Battle drills - Field Leadership - United Task Force (UNITAF) Arma 3

P1-88 Battle drills

UNITAF / Arma 3 / Combat Leadership Procedures

Version 3 / 20min read / Updated Fri 24 Mar 2023 / 4826 views / of verified

Table of Contents

    The idea behind a "battle drill" is that it is a standardized way to react to a common battlefield event.

    Battle drills ensure that everyone is on the same page of music, so to speak, and allows for a rapid reaction to an event with the minimum of orders needing to be issued. The following battle drills cover the most common combat events to be encountered in Arma, and are the foundations on which additional tactics are built. While they are fully explained in detail below, we try where possible to condense such information into the bare-bones, to which you can find all battle drills condensed in the image below.


    Quick reference


    Reaction to Contact

    The most fundamental battle drill is reacting to enemy fire. It forms the basis for many of the other tactics covered in this guide, and these guidelines should be kept in mind when reading about them and applied as necessary. I've broken them down based on leadership level.


    Fireteam Leader

    • Ensure that your fireteam has positioned itself appropriately, and if not, order them to a covered or concealed position.
    • Determine the location of the enemy as precisely as possible and report it to the squad leader.
    • Begin engaging the enemy yourself.
    • Direct the fire of your team as needed. 
    • Be prepared to maneuver in accordance with your squad leader's orders.


    Squad Leader

    • Achieve fire superiority.
    • Ensure that the Fireteams are reacting appropriately. 
    • Report to the platoon commander and tell him what the situation is when time and the situation permits.
      • This should be brief - "Alpha squad taking heavy fire from our East".
      • Prioritize appropriately - if you need to be communicating with your squad to keep them alive instead of spending time reporting up the chain, do so, and worry about telling the PltCo once things have calmed down a bit.
    • Assess the situation.
      • Can your squad fight from where you are now?
      • If not, direct your Fireteams to new positions, moving via bounding overwatch so that you maintain fire on the enemy at all times.
      • If you can fight from your current position, do so and act as a base-of-fire element for the platoon.
      • If you cannot fight from your position and cannot move to a more favorable one, execute a "Break Contact" drill (as described below).
    • Coordinate with neighboring squads if possible.
    • Listen for orders from the platoon commander.
    • Maintain situational awareness. Stay alert for possible flanking attacks.
    • Ensure that the Squad Medic is taking care of casualties as they occur.


    Breaking Contact

    Breaking contact is the means by which an element disengages from a confrontation with an enemy force in an orderly fashion. Fire & maneuver tactics are used to ensure that a steady volume of fire is put on the enemy location(s) during the withdrawal. This helps to keep the enemy's head down and prevents them from keeping friendly forces decisively engaged. Breaking contact is basically an assault done in reverse.


    The primary method of breaking contact is via bounding overwatch, to execute a "Break Contact via Bounding Overwatch" drill, the following steps are taken:

    • The element leader announces his intent to break contact via bounding overwatch.
      • He designates one or more elements as the "base of fire".
      • This element can be as small as buddy-team when employed at fireteam level, or a fireteam or may consist of multiple Fireteams or squads when employed at the platoon level.
    • The base of fire element takes the best hasty position possible and begins laying fire on the enemy.
      • Oftentimes the base of fire element will be chosen based on already having a good position, making additional movement unnecessary.
    • While the base of fire element lays down sustained accurate fire on the enemy, other elements move via rushes to the rear.
      • These elements pick spots of natural or artificial cover or concealment from which they can support the base of fire element when it pulls back.
      • Smoke is deployed to conceal movement when available.
    • On the element leader's command, or at their discretion, the base of fire displaces to the rear towards the supporting elements.
      • These supporting elements begin sustained accurate firing on the enemy until the base of fire element has moved past them and established a new position.
    • This process is repeated as necessary until friendly forces have successfully disengaged from enemy contact.


    Conducting an Ambush

    An ambush is a surprise attack by fire from concealed positions on a moving or temporarily halted enemy unit. It combines the advantages and characteristics of the offense with those of the defense. Ambushes are an extremely favorable way to engage the enemy. The combination of surprise and fierce, accurate fire can rip an enemy element to pieces before they have time to react. There are three main types of ambushes for our purposes - the deliberate one, in which you know that an enemy force is going to be moving through a given area, the hasty one, in which we unexpectedly have an opportunity to ambush an enemy force that has not detected us, and the delaying or guerrilla one, in which we are attempting to strike the enemy, cause casualties and confusion, and then withdraw before they can retaliate.


    Key Elements of an Ambush

    The key elements of any ambush are friendly positioning, location of the kill zone, and proper initiation of fires.


    • Friendly Positioning. 
      • The best ambushes have the friendly forces located in good cover and concealment, firing from an elevated position.
      • This makes it the most difficult for the ambushed enemy to be able to effectively retaliate.
    • Location of the Kill Zone. 
      • The kill zone is the area in which fire is focused at the initiation of the ambush.
      • An ideal kill zone has very little cover or concealment, and no significant terrain features that might cause "dead zones" to exist.
      • A kill zone should be well-covered by friendly lines of fire, and any potential exits from it should be able to be fired at/into without friendly forces shifting positions.
      • Grenadiers should ensure that any "dead space" or obvious cover or concealment can easily be taken under fire with their grenades and position themselves accordingly.
    • Proper Initiation of Fires.
      • The signal to start the ambush is usually given verbally by the element leader (ie squad leader).
      • He will give a warning that the ambush is about to begin, so that everyone can sight in on targets and prepare to fire.
      • Once the order is given, all friendlies should begin firing a heavy and accurate volume of fire into the kill zone.
      • Continue firing until all enemies are confirmed dead or the element leader gives a command to shift or cease fire.
      • One special consideration must be made clear for ambushes - if a friendly accidentally fires before the element leader, the ambush is initiated whether it should have been or not.
      • All players must immediately open fire in such a situation to try to salvage as much of the surprise and lethality as possible.


    Players must also consider the use of explosives devices like satchel charges and claymore mines. These are usually not practical for a hasty ambush, but a vehicle ambush or deliberate ambush can benefit greatly from their usage. Triggering explosives to start an ambush is very effective, as it adds an extra layer of shock and confusion to the situation for the enemy.


    Linear Ambush

    A linear ambush is the most basic type. In it, all ambushing forces are arrayed in a single line. This type of ambush is easy to set up in a hurry and works well in most situations. Many hasty ambushes end up as linear ambushes due to lack of time and mobility to get an L-shaped ambush enacted. Note that the longer the line is, the harder it is for the enemy to find cover or concealment - features that may conceal him from one end of the line may not have an effect due to a member on the other end being able to still see him. Note also that the ambushing team should not be spread so thin that the ambushees are able to assault into the ambush and drive a wedge through the line.


    L-Shaped Ambush

    An L-shaped ambush is a bit more complex to pull off, but the extra effort is rewarded by markedly increased effectiveness. An L-shaped ambush requires that one element be positioned at a right-angle to the rest of the ambush. When the ambush is initiated, one of the two elements will find itself firing into the flanks of the enemy, while the other element will be firing into its front. Being hit from two sides like this will rapidly attrit the enemy and make it almost impossible for them to survive. A well-conducted L-shaped ambush is near certain death for those trapped in the kill zone.

    L-Shaped ambushes can be done with any composition of forces. Even a single infantryman who is off to the side of the enemy when they come under fire from the front can have a dramatic effect. Initiating fires from the front while a sniper or designated marksman lurks quietly off to the enemy's flank can be highly effective - the enemy will find cover or concealment that protects them from the front, leaving their flanks open to the sniper or designated marksman who can then pick them off at will.


    Convoy/Vehicle Ambush

    Vehicle/convoy ambushes are similar to infantry ambushes, with the main difference being that the vehicles are able to exit the kill zone rapidly if nothing is done to stop them, and armored vehicles can quickly turn the tides by attacking into the ambush if they are not rapidly dealt with.


    • When ambushing soft vehicles, shoot for the tires and drivers. 
    • Hit the lead vehicle first, then the trail vehicle, then work up and down the rest of the convoy.
    • Take out other vehicles in order based on the threat they pose. If there is armor in the convoy, ensure that it is taken out immediately or else the enemy will likely be able to use it to fight free of the kill zone.
    • When numbers allow for it, "double up" anti-tank gunners on each target.
    • Stay away from knocked-out vehicles. Secondary explosions in Arma can wipe out infantry with ease. Flames from the wreckage can also cause damage.
    • Decoy devices can be used to halt a convoy in a kill zone. Placing an abandoned vehicle in the middle of a road can oftentimes cause a convoy to slow down or halt if they suspect that the vehicle is hiding an IED or satchel charge. 


    Reaction to Ambush

    An ambush typically is a more coordinated enemy effort than your average "meeting engagement" firefight. The 'kill zone' (where the enemy focuses their fires) is under heavy, concentrated fire, and those within it have to rapidly react to the situation if they hope to survive. The reaction to an ambush depends on whether it is a 'near' or 'far' ambush. Both will be described below. The guidelines above for a general "Reaction to Contact" should be kept in mind as well.


    Near Ambush

    A 'near ambush' is defined as an ambush occurring with the enemy within grenade-throwing distance.

    When an element is subjected to a 'near ambush', the action required varies depending on whether any given player is in the "kill zone" or outside of it.

    • Throw grenades if you can't see them; shoot otherwise.
    • If you are in the kill zone, you must immediately return fire and take up covered or concealed positions.
      • Immediately throw frag grenades or smoke at the enemy and assault their position once the grenades have exploded or the smoke has formed.
    • The speed and violence of your element's reaction to the ambush will be the deciding factor as to how many of you walk away from it.

    If you are not in the kill zone, your job becomes one of support. Identify and engage the enemy with as much firepower as you can bring to bear, as quickly as possible. When the "kill zone" element assaults into the ambush, shift or cease fire to avoid friendly fire.

    An enemy ambush knocks down the point man while the rest of the fireteam moves for cover and returns fire


    Far Ambush

    A 'far ambush', on the other hand, is any ambush in which the enemy is further than 50 meters away. 

    Again, the action of each individual varies depending on their location within or outside of the "kill zone".

    • If you are in the kill zone, immediately return fire and move to a covered or concealed position.
    • Focus fires on enemy crew-served or high-volume weapons (machineguns) and try to knock them out as quickly as possible.
    • Smoke grenades (both UGL and hand-thrown) can be used in two primary fashions - the first is to place them around the "kill zone" ambushed squad to conceal them from enemy fire.
    • The other use, for the UGL smoke grenades, is to fire them at the enemy location and try to obscure their view of friendly forces.

    In a far ambush, the ambushed element does not attempt to assault through the ambush. Instead, they form a base of fire while the elements not in the kill zone maneuver against the ambushing enemy force. Once the maneuvering team begins to assault the enemy ambush team, the base of fire team should shift or cease fire to avoid friendly casualties. If you are not in the kill zone, your job is to flank and knock out the enemy ambush element. You should move with your element via covered/concealed routes when possible and try to work your way onto a vulnerable enemy flank. Ensure that you notify the base-of-fire element when you begin the close assault on the enemy to avoid friendly-fire.


    Reaction to Sniper


    If an element receives sniper fire during a mission, the reaction to it will depend upon the assets available, the terrain, and the overall mission.

    The effectiveness of a sniper is inversely proportional to how knowledgeable players are in counter-sniper and reaction-to-sniper drills. A 'green' group can find themselves pinned down by one, whereas an experienced group will be able to utilize proper movement techniques, smoke, and organic and non-organic assets to find, fix & suppress, and ultimately kill or bypass the sniper.

    The basic things to keep in mind when dealing with snipers are as follows:


    1. Where did that shot come from? 
      If you know, immediately move to put some sort of hard cover or put some good concealment between you and the enemy sniper. If you don't know, make an educated guess and find cover or concealment, then assess the situation.
    2. If you recognize the distinctive 'crack!' of a sniper rifle
      or suspect that it is a sniper engaging you, shout "Sniper!" over direct speaking as you move to cover or concealment.
    3. If you're out in the open, keep moving, and move unpredictably. 
      Depending on how far away the sniper is, and the type of weapon he is using, he will probably wait for 'high-probability' shots. This means he wants to catch someone who is stationary or moving directly towards or away from him who is presenting a large profile.
    4. Once you're in cover, relay the position of enemy snipers or sharpshooters to other friendly forces to help to minimize casualties. 
      Marking their position on the map is a good way to give friendly units an idea of where they should expect to find the shooter.
    5. Use the heaviest asset available to kill the sniper. 
      If you have artillery, call it on the suspected sniper position. If you have mortars, set them up somewhere safe and pound the sniper position. If you have any kind of protected armor (ie LAV, AAV, tank, etc), use it to flush out and kill the sniper. The last resort is infantry working as a cohesive team. Infantry will typically take casualties when hunting down a sniper, so if it can be done any other way, it should be.



    Dealing with Snipers

    • Teamwork kills snipers. Individuals do not. 
      Remember that you are part of a team, and that that team can help extricate you from situations that you cannot get out of yourself. You will almost never be able to out-shoot a good sniper by yourself. Instead, work with your team to suppress the sniper (if feasible) and then flank them.

    • Never peek from the same place twice. 
      Snipers will frequently sight in on the area a person peeked from, and if they pop up from the same spot a second time, the chances of the sniper hitting them increase dramatically. If you have to peek, be unpredictable.
    • Smoke if you've got it. 
      Proper application of smoke can give you just enough concealment to extricate yourself from a tough situation. Throw smoke in such a way that it conceals the way you're intending to run, and not just the position you're currently at. If you are hiding behind a small obstacle that is giving you cover, you don't need the smoke's concealment on your position, but you will need it when you run.


    • Use the crack/bang method to locate the sniper. 
      Thanks to the modeling of supersonic bullet 'crack' and the speed of sound, the real-world "crack/bang" method can be used to locate an enemy sniper. In this, you listen for the crack of the bullet passing, followed by the bang of the muzzle blast. The time interval between these two events gives you an idea of the range of the shooter - if it's a long delay, the shooter is quite far away. If it's a medium delay, they're probably at normal sniping range - say, 500 meters or so. If it's a short delay, they're within that. After hearing the crack of the bullet passing you can also turn yourself so that you pick up what specific direction the muzzle blast comes from.



    Reaction to Air Attack

    An OPFOR Kajman making a rocket attack run


    General air-attack

    Coming under air attack as an infantry force is a serious issue, compounded more so if your unit does not have any organic air defense assets. You must know how to avoid being spotted by an enemy air asset, and if spotted, how to react.

    1. Always call it out to alert other units as soon as possible
    2. If the aircraft does not know your position
      and is just scouting, the best course of action is to move the unit into concealment and wait until it has passed.
    3. Minimize movement when the aircraft is near
      this makes it harder for the crew to spot camouflaged troops.
    4. If the aircraft does spot your element
      ensure that everyone spreads out and avoids bunching up. This will minimize the effects of the enemy weapon systems such as FFARs.
    5. Assess the terrain and situation and prepare to move.
      You will want to head for terrain that will minimize the effects of the aircraft. Move into dense trees/forests, urban terrain, or try to get into a valley or on the reverse slope of a hill to reduce the angles that the aircraft can attack from.
    6. Avoid firing on the aircraft with small-arms unless absolutely necessary.
      This typically only alerts them to your position and is generally ineffective unless massed against helicopters.


    Rotary-wing air-attack

    Helicopters are the most dangerous CAS aircraft in most situations.
    Their ability to loiter over the battlefield and deliver precision anti-tank, cannon, and rocket fire makes them a threat that should never be underestimated.

    If helicopters are a known threat, all efforts should be made to avoid detection by them. This is done primarily via intelligent movement routes and techniques which prevent the enemy helo from being able to visually acquire friendly elements. Stay low, stay concealed, and move via concealed routes whenever possible.

    If anti-air defense is organic to friendly forces, a sharp eye and ear must be kept for the approach of enemy helicopters. With proper warning, a helo can be brought down by MANPAD missiles before it knows what is happening.


    If anti-air defense is not available to friendly forces, the best method is to avoid detection entirely.

    The only other defenses infantry have is via the massing of fires from machineguns, rifles, and anti-tank rockets or missiles.

    Helicopters that are oblivious to infantry presence and believe themselves to be safe will occasionally go low and slow enough to be accurately engaged by anti-tank rockets. If the opportunity presents itself, it should be taken, but ONLY if the anti-tank gunner is >90% positive he will successfully make the shot.


    Fixed-wing air-attack

    The main thing to remember when being attacked by jets is that movement perpendicular to the line of attack works best. This is especially true if they are strafing you with cannon fire or attacking with rockets. Another good thing to do is get on the reverse slope of a hill, and whenever the aircraft makes a pass, adjust your position so that you're once again on the far side of the hill relative to it.

    The primary weakness of jet attack aircraft is the difficulty they have in picking out infantry at the speeds they fly. Thus, cover and concealment have a pronounced effect against them compared to rotary-wing aircraft. Unfortunately for infantry, jets tend to have extremely powerful weapons with wide areas of effect. The best defense is simply to not draw their wrath in the first place.



    Reaction to Artillery Attack/Indirect Fire

    There are a few basic tips for how to act when coming under artillery attack or other indirect fire.


    • Stay alert and know what to listen for . You may be able to hear the artillery unit firing in the distance before the rounds have impacted. This is most likely if you're being fired on by mortars or high-angle artillery fire. You may even hear the rounds coming in if they're subsonic. Other types of artillery will explode amongst your forces without warning and will likely catch everyone by surprise.
    • Call out "Incoming!" as soon as you suspect that artillery is being fired on your position. The rule of thumb here is that it's better to be safe than sorry.
    • If you're defending a location and cannot stray far, spread out and take the best cover you can find. Keep your eyes open for enemy infantry closing in under the cover of the barrage.
    • If you're moving in the wild when the artillery comes in, follow your element leader and listen to his guidance . He will tell you a direction to run to get out of the impact area. Once clear, regroup with your element and continue on.


    Enemy artillery can be taken out by counter-battery fire or close air support, if available, while mortar positions (which are usually much closer) can sometimes be assaulted and captured by ground attack. Triangulation can be used to figure out the enemy positions - if two squads are separated by a good distance and can hear the firing artillery, compass bearings can be taken by each unit and then compared to get a fix on the likely location of the artillery. Bear in mind that artillery units will often use a technique where they fire a barrage, wait, then fire another barrage. The idea is to make the unit being attacked think that the artillery is over, move out from cover, and begin tending to wounded or resuming movement, only to be struck again while exposed.


    This SOP has been contributed to by 2 editors:
    Major James
    Specialist 3rd Class Noah_Hero

    UNITAF Standard Operating procedures (SOP)
    are adapted primarly from US Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC). Our written and audio procedures are a combination of the following primary source materials, as well as our own learnings, modifications and adaptations:
    - US Army Techniques Publication, Infantry Platoon and Squad (ATP 3-21.8)
    - Soldier’s Manual of Common Tasks Warrior Leader Skills Level 2, 3, and 4 (STP 21-24-SMCT)
    - The Warrior Ethos and Soldier Combat Skills (FM 3-21.75 / FM 21-75)
    - Leadership Development (FM 6-22)
    - Dyslexi's Tactics, Techniques, & Procedures for Arma 3 (TTP3)

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