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Tactics, in its proper sense, is knowing how to utilize multiple units and their supporting assets to find, fix, and destroy the enemy. Mastering the art of tactics is a never ending struggle and is an acquired knowledge.

The intent of this section is to assist users who want to improve upon their tactical ability in Steel Beasts. Although most of the information here is directly out of the FM 17-15, FM 71-1, and FM 3-90.2, much of it has been edited, summarized or omitted to fit within the scope of a platoon, company and battalion commander in Steel Beasts. See the Reference section for further information. Also, see the Moving Units on Routes page to learn about specific in-game behavior in regards to routes and waypoint tactic settings.

Additionally, to learn more about Cold War era tactics for US and Soviet forces, see the Cold War Tactical Doctrine page.

Platoon tactics

Platoon level tactics is the application of a platoon sized element to achieve maximum effectiveness and lethality on the battlefield through the proper use of formations, movement techniques, actions on contact, and the execution of various tactical tasks.

  • The increasingly complex damage model in Steel Beasts v2.460+, which allows for a greater chance of damage and non-penetrating hits over the previous approach of easy destruction, purposely increases the dependence and importance of operating as a platoon so that the platoon sized element becomes relevant in the simulation. Realistically survivable vehicles mean that a platoon sized element must mass fires on the enemy, move to a dominate position (flanks and rear), and ensures that a platoon sized element is able to react to a single ambushing foe before an entire element is annihilated in a matter of seconds. One shot kills is not the nature of actual armor combat (although this of course depends on engagement direction), otherwise there would be no such thing as a platoon organization on the battlefield; all tanks on a real world battlefield would instead be lone unsupported entities attacking and holding ground by themselves. The most common tactical dilemma of a platoon is distribution of fires and the avoidance of shooting the same enemy vehicle (which can occur upwards to 10-20 times in extreme cases). This real world dilemma would not exist if tanks on the battlefield were destroyed with one round in the majority of all engagements.
  • Keep in mind that FM 17-15, which was published at a time when both the M1A1 and M1A2 tank was available (1996 for the version used for this page), consistently states a range of 2000-2500 meters as the "normal" tank engagement ranges for planning of trigger lines and engagement areas. Urban legend has led everyone to believe that modern tanks engage and destroy each other from 3000-4000 meters as the norm, with a high degree of accuracy. This might be true with the most modern ammo available today (2009), but it is certainly not reliable to the point that FM 17-15 ever states anything other than trying to base most engagements off of 2500 meters. 2500 meters is the optimal standoff range in which a tank can hit a target with a high degree of accuracy (from both dispersion, boresight or gunner error), and the KE round itself retains a high degree of power at this range. Engaging enemy forces beyond this range is not impossible, but there is a high degree of probability that it will only resort in making the enemy aware of your presence and giving him a chance to deploy and seek cover. In other words, plan most of your engagements around 2500 meters and forget the myth that the occasional 3500-4000 meter engagements in Desert Storm was *routine*. Again, it is not that 3500-4000 meter engagements are not possible (they are certainly possible), but the greatest success rate versus the maximum standoff distance is somewhere in the 2500-3000 meter range. Targets beyond this range should be engaged with controlled fire commands so that excessive ammunition is not expended.


The choice of platoon formation type is vital when the platoon is moving and when it is stationary. Proper formation selection will result in the element being able to bring maximum firepower to bear in the proper direction, and in presents the frontal armor of the vehicle towards the enemy to increase survivability and the chance to react to a contact. Proper formation selection depends on METT-TC, as does everything else, but it also depends greatly on the presence and location of nearby friendly units. For example, a unit moving alone or at the tip of an advance would want to be in a wedge formation to bring fires to any direct towards the axis of advance, but the unit would need to have friendly units following to left and right to ensure that no enemies are bypassed that would fall upon the lead element's rear. A unit to the left and right of the lead unit would in turn choose to be in a echelon left and echelon right to put maximum firepower to the flanks to protect the lead element and so on. Improper selection of formation will usually result in an entire platoon being destroyed before it can react to a contact.

Movement techniques

Moving as a platoon on the battlefield is an important task. Moving as a platoon ensures that concentrated firepower can be brought to bear at any given moment, and that the vehicles in a platoon can react to a threat. Vehicles not moving in a platoon can be ambushed and picked off one at a time since the destruction of a single lone vehicle will result in the inability to retaliate.

Selecting the proper movement technique is vital to a platoons success as well. Proper movement techniques results in maximum security, mobility and flexibility depending on the tactical situation.


This movement technique is characterized by continuous movement of all elements, traveling is best suited to situations in which enemy contact is unlikely and speed is important. (FM 17-15)


Overwatch is a tactical mission in which an element observes and provides direct fire support for a friendly moving element. Situational awareness is a crucial factor in all overwatch missions, whose objective is to prevent the enemy from surprising and engaging the moving unit. The overwatch force must maintain communication with the moving element and provide early warning of enemy elements that could effect the moving force. It also scans gaps and dead space within the moving element's formations. If the overwatch is unable to scan dead space and engage the enemy, it must alert the moving element of the lapse of coverage. The overwatch must also be able to support the moving force with immediate direct and indirect fires. The overwatch element can be either stationary or on the move. (FM 17-15)

Overwatch FM17-15.jpg
Bounding overwatch

At platoon level, bounding overwatch is technique where a platoon splits into two sections and bounds (either successively or or alternating) in order for one section to overwatch the other while it moves. This technique is used when contact is expected. This form of movement is the most secure but it is the slowest. At platoon level, this technique is only really applicable to platoons consisting of four or six vehicles. (FM 17-15)

Alternating bounds

Covered by the rear element, the lead element moves forward, halts, and assumes overwatch positions. The rear element advances past the lead element and takes up overwatch positions. The initial lead element then advances past the initial rear element and takes up overwatch positions. Only one element moves at a time. This method is usually more rapid than successive bounds. (FM 17-15)

Alternating Bounds FM17-15.jpg

Successive bounds

The lead element, covered by the rear element, advances and takes up an overwatch position. The rear element advances to an overwatch position abreast (up to) of the lead element and halts. The lead element then moves to the next position, and so on. Only one element moves at a time, and the rear element avoids advancing beyond the lead element. This method is easier to control and more secure than the alternating bound method, but it is slower. (FM 17-15)

Successive Bounds FM17-15.jpg

Traveling overwatch

Traveling overwatch is an extended form of traveling that proves additional security when contact is possible but speed is desirable. The lead moves continuously. The trail element moves at various speeds and may halt periodically to overwatch the movement of the lead element. The trail element maintains dispersion based on its ability to provide immediate suppressive fires in support of the lead element. The intent is to maintain depth, provide flexibility, and sustain movement in case the lead element is engaged. (FM 17-15)

Actions on contact

In both offensive and defensive operations, contact occurs when any member of the platoon observes enemy personnel or vehicles, observes or receives direct or indirect fire, or encounters any situation that requires an active or passive response to the enemy. This includes reports of enemy contact through the chain of command or from an adjacent friendly element. The platoon initiates actions on contact when it recognizes one of the defined contact situations or on order from higher headquarters. (FM 17-15)

The following four steps allow the platoon leader to execute actions on contact using a logical, well-organized decision-making process:

  • Deploy and report
  • Evaluate/develop the situation
  • Choose a course of action
  • Recommend/execute a course of action

The four-step process is not a rigid, lockstep response to the enemy contact. Rather, the goal is to provide an orderly framework that enables the platoon to survive the initial contact, then apply sound decision-making and timely actions to complete the operation. In simplest terms, the platoon must react instinctively and instantly to the contact, and the platoon leader must decide, with equal dispatch, whether to execute a preplanned battle drill or course of action or to recommend and execute an alternate drill or action. At times, the platoon leader, and the platoon, will have to execute several of the steps simultaneously. (FM 17-15)

A typical action on contact:

Action on contact 4.jpg
  • Needless to say, no where in the FM 17-15 is it ever suggested to engage an enemy tank with one solitary tank, but to always mass superior firepower and move to a flanking position to destroy the threat.

Battle drills

When the platoon makes contact with the enemy, the platoon leader usually initiates a battle drill. Drills can be initiated following reports or observation of enemy activity, but are most commonly ordered upon receipt of enemy fires. (FM 17-15)

Battle drills in Steel Beasts are mostly irrelevant unless using a fully manned platoon in Network Session, however as a platoon leader in Steel Beasts, knowing when to conduct a contract drill and when to conduct an action drill is very important. This section concentrates more on when and why to initiate a battle drill, as well as what type, at the platoon leader level. It does not go into great detail of battle drills at the individual tank level (see the FM 17-15 for more information about individual tank actions in a battle drill).

Contact drill

The contact drill enables the platoon to orient weapon systems and engage an enemy without changing its direction or speed of movement along the axis of advance. This drill is used when contact is made with non threatening firepower or when the platoon sights the enemy without being engaged and does not want to stop or slow its movement. (FM 17-15)

A contact drill basically involves the platoon element continuing its move with or without a change in formation to meet the threat. However, the platoon will usually engage the threat (depending on the platoon leader's fire control settings) as it continues to move to its destination. The use of the contact drill in Steel Beasts is mostly when a platoon is located in the open and met with a lesser threat. The platoon should continue its direction of travel to seek a better position, while placing suppressive fires on the enemy threat.

Action drill

The action drill permits the entire platoon to change direction rapidly in response to terrain conditions, obstacles, or enemy contact. (FM 17-15)

A typical action drill would be initiated by the platoon leader with a command "Action left/right/front/rear", and may be accompanied by additional commands such as "assault". The importance of the action drill in is to turn the entire vehicle towards, and move against, the designated threat. In Steel Beasts, knowing when to use an action drill as the platoon leader is vital to success. When a platoon is on the move and is confronted with lethal firepower, a quickly executed action drill with formation change presents the full protection and firepower at the opposing threat. Action drills can be made with the desire to rush forward to the next terrain feature that offers cover between the platoon and the enemy threat, or an assault can be executed to close with and destroy the enemy threat.

Action Drill.jpg

In Steel Beasts, the execution of the battle drill in the above image would involve changing to a line formation by pressing "E" or "]", then instructing the platoon to assault from the map or manually move the lead vehicle towards the enemy.

Tactical tasks

The commander may direct the platoon to execute the collective tactical tasks described in this section as part of the company's planned scheme of maneuver.

Attack by fire

The purpose of an attack by fire is to destroy the enemy using long-range fires from dominating terrain or using standoff of the main gun. The platoon can use an attack by fire to destroy inferior forces when the platoon leader does not desire to close with the enemy or when the platoon is part of a company-level effort. In addition, the platoon may occupy an attack by fire position as part of a company-level hasty defense with the goal of destroying a superior force. (FM 17-15)

In executing this task, the platoon uses tactical movement to move to a position that allows it to employ weapon standoff or that offers cover for hull-down firing positions. It also must be ready to move to alternate firing positions for protection from the effects of enemy direct and indirect fires. (FM 17-15)

Attack by fire.jpg
Support by fire

The company commander may order the platoon to provide overwatch or support by fire during the movement of a friendly force. The purpose is to suppress the enemy using long-range direct and indirect fires from a dominating piece of terrain or using the standoff of the main gun. This support sets the conditions that allow moving (supported) friendly elements to engage and destroy the enemy. (FM 17-15)

The techniques involved in occupying an overwatch or support by fire position and in focusing and controlling fires are similar to those for an attack by fire. Some specific considerations exist, however. As noted, the support by fire task is always tied directly to the movement and/or tactical execution of other friendly forces. Throughout this type of operation, the supporting platoon maintains cross-talk with the moving force. In addition to reducing fratricide risk, cross-talk allows the platoon to provide early warning of enemy positions it has identified and to report battle damage inflicted on the enemy force. (FM 17-15, summarized)

A successful overwatch/support by fire operation suppresses the enemy, permitting the moving (supported) force to conduct tactical movement, breaching operations, or an assault. (FM 17-15)

Support by fire.jpg

The purpose of the assault is to seize key terrain or to close with and destroy the enemy while seizing an enemy-held position. (FM 17-15)

The platoon usually assaults the enemy while receiving supporting fires from an overwatch element. If supporting fire is not available, the platoon conducts tactical movement to a position of advantage over the enemy, then conducts the assault. A successful assault destroys the enemy elements or forces them to withdraw from the objective. (FM 17-15)

To prepare for the assault, the assault force occupies or moves through an assault position. This should be a predetermined covered and concealed position that provides weapon standoff from the enemy. The platoon leader receives updated enemy information from support by fire elements. On order, the platoon assaults on line, moving and firing as quickly as possible to destroy the enemy and seize the objective. The assault must be extremely violent. (FM 17-15, summarized)


The company commander my order a platoon to bypass the enemy in order to maintain the tempo of the attack. This course of action can be taken against either an inferior or superior force. The commander may designate one platoon to suppress the enemy, allowing the other platoons to use covered and concealed routes, weapon standoff, and obscuration (smoke) to bypass known enemy locations. (FM 17-15, paraphrased)

Once clear of the enemy, the supporting platoon hands the enemy over to another force, breaks contact, and rejoins the company. If necessary, the platoon leader can employ tactical movement to break contact with the enemy and continue the mission; he can also request supporting direct and indirect fires and smoke to suppress and obscure the enemy as the platoon safely breaks contact.

  • In Steel Beasts, a successful bypass usually requires that the bypassing force be put on Hold Fire (or Return Fire Only) when moving the bypassing element, or the bypassing force should be given Assault orders to bypass the enemy and allow the bypassing force to continue moving while shooting.
Reconnaissance by fire

The company commander may direct the platoon to execute reconnaissance by fire when enemy contact is expected or when contact has occurred but the enemy situation is vague. The platoon then conducts tactical movement, occupying successive overwatch positions until it makes contact with the enemy or reaches the objective.

Individual tanks and sections not designated to reconnoiter by fire observe the effects of the firing tanks and engage enemy forces as they are identified. Focus of the reconnaissance by fire is on the key terrain that dominates danger areas, on built-up areas that dominate the surrounding terrain, and on uncleared wooded areas. (NOTE: A disciplined enemy force may not return fire or move if it determines that the pattern or type of fires employed will be nonlethal.)

Hide / Ambush

The company commander may call upon a platoon to ambush the enemy. An ambush is conducted with the intent of allowing the enemy to close unexpectedly where they can be hit in the flank with massed firepower. An ambush is usually made against a superior threat to catch it in a moment of disruption and vulnerability when it is in the open with no cover.

The key to a successful ambush is minimizing exposure to aerial, thermal, and visual detection. Most of the time this is done by having a platoon side on the rear slope of a hill, waiting to assume firing positions on command. The enemy forces are usually monitored by friendly infantry in communication with the company commander or platoon leader. Once the enemy has entered the engagement area the ambush is executed and the platoon(s) exit the hide and take up firing positions to mass fire on the threat. One or more platoons may be involved in an ambush, but generally the more elements involved in the ambush the more violent and successful the ambush will be.

  • In Steel Beasts, a perfect ambush opportunity is when you can catch an enemy attacking force in a valley and in the open. An ambush should be used on tanks with superior protection so that they can be engaged as close as possible where the fire can have the greatest effect and accuracy. Fires should be massed on the enemy so that the enemy has no time to react and to increase the likelihood of crippling effects and destruction on the enemy vehicles. Where possible, an ambush should be conducted in conjunction with artillery to cause maximum violence and disruption on the enemy. On the other hand, an attacking force would avoid an ambush with effective use of recon units, and with the use of overwatch, by either exposing the ambushing force or by allowing the overwatch force to suppress or disrupt the ambushing force while the ambushed units escape the trap.
Defend with direct fire

Use of direct fire enables a platoon leader to engage single targets. It also allows the platoon to maintain the element of surprise by simultaneously engaging multiple targets with a lethal initial volley of tank fires, such as in an ambush. (FM 17-15, paraphrased)

A trigger line is a predefined condition and location used to designate when a unit should expose itself and begin engaging the enemy and is a backup to the fire command. In the absence of communications, a pre-established direct fire trigger line allows each element to engage enemy vehicles in his sector of fire. The criteria for the direct fire trigger line should specify the number of enemy vehicles that must pass a designated location before the TC can engage without any instructions from the platoon leader, or the platoon leader to engage without any instructions from the company commander. (FM 17-15, paraphrased)

Selection of the trigger line is dependent on METT-TC factors. Considerations might include the following:

  • A maximum range or a point, such as an obstacle, at which the platoon will

initiate fires to support the company scheme of maneuver.

  • The survivability of enemy armor. (in other words, the capability of enemy armor levels)
  • The fields of fire that the terrain allows.
  • The planning ranges for the platoon's weapon systems. (planning range for the 105-mm main gun is 2,000 meters; for the 120-mm main gun, it is 2,500)
M1A1(HA) LOS armor protection while in a hull down battleposition

Individual TCs move from hull-down to turret-down firing positions within their primary and alternate positions based on two considerations: the necessity to maintain direct fire on the enemy and the effectiveness of enemy fires. Influencing each commander's decision to move between firing positions are such factors as enemy movement rates, the number of advancing enemy vehicles, the accuracy with which the enemy is acquiring and engaging friendly fighting positions, and the lethality of enemy weapon systems. (FM 17-15, paraphrased)

During the direct fire fight, the platoon leader should consistently describe what is happening to the company commander. Contact reports, SPOTREPs, and SITREPs are used as appropriate. In the defense, contact reports are used to alert the platoon to previously unidentified enemy targets. (FM 17-15, paraphrased)

  • In Steel Beasts, SITREPs and SPOTREPs are vital to the company commander in order to determine what the next course of action should be, and/or whether or not additional forces should be committed in a particular area. If there are human TC's in a platoon then they should be consistently informing the platoon leader as to their situation as well as any information they have on the change of enemy disposition (the engagement and destruction of enemy vehicles, additional enemy forces moving into the area etc).

Displacement may become necessary in several types of situations. A numerically superior enemy may force the platoon to displace to a subsequent battle position (BP); a penetration or enemy advance on a secondary avenue of approach may require the platoon or section to occupy supplementary BPs or firing positions. (FM 17-15)

The company commander establishes disengagement criteria and develops the disengagement plan to support the company scheme of maneuver. Disengagement criteria are primarily based on a specified number and type of enemy vehicles reaching a specified location (this is sometimes called the break point) to trigger displacement. Other considerations, such as ammunition supplies and friendly combat power, also influence the decision to displace. The platoon leader chooses between two methods of displacement depending on whether or not the move is overwatched (covered) by an adjacent platoon. (FM 17-15)


If the displacement is covered, the entire platoon usually displaces as a whole and employs smoke grenades and on-board smoke generators to screen the displacement. (NOTE: JP-8 fuel may restrict the use of on-board smoke generators.) In a covered displacement, the platoon leader issues instructions or uses a prearranged signal to initiate movement. The platoon simultaneously backs down to hide positions, keeping front hulls toward the enemy until adequate cover protects each tank. Individual tanks orient weapon systems toward the enemy as they move to the subsequent or supplementary positions along previously identified and reconnoitered routes. (FM 17-15)


If the displacement is not covered, the platoon leader designates one section to overwatch the displacement of the other section. The overwatch section is responsible for providing suppressive fires covering the entire platoon sector of fire. It also initiates artillery calls for fire, the overwatch section may request one last artillery call for fire in front of its own position, then displace to the subsequent/supplementary BP. (FM 17-15)

NOTE: In some instances, the platoon may have to use bounding overwatch to the rear during tactical movement to the subsequent position. This may become necessary when such factors as the distance to the subsequent position, the enemy's rate of advance, and terrain considerations (fields of fire) do not allow the original overwatch section to displace without the benefit of an overwatch of its own. (FM 17-15)


The displacement is complete when the platoon has occupied the subsequent BP and all vehicles are prepared to continue the defense. (FM 17-15, summarized)


The platoon is capable of conducting limited counterattacks, either alone or as part of a larger force (usually the company team), to accomplish the following:

  • Complete the destruction of the enemy.
  • Regain key terrain.
  • Relieve pressure on an engaged unit.
  • Initiate offensive operations.

Two methods are available to the platoon: counterattack by fire and counterattack by fire and movement. In both types, coordination and control are critical to the success of the counterattack. (FM 17-15, summarized)

Counterattack by fire

When the company team executes a counterattack by fire, one platoon conducts tactical movement on a concealed route to a predetermined BP or attack by fire position from which it can engage the enemy in the flank and/or rear. The remaining platoons hold their positions and continue to engage the enemy. The intent of this method is to use weapon standoff and/or cover to full advantage and destroy the enemy by direct fires. (FM 17-15)

Counter attack.jpg
Counterattack by fire and movement

The intent of this method is to close with and destroy the enemy. The counterattack force uses tactical movement to gain a position of advantage from which it attacks the enemy (from the flank, whenever possible). It conducts hasty attacks and assaults based on the particular situation and the factors of METT-TC. (FM 17-15)


Tank Platoon ARTEP tasks


--Volcano 08:12, July 2, 2009 (UTC)

FM 17-15: Tank Platoon
FM 71-1: Tank and Mechanized Infantry Company Team
FM 71-2: Tank and Mechanized Infantry Battalion Task Force