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.kju

[Looking for ideas] Tank combat improvement project

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While play-testing the Russian campaign of Iron Front (ported to A3), even me as experienced player

has very hard times to manage my own tank with AI, let alone other tanks under my command.

 

Looking back to OFP you could still have a great experience with these kinds of missions - notably also

as part of the official campaigns from BI itself.

 

So I started to look into why this experience has became so dreaded and to find ways to make it enjoyable again.

Now I am very much looking also for more input, different perspectives and ideas of your own how to improve things.

 

Note: This is about low tech tank combat first and foremost - aka no radar, no automatic target lead, no turret stabilization.

However most even apply to more modern tank combat within Arma (3).

 

The issues:

 

  • Tanks explode quickly, hence no chance to react when getting fire upon in the first place (note this might be different in plain A3 with tanks DLC damage system changes) - in OFP you usually were to survive 3-5 hits as heavy tank by other tanks (unless critical hits at very specific parts of the tanks) - you rather got damaged, injured, or disabled at times.
  • AI tanks seemingly hitting nearly 100%, while as player even when not mobile, its not easy to hit targets beyond a certain distance unless you are experienced and know how to operate the optics.
  • Large view distance in combination with AI spotting abilities/info sharing - in OFP it was largely actual visible viewdistance of 500 to 800 meter (to 50% for radar), so this limited somewhat the engagement ranges. Also what is easily forgotten that OFP terrains from BI were rather "steep and uneven", aka you could see not often really over large distance (and there was the micro detail option to make very bumpy terrain).
  • Hard to hear tanks or them engaging - in OFP you had good and distinct audio clues (tank engine, crushed trees/bushes, flyby and impact sounds, etc), also working over distance, that gave you some sense where the hostile forces are or from where you are under fire from.
  • Ineffective AI commanding as human player - lack of command cursor still present in OFP that helped assign target, assigning targets via command menu worked more effectively & efficiently (I think)
  • Broken AI pathing with support units (repair/rearm/heal) - in OFP AI trucks had some problems, but overall worked OK due to less complex terrains, and the armored M113/BMP variants made it even less of a problem. The radio system is somewhat limited and bugged in some ways, but it was working OK.
  • AI gunners not engaging on their own with the main gun (SABOT) hostile targets - problem exists since OFP though.
  • Assigning targets - in A2 or OA there was the option introduced to assign a target easily in 3d space via mouse cursor and the quick command menu, but it seems this is not present in A3 or is it?
  • AI tanks have issues taking out AT guns - no sure how this was in OFP. Yet AI has hard times to hit the gunner/crew and doesnt engage the AT gun itself
  • AI tanks not able to swap between AP and HE ammo (or rockets) - thus less effective against group of infantry, or to "waste" AP on light armored vehicles
 
Is there something not listed?
 
What ideas do you have to improve these issues (by configs or scripted systems)?
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AI tanks do not use their guns effectively. They tend to charge forward and fire from ridiculously close ranges, which ties into the greater issue, their pathfinding/movement. They constantly run around forward backwards or sideways, exposing their weakest sides to enemy fire. Many times they behave as if they're infantrymen.

 

 

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Not sure how helpful this may be present day, at current Arma 3 version's armored vehicles, but back in Arma 2 times there was piece of script created to replace unrealistic "hitpoint" system with actual penetration chance (by vehicle type, ammo type and hit direction etc.). It wasn't perfect for sure, also as for actual values used, one of the first projects, I scripted something for, but similar approach may help for example with how quickly tank explodes, how deadly for the crew given hit was etc. Whole thing was based on "HandleDamage" EH. IIRC, Iron Front had own scripted solution in this regard? Anyway, here's that mod (A2). 

 

BTW another way to make "tanking" easier is making it more arcade, without need of interacting with AI crew. Something like 3rd person view, WSAD/cursors for movement, mouse for turret control and firing. Not sure, if doable, even less sure, if desired though. 

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Few things on how to address them:

 

  1. I think ACE would be a decent place to change the damage model for the tanks to increase their survivability, they already have a framework for adjusting damage it just needs some tweaks for tanks and vehicles. Some of them are too tough at the moment as well.
  2. The accuracy of tanks is something I think I can deal within CF_BAI. I can take a unit and run through our subskill pipeline and if they get in a tank drop their accuracy down. This is basically what CF_BAI does, we fix the balance of the game being all wrong with the unit's skills. Whether this works or not is another matter because the big issue with explosives is that a miss might still be close enough to splash hit. There has been a consistent issue with RPGs and other such explosives used on infantry where it misses by 1m and hence just ends up hitting. Not sure how much more control we can assert on that one even with adjustments in the config for reducing accuracy but we can certainly impact it to an extent.
  3. CF_BAI/detect probably doesn't currently extend the spotting range of tanks properly but it is on the todo list. I think we can solve that one, it is just a matter of fixing the raycast to work with vehicles, the distance of vision extended and facing narrowed for vehicles.
  4. JSRS maybe could fix with some increased range of volume for tanks? CF_Woodland could potentially make a lot more branch cracking noise for vehicles moving in woodland, sounds like a good feature for it to have.
  5.  
  6. The AI runs into trees a lot and then they retry the same motion over and over. VCOM AI has been working on this for a while but I think it is mostly focussed on dealing with road transit. Do we have sufficient low level control of a vehicle to choose locations to move to? If so I think my new CF_BAI/terraincache might be able to help produce a performant pathfinding algorithm, I have considered using it for better cover finding for infantry and maybe we can use a preprocessing of the map for vehicle motion. Lot of pieces to test and work out on this one but it depends on just how much control we have and it is a big job.
  7. Enemies engaging from vehicles is a problem in general. I thought much of it was spotting due to the big reduction in distances BI did with tac ops but having fixed that with CF_BAI/detect it is now just a problem with them firing. There is a great video done by ShockNAwe that shows just how messed up it is with two opposing enemies just 30m from each other just sat there. I think it could, in theory, be scripted around by using the knowsAbout and assigning targets or perhaps a suppressive fire or doFire commands. Something in there might work to get them shooting. I am definitely interested in anyone who works on this as I want a solution, but I can also fix this and potentially make it a module in CF_BAI but we don't have anything like this currently.
  8.  
  9. The AI don't seem to engage vehicles that don't have people in them. Since a lot of the explosive stuff is never fired at troops on foot it is a good way to avoid getting "RPGed". This was purposefully changed by BI a while ago and not a change I agree with. I can't think of a nicely performant way to fix it beyond using nearestObjects targeting the other sides vehicles and shoot much like the solution to 7 would likely work. These two definitely go together as features and I can't imagine this is too difficult.
  10.  

I think CF_BAI with a few changes addresses some of it, it is open source so if you want to come give me a hand with those bits then more than welcoming of pull requests https://github.com/BrightCandle/cf_bai

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AI gunners not engaging on their own with the main gun (SABOT) hostile targets - problem exists since OFP though.

In A2 we used a workaround by letting the tank spawn with commander and gunner so player gets in as driver. With Ctrl+lmb you can fire on given targets even if you are in as driver.

Gunner needs command from the squadleader or commander inside the tank. But as you said its only for sabots...MG works well.

 

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1 hour ago, arma131 said:

AI tanks do not use their guns effectively. They tend to charge forward and fire from ridiculously close ranges, which ties into the greater issue, their pathfinding/movement. They constantly run around forward backwards or sideways, exposing their weakest sides to enemy fire. Many times they behave as if they're infantrymen.

 

 

 

One of the changes we made to GAIA in MCC in our branch of the mod changes the algorithm for vehicles so that they actually set a waypoint some 300-700m away from the target instead of just charging it. Somewhere along the line in Arma 3's patches, BI changed the behavior so they pushed on to the waypoint and it made all vehicles bull rush people. By shortening the generated waypoint we improved the charging in. The problem is they still don't actually shoot and they certainly don't face themselves well to minimize damage. Something like this algorithm is probably part of the solution.

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@arma131 Smarter tanks does this more or less: https://forums.bohemia.net/forums/topic/172270-smarter-tanks-script/

To go beyond that is quite difficult with the limited control we have on AI via SQF.

 

@Rydygier A3 deflection and penetration system is quite decent actually (largely thanks to zGbua from his ACE2, VBS and limited A3 involvement)

pre tanks DLC the "damage bleed" was the main issue (penetration caused damage on components not actually touched). thanks to oukej, reyhard and other involved from BI this is sorted too, yet requires adjustments to configs and to some extent models as well (we are still to do for IFA3)

overall the damage part is largely about configuration (config, model setup) and the desired system ("realistic" or "gameplay focus" or what other goal in mind) - plus lots of tweaking and testing

 

we also have one-man tanks in IFA3. they can help to some extent, but so does an autonomous AI gunner under player command (we have in IFA3 due to autoFire=1 and irTarget for infantry and all vehicles)

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@Muecke the underlying problem is effectiveCommander - when the player gets in, in almost all cases he will become it regardless of vehicle position or other factors

when the player is effectiveCommander, you need to order all AI aspects basically (except MG use against infantry)

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comments annotated in brown

4 hours ago, .kju said:

The issues:

  • Tanks explode quickly, hence no chance to react when getting fire upon in the first place (note this might be different in plain A3 with tanks DLC damage system changes) - in OFP you usually were to survive 3-5 hits as heavy tank by other tanks (unless critical hits at very specific parts of the tanks) - you rather got damaged, injured, or disabled at times.  => config rebalance + advanced scripted damage system (like mine) - nough said
  • AI tanks seemingly hitting nearly 100% => i have not tried AI weapon settings yet but they have AI specific innacuracy settings. try tweaking those
  • large view distance in combination with AI spotting abilities/info sharing  => How is that a bad thing? It's simply map design. If you got no jagged heightmap you need visionblocker objects.
  • Hard to hear tanks or them engaging => range increase is possible (bis did it with vanilla vehicles after all...)
  • Ineffective AI commanding as human player - lack of command cursor still present in OFP that helped assign target, assigning targets via command menu worked more effectively & efficiently (I think) => huh? if you have AI under your command you have same command menu (unless 3rd person view is disabled...idk if that removes it, but propably). Unless you mean something different
  • Broken AI pathing with support units (repair/rearm/heal) - in OFP AI trucks had some problems, but overall worked OK due to less complex terrains, and the armored M113/BMP variants made it even less of a problem. The radio system is somewhat limited and bugged in some ways, but it was working OK.
  • AI gunners not engaging on their own with the main gun (SABOT) hostile targets - problem exists since OFP though.
  • Assigning targets - in A2 or OA there was the option introduced to assign a target easily in 3d space via mouse cursor and the quick command menu, but it seems this is not present in A3 or is it?
  • AI tanks have issues taking out AT guns - no sure how this was in OFP. Yet AI has hard times to hit the gunner/crew and doesnt engage the AT gun itself => since when did OFP have ww2 style AT guns? if "crewisvulnerable=1" then tank wants to shoot MG at it... and if the crew is behind amored shield nothing happens - of course.  Maybe it wants to shoot MG because cost is much lower than HE
  • AI tanks not able to swap between AP and HE ammo (or rockets) - thus less effective against group of infantry, or to "waste" AP on light armored vehicles => there is a workaround with giving 2 muzzles to AI, one for AP, other one for HE + AP. Tried it once long time ago, worked in limited tests i made. Didnt check again
 
Is there something not listed?
 

 

Core reason why tank battles are a clusterfuck is that AI attack routine is the same like for a rifleman. Which is ridiculously inappropriate.  Riflemen close in on their target, until they killed it. Sometimes they run back, move to the side (to flank) and run towards the target again.  Vanilla tanks do exactly the same. So if they saw a target that hides (i.e. a player) and therefore cant kill it immediately, they drive at it (while shooting) until they are in face hugging distance. Then they cant shoot anymore, because they cant elevate properly. This needs to stop. Tanks must always keep their distance to enemies unless terrain commands it (urban areas). How to break this madness? Idk - maybe something can be learned from vcom and other AI scripts.
 
Also tanks never drive backwards.. with simple commands you can force them to drive in reverse, but you have to do path planning and path-checking via script yourself. Some other commands break simplecommands - esp. for AI tanks under player command (without player in it)

 

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8 hours ago, x3kj said:

The issues:

  • Tanks explode quickly, hence no chance to react when getting fire upon in the first place (note this might be different in plain A3 with tanks DLC damage system changes) - in OFP you usually were to survive 3-5 hits as heavy tank by other tanks (unless critical hits at very specific parts of the tanks) - you rather got damaged, injured, or disabled at times.  => config rebalance + advanced scripted damage system (like mine) - nough said

Have you implemented this in IFA3 yet for both tanks and vehicles and is it similar to the damage system IF used?

Very tired of the BIS 18 year old system... Also disappointed in the Tank DLC released, they should have went after the IF team to do a proper Tank DLC... flame suit on

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@x3kj thanks for the detailed response 🙂

 

In IFA3 we have implemented various tweaks already you mentioned - the reason I listed them is to keep the discussion and input open ended.

 

> AI dispersion

The flip side is that you get players complaining (their side's) AI not being able to hit.

I guess one could apply additional dispersion via firedEH when the player is the target. 🤐

 

> large view distance in combination with AI spotting abilities/info sharing  => How is that a bad thing? It's simply map design. If you got no jagged heightmap you need visionblocker objects.

Usually terrains are modeled after actual locations (and A3 is not that good with micro terrain that would help). I guess in general terrain designers don't think much about the consequences of their choice for long view distance locations.

Gameplay wise compared to OFP you are way more likely to get hit "randomly" by hostile tanks far away. Requires a lot of skill and awareness for good movement (if possible). So in the end, especially without radar, its pretty tough gameplay wise.

 

> since when did OFP have ww2 style AT guns? if "crewisvulnerable=1" then tank wants to shoot MG at it... and if the crew is behind amored shield nothing happens - of course.  Maybe it wants to shoot MG because cost is much lower than HE

My memory tricked me. Was from WGL (TOW, AT5, etc)

 

> they drive at it (while shooting) until they are in face hugging distance. Then they cant shoot anymore, because they cant elevate properly

This is sort addressed by Smarter Tanks mod (forcing tanks to stop when engaging targets). Overall one can script some behavior in basic fashion like this but beyond it gets too complex and too limited influence by SQF.

That said we disabled Smarter Tanks again as it made tank combat too static, "boring" and the basic logic failing in too many cases.

 

> tanks never drive backwards

seems quite complex to code a system when this is meaningful to do

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20 hours ago, .kju said:
  • Tanks explode quickly, hence no chance to react when getting fire upon in the first place (note this might be different in plain A3 with tanks DLC damage system changes) - in OFP you usually were to survive 3-5 hits as heavy tank by other tanks (unless critical hits at very specific parts of the tanks) - you rather got damaged, injured, or disabled at times.
     
  • Assigning targets - in A2 or OA there was the option introduced to assign a target easily in 3d space via mouse cursor and the quick command menu, but it seems this is not present in A3 or is it?

 

Good thread. 

 

1. I just loaded Operation Flashpoint Gold edition to test some things out. In regards to damage I did a simple tests. T55 and T72 variants generally take two SABOT rounds from a M1A1. The T80 took three with the M1A1 having comparable resistance by rounds fired from a T72.  In general this seems to match the rounds needed to kill by LAW and RPG rounds.   This test is done with vanilla assets, and not with modded assets. (When did we ever play vanilla). 

2. I think this is very important. While your comment is directed at A2, Operation Flashpoint had a massively simpler and less cluttered interface.  Assigning target was simply right clicking and could be done from any position (driver, gunner, commander). OFP also featured the intrinsically intuitive distinction between  point of aim and point of focus.  You could turn as quickly as you pleased-- shift your focus-- , but your point of aim would lag behind in accordance to weapon weight.  So a HK (mp5sd) or an assault rifle would be right on point.  A M60 or Tank barrel would lag behind. 

 

Edit: Another interesting aspect in regards to tank and vehicle combat is that wheeled vehicles were generally much less off road capable than tracked ones. Wheeled vehicles are simply bumpier and slower off road. 

 

- k 

 

 

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Screenshot

Here is a screenshot of the operation flash point commanders UI.  Noticeable elements: 

1. The 'dot' at central targeting reticule is the barrel position. This makes it immediately obvious where the barrel is pointed and whether or not the shot is aligned. 

2. Big thing is the 'radar' at the top of the screen it displays  known enemies in red, neutral targets in white (such as enterable buildings) and friendly targets in green.  It massively increases situational awareness. 

3. Notice that the squad bar GROUPS vehicles together. In Arma 3 this would just be a mess of soldiers with no indication as to which vehicle they belong

4. Top left shows the vehicle, turret and command turret alignment, with  current damage states.  I believe this is also present in Arma3 since Tank  DLC. 

 

Overall I felt much more informed and in charge of a more responsive crew in OFP. The on screen HUD elements also make it easier to determine where the gun is pointed and to target buildings or other incidental targets. 

 

-- 

 

I created a small scenario:  three mechanised infantry units guarding a large area with a four block tank platoon set to support.  Three NATO MBTs assaulting. Player was in command of the assault force.  I then played the same scenario, in OFP and Arma3. 

a. Formations.  Even though I picked a flat stretch of terrain on Altis the AI was unable to keep in a simple wedge formation. The vehicles became stuck and useless.  In comparison, I didn't even consider formation in OFP. 

b. The lack of turret indicator made it much harder to determine if a successful shot was even possible (ctrl + left click to fire) 
c. While my gunner called out targets it was basically impossible to spot these as commander.  Not only are target callouts sometimes reversed-- but lack of visual element made things impossible. 

d. Arma3 gunners are hesitant to engage with cannon, but laser accurate with MG.  (switching targets with uncanny precision) 

e. Formation troubles also affected enemy forces. And I found flipped AI tanks quite consistently. 

 

In short. My internal controls were more cumbersome in Arma3 and my AI wingmen were useless in Arma 3.  In OFP I would comfortably play as commander. In ARMA3 I had best luck playing as a gunner. This allowed me to engage quicker and at no loss of situational awareness-- the gunner has all the same camera and UI options the commander does. 

 

-- 

In regards to damage. Tank damage seem to be  very much affected by range to target. I did not perform a full test, but at closer ranges all guns seem to be one hit wonders.  The simpler modelling in OFP made guns consistent, but at loss of realism. 

 

-k 

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Reading but not participating.

 

Here is a WIP video on the sound aspect of tanks. LAxemann has been working on this for IFA3 in past weeks.

 

 

There are also loud sounds for no ricochet impact, so now you have no way don't lack of awareness  about being shot at by another tank.

 

Thank you all for your suggestions.

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16 hours ago, rowdied said:

the IF team to do a proper Tank DLC

Speaking of which, not specifically the IF team, but mostly referring to Iron front the game itself, Rowdy, Major Mayhem, as well as myself know this from experience using tanks,

that tank damage we find a bit more realistic to a degree in Iron front.

       Depending on the tank when it takes hits, most notably the parts of the tank will break off, like the skirt on the PZ4 H for example, other things like turrets blowing off if you hit the tank right.

Heres an Iron front session i recorded with 2 other guys, in the start of the video (intro) there were 2 tanks destroyed and their tops were blown off:

One of the things of concern and now referring to IFA3 tanks is that the tank tracks are to easily blown off, as Major Mayhem and a couple others had a short conversation about

tanking in IF and tanking in IFA3 he says the last he played, he spent more time fixing his tank then he did actually using it.

So tank penetration i think needs to be looked at, i mean its a tank, your not supposed to be able to disable/kill it in one shot, unless of course its a tiger vs a sherman. 😄

 

     Examples of course, since IF, IFA2, and IFA3 is all i play Arma WW2 wise i cannot comment on modern tanks.

 

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@ El Tyranos

 

Why not use just the sounds from IF that do this already?

They seemed to work pretty good.

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This shows some of the improvements we are working on.

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@nkenny great analysis and important points!

we will try to address at least some of these 🙂

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I have always wanted a true "hull down" feature.  I have experimented with setpos'ing a vehicle below the surface and quickly realized you cannot.

 

The notion of a hull down feature would make it so that you could better engage incoming tanks w/o needlessly exposing the entire turret, which almost guarantees a damaged gun/turret issue before you can really begin the engagement.

 

Perhaps there is a script solution that could force animate dampers?

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@.kju
The  looks like a very useful feature indeed. Three comments: 

1. Key-binds are, of course, trivial to change: I will note that by default CTRL+T is the LOCK CAMERA feature for targeting pods.  This new interface seems like a similar feature. 

2. Perhaps a special AI area-fire config can be used for MG fire? Often when designating 'quick' targets for MGs I simply want an area saturated with fire.   (Vanilla 40mm GMGs demonstrate this behaviour perfectly) 

3. The command interface looks very useful also from an infantry commanders perspective. When commanding AI troops I often find myself in need of a quick way to designate an area for fire. 

- It could be limited to binoculars only. 

- It could be enabled by the doSuppressiveFire command, but with a simple stance and line of sight check-- if failing that, simply target a building (or other terrain object) within reasonable distance. 

Especially [3] will add a universally applicable, and consistent element to unit command sorely missing in A3. 

 

-k 

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@nkenny 

ref 1) the keybinds are action key based, so for that it is actually "alt" + "LockTarget"

ref 2) fair point about configuration - best case would dynamic adjustment guess (but what key action suits and doesnt conflict)

ref 3) is the suppressive fire from the command menu too limited? or how it is to be different?

 

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doSuppressiveFire is far more responsive than the Suppress command from the drop down menu. Im not sure if maybe the latter times out too quickly and then they choose to just stop but it feels all too underwhelming. I use the doSuppressiveFire pretty liberally in my own AI mod and it really juices up the environment with alot more heavy firing including getting AT soldiers to fire RPGs at almost anything, tanks to decimate houses etc..

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The ai being too accurate ,especially against humans i worked around that by adding a mode for the ai only and adding some dispersion.Worked great.AI will miss players tank and hit a building beside player tank.Was great the towns were often leveled after attacks.:)

 

The sound distance issues should be an easy adjustment to the soundsets/shaders.

 

AI not using sabot might be to do with the cost values.try adding the cost value from the HE round and see what AI will do.

 

edit - 

The dispersion can be added in the existing mode with these lines.

aiDispersionCoefY = 1.7;
aiDispersionCoefX = 1.4;

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I tested the premise of my own 7 point about whether its spotting or firing and it is just spotting based. If a unit is revealed to the unit then they fire at it. So I think the entire issue with vehicles not firing is purely a spotting issue and I will go about enhancing how CF_BAI/detect works so that vehicles have long-range optical vision and such and do a bit of rebalancing for alpha2.

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@nkenny @.kju

concerning suppressive fire distance, direction/area, rate of fire and conditions when to stop.

May be you've already seen this vid.

 

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