Tactics

Formations & How to Lead Them

Before we jump into things, there are a few words that need to be said about formations.

Formations act as a guide for where people should be to best fit the situation. They are very flexible creatures, and should be adapted as needed to fit the situation. Everyone should be familiar with the basic formations, and leaders in particular must have an understanding of what the strengths and weaknesses of each are.

Players should not get wound up in trying to maintain a 100% textbook-perfect formation position 100% of the time. Adapt to the situation as needed.

For the purposes of illustration, I have chosen to depict formations at squad, platoon, and fireteam level. A small table shows what levels a given formation is suitable for - several are applicable to some levels but not others. Keep in mind that you can mix different formations at different levels - you could have the platoon in a line formation, the squads in column, and the fireteams in wedge. Each level of command has their own formations to set, basically. A PltCo might tell the platoon to get in line formation, and the squad leaders might tell their squads to get in column. Fireteam leaders could then be more specific to their teams if they so desired. It sounds complicated, but with the way the hierarchy breaks down, it's really not difficult to work with.

Formation Notes

Note that in squad formations, the squad leader is positioned so that they can exercise control over the cohesive movements of the entire squad. In a squad, the leading element - the first fireteam, unless otherwise noted - is guiding the movement. In a fireteam formation, however, the fireteam leader is typically leading by example and acting as the guide for their fireteam members to follow. An easy way to remember this is that the squad leader "pushes" their fireteams, while a fireteam leader "pulls" their fireteam members.

Also note that the depicted formations, as well as the relative placements of teams, are the standard to follow. The only time these formations will rearrange themselves is when a specific need is identified and communicated by the squad leader or platoon commander.

Establishing Formations

When it comes time to establish a formation, a leader must remember that they must give relative offsets. This means that the leader is telling teams where to go, relative to the direction of movement and the leading element.

For example, to describe a standard line formation, a team leader would say:

"Squad, form line oriented south-west. One leading, two on the right."

This is as opposed to saying something like:

"Squad, form line. Two is to the north-west of one."

The former is simple and easy, the latter would require players to look at their maps or compass, and has a higher likelihood of being misunderstood. Particularly when the situation is heated, it is important to use orders that are simple and easily understood. Always strive for giving formation offsets in a manner relative to the direction of movement and the leading element, using simple and clear "front, left, right, rear" style language and simple distance offsets for element intervals.

Controlling Formations

Controlling formations is the art of ensuring that teams maintain appropriate intervals and offsets relative to the tactical situation and terrain. Establishing a formation is easy, whereas controlling one throughout the duration of a mission is more difficult. Control is exercised by the overall leader of the formation - either a Fireteam Leader (for fireteams), a Squad Leader (for squads), or the Platoon Commander (for the entire platoon formation).

Responsibilities of the Leader when Controlling Formations

  • Ensures that the formation being used is appropriate to the situation and terrain
  • Helps to guide elements back into place in the event that they stray too far from the formation without just cause
  • Responsible for giving changes in overall direction and spacings
  • Uses clear and concise tactical language to control the formation

Note that when controlling a formation's movement, the same relative direction rules apply as when initially establishing one. A formation leader must give corrections relative to the direction of movement and the leading formation element.

For example, if a fireteam was out of formation, a team leader would say something like:

"Team 2, shift up and left to get on-line with team 1."

These types of clear, simple directions allow for maximum comprehension and rapid reaction to orders.

Responsibilities of a Formation Element

When moving in a formation, each element of the formation has a few standard responsibilities based on whether they're leading or following in the formation.

Responsibilities of the Leading Element

The leading element is typically the 1st Fireteam of a squad, or the Alpha Squad of the platoon, unless otherwise noted. Their responsibilities are as follows.

  • Lead the formation in accordance with orders given
  • Act as a guide for the other formation elements to maneuver relative to
  • Ensure that they do not out-pace the trail formation elements
  • Observe to the front, front-left, and front-right as they move
  • Provide a point element when necessary

Responsibilities of the Trail Elements

The trail elements are typically the 2nd fireteam of a squad, or the Bravo and Charlie squads of a platoon. Their responsibilities are as follows.

  • Maintain appropriate interval and offset from the leading element; prevent gaps from developing
  • Communicate with the leading element to let them know if they're going too fast or too slow
  • Observe in the direction that they are offset from the lead element. If offset to the left, they watch to the left and front. If offset to the right, they observe to the right and front. If acting as a rear-security element, they observe to the rear. If there is no dedicated rear-security element, they share responsibility for observation to the rear with the other trail elements.

Common Formations

These are the four main formations that you will see used the majority of the time. The common theme is that they are easy to establish, control, and are very flexible.

Wedge

The wedge formation is used for...
Platoons Yes
Squads No
Fireteams Yes, Default

The wedge formation is a very versatile one that is easy to establish and control. It allows for good all-around observation and security, and can be used in the majority of situations encountered. Fire can be placed in any direction in good quantity, and a shift in formation upon contact is easy to accomplish to suit where the contact came from.

Wedge formations are employed at the platoon and fireteam level, where the number of units make it possible to form. The wedge is not used at the squad level due to there only being two fireteams.

If used at the platoon level, the platoon commander typically trails behind the leading squad, putting themself in the middle of the formation where they can best control things. When used at the fireteam level, the fireteam leader is the tip of the wedge, and the fireteam members guide off of their movements.

The wedge formation is the one most naturally assumed during gameplay, and is also the preferred formation to use at either the platoon or fireteam level when moving through areas where contact could come from any direction.

When not otherwise stated, the default formation for fireteams is the wedge formation.

Keeping proper interval while moving as a fireteam in wedge formation

Note that when transitioning a wedge into a line, the 2nd and 3rd elements simply move forward onto the left and right of the leading element, respectively.

Line

The line formation is used for...
Platoons Yes
Squads Yes
Fireteams Yes

The line formation is well-suited for advancing towards a known or suspected threat with the maximum number of guns brought to bear, and excels at placing a heavy volume of fire to the formation's front.

A fireteam advancing on-line up a hill

The line formation offers great overlapping fields of observation and heavy fire to the front. It is relatively easy to control, but suffers from being vulnerable to flanking fire. It also does not offer great flank or rear security, and should be employed with that in mind. It is natural for a line formation to 'bow' in the direction of movement slightly, as in the above picture. How tightly to control this is dependent upon the terrain and enemy situation - keeping a perfect line can result in players paying too much attention to their formation, and too little attention towards the threat of enemy contact.

Column (Staggered)

The line formation is used for...
Platoons Yes
Squads Yes
Fireteams Yes

The column formation is the simplest formation to establish, as it is merely a matter of follow-the-leader. It allows for very rapid movement because of this. This formation is best used during travel when contact is not imminently expected or speed is a high priority.

A column formation has great firepower to the flanks, but is not geared towards contact from the front (which it is vulnerable to). A column can rapidly shift upon contact to a line or other formation where appropriate, giving it good flexibility.

Column formations can be used when traveling through an area where it is not practical to spread out into a line, wedge, or other formation. For instance, travel through a restricted valley might require a column.

It is important to note that "column" formations should not consist of one-after-the-other perfectly-lined-up troops. Staggering the column so that nobody is directly in line of each other helps to reduce the vulnerability that the formation would otherwise have from the front and rear.

Less Common Formations

Echelons (Left & Right)

The echelon formations are used for...
Platoons Yes
Squads Yes, Default
Fireteams Yes

Echelon formations can be established when traveling in an area where the threat direction is overwhelmingly likely to be either to the left or the right of the line of travel. These are basically just half-wedge formations, and they focus firepower towards the flank that has been echeloned. Due to the nature of a squad having two fireteams, echelons are the default formation style employed by them.

Echelons can be used effectively in a platoon-level wedge movement, with the leading squad being in squad wedge or line, and the two trailing squads being echeloned in the direction they're offset from the lead.

Vee

The vee formation is used for...
Platoons Yes
Squads No
Fireteams Yes

The Vee is a reverse of the Wedge formation, where two elements lead the group, a third acts as trail, and the element leader stays in the center to control the formation and movement. This formation can be good when you know that contact will mostly come from the front but you don't want to commit to a line formation and want to maintain flexibility.

Ranger File

The 'Ranger file' is a simple manner of follow-the-leader, even more basic than the column. When in a 'ranger file', each player lines up after the one in front of them. Ranger files allow for a number of troops to move over the same piece of ground, without deviation from the person in front of them.

For our purposes, ranger files are primarily used when dealing with antipersonnel minefields, or when operating in extremely limited visibility with or without equally limited communication capabilities. Apart from that, they have little use - for any situation that a ranger file could be established in, a staggered column would typically work better.

Team Movement Techniques

There are a variety of movement techniques that are applicable to Arma's environment and simulation fidelity. Utilizing the best one for a situation will do a great deal to protect a team and provide security as well as flexibility, and it's important that all players are familiar with the differences between the various types.

Traveling

Traveling is simply movement from point A to point B without anything fancy. The spacing between elements is typically small to maintain good control over the unit. Traveling movement is used when enemy contact is unlikely. Logic tells you that 'traveling' has the least application to our gaming - enemy contact is almost always likely for us, so movement in "traveling" mode is dangerous most of the time.

Traveling Overwatch

Traveling Overwatch is where things start to become more applicable to gaming. This movement method simply increases the distance between elements. The extra space allows for more room to maneuver and decreases the density of friendly forces, which in turn increases the security of the unit by making it harder for an enemy to inflict large casualties via a sudden ambush or explosive trap.

When moving via traveling overwatch, particularly as in a squad or platoon line formation, one element is designated as the lead or "guide-on" element. This element controls the rate of movement or speed of advance, with other elements "guiding" off of them. If this element halts, the whole formation halts. If they move, the formation moves. This helps to ensure that the overall group formation does not overrun itself or get far out of formation.

Bounding Overwatch

Bounding Overwatch is the de-facto "Standard Infantry Movement Technique". It is one of the most fundamental combat movement skills practiced and happens to be one of the easiest to employ as well.

The basic principle of bounding overwatch is that one element is always stationary and covering the movement of the other element(s). There are two main techniques available - alternating and successive. The choice of which one will be used depends on the threat level and the speed required. When not explicitly stated, the bounding method is determined by the second team as it begins to bound - if the threat is high, successive bounds will be employed. If not, alternating bounds will occur. Oftentimes it will become a very fluid execution that blends alternating and successive bounds as the situation requires. Being familiar with all aspects and employments of bounding overwatch allows leaders to be tactically knowledgeable enough to carry out such blended, situation-dependent employments.

Bounding Overwatch Guidelines

Here are some general guidelines to keep in mind when employing bounding overwatch.

  • Element leaders should ensure that the bounding teams are close enough to where they can support each other with fire. With this in mind, it would be wise to prevent two infantry elements from be separated by more than 300 meters, as a general guideline.
  • Element leaders should try to get superior ground when providing overwatch. A commanding view of the terrain increases the effectiveness of an overwatch element a great deal.
  • The size of each bound should be based on the terrain, visibility, proximity of enemy threat, etc. For instance, bounds across relatively open terrain can be long - both in the interest of getting across as quickly as possible and because the range of the overwatch element is higher due to the open terrain. Urban bounds, on the other hand, are typically short due to the increased density of the area and the desire to maintain security and not overextend any one element.
  • Vehicles (and their inherently longer-range weapons) can have larger intervals between themselves if necessary, so long as they are never out of effective weapon range of each other.

Next, we'll move on to the two main types of bounding overwatch.

Successive Bounding Overwatch

Successive bounding overwatch is the slower of the two. In it, one team advances, halts, and then the other team advances on-line with them, halts, and the process repeats itself. This provides a high level of security, but with the trade off of taking longer to employ.

Alternating Bounding Overwatch

Alternating bounding overwatch is the fastest of the two, sacrificing some security for additional speed. In this mode, the teams bound past each other before stopping and allowing the other team to pass them.

Final Words & 'Fire & Maneuver'

Bounding overwatch should be used any time that contact is likely or imminent. The security of having an entire element (be it a squad or fireteam) specifically scanning for threats while another element moves is enormously beneficial to the team.

The radio command to initiate bounding overwatch is along these lines:

Alpha SL: Squad, prepare to bound! One, go when ready."

Note that bounding overwatch changes to fire and maneuver once contact has been made. The same basic principles apply as with bounding overwatch, with one team putting down fire while the other team maneuvers to a new position, at which point the moving team takes position and begins firing to cover the advance of the other team.

Crossing a Danger Area

Danger areas are locations at which there's a heightened level of vulnerability for anyone caught within them, and must be treated with due caution. They can be bridges, streams, large open lanes in forested terrain, or even streets in an urban environment. Danger areas are frequently observed by the enemy, and can have snipers, machinegunners, or enemy rifle fireteams ready to deliver fire into them on short notice.

The technique for crossing a danger area is another form of bounding overwatch. The idea is to maintain security and cross in small numbers that will not draw undue attention or fire.

Once you have determined that you are facing a "danger area" and must treat it as such, there are four basic steps to follow.

  1. Set up at least half of your force as a security element. Ensure that they are spread out sufficiently that they do not stick out to observation. They will be concerned with watching the flanks and rear as well as observing and covering the scout element when it crosses.
  2. Send a scout element (typically fireteam-sized) across first while the other elements cover them. The scouts will do a limited penetration of the far side of the danger area, check for enemy forces, and then act as security for the rest of the group when they cross.
  3. Once the scouts have given the all-clear, begin crossing remaining elements one at a time.
  4. Once everyone is across, consolidate and continue on with the mission.

Note that if the group is under fire and crossing a danger area, smoke should be used extensively, and security for the crossing elements should be provided by suppression fires.

Team Tactics & Theory

Tactical Definitions

The following definitions cover some of the more significant aspects of the employment of team-level tactics. These are important to understand for the purposes of the remainder of this page's content.

Suppression

Suppression is the act of using fire and the threat of fire to deter enemy fire or action, as well as 'fix' the enemy in one place. As noted elsewhere, suppression is only effective if the enemy truly believes that they will be shot or killed if they don't take cover from the incoming fire.

Base-of-Fire Element

A 'base of fire' is a collection of troops, typically with multiple machineguns or automatic rifles, whose job it is to suppress and 'fix' an enemy while another element maneuvers to close with and destroy them. This is also commonly referred to as a 'support' element.

Maneuver Element

A maneuver element, also commonly known as the assault element, is a group of troops that is tasked with flanking or otherwise attacking the enemy under the cover of a base-of-fire element. They close with and destroy the enemy through fire & movement.

Fire & Maneuver

Fire & maneuver is the first part of closing with and ultimately destroying the enemy. To conduct it, a portion of the available force is set up as a 'base of fire' from a suitable position with good observation of likely enemy locations. This base-of-fire element suppresses or kills the enemy with their combined fire, allowing the second element - known as the maneuver element - to close with and destroy the enemy.

Generally, fire & maneuver employs as many machineguns as possible in the base-of-fire element so that a high level of suppression and lethality can be achieved. When available, vehicles and crew-served weapons can be employed in the base-of-fire to heighten the effects of it. Note too that there can be multiple bases-of-fire, with complementary coverage, to make it even harder for the enemy to effectively respond.

Fire & Movement

Fire & movement sounds very similar to fire & maneuver, yet is significantly different from it. Fire & movement is the most fundamental of all team-oriented combat principles, and is where the 'rubber meets the road' so to speak.

Fire & movement happens when a maneuver element is no longer able to advance in the cover of supporting fire from the base-of-fire element. This typically happens in the last hundred or more meters away from an enemy position.

When an element transitions into fire & movement mode, players move up with measured aggressiveness, covering each other as they advance via buddy bounds or individual rushes. Generally, fire & movement happens naturally and is not specifically called for. Once the enemy is shooting back in an effective fashion, or you're within grenade range of them, you should assume that fire & movement has begun.

Going Firm

"Going Firm" is a technique that can be used to control the advances of friendly forces and get a better picture of what the situation is via reports from all friendly units.

When the order to "go firm" is received, squad leaders halt their forward advances and have all their fireteams take up a defensive posture in the best possible positions nearby. The Platoon Commander and Squad Leaders then have a brief discussion as to what happens next, how many casualties have been taken, what formations will be used next, and any other relevant information about the battle that needs to be passed. After this is over, the PltCo cancels the order and all squads resume their movement or change their plans according to PltCo instructions.

Security

Security is the act of ensuring that situational awareness is maintained in 360° around friendly forces, preventing the enemy from surprising friendlies.

Initiative Based Tactics (IBT) & the 'Fallujah AAR'

Initiative Based Tactics (IBT) are something I first read about in an excellent After-Action Review written by Marines who fought in Fallujah, Iraq. I will quote them directly - these are the four rules of IBT:

The Four Rules of Initiative Based Tactics

  1. Cover all immediate danger areas.
  2. Eliminate all threats.
  3. Protect your buddy.
  4. There are no mistakes. Every Marine feeds off of each other and picks up for the slack for the other. Go with it.

They go on to say:

Every Marine needs to understand and memorize the rules governing IBT. These rules should not only apply to MOUT, but all small unit infantry engagements. Rule number four must be pounded into the squad. There are no mistakes when clearing a structure in combat, only actions that result in situations: situations that Marines must adapt to, improvise, and overcome in a matter of seconds.

If you're interested, you can read their full AAR here. It is highly recommend reading, as it conveys a unique perspective on how challenging modern MOUT combat is.

There are several other great bits of information included in the AAR that are applicable to Arma as well. Quoting each:

All danger areas while on the move must be covered. Security must be three-dimensional and all around. Each Marine in the stack looks to the Marines to his front, assesses danger areas that are not covered, and then covers one of them. If every Marine does this then all danger areas will be covered.

At all times the squad will move by using IBT and adhere to its principles which will be addressed later. No Marine should make an uncovered move. The squad should move at a pace that is swift, but controlled, exercising tactical patience.

All Marines must exercise initiative during combat. Squad leaders must design training techniques in order to stress initiative. Marines must be able to look around, assess what his squad or partner is doing, feed off it, and act in order to support them. Initiative based training is paramount.

Knowing the rules of IBT, and being able to employ them in our sessions, is a great way to increase effectiveness at the fireteam and squad level. It all boils down to staying alert, covering your buddies, and using your own initiative to do what is needed in the situation, without having to be explicitly told to.

Integration of Smoke

The proper integration of smoke into a battle is critical to both in the offensive and defensive roles. Smoke is on-demand concealment that allows a force to mask their movements, deceive the enemy, mask the enemy's observation or fire, or signal.

Smoke Varieties

Smoke comes in four primary varieties.

  • Smoke hand grenades. These can provide a good amount of smoke for a minute or so and can be thrown several dozen meters. Many infantry units carry these - medics get an extra amount, as do team leaders and squad leaders.
  • Grenade launcher smoke grenades. Often referred to as 'ground markers', these are not strictly intended to be used for concealment, but can do the job nicely in a pinch. Ground markers, launched from the UGL grenade launcher, can be used to mask the enemy's observation from a distance, as well as to mark targets for air support assets.
  • Vehicle smoke dischargers. Many vehicles have arrays of smoke dischargers that can produce a massive, near-instantaneous smokescreen in the direction that the vehicle's turret is pointed at.
  • Artillery delivered smoke rounds. Artillery smoke comes in the form of white phosphorous rounds. Upon bursting, these produce dense clouds of smoke that linger for a considerable period and provide excellent concealment.

Additionally, hand grenade and grenade launcher smoke shells come in a variety of colors. This can be useful for coordinating close air support - one color can be used to mark friendly positions, while another color can be fired at the enemy to mark their position.

Smoke Roles

The main roles of smoke are as follows.

  • Screening movement. Smoke can be used to reduce the effectiveness of enemy fire when movement across dangerous areas is required. The enemy tends to fire at any smoke that they suspect is being used to screen movement, but due to the reduced or nonexistent visibility it causes, their fire becomes significantly degraded. Screening can involve a wide variety of tactical tasks - it is most typically used to support tactical in-contact movement or the recovering or protection of the wounded.
  • Masking the enemy's fire or observation. By putting smoke onto the enemy's positions, particularly their bunkers, snipers, or other high-casualty-producing systems, their fire can be greatly degraded or even eliminated for a period of time. Smoking bunkers in an assault is a key way to gain an advantage over a dug-in enemy and negate the effects of their best defenses.
  • Deception. When employed smartly, smoke can lead an enemy to believe that hostile forces are maneuvering through a given area even when they aren't. This can cause the enemy to direct fires into the smokescreen, wasting ammo and potentially giving away positions to supporting friendly forces. At the very least it can cause uncertainty and force the enemy to at least consider that the smoke may be a legitimate hostile movement. This can split their attention at a critical moment and maximize the shock and surprise of the true friendly movement or assault.
  • Signaling. Smoke can be used to signal to air as well as ground forces. For aircraft, it can be used to mark enemy targets, friendly locations, landing zones, et cetera. For ground forces, it can be used in limited-communication situations (such as no radios) to convey pre-arranged signals to distant forces (such as the seizure of an objective).

Ultimately, the proper usage of smoke is important for all players to be familiar with. Employed correctly, it can save a lot of virtual lives. Incorrect employment, on the other hand, can doom many.

Anatomy of a Firefight

What A Firefight Is

A firefight is simply a combat engagement between two opposing forces where fire is exchanged - often between infantry, though vehicles can become involved. Firefights are the building blocks that make up large-scale battles.

The point of our platoon is to seek out and destroy the enemy. To do this, we must engage in combat with them, resulting in a firefight or series of firefights that determines the success or failure of our mission. Having a good understanding of the dynamics of such a fight is important for all players to have, as it allows for the entire platoon to intuitively understand the battlefield situation and adopt to it as necessary to win the fight.

Goals in a Firefight

The US Army used a mnemonic called "The Four F's" to describe the goals that are worked towards in a firefight during and after World War II. In more recent years it has evolved into a slightly different meaning, but I'm of the mind that the WWII-era definition is the most appropriate to the situations we commonly find ourselves involved in during our Arma 3 missions. I'm a fan of the simplicity of it: Find, Fix, Flank, Finish. Simple to remember, easy to understand, succinct, and right to the point. (For those curious, the modern version is Find, Fix, Finish, Follow-Through.)

These "Four F's" are the foundation of a successful firefight in Arma 3. Let's discuss what each of them means so that we can establish the basic principles that will guide a team towards success in combat.

Find

The most sure-fire way to increase your chances of victory in a firefight is to ensure that your forces locate the enemy before they locate you. Finding the enemy without them knowing about you gives you initiative, and initiative will allow you to fight the enemy on the most favorable of terms, maximizing the shock of your attack, maximizing their casualties and confusion, and minimizing their ability to retaliate effectively.

Finding the enemy can be facilitated through application and understanding of the following techniques. The following aspects are relevant before fighting has started - once the shooting starts, the "React to Contact" battle drill begins, and the final three "F's" start happening.

From an individual standpoint, everyone should heed the "Situational Awareness" section of the Basic Rifleman chapter to ensure that they're doing their part to find the enemy.

The Point Man

Contrary to popular belief, the point man of any formation should not be a completely expendable and inexperienced 'newbie' player. Rather, the point man should be someone who is proficient, alert, and will have a good chance of spotting the enemy (or a potential ambush) before it is too late. A good point man can be the difference between life or death for the parent element.

A point man should try to position themself fifty or more meters ahead of the formation. This buffer allows for the rest of the element to have freedom to maneuver if the point is engaged.

The point man must bear in mind that smart enemies will oftentimes allow them to walk well into an ambush area before they engage the unit following them. It is of critical importance that the point man is ever vigilant and continually scans the area around them. Their situational awareness and sharp eye can turn the tide of a fight and even turn the tables on the enemy entirely.

Bear in mind that a point element can be more than just one man. For instance, a platoon moving as an organized body may have an entire fireteam acting as point, with another fireteam on each flank, and the two other squads in the center of the formation.

Recon

The goal of recon is to gather information about the enemy through the proper and skilled application of stealth and observation. Recon assets attempt to find out things like:

  • Where the enemy is, along with what weapons they have, vehicle assets, their state of awareness, if they have patrols in the area, etc.
  • Where the enemy's defenses are, what they consist of, where the weakest points are.
  • What the terrain is like around the enemy location, with regards to the friendly mission. If the intent is to attack the enemy, this means locating good support-by-fire (SBF) positions, assault lanes, et cetera.

Recon elements can come in a variety of forms. The most common recon assets are as follows:

  • Fireteam or two tasked with recon duties. This is by far the most common method to recon, as it is organic to the platoon and thus always available. Any fireteam can be tasked out for this, though it is recommended to use more experienced players, as they tend to pick out things that 'greener' players may not.
  • Dedicated recon element (such as special forces or a scout/sniper element). When available, an independent recon element like a scout/sniper team can do a tremendously effective job of providing recon and intel on enemy positions. They often will be detached from the main body of the platoon, working their way independently into positions from which they can best support friendly forces.
  • Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)
  • Recon aircraft (ie, helicopters with observation pods)

Good reconnaissance is the most reliable and effective way of finding the enemy. It is critical not only when in the attack, but also while in the defense and in general "movement to contact" situations. The more you know about the enemy before the firefight starts, the more likely you will be able to maneuver and plan to fight in a way that will maximize your strengths and minimize their ability to resist.

Stealth & Rules of Engagement

Stealth is an important part of finding the enemy before they find you. At the higher level, this means that movement plans should be made that do not put friendly forces in exposed and obvious areas or avenues of approach.

At the individual level, stealth is accomplished by using good tactical movement techniques. Moving from cover to cover or concealment is one aspect of that. Being able to read the terrain and pick covered approaches to the enemy, or their flanks, is another aspect.

The key for stealth to be successful is for every member of the platoon to be deliberate and intelligent in how they move, always bearing in mind that the enemy could be over the next rise, or even in the same woods that are currently being traversed by friendlies. The Platoon Commander and Squad Leaders can only do so much themselves - at the end of the day, every individual rifleman in the platoon has to do their part to maintain overall stealth.

The platoon's ROE, or Rules of Engagement, go hand-in-hand with stealth. There will be times when the enemy is spotted by friendlies without the enemy ever knowing it. If the first person to see the enemy starts blasting away with their rifle, the net effect will be far less than what could happen if the contact was instead communicated up the chain of command and the platoon could be shifted to conduct a hasty ambush or otherwise react in a deliberate and calculated fashion that would stack the odds in friendly favor as much as possible before the first shots are ever fired.

Situational Awareness & Security

Finally, the last major points of finding the enemy involve situational awareness and security. The enemy will not always be where they're thought to be, and even if the bulk of them are, there's always the chance that enemy recon elements or ambush elements will be roaming away from the enemy's known position(s). There's also the possibility that friendly forces and enemy forces will pass each other or come into close proximity of each other unknowingly, in which case proper situational awareness and security may be the only thing to prevent a bloody and unexpected exchange of fire.

Due to all of this, every member of the platoon must maintain a high degree of situational awareness at all times. Complacency kills - never let your guard down; never assume that an area is "clear" or "safe".

As was said in the "Basic Infantry Skills" chapter, security and situational awareness are critical to maintain at all times. Everyone must be scanning their sectors diligently. When halted, units must maintain flank and rear security, regardless of whether anyone has explicitly told them to.

When movement is being conducted, a deliberate effort must always be made to maintain rear security. It is far too easy to get lulled into complacency regarding rear security - too often one will think that just because they moved through an area, that they own it. This is never true - the only ground that is ever 'owned' by an infantry unit is the ground they are currently on, and even that can be contested. Dropping security at the wrong time can result in entire teams being wiped out by skilled and cunning enemy scouts, ambush parties, or vehicle crews.

The One Method To Avoid

The above methods are all proactive ways to find the enemy before they've found you. However, there is one other way that the enemy can be located, though it is not desirable and should be avoided.

This method occurs when the enemy spots you first, and is indicated by hostile fire being directed at friendly forces. If this occurs, finding the enemy simply involves figuring out where they're shooting from, in accordance with the "React to Contact" battle drill. Obviously you will want to avoid this as best as possible, as it tends to force friendlies to react versus force the enemy to react. However, if it does happen, quickly locating and identifying the enemy positions is critical to being able to move to the next "F", Fix, which follows below.

Fix

After the enemy has been found, and leaders have maneuvered friendly forces to the most advantageous positions possible in the time available, the act of fixing the enemy begins.

Fixing can be achieved through a variety of measures, as described below.

Methods for Fixing the Enemy

  • Fire superiority. If the enemy cannot effectively shoot back or maneuver due to the amount of fire your forces are putting on them, they become fixed. Support-by-fire and base-of-fire positions are superb for achieving the kind of fire superiority that is necessary to truly fix an enemy force. Artillery and mortar fire can achieve fire superiority quite decisively as well, though they can also completely route an enemy and cause an immediate skip to the final F - finishing them.
  • Dominating positions. Finding positions which give your forces good views of the enemy allows them to engage the enemy, inflict casualties and confusion, and prevent the enemy from relocating while at the same time lessening their ability to return fire. This all contributes towards fixing them in place. Being able to fix an enemy from a higher position and cut off any ability for them to withdraw from their positions is particularly effective.
  • Pressure. Fire superiority and a dominating position, applied effectively and sustained over time, establish pressure on the enemy's leaders. Maintaining pressure keeps the enemy on the defensive, reducing their ability to achieve their own goals in the firefight. Pressure applied to the enemy forces their leadership into a stressful situation in which their ability to make decisions is made increasingly difficult due to the actions of the fixing forces.
  • Inflicting casualties. As enemy casualties mount, their ability to coherently fight and be effective diminishes accordingly. While leadership targets are the best to take out, it is often difficult to pick them out in the midst of a firefight. Shooting any hostiles serves as a fine substitute - while you may not take down leaders, the fewer troops available to the enemy to fight, the more likely the next "F" will help to lead to a successful conclusion of the fight. Inflicting casualties and forcing the enemy to tend to their wounded is a definite way to fix an enemy, though it is best done as a result of the above-listed methods, and not as a means to an end all by itself.

As with suppressive fire in general, the volume has significance, but the more important aspect is in making the enemy think that movement, popping up to shoot, or relocating will result in them being shot. If you cannot make the enemy think this, you haven't truly suppressed them. While they may be "fixed" in to the extent that they can't leave their position, they may be ready to fight any flanking forces regardless. Suppression is a key element of fully fixing the enemy and must be achieved. for the next "F" to have the most chances for success.

Flank

The next part of a firefight occurs when the enemy has been fixed enough that a flanking maneuver can be carried out.

Flanking is a means by which friendly forces maneuver to a known or suspected point of weakness in the enemy position and exploits it via an assault. It is done when the tactical situation - terrain, enemy disposition, friendly manpower, et cetera - favor it. Flanking typically is less costly than outright frontally assaulting the enemy, and forces the enemy to split their fires between a maneuver element and a base-of-fire element, diluting their effectiveness.

Before making the decision to flank, a few things must be checked to ensure the tactical suitability of a flanking maneuver, as described below.

What is required to flank the enemy?

  • Combat effective teams. Flanking cannot be achieved if heavy casualties have been taken. At minimum one healthy base-of-fire and one healthy assault element must be present for a flank to have a chance for success.
  • Cannot be fixed or suppressed. If the enemy has fixed or suppressed your elements, flanking will only get your people killed. Moving from a position that is under concentrated and accurate enemy fire is best avoided unless in the most grave of circumstances.
  • Suitable terrain or adequate cover & concealment. If the terrain does not facilitate a flanking maneuver in some capacity, it makes no sense to conduct one. Trying to flank the enemy over billiard-table flat and open terrain is a surefire way to get friendlies killed. Suitable terrain can take many forms - via vegetation concealment, cover, structures, micro-terrain, and all manner of terrain features that can provide concealed routes to the enemy.
  • Have determined the enemy's position with enough certainty to reasonably judge where their flanks are located. You can't move onto a flank that you don't know the limits/position of. You can certainly try, of course, but it may end up with the flanking team putting themselves in a tough situation due to not realizing the disposition of the enemy force and becoming caught between different elements' fires.

Carrying out the Flank

Once the decision has been made, a portion of friendly forces are split off to conduct the flank attack. The route used is conveyed to the elements staying behind to provide suppression - known as the base-of-fire element - so that they know to expect friendlies in that area and place any fire there with great caution.

Flanking teams can be as small as a fireteam. If the enemy is properly fixed by the base-of-fire element, it may not take many flank members to roll up on the enemy's flank and chew them apart from an unexpected angle.

Ultimately, the decision for how many people are needed in the flank/assault team is up to the on-scene leaders. It is a balancing act between maintaining proper fixing fires, and having enough people in the assault force to ensure success.

While conducting a flank, the flanking team attempts to do everything in their power to remain undetected by the enemy. They move quickly, with the maximum stealth, and attack with speed, intensity, and violence of action upon working onto the enemy's flank. The shock of their attack, combined with the demoralizing effects of the base-of-fire's suppression, is a killer combination.

Alternate - Flanking to a Better Position Before Assaulting

Note that flanking does not have to result in an immediate close assault on the enemy positions. When the terrain suits it, flanking can simply involve the flank element moving onto favorable (preferably elevated) ground that complements the base-of-fire position. This can in turn make it possible to attrit the enemy significantly before any friendlies ever have to physically assault the enemy position. Inevitably, though, the only way to take ground is to put boots on the ground at it... which is where the final "F" comes into play.

What if a flank is not desired?

In the event that a flank is not the course of action desired, check out the "Assaulting" section, below, in the "Transitioning out of the 'standard' firefight" section.

Finish

Finishing the enemy is the responsibility of the flank team primarily. Once they have closed on the enemy flank and have begun to assault enemy positions, the base-of-fire element is forced to shift fires away from the main objective to prevent hitting their own people. Note that with good coordination, a base-of-fire team can shift fires along an objective to coincide with the advances of the assault team, putting fire onto each position before the assault team gets to it, and then shifting deeper into the enemy positions as the assault teams continue to advance. This is best done when the flanking team is coming in perpendicular to the enemy position, as seen from the base-of-fire position, and when good comms are maintained between both elements.

Finishing the ultimately requires ensuring that absolutely every last enemy combatant in the area is rendered harmless, and that all possible hiding places have been searched and secured.

Finally, the firefight is finished when the enemy has been defeated and friendly forces have regrouped, established security, tended to any casualties received, redistributed special gear, dealt with any prisoners or enemy wounded, and are ready to continue on with their mission.

Transitioning out of the 'standard' firefight

While the "Four F's" describe the typical evolution of a firefight, there are times when a firefight can change into an all-out assault, defense, or withdrawal and break out of the "Four F's" structure. Knowing how, when, and why these transitions can be or should be made, as well as their weaknesses and keys to success, is important to being able to make the tactical decisions required to set them in action.

Assaulting

Assaulting occurs as a result of several events that can happen in a firefight. Some examples follow.

Why a Firefight Can Transition Into an Assault

  • Friendly forces cannot flank, but they can assault directly with a good chance of success. There are several reasons for why a flank may not be viable - time is one of them, terrain another, cover/concealment availability a third. Whatever the case, sometimes you just have to slam your way straight at the enemy via fire & maneuver tactics.
  • The enemy is completely suppressed and fixed, and vulnerable to an attack from the base-of-fire position. When this happens, the typical flanking maneuver instead becomes part of a pincer maneuver in which both the base of fire and flanking teams attack simultaneously from different directions. This can be particularly difficult for the enemy to deal with, as they're getting fire AND maneuver from two directions at the same time.
  • Enemy defenses have crumbled. If the enemy's defensive abilities have been reduced by fire, having the base-of-fire team assault the enemy can force the remainder of said enemy to split fires between two fronts, which dilutes their ability to defend, further hastening their destruction.
  • The friendly flanking team has stalled and needs pressure relieved from them. If the flank team cannot progress any further on their own, the base-of-fire team may have to begin their own fire & maneuver tactics to close with the enemy from another direction, which in turn helps to relieve pressure on the flanking team and allow them to continue their own attack.
  • The enemy has called in supporting air or artillery assets. Sometimes the best defense against enemy air or artillery is to assault into the enemy positions so that their arty or air is rendered ineffective. If they can't drop bombs or shells for fear of hitting their own people, you will have temporarily removed their threat from the battle.

Methods to Conduct an Assault

Assaults are carried out via fire and maneuver or fire and movement, as the tactical situation dictates. Both are described earlier on this page, in the "Tactical Definitions" section.

Weaknesses in Transitioning to an Assault

The primary weakness when transitioning into an all-out assault lies in underestimating the enemy, miscalculating their strength, or otherwise being unaware of some facet of them that can put the assault in jeopardy. This can take multiple forms, such as:

  • Enemy reserve. If the enemy has kept a force or troops in reserve, they may show up at a critical moment and spoil the assault. For instance, if the base-of-fire team begins to assault, and after committing to the assault an enemy reserve force moves into position and begins engaging the base-of-fire-turned-assault-team, things might turn rather nasty.
  • Enemy reinforcements. If the enemy has managed to call for reinforcements during the firefight, they may show up unexpectedly from an unexpected direction. This can go wrong in all manner of fashions - use your imagination!
  • Multiple supporting positions. It is always a possibility that the enemy has several positions from which they can mutually support each other. Just because one has fallen does not mean that there aren't others ready to pour fire onto any attackers. If the flank team is approaching from one direction, they may be masked from the fires of a supporting position covering a different approach. If the base-of-fire team then assaults from a different direction, they may find themselves attacking into an unexpectedly hot area when the supporting positions open fire on them.

Good recon, good security, and sound tactical judgment are the best methods by which to prevent any of these eventualities from impacting an assault.

Defending

Transitioning into a defensive posture can occur as a result of several events in a firefight. Some of the reasons are as follows.

Why a Firefight Can Transition Into a Defensive Action

  • Friendlies are in a superior position (cover, concealment, buildings, height advantage) and can potentially fare better by fighting from it, versus moving out to conduct a flank or assault. If you have a great defensive position and the enemy does not, and your mission gives you the time to do so, you can take advantage of the position and force the enemy to come to you. Careful consideration must be given towards whether the enemy can call in supporting assets (air, armor, artillery) in reaction to friendly units going into a defensive posture.
  • Friendlies have been fixed and cannot conduct a flank attack. In the event that the enemy has decisively fixed friendly forces during the firefight, the only viable tactic may be to go defensive and try to fight them off that way.
  • Friendlies have taken too many casualties and cannot maneuver in force. If too many friendlies have become casualties (wounded, primarily), the maneuverability of said friendlies will become compromised. In this case, it may be necessary to assume a defensive posture for as long as it takes to tend to the casualties.

Once the decision has made to go defensive, leaders must communicate the extents of the defensive position, sectors of observation and fire for each element, and ensure that security is established and maintained. All friendly forces assume the best covered and concealed positions they can, orienting towards known enemy positions, likely enemy avenues of approach, and staying very alert for enemy flanking maneuvers.

Note of course that going defensive is not in and of itself a permanent thing. If desired and feasible, a defense can shift back into a normal firefight, an assault, or even a disengagement.

Disengaging

Disengagement is the art of breaking contact from the enemy in a deliberate, organized fashion. Disengagement can occur in reverse - known generally as a 'fighting withdrawal' - or in any other direction, based on the situation at hand. Disengaging with the enemy is ultimately intended to either further mission goals or put friendly forces into a more tactically advantageous position from which they can better deal with enemy forces.

Why a Firefight can turn into a Disengagement

  • Friendlies are not fixed but cannot flank the enemy and cannot finish them. If it is impossible to flank and finish the enemy, a tactical withdrawal that hopes to draw the enemy in pursuit into a position that is more favorable for friendlies is often a viable tactic. This can also be used to simply break contact with the enemy with no intention of reestablishing it and finishing them off.
  • Friendlies have a need to go into a defensive posture, aren't currently in a good position for it, but have a position nearby that would suit them. This sort of disengagement is intended to be used for friendly forces to fight to a better position so that a defense can be conducted from there. If the enemy pursues, the firefight transitions into a defensive action.
  • Even a positive outcome for friendlies is not decisive to the overall mission, and momentum must be maintained. There will be times when getting bogged down fighting one enemy group will be unacceptable and must be avoided. In those cases, disengaging with one enemy group so that the fight can press on will be necessary. In situations like this, it is very important that rear and flank security remains on high alert, as bypassed enemies will tend to attempt to come after friendlies.
  • Enemy forces clearly overmatch friendly forces. This can happen from overwhelming numbers of enemy troops relative to friendlies, or when the enemy has support assets (vehicles, aircraft) that friendlies cannot counter at the location in which the firefight began. The goal of disengaging from an overmatch situation is to "live to fight another day" or buy time and space to bring heavier assets (such as artillery or close air support) into the fight.

The methods for disengaging are discussed in the Battle Drills chapter of this guide, in the "Break Contact" drill.

The most important aspect of disengaging from the enemy is ensuring that it is done in a deliberate and organized fashion, in which fire is maintained on the enemy throughout the disengagement process, with the intent of suppressing them as well as discouraging their pursuit. Simply trying to run away is apt to end in dismal failure.

Principles of Attacking

Now that we've covered the basic principles and typical evolution paths of a firefight, let's move on to the general concepts of attacking and defending. To start with, we'll cover attacking.

Sitting back and firing at the enemy can only accomplish so much. To take and hold ground requires that the infantry moves to it and decisively engages and drives out or kills any enemy occupiers. To accomplish this, the assaulting infantry must be covered by friendly troops who are able to put effective fires on the enemy while they maneuver towards the objective. There is no quote that I've ever found that sums this concept up better than the following one.

Or, to put it in other words, you won't decide a battle by sitting back and firing at the enemy. You cannot win by simply rushing at them, either. The two must be combined to get the desired effects - maneuver done under the cover of effective friendly support is the key to a successful assault.

Reconnaissance

Recon is the first phase of any attack. To attack the enemy, one must know where they are - to attack them effectively, one must know where they are before they know that you're there, with as much detail as possible, so that the knowledge can be leveraged to increase friendly chances for success.

The specific goals of recon were described earlier in the "Find" section of "Anatomy of a Firefight". For further detail, consult the 'Reconnaissance' chapter.

Isolation

The main point of isolating the enemy is that you want to ensure that the enemy is cut off from reinforcements or escape. Isolation should be done to the best degree possible, but due to various combat considerations it may not always be completely feasible to fully isolate an objective.

Isolating an objective can be accomplished in a number of ways. A great deal of it depends upon the forces available, enemy strength, and the terrain being fought in. Proper recon goes a long way towards getting effective isolation established, as it allows you to discover the enemy dispositions before shots have been fired.

Emplace heavier weapons where they can cover likely retreat paths. Plot artillery, if available, to cover likely avenues of escape or potential fall-back positions that the enemy might move to after coming under attack. Priority for artillery goes first to pounding the enemy position directly, so simply plot these as secondary targets and call them if needed.

In general, the attacking force will do the best it can to isolate the enemy position. Remember that leaving a gap that the enemy thinks they can escape from can be a very effective tactic - once pressure has been applied, they may break and run, at which point they can be cut to ribbons due to having already occupied their escape route with friendly elements without them knowing. Be aware that some enemy forces are not interested in falling back - they're there until the bitter end. Knowing whether you're facing off against troops that are not willing to retreat can go a long way towards shaping the planning process.

Preparation

Preparation is basically the act of blowing the hell out of the enemy to the best of your ability before ever starting the assault. "Prepping" the objective is done via all manner of fires and whenever possible focused on high-value targets identified through recon.

Preparation can be done via artillery fire, close air support strikes, or crew-served weapons like the Mk-19. Mortar squads, if available, can be very effective in this role due to their proximity to the infantry they're supporting.

When possible, preparatory fires should be maintained during the assault element's movement. They should shift just before the assault elements arrive at the objective, so that the enemy has little time to recover from the artillery and the shock and confusion effects of it are maximized. We have seen in the past (in OFP as well as Arma and Arma 2) that this is extremely important - one assault of note was broken due to the enemy relaxing their mortar fire for just long enough that the defenders were able to reorganize into a hasty defense and take the assault teams under fire while they were still crossing dangerous ground.

Surprise

There will be times when it will be more important to attack with surprise than to spend time preparing the objective with fire. Attacking suddenly, with violence and speed of action, and with surprise on your side, can be a force multiplier that can outweigh any effects that might otherwise be achieved by preparation of the objective with fires. The call is ultimately up to the commander ordering the assault - typically the Platoon Commander.

Flexibility

In consideration of the combat truism that "No plan survives first contact with the enemy", it's important that an attacking force remains flexible. The situation may develop in any number of unexpected fashions, requiring that all leaders are able to shift gears mid-attack in order to respond to unexpected developments or take advantage of sudden weaknesses in the enemy.

"Semper Gumby", as they say.

OCOKA in the Attack

To conduct a successful attack, it is necessary for leaders to 'read' the terrain and use it to construct a solid attack plan that takes into consideration the important tactical aspects of said terrain. To do this, one utilizes the OCOKA acronym, as described earlier in the "Leadership" section of this guide.

Let's go ahead and take a look at OCOKA and how some of the considerations relate to the conduct of a successful attack.

Observation & Fields of Fire

  • Where can base-of-fire or support-by-fire positions be located?
    • Hills and elevated positions are generally preferred, but bear in mind that the enemy may be able to predict likely BOF/SBF positions and have them covered by defensive weapons. The most obvious and seemingly favorable positions are not necessarily the best due to their predictability.
  • What units should the support element consist of, based on the terrain, enemy force, friendly deployments, etc?
    • Sometimes it is as simple as placing a given squad or fireteam in such a position. At other times it may be beneficial to strip the automatic riflemen from several elements and have them consolidate to form a more powerful BOF/SBF.
  • Where are the best places to observe the enemy defenses and dispositions?
    • Are there any positions that might be suitable for a single person to observe and provide recon from, that otherwise would not be viable to use? Placing an individual scout on an unlikely vantage point can work well if the enemy isn't expecting it.
    • Knowing what the enemy dispositions are like before coming into contact is a major goal that should be striven for in every attack.
  • Where is the best position to observe the assault and coordinate the actions of the assault and support elements?
    • A leader who can observe the assault and control it - note 'control', and not 'micromanage' - tends to result in a more successful fight.
  • What areas is the enemy likely to be covering with fire? What areas are they most likely to be observing?
    • Can they be avoided? If not, can the risks be reduced with smoke or more cautious movement methods?

Cover & Concealment

  • What kind of cover and concealment does the enemy have at their positions?
    • Where are they most likely to be positioned because of their available cover and concealment?
    • Are there enterable buildings in their sector? If so, you can generally expect those to be fortified into strongpoints.
  • What kind of cover and concealment is available around the enemy positions that can be exploited when attacking?
    • Anything that offers decent concealment can greatly reduce the effectiveness of enemy fire.
    • Micro-terrain - such as shallow depressions, ditches, etc - can provide defilade from enemy observation and fire, allowing attackers to move close to an enemy position without being exposed to fire. They are often covered by enemy indirect assets - however, those indirect assets will typically only fire when enemies are known or suspected to be in the defilade, so if stealth is maintained, they can be very safe ways to approach.
  • How does the available cover and concealment influence tactics like fire & maneuver, and overall command and control?
    • Dense terrain tends to turn a fight into a series of close-range firefights as different elements become engaged independently, which in turn generally progresses at a slower pace. Casualties can be higher in denser terrain. Urban terrain makes this an even slower and more deadly process.
    • More open terrain tends to allow for the fight to be conducted at the ideal level, with each element supporting other elements in the attack, allowing for a faster battle pace and more maneuver opportunities. Open terrain also maximizes the effects of the support-by-fire/base-of-fire elements, allowing the assaulting teams to be supported for longer, which helps to reduce casualties.

Obstacles

  • Has the enemy fortified their positions with obstacles?
    • If so, can the obstacles be avoided?
      • If not, what sort of trouble might they cause for the assaulting troops? How can these risks be minimized?
    • Is it possible to breach the obstacles?
      • Satchel charges are great general-purpose breaching tools, assuming that friendly forces have been outfitted with them.
      • Anti-tank weapons can be used to breach some obstacles in a pinch as well from a stand-off location.
    • Where is the enemy likely to be observing and covering the obstacles from?
    • Can smoke be employed to mask any potential enemy supporting forces while the obstacles are being negotiated or reduced?

Key or Decisive Terrain

  • Are there any pieces of terrain, structures, etc, that can be used or seized, which will result in the enemy being significantly hurt by it?
    • Tall buildings are often key terrain
    • Mission objectives likewise are key terrain
    • Positions that offer good vantage points over the enemy defenses are always key terrain for an attacker
  • Are there any pieces of terrain, structures, etc, that are significant to the point that the enemy is likely to be occupying or protecting them with more troops than elsewhere?
    • Enterable buildings are often seen as decisive terrain for the enemy to occupy. The more windows and angles from which they can observe from a single building, the more likely it will be integrated into their defensive plans.

Avenues of Approach

  • What are the most concealed approaches to the enemy position?
    • How many attackers could use any given approach at once?
    • Are there multiple approaches that would allow for several teams to attack along different avenues at the same time?
  • What approaches are the enemy most likely to cover?
    • Is a feint possible? If the enemy expects an attack to come from an obvious position, making some noise from that position (ie: firing from it with a small distraction force) can occupy them and make them believe that an attack is imminent from an expected location. Note that this effect only lasts for a few minutes - after a bit, they will start to wonder why the full attack isn't happening, and start paying more attention elsewhere.
  • What approaches may not be ideal, yet may be neglected by the defenders?
    • If they don't expect to be attacked from a specific direction, they may not observe that area very well, or at all.
    • Sometimes being audacious and attacking over an unlikely route can result in shock and surprise on the enemy's part, increasing the likelihood of friendly success.

Bear in mind that those are not the only things one must consider, but are instead the most common considerations. OCOKA is a great mnemonic to learn and use, and the proper consideration of the various elements of it can mean the difference between a successful attack and a defeat.

Elements of an Attack

Moving on, we'll look at the elements involved in the average attack. Attacks have three elements to them when employed at the platoon level or higher - the assault, support, and security elements - while a squad attack only has assault and support elements. Let's take a look at what the responsibilities of each are in further detail.

Assault Element

The assault element is composed of the forces that will be closing with and destroying the enemy by fire and movement. They advance under the covering fire of the support element as far as they can as quickly as possible, then when within effective range of the enemy fire they begin to move via bounds and individual rushes towards and ultimately into the enemy position.

The assault element should try to move through covered and concealed routes as long as possible to maximize the surprise and shock of their attack and minimize the time they're exposed to enemy observation and fire. This is particularly important during single- or double-envelopments (described in the next section).

The assault element attacks with speed and intensity and avoids getting bogged down. The assault element cannot afford to get stuck out in the open and must be prepared to leave their wounded and dead where they fall and let follow-on forces tend to them, in order to maintain the momentum of their attack.

Support Element

The support element is the one that provides the "base of fire" that covers the advance of the assault element(s). The position occupied by a support team is typically referred to as a "support by fire" position, SBF, or "base of fire" position, BOF.

The key thing for the support element is that it must have the ability to provide a high volume of fire. This is often more dependent on the weapons that it employs, versus the number of personnel in it. Placing extra machineguns in the support element helps to facilitate this volume.

A general rule-of-thumb you'll find referenced in military pubs is that the support element should be 2/3rds of the force, with the assault element comprising the last 1/3rd. We've found through our experiences that this should not be strictly observed - in some situations, it is appropriate, whereas at other times it will be important to have a large assault force so that the objective can be swarmed over with a large force in short order. It's up to the attack planner (typically the platoon commander or a squad leader) to make the call as to how big each element is. When doing a platoon-level attack, the three squads allow for a 2:1 assault/support ratio to be easily achieved, while a squad attack is generally just a matter of assigning each fireteam to a role and going from there.

The support element should be prepared to cease or shift fires once the assault teams have closed on the objective to ensure that they do not have a friendly-fire incident.

Note that crew-served teams are almost always placed in the support element.

Security Element

A security element provides local security for forces during a platoon-level or higher assault. This typically means that they are focused on preventing exterior enemy forces from disrupting the conduct of the assault on an enemy position. The security element is the first line of observation for and defense against any spoiling attacks the enemy may attempt.

Security elements can also be merged in with the support element as part of the base of fire.

Types of Attacks

Now that we know what the different attack elements are, let's take a look at the what the different types of attacks are.

Frontal Attack

Frontal attacks are the most basic of attacks. A frontal attack is done against the weakest position that can be located on an enemy's front, taking advantage of all of the terrain, cover, and concealment that can be found, and creating artificial concealment via artillery fires, smoke, etc when possible.

The success of a frontal attack depends entirely upon how effectively the enemy can be suppressed. A combination of well-placed smoke and heavy machinegun fire can turn a suicidal assault into something that actually has a chance of being successful, whereas the lack of such support will leave the assault teams torn to shreds and bleeding their lives out before they've even reached the enemy.

Frontal attacks are usually done because there is neither the time, ability, or practicality of pulling off a more elaborate attack. Frontal attacks can be costly in virtual lives and are best avoided unless the situation can be made to greatly favor the attacking force. This can be done via good support-by-fire (SBF) positions, effective usage of smoke, and good individual movement techniques with suitable cover and concealment on the approach route.

When possible, a frontal attack should be pulled off with as much surprise and/or fire support as can be mustered. Every potential force multiplier must be brought into play to increase the odds of success. Bounding overwatch is essential when making a frontal attack, as it allows one element of the assault force to always be advancing while another is always providing covering fire in addition to the fires provided by the actual support element.

Single Envelopment

The single envelopment is where the base-of-fire element suppresses the enemy while the assault element moves around to a vulnerable flank and attacks.

As with any multi-element coordinated attack, the support element (aka base-of-fire) should be prepared to shift or cease fire to avoid inflicting friendly casualties once the assault element is on the objective.

It is important that the assault element attempts to maneuver in a way that masks it from observation for as long as possible. Shock and surprise are large force multipliers and will greatly enhance the effectiveness of any attack.

Double Envelopment

A double envelopment (also known as a 'pincer') attacks both flanks of the enemy at once while hammering the enemy with the support element's fires. This can be a very effective form of attack, as long as the assault elements are aware of the risk of friendly fire and refrain from using indiscriminate ordnance on the objective (for instance, throwing frags in the direction of the opposite assault element is a bad idea).

Bear in mind that the timing of the two elements striking the enemy can have a large influence on their reaction. If both flanks are attacked simultaneously, the enemy will be thrown into confusion. If one flank is attacked first, the enemy may shift to defend it, leaving the other flank more vulnerable but increasing the risk to that initial assault element.

Deep Envelopment

A deep envelopment is done when the situation and enemy disposition makes it possible for an element to pass by the enemy's flank security and strike them from behind. This sort of attack effectively splits the enemy's attention between two completely opposite directions.

The main consideration when utilizing this tactic is that careful coordination is maintained between the two primary elements. If this coordination is not established and kept, friendly fire incidents will inevitably occur as the two elements begin to work their ways through opposite sides of the enemy position.

If the numbers are present to support it, the deep envelopment can be one of the most effective attack types. However, if the numbers are not available, it is better to stick to a more shallow envelopment, since the support element can cover the maneuver element more effectively that way, and the two elements are not cut off from each other entirely.

Note also that a deep envelopment is best done by flanking the enemy on only one side. Trying to split the assault element into two elements to send them around opposite sides to link up behind the enemy is asking for trouble.

With that, we close out the attacking section. Next up, defending.

Principles of Defending

Defending can take many forms. An element may be tasked with protecting something important, such as a building, key road or intersection, vehicle, or high-value personnel. It may also simply need to protect itself while in a static position. A defense can be hasty, with units rapidly taking positions in an unprepared area, or deliberate, in which special defensive obstacles, bunkers, sandbag walls, etc, can be deployed in advance of any attack.

Whatever the case may be, there are several common themes to defending successfully.

Security

A defense will fail utterly if security is not established and maintained at all times. Security comes in the form of ensuring that the defensive positions can observe all around the defensive location and cover all possible avenues of approach.

Security is further enhanced by having personnel in forward observation positions or positioned on high structures from which they can see more clearly around the defensive position.

Positioning

Defenses require that the defending force takes measures to make themselves hard to kill. When given an area to defend, it is up to the leaders as well as individual players to pick positions to fight from that make them hard targets. This is accomplished by taking advantage of every aspect of natural and artificial cover and concealment, as well as deploying obstacles and defensive structures to enhance and otherwise augment the existing terrain.

Every fighting position should be chosen to minimize exposure to enemy observation and fires, while maximizing the lethality of the player fighting from that position.

Many defensive missions will give the defending force some flexibility in where they deploy themselves, making this a very important consideration for leaders. An area as small as 400 meters in diameter may have potential defensive emplacements that range from "Great" to "Utterly dismal", and being able to identify which is which is a critical skill to develop.

Depth

Spreading a defending force thinly over a long frontage, with no reserve and no depth to the defense, is tactically unsound. Defenders must ensure that they have depth to their defense.

This depth allows for a number of things, as follow:

  • Forward units can displace to the rear if their original positions become untenable, with their movement being covered by units who are positioned behind the bleeding edge of the front line.
  • Ensures that an enemy force will have to work hard to get a penetration of friendly defensive positions. They may overrun the first line only to be mowed down by a second line that can now place fire precisely on the locations where their former teammates had been positioned.
  • An enemy that penetrates part of the first line of a defense may find themselves trapped in a pocket, as the flanking positions and second line of defense focus their fires on them from three sides at once.

Mutual support

Mutual support occurs when positions are able to fire in support of other nearby positions. The ultimate goal of mutual support is to make it impossible for the enemy to attack one position in isolation - instead, they will always find themselves engaged by a supporting position, forcing them to attempt to attack both positions at the same time, which dilutes their efforts.

For instance, a frontal attack on one position may run into the flanking fires of a second position. Mutual support makes it very difficult for the enemy to concentrate on a single defensive position, because if they do so, they will be cut to pieces by the supporting positions.

Flexibility

Flexibility is a key part of a successful defense. Particularly when defending large areas, defenders can't hope to mass their defensive power all along the areas that can potentially be attacked.

Flexibility is facilitated by a comprehensive understanding of the defensive position, the dispositions of friendly forces, and the creation of primary as well as secondary and even tertiary fighting positions. In an ideal situation, each defensive position has an alternate position to fight from, as well as "fall-back" positions which are deeper in the defended areas. Flexibility can also be enhanced by detaching a 'reserve' of players that will stay away from the forward defenses and wait to reinforce any area that may later need help.

Flexibility allows a defense to be able to:

  • Shift positions and angles of coverage in response to enemy attacks, placing themselves where they need to be to best defeat the enemy. This allows for the defense to fight off an attack from any direction, or from multiple directions at once.
  • Fall back to inner perimeters on demand without losing cohesion.
  • Prevent the enemy from effectively fixing them in one static position for the duration of a fight.

OCOKA in the Defense

To conduct a successful defense, one must be able to 'read' the terrain and integrate it into the defensive plans. Knowing the terrain allows for a commander to place their defenses in a fashion that will maximize the natural and artificial aspects of the environment in their favor. An experienced commander should be able to look at a section of terrain and see the positive and negative aspects of defending any given area. It is up to them to pick the best slice of terrain to defend and ensure that all subordinate leaders and units take maximum advantage of all the favorable aspects of said terrain.

When it comes to working with terrain considerations, the "OCOKA" mnemonic is of great significance, as detailed earlier in the "Attacking" section and "Leadership" chapter. Let's take a look at some of the different aspects of OCOKA, and how they relate to the conduct of a defense.

Observation & Fields of Fire

  • Be able to observe approach routes. Place observation posts or scouts to watch the surrounding terrain, flanks, and the rear of the defensive positions.
    • Knowing in advance that the enemy is trying to flank or is approaching from an unexpected position gives the defenders time to shift their positions or fields of fire if necessary to react to the enemy maneuvers.
    • Observation personnel should have a plan on how to leave their observation post and make it back to friendly lines before the enemy cuts them off.
  • Fields of fire need to interlock and provide mutual support. Creating mutually supporting defensive positions is very important!
    • Mutual support tends to force the enemy to attack multiple defensive positions at once, thinning out their numbers and preventing them from massing overwhelming combat power on any one point.

Cover & Concealment

  • Use both natural and artificial cover and concealment as much as possible.
    • A good defense does not reveal all of its secrets once the enemy is able to observe the defended area.
    • Keeping key weapons out of view, via concealment or cover, can allow for surprise to be achieved when the enemy attacks and unexpectedly runs into the fires of such weapons.
    • Concealment may not stop bullets, but if the enemy never realizes that fire is coming from it, it won't need to. Good concealed positions can wreak havoc on enemy attacks, particularly when firing across the flank of the attacking forces.
    • Good cover & concealment helps to lessen the effects of enemy prep fires or base-of-fire elements.
  • Make good use of enterable buildings.
    • Buildings are generally good protection during an Arma firefight, and ones with multiple floors allow for defenders to get views all around, from multiple heights, with a variety of firing apertures (windows) to use to shoot from and lessen their predictability.
    • When employing buildings, ensure that everyone doesn't simply pile into the same building - multiple buildings, supporting each other, are far more effective.
  • Have methods to move from defensive position to defensive position while making use of cover and concealment throughout the route.
    • A good defensive layout will allow someone to move from one fighting position to another without ever being seen by the enemy.
    • Being able to fall back to another 'ring' of defense without exposing oneself to enemy fire is likewise important.

Obstacles

  • Sandbags, wire obstacles, and other types of obstacles can be found in many missions, and some even allow for one side to emplace such obstacles and defenses in the "pre-mission" stage of an operation.
    • It is very important to coordinate the emplacement of these obstacles and defenses with the entire defending team, to ensure that interlocking fields of fire and mutually supporting positions are created.
  • Funnel the enemy via obstacle emplacement.
    • Use obstacles, mines, and friendly positioning to get the enemy to maneuver and attack in a fashion that fits your defensive plans.
  • Observe obstacles whenever possible. Observation is done in a manner that allows friendly weapons to engage anyone attempting to move through or breach the obstacles.
    • Unobserved obstacles act as restrictions or delays to movement. They may slow someone down, but that will generally be it.
    • Observed obstacles turn areas into kill zones and produce enemy casualties. The enemy, slowed down by the obstacles, becomes more vulnerable to friendly forces, which can then engage them with all manner of fires while they're attempting to traverse said obstacles.
  • Explosives are another form of obstacle.
    • The presence of obvious explosives can force attackers to reroute around them or avoid passing through a given area.
    • More subtly hidden explosives can be used to cover other obstacles as well as any gaps that might exist in the defense.
    • When observed, satchel charges are great for causing casualties on an attacking force.
    • Explosives like claymore mines, set with tripwires, can act as unobserved traps - the key point is to ensure that all friendlies are aware of their positions and know not to trigger them accidentally.
    • The detonation of an explosive trap can cause confusion and disarray in the enemy ranks, and generally slow the pace of the enemy's movements as they try to figure out what happened, deal with their casualties, and attempt to prevent it from occurring again.

Key or Decisive Terrain

  • Occupy the key terrain & high ground, or cover it by fire if occupation is not feasible.
    • Key terrain is any terrain that is likely to have an impact on the enemy's attack or your defense. To use an example from a popular movie, in "We Were Soldiers" a dry riverbed is identified as key terrain and occupied to prevent the enemy from using it to their advantage.
    • High ground, on the other hand, is pretty self-explanatory. High ground is occupied because it places the defenders at a height advantage against the attacking forces, giving them better observation and fields of fire. It is also significantly more difficult to attack up a hill than it is to fend off such an attack from on top of the hill.
    • It is important to note that defenders on high positions should not sit directly on top of the high ground but should instead be on the "military crest", which is basically any position far enough from the topographical crest that they are not silhouetted against the skyline.

Avenues of Approach

  • Identify the likely positions from which the enemy can approach or attack.
    • Position personnel to observe these approaches and cover them with fire.
    • Plot artillery or mortars, if available, to cover the most likely approaches.
  • Identify likely positions that the enemy will use for support-by-fire or base-of-fire elements and cover them accordingly.
    • Being able to identify the likely SBF/BOF positions allows for defenders to plan their positions, as well as any deployable defensive assets, more effectively.
    • Having a key weapon system like a medium or heavy machinegun pointing at a likely enemy SBF/BOF position can be decisive if they end up fighting from said position.

So that's OCOKA, as applied to the defense. As with attacking, being aware of all of the different aspects that must be considered can help ensure that a defense goes as well as it possibly can.

Limitations of Defending in Arma 3

There are a few limitations that come into play when discussing defenses in Arma 3. The following real-world considerations are not applicable to Arma 3 at the moment.

Dug-in fighting positions (ie foxholes, trenches, sunken bunkers) do not play much of a factor. Arma does not allow for these kinds of below-ground structures. Berm-based trenches exist, but they are less than ideal as defensive positions due to their rather prominent nature. Above-ground bunkers are slightly better, but they are not a common sight to see. The most common type of defensive position found in Arma involves the use of sandbag bunkers or earthen berms and above-ground trenches. These are particularly effective if you're able to support your weapon on them for increased accuracy, and Arma 3's stance adjustment system allows for defenders to use as much of the cover potential as possible in a given bunker or area.

With that being said, there is still a wide range of possibility present in how one can conduct a defense in Arma.

Types of Defenses

Linear Defense

Linear defenses are exactly what they sound like - friendly forces are arrayed in a line, perpendicular to the expected route the enemy will attack via. Linear defenses are used when the terrain favors such a defense - for instance, if terrain or obstacles such as minefields make it impossible for the enemy to bypass a given piece of terrain. A linear defense allows for friendly forces to mass firepower in one direction, with interlocking fields of fire and exceptional coverage. Linear defenses require that there are security elements posted on each flank, so that any attempts by the enemy to flank friendly positions will be seen and will be able to be reacted to. Linear defenses are also best against infantry, and weakest against any kind of mechanized enemy force which can potentially flank the position more easily than a foot-mobile force. The ideal linear defense is created such that flanking is not a viable tactic for the enemy - minefields are excellent for this, as is terrain that naturally chokepoints.

Perimeter Defense

A perimeter defense can be established in any terrain. It is utilized when the enemy can be expected to attack from a number of directions at once, or when the enemy's attack direction is not known with reasonable certainty in advance.

Perimeter defenses take advantage of any natural concealment or cover in the area. They are typically established in a triangular fashion, though it will differ based upon the size of the force and the terrain. Platoon-sized perimeter defenses are best, as they allow for a larger area to be defended, with one squad per side. Squad-level perimeter defenses are vulnerable to attack and typically end up being more of a rough circular shape than triangular, due to there being a lower number of troops to place in the defense combined with the desire to utilize all cover and concealment to the maximum extent possible.

Perimeter defenses tend to occur when friendly forces are isolated and must defend a specific piece of terrain or are just isolated in general and must defend themselves.

Reverse Slope Defense

A reverse slope defense can be a very effective form of defense if done properly. The basic principle of a reverse slope defense is that terrain is used to isolate the friendly forces from enemy fires and observation, forcing them to close with friendly forces and commit to a close-range fight where they lose many of the advantages they may have otherwise had in normal terrain.

Some benefits of the reverse slope defense are as follows.

  • The enemy cannot see friendly positions or dispositions until they crest the hill.
  • The enemy cannot use direct-fire weapons against friendly positions unless they crest the hill and exposes themselves to fire.
  • Cresting the hill cuts an enemy unit off from the support of other enemy units that are still out of view of friendly forces.
  • Enemy artillery is difficult to adjust due to it being necessary to get an observer into view of friendly forces to correct the fall of the rounds. The natural rise of the hill (or other high ground) may even prevent certain types of artillery from being able to hit friendly positions at all. This depends largely upon how steep the hill is, as well as the location of enemy artillery. Note that mortar fire will almost certainly still be able to be used in such a situation without hindrance.

There are also a few notable drawbacks that can come into play and must be considered in advance.

  • Withdrawal from a reverse-slope defensive position can be extremely difficult. If the enemy establishes itself on the crest, friendly forces will be at a distinct disadvantage when trying to break contact. This is one reason why having a security element on the counter-slope (terrain permitting, this is the upward-sloping terrain behind the defensive position that ends up being another hill) can be so vitally important.
  • Friendly forces in the defense cannot see past the crest of the high ground. The effects of this can be lessened with proper usage of observation posts, however.

It is important that a reverse slope defense utilizes observation posts on the far side of the hill or high ground so that they can see the approach of the enemy. These observation posts can simply be a few soldiers with binoculars or scoped weapons, spread out to comprehensively cover all possible approach routes. Such observation posts should be pulled in before the attack hits, or they're apt to be cut to pieces by the enemy.

If a security element is available, and the terrain permits, it can be of great help to have the security element posted on a slope behind the main defense (known as a "counter-slope"). This allows for them to cover the flanks and rear of the main defense and engage any enemy forces that attempt to maneuver to attack in such a fashion.

Defense of a Strongpoint (Urban Environment, Village, etc)

The defense of a strongpoint can carry aspects of the perimeter or linear defense, depending on what the tactical situation is at the point being defended. Considerations for both of those defense types apply, as well as the following points.

  • Dominate the streets. Streets are prime killing zones, and emplacing machineguns or other heavy weapons to fire down streets can do a great deal to prevent the enemy from establishing a foothold in the engagement area.
  • Dominate all prominent choke points and integrate them into the defensive plan. For instance, a bridge is an excellent choke point that can be defended in strength to prevent the enemy from successfully crossing it.
  • Establish fall-back positions. The situation in an urban fight can change rapidly, and it is beneficial that some sort of cohesive plan be in place to allow for friendly units to fall back, establish new positions, and fight from them.
  • Use snipers, machineguns, and any kind of vehicle-mounted weapon systems to cover the most vulnerable defensive areas.
  • All armor should be supported by at least a fireteam of infantry. Armor is a massive force-multiplier in the urban defense and needs to be protected at all times.
  • Do not pile too many people into any one building. Buildings can be demolished, and the Arma damage model for buildings and explosives can cause more casualties to occur in such situations than you would expect.
  • Establish observer positions on tall buildings when possible. If artillery support is available, they can help to call it in. If not, they can scan for the approach of enemy units. Try not to pick the most obvious buildings for this task - you don't have to be on a large and obvious building to be effective as an observer, and doing so will likely only help to draw enemy fire and get you killed. Placing grenadiers and snipers on two- or three-story structures can also be beneficial.

Spoiling Attack

The intent of a spoiling attack is to disrupt or "spoil" the plans of the enemy attacking force. This is typically done by the defending force by shifting from their defensive posture into an unexpected attack. If done properly the tactic can achieve an element of surprise which can contribute to the successful disruption or destruction of the enemy attacking force. Spoiling attacks are best done with armor - they can spring from their defensive positions, flank the enemy, strike hard and fast, and then withdraw back into their defensive posture.

Small infantry elements can also be used for this tactic, utilizing harassing fires via guerrilla ambushes. Done effectively, this can create confusion and disarray and lead to a breakdown in the cohesion of the enemy attack.

Spoiling attacks are only feasible if the you have the assets to spare. In many situations it will be too risky to attempt one and potentially lose those forces.

Military Operations in Urban Terrain (MOUT)

Military operations in urban terrain (MOUT) and close quarters battle (CQB) is easily the most dangerous environment for infantry to operate. Threats can come from above, or appear and disappear in an instant in the urban clutter. The fighting is fast, violent, and confusing. Good communication is needed at all levels to provide timely information as well as avoid friendly fire incidents. MOUT combat at the platoon level must be done at a deliberate, methodical pace, and all elements need to be able to move in a cohesive manner that prevents anyone from getting cut off or lost, and maintains a very high level of situational awareness and defensive cohesion. Arma 3's enhanced controls make MOUT and CQB a far more engaging experience, with the terrain of Altis and its many cities making for great venues for such combat.

There are several tips for the infantrymen operating in these environments.

  • Stay aware of the vertical element in a MOUT environment. Enemies can be on the rooftops, and it requires sharp observation from all players to spot them before they can do harm.
  • Know your sector of observation/cover and be diligent in watching/covering it. One person letting their guard down for a few seconds can doom many.

Maintaining 360 security before clearing a building
  • Pie off all danger areas. Pieing is simply the process of moving carefully and deliberately in a fashion that allows you to see as much of an area as possible before entering it. This has a multitude of uses in all areas of combat, but becomes particularly important in MOUT/CQB with buildings and streets. Pieing a room allows for you to visually clear everything except for a corner or two, which allows you to enter and immediately focus on the danger areas (ie uncleared corners) without having to do a full sweep of the rest of the room at the same time.
  • Stay off of the walls. Walls act as backdrops for explosive rounds to detonate on, and being too close to them will make it that much easier for an enemy to lob a grenade or rocket your way and take you down. You will constantly face the dilemma of whether being close to a wall will provide protection or put you at extra risk - weigh the options quickly and pick the best one for the scenario.
  • Stay out of the open. Move from covered position to covered position, and avoid lingering in the open. Streets are natural kill zones in urban areas and are frequently covered by machineguns.
Rushing across a gap with coverage
  • Be aware of the danger of ricochets. Traveling down a narrow alleyway can become even more dangerous when rounds being fired at you start ricocheting off of the ground and walls to wreak even more havoc. Cannon rounds, such as those from an Infantry Fighting Vehicle's (IFV) main gun, are particularly deadly when they begin to ricochet.

Tips for the Infantry Leader in a MOUT Environment

  • Move with deliberation. In the MOUT fight, haphazard movement, excessively fast speeds, and overextending units easily results in casualties.
  • Smoke is extremely effective in MOUT - use it! Know how to employ smoke properly, and use it to maximum effect whenever possible. One well-placed smoke grenade can mask an entire street or one side of a building and save lives through screening friendlies or masking the enemy.
  • Machineguns, emplaced properly, can cut an entire street (or more) off from enemy maneuver. Emplacing your machinegun assets properly can be a huge factor in winning an urban fight.
  • Know how to split up as a fireteam into covering and clearing teams and clear a structure. These clearing team enters the structure, with one peeling to the left, the other to the right, etc. They secure each room and move methodically throughout the structure until it is cleared, at which point they exit the structure, join up with their other fireteam members, and continue on.
  • Do not commit more than a fireteam to the interior of a structure up to medium size. Very large buildings should have two fireteams at most, with the third acting as a covering team. Cramming too many people into a building, particularly one that has potentially been booby-trapped, is asking for a catastrophe.

Clearing a Building

Clearing a building is one of the most dangerous tasks a team can be assigned, requiring a team-wide solid understanding of CQB tactics in order to successfully carry it out.

There are many reasons for why a building may need to be cleared out via infantry. Some of these reasons follow.

  • Must secure the building, but cannot demolish it due to any of the following:
    • Area is too hot to safely place demolitions
    • No demolitions are available, or cannot spare demo on the building due to operational needs.
    • Collateral damage is a concern
      • ROE Restrictions
      • Civilians inside or nearby
    • Building contains assets that cannot be destroyed, such as intelligence material, prisoners, etc.
  • Building presents a threat to the security of friendly forces and must be cleared to ensure security.
    • A threat is perceived when enemy combatants are known or suspected to be inside. They could be shooters, spotters, observers/lookouts, or triggermen.
  • Building is identified as key terrain.
    • It offers a good friendly position if taken
    • Taking it denies an effective defensive position to the enemy
    • It is an objective

Covering & Clearing Teams

In order to effectively clear a building, an element must split itself into two parts - one is the covering team, which provides security outside of the structure. The other is the clearing team, which actually goes into the structure to clear it out room by room. The cover team is typically the fireteam leader and the automatic rifle/assistant pair, while the clearing team consists of the fireteam's riflemen.

The clearing team must know the plan in advance of reaching the structure's entry point. Communications should be quiet and over the radio whenever possible, to avoid telegraphing your intentions to any potential defenders.

The clearing team picks an entry point in advance and from a distance, followed by a cover team laying down smoke concealment or suppressive fires when possible, which is then followed by the clearing team rapidly moving towards and breaching through the entry point.

The cover team is responsible for:

  • Suppressing the building while the clearing team moves into position
  • Suppressing floors that the clearing team is not on
  • Communicating with the clearing team to coordinate said suppression
  • Preventing any hostile forces from exiting the building

The clearing team is responsible for:

  • Moving methodically through the structure room-by-room until it is cleared of hostile forces
  • Communicating their movements to the cover team so that the cover team can shift fire accordingly

There will be times when players must enter and clear a room or number of rooms due to the tactical situation. In order to pull this off successfully, players should be familiar with the basic room clearing procedures.

Entry & Stack Methods

When it comes to making entry into a room, the members of the clearing team have two options.

Hook - In this, the player moves into the doorway and then immediately hooks to the side that they had been 'stacked up' on. For instance - if the player is on the right side of the doorway, they will enter through the doorway and immediately turn right.

Cross - In this, the player moves through the doorway and continues opposite of the direction they had been 'stacked up'. For instance - if the player is on the right side of the doorway, they will move through the doorway and cross to the left side once inside the room.

There are two ways that a 2-man stack can 'stack up' on a door - one is with both members on the same side of the doorway ("stack"). If this is the case, the first man will state their entry type ("Cross!" or "Hook!"), and the second man will do the opposite, to ensure proper coverage of the room. This type of stack is best used when an open door is present. If the entry type is not stated, the second man simply does the opposite of what the entry man does.

When ordering a stack, the lead man will either say "stack left" or "stack right" - the directions are relative to facing the doorway. "Stack left" will result in the entry team being on the left side of the door.

2-man left-side stack

The other option is to have one player on either side of the doorway ("split stack"). The senior player will state their entry type, and the other player will prepare to do the same type of entry, except from the opposite side of the door. This type of stack is best assumed when a closed door is present - movement across an open doorway for the sake of setting up a 'split stack' should never be done.

2-man split stack

Being fluid in movement and stacking is more important than making everything look by-the-numbers. Taking the time to do a 'pretty stack' outside of a structure can be fatal in an intense urban fight and should generally be avoided when the surrounding area is not firmly in friendly control - instead, focus on being fluid and fast. The entry team should be able to rapidly adapt to the situation at hand with a minimum of communication and spend as little time "at the door" as possible. Flow to the door, through it, and through the structure.

Room Clearing Procedures

When the stack is set, the next step is to actually carry out an entry from start to finish. For this, the following steps act as a guideline for how a typical room take down occurs.

  1. Ensure your weapon is on full-automatic and that you have a fresh magazine inserted.
  2. Throw a flashbang or a fragmentation grenade into the room, if available and no friendly or civilian forces are potentially inside. If a frag or bang has been thrown, the players wait for it to detonate before entering.
  3. Each player enters in sequence, engaging targets to their front as they move through and out of the 'fatal funnel' that is the doorway.
  4. After moving through the doorway, each player continues in the direction prescribed by their entry type (hook or cross), clearing from their front to the corner they are moving towards. Players must continue to move into their 'corner' regardless of the amount of enemy fire received - continuing to push to their corner will draw fire towards them, allowing the following members of the stack to successfully enter the room and begin engaging the enemy.
  5. After clearing their 'near' corner, they continue moving towards it while pivoting to clear the wall that runs to their 'far' corner.
  6. After clearing the far corner, they clear to the center of the room, then clear to the other side of the room, stopping short of where their teammate is.
  7. Once the room is deemed clear, each player uses direct speaking to announce "Clear!" to their teammate. If the situation requires, communication may be absent for security's sake. When working against enemy players, staying quiet while clearing a building will prevent the enemy from knowing your status, location, and intent.
  8. From here, movement through the structure is careful and deliberate, with rooms being pied off, doorways covered, and each member of the team taking their time to carefully clear their way through.

The entire process, from start to finish, happens in a few seconds at most.

Knowing how to enter rooms properly should prepare you for the most common CQB situations you'll encounter in the game.

Note that if you are using a covering team outside of the building, the clearing team should state loudly that they are "coming out" of the structure before doing so, to ensure that the covering team does not mistakenly engage them.

Demolishing a Building

Building demolition is typically a significant decision to make in a mission. Buildings can be anything from houses to factories, bunkers, et cetera. To destroy them requires a lot of explosive power, and the expenditure of that power must be carefully considered. The building must present a threat to friendly forces that is significant enough that destruction of it is the most reasonable course of action.

Some of the considerations that must be made before demolition can be carried out are as follows.

  • Collateral damage is not a concern.
  • Demolishing the building has no negative impact on mission goals.
  • Demolition assets are available (satchels, armor, CAS) and can be employed successfully.
  • The building has significant coverage of friendly operational areas and cannot be secured or occupied, making it a security risk.
  • Enemies are known or highly suspected to be inside and clearing would likely cause unacceptable friendly casualties.

Preparing to Demolish a Building

When a building has been singled out for demolition, the first step is for friendly units to suppress it, isolate it, and establish security around it. Isolation is the act of ensuring that anyone inside of the building is unable to escape, and anyone outside of it is unable to get in. Suppression helps to prevent anyone inside from engaging friendly forces while the demolition is conducted. Security ensures that the forces working to demolish the building are protected from attacks from any other hostiles in the area.

Isolation, suppression, and security can be achieved via the proper placement of fireteams and their automatic riflemen, attached machinegun teams, or armed vehicles.

Demolition Options Available

When it comes to actually destroying the building, there are several options available, depending on the current mission and assets. We will cover the pros, cons, and recommended minimum safe distances for each of the major options below. Ultimately, the decision of what type of demolition is to be used rests at the senior element leader orchestrating the demolition - typically a squad leader or the platoon commander.

Satchel Charges
Pros
  • Very precise and controlled method of demolition.
  • Can be coordinated and conducted very rapidly.
  • Can be done with stealth to prevent the enemy from reacting before it is too late.
Cons
  • Short range. Requires infantry to move to the building and place the demolitions, potentially exposing them to enemy fire.
  • May require multiple satchel charges to accomplish complete destruction.
Safety Distance
  • No cover: 30-60m
  • Hard cover: 15m
Armored Support
Pros
  • Very precise and controlled method of demolition.
  • Can be coordinated and conducted quickly if the armored support is near the infantry.
  • Armor can both demolish the building and selectively engage targets within it via cannon or machinegun fire.
  • Can be employed a long distance away from the objective.
Cons
  • If the armor is not close to friendly infantry, it may take some time to get them on-station, which may warn the enemy as to what is happening.
  • May take more time to demolish the building piece-by-piece.
Safety Distance
  • No cover: 200-300m
  • Hard cover: 150m
Close Air Support (CAS)
Pros
  • Bombs are second-to-none when it comes to building destruction. Bombs will destroy a building and anyone inside on the first pass, as long as they're delivered correctly, and can cause significant damage to anyone near the building.
  • Can be very precise with laser guidance.
  • Can be called in from a long distance away from the objective.
Cons
  • Destructive power of CAS can result in horrific friendly fire incidents if ground forces do not take the proper precautions, or if the FAC does not control the aircraft approach, ordnance usage, etc, properly.
  • CAS can be slow to respond to a support request. This is in part due to the difficulty that exists in coordinating a strike from a fast-moving, high-flying aircraft against what is a relatively small and precise target, with the possibility of friendly forces in close proximity to it.
  • Non-laser-guided bombs can be imprecise and require an extra degree of careful coordination between the FAC and aircraft to avoid fratricide. Marking the target via smoke or extremely competent visual descriptions is critical, and making a pass with cannons before dropping bombs can be used as an additional control method.
Safety Distance
  • No cover: 200-300m
  • Hard cover: 150m
Artillery Support
Pros
  • Variety of effects types and fuze types.
  • Powerful damage, ability to sustain fire for minutes at a time.
  • Can obliterate the ever-loving shit out of a building and everything around it.
  • Can be called in from a long distance away from the objective.
Cons
  • Calling for artillery and waiting for the rounds to impact can take time.
  • Less precise than other methods. May require adjustment to get rounds on target.
  • Requires an additional amount of stand-off distance to avoid fratricide.
Safety Distance
  • No cover: 350-500m
  • Hard cover: 250m

Crossing Urban Danger Areas

Every team member needs to be familiar with what to do when dealing with danger areas in the urban environment. Due to the chaotic and fast-paced nature of urban combat, there are no strict roles for each fireteam member to take when crossing urban danger areas. Instead, roles are based upon where in the formation a given person is, regardless of their fireteam role.

An team leader rushes across a danger area as an automatic rifleman provides cover

When moving up to a street danger area, the first person in the formation will stop at the corner, scan both directions, take a knee, and then say "Set!" via direct-speaking. The second person in the formation will then move up, make their own scan, and decide on how they will move across. When they are ready, they will say "Crossing!" and then rush across the danger area. The remaining members of the fireteam will follow across at intervals of their choosing, based upon whether enemy fire was received and various other considerations. The last to cross will say "Last man!" to let the cover man know that it will be their turn to move next. The last person to cross will be the cover man, who was the first person to have reached the corner.

A squad works through the urban environment, covering their own movements as they go

Other Urban Tactics

High/Low Corner Stack

When covering corners, if one player kneels while another stands behind them, two pairs of eyes and two rifles can cover the same area, increasing effectiveness. This is commonly known as a "high/low stack" and can be employed naturally whenever the situation allows. Note that the kneeling player must not stand unless they have cleared it with the standing player - else they're likely to stand up into a bullet.

Running the Rabbit

"Running the rabbit" is a cute way to describe the process of having one player dart at full-speed across a dangerous area in an attempt to expose enemy positions by drawing fire, while other players cover them and seek to engage anyone who tries to engage the 'rabbit'. It's a ballsy maneuver and generally isn't the first trick employed, as it's incredibly risky for the 'rabbit' player.

Note that you can also 'run the rabbit' in a CQB fight - when doing this, the first entry man charges deep into the room, drawing the attention and potentially the fire of the enemy, while the rest of the stack enters after them and engages the potentially distracted enemies.

Note too that this tactic, in a CQB employment, does not have a terribly high success rate. Use it with caution. It's much more likely to be successful when employed in a MOUT or outdoors fight where the distances are greater, and the enemy is less likely to be able to effectively engage a moving target.