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UNITAF / Arma 3 / Aircrew Procedures

Version 1 / 6min read / Updated Tue 25 Feb 2020 / 153 views

It is important that the overall assault coordinator clarifies the actions that will be used for any unexpected situation in advance. I will describe the standard procedures for them, which are standard operating procedure (SOP) and thus in effect unless the assault coordinator specifically says otherwise.


Actions On: Downed Helo

One of the most damaging events to an airborne assault, particularly one done at the platoon level, involves a helicopter being shot down before reaching or upon reaching the landing zone. Thanks to the damage model of Arma 3, helicopters can oftentimes land semi-successfully after taking heavy damage. While this will likely result in many wounded and likely several killed in the helo, the chance for people to survive is significant and must be acknowledged. Just because a helo goes down does not mean that all hands aboard were lost!


A Tigris lands a critical missile hit on a Ghosthawk. When an aircraft is going down in flames, you can reasonably expect no survivors.


The steps for reacting to a downed helo start as soon as it looks like an aircraft is going down. These steps are typically carried out by the pilot, navigator, copilot, or door gunner - the roles most likely to have a good visual on things.

  1. Observe the crash.
    If the helo goes down in view of others, the speed of the helo upon impacting the ground, as well as whether it landed in trees/on rocks/etc, can give a good rough idea of whether any survivors are likely.
  2. Identify the manner in which the helo was shot down.
    It could have been from SAF, HMGs, RPGs, missiles, etc. Knowing what caused the crash helps the other helos to change their tactics accordingly.
  3. Communicate the threat type if known, and that a helo went down.
    Identify the helo if known (ie: "Bravo's helo"). Give an idea of whether there are any likely survivors.
  4. If necessary, call out an LZ shift for the troop transports.
    For example, "LZs shift 500m west!", spoken so that all aircraft pilots can hear it, to ensure that the landing is not made in an area with unexpectedly heavy enemy activity. All that is needed is a compass direction and a distance, or a verbal description if appropriate to the terrain. This call requires a rapid evaluation of the enemy threat posed as well as sound judgment.
  5. Continue with the landing.
    Getting troops on the deck becomes even more important if a helo has been lost - the longer they stay in the air, the more likely it is that another helo will go down.
  6. Once all troops are offloaded, a transport helo can be dispatched to do a visual recon of the downed helo.
    This aircraft can provide support via their defensive machineguns, but the enemy threat may make it impossible to orbit the area. For example, if a Tigris shoots down a helo, there's no reason for another helo to fly into that danger area - they can't help against a threat like that.


Bear in mind that the mission commander will be involved in the decision-making process for a downed helo scenario and will be giving orders as needed. The ultimate goal is to rescue any survivors of the crash, but it will be up to the commander as to how exactly that will be done, given the tactical situation at the time.

Sometimes it will be rather obvious that nobody walked away from a crash...



Actions On: Heavy LZ Contact

The other "worst case" scenario involves landing in heavy contact, where the helicopters are coming under concentrated and accurate fire before they get on the ground, or are ambushed upon landing.

The threat to the landing force must be rapidly evaluated. If the helos can land safely and offload their troops, and the troops will be in a position to effectively engage the enemy, the landing should continue as planned. If the threat is particularly high or the LZ has been compromised by the positioning of enemy forces, shifting LZs becomes necessary. Announcing an LZ abort or shift of LZs is critical to ensuring that trailing aircraft know not to continue their approaches.

Note that consideration must be paid towards any friendly elements that are already on the ground - if one helo disembarks troops and the second is shot down, the third should make every reasonable attempt to land close enough to support the players already on the ground. If all helos are on the ground and disembarking troops when an ambush is sprung, they may be faced with a tough decision - offload the rest, or abort the drop, hope that the people on the ground can hold out, and drop the rest of the troops close enough that they can move to support their comrades in short order and potentially attack a vulnerable flank or rear of the ambushing forces. Whatever the case, the decision must be made rapidly and announced clearly so that a coordinated response can occur.



Actions On: Emergency Landing

An emergency landing is typically the result of unexpected damage to the aircraft. Fuel leaks or damaged tail rotors can cause this, as can outright engine failure. It can happen anywhere - at the LZ, over random enemy territory, in friendly territory, and even over water.

The steps for dealing with an emergency landing are as follows.

  1. Identify the type of emergency and begin immediate actions to deal with it.
    1. Fuel leaks are a problem when they make it impossible to get to the current destination. Fuel leaks are relatively easy to deal with, provided that you have time to fly out of hostile fire before setting down.
    2. Damaged tail rotors make landing very tricky. It is best to maintain a high speed to lessen the effect of the tail rotor, get out of enemy territory, and then find a nice, open field to land in.
    3. Engine loss is the most serious emergency. Autorotation must be immediately executed for there to be any hope of survival. Autorotation is covered in detail in the helicopter chapter of this guide.
  2. Declare an emergency.
    The pilot will communicate on command channel that his aircraft is having a serious problem which requires an emergency landing.
  3. Communicate where you are attempting to land, so that other helos and the Platoon Commander are aware of where to search for you.
  4. Upon a successful landing, immediately get mounted infantry out and into defensible positions.
    Security is the immediate concern. If the landing position allows for the defensive guns of the helo to be employed, use the helo crew to man them.
  5. Communicate with higher as to where the landing was made, the status of forces on the ground, and anything else relevant.
  6. If wounded are present, establish an aid position from which any accompanying medical personnel can provide aid.
  7. Make a decision to either guard the crash site and await pickup, or push out to a more defensible area. Act upon that decision and communicate it to higher.
  8. Continue with the mission if possible, or await further guidance from the Platoon Commander.

UNITAF Standard Operating Proceedure (SOP) is adapted from two primary source materials - in addition to our own experience and past learnings:
US Army Techniques Publication, Infantry Platoon and Squad (ATP 3-21.8) ->view online
Dyslexi's Tactics, Techniques, & Procedures for Arma 3 (TTP3) -> view online

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