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 squad-level formations. This means that you see the dispositions of the various fireteams in relation to the squad leader, but not the actual fireteam members. The same formations, however, can be applied at any level - there are fireteam formations, squad, and platoon ones. You can even 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.
Note that in squad formations, the squad leader is positioned so that he 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 his fireteam members to follow.
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.
When it comes time to establish a formation, a leader must remember that he 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 wedge formation, a team leader would say:
"Squad, form wedge, oriented south-west. One is leading, two on the left, three on the right."
This is as opposed to saying something like:
"Squad, form wedge. Two is to the south-west of one and three is to the north-east." (BAD, do not do this!)
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 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).
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.
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.
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.
The trail elements are typically the 2nd and 3rd fireteams of a squad, or the Bravo and Charlie squads of a platoon. Their responsibilities are as follows.
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.
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.
If used at the squad level, the squad leader typically trails behind the leading fireteam, putting himself in the middle of the formation where he 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 his movements.
The wedge formation is the one most naturally assumed during gameplay, and is also the preferred formation to use when assaulting the enemy.
When not otherwise stated, the default formation for fireteams and squads is the 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 him. 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. Apart from that, they have little use - any situation that a ranger file could be established in, a staggered column would typically work better.
There are a variety of movement techniques that are applicable to A2'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 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 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 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. 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.
Here are some general guidelines to keep in mind when employing bounding overwatch.
Next, we'll move on to the two main types of 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 tradeoff of taking longer to employ.
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.
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! Alternating bounds, one first, then two, then three. One, move 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.
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.
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.
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 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 enemy fire.
A 'base of fire' is a collection of troops, typically with multiple machinegun systems, 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.
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 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 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" 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 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) 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
- Cover all immediate danger areas.
- Eliminate all threats.
- Protect your buddy.
- 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 ArmA2 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.
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 comes in four primary varieties.
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.
The main roles of smoke are as follows.
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.
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.
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 ArmA2 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 ArmA2. 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.
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 page to ensure that they're doing their part to find the enemy.
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 himself 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 him to walk well into an ambush area before they engage the unit following him. It is of critical importance that the point man is ever vigilant and continually scans the area around him. His 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.
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:
Recon elements can come in a variety of forms. The most common recon assets are as follows:
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 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.
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 Rifleman" section, 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 occurs as a result of several events that can happen in a firefight. Some examples follow.
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.
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:
Good recon, good security, and sound tactical judgment are the best methods by which to prevent any of these eventualities from impacting an assault.
Transitioning into a defensive posture can occur as a result of several events in a firefight. Some of the reasons are as follows.
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.
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.
The methods for disengaging are discussed in the Battle Drills section 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.
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 him, 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.
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".
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.
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.
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) 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Moving on, we'll look at the elements involved in the average attack. Attacks have three elements to them - the assault, support, and security elements. Let's take a look at what the responsibilities of each are in further detail.
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.
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. Fortunately, the USMC squad and platoon structures allow for a 2/1 assault/support or 1/2 assault/support ratio to be easily managed.
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 always placed in the support element.
A security element provides local security for forces during the 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.
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 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.
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.
A double envelopment 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 to kill. 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.
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:
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 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:
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 his defenses in a fashion that will maximize the natural and artificial aspects of the environment in his 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 him 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" page. Let's take a look at some of the different aspects of OCOKA, and how they relate to the conduct of a defense.
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.
There are a few limitations that come into play when discussing defenses in ArmA2. The following real-world considerations are not applicable to ArmA2 at the moment.
Dug-in fighting positions (ie foxholes, trenches, sunken bunkers) do not play much of a factor. ArmA2 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 ArmA2 involves the use of sandbag bunkers or earthen berms and above-ground trenches. In the mod, these are particularly effective due to you being able to support your weapon on them for increased accuracy.
With that being said, there is still a wide range of possibility present in how one can conduct a defense in ArmA.
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 makes 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 footmobile force.
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.
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.
There are also a few notable drawbacks that can come into play and must be considered in advance.
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 "counterslope"). 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.
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.
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 guerilla 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.
MOUT/CQB combat 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.
There are several tips for the infantrymen operating in these environments.
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.
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 rifleman, while the clearing team consists of the automatic rifleman and his assistant.
The cover team is responsible for:
The clearing team is responsible for:
While ArmA2 is not a full-fidelity "CQB Sim" in the vein of Raven Shield or SWAT 4, 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.
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 he had been 'stacked up' on. For instance - if the player is on the right side of the doorway, he will enter through the doorway and immediately turn right.
Cross - In this, the player moves through the doorway and continues opposite of the direction he had been 'stacked up'. For instance - if the player is on the right side of the doorway, he 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 his 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.
The other option is to have one player on either side of the doorway ("split stack"). The senior player will state his 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.
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 takedown occurs.
The entire process, from start to finish, happens in a few seconds at most.
Since ArmA2 is ultimately not a CQB sim, that's about as far as we'll go into CQB tactics. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!" over direct-speaking VON. The second person in the formation will then move up, make his own scan, and decide on how he will move across. When he is ready, he will say "Crossing!" and then rush across the danger area. The third and fourth fireteam members will follow after him at intervals of their choosing, based upon whether enemy fire was received and various other METT-TC considerations. The third person will say "Crossing!" before moving, while the fourth will say "Last man!" to let the cover man know that it will be his turn to move next. The last person to cross will be the cover man, who was the first person to have reached the corner.
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 he has cleared it with the standing player - else he's likely to stand up into a bullet.
"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 him 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 him 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.
While it can be rare, there are times in adversarial player-vs-player missions where you will have an opportunity to capture one of the enemy. This is particularly true in .
This tends to result from one of the following situations:
A captured enemy can provide a number of benefits to the capturing force. Some scenarios even start off with one side having a number of captured enemies in their custody, based on the story of the mission. Knowing how to take and handle prisoners is important for all players to understand in advance of being put in that sort of situation.
Note, too, that there are downsides to capturing a prisoner as well. They tend to slow you down, reduce your situational awareness, and the noise of capturing them can attract nearby enemies. Always use extreme caution when capturing an enemy is a necessity.
When the opportunity presents itself, the following guidelines must be followed to prevent a negative outcome, based on whether you are capturing an armed & unaware player, or an armed & incapacitated player.
Capturing an EPW is only part of the story. Keeping them from fighting back, escaping, or compromising friendly security requires constant vigilance and an understanding of EPW-handling standard operating procedures.
So, there you have it - how to capture a player. While it will not always be possible or desired, taking a prisoner of a human player can result in some really interesting gameplay dynamics, and typically ends up being rather hilarious when all is said and done. Good luck, and don't kevb0 it up too much!