In Steel Beasts Professional the gunner's position on the M1A2 SEP is fully crew-able. The gunner's position is accessed by pressing F6.
Gunner's Primary Sight (GPS)
The gunner's primary sight (GPS) is the primary sight the gunner utilizes to engage and destroy targets. The GPS view is accessed by pressing F2.
Thermal Imaging Sight (TIS)
The most useful aspect of the GPS view is the thermal imaging system (TIS). The gunner is provided with a relaxed viewing bi-ocular display on the right side of the periscope body with the sight itself accessed by pressing the F2 key. The TIS image may be focused using either the NUM DEL key or holding the ALT key and scrolling the mouse wheel. Pressing + on the num pad toggles the TIS between on and standby (off), while pressing - on the num pad toggles the sight's polarity.
The M1A2 SEP's TIS uses a 2nd Generation Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) imager, and provides optical magnification at 3x, 6x, and 13x along with digital enhancement at 25x and 50x. Pressing N toggles through the magnification levels. The 3x and 6x magnification levels are intended for quick scanning of the terrain and target acquisition, and have brackets to show the area that the next level of magnification will zoom into. The 13x magnification level shows the reticle for lasing and engaging targets, and is the recommended level of magnification for engaging targets. The 25x and 50x magnification levels also have the reticle for engaging targets, and are recommended for identifying characteristics of the target, such as it's type and current status. These two highest levels of magnification are also good for engaging partially concealed targets that cannot be easily identified and engaged at 13x magnification.
TIS is an excellent sight for engaging targets at any hour and under all weather conditions. Unlike the daylight sight, TIS can see through non multi-spectral smoke screens, fog and thin clouds of dust. The TIS is also at an extreme advantage over non TIS equipped foes in low visibility conditions such as night, poor weather, or fog. Sometimes target identification in TIS view can be difficult. As a trigger puller, you need to be extremely certain that what you are observing is an enemy vehicle before you commit an act of fratricide. The best way to be certain of this (in good visibility) is to switch to daylight view once a target is acquired. That said, gunners with experience will memorize TIS signatures of all vehicles to the point that they can identify targets in the TIS as effectively as they can in daylight view. Also, remember that TIS cannot see the specific camouflage pattern a vehicle has. If you are in a mission where the enemy and friendlies are both using the same vehicle (ex. T-55A) but with different camouflage patterns, switch to the daylight sight to make sure you aren't mistaking a friendly tank for an enemy tank.
The daylight view of the GPS sight is mostly used when the TIS is damaged or, in good visibility conditions, to better identify targets. If you are currently in the TIS imager view, you can switch to daylight view by pressing the + key (on the num pad).
The zoom level in the daylight sight can also be toggled with N and it is independent of the zoom level set in the TIS.
In both the TIS and daylight view, you will see a set of nearly identical symbols in the bottom of the sight and a reticle in the center of the sight: these are referred to as the gun sight symbology.
The GPS aiming reticle is located in the center of the appropriate sight and is used for aiming at the target. The center of the reticle is a circle (or a box in the TIS sight) with a dot in the middle of it. The center dot is the aiming point for lasing and firing.
The set of numbers in the lower part of the sight is the range, in meters, that is currently entered in the fire control system (FCS). This range is either entered manually by the user (through the use of the Gunner's Control and Display Panel (GCDP)), entered by the TC using the "BSGT" button, or entered automatically when the laser range finder (LRF) is used, the latter being the most common and is referred to as "lasing".
The box to the upper left of the range value is the "ready to fire box". This box is displayed after a variety of conditions are met (most notably the loader's arming handle must be "up") and signifies that the gun is ready to fire.
In the same image you will see a horizontal bar above the range value. This bar is displayed in cases where the "lase" has multiple returns. In other words, when the gunner lased the target, the laser passed through an obstruction (or went beyond the target and caught a piece of it) and has returned from multiple distances. This is a warning that you may have an inaccurate range to the target. Before you lase the target you should use the ` key to switch between 1st and last return on the LRF to minimize possibilities of a multiple return; choosing which one depends on the situation. If there is an obstruction such as tree or bush between you and the target (just like what is in the first sample image in the "Daylight Sight" section), then last return should be selected before you lase so that the GCDP uses the last return as the range (the return beyond the tree). If only a small part of the target is visible at a long range (such as the turret), then 1st return should be selected before you lase since there is a possibility that he laser will return off the small portion of the target but continue on down range and return a longer range.
In some cases you may see an "F" to the upper right of the range. This "F" symbolizes that an FCS fault of some kind has occurred. The exact fault may also affect the other symbols in the reticle. In the example image the ballistic computer has been damaged which causes the range to be displayed as all zeros. In other cases the numbers may flash, be frozen with the last known range, or you may completely lose your aiming reticle. The only thing you need to be concerned with is that if an "F" is displayed in the view then there has been an FCS malfunction and you may need to use the gunner's auxiliary sight (GAS).
Engaging targets with the GPS can be a complicated affair. Obviously the first thing you need to do to engage a target is to acquire it. The best way to do this is by using the TIS 3x sight.
Once a target is acquired, the gunner should switch to 10x magnification by pressing N and place the dot in the center of the reticle on the target and lase by pressing CTRL or Joystick Button 2. Once you lase the target and get the range, lead (pronounced "leed") begins to be calculated.
The most important thing to realize is that the FCS on the M1A2 automatically induces lead. Lead is the term used to refer to putting a gun in front of a target which is moving perpendicular to your vantage point. When you lead a target, you essentially need to fire in front of target at the point in which the round and target will meet. Lead is automatically applied whenever an object is lased and the turret is traversed left or right in normal mode. When a moving target is lased, the turret will jump ahead of the target in order to apply the appropriate lead. Unlike the M1 and M1A1, the reticle does not move within the sight picture when lead is applied. Instead, the turret moves out of alignment with the GPS to aim ahead of the target, thus leading the target. The ballistic computer calculates lead depending on the range entered into the computer from the lase, the indexed ammo type, and the horizontal rate of traverse of the turret.
- On the M1A2, the reticle remains in the center of the GPS view when lead is applied. On the older M1 and M1A1, the reticle moved left or right within the GPS view to apply lead to the target.
A "good track" is when you can assume a steady track on the target with the reticle remaining on target as you follow it for a second or so. A "bad track" is when your tracking rate is either too fast or too slow in relation to the targets actual movement; track the target too fast and the reticle slowly moves in front of the target, track the target too slow and the reticle will fall behind. If you fire with a "bad track" then you are most likely going to shoot in front of or behind the target. M1A2 gunners use a variety of techniques to minimize a bad track, which are mentioned in the techniques section below.
- If you and the target are stationary then you do not need to utilize lead. In this case it is advisable that you quickly "dump lead" (see below) by pressing P after you lase, then fire at the target. This ensures that there is a minimal chance or user induced error from a sudden movement of the sight before firing.
Once a target is lased and, if the target is moving, a steady track executed, the gun is ready to be fired. To fire the main gun press SPACEBAR or Joystick Button 1. The round will now be launched down range and the enemy will hopefully be rewarded with a quick and painless death.
Reengaging and Dumping Lead
If by some chance you miss the target, you should "dump lead" by pressing P or Joystick Button 3. Dumping lead essentially zeros out the calculated lead and resets the sight to zero. If you or the target is moving then once lead is dumped you need to put the reticle back on the target, lase, track and fire again. Also, ensure you have the proper ammunition type indexed.
If the TC changes the main gun ammo type (ie. from sabot to HEAT), you must select the new ammo type when the round is loaded by pressing INSERT, DELETE, HOME or END. This is referred to as "indexing" the round type. Essentially the gunner pushes the appropriate button on the ammo selection panel, which tells the ballistic computer what round trajectory to calculate.
If the gunner does not properly index the ammo type then the round will be wildly off target. If sabot is indexed and a HEAT round is fired then the round will impact short of the target. If HEAT is indexed and a sabot round is fired then you will launch a small unmanned sub-orbital mission.
- The easiest way to tell when you need to index a new round type is by listening to the TC announce "fire, fire HEAT" or "fire, fire sabot" etc. Another sign of when to index a new ammo type is by listening to the loader. Every time a HEAT round is loaded into the gun the loader will announce "HEAT up". If a sabot round is loaded following a HEAT round then he will announce "sabot up". Every subsequent sabot round loaded will only be announced with "up".
Fire Control Modes
The FCS on the M1 series tanks function under three “modes” of operation: Normal, Emergency, and Manual.
- Normal Mode: This is the default fire control mode, with the gun electrically slaved to the GPS reticle and the turret stabilized in azimuth. Normal mode is selected using the / key.
- Emergency Mode: Emergency mode is used when normal mode has suffered a malfunction or stabilization is lost. During emergency mode operation, the GPS Reticle is electrically slaved to the movements of the gun and all forms of lead and stabilization are disabled. When a target is lased in Emergency mode, or a range is manually entered through the GCDP or BSGT button, the reticle will appear to jump up or down in the sight picture. Realigning the sight with the target applies the appropriate superelevation to the gun, similar in operation to the TPD-K1 day sight of the T-72A. Lead is applied to moving targets manually. Emergency mode is selected using the . key.
- Manual Mode: Manual mode provides gun and turret control independent of the vehicle electrical and hydraulic power sources, and is typically used when these systems fail due to battle damage. Manual mode is selected using the , key.
Manually Inputting Range
There may be instances when the gunner must manually index a range into the Gunner's Control and Panel (GCDP). This may be necessary if a target cannot be lased through a smoke screen and another tank in the platoon has a good range on it, or the gunner wants to make an estimate, or for a variety of other reasons.
To manually input a range into the GCDP, look at the GCDP in eye view. The best way to do this is to press F1, move the view to the right then press F1 again to disconnect the mouse from the view direction. While looking at the GCDP, use the mouse to press the SENSORS button.
Once in the SENSORS menu, use the mouse to press the RANGE button at the far left.
In the RANGE menu, the computer will now display the range currently entered into the fire control system in meters (the bracketed number) in the lower left corner of the display. The ballistic computer is now waiting and ready to accept manual range entry, simply use the mouse to enter the desired range using the keypad. As you press the numeric buttons, the numbers above the bracketed range will update accordingly. Once you have the range you want, press the ENTER key at the keypad's lower right corner to index that range into the ballistic computer; DO NOT press the RETURN button before pressing ENTER, as doing so instructs the ballistic computer to cancel the operation, and it will ignore the new range you entered. Once the range is indexed into the ballistic computer, the bracketed currently entered range in the readout will update.
If you entered the range while the palm switches are depressed (which are always depressed by default unless you hold P or have a gunner control handle setup), the gun tube will elevate or depress as if you just lased a target, and lead will now be induced as well. If you do not want lead to be calculated after you entered the manual range, then simply release the palm switches to dump lead by pressing P or release the palm switching while entering the manual range into the CCP.
Practice makes perfect when entering manual range into the GCDP. At first the above process may seem cumbersome, but with practice you can enter range into the GCDP in about three seconds.
- The process of looking at and entering range into the GCDP simulates the fact that on the real M1A2 you could not and would not enter the range into the GCDP without also looking at it, otherwise it would be too risky as you may end up pressing something on the panel that you did not intend (such as LEAD, MRS, AIR TEMP etc).
Changing Battlesight Ranges
Although the TC can adjust the pre-indexed battlesight range when using the battlesight button, there may be instances when the gunner must change the initial battlesight range for a given ammunition type based on the commander’s analysis of METT-TC and other factors such as weather, smoke, or other conditions that reduce visibility. These changes are made through the GCDP.
To change battlesight ranges through the GCDP, look at the GCDP in eye view as as described under "Manually Inputting Range" above and press the ADJUST button.
Once in the ADJUST menu, use the mouse to press the BATTLESIGHT button.
As with the RANGE menu above, the BATTLESIGHT menu will display two ranges in the lower left corner. The top number is the range currently entered into the fire control system in meters, and the bottom number is the pre-indexed battlesight range for whatever ammunition type is currently selected. To change the battlesight range select the desired ammunition type on the GPS, use the mouse to enter the desired range using the keypad, and press ENTER. Note that both the battlesight and currently indexed ranges will update.
By re-selecting SABOT, you can see that the indexed range stays at 800m while the battlesight range changes to 1200m.
Note that the typical range setting (1,200 meters for sabot, 1,000 meters for MPAT, 900 meters for HEAT, and 300 meters for canister) should be used, unless the commander gives guidance otherwise. (Selecting a range in excess of 1,200 meters for sabot, 1,000 meters for MPAT, 900 meters for HEAT-T, or 300 meters for canister, at certain ranges will cause the trajectory of the round to exceed the height of the target.)
There are many different gunner techniques (aka. "ancient Chinese secrets") when dealing with gunnery on the M1A1. The two most common techniques are lase and blaze and lase, steady track, fire.
Lase and blaze is a technique where the gunner picks up a good track on a target for a second and a half or more then rapidly lases and fires (in a lase, fire one-two movement) as quickly as possible. The theory behind this technique is that a rapid lase and fire minimizes gunner error on lead calculation. The general tendency for gunners is to over compensate or change their track speed after a target is lased if the gunner hesitates when firing the gun. The disadvantage of this technique is that depending on how fast the target is moving and its range, lase and blaze may cause firing to occur before the turret fully "jumps" in front of the target to its proper lead position, but this should be a rare occurrence, especially if you time the one-two lase-fire at about a half second interval.
Lase, track, fire is a technique where the gunner puts / tracks the reticle on target, gets a good lase, then performs or maintains a steady track of the target for a second and a half or more. The gunner then fires once a good track on the target is achieved. The theory behind this technique is that after the gunner lases, the gunner maintains the appropriate traverse speed to visually see that a good track is achieved on the target with the dynamic reticle. This method has the greatest chance of applying the correct lead on the target, but the disadvantage is that if the gunner waits too long then the range may be incorrect when he finally decides to fire. However, the gunner can always re-lase the target to get a new range while he is tracking it, it just means that you may have to readjust your track which can cost life saving seconds.
- The successful gunner may use a mixture of the two techniques or perfect their own technique, but the most capable gunner recognizes when to dump lead, re-lase, and start the process over instead of firing and wasting a round, precious seconds, or blowing the element of surprise.
Gunner's Auxiliary Sight (GAS)
The gunner's auxiliary sight (GAS) is the gunner's secondary means to engage targets when the GPS is disabled or when the fire control system has a fault. The GAS is also the sight that the gunner should reference when determining whether the gun tube is clear of a forward obstruction (like a berm or ridge line). Press F3 to access the GAS.
The GAS sight has a fixed 8x magnification and is always aligned with the gun.
- When the gun is elevated and depressed the GAS sight picture will rotate. This behavior models the actual awkward behavior in the real tank. The behavior occurs as a result of how the GAS sight is hinged half way down the tube in order to keep the sight piece in the same place as the gun moves. As the gun elevates and depresses, the elbow pivots and the sight must rotate around the joint, thereby rotating the entire sight picture.
The GAS sight is fairly simple to understand. At the top of the sight is the name of the reticle that you currently have selected. Below this is a left to right descending stadiametric scale which is used to bracket a target and determine its range. The numbers at the top of this scale represent the range to the target in hundreds of meters. Below the horizontal stadia scale are the aiming lines which are used to determine the elevation of the gun once you determine the range to the target. The numbers to the right of the aiming lines are the range in hundreds of meters and the horizontal dashes (offset from the center of the sight) are to assist the gunner with estimating lead on moving targets.
Engaging targets with the GAS is not an exact science. It can require several rounds, a good deal of estimation, and "Kentucky windage" before you hit a moving the target, but stationary targets should be relatively easy to hit if the process is done correctly. The basic process behind using the GAS to engage a target is to select the proper reticle, estimate the range to the target, engage the target, make adjustments and reengage if necessary.
Selecting the Proper Reticle
The first thing you must do is select the proper reticle of the round which is currently loaded by pressing R.
- The sight marked "APFSDS" at the top is for sabot.
Choking the Target (Ranging)
After you have the correct reticle selected, the next thing you need to do is "choke" the target. Choking the target is the term used to estimate range to a target by using the stadia scale at the top of the GAS sight.
As mentioned, the numbers on the scale represent hundreds of meters. When estimating range to a target, the target is put in between the long horizontal line and the dashed lines above it (the lines just below the numbers). In the case of a fully exposed target, the bottom line is placed on the bottom of the vehicle (where the tracks touch the ground) and the horizontal dash is placed at the top of the vehicle's turret. In the case where only the turret of a target is visible, the bottom of the turret (aka. the top of the hull) is placed on the bottom horizontal line and the top of the vehicle's turret is placed on the dot (in between the horizontal line and the horizontal dashes).
Essentially, the target is placed within the scale at the increment in which it most fully fills the top and bottom of the scale. In the above image, the enemy tank is completely visible so the horizontal line and horizontal dash above the dot is used. The bottom of the line is placed below the tank and the top of the dash is placed at the top of the turret. The target fills the scale marked "20" so the target is approximately 2000m away.
- It is important to remember that the stadia scale is used to determine average tank sized targets. For larger or smaller vehicles (such as APCs or IFVs) a little bit of guess work may be required.
Once the range is estimated to the target, elevate the GAS sight so that the appropriate range numbers to the right of the lower vertical scale are even with the target in the sight. Next, if the target is stationary, align the target with the center of the sight marked with the vertical lines above and below the middle circle. If the target is moving, use the dashed lines to the left and right of center to estimate lead depending on the target's speed.
Continuing with the example, the target's range was estimated at 2000m and the target is stationary. The sight is elevated so that the target is even with the "20" on the right side of the lower scale, and the target is centered in the sight along the center vertical lines.
Once this is done, you are now ready to engage the target.
In the event that you miss the target, you should simply adjust the sight in relation to where the round hit and walk it into the target. You should not waste valuable time estimating the range to the target again unless the target is rapidly moving towards or away from you.
- If you have sabot loaded and you need to quickly engage a target that is 1200m or less from your position, do not worry about the range: simply place the target in the center circle on the APFSDS reticle and fire!
Gunner's Unity Sight
The gunner's unity sight is simply a vision block that the gunner has that allows him to see a 1x view through the GPS housing (aka. "dog house"). This sight can be useful if you need to see immediately to the front of the turret in a relatively wide field of view. Press F4 to enter the unity sight and use the joystick or mouse to move the turret around normally.
Key listing for M1A2 gunner's position
Weapon system commands:
P or Joystick Button 3: Disengage palm switches. Press to release the palm switches and disengage hydraulic power to the turret. This is done mainly to dump lead in the ballistic computer.
N: Zoom (toggle). Toggles between 3x and 10x in the GPS day sight and 3x, 6x, 13x, 25x, and 50x in the TIS (the TIS and daylight sight can be at independent magnifications).
SPACE BAR: Fire. Fires the currently selected weapon system (main gun or coax).
SHIFT + SPACEBAR: Master blaster. Fires the main gun via the master blaster (the manual fire control handle which generates an electrical current when the handle is twisted). The master blaster is useful for fire control system malfunctions where the gun does not respond or when electrical power to the turret is lost.
CTRL: Lase. Lases the target or area currently in the GPS reticle.
M: Main / Coax (toggle). Toggles between the main gun and coax.
`: 1st return / last return (toggle). Toggles between 1st return and last return LRF modes.
R: GAS reticle (toggle). Toggles between the APFSDS and HEAT reticle in the GAS.
SHIFT + B: GPS shield (toggle). Toggles the GPS shield (dog house doors) open and closed. This is useful to protect the GPS from incoming high explosive artillery rounds.
+ (num pad): TIS / daylight (toggle). Toggles between the daylight and TIS filter in the GPS sight.
- (num pad): White hot / black hot (toggle). Toggles between the TIS white hot and black hot polarity modes.
INSERT: Sabot indexed. Places the ammo selector switch on sabot, indexing that round type in the ballistic computer.
DELETE: HEAT indexed. Places the ammo selector switch on HEAT, indexing that round type in the ballistic computer.
HOME: Ammo type 3 indexed. Places the ammo selector switch on ammo type 3 (if there is any), indexing that round type in the ballistic computer.
END: Ammo type 4 indexed. Places the ammo selector switch on ammo type 4 (if there is any), indexing that round type in the ballistic computer.
LEFT ARROW / RIGHT ARROW: Manual traverse. Tap to traverse the turret using the manual hand crank. Tap the keys quicker to traverse the turret faster. Manual traverse is vital when hydraulic pressure or electrical power is lost.
UP ARROW / DOWN ARROW: Manual elevation. Tap to elevate the main gun using the manual hand crank. Tap the keys quicker to elevate the main gun faster. Manual elevation is vital when hydraulic pressure or electrical power is lost.
/: Manual mode. Puts the fire control system in manual mode. This essentially makes it so that main gun can only be moved by the manual traverse and manual elevation keys.
.: Emergency mode. Puts the fire control system in emergency mode. This essentially slaves the sight to the gun and disables all form of lead and stabilization. This is necessary when the fire control system suffers a malfunction.
- If the fire control system suffers a malfunction or stabilization is lost while in normal mode then emergency mode must be selected in order traverse the turret.
,: Normal mode. Puts the fire control system in normal mode. This is the normal operating mode for the fire control system and essentially slaves the gun to the sight. Normal mode must be selected to have a stabilized gun sight and lead calculation.
Tank commander related commands:
T: Identified! Tells the TC that you have located a target and that you are going to engage it. Essentially it tells the AI TC to leave you alone while you engage and forbids the AI from overriding you to another target. Use at your own risk.
I: I can't see it! Tells the TC that you cannot see a target or the one he is commanding you to engage. Essentially it tells the AI TC to override you on to a target that it wants you to engage.
Driver related commands:
W: Driver, move out. Instructs the driver to move forward (press again for increased speed.
S: Driver, stop. Instructs the driver to stop.
X: Driver, backup. Instructs the driver to reverse.