TABLE OF CONTENTS
Stealth & Evasion
One of the most important distinctions between Assault elements and Recon teams is the intent to engage enemies. Recon units must avoid contact whenever possible and evade any hostile elements that would hinder the team’s ability to perform its role. In this section of the guide, we’ll cover strategies for reducing your audio and visual footprint. This training will help you reduce confrontations with the enemy, enabling your recon element to focus on their task.
There are many different observations that can be made from a map. Even without seeing the terrain for yourself, you can get a good idea of what to expect from it by looking closely.
- Contour Lines can help you identify the slope of the terrain. Using the elevation markers provided by hilltops, you can determine where the terrain slopes, and which areas will have the high ground. Additionally, contour lines help you identify Hills, Valleys, Ridges, Defalades and Cliffs. All of these terrain features may be critical to identify, as the landscape of your operational area can be both helpful and detrimental.
- Foliage appears in green on every map. While some maps have less foliage or poor representation of it, you should still attempt to identify it and use it whenever you can.
- Water will appear as blue, but can also be too shallow for some watercraft to cross over. Not only should you identify water features, but you should also determine whether or not it can be passed by boats. Additionally, some rivers may be shallow enough for some vehicles to cross but not others. USMC forces, for example, have snorkels on many of their vehicles, allowing some vehicles to be nearly submerged without causing damage to the engine.
- Buildings will appear as grey boxes on the map. While easy to spot, it may be hard to identify the type of building on a map. Sometimes it can help to use association to figure out what type of buildings may be in an area. Cities may have large apartments. Industrial Zones may have factories and garages.
- Roads are easy to identify and useful to take note of. A road can mean easy transit for friendlies and enemies. Crossing a road in enemy territory can be risky, so it’s best to avoid them, take this into account when planning your route.
While some enemy locations may already be known to you from prior intelligence, you can also assume where enemy forces might be located based on desirable terrain features. Enemies might want to send patrols across ridges, vehicles down roads, or recon elements to hilltops. Assume the enemy will use the terrain to their advantage, and if you must cross into such areas, proceed with caution and get an advanced line of sight whenever possible.
Avenues of Approach
Sometimes your recon team may be tasked with scanning a large area, but occasionally your task may involve getting eyes on a single, highly defended, priority target. In either case, you should always be considering what routes your team will want to take on both infiltration and exfiltration. Adjusting your route to avoid enemies is critical, but so is making sure you don’t get spotted the moment you’re dropped off in enemy territory. Give yourself room to breathe from your drop off point, and make sure you have the time you need to travel the distance to your objective(s).
Your avenues of approach will be heavily based on enemy presence and terrain features, and they will always determine where your patrol starts and ends. The rest of your journey is dependent on your start and end points, so naturally, taking the time to pick good locations will set you up for success later.
The best route plan won’t help you if you don’t adjust yourself to the micro-terrain and the changing environment. Using Arma 3’s built in functions to alter your stance and reduce your profile is a good first step, but you should also use cover and concealment as much as possible.
- Speed is the hardest element to manage while moving. You’ll want to move quickly when the enemy is far away, so that you’ll have time to slow down later when the enemy is close by. Since you don’t always know where the enemy is, this determination can be tricky.
- Cover & Concealment is crucial for both movement and staying concealed while in an observation position. Just remember, if you have lots of cover, you have less visibility. If you move too carelessly around visual obstructions, you can stumble upon enemies and compromise your entire team. You should always reduce your speed when operating with lower visibility.
- Acquiring Line of Sight can be extremely helpful for expedient travel. Even though you may be more exposed in certain terrain, you can mitigate that risk by following this simple procedure: 1.) get to an effective observation position to see ahead as far as possible 2.) locate another good observation position within your line of sight, 3.) quickly move to that location using any concealment available, and 4.) repeat the process. This way you cover more ground and reduce the time you spend exposed when moving entirely out of sight is not an option.
- Time of Day is probably the factor you’ve been waiting on. Recon teams have the greatest advantage at night, as they can exploit the disadvantages that often come with darkness. Just remember, if you get complacent, the night can be just as much of a disadvantage for you. Additionally, you have to use the night while it lasts, if the sun comes up before you’re ready, you may find that your exfiltration route is no longer as safe as it appeared when you first observed it.
- Always plan around Terrain Features! This should be obvious, but it can be easy to forget just how much of your stealth depends on the terrain. You can move as slow and low as physically possible, but the enemy will still spot you if there’s nothing covering your figure.
If the enemy is doing their job correctly, they will be sure to make your task as difficult as possible. Patrols keeping watch over more convenient avenues of approach will force you to jump through hoops to evade them and sneak passed their security measures. Make no mistake, Diving is time consuming, tedious and inconvenient: that’s why it can be so effective at getting you behind enemy lines.
Before going on a SCUBA movement, you need to make sure you have all the equipment you need. Depending on your mission, you may have to switch out of your SCUBA gear once you reach a waypoint on land. Diving suits and Rebreathers provide some utility and armor, but not as much as a regular uniform and plate carrier. For this reason, it can be beneficial to switch into something more… comfortable. You can easily pack in a plate carrier and extra uniform in your gear, what really matters is that you have a plan to get ashore, get security, and take turns switching out within your team. Once you’ve made the switch, ensure your gear is dropped in a safe and hidden location or stored in a discreet cache.
You will be very difficult to detect while diving, but make no mistake, it will take much longer to cover your intended distance of travel underwater. Nonetheless, it’s important that you avoid cutting corners. Go as far as you have to in order to avoid detection, and stay under the water as much as possible to ensure you maximize the effectiveness of your watery environment. Diving is already tedious enough, the last thing you want to do is waste all of your efforts by being lazy and compromising a stealthy insertion.
It is important that this note is set aside from the others for the sake of clarity. In some missions, recon elements may move in tandem of main forces to scout a short distance ahead and provide early warning to enemy movements and positions. However, recon teams will sometimes be sent ahead in advance to scout out an area that friendly forces have little information on already. In such missions, you will find that there is little room for error in your task. Furthermore, failure will alter the course of the upcoming mission, often in various ways.
Should you be compromised in any way, your immediate move should be to reduce collateral. The less contact you have with the enemy, the better chance you’ll have of stirring up trouble or creating concern within enemy ranks. If enemies cannot confirm that another party was collecting information on their forces, they may not think much of the event at all.
On the other end of the spectrum, we have worst case scenarios. If a member of a recon team is captured, alive or dead, the enemy will have a severe advantage against friendly forces in the mission ahead. In some cases, this may result in enemies being better prepared for an assault, in others, it can result in our mission becoming a rescue rather than an assault.
Remember: in advance recon missions, no man is ever left behind, whether dead or alive. Each member should have a body bag in their kit for this exact reason. Failure to abide by this precedent may result in severe consequences.
Personal UAV Drones
When it comes to surveillance and reconnaissance, few assets can be quite as advantageous as a drone. However, while they possess potent stealth and mobility, they are only as useful as their operator, and any UAV can be spotted by enemy forces if used carelessly. In this section we will cover several different types of Personal UAVs, how to operate them, and how to best utilize each one.
Darters and Pelicans
Low maintenance, easy to operate and extremely versatile, these lightweight drones can be used to observe enemy positions, mark targets and perform light logistics.
For each drone, assembly and operation is simple. They are packaged as a backpack in the arsenal, from where they can be retrieved and assembled with a few clicks. Once assembled, they can be connected to the operator’s UAV terminal so long as the terminal and the drones all belong to the correct faction. After this is done, it’s only a matter of flying them safely.
Both drones use standard flight controls, but will also take over and level out if the operator releases them. Additionally, the operator can give the drones waypoints via the map on the UAV Terminal. This will help the operator save time by not having to manually fly the drone to every location required.
AN-2 Darter: There is no better drone for recon, the darter has a full 360 degree camera with built in coded laser and FLIR. It’s important to put this drone to work monitoring areas of interest, but do not get careless with drone placement. While stealthy, the Darter still makes enough noise that infantry can hear it if it gets too close. Radar can also pick up the Darter, and in either case, a compromised Darter will alert enemy units and put them on alert. Be sure to evaluate this risk and avoid detection at all costs.
AL-6 Pelican: While lacking in observation ability, the pelican makes up for its shortcomings by being better equipped for light logistics. Small payloads can be loaded into the Pelican, and it is still stealthy enough to sneak these supplies behind enemy lines. Recon teams should consider using this resource to keep an open supply line during extended missions.
Although it lacks the versatility of other drones, the Raven can still be an effective recon asset. Despite its few shortcomings, it does have the advantage of being far easier to pilot. Using a waypoint-based control system, and fully automated flight procedures, the Raven requires no piloting skill to use and will perform its task without any need for micromanagement. Even still, the Raven still has a camera with built in FLIR, Night Vision and Laser Designator, so you won’t be missing out on any critical functionality.
The Eagle A-III (Raven) Backpack contains everything to deploy, operate and maintain the Raven UAV. Once retrieved from the arsenal, the user only needs to set the backpack on the ground and use the action menu to access its functions. The Raven will be assembled and a control tablet will be left on the ground next to it. Using the action menu, the user may pick up and launch the Raven, at which time it will instantly begin its orbit around the user’s location.
Once in the air, the Raven can be operated via the tablet. Since the tablet must be set on the ground to be used, the user can leave the tablet at a designated control center for any member of the team to operate it. If the team is on the move, the tablet can be picked up and placed at a more convenient or temporary location.
Giving the Raven a new target will open the map, where the user can designate a location for the Raven to travel to and orbit. Opening the camera feed will display the visual feed from the Raven camera. The Raven can be brought back to the user via Autoland, where it can be disassembled or recharged for further use.
- Press “J” to toggle the display of all RQ-11 controls while in the camera feed.
- Press “G” to exit the camera feed.
For lightweight recon, target observation, or even setting up an expedient UAV operation post, the Raven is the simplest option. As with any UAV, it’s important to avoid getting too close to enemy locations, lest the drone be spotted and enemies become alerted. Set a high orbit altitude, and a distant orbit radius to avoid detection.
While it has no mobility, relying on the user to carry and position it manually, a remote designator can still provide a distinct advantage for recon elements. Not only does a remote designator have the highest stealth potential, FLIR and a Coded Laser, but it also has the lowest upkeep. Once a remote designator is set in position, it can be left in place to used for monitoring throughout a mission. If the user places the designator in a good location, it can become an invaluable asset later on.
Once acquired from the arsenal, the designator only needs to be assembled in a position the user sees fit. Even after assembly, the user can use ACE3 interact to reposition the camera to a more suitable spot for maximum effectiveness. Functioning like a periscope, the turret of the designator can move up and down a few feet. This allows it to look over short walls and tall grass.
Another useful feature of the Remote Designator, is its ability to be fully operated by a Rugged Tablet. Although a UAV terminal still works, it is not needed, meaning other operatives in the area can also use the turret even if they didn’t specifically bring a UAV terminal.
Designators are best used in preparation for a mission. If a recon team can get out into the field and deploy one or more Designator, they can leave the area and still keep eyes throughout the upcoming mission. This can be vital for calling in airstrikes and artillery even if friendly forces are being pushed back by the enemy.
Creating and Sending Reports
After all the hard work you put into getting close to the enemy, spotting targets and all the while not being spotted yourself, you’ve finally collected information worth noting and reporting to the rest of the unit. So naturally, it would be a shame for a recon team to go through all that effort just to provide a poorly delivered report.
Know Your Targets
Each mission may involve drastically different enemy compositions as the previous one, and not all findings are important to your current mission. While you may think collecting as much information as possible is always favorable, remember that your entire force composition for the mission ahead may not be enough to go after every target you locate.
Getting side-tracked with additional objectives is never ideal, therefore, when you search for enemy targets and compile your report to give back to command; make sure you clearly identify which targets are mission critical and which ones are merely for consideration or risk mitigation. Command elements can often be conflicted when hearing about multiple targets with no clarity as to which ones are the intended targets. In many cases, this can lead to command elements splitting up forces, sending teams on pointless errands and simply wasting extra time all together.
Before you go on your mission, make sure you know exactly what you are trying to accomplish, ask questions about anything you are even slightly unsure about, and pay very close attention to your objectives. Never make assumptions, you should know what you’re looking for and have clear identifiers to confirm the target.
You’ve already learned how to use maps more effectively in the Advanced Navigation section, and prior to that you learned how to acquire Advanced Grids in RTO/JTAC training. Make sure you use these skills to form accurate target sketches on your map. Be specific, be thorough, and make your mission count. List what information you know, and if you aren’t sure about an enemy count or a specific detail, make sure your report reflects this. You may not be able to confirm every detail in your report, but you can still present incomplete information that may be useful, so long as the recipient knows that the information is not 100% accurate or confirmed.
There are a few different ways to deliver reports to command elements. Some of which are simply better, yet unavailable to you for your current mission. Make sure you are familiar with each method and able to use them in any case.
In-Person: By far the simplest report method available. Not only can you speak directly to personnel within your unit, but you can also point out the locations on the map and have others copy them down. Furthermore, you can answer questions and provide another layer of clarity to your report. This method is the best by far, but requires your team to head into the AO, get the report and come all the way back undetected. This requires a significant amount of time, and is the most difficult to accomplish in full.
Text Communication: This method is often available to both recon teams and command elements via Rugged Tablets. Using the tablet, a recon team can compile a secure and complete text report of their findings. Once this report is sent, the recipient can take their time, re-read portions and even keep the message for later reference; it is for this reason that it is extremely important that you compile and proofread the message for absolute assurance that all the information is 100% correct and free of typos or mistakes.
Radio Transmission: The old fashioned way, but effective nonetheless. Radio transmission requires a lot of work and protocol to perform properly, but it can also be the most satisfying, and is certain the most effective method for short reports or situation updates. When using this method, it is absolutely essential that both the sender and recipient are using pen and paper to read and record the report for absolute clarity.
You should have already put in the effort to compile an accurate report, keep it that way by taking your time. Use proper radio etiquette at all times, split up your report into sections, and make sure the recipient will be able to keep up with the speed of your report. For best results, use the procedure example below for reference:
- Call in to your command element: “[Command] this is [Recon], over.”
- Wait for their response: “[R] this is [C], send it, over.”
- Give them a heads up: “[R] has a report to relay when you are ready to receive.”
- The command element may tell you to standby as they prepare. They will tell you to transmit the report as soon as they are ready.
- Begin your report with “Report is as follows.” Break up your report into sections, and split up portions by saying “Break” at the end of the section. This lets the recipient know you have more to send but are pausing momentarily.
- Once report is complete, finish with “End of report, Over.”
- The recipient may readback your report for clarity or confirm that they received it. If they readback, listen carefully and make sure that they seem to have gotten the details right, be ready to correct any information with absolute detail to make sure an aspect of the report is not confused further. Otherwise, your job is done, and now you can focus on keeping your team alive until you receive a new task.
An enemy location will be setup with multiple fireteams and assets. Trainees will be dropped off a safe distance away and must move to a position from which they can observe the position identify threats.
Trainees must correctly identify the enemy units, assets and their map locations within acceptable margins of error. Once this is done, a report of the findings must be relayed up to the simulated command element.
The scenario and the choices given to the trainees may be varied per the instructor’s needs in order to properly test trainee comprehension with consideration given to time limitations of training.
The instructor will take note of the trainees ability to utilize their training and will note any deficiencies. Once the test is complete, the instructor will expand upon or provide additional training to correct the deficiencies.
Once the instructor believes a trainee is knowledgeable and capable of carrying out their task of recon and observation effectively, they will be granted Recon certification.