Sunday, March 27, 2011

ArmA 2 - Antiarmor Ambushes: Mobility Kills Do Not Count

I was lucky to pull out all my US Marines Squad from this one ... I don't know what I was thinking.

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It all started when my squad was asked to conduct a stay-behind-ambush. As part of the rear-security platoon we have been withdrawing with the Russians on our heels for the whole morning and we wanted to delay their patrols. We parted ways with our AAV and stayed in a small village to ambush their reconnaissance parties. This type of dismounted action is one my men enjoy the most.

We all got very uneasy when a Marine FORECON team some two kilometers behind the enemy lines reported that the Russians have diverted their doctrine-mandated lightly armored reconnaissance vehicles to another axis of advance. We have a tank platoon and an engineer BMP-3 coming our way instead ...

The couple of SMAWs we took from our AAV look puny all of the sudden, and we know that we don't stand a chance against enemy tanks. This will not be an ambush but rather a hit and run, but nonetheless some general guidelines for antiarmor ambushes apply.

The area where we are deployed is a farmers village. The Russians are advancing on the road, from the right to the left.
The fire plan. The yellow arrow is the route the Russians will likely take. The kill zone is right where their route makes a turn (blue rectangle).  Fireteam 1 is deployed in the woods at the left of the farm/village: not a great position as judged by the headway alignement of their fire sector (blue arrows) with the target's axis of advance. However, fireteam 1's position is the only one that can't be overrun by the enemy tanks. Fireteam 3, including me, will fire the first shots at the enemy flank with the intent of creating a wreck/roadblock that can be exploited by fireteam 1's fire. Fireteam 2 is deployed on our right flank, with a security role.

The view from fireteam 1's position. The Marine in the left is carrying a SMAW. The kill zone is the road intersection seen in the distance, to the right of the image. A small bend in the terrain offers some moderate defile to this team, but I am hoping that the concealment offered by the foliage will compensate for that. 
Fireteam 2, in our right flank, just in case the Russians want to flank us ... in which case they will only provide early warning (only a light rocket launcher in this team).
And they came ... This is the most scary screenshot I ever took. From the sights of my SMAW, the lead Russian tank steps into the kill zone.
A third person view of my position with fireteam 3. I've just launched an AT rocket and I am ordering the whole squad to open fire. Note the narrow field of fire.
I couldn't even check my shot because of the enemy fire I've got in response. Mainly MG ... I had to pull out of there under heavy fire. Fireteam 1 fires a SMAW too, but I order them to bug out immediately. We are like a guerrilla force ... hit and run!

What follows are a couple of images I took from a playable civilian I placed in the scenario to check the damage we made. By the time these images were taken, we already broke contact.

A Russian T-90 has suffered a mobility kill. Note the damage in the rear of the tank. 
The other two T-90s, moved through the sides of the kill zone without suffering any damage. The crew of the damaged tank has joined them by this time. 
The BMP-3 stayed near the kill zone, as if it were guarding the damaged T-90 (see the first screenshot of this entry).

We live to fight another day ...

Lessons learned:

  • Mobility kills do not count for much in an antiarmor ambush: immobile tanks/AFVs will continue to fire their main or auxiliary guns. In this case -by using the civilian as a battle damage inspector- I could see the bailed-out crew of the damaged tank to get back into the immobile T-90 to man the commander's MG.
  • Inspect the terrain accordingly and make sure that there is no escape route from the kill zone. In this scenario, the other tanks just moved aside from the immobile tank and used less amenable (but passable) terrain alongside the main road. This scenario was a hasty delay action, but we should have added some mobility restrictions on the enemy (mines or obstacles).
  • It is almost impossible to establish an ambush without fire superiority over the enemy. Two SMAWs are simply no match for the well armored T-90. Once a tank has you in the crosshairs of its main gun, the game is over.


Johan said...

Another great Arma 2 report. Thanks!! I have not (yet?) learned to make my own missions, so I play mostly the official Arma 2 missions.

They are usually of much larger scale than your more compact scenarios, so they are not as easy to draw tactial lessions and conclusions from.

Therefore, I very much appreciate your Arma 2 posts, and always learn a lot from them every time. Again, many thanks!!

JC said...

Hi Johan,

Thanks for the kind words.

You should try and fire up the scenario editor. It's easier than it sounds. The enemy AI is almost autonomous, so you just drop a couple of enemy squads, give them a waypoint ... and you are all set!


Anonymous said...


Do you play these games solo, or with other humans? I like your ArmA reports, but I'm not social enough to play w/others online :-)

JC said...

Hi, and thanks for you comment.

I play solo, mainly due to time constraints.


glaterza said...

Nice!! Let´s try with some javelins now! :)

James said...

Great report!
I really look forward to these; they are motivational, as well as informative. I just wish I had more time to fire up my game, (and editor).

Jomni said...

I don't have ARMA 2. Just the original ARMA. I haven't played much of it because there are other games competing for attention. This post impired me to install it again. I'm thinking of getting a new PC soon and I guess I should pick up ARMA2 as well. Reminds me of all the fun making little scenarios like these in the old Operation Flashpoint.

Keep it up JC. :)

JC said...


Thank you so much for your kind words.

@Laterza: you bet. Sometime in the future.