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  • [AAR] (Dec 13th FNF) Air Support platoon

    This last FNF we tried out some longstanding (but largely untested) theories about managing air assets, and in particular close air support. Those theories were proven out and a lot of fun was had, as well as an impressive kill count in enemy Sunderers, tanks, and infantry.

    Platoon Organization and Operation

    Air was sectioned off into a second platoon separate from the infantry and armour. This is largely to support a more elaborate squad structure within the air platoon as well as to keep the notoriously chatty flight squads free from the platoon level communications that in the past have made it difficult for pilots to coordinate effectively.

    The platoon layout was two squads:
    • Alpha: Flight squad, led by me, which had all of our Reavers and Liberators (we initially experimented with splitting this into multiple squads, but eventually elected to consolidate them for tighter comms and easier recruiting).
    • Bravo: Spotter squad, led by Jengles (who was also the platoon leader), which was a ground-based scouting element consisting of a small number of infiltrators on cloak-equipped flashes


    A traditional air squad would attempt to maintain air superiority in an area and then hit targets of opportunity as they were spotted, but historically this has had problems with AA denying the squad the ability to operate in an area, as well as having difficulty determining priority targets, let alone orienting the entire squad to destroy them. Instead, we had Alpha squad maintain position at a staging position just behind friendly lines while Bravo went ahead and performed a pure scouting role. Bravo squad would ID the targets on the field, Jengles would flag the position with the platoon marker, and I would bring Alpha in on top of the target, usually from maximum altitude. Depending on the local AA presence, we would then either mop up or make a mad dash for safety. After that, we'd rearm, repair, replace losses, and then regroup on our staging point to await the next target.

    Operations Summary

    We started off shadowing the main TG platoon on Indar as we found our footing and started getting a sense for how to operate like this. This initially had us hitting Vanu archives, where we were largely just firing from long range and tying up a few VS with Burster MAXes. A bit later on, Randy (who was leading the first platoon) called us in to hit the Vanu infantry at Snake Ravine that was using some rocky high ground as a firing position, and we strafed that position and caused a fair amount of havoc, though it was difficult to tell what the effect of the strike was on the ground.

    We started to really get into the swing of things around Quartz ridge. We started off picking off Vanu Sunderers and various targets of opportunity, but the AA quickly became thick and we had to be more careful about when and how we engaged. This is where Jengle's spotting really started to shine. He pinpointed enemy Sunderers that were feeding the enemy force new recruits so that we could demolish them, sometimes before they could even set up and really start to affect the flow of battle. We were also able to hit infantry battles at the right time and place to make a difference. In one instance, friendly infantry was pushing up the east side of the hills to the east of Quartz ridge, but the Vanu were pushing up at least as hard. Jengles sent us in to wreak havoc on their lines while at the same time friendly infantry were pushing into them, and very soon after our infantry were pouring down the other side of the hill. In another instance near the end of the fight, Vanu infantry pouring out of the spawn room were putting heavy pressure on the ground troops and Randy called for another airstrike. Once again Jengles pinpointed the important bulk of enemy troops and we came in on them from a route that minimized AA coverage to strafe them. Many kills were had and from what I could see from my Reaver (as I dodged flak) friendly troops were able to capitalize and secure that side of the base.

    After that, we moved to Esamir for the alert and the air platoon ended up moving independently from the ground platoon. We started off lending support at Jaeger's Crossing where the TR were pushing hard. Our air strikes largely hit Sunderers and important armour targets. Eventually the AA got REALLY thick there, with multiple skyguards and what seemed like full squads of MAX units firing at us, but we were prepared to call that a win condition. We were obviously making enough of an impact that they felt compelled to resort to such overkill, which meant they were shorthanded in the ground assault. For our part, we simply shifted targets.

    Over the rest of the evening, we hit targets on the east end of the map. In one notable instance, we came across a few Magriders with four repair Sunderers in tow maintaining careful positioning and with the Sunderer guns manned... obviously a very coordinated armour squad, and we wanted to be careful about how we engaged them. After we regrouped at the Rally point, Jengles guided us in to the position by a few rocks where that armour squad was engaging the NC infantry at Terran BL-4 Crash Site. We came in intending to snipe a single sunderer at a time, but as it turns out our air strike coincided perfectly with an infantry rush towards the vehicles and they never stood a chance!

    General Thoughts

    It's tough to get a good sense of our effectiveness without getting the perspective of the people putting boots on the ground, but it felt like this was a much, much more effective use of air support than we're used to. It felt like we were hitting the targets that mattered when they mattered most, thanks to the added perspective of the scouting team. We also enjoyed high squad cohesion due to the regroup-attack-repair cycle of our aircraft. We were also less deterred by AA than usual, as our coordinated attack runs drastically reduced the window in which we were exposed to flak. It felt like the enemy eventually was forced to pull even more AA assets than usual, which felt like a validation that we were being effective, and still wasn't enough to completely shut us down. Even in the instances where we were forced to avoid attempting full attack runs due to AA strength, we could still take potshots at them to remind them we were there so it wasn't yet time to put the AA gun down.

    The platoon layout was very helpful for managing our comm overhead. The flight squad was chatty, having to manage multiple contact reports, guiding everyone to the same target, getting status reports, etc, as those squads tend to be. According to Jengles, the spotter squad was also fairly comm-heavy. This platoon layout minimized the platoon level comms, which meant we almost never had our squad comms interrupted. It was more difficult to keep in sync with the main platoon, though. If we try this in future operations we should try and have the PL/spotter in NCC/NCSC comms so that the main platoon lead doesn't need to track and manage a platoon that isn't even represented in their GUI while still managing their own squads.

    This op was two days ago now so my memory is a little fuzzy, so if I've missed something or mischaracterised anything, please chime in below! If you've got video, or were in the main platoon and can confirm/deny whether we were having an impact, that'd also be fantastic!

    A big thanks to Jengles for taking the boring but incredible helpful role of spotter, and to all of the pilots who flew with us, followed orders, and made that squad as effective as it was.




  • #2
    Re: (Dec 13th FNF) Air Support platoon

    sorry i just noticed this thread. Here is my video that I made from that night

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    • #3
      Re: (Dec 13th FNF) Air Support platoon

      Interesting. I was not present and was on the fence on whether the separation of the flight squads from the platoon would be a good idea, but I see its very obvious that it is necessary. Additionally i'm curious, was the platoon leader in the spotting squad using all the different way-points available to mark multiple targets? I would also be interested in seeing the employ of a gal heavy squad for the purpose of giving loiter time over support provided vs infantry heavy encampments/engagements as an example. I am open to all roles presented here including scouting but excluding air to air. I lack the skills since I am generally a joystick pilot and I find joysticks to be more difficult to use and provide less capability in Planetside. Personal opinion of-course.

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      • #4
        Re: (Dec 13th FNF) Air Support platoon

        I think most people use mouse + keyboard to fly in PS2. I know I do, also many of the other pilots do as well from what I understand.
        "The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it." - George Bernard Shaw



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        • #5
          Re: (Dec 13th FNF) Air Support platoon

          We weren't using the additional waypoints during that op. Platoon mark was for targets, presumably bravo squad waypoint was coordinating the spotters, and alpha squad waypoint was for our rally point or for marking targets when spotters weren't available.

          I could easily see them being used for additional targets, or for the spotter squad to suggest angles of attack, though!



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          • #6
            Re: (Dec 13th FNF) Air Support platoon

            From 3 ground squads up at least, air must be separated. The PL will use too much comm space, that air can need suddenly.

            Yesterday though we ended up fighting on a different continent than ground. This is very difficult, to keep them together after split.

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            • #7
              Re: (Dec 13th FNF) Air Support platoon

              Originally posted by BigGaayAl View Post
              Yesterday though we ended up fighting on a different continent than ground. This is very difficult, to keep them together after split.
              This was more because of the alert. We were moving around a lot and I was PLing. Also none of the other "leading voices" was in COMMAND channel at the time, so I was sort of directing the overall strategy for the alert in COMMAND. Comms with 2d platoon suffered as a result.

              Although as you correctly point out, this is the common pitfall with air in a second platoon and why I argued against it initially. Although I think it is easier to overcome this (just don't forget about 2d platoon, lol) than it is to overcome the comms chatter, which is why I have become convinced that the second platoon method is better.
              "The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it." - George Bernard Shaw



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              • #8
                Re: (Dec 13th FNF) Air Support platoon

                Tight coordination with the second platoon is isn't mandatory, either. In the op this thread describes we were largely operating independently based on the spotter's excellent view of the battle and target prioritization, and sometimes even detached from the main platoon entirely and supported a different fight.



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                • #9
                  Re: (Dec 13th FNF) Air Support platoon

                  Tight coordination is indeed not necessary, certainly not to be effective as air squad.

                  However for me it is generally a really important goal.

                  I love the complexity of fighting with combined arms; footsoldiers, armor, air, whatever people can imagine.

                  It is irrelevant of PS2; combined arms, more difficult specialized tactics, this was always the kind of thing I enjoyed playing games at TG.


                  THe most awesome thing in this game for me is when you have a friendly force in trouble, and you can come at the enemy at request, with surprise and save the day (fight).

                  With the current style we are playing, it seems less and less likely to happen though. Especially in the hectic play during alerts.

                  I think I'll be trying to do some more lib squads in the future. Up to the ground forces to see if they want to use all assets or not. But I'm not going to break my **** trying to get it going no more.

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                  • #10
                    Re: (Dec 13th FNF) Air Support platoon

                    Originally posted by BigGaayAl View Post
                    Tight coordination is indeed not necessary, certainly not to be effective as air squad.

                    However for me it is generally a really important goal.
                    +1 (especially colored part)
                    "The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it." - George Bernard Shaw



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                    • #11
                      Re: (Dec 13th FNF) Air Support platoon

                      I'd think it should go without saying that it's something that should be striven for and celebrated, both from the perspective of enjoying the game and for maximizing our effectiveness. However, it's a good sign and a noteworthy quality of this setup that tight coordination with ground forces isn't mandatory for operation, allowing occasional independent forays, supporting fights where we don't have comms with the participants, or even just surviving and remaining effective if a previously strong communication link with the main platoon falls apart due to competing comms or other such demands on the main platoon lead.

                      In other words, this setup is stronger when integrated tightly with our main platoon, but is robust and flexible enough to operate in other contexts or during communication breakdowns.



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                      • #12
                        Re: (Dec 13th FNF) Air Support platoon

                        We could actually have an air squad which could be asked for by other platoons. For exemplar, if a massive armor platoon attacks a friendly base, If an outfit like NC10 is there, they could place an attack marker and have us engage. Maybe we could even start a system with friendly Outfits so one of us run some form of air every now and then so we can make the most out of Air squads. Usually we have air follow fights where air isn't needed or where we can't engage, so if a friendly platoon needs air backup, we sendem.
                        Questions about those who deserve it!
                        "Remember, no survivors" -Myself and probably what explains my methods the most

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: (Dec 13th FNF) Air Support platoon

                          Originally posted by BolivianRAMPAGE View Post
                          We could actually have an air squad which could be asked for by other platoons. For exemplar, if a massive armor platoon attacks a friendly base, If an outfit like NC10 is there, they could place an attack marker and have us engage. Maybe we could even start a system with friendly Outfits so one of us run some form of air every now and then so we can make the most out of Air squads. Usually we have air follow fights where air isn't needed or where we can't engage, so if a friendly platoon needs air backup, we sendem.
                          I think this is a remarkable idea. As I read it I can totally see it. Why hog your own air contingent? After all they are super mobile, and quite often not needed near the ground force.

                          I also imagine this could add a real cool mechanic in our cooperation with the other outfits. It's one thing to have a platoon come help you with galaxies. It's another to request support and see e.g. three libs and a bunch of reavers take out the enemy sundies or air threats within a minute or so of your request for help in command chat.

                          It would give us good credibility, adding something cool to the gameplay for us, but also for all the other outfits. I think it would build the role-playing aspect of the outfit interaction and make people perhaps enjoy cooperating more because it is fun and makes our play experience richer. Perhaps it would even inspire others to work in the ncc creatively.


                          I propose it could be done like this:
                          Once you get a decent air group together (minimum full squad imo), the leader can announce his availability in command chat. If he is acting under a TG commander in a ground platoon, either can announce it.
                          E.g.: "TG airplatoon operational on Amerish running reavers for anti-air."
                          "... running 4 libs with reaver support for anti-armor."



                          Writing this makes me remember last time we ran a lib squad. At one point we did come help out some other outfit. THey made the effort to congratulate us on command chat. Not for saving him, but for how we did it. (totally caught the enemy force off guard by arriving when they were in a tight battle, and then raining down hellfire.


                          ----
                          Great idea. Let's try this ASAP.

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                          • #14
                            Re: (Dec 13th FNF) Air Support platoon

                            I like that idea.......there would need to be some way of prioritizing the request as I can see the "help wanted" sign hanging out a lot once it's known we are providing air support though. Maybe let the PL be the one to decide who gets help and when. Yesterday during an alert I spawned a Reaver and with a couple of other Reavers in the air, we essentially completely stopped a large TR armor push. I personally took out 3 Sundy's and at least that many MBT's, sprinkled with a couple of lightnings. But I know the other pilots had just as much if not more success. Like I said it was a large armor push. I died like 3 times by running into mountains and crap more than getting shot down.

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                            • #15
                              Re: (Dec 13th FNF) Air Support platoon

                              Actively advertising would be a great approach. We didn't do it the night of the op, but there's absolutely no reason that an air squad like this couldn't be responding to the needs of other outfits on demand. The biggest limitation there is getting the PL/spotter to the next fight to be able to call the shots, as the attack markers aren't going to be enough beyond an initial air-strike, but that's only a few minutes needed for the switch and the squad can probably muddle along until then using leader/NCC/Stratcom comms and attack markers. If it's a one-time airstrike, moving the spotters over wouldn't even be necessary.

                              I agree with Rage that the PL/Spotter should be the one making those calls, as calling the targets (and making the trip to the new target location) is their job. The Reaver/Lib SLs are already preoccupied with their own chatty com channels, directing their squads, and managing their own aircraft.



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