacles that will not breach easily, and have a plan for what to do if the enemy still attempts to breach them.
- Set up easily-attained initial footholds as mined/satcheled obstacles. If the enemy can potentially make it to a set of buildings near your defensive location, placing mines or satchel charges in those obstacles can be a rude surprise for them.
- Place trip flares in areas that cannot be observed and are likely avenues of approach - Placing them near cover obstacles (boulders, houses, etc) makes them more likely to be tripped, since players will naturally gravitate towards cover during movement.
- Ensure wire obstacles and other movement impediments are positioned out of grenade-throwing range from friendly positions. Stopping the enemy but allowing them to still throw grenades isn't the ideal situation to end up in.
During the Fight
Once a defensive action has begun, engineers use their knowledge of the defensive emplacements and obstacles to help monitor the situation and provide guidance to leadership elements. They typically operate in the areas that they were responsible for helping to construct or fortify, acting as riflemen to complement those assigned to their areas.
Reconnaissance is the process by which a military force discovers more about the area it is operating in, particularly those locations that exist out of the immediate lines of sight of their main forces, be they static or mobile. We’ll refer to this as ‘recon’ for short, with ‘scouting’ being conceptually similar for our purposes. Conducting recon can occur during all stages of an operation and helps to give field commanders a better understanding of the enemy, terrain, and what options are available to them. Good recon is an essential part of every plan, as well as something that is continually practiced during the mission’s execution phase through a variety of different means. Earlier chapters of this guide - such as the Evolution of a Firefight's 'Find' stage, and the Basic Rifleman's Situational Awareness section - covered the basic premises of reconnaissance at the lower level. Here we'll talk in more detail about recon efforts beyond those already detailed.
The results of recon can be conveyed in two primary ways in the context of Arma – the first being an abstraction used as part of the initial mission briefing. In this situation, the mission designer has written information about what higher-level intelligence and recon assets have observed about the enemy area. This sort of recon acts as guidelines for the planning and conduct of the mission – however, it isn’t necessarily 100% accurate. Clever mission designers will not tell you the full truth of the situation, but instead tell you what the pre-mission recon believed it saw. Good enemy camouflage, troop movements, reinforcements, and decoys can lead to this information turning out to be less-than-accurate once actually in the mission area.
The next form of recon is the sort that happens during a mission playthrough, conducted primarily by players. At the lowest level, the point element of a larger troop body is the front-line scouting and reconnaissance unit – what they see is of immediate tactical relevance to their unit and is rapidly conveyed to higher leadership. Stepping back a bit, a more long-term and broader reconnaissance unit comes in the form of dedicated recon troops – special forces, company recon, scout/sniper teams, and similar roles which are heavily oriented towards recon. These troops seek positions from which they can observe the area of operations and convey their sightings to friendly commanders who can in turn use that information to better carry out the mission. Above that come reconnaissance aircraft – typically in the form of recon helicopters, though unmanned aerial vehicles can be employed as well at both a high- and a low-level capacity.
While an element of reconnaissance is always present in mission briefings and conduct, there are occasions where recon is the entire point of a mission. For instance, a platoon might be tasked with doing a route recon – move from point A to B and see if there’s anything in the way. This can happen organically during a mission, or it may be explicitly directed as the overall mission theme.
Some situations will have reconnaissance units operating in an area in advance of friendly forces, relaying what they see to the force commander so that they can adjust their planning as the mission progresses. There are times when a recon mission will be conducted a day in advance of an actual full-scale operation – resulting in only a small recon element participating in the mission, then creating a report of what they found, which will in turn be used by the mission commander to develop their plan for the full-scale op. At other times the recon element may be near a second objective while the rest of the unit secures an initial objective – this helps to keep the game enjoyable for everyone, allowing recon to do their thing while other ground forces have their own task to do. When used in this capacity, recon will generally gather all the information they can about an area, pass it along, then move on to another objective. This keeps recon a step ahead of the ground forces, allowing for a fast operational tempo to be observed.
The most common of all situations is that of active recon around the main body of troops. This is simply recon that is continually in the vicinity of the main ground force and is giving intelligence on the enemy as it relates to friendlies.
A reconnaissance element is attempting to determine the following information about enemy forces:
- Presence. This includes scouting suspected enemy locations, but it’s not limited to only that. Recon must maintain all-around awareness, looking for enemy approaching from unexpected directions or located in unexpected or well-camouflaged positions.
- Strength and capabilities. Spotting infantry is useful information – detecting that they have special weapons such as anti-air missiles or heavy anti-tank weapons is much more valuable, however. Recon must be positioned such that they can ascertain any significant information about the enemy, in as much detail as is relevant to friendly troops. The same detail is required when vehicles are concerned – a piece of “enemy armor” does not tell the same story that more specific identification can bring. There is a large difference between spotting a light armored personnel carrier like a Marid, compared to spotting an infantry fighting vehicle such as a BTR-K – likewise, a BTR-K and a T100K tank are vastly different threats.
- Movement and intent. When enemy forces are found, assessing their intent is a valuable piece of information for any ground commander. A stationary or defensive enemy squad is very different from one which is actively moving towards and seeking to engage friendly forces. Troops that are walking around with their weapons lowered, unaware, tell a story as well – as do those that have taken to heavy concealment and are arrayed in the direction of friendlies.
- The location of enemy defenses, including minefields, bunkers, crew-served weapons, wire obstacles, and similar. Attacking a prepared enemy defense is a difficult challenge in which every detail is of the utmost importance. Locating an enemy heavy machinegun emplacement in advance gives the commander an opportunity to plan for it – running into an unexpected HMG, on the other hand, can take a careful plan and tear it apart. Recon units spend a great deal of time precisely recording their findings on the map for ground commanders to study.
- Any special information about the area. This includes terrain features that are not necessarily obvious from a map study, the presence or absence of civilians, and anything else that could influence friendly operations in a positive or negative way.
In addition to determining the above aspects, recon units are expected to be able to act as guides for the parent unit they’re supporting. This primarily means that they’re capable of giving navigational guidance to infantry forces. It can also mean that they’re well-versed in forward-observer and forward air controller duties and can direct the strikes of each to maximize damage on enemy units beyond the range or vision of the ground element.
Proper reconnaissance requires a solid understanding of the core principles of reconnaissance operations. Learn these and live by them – they’ll go a long way towards getting you out of mission alive.
- Look but don't be seen. While this mostly applies to ground forces, even air recon will do well to heed this guidance. A recon element must move covertly through the landscape, with the goal of always seeing the enemy before the enemy can see them. This requirement naturally results in recon elements being small in number, well-camouflaged, and highly skilled at covert movement. Usage of binoculars and other magnified optics allow for recon units to observe enemy locations from reasonably safe distances. Thermal imaging systems are major boons to a recon element’s ability to spot enemy targets and defeat visual camouflage.
- What do I know, and who needs to know it? Recon units must be able to rapidly assess the significance of what they see and quickly convey it to those who need to know it. While this often is a matter of taking it up to the highest-level command radio net, there are occasions where communicating directly with the element that most needs to know will be necessary. Recon units must be familiar with the overall communication plan in order to most efficiently convey their information.
- Be prepared to immediately act upon compromise, and have a plan in advance for what you will do and where you will go. A compromised recon unit is a potential liability – if they are cut off completely, other ground forces will be required to divert from their missions to rescue them. Recon leaders must be prepared to rapidly exfiltrate an area on short notice if they feel that they’ve been spotted and are in danger. Every position a recon team occupies should have several escape routes, and the entire team should be familiar with what to do on a moment's notice.
- Patience is important. Hasty movement or hasty decisions can lead to compromise and the failure of the recon objectives.
- Pick non-obvious positions to observe from. The top of the tallest hill in the region may seem like an ideal location to observe from, but a smart recon leader recognizes that the enemy will have identified it as a potential observation site and either positioned their own forces on it, or positioned observes and weapon systems to watch it.
Ground reconnaissance takes two basic forms – infantry or vehicular. The most common types of missions conducted by ground recon are as follows.
- Recon patrol. This can be a mounted or dismounted patrol. The intent is to move through an area to determine enemy presence. When engaged, the recon element typically falls back and conveys information about enemy forces to higher headquarters, who may choose to send in heavier elements to confront the discovered hostiles.
- Wide area reconnaissance. In this, a number of different recon elements move through a large area to attempt to locate enemy forces. In effect, it’s a number of different recon patrols happening simultaneously to maximize the area covered. Wide area recon can be conducted by dismounted units or through vehicles – ATVs and motorcycles are a common and rapid means for a light force to conduct this sort of recon.
- Mobile recon. This is when a moving friendly force – be it infantry or motor/mech – has scouting elements working the flanks and front of the force. Mobile recon is aimed at providing security during movement – they can detect enemy threats in the path of advance, or spot flanking attempts before they become a danger to friendly forces.
- Advance site recon. In this, a recon element is inserted into an objective area to scout out and map the locations of enemy positions, special weapons, munitions, buildings, and anything else that might be relevant to an upcoming operation. These sorts of recon missions require the utmost of stealth – being compromised can result in the upcoming operation having to be aborted entirely due to secrecy having been blown.
Good equipment a key factor in the success of recon elements. Some of the equipment types used are detailed below.
- Magnified optics. Binoculars, laser designators, and thermal scopes all help to more clearly and thoroughly scan an area, as well as do so from a safer distance.
- Recon vehicles. These take many forms, depending on the terrain and mission. When operating in coastal or river areas, raiding boats can be employed to quietly move recon teams into locations the enemy would not expect them to come from. In other terrains, ATVs, motorcycles, and dune buggies work well for rapidly moving small teams around. Some heavier vehicles may have sensor masts on them, allowing a unit to raise the sensor mast and scan a large area around them through daylight, nightvision, and thermal optics. Dive teams are able to use their Swimmer Delivery Vehicle optics to provide sea-to-shore covert recon as well.
- Unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can be employed at times. Small UGVs allow recon into areas that might be too dangerous to send a person, while UAVs can give a high-level view of the area around a recon team and allow them to better choose their routes to avoid enemy forces and patrols.
- Suppressors. Whenever possible, recon units are equipped with suppressors for their weapons. Suppressors allow for a recon team to defend itself without fully compromising their location to other nearby enemy forces. For maximum effect, a recon team must be proficient in ambush techniques – in the event that they need to defend themselves and remain concealed, all enemy threats must be rapidly dispatched before they have an attempt to return fire and thus make the sorts of noise that the recon unit’s suppressors are designed to avoid.
- Dismounted recon forces should be familiar with the Survival, Evade, Resist, and Escape chapter of this guide. The ‘Evade’ portion gives guidelines that can be used to good effect when compromised.
- When wounded, enemy units will leave blood trails for a period of time. If moving through an area where fighting has happened, look for any trails that might exist – the direction these lead can guide you towards the retreating enemy element.
- Be very mindful of potential enemy ambushes, mines, and other traps. An enemy that knows it has been located may choose to leave tripwired mines behind it as it moves.
- Be patient. Rushing about will give you away – take your time, move with cover and concealment in mind, and work smarter – not harder.
Helicopter reconnaissance is most often done by the xH-9 class of aircraft. These small helicopters are extremely agile and make for excellent observation platforms. Helicopter recon tends to fall into the following mission types.
- Finding the enemy. When the enemy location is not precisely known, helos can fly through an area and attempt to find them. One found, the scout helo can relay this information to friendly forces, allowing them to deploy to engage and destroy the enemy. A scout helo that stays in orbit around an enemy location can help to prevent them from escaping and effectively keep tabs on them until friendly reinforcements arrive.
- Security. A scout helo can fly around friendly ground forces, watching for any signs of enemy movement towards them and alerting them as needed.
- Route Recon. By flying ahead of the main effort, a recon helo can determine what if any enemy forces might be encountered on it, and help to avoid the ground force being ambushed. If ambushed, a recon helo can very rapidly assess the location as well as size of the ambush force, relaying this information and helping to coordinate action against it.
- ‘Hunter’ role. When acting as part of a ‘hunter / killer’ pair, a recon helo uses its agility and speed to seek out enemy threats, at which point a gunship helicopter can take over and destroy said threats. In the Vietnam war this was known as a ‘Pink Team’ – the small OH-6 Cayuse scout aircraft were a ‘white’ team, while the AH-1 Cobras were ‘red’ teams – the combination becoming ‘pink’.
An Hummingbird hiding in a patch of trees while scanning an area
- Recon helos. Small and agile, these helicopters sometimes have powerful sensor systems on them. In the absence of sensors, recon helos search for the enemy visually.
- Copilots. A recon helicopter benefits greatly from having a copilot or crew chief onboard – these players can concentrate on plotting out and communicating observed enemy forces to higher headquarters while the pilot can focus fully on scouting and flying the aircraft. Some mods even allow copilots or crew chiefs to throw smoke grenades from the aircraft or use their own personal rifle or machinegun to engage enemies below. Copilots also communicate updates on the friendly situation and locations of friendly forces to the pilot.
Due to their small size and light armor, recon helicopters must be at the top of their game to survive their missions.
- Avoid complacency! The moment you relax or lower your standards is the moment you’ll pay for it.
- Do not fly lower or slower than is absolutely necessary. The higher and faster you are, the harder it is for the enemy to hit you. Be familiar with how high you need to be to make it difficult for the enemy to engage you, while still being effective in your recon role.
- Hovering close to the ground must be avoided at all costs – the only time you should be at low level is when the terrain and vegetation provides you a great degree of protection or concealment, or you have need to be low-down near friendly forces.
- When operating in hilly or other terrain where natural or man-made features have varying altitudes, remember to gain altitude when passing over tall obstacles. Flying at 300 meters of altitude over level ground, then passing over a 250m tall ridge without raising altitude, makes you an easy 50-meter target for anyone on the ridge.
- Just because you don’t see anything, doesn’t mean someone isn’t watching you and waiting for you to make a mistake. Fly like you’re always under observation by the enemy.
- When flying near known enemy positions, vary the directions you approach from, the altitude you fly at, and your speed frequently. Jinking unpredictably will help to prevent the enemy from getting a good lead on you.
- When passing over objects or terrain features, be extremely vigilant of what might be on the other side. When possible, attempt to fly around obstacles instead of over them. While there may be nothing on the near side, flying over a hill to find that an enemy anti-aircraft emplacement is right below you is not a pleasant experience.
- The enemy can ‘read’ your orbit, be very mindful of this! If you orbit directly over them in a circular pattern, they’ll know they’ve been spotted. If you orbit directly over a friendly position, the enemy will likely suspect that the center point of your orbit corresponds to your friendly forces and can act accordingly. When you don’t want the enemy to know you see them
- Predictable orbits give the enemy an opportunity to establish an anti-air ambush at some point along your path. While you may see most of the enemy in the center of your orbit at a safe distance, a small team of the enemy detaching and moving to place themselves directly under your path with a machinegun can be a very rude surprise.
- Maintain all-around awareness. Becoming target-fixated can cause you to miss important things around or beneath you.
- Be paranoid! If something on the ground seems fishy, it may very well be. The enemy hates being observed – they may go to great lengths to try to lure you into a sense of complacency, or guide you towards an ambush. Don’t fall for it!
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are remotely-operated aircraft used for reconnaissance and strike purposes. These come with sensors – more powerful the larger the UAV is – and relatively long loiter times, again based on how large the UAV is. UAVs allow an aerial view of the terrain and can be used to find and track enemy forces in the area.
There are two UAV types you will find in Arma 3 – high-level and low-level ones.
These large aircraft are launched from airfields prior to the conduct of a mission. The MQ4A Greyhawk is an example of this type. Large UAVs can carry payloads of missiles or bombs and typically fly at altitudes that make them invisible to the naked eye. Control of these UAVs is generally done by an operator far from the battlefield, tied in via radio communications to those in the operational area.
The MQ4A Greyhawk at surveillance altitude
A low-level UAV is a platoon- or company-level organic asset that can be controlled by members of the ground force. These have lower loiter times, weaker sensors, and generally do not carry weapons. These UAVs come in either a plane or helicopter format, with the quad-rotor AR-2 Darter being an example of the latter. Due to their low loiter times, these UAVs are often able to only provide periodic flights, with downtimes in which they must land, have their batteries replaced, and be relaunched. These UAVs are often employed after contact has been made with the enemy, allowing friendly forces to better track enemy movement and maneuver to defeat them.
- Route recon. As with helicopter recon, UAVs can be employed to scout out a rout for friendly movement. Unlike with helicopters, a UAV is much less visible and noisy and can generally conduct this mission without being spotted – thus keeping any potential enemy forces unaware that they’ve been located.
- Target recon. Particularly when attacking fixed positions, UAVs can be used to get the lay of the enemy defenses, to include spotting obstacles, weapon emplacements, troop concentrations, and more.
- Security. A UAV in the air gives friendly forces ‘eye in the sky’ security, helping to prevent them from being surprised by enemy encounters. This is of great benefit regardless of whether friendly forces are mobile - such as an infantry platoon or convoy - or static, like at an outpost or similar.
- Hunter/Killer Patrols. An infantry unit can use UAVs to scout the areas around them as they move (the UAV being the 'Hunter'), searching for any enemy that might be in the area. When found, the infantry unit moves to, engages, and destroys the discovered enemy (the infantry being the 'Killer' part of the patrol).
- HVT tracking and observation. Due to their small signature, UAVs can be used to track high-value targets without detection. This sort of real-time tracking information can be used to set up ‘snatch and grab’ raids on the HVTs.
- Counter-contact recon. When a friendly force makes enemy contact, UAVs can be employed to determine the enemy location, intent, and strength.
- Be communicative with those you're supporting. While you should not report the movement of every rabbit hopping around the battlefield, you will want to keep ground forces updated about anything that might affect them - be that crowds starting to gather, people moving away from ground forces, people shadowing ground forces, suspicious vehicle movements, etc.
- Avoid target fixation. When operating a UAV, the operator must continually scan the area and adjust their zoom levels to keep an awareness on as much of the operational area as possible.
- Be mindful of your loiter time. For low-level UAVs, considerations must be made as to when the best time is to launch them. The platoon headquarters element should be consulted on these matters – running out of juice for a UAV right before you desperately need it is to be avoided.
- When launching a low-level UAV, do not fly it directly from the friendly position towards the enemy. This telegraphs friendly positions and should be avoided. Instead, fly the UAV at low level in a direction perpendicular to the enemy, then bring it back towards them from the side.
- Protection of the low-level UAV operator is essential. Due to their focus on controlling the vehicle, they will be unable to defend or observe their immediate location. While the platoon UAV detachment will be able to assist in security for them, the whole platoon must strive to protect them while they're operating their vehicle.
A combat diver is a unit that is equipped with gear that allows them to insert covertly via underwater means. In the real world the closest US Forces analogy would be to the Navy SEALs, but for our purposes we won’t pretend to be SEALs (there are enough of such pretenders already!) and will instead simply call this role a combat diver.
Combat divers are generally used for two specific types of missions - covert strikes or raids, and reconnaissance. Due to the limitations imposed on them by the bulk of their underwater gear - SCUBA tank or rebreather, fins, wetsuit, etc - they are unable to bring as much ‘punch’ to the fight as comparable units would if they were inserted via another method.
The combat diver can expect to reach shore with their primary weapon and sidearm, sufficient ammo for a decent fight, and mission-essential gear such as demolitions, micro-UAVs, sensor packages, and so forth. In the event that they are to be employed in a more significant capacity, they are able to bring in extra gear in a water-tight rucksack - to include a change of uniform and load bearing gear or armor - though it reduces their capacity for carrying other types of mission gear and requires time to switch into after landing.
Due to their aquatic nature, combat diver gear includes some rather specialized items.
The rebreather is a device that allows for a diver to breathe underwater without giving away their position via expelled air bubbles. The alternative is to use a SCUBA system, which has the downside of releasing streams of bubbles that can potentially betray the presence of a diver once the bubbles burst on the surface. While the Arma 3 rebreather does release some bubbles, these are nearly impossible to detect on the surface. Also note that the rebreather has no cargo-carrying capacity - limiting the diver to what they can carry on their wetsuit or in their rucksack.
Wetsuit, Mask, & Fins
The wetsuit, mask, and fins combine to make a diver more mobile underwater. When put up against someone not so equipped, a diver can outpace and out-endure them.
Swimming without this gear is slow - the slowest movement being about 3kph, with the fastest being about 5kph. When equipped with the full suite, a swimmer can easily maintain 6kph at their slowest rate, while bursts of nearly 13kph can be attained for periods of time.
The SDV - or ‘Swimmer Delivery Vehicle’ - is a small submersible that allows a diver team to more rapidly move underwater. Seating 4 divers, these can be moved close to shore, anchored, and then the diver team can make the rest of the movement via their typical rebreather & fins method. SDVs additionally have periscope capability, allowing for a diver team to halt some distance from shore and observe the potential landing area in detail and from relative safety.
SDVs are fairly mobile underwater, able to hit a maximum speed of about 18kph forward and 15kph in reverse. When operating at night and deep enough, the SDV has small headlights angled forward and down. These should be avoided whenever possible, as being near the surface on a dark night and turning on your lights can be a rather attention-drawing thing to do.
Remember that water is thermal-opaque - enemy thermal systems will be of no use in searching for SDVs. However, nightvision and visual observation can detect them if they're too close to the surface - something which is easily defeated by keeping a deeper depth while in transit.
The SDV's periscope is surprisingly capable considering the vessel's size. Fitted with daylight, thermal, and nightvision capabilities, the optic has a zoom range from 5 to 40 power. Not stopping there, it can also use laser ranging and can even designate targets with a laser designator. To employ the periscope requires a front passenger seat - or sensor operator - to view through it. The driver has the ability, through the action menu, to automatically maintain periscope depth - when engaged, the sub will rise just high enough to expose the periscope while keeping the body of the sub safely underwater. The SDV will not create a noticeable wake until over one-third of its body is above the waterline, so there's a good margin of safety present even when using the periscope.
In the event that a team expects to be facing off against enemy divers, special water-purposed weaponry is available. While the average mission will not require this, these weapons are available for special situations.
The SDAR is the weapon of choice for underwater combat. This 5.56mm rifle can fire two types of ammunition - the first being typical air-oriented projectiles, while the second are dual-purpose rounds that are able to use supercavitation principles to have upwards of a 30 meter underwater range.
SDARs utilize a fixed 30-meter zero, though this is a deceptive term - the bullet crosses the line of sight for the first time at 30m, then continues upward and re-crosses the sight line at somewhere in the 250-350 meter range.
When using SDARs, divers must remember to transition from the underwater ammo to normal ammo before coming ashore.
Other Gear Possibilities
Divers are able to bring additional gear on a mission by utilizing a backpack for storage. This permits a diver to bring, amongst other things, a change of clothes or a load carrying or armor system. This can be used for combat purposes - such as when performing a raid that will require shooting - or for stealth purposes, such as recon. A diver who brings civilian apparel and leaves their weapon and gear stashed shore-side may be able to infiltrate an area posing as a civilian, gain the intelligence needed without firing a shot, and slip away completely unnoticed. Along the same lines, usage of a stolen enemy uniform and weapon can get a diver team into areas otherwise inaccessible to them - assuming they don't raise suspicion through their actions.
All insertions ultimately end with a swim to shore - the difference between them is the way you get into the water in the first place, and how far that swim needs to be to get you to your landfall site. Longer swims are fatiguing, so a careful balance must be struck between proximity and risks of detection/compromise.
Usage of a Swimmer Delivery Vehicle is one of the fastest infiltration methods possible. While these are often transported into the operation area by a larger submarine, they can also be air-dropped as needed from cargo planes.
Leaving an SDV resting on the ocean floor behind a rock formation
Helocasting is an insertion method in which a helicopter flys low and slow over the water, allowing divers to jump into the sea from it.
Using boats as insertion is a fairly straightforward matter being driven to the appropriate place and then simply jumping into the water. It's quick and easy, as well as rather flexible.
Parachuting into water
The usage of parachutes to deliver a diver team can come in two basic forms - the first with just the divers themselves parachuting, and the second involving an SDV being dropped as well. The SDV method is ideal, as it allows for the divers to quickly move towards shore upon landing, while the lack of an SDV will result in a very long swim in to shore - making it easier for navigational errors or timing errors to occur.
The threats most relevant to combat swimmers are the ones located on, over, or in the water, or at or near the shore. The main threats come in the forms of sensors and patrols. The enemy will tend to focus their patrols on areas that are vulnerable to seaborne attack, such as harbors and shore-side military installations. Attempting to land at these locations is unwise - a beach patrol may spot you, remote sensor systems may be present (to include thermal and motion-detecting systems), or there may even be vehicle patrols in the area. Anything with a thermal sensor is an incredible danger, as human thermal signatures stand out starkly against water.
At sea, patrol boats may operate close to these installations. These are mostly looking for above-water threats and are easy to avoid. Being spotted by one can still turn deadly, as they may have stocks of anti-swimmer grenades - even one of which can kill an entire dive team.
While mines may be present underwater, these are almost universally designed for anti-ship behavior. If approaching a known mined area, do so as swimmers - leave your SDV behind for safety's sake.
The least likely threat is finding enemy swimmer teams in the area. The odds of encountering another team underwater in low-visibility conditions is remote, but if you do, that's where your SDARs will earn their pay.
Picking the Landfall Site
The most dangerous part of a dive team’s insertion is the transition from sea to shore, which is why picking a good landing site is absolutely critical. For the sake of commonality with helicopter and paratrooper terminology, we’ll refer to this concept as a ‘landfall site’ in longhand, but shorten it to ‘LZ’ for an abbreviation.
Considerations for a good Landfall Site (LZ)
The basic considerations for a landfall site are as follows.
- Sheltered area, hard to observe from the shore - limiting the range from which it can be observed. (such as a tight cove, or a boulder-strewn narrow patch of beach next to cliffs)
- Concealment nearby, cover preferable.
- Hard to access by the enemy (rocky terrain, cliffs, etc)
- Remotely located. There should be no reason for the enemy to need to patrol there - which is to say, don't pick an LZ near a military installation or harbor.
Another consideration is the number of LZs to use. There are times when the availability of suitable landfall sites is limited, requiring all divers to end up at the same one, while other areas will permit multiple landing sites. When possible, splitting up amongst different sites is preferred - if one is unsuitable or compromised, the other may still work, or at the very least will allow for part of the diver team to support the engaged one from a positive of relative advantage.
Harbors are generally well-lit - avoid them whenever possible.
The main threats to divers all exist above the surface of the water - thus, one of the easiest ways to stay safe during the approach phase is to stay deep. At least 20 meters of depth should be maintained, underwater terrain permitting. If using an SDV, keep the lights off. Move at a speed that allows you to see around you - slamming into mines or running into an enemy dive team unexpectedly are both outcomes to avoid. This is all heavily dictated by the underwater visibility - adapt accordingly.
Actions if Discovered En Route
If your team is compromised during the approach phase, your actions will depend mostly on the threat encountered. Enemy swimmer teams are the most straightforward to deal with - shoot more accurately than they do, faster than they do, and kill them before they have a chance to kill you.
Above-water threats are more difficult. As on the approach, depth equals safety - bullets cannot penetrate deeply into the water regardless of their size. Anti-swimmer grenades or depth charges are lethal when employed - if you suspect they'll be used against you, change depth and have your team split into groups that all go in different directions.
The mobility of helicopters and boats can be a nuisance - if they have a means of detecting you and tracking you, there's little you can do but attempt to scatter your team and hope that some of you can make it to safety. Being discovered en route is a terrible situation for a dive team to be in - it almost always requires the cancellation of their mission. In the event that the mission is continued, extreme efforts should be made to choose new, unpredictable LZs, take time to observe these sites from the sea, and expedite the landfall process as much as possible. The best security comes from being able to get out of the water, away from the dangerous shore area, and blend in further inland.
While the approach phase can put you in a tough situation if compromised, the shorefall phase is more dangerous by far. Approaching this with caution and deliberate action is essential to making a successful landing. While your mission briefing likely covered the expected threats in the area, intelligence has been known to miss things - make sure you don't!
First, the sight must be reconnoitered from the sea. An SDV is invaluable here - the powerful sensors and image capabilities can reveal lurking enemies, sensor systems, and other threats. In the absence of an SDV, divers simply surface from a distance, scan the area, submerge, swim closer, then surface again to check. This is only done by a single diver - the others stay submerged to reduce their visual signature. Depending on the tactical situation, a diver or SDV may stay offshore while the rest of the element makes shorefall, in order to give better observation of the area. This diver uses their radio to communicate with those moving towards shore, allowing them to make the approach more covertly by staying submerged until the last moments. If using SDARs, the dive team will transition to normal magazines once in the final phase of their approach.
Upon reaching water shallow enough to stand in, two divers will stand with weapons readied, staying low in the water. These two are the security element - they'll conduct a careful scan of the area and watch for any signs of threat, covering the other team members as they exit the water. The two security members will maintain good interval - at least 20 meters between each other - giving the rest of the team a corridor between them to make shorefall via.
Once the rest of the team has exited the water and established shore-side security, the water security element follows them inland. At this point, depending on the gear used, the team may change into different uniforms, don armor systems, or otherwise transition from an aquatic to a land role. If it is necessary to leave gear behind, the team will locate the most concealed area to store said gear - preferably in vegetation or sunken terrain that cannot be observed from afar. The last thing you want is to make a stealthy insertion, only to have an enemy shore patrol stumble over swimmer gear and sound the alarm.
At this point, the shore-side mission begins.
The final phase of the operation involves exfiltrating from the area after conducting your shore-side mission. The key point here is to be extremely cautious when returning to your landing site. If you didn't leave any gear at that site, there may not be a reason to return to it - in that case, pick a suitable location to enter the water from that's at least a few hundred meters away from your shorefall site. If you did leave gear - such as rebreathers - at the site, exercise caution approaching it. Move within visible range of the site, pause, and observe for several minutes. Note anything that has changed since you were last there - no matter how subtle. Scan carefully for concealed enemies. Once you believe it to be clear, move in sections - one should always be providing security as the other moves closer. Once at the site, carefully observe the area around your stored gear. Look for tripwires or mines, as the enemy may choose to simply boobytrap your gear instead of confronting you in a firefight. A clever enemy may do even worse, staying safely hidden until you trigger their mines, at which point they'll ambush you while you're still reeling from the blast.
After safely recovering your gear, two team members will act as security while the others move in small groups into the water - reversing the technique used in the initial landing. When all other divers are underwater, the security element will follow them. If using SDARs, transition to underwater magazines after moving a short distance offshore.
Once underwater, it's a simple matter to head away from shore, towards the assigned pickup point. Be punctual, of course! It's no fun missing your initial pickup time and having to wait for an alternate pickup.
And that's that!
Regardless of your role, there may come a time when you find yourself isolated from friendly forces and in the midst of the enemy. This may be the result of being shot down in an aircraft, lost in the dark, or as a sole survivor of a hard-fought battle. Whatever the case may be, knowledge of how to survive, evade, resist, and escape from the enemy is essential towards returning to friendly forces.
For our purposes, we’ll talk about what a helicopter air crew should consider if they find themselves in this situation. Adapt as needed for other roles.
In the event that your aircraft loses engine power during combat operations or is otherwise forced to make an emergency landing, you should immediately call over the radio to friendly forces that you’re declaring an emergency – “Mayday, mayday” – and are having to make a forced landing. As time permits, expound on where your aircraft is, where you’re attempting to land, and what forced you down.
The Landing Site
As this radio message is being sent, scan around the aircraft to evaluate potential landing sites and the proximity of both friendly and enemy forces. The disposition of friendly and enemy forces should be known at this point – at the very least, you should have an idea of where you were engaged from. In the absence of any other knowledge, endeavor to land as far away from the source of fire as possible.
When friendly forces are near, attempt to land by them – this simplifies the situation dramatically. If you’re able to successfully land and link up with friendly forces, your job is simply to stick with them until arrangements can be made to extract you and your crew to the rear.
When friendly forces aren’t near, and the enemy positions are roughly known, try to land as far away from them as possible.
When neither friendly nor enemy forces are known or near, head for a landing site that gives you concealment and multiple routes of exfiltration. A clearing in the woods is a good example of this type of terrain feature.
Try to avoid landing in locations that are barren of cover and concealment
Upon landing, and assuming that you are not near friendly forces, begin to assess the security of the landing site as well as the health of your crew. Being shot down can happen extraordinarily quickly, and it’s possible in the confusion to not realize that your aircraft has not only taken damage, but that crew members have been injured as well. Emergency landings can be rough, too, further complicating injuries. The easiest way to check for injuries is to call it out verbally upon landing – each crew member can assess themselves and respond accordingly, and if one member doesn’t respond, it’s possible that they’ve been knocked unconscious or are dead. Check on any unresponsive crew members as soon as possible, as they may need immediate medical aid.
If there are injuries, assess whether they can be treated on-site or whether the proximity of enemy forces necessitates movement first. Treat what you can when it’s safe to do so, but don’t jeopardize the entire crew over one injured member. In the worst case scenario, split the crew and send the uninjured portion away from the crash site while you or an appropriately-trained crewman give first aid to the injured. If the injured is unconscious and unable to be transported, accept that you may be forced to stay with them until enemy forces arrive. In this eventuality, depending on the enemy’s known behavior, you may be able to surrender to them in order to get your severely wounded crewman aid. Know your enemy – there are some where surrender will never be accepted. In those situations, make all efforts to carry any wounded with you, and never go down without a fight. Having severely wounded, untreatable casualties is a nightmarish proposition for a downed aircrew – make the best of the situation that you can and try to save as many of your crew as feasible.
Other friendly aircraft
Additionally, consider the proximity or availability of friendly aircraft, including CSAR – Combat Search & Rescue – aircraft. If a CSAR or transport aircraft is on-station, it’s possible that they’ll be able to rapidly respond to your crash and even land at the site to extract you. If this is the case, assess the terrain for defensive potential and deploy your crew accordingly. Depending on the orientation of your aircraft, mounted weapons may still be usable, lending extra firepower to your defense of the crash site. Communicate with the rescue aircraft to determine whether you should stay at the crash site or move to an alternate location for a pickup.
Last Acts & Transitioning to Evasion
If there is no prospect for pickup, evasion of the enemy will become the priority. Gather any supplies from your aircraft that you might need – signaling devices like smoke grenades, flare guns, and marker panels are highly desired, while medical supplies and ammunition are highly desired as well. Some aircraft have door guns that can be detached and taken with you – consider doing so if you feel that the firepower will outweigh their bulk. Finally, if demolitions are available and enemy can be reasonably expected to reach the crash site before friendlies, consider deploying demolitions to destroy the aircraft. Placing demolitions on a delayed timer can help to give you a head start on evasion and may even result in the aircraft being destroyed while enemy forces are surveying the crash site.
Terrain & Options
Evading the enemy is largely defined by the visibility conditions in the area in which you landed. The more cover and concealment, or the less favorable the lighting conditions are, the more chance of success you have.
During the descent, all crew members should have been scanning the terrain in anticipation of needing to conduct an evasion plan. Upon landing, the map should be consulted to help further refine possible options. Ideally, the initial direction of evasion should be in a direction perpendicular to the enemy’s expected pursuit path. Attempts should be made to avoid simply running straight away from the enemy forces, as this simplifies their pursuit and allows them to easily predict where you’re going as well as ensure that they have someone waiting for you when you get there.
You should consider the terrain and evasion options not only from your perspective, but also from the perspective of the enemy. Going towards the most obvious route may be so predictable by the enemy as not to be worth it. Be creative in how you choose your route, and do your best to make it unpredictable.
Types of Pursuit
Foot pursuit is the easiest method to evade. As the enemy brings more capabilities to the search effort, your options begin to change and become restricted, forcing even greater creativity but also opening up some additional possibilities. While you cannot reasonably expect to fight a truck full of enemy infantry and succeed, it is possible that the further you get from the expected route of escape, the more likely you are to run into civilian or military administrative vehicles that can be hijacked or “repurposed”. In the event that you acquire a civilian vehicle, check to see if there are civilian clothes in it as well – changing out of your flight uniform may give you better odds of escape. At the very least, consider removing your flight helmet and placing it into the cargo of the vehicle – a person in a green shirt driving a civilian car looks much more believable as a civilian than a “civilian” wearing a full-fledged aircrew helmet. Bear in mind that you will need to approach friendly forces with caution when driving a civilian vehicle.
Helicopter pursuit is the hardest to contend with – the best option when dealing with helicopters is to pick routes that go through dense terrain such as forests, jungles, or through areas where there are so many bushes, boulders, and other visual ‘noise’ that a search helo may miss you in the clutter. When search aircraft are nearby, minimize movement – however, bear in mind that the search aircraft’s role is intended to slow you down. It’s a tricky balancing act to know when to move versus when to stay concealed, and the situation will heavily dictate what you’re able to do. Keep in mind that search aircraft equipped with thermal optics are nearly impossible to hide from, short of moving into buildings or extraordinarily thick concealment.
In the event that you’re “made” by a thermal-optic-equipped helicopter, consider splitting your crew up and heading in several different directions – the helicopter will only be able to follow one of you, allowing the others a greater escape chance. Speed is essential at this point – you want to disperse as far as possible before the aircraft can call in additional search assets. Make sure that you’re able to identify the pursuing aircraft as hostile – the last thing you want to do is try to evade a friendly search helo. If you’re found by a friendly aircraft, instructions on what to do can be found in the ‘Escape & Extract’ section, later.
Expect that the enemy will attempt to use ‘danger areas’ – such as fields, roads, and other barren terrain features – as areas in which they can locate you. Whenever possible, avoid crossing danger areas – go around when the situation permits. If you must cross one, thoroughly observe the area from a safe location before crossing, and cross with wide interval.
Staying in place as an option
While movement is the most fundamental means by which to evade the enemy, don’t discount the possibility of staying in place. When visibility is poor and pursuit thin, finding a good – but not overtly obvious – hiding spot and allowing the pursuit force to move past you can be an extremely effective way to put the odds further in your favor. If you accomplish this, move diagonally away from the enemy after they’ve passed – in short, you’re attempting to move in the opposite direction from them, without moving at an exact opposite to them. Moving directly away from them in the direction they arrived can potentially result in you running into follow-on forces and should be avoided whenever possible.
In addition to that technique, remember that the enemy is expecting you to be continually moving in an attempt to evade them. With each passing minute the area they have to search for you in grows larger and larger – if you can evade for long enough, they’ll end up with an area so large that their search efforts become vastly less effective and may even eventually be called off due to this fact.
Natural Lines of Drift
When moving across terrain, keep in mind the concept of “natural lines of drift”. Natural lines of drift are the contours and characteristics of the terrain that people tend to gravitate towards – in short, they’re the path of least resistance. Roads, bridges, valley floors, paths – these features should be avoided, as you have a much higher chance of running into enemy forces on them, and they’re the most predictable paths to search from the enemy’s perspective.
Finally, whenever possible, attempt to stay together during your evasion attempts. Splitting up should only be done under extreme duress – such as the helicopter scenario illustrated earlier.
When Evasion Fails
There are times when despite your best efforts at evasion, capture will be inevitable. This can occur for a variety of reasons – for instance, being confronted and cornered by armored vehicles or superior enemy numbers, or after being wounded or knocked out by enemy fire or action. There comes a point where further fighting becomes an exercise in suicide – however, as noted earlier, there are enemy forces where capture simply is not an option for you. When that possibility presents itself, do everything in your power not to be taken alive.
When faced against a more traditional opponent, one which operates more or less in accordance with international military laws of war, surrender is a possibility. The internationally recognized surrender language is to drop your weapon and raise your hands in the air. Before you willfully surrender, make a last radio call for anyone in the area so that they know you’ve been captured and that your radio is about to be compromised. Expect to be searched by your captors and relieved of anything of value, and particularly anything that can cause damage, as well as your map, compass, GPS, and radio.
Whatever the circumstances of your capture are – whether you woke up to find yourself a captive, or surrendered in the face of impossible odds – know that your struggle does not end there. Hope is not lost merely because the enemy temporarily has the upper hand. You can continue to resist even in your unarmed state – do so!
Resistance takes many forms. Once captured, you must continually evaluate your situation, the enemy’s situation, and look for opportunities to escape. Do not answer any enemy questions about your mission, friendly forces, other captives, or teammates who managed to successfully evade. Bearing in mind that we’re all playing a game, and that no one is truly under duress, a certain degree of cooperative roleplaying is required to make these sorts of scenarios interesting – go with the flow and remember that the goal is to have fun and make for an interesting scenario. If the enemy threatens to execute a teammate to get you to talk – don’t be so stubborn as to let this happen! If necessary, give them a tidbit of info. It doesn’t necessarily have to be entirely true, either!
When the enemy orders you around in captivity, you can choose to be somewhat stubborn and slow, but ultimately cooperate with them. Don’t give them excuses to escalate their violence against you. Your survival depends in part on how they feel about you – the last thing you want to do is become a total nuisance with no apparent redeeming values. In keeping with this, remember that any damage you inflict on them prior to your capture is likely to face retribution – shooting and killing the pursuit party as it closes to capture you tends to put some tension between you and them. While their higher command may want you for questioning, as a bargaining chip, or as a hostage, the small unit leader that actually captures you may opt instead to make you pay for the death of their men.
The best time to make your escape attempt is either early in captivity, while still with the initial party that captured you, or when disruptive actions occur during your transport to the rear.
After being captured, the enemy has to figure out what to do with you and how to accomplish that goal. This generally means that you’ll need to be transported away from the battlefield – or at least away from where your friends are trying to find you. A smart enemy will designate specific soldiers to guard and transport you, and if they choose wisely, this will greatly compound the difficulty of escape.
The best you can hope for is that one of two things will happen – one, your captives will be bumbling fools and you’ll be able to escape from them simply by making a run for it in a cluttered or dark environment and begin another evasion attempt (if they’re bumbling fools, btw, how did they capture you?), or two, some significant disruptive event will occur and give you a window for escape. Disruptive events include vehicle accidents, contact with their enemy (aka your friends), artillery, or anything that could occur which would draw their attention away from you – even if only for a few moments.
When you have your chance – make a break for it! Remember the techniques you used when evading previously. Put obstacles between you and any pursuers and change path frequently to throw off pursuit. If there are vehicles nearby that are unguarded, try to use them to escape. Your first escape attempt is likely the only good one you’ll have – depending on the situation, they may no longer be interested in recapturing you and may simply shoot to kill, or they may recapture you and incapacitate you such that further escape attempts are no longer feasible.
Escaping During a Firefight
If a firefight is occurring while you attempt your escape, try to evade perpendicular to the main axis of fire. You don’t want to rush from your captors towards the source of the fire – you could be confused for an enemy, or you could find that the other party isn’t friendly, either. The situation can be more complex than a good-vs-bad face-off – indigenous people, rebel, insurgent, or resistance groups can be operating in the same area and may or may not be sympathetic to your cause.
Once you’ve successfully escaped, your priority turns towards finding friendly forces and being rescued. There are two ways this can happen – one, you can walk (or drive) yourself all the way back to friendly lines, or two, you can be spotted by aircraft and airlifted out. A smart captor will have taken your radio upon capturing you, reducing you to visual signals alone. When aircraft are overhead and identified as friendly, there are a variety of different visual signals you can attempt – some require special gear, while others work at any time. Make sure you drop your weapon before trying to signal the aircraft, and do not attempt to signal with gunfire or tracers – both are easily misinterpreted as hostile acts and can result in you being obliterated by return fire. In truly desperate situations, firing a series of three tracers straight into the air – well away from aircraft, and with a several-second pause between each shot – can be used as a signal. Exhaust all other options before resorting to this, as it is extraordinarily dangerous to attempt.
If the area seems clear, running out into a clearing can draw the eye of any aerial observers. Waving your arms – via saluting or raising them in the air – can also help, as can running circles in the open. If you have a vehicle, honking the horn may work if the aircraft is reasonably close. When it’s dark, flashing the headlights continuously is a great signal. If you have smoke – throw it out and stand near it for identification. Remember that at night, smoke placed near a source of illumination – such as headlights – is much more easily seen from the air.
You will be able to tell that a helicopter has spotted you by changes in the flight behavior. A typical response is to begin circling your position, or quickly passing over you to get a look at your appearance. Do not expect the helicopter to land if it sees that you’re armed. If you’re unarmed and on foot, move into an open area and place your hands in the air or salute in the direction of the helicopter. Expect it to circle several times to inspect your surroundings, then land to pick you up. If you’re in a vehicle and the helicopter has identified and is following you, lead them to a safe area, away from any known enemy, before disembarking.
Once the helo lands, one of two things will happen. Either you will see the crew call you forward – via shouting or gesturing, at which point you should run to and load into the helo – or they will disembark a crew member to verify your identity and search you for weapons or explosives. If the latter happens, do not resist. Answer the questions from the crewman and tell them anything you know about nearby enemies, other captives, or anything that might help. This technique is used when there is a possibility of the enemy attempting to masquerade as a friendly unit in order to lure a rescue helicopter into an ambush. An alternate possibility is that the aircraft will drop a short-range radio to you during a fly-by, then conduct a conversation through it to verify your identity before setting down to pick you up. This may include asking for a “recovery code word” – a word that would have been designated as such in your initial mission briefing, and can verify your identity when spoken.
Once extracted, your job is to tell friendly forces as much about the enemy as you can – where they are, where they took you, who else is still captive or trying to escape, where they might be going, and so on. Give whatever detail you can – you never know what might be the critical information that results in your fellow crew members being rescued.
Finally, relax! You’re safe now… right?
In this section we’ll cover the concepts, environmental influences, and equipment that comes into play when operating in a nighttime environment.
The difference between no moon and a full moon
First, let’s look at the environment itself. There are many factors that influence how dark a night will be - which in turn dictates what if anything you might need to use to counter the darkness.
The moon is the most dramatic natural influence on nighttime visibility - when it's full and high in the sky, you'll find the terrain to be well-lit and visibility to be good even without the use of any special equipment. The moon provides illumination in a similar manner to the sun - except obviously not nearly as bright. Light from the moon will cause shadows on the ground, while the phase of the moon will dictate how much illumination is provided. "New" moons give little, full moons more, while the positioning in the sky plays another part and determines the length and direction of shadows.
The moon phase, location in the sky, or presence at all, is a large factor of nighttime visibility
The weather's influence on visibility is easy to guess - clouds and fog reduce it, rain even more so, while lightning can provide flashes of clarity at unpredictable intervals. Weather trumps the moon, too - if it's cloudy, the light of that full moon will never reach the ground and thus doesn't matter.
Note that the weather can change over the course of a mission - while it may start out nice and clear, a storm front moving in can kill visibility in a remarkably short period of time.
Different fog levels and overcasts at night
Time of Day
It goes without saying that time of day is rather significant - the fact that it's night is what this section is based on, after all - but it's worth knowing that all hours of the night are not equal in visibility. Aside from the presence or position of the moon in the sky - moonrises and moonsets included - there are two periods in which visibility will be different from 'vanilla' night. These periods - nautical twilight and dawn - happen once the sun has set but isn't too far below the horizon. During this time, the sky will still be somewhat bright, followed either by nightfall if it's nautical twilight, or sunrise if it's nautical dawn. A bright sky and dark ground makes for a difficult scene to view - your eyes can't adapt to see the ground properly while the sky is still lit. Skylining is particularly fatal at this time of day, as the skyline is the easiest thing to see and thus what people tend to unconsciously focus most on.
Found most often near the trappings of civilization, artificial lighting is the only one you are able to directly influence. Streetlights can be shot out, headlights smashed in. If you’re willing to make the required amount of noise to do so and have the time for it, artificial light can be dealt with. For those instances where time and noise are a concern, artificial light can be a blessing or a curse, depending on where it is and how it ties into your plan.
When operating in coastal areas, lighthouses become an additional concern. While some are designed to not shine while facing inland during their rotation period, others will continue to shine for each full rotation.
Once night has fallen, what's there to do about it? It mostly depends on who you are, as the options available depend primarily on the technology at hand. A few insurgents might not have many options available to them, while a professional and well-funded military force has myriad ways of peeling back the night. Note of course that there's a lot to be said for intentionally limiting gear in order to give a more intense experience - though that's up to mission designers to ultimately dictate.
The most readily accessible of all methods is the simple flashlight - or 'tactical white light' if you want to feel High-Speed, Low-Drag (HSLD). While they can be hand-held, the most common usage is to mount them to a rifle or handgun so that they're always oriented in the direction of the muzzle. Flashlights are best used in short 'bursts' - you toggle them on to illuminate something or scan an area, then turn them off once you've seen what you need to see, or a few moments have passed. Such lights are obvious targets in the dark and tend to draw fire - you want to keep them on only as long as necessary, and after turning them off, make sure to move away from that position.
Chemical lights, or "glowsticks", are more of a marking method at night, and less of a means to increase visibility in a given area. You can find these in a number of different colors. Chemlights can be used to mark significant locations, indicate landing zones to helicopters, and provide simple references in the dark.
There are a number of incendiary grenades that can find dual usage at night as illumination. Thermite grenades - designed to be used to destroy equipment via extreme heat - can put off a brilliant light display while they burn. White phosphorous grenades can do similar. While neither is intended to work as illumination at night, they can be repurposed to that effect when the situation dictates.
The underbarrel grenade launchers that team leaders and squad leaders have are a great way to provide illumination at night. These UGLs can load both parachute flare and star shell rounds, projecting them several hundred meters into the air before they activate.
Parachute flares - or just 'flares' - provide a high level of illumination for hundreds of meters around them, burning for a minute or more as they drift in the wind and fall towards the ground. These flares will remain burning for as long as it takes for their fuel to run out - thus, a flare that ignites close to the ground will land and remain burning for a period. Wind will carry these along, with heavy winds whipping them away and influencing the amount of usable illumination time you'll get.
Star shells are a bit different, intended primarily for signaling purposes - though they do provide a bit of light during their brief lives. Star shells will burst into a sparkling display, with their illumination lasting no more than ten seconds. They work as illumination in a pinch but are best saved for signaling between elements out of comm range of each other.
A defensive measure, trip flares are designed to trigger when infantry or vehicles move through an area, revealing their approach to waiting defenders. There are two basic types of trip flares - ground flares, which burn at ground-level, and aerial flares, which shoot into the sky before illuminating. Trip flares are generally employed in locations that are difficult to observe at night, and are hardest to defeat when they're hidden in dense and cluttered terrain. Most trip flares will provide an audible signal when they trigger, in addition to the brilliant light produced.
Surprise, you're in a tripflare-lit killzone!
Generally speaking, ground flares are employed where defending forces have an ability to see or fire into the area they protect. Aerial flares are chosen when the location is further away, and knowing of the enemy's approach is more important than being able to fire on them. An aerial flare bursting far from the defensive line gives the defenders time to prepare for an assault, as well as slows down the attacking force and makes them proceed with much greater caution.
Ah, nightvision! Is there anything better for wreaking havoc once the sun's gone down? Actually, yes, but we'll get to that later!
Nightvision works via the amplification of ambient light - be it from stars, the moon, or artificial sources. Thus, it works best when the moon is out or the sky is clear - clouds and such tend to degrade the image quality, though it's still preferred to stumbling around in the dark.
Depending on the mod you're playing, your NVGs will either auto-adjust to changing light levels, or you'll need to tweak them yourself. The tweakable method is ideal, as you can dial the image up or down depending on what exactly you're trying to get in clear contrast.
Aside from simply allowing you to see better in the dark, nightvision also opens up the use of infrared gear. The first - infrared lasers, or IR target designators - allow you to aim your weapon effectively even with NVGs on.
Employment of IR lasers is very similar to that of flashlights, in that you don't want to leave them turned on all the time. This is good practice regardless of whether the enemy has nightvision - keeping your lasers turned off helps to 'declutter' what people are seeing. Good laser discipline happens when people only lase to indicate targets, direct people's attention, or are actively employing their weapons.
Lasers can be used in a pinch to indicate targets for aircraft - though it may be hard for an aircraft to spot them above certain altitudes or distances from the beam.
When friendly forces are operating against a lower-tech enemy - meaning, an enemy without their own nightvision capability - another tool becomes available, that of the infrared strobe - or IR strobe. These are small hockey-puck-sized objects that pulse an infrared light. IR strobes can be used to indicate friendly positions - either by being placed on the ground or on top of a structure that friendlies are in, or by wearing them on helmets or similar. These are particularly helpful when operating with helicopter air support - the strobes give a clear indication of where friendly forces are, allowing enemies to be engaged that much more punctually.
One other note worth making is that of weapon sights. While unmagnified sights such as ironsights and red dot optics will work fine through nightvision, magnified ones will not. There are two ways to deal with this - one is to keep your nightvision off when using a scope, the other is to have an actual nightvision-capable scope. The latter isn't always possible, and the former is imperfect. In short - don't expect to be able to use your magnified optics at night to the same effect as in daytime unless you've come equipped to do so.
Finally, remember that the green-white-black spectrum of your nightvision goggles tends to make it harder to distinguish objects, personnel, and so forth than it would be during daylight. Camouflage tends to conceal better when seen through nightvision optics, and it takes longer for a person to thoroughly scan an area when wearing them. This must be kept in mind when planning movement - going through a forest in daylight is a faster affair than doing the same at night under goggles. Of course, having those goggles results in much faster movement than if you were to stumble through the dark without such assistance.
In the real world, not all nightvision is created equally. Expect to see mods for Arma 3 that introduce different levels of quality for different types of nightvision gear - with visibility distance, field of view, and image quality varying greatly between old and new nightvision systems.
What's better than nightvision? Thermal vision!
Thermal optics come in a variety of forms. Most commonly you'll find them as part of vehicle optic packages - powerful, high-resolution sensors that can see heat radiating from the environment. Miniaturization of the technology eventually made them viable as weapon optics as well, with the intent to integrate them into nightvision systems for enhanced capability.
Normal vision, nightvision, white-hot thermal, black-hot thermal
Thermal is an extremely powerful tool - regardless of whether it's day or night. There is no real counter to thermal as an infantryman aside from staying inside of buildings or in thick concealment.
Thermal reveals things that even nightvision doesn't fully expose
With that being said, there are a few aspects of thermal worth remembering. One - thermal optics cannot see through glass. In effect, they 'see' the heat of the glass itself - blocking whatever is on the other side from observation. Two, a vehicle will only show up in high-contrast after it has had it's engine running. The heat buildup from the engine, or the friction of the tracks or wheels over the ground, is what causes a high thermal signature. The same is true of weapons - a rifle will appear cold until it has been fired, at which point the barrel and nearby components will begin to glow.
Glass - in the form of combat glasses - masks the heat signatures of the eyes.
Finally, remember that most thermal optics allow you to reverse the polarity of the image. This is simply used to help give a different perspective on what you're looking at - it's mainly personal preference as to what you'll use at any given time. Note, too, that thermal optics use different color themes - some are green/black, some are white/black, and others use different shades. When describing the mode you're in, simply state what color is indicating 'hot' objects - for instance, the above image shows white-hot in the middle, black-hot on the right.
Also note that the clothing worn will influence the thermal signature - in this example, long sleeves help to mask and 'soften' the heat generated by the person's arms, while short sleeves lead to a brighter thermal contrast.
Vehicles give you a few more options for fighting the night. Some helicopters have spotlights on them - some of which can be pointed independent of the aircraft's flight. Defensive flares can be used to provide temporary illumination as well, and some aircraft can even drop aerial flares designed to provide greater and longer illumination.
Spotlights also come in ground vehicle form - as well as in stationary mounts. These can be employed in defensive situations to provide security, though their bulbs and lens assemblies can be destroyed with small arms fire.
The most fundamental of all vehicle lights is - you guessed it - their headlights. Headlights are low-tech and easy to employ. One common tactic to use when vehicles are abundant is to place them such that they're point "out", in the direction the enemy will approach from, such that a 'ring of light' exists and must be passed through in order to attack.
When facing enemies with NVGs when your side is not so equipped, placing vehicles such that their headlights are pointing at potential avenues of approach works well.
At the higher level, artillery units can be used to provide illumination. Artillery pieces like the 105 and 155mm howitzers are capable of firing illumination rounds that descend under parachute, lighting up large areas of terrain for minutes at a time. At the platoon or company level, 60 and 81mm mortars can fire similar flares - not as bright or long-lasting as the larger artillery pieces, but plenty sufficient to support a platoon or company-level effort.
Additional illumination can occur from the destruction of vehicles, buildings, and other structures. The explosion of an anti-tank impact and subsequent destruction of the targeted vehicle can provide brief but brilliant light, followed by significant lingering illumination if the vehicle catches fire. Fuel drums, civilian vehicles, and jerry cans can be used to provide such illumination - simply destroy them and you'll have light for as long as they burn. Placing these kinds of obstacles near expected enemy avenues of movement can put them in a major dilemma when they discover that their stealth movement is now bathed in firelight.
Weapon employment at night brings with it hazards beyond what you'd experience in daylight. The muzzle flash of your weapon stands out brilliantly in the dark, allowing enemies to rapidly identify your firing position and return fire. Suppressors are essential to avoid this sort of signature, yet are often unavailable. In the absence of suppressors, be very careful about firing from solid cover whenever you can. If there's no solid cover, change positions after each burst - the enemy will return fire where they last saw the muzzle flashes, and you won't want to be there when the rounds arrive.
In addition to muzzle flash, tracers can be major liabilities at night. If non-tracer magazines are available, try to use them whenever possible. Save tracer magazines for critical situations like designating targets or when your side has such fire superiority that you're unlikely to be singled out for your tracer usage.
Weapons with significant launch signatures - such as anti-tank or anti-aircraft rockets or missiles - will give away your position the instant they're fired. The flash of an AT or AA missile launching can be seen from a great distance at night, and it tends to attract the attention of vehicles that could potentially be harmed by such weaponry. If you fire an AT or AA weapon at night, have a plan for where you can run or displace in the event that something bigger than you starts shooting back. If there's a risk of it, you're better off immediately displacing once your shot has been fired.
While these techniques are aimed at operating in a low-light environment, the general principles can be applied to daylight operations as well by careful players. Remember that all forces are not created equal - while you may find great success through stealth when nightvision and thermal devices are not present, the presence of either of those can dramatically shift the equation. Nightvision still permits stealth to occur, just with more caution in employing it, while the godlike abilities of thermal viewers renders infantry stealth mostly moot. Be very mindful of what kind of enemy you're trying to be sneaky against!
Stick to shadows and minimize movement
The value of shadows should be obvious. When you stop, place yourself in brush and shadows that can distort or mask your shape. At night, people are looking for familiar shapes or outlines, and are able to notice high-contrast as well as easily see movement. Be aware of your backdrop - being in the shadow of a tree will do little if there's a bright white wall behind you from the enemy's perspective, silhouetting you.
Whenever possible, try to look around with just your head - either by using TrackIR, or by holding 'alt' to allow for freelook. A head moving around is a much smaller visual cue than someone swinging a rifle around as they pan their view.
Take your time when moving
You don't want to rush in the dark - it's too easy to miss people and end up getting shot in the back in the process. The same general rules of daytime tactical movement apply to the night - there's just more emphasis on avoiding contrast, staying in shadows, and trying to stop in locations that mask your visibility. Move from one position of concealment to another, observe, wait, listen, then move again when the coast seems clear. Hiding in bushes, trees, and thick brush makes you far more difficult to notice, though the sounds of you moving through such foliage can be heard if people are paying attention.
Strike during 'moments of action'
When you're trying to be stealthy, it doesn't do you much good to be the only one making noise. Taking a shot during a long stretch of silence tends to focus all of the enemy's attention towards you, reducing your lifespan drastically.
Instead, try to operate in a manner that allows you to maintain awareness of the enemy without forcing your hand. When the enemy becomes engaged or when loud environmental events happen, that's the time to make your move. If the enemy takes fire from elsewhere, a single rifle shot from you may easily be lost in the confusion. Don't get greedy - if you miss a shot, you may have to wait for another opportunity. It's a lot like sniping - a single shot is hard to identify, while multiple shots become more and more easy to trace the source of.
Looking is not necessarily seeing
One of the hardest skills to learn, and the most dangerous to employ, is the ability to distinguish the difference between an enemy who is scanning an area, versus one who has actually seen something during their scanning. In dark and dense terrain, when you're utilizing proper cover and concealment, sticking to shadows, and minimizing your movement, it can be tremendously difficult for the enemy to see you - even at very close ranges. It requires a great deal of self-control to be able to sit unmoving while an enemy looks in your direction or scans past you, but it can be the difference between maintaining your stealth and suddenly being thrust into a firefight you may not have wanted, on terms you didn't fully choose yourself.
When the enemy is moving, the situation is even harder for them. If you can blend in with the scenery and position yourself in a fashion that they're less likely to be looking straight at - for instance, on the opposite side of a tree that they're about to run past - you may be surprised at how many enemy can move by you without noticing your presence.
Being able to tell when you've actually been spotted depends on the distance at which you're facing the enemy. The most fundamental give-away is the double-take - if an enemy is scanning an area, sweeping their rifle over it, and suddenly stops and moves back in your direction - you may have been made! It's often very obvious when someone who wasn't necessarily expecting to see anything, suddenly sees something surprising - they'll jerk their aim towards it instinctively. At closer ranges you may even hear them exclaim something to their teammates. In the event that you're reasonably certain you've been spotted - kill them as fast as you can, so that they can't pass on what they saw. A single gunshot will give you away to a degree, but it's not nearly as bad as having a living enemy able to coordinate with their teammates to surround and destroy you.
Once you've taken the shot, the situation becomes far more dynamic. You'll almost certainly need to reposition, but also keep in mind that the situation - particularly the availability of concealment and cover, and the proximity of the enemy - may make it possible for you to stay hidden even after firing that single lethal shot.
The Psychological Element
Keep in mind the psychological aspects of what you're doing, and how it appears from the enemy's perspective. If a fireteam moves past you without seeing you, any trailing elements will be naturally inclined to believe that the area is clear - else the fireteam would have taken contact, right? Use these assumptions to your advantage!
If you do get in a fight, try to get into the enemy's mind - what will they expect you to do? What do they think you are - a single soldier, or a full fireteam? If you're acting as part of a fireteam, the act of you displacing back through your fireteam members can lure pursuing enemy soldiers into an unexpected killzone.
When you're in the midst of the enemy, don't discount the possibility of confusing them or luring them with voice calls. Asking for a medic, or calling out for a specific element - "Hey, is this Bravo squad?" - can reveal the locations of others, draw critical roles to your location, or otherwise be used to gain awareness of the enemy and inflict more damage once the shooting starts. One particularly devilish tactic is to call out something after firing a shot - "whoops, misfire!" - or when taking fire - "Cease fire, you're shooting at friendlies!". Sowing confusion is a major force multiplier when fighting in the dark in close proximity to the enemy.
When all is said and done, most of your success at night while utilizing stealth will come from being patient, deliberate, calm, and thinking like the enemy. Rash decisions, panic, and hasty movements are your downfall. When you and your enemy are without nightvision, just remember that the night is as much of a hindrance for them as it is for you - if you wouldn't be able to see something, neither would they. Use this to your advantage as you move about.