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Contents:

  1. Artillery Tactics
  2. Differences between HE and ICM Munitions
  3. Artillery Accuracy Drift
    1. How it Works in the Game
  4. Quantity of Ammo
  5. Artillery Response Times
  6. Motars
  7. Smoke
  8. Counter Battery
  9. Pre-Plotted Artillery

1. Artillery Tactics

First off, remember that artillery is an AREA-effect weapon, not a precision destroyer of tanks. The best use for your artillery is to engage with it at long range, as far out as you can see. Keep arty adjusted along likely avenues of advance and save these points as TRP's. When you see OPFOR units come into sight (hopefully in column), switch to ICM for armor, HE for infantry, and start pounding. To get good effects fire several salvoes into the enemy, and remember to LEAD vehicles, targeting where you *think* they'll be in a few seconds, or however long till the next TOT, since suppression does not fix their position the way it does with infantry. Also remember that the fire support function is a combat multiplier, and that its function is to attrit the enemy, not wipe him out completely.

There have been complaints about weapons load-outs for the air strikes (CAS or Combat Air Support). It doesn't matter to the ground force commander if its napalm, cluster bombs, snake-eye, or just old plain-vanilla slick bombs. He just wants a big boom out there on the bad guys. TacOps does this just fine. As it is, there is no routine for “use it or lose it” to simulate the way it is in reality where A/C loiter times and the needs of other commanders can take your flight of F16's away from you at the last minute. You are already getting more CAS in the game than you'd probably see as a brigade commander let alone a battalion commander.

Use your on board artillery well, and remember the 1/3,2/3's rule. In the attack, have 1/3 of your range behind the FLOT (Forward Line Of Troops), 2/3 in front of the FLOT. In the defense, reverse the equation. Morters aren't much good against vehicles, so use on board morters for smoking (nothing like a good smoke screen for doing unto others with impunity). If you've identified SAM and ZSU postions, and you have an airstrike on the way fire a SEAD (pronounced, “see-add”, for Suppression of Enemy Air Defense) mission on those sites, the minute before, and during the strike).

2. Differences between HE and ICM Munitions

It depends on if you are talking about arty indirect or direct fire. Penetration is not really relevant in indirect fire, ground coverage per shell is what is relevant.

When artillery is firing indirect fire (i.e., when the howitzer can not see the target):

HE (High Explosive) is the old type ammunition where one artillery shell equals one ground explosion per shell. HE requires nearly a direct hit to kill an armored vehicle. When artillery is firing indirect, that is a low probability event. ICM (Improved Conventional Munition) is a fairly new artillery ammunition in which one shell divides into many small bomblets, while still in the air, just over the target area. The ICM bomblets cover a greater area of ground per shell than HE. Although small, the armor piercing flavor of bomblet can easily penetrate the thin top armor of most armored vehicles. Thus you have a much greater chance of killing armor, and infantry too, when using ICM.

When artillery is firing direct fire (i.e. when the howitzer can see the target only a relatively short distance away):

In this case, TacOps has the on map artillery unit fire HEAT (High Explosive Anti Tank) ammo. At this time the howitzers are acting like anti tank guns instead of artillery. The penetration rating that you see in the unit info window is for this HEAT round and not for regular HE or ICM. A 155mm artillery HEAT round has enormously greater penetration than a normal artillery HE or ICM round.

3. Artillery Accuracy Drift

This is partly an assumption and partly a game play compromise designed to reduce gamer abuse of unobserved fire missions.

In Desert Storm, there were numerous instances of Iraqi artillery pounding the exact same spot for hours at a time. The impact of the obviously unobserved rounds did not vary more than a few meters between volleys and US forces simply drove around the target points.

In real life, modern artillery does not unintentionally wander around the map even for unobserved fire missions. If unobserved missions do wander, it is because the gunners are slightly changing their charge and tube azimuths to compensate for the fact that they are not getting any feedback on exactly where their rounds are impacting and so they shell a larger area. TacOps assumes that the later is what is happening for unobserved missions.

Artillery cannot be done exactly right because of the perfectly accurate view that a TacOps player has of the map terrain --- especially the terrain that is not legally in sight of any of his units. A TacOps player knows precisely where every terrain feature is and he knows exactly where every unobserved fire mission impacts. If artillery was resolved differently, it would be too easy for a TacOps player to use unobserved fire to go prospecting for secondary explosions.

3.1. How it Works in the Game

Artillery accuracy increases one level per volley if the center pixel of the arty target point is within the legal line of sight of any unsuppressed friendly unit at the instant of impact. If these conditions are not met, the accuracy decreases one level. The maximum possible accuracy level is 5.

4. Quantity of Ammo

Ammo for off-map artillery is not stated in rounds - it is stated as salvos (a TacOps salvo is a fuzzy minute of fire from some indistinct number of tubes - somewhere between a hardworking battery and a lazy battalion). Most people complain that there is not enough artillery ammo in the scenarios. Either way, the program allows players with strong sentiments in this area to adjust the amount of ammo available to both sides at the beginning of any new game - up or down.

5. Artillery Response Times

Can be 20 seconds, not counting time in the air, but usually is much more. TacOps artillery response time conceptually includes time for calling for the mission, mission approval, processing firing data, and flight time of the rounds in the air. To avoid a thousand lines of code for artillery and several layers of artillery support windows for the user, this is handled with a generalized response time for each side and for each type of artillery weapon. The exact time for each mission is made slightly variable by a random die roll to select an impact time from within a general response span. It is my opinion that TacOps artillery leans more toward being too responsive but in practice it seems to provide a reasonable compromise. Take a piece of paper and write 0600 (a time) on the first line. Then, on each subsequent line, enter a person or an activity and assign a time period to that line. Do this for all the people and steps involved between the time that a private in an infantry squad says "Gee, Sarge, look at that" and the time that artillery rounds begin to impact on a target. Then, come back and tell me that TacOps artillery is too slow.

6. Motars

60mm and 81mm fire has to be dead on the center of the target unit. Both have a very small salvo radius compared to 155mm, especially if you have split them into one or two tube sections.

7. Smoke

Real-world individual white phosphorus (WP) smoke rounds burn for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes --- other rounds burn 3 to 4 minutes. Duration of artillery smoke after active burning stops depends on number of rounds fired, their distribution, plus environmental conditions such as humidity, temperature, and wind. However, the technical details of artillery smoke are irrelevant to the ground commander who wants to use smoke. The ground commander does not calculate how the mission is to be fired --- that is the job of the cannon cockers. The ground commander states what he wants to obscure and how long he wants the obstruction to last. It is the job of the artillery folks to figure out how to make it happen given environmental conditions in the target area. TacOps provides a simplified smoke mission that varies in size according to the size of the unit firing the smoke and varies somewhat in duration of effect to create uncertainty and variability without worrying about weather in detail. The dust/haze from a multiple rocket launcher (either MRL or MLRS) strike obscures for 30 to 70 seconds. Smoke grenades/dischargers obscure for 30 to 70 seconds. 4.2", 81mm, and 120mm mortar smoke obscures for 3 to 4 minutes per salvo. 122mm, 152mm, and 155mm artillery smoke obscures for 5 to 7 minutes per salvo. For additional variability and uncertainty, there is a check made every fifteen seconds once the initial smoke timer expires --- there is a 50% chance each check that any kind of smoke will obscure for another 15 seconds. The wise player will make notes about start times for his smoke. If long term obstruction is wanted, the player must periodically reseed the cloud with new fires.

8. Counter Battery

Counterbattery is not gamed. The amount of artillery available to U.S. and OPFOR units in most scenarios is far below the real-world best that either side could muster if either had local artillery or air superiority. The game replicates battle in an area where the situation is more or less equal --- both sides may even be a bit short of support. The air and artillery that gets through to the TacOps battlefield is conceptually what is left over after everything off-map that could be suppressed has been. At a tactical level, there is no reason to game a scenario in which one side has overwhelming air or artillery superiority. The winner would not be in question, there would be no "game" to it.

Does the reverse slope reduce the effectiveness of the artillery?:

Only from the perspective that a unit on a reverse slope is unlikely to be observed and unobserved artillery fire is very inaccurate. The actual trajectory of incoming artillery is not gamed --- artillery can reach every point on the map. There is not enough elevation differentiation in TacOps to be concerned about artillery not being able to obtain a good fire solution.

9. Pre-Plotted Artillrey

Q: Pre-plotted artillery targets don't disappear even when "Plot Targets" is turned off until first combat phase.

A: The "setup turn" artillery TRPs or registration points are initially different from targeted arty missions. The program treats them like "unit markers" until the player commits himself by starting the first combat phase. Then, they are converted, recorded, and are thereafter accessed using the arty support dialog just like other artillery TRPs.


Netscape HTML Checked! January 22, 1995 - Robert Lentz (ralentz@ralentz.com)

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