Arma 3 – Bad Experience with Small Unit Tactics

Arma 3 – Bad Experience with Small Unit Tactics 1 -
Arma 3 – Bad Experience with Small Unit Tactics 1 -
When you play ArmA as the military simulation as it is, it lays on hand to use existing doctrine and tactics and put it to use in the game. But in these small unit tactics there are some points which often get falsely understood, interpreted or said or are used incorrectly in the context of ArmA. This partly lies within their nature to be overly simple. Here I want to mention one of the most prevalent points that often are wrongly got.


Dynamic entry

The dynamic entry approach to structure clearing tries to overwhelm the enemy by violence of action. Once entry is breached the stack rushes as fast as possible through the fatal tunnel at the entry point and every man moves speedily towards his assigned point of domination, caring only for his sector of responsibility. 
This works even better in Arma as moving and shooting and getting hit at the same time isn’t as much of a problem as taken down buddies which can’t let you trip or else. Also no real fear of death means the stack doesn’t tend to get bogged down too easily contrary to reality. 
It lays on the hand why this approach can be a bad idea. 
It is a good idea to leave expectable killzones, like at the fatal funnel, as fast as possible and get numbers on the other side of your breach but if your forces get maulted while doing so you will pay a heavy toll. 
Also ignoring targets and running the rabbit for others that are not even in the room to kill them while moving is bold at best. In general you will be in an inferior situation. 
Also obstacles and mines can barely be detected and dodging grenades becomes very difficult. Once the stack flows, it flows. 
To work effectively the dynamic entry is in need of surprise. To surprise the enemy he needs to be distracted and you need to be unnoticed. Any grenade or raisen voice can betray your presents which will draw all eyes and barrels towards the entry points turning them into meat grinders. Therefore they best work after a simple scheme with few quiet signals. Once the first shots are fired and the situation goes “hot” there is no point in dynamic entry anymore and a deliberate approach becomes more appropriate. 
Then you want to slice every corner before moving past it, want to prep rooms, communicate and have freedom of movement by fighting with few men with strong reserves to replace casualties. This doesn’t not however mean you shouldn’t be aggressive. The sound application of pressure is in both approaches favorable. 

No plan survives first contact

Many tacticians in history have stated this in one form or the other describing the futility of trying to make lengthy plans of how a battle will take place in advance and creating a step by step guide what to do. Because we can’t reliably predict the future, making such plans is just wishful dreaming and can only be made until first contact. 
In ArmA we have a much more controlled environment and can normally expect at least the attempt for fairness and balancing and a fun experience for everyone which must include a personal feeling of achievement. This and the simple fact that it’s a limited simulation of the real thing adds to the predictability of the forthcoming action. 
This statement often gets misunderstood in the way that you can’t make plans for after first contact and that combat has to be fought on the fly. But the reason why plans that are sufficient to overcome natural and environmental obstacles don’t stand so well against the enemy in combat is because our picture of the enemy forces is always incomplete and the enemy is comparably highly dynamic, acting and reacting. 
Plans that survive first contact therefore have to be flexible. They have to be aware of the uncertainty in combat, the fog of war, and have to take into account that critical information can always be incorrect or missing and that assumption can turn out wrong. Such plans quickly lose the simplicity of straight forward plans by tying them to conditions given by the battlefield. But this allows them to save time for on the fly decision making and can be more thought out. 
Therefore you always plan ahead and give your plans enough flexibility. As the situation develops your plan takes more of its final form until a decision can be made. The further an event is in the future and the less information and control you have the more flexible are your plans for that time. This also allows you to more specifically name what you have to know to make critical decisions (Commander’s Critical Information Requirements). 
With plans like that you will have the edge above anyone who keeps his plans too simple so he dont have to deal with the dynamic of the battlefield. 

Personal initiative & freedom of action

Military doctrine, especially on a small unit scale, is laid on a foundation of simple men who have to be able to execute what’s expected of them. Therefore leaders and specialists are carefully selected and trained and there are only the minimal expectations from the simple soldiers so there is a bigger pool to draw from. The boundaries for executing personal initiative and doing things how they think is selected respectively. 
This doesn’t fit in ArmA as it is much easier to master all aspects in ArmA making the average ArmA teamplayer in comparison much more than a simple man. He has knowledge, experience and courage in an over average amount in comparison to reality making the application of the same boundaries only hinder him to unfold his potential. 
Winning in combat is about controlling the battlefield. With superior tactical speed and enough momentum you can overwhelm the enemy. By stacking advantages you try to find and hit a decisive point, retaining flexibility until your grip on the situation moves the decisive point in reach and you can commit to increase your leverage further for the decisive blow. 
The more violent and fluent the fight the more important becomes quick judgment and with detailed information close from the battlefield. By giving subordinates as much freedom of action as possible they can provide that. This is practically done by command by mission and a certain freedom for personal initiative for leaders’. Leaders therefore always have to carefully judge their need of control over their forces and their freedom of action he’s giving them. 
In ArmA this issue mostly takes the form of inefficient use of the concept of formations and task organisation. By fixing people in tight formations and organisations and expecting the absence of action without orders soldiers are unable to effectively exploit gaps of opportunity and should instead be supplied with information to make sound judgments when and when not to deviate from the expected course of action and to communicate their decision effectively. By implementing a system that allows every individual soldier to effectively execute personal initiative you can harvest that potential and can achieve what every real army can just dream of. 

Fire Superiority (1)

When in a firefight your first priority is to get fire superiority. By suppressing the enemy with an overwhelming volume of, well aimed, fire on areas of known and suspected enemy positions you will achieve it and by continuously keeping the fire up at a moderate rate you will maintain it while saving ammo. 
The core of the small units firepower are their organic machineguns which engage the area of the enemy formation, effectively suppressing them with overwhelming volumes of fire. 
Holding fire superiority means any uncommitted elements are free to move while the enemy is suppressed and fixed, unable to put any effective fire down or able to move. As long as we cover every movement with fire we can now maneuver on the enemy. By switching roles a number of teams can collectively move over the battlefield unharmed. 
Fire without movement is indecisive. 
So we either take offensive measures by preferably bypassing the enemy’s killzone to his front and hit him in his flank. 
Or we want to disengage by bounding away from the enemy to break contact. 
Fire superiority is the key to win. It should be your first and is your most important achievement on the battlefield and grants you victory. 
In ArmA everything from moving to shooting is easier and there is no real fear, making suppressing someone and generally fighting much harder than in reality. Also in ArmA soldiers tend more to leave fellow men temporarily behind or abandon, refusing to let them bugg them down. On the contrary, often used suppression mods give you a much larger target area to achieve suppression effects like blurry sight and are completely reliable. 
There are a lot of flaws in this concept of fire superiority as first described. 
First suppression is not the only way to achieve fire superiority. The prefered way to achieve fire superiority is by attriting the enemy. Enemy casualties won’t fire back even if you ignore them to fight the next and might even occupy more enemies trying to help him. Suppression is just the answer to all wages or too risky to try to kill contacts and a natural tendency of firefights over time as people improve their cover and pinpoint the enemy, increasing their protection. 
The enemy gets not overwhelmed by volumes of, well aimed, fire but by well aimed fire with enough volume. With range the dominance of accuracy becomes even more and more significant. This simply is because first a weak hit is so much more worth then a close miss and a solid hit so much more worth than a weak hit but a close miss is just more worth than a farther miss. Second because your hit probability drastically decreases with range and fire volume, since you hit an area and the impact on hit probability is therefore squared. Like that it requires extreme increases of volume to compensate for missing accuracy making accuracy the priority. 
In general, firing is bad. The more you fire the more ammo you need to carry or the shorter you are able to fight. It betrays your presents and position and absorbs your attention. You should never fire when this disadvantage is not balanced out by the gain. This is especially critical in the application of suppressive fire as its effect is rather weak, needs to be maintained and because of the situation it is used, generally hard to monitor. 
The machinegun has the most direct firepower compressed in one weapon. This makes it better suited to quickly engage areas than any other organic weapon of small units but that doesn’t mean it is most effectively used like that. Like all weapon systems it has more effect on targets if its fire is accurately concentrated on it. The machinegun just has so much firepower that despite spreading it over an area it can still have some effect so if it’s enough to achieve a critical needed amount of suppression it can be used on areas but it’s not most effective like that. 
Suppression can cause fixation of the enemy but that is very situational. He is only fixed if he is so committed to the fight that he refuses to leave or, the only reliable way, there are no lines of movement he’s aware of that wouldn’t get him killed if used. 
Covering every movement with fire is not the way to go but what you want to avoid as long as you can. When you are in the face of the enemy and you drew his aggression you have to cover every moment with fire or your casualties will be enormous but if it can be avoided you can spare yourself from the negative effects of firing. All you need to be is ready should you need it in an instant. 
Fire superiority doesn’t actually let you make any reliable predictions of where it is safe to move. Fire superiority is full of gaps of opportunity and can only be measured by the fire taken making it unreliable and hard to judge. It is as well proven that fire superiority improves your chances while fighting and moving, as that fire superiority doesn’t mean that any moving party won’t receive any effective fire at all. Their casualty rates just become minimal. Support by fire is support, not security. Depending on the situation the enemy can even outright ignore a covering team in an instant and focus on the moving party. But even in the same team small gaps of opportunity are enough for an enemy to take an individually moving soldier down. Only when total fire superiority is achieved, meaning every active enemy is under point fire, can casualty safety be expected in a close moving party. By this concept alone all you can do to improve your chances is to get more fire down and so “improve” your fire superiority. 
There’s nothing wrong with trying to defeat the enemy without closing with him and with fire alone. The closer you get the more and more small gaps of opportunity become decisive for the outcome. The outcome becomes more random and favors the side with the better skilled soldiers able to exploit such opportunities. Moving also splits your forces, takes time and always bears a risk of running into something. Don’t take these risks if they are not balanced out by the gain. 
While it is a good idea to avoid expectable killzones, a flanking move as a standard move not only becomes expectable but it also bears some serious risks. Moving at the enemies flank means to strike into the enemies depth and adjacent areas which all can hold secondary enemy positions and as already mentioned a better enemy position is able to ignore one fire and shift his own into another direction posing yet another threat. 
The achievement of fire superiority is a great combat multiplier but not necessarily a must for any action against the enemy. For instance you can also improve your chances by bounding out of contact even if you never have fire superiority in this fight. Stealth can also free you from the necessity of fire superiority. Fire superiority is therefore not a must and since cumbersome to achieve and maintain this disadvantage must be balanced out by the gain. 

Fire Superiority (2)

To effectively work with the concept of fire superiority you first have to be aware that it’s an overly simplification of the matters happening on the battlefield and that you should always think about the underlying things making it out if you have the time. By a closer study of the things that make up fire superiority you understand better how gaps of opportunity for the enemy form and how you can prevent that and vice versa. 
It’s all about finishing the enemy off as fast as possible. The perfect firefight begins like an ambush and ends like that. Only if this is too difficult and/or killing them starts to drag itself out, only able to suppress them, it starts making sense using suppression as a tool to achieve the desired task in another way. 
To achieve fire superiority you need accurate fire on all targets causing you to need enough guns which can produce enough volume while achieving this accuracy. Simplified well aimed fire with enough volume. In this fire every shot and burst has to be individually judged. Firing just for the sake of it to fulfill a rate of other excuses is irresponsible. Every shot has to balance out the disadvantage that comes with it. 
The core of the infantry’s firepower are their explosives. 
Explosives effect an area so that even close misses get the job done and multiple enemies can be hit in this area. 
They are also able to take effect on targets behind direct fire cover or penetrate with shaped charges. 
This makes them the most powerful tool for small units and compliments the direct fire capability well. 
The most powerful tool a small unit leader has though is his radio and the fire support he has access to with it. Heavy weaponry with penetrating capability, stand-off range and/or indirect fire capability are able to shape the battlefield favorable for the unit like no other. 
The best protection is stealth and freedom of movement and then cover. Only when this is not enough or can be achieved protection should be supplemented by fire. Fire alone has a hard time providing protection and should be relied on as less as possible. 

To be continued


By E. Heckler

I hope you enjoy the Guide we share about Arma 3 – Bad Experience with Small Unit Tactics; if you think we forget to add or we should add more information, please let us know via commenting below! See you soon!

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