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Engineers and mines need some love


H1nd
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There was some earlier discussion on this subject in another thread ( http://community.battlefront.com/topic/119282-how-to-mark-mines/) and I thought that it might be a subject worthy of further discussion and hopefully we might get some feedback or response from the devs as well.

 

First of all I want to state that I'm by no means an expert in things related to mines or engineers and there are probably some vets here on this forum who have actually done EOD or regular mine disposal in real conflict zones. My perspective on this matter comes mainly from peacetime training during my military service in FDF (Finnish defence forces) and subsequent reservist training both voluntary and compulsory. As most have guessed by now I did my service in the FDF combat engineers service branch and I currently hold a rank of lieutenant first class in reserve so I think I got some things right during and after my service.

 

Now to the matter at hand!

I seriously think that mine warfare and combat engineering in combat mission series and especially in CMBS need some love in the future ("soonish" I hope) and indeed if I'm not mistaken something like this has been hinted by the devs and the recent entry of flail shermans to the normandy front certainly implicate that this is indeed considered a worthwhile (and doable) effort by the devs. Much kudos!

 

First of I will point the problems with the current state of mines and more specifically AT-Mines in CMBS.

 

-They are very effective. According to some old wiki entry a AT-mine square in CM has 2-3 AT-mines. They have on my subjective experience at least roughly a 50% chance to detonate and if you combine more mine squares (more depth) the probability ramps up quickly. Action square (or spot) is 8m in diameter and for example a t-72 has roughly a what.. 1m total? in track width that has to roll over a detonator usually size of your palm or even smaller. So the chance to miss is actually quite big! Naturally when mining a road it is easier to estimate the probable path of tracks to maximize hit probability. To put it other way, imagine tossing three 3-8cm diameter discs to a area 8mx8m and then imagine a tanks rolling through it.. This is why in real life you need lots of mines to have a decent probability to stop a tank. Now this problem is naturally for regular "dumb" AT-mines with mechanical fuzes. We have plenty of "smart" mines that need to "hit somewhere" in the width of a tank passing through the mined area. Smart mines are however far more uncommon and expensive in real life than the "dumb" ones and could deserve a separation from the "generic" CM AT-mines. Solution: Lower the QB cost and overall "hit probability" of regular AT-mines and introduce a new expensive type of smart AT-mines with high hit probability, fewer mines in square (harder to detect) and more devastating effect since many smart mines are Shaped Charge or EFP-types so they have a high probability of total kill.

 

-They are impossible to demine/clear/remove what ever word you want to use. Currently there is no way to effectively demine a AT-mine square in CMBS and this violates everything I have been taught about AT-mines and mine removal in general as well as the core principle and ethos of combat engineers everywhere: WE WILL GET THROUGH! There is a plethora of different AT-mines out there but compared to AP-mines they are generally a lot easier, faster and safer to demine. I will get back to this once we get to the actual engineers section but in a nutshell, even the most basic rifleman could in many cases simply remove the detonator or move the mines out of the way to clear a path for vehicles (unless it's trapped but we get back to that later...).

 

Then on mine warfare in general:

Mines (and IEDs) are a pivotal and important part on modern battlefield. They are dirt cheap when compared to all the high tech gadgetry that we currently have on the field as mainstay of modern armies. For a cost of a single MBT we can have thousands upon thousands AT-mines and in optimum situations this can lead to very very cost effective outcomes for the mine user. And while there are plenty of modern mechanized mine clearance vehicles and tanks out there, using them in the heat of battle will almost always puts them at risk of AT-weapons which will prioritize these special vehicles and tanks over anything else. So the mine is ideal weapon of a poor man. And I would dare to wager that given proper political will the Ukrainians facing a full scale land warfare with more modern Russian armed forces, would and should use all of their most likely plentiful stocks of cold war-era mines to even the odds. I can't say for the modern doctrinal approach of either side for certain but it is my understanding that WP-armed forces emphasized laying protective minefields whenever troops went  on defence, be it short stops in between attacks or after being forced to halt by determined resistance. So there should be know how.

 

At-mines are a crucial force multiplier in light infantry vs mechanized opponent type of scenario. And given the state of Ukrainian army I would once again wager that lot's of action would be between lightly armed volunteer and reservist formations against mechanized Russian forces. At-mines are the reason why tanks and especially IFV's should fear RPGs and other light infantry AT-weapons. Even APS equipped vehicles would be at a dire situation when immobilized or cornered in restrictive terrain with plenty of enemy infantry about. Right now in current state of CMBS light infantry has absolutely no staying power whatsoever which could be remedied to more realistic proportions by more abundant and realistic usage of mines. This in turn is not possible because of the two above mentioned flaws in current mine system in CMBS. Naturally the prospects of light infantry vs mechanized force are still, even with realistic mine fields, very slim and poor. But it would be far from the pushover that (ukrainian) infantry currently is in CMBS imho.

 

Just to give you a rough idea just how much a modern army can be expected to use mines:  Battalion of light infantry on a critical sector = ten thousand  AT-mines in the battalions AO. Thats 3333 CMBS AT-Mine squares. To do that now, even 10% would be utter madness and completely unplayable.

 

Now on to the engineers themselves:

 

We will have modern mine clearance vehicles. This I think is pretty clear since the appearance of flail shermans in CMBN. I know that US armor guys are itching to get their fancy toys and Russian and Ukrainians both should also have a plenty of tank based devices for quick "on the fly" breakthroughs through minefields. Mine plows and rollers should however not be 100% fool proof since there are plenty of engineer dirty tricks to wreck havoc on those vehicles. For example a simple delayed blast explosives made up of multiple mines stacked together, dug in deep enough and then triggered either mechanically by the plow or roller, or by remote control. Fancy plow and roller tanks will DIE when a stack of 100kg explosives goes up right under them. Trust me they do and even lot less should do the trick.

 

We should have engineers that can actually do something and not just be TOE curiosities. At the moment the engineers do have the "mark mines" ability which in most sense makes no sense at all since finding the mines is usually the hard part and disposal is a lot easier task. Marked AT-mines are just as lethal to vehicles as unmarked ones and when considering the "tossing three 8cm diameter plates on a 8mx8m area" example I mentioned earlier, it should be possible to move vehicles through marked AT-mine fields. It's still very risky but should be doable to at least some degree. More importantly engineers should have the ability of remove the mines all together in order to clear safe lanes through minefields. This should be possible even under immediate enemy threat if not "under fire". And there are plenty of real life methods for doing so:

-explosive removal: either by small man carried timed explosive charges (50g of TNT with simple time fuze). Just get the squad in, find the mines (mark mines) and then place the charges on top of each mine (as many as you got men) and simultaneously order to lit the fuzes and everybody runs like hell. Kaboom, you got yourself a cleared patch of minefield. Rinse and repeat until you get through. It's fast (as fast as you can find the mines) and leaves a terrible mess. You can't get wheeled vehicles through it unless they are ATV. Other methods of explosive removal include shooting the mines with heavy calibre rifles (visible AP-mines) and the all time "favorite" of all FDF engineers: the "putkiraivain" or more commonly known as the "bangalore torpedo" which is basically a tube packed with enough explosives to set off any mines within certain width (for infantry carried versions this is usually roughly 0.5m or so) in the mine field. It is very fast and very dangerous way to open up a path through a minefield. Squad of engineers will assemble the "torpedo" in situ from smaller individual sections and then runs up to the edge of the minefield and pushes the 20m-50m long bastardly (just try running for your life in woods while holding a 20m long pipe) device in to the field, everybody takes cover and kaboom! This path can then be widened by using smaller and heavier "torpedoes" spread evenly from the cleared path. All of this can be done in CMBS scale, takes anything from minutes to half hour but IT CAN BE DONE.

 

-Manual defusal/removal: Many mines, especially most common AT-mines have relatively simple fuzes that can be easily removed manually. However it is safe to assume that the opponent has been dirty enough trap the mines or has installed anti handling devices so that should you attempt to remove the mine you might get 5-10kg of tnt exploding on your face. That's why it is safer to pull the mines from their holes by using any sort of hook and rope. This way you can be at safe distance should the bastard explode when moved. Also most "smart" mines have anti handling systems built in so explosive removal is highly recommended! The key here is improvisation: Anything will do that gets the job done and not yourself or your mates killed/maimed.

 

So in summary: It could be reasonable easy to give engineers two sets of options after detecting a minefield:

-mark the mines and then have a possibility of manual removal. Both take more time but leave the roads and the area in general passable for wheeled vehicles.

-explosive "blast -like" command that either simulates the small charges = one tile at a time, or even better allows removal of multiple mine squares along a longer axis simulating the bangalore torpedos. Downside could be the extensive cratering which IIRC does already cause higher risk of bogging for wheeled vehicles. Naturally this is also faster than the manual removal but also tied to limited supply of explosives/torpedoes.

 

Now I'm going to end this wall of text here since it's already nearly 4am here in Finland at the time of writing. There probably was even more stuff I intended to write about but I think I got my concerns and wishes summed up in there somewhat nicely. Please do feel free to discuss the issue at hand and I would especially love to hear about other peoples experiences about combat engineering and/or mine removal both in real life as well as in the game.

 

 

Cheers!

-H1nd

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I too would like to see more attention paid to mine and counter mine warfare.  It should be possible to spot mines or at least the possible boundaries of a minefield if you are looking for them and know what to look for.  So yeah, it would be nice to be able to spot mines without detonating one.  As far as manually lifting individual mines and clearing a minefield by hand - that's just going to take too long to be practical in game terms.  Mine clearance isn't a task that is typically done in a slap dash and incautious manner.  That's why the game currently has the 'mark mines' command.  The intent was that you would have enough time to mark the locations of individual mines in order to help friendly units transit a mined location, but the actual clearance process would take too long to be applicable for inclusion in the game.  However, I do think that the use of Bangalore torpedoes, or whatever the modern equivalent might be, would be appropriate for inclusion in the game.  Even a Bangalore torpedo takes a while to prep and deploy.  It doesn't take as long as placing explosives on individual mines but it would still take a while depending upon how long a torpedo you need.  I don't see manual clearance ever being included in the game, but I could foresee a time where perhaps Bangalore torpedoes eventually make it into the game.  It has certainly been asked for in the past.

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I too would like to see more attention paid to mine and counter mine warfare.  It should be possible to spot mines or at least the possible boundaries of a minefield if you are looking for them and know what to look for.  So yeah, it would be nice to be able to spot mines without detonating one.  As far as manually lifting individual mines and clearing a minefield by hand - that's just going to take too long to be practical in game terms.  Mine clearance isn't a task that is typically done in a slap dash and incautious manner.  That's why the game currently has the 'mark mines' command.  The intent was that you would have enough time to mark the locations of individual mines in order to help friendly units transit a mined location, but the actual clearance process would take too long to be applicable for inclusion in the game.  However, I do think that the use of Bangalore torpedoes, or whatever the modern equivalent might be, would be appropriate for inclusion in the game.  Even a Bangalore torpedo takes a while to prep and deploy.  It doesn't take as long as placing explosives on individual mines but it would still take a while depending upon how long a torpedo you need.  I don't see manual clearance ever being included in the game, but I could foresee a time where perhaps Bangalore torpedoes eventually make it into the game.  It has certainly been asked for in the past.

 

We need one of these...

 

Edited by Raptorx7
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I see no reason why the current "magic demo charge" (which converts to a Bangalore torpedo for blasting wire, anyway) couldn't be given the single additional property of being able to Blast through an identified mine AS, using the same logic that lights up the "Mark Mines" movement command. Sympathetic explosion is already modelled, as anyone who's blasted some wire over a mine square can testify :)

 

I think H1nd is the first combat engineer to comment on this. Though he's a Finn, and baselining everyone else's capabilities on the performance of Finns is perhaps overgenerous ;)

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I see no reason why the current "magic demo charge" (which converts to a Bangalore torpedo for blasting wire, anyway) couldn't be given the single additional property of being able to Blast through an identified mine AS, using the same logic that lights up the "Mark Mines" movement command. Sympathetic explosion is already modelled, as anyone who's blasted some wire over a mine square can testify :)

 

I think H1nd is the first combat engineer to comment on this. Though he's a Finn, and baselining everyone else's capabilities on the performance of Finns is perhaps overgenerous ;)

Perhaps, but it is probably worth noting that a Bangalore Torpedo only clears a one meter wide path.  Each torpedo section is 1.5 meters long and weighs thirteen pounds.  That's too narrow for vehicles to pass safely, but it allows infantry to pass.  If you consider a full 8 meter by 8 meter action spot it also means that it would take between five and six sections to create an 8 meter long by 1 meter wide path through a one action spot minefield.  There are ten sections in a Bangalore kit so if you used five sections you could theoretically create a two meter wide path, although I think officially 'lanes' through a minefield are considered to be either four or eight meters.  The push team is supposed to put a dummy 'stick' section at the front of assembled sections so that when the push team pushes the Bangalore into the minefield the entire torpedo won't explode if a mine is hit during the deployment process.  Naturally the pushing process would be a delicate one for those involved, aside from the fact that the torpedo has to be assembled to the appropriate length from a position near the minefield and the charge has to be prepped after the torpedo is deployed.  So I guess what I'm putting forth is that it would take several minutes, like maybe twenty to thirty minutes, to clear an infantry path through a single minefield action spot.  Doing it right in game terms would also require a bunch of new animations.  So I'm not actually sure how different it would be from the marking mines command.  The mark mines command is probably done more quickly than it would in reality as well so .... not sure anymore if it would be a net benefit from a practical standpoint.

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The very same could be said about breaching a bocage berm with a gap wide enough to drive a tank through. IRL, that takes rather a lot of explosives, buried and tamped, yet in-game can be done with something that can potentially be thrown, or used to breach a wall without demolishing an entire building.

 

And I believe your estimate for the time take to make a breach is quite a bit over. H1nd has at least been trained to do this: he thinks it's practicable once the enemy aren't shooting at you. And if whatever-the-pTruppe-Engineers-use-to-breach-the-wire is capable (as it is, in-game) of sympathetically detonating any and all the mines in the AS that they're breaching, then the technical capacity already exists in the engine. Engineer tasks in-game are, currently, wildly accelerated (it takes 15s to do any of their breaching operations, at Regular experience) for gameplay purposes: why should mine clearance be a special case of exemption to this?

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http://www.puolustusvoimat.fi/wcm/dfdf85004bf07887a340afb38cb068d4/_MG_7464.jpg?MOD=AJPERES&CACHEID=dfdf85004bf07887a340afb38cb068d4

 

Here is a good picture of FDF engineer squad moving with assembled bangalore torpedo. As you can see the men are indeed running with the thing and from that moment it only takes minutes to have breach through minefield. And like I mentioned earlier it is not a particularly hard task to widen the gap. Good training is naturally a key part to the speed of such operation. We drilled this a lot. I mean we spent entire days and weeks just to get this stuff going fast enough. But once trained well it can be done very quickly.

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Have "Hedgehog Obstacles" not made it into BS?

 

On considering it further, I'm a little bit surprised they're available to buy in QBs, since they are indestructible, and can be used to deny road transport anywhere in the defender's setup zone... Certainly something to consider; they're a bit expensive, and they won't kill any vehicles, but if you want to stop tanks crossing a bridge, or make roads difficult to use, they're very effective, and all you can do is find another way.

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Have "Hedgehog Obstacles" not made it into BS?

 

On considering it further, I'm a little bit surprised they're available to buy in QBs, since they are indestructible, and can be used to deny road transport anywhere in the defender's setup zone... Certainly something to consider; they're a bit expensive, and they won't kill any vehicles, but if you want to stop tanks crossing a bridge, or make roads difficult to use, they're very effective, and all you can do is find another way.

 

Just barbed wire and sandbag walls, as far as I can tell. If I'm doing something wrong here and there are hedgehogs, logs, dragon's teeth, etc. available, by all means, please tell me.

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http://www.puolustusvoimat.fi/wcm/0631ec004bf06cf0a25aaeb38cb068d4/_MG_7450.jpg?MOD=AJPERES&CACHEID=0631ec004bf06cf0a25aaeb38cb068d4

 

another image from different angle. Looks like this one is right after assembly. Sadly there are no good vids around that would better demonstrate the speed of whole ordeal :)

Nice pics.  Just out of curiosity, but do Finnish engineers typically use an electrical firing system or a non electric firing system or do you have both available?

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Nice pics.  Just out of curiosity, but do Finnish engineers typically use an electrical firing system or a non electric firing system or do you have both available?

 

Yes, we have both. In the case of bangalore torpedo we used a non electric firing system. I don't have the correct english name for the system but it is made of a detonator connected to a 0.5cm diameter plastic tube filled with "mild explosive" powder which in turn is ignited by a spark device on the other end of the plastic tube. It's very reliable system.

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150+ ammo from arty certainly does kill off AT-mines. However I ran some tests using russian precision strikes and they simply were not effective enough. It often took several 3 round strikes just to kill one mine square. USA precision strikes might do better but it's certainly very expensive way to clear them. 

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nonel this was the detonator stuff for bangalore torpedos and many other stuff as well like claymores. Very handy and easy to use.

 

One way to simultaneously detonate multiple mines at once is to connect small 50g tnt charges with detonating cord and then set it of with timed fuze detonator or any other detonator like nonel or electric detonators. This is very fast way to clear "AT-mine only" mine fields and could be represented by the "magic demo charges" already in the game. Each engineer can be reasonably be expected to carry 10 to 20 of these explosives already attached to detonation cord. Squad leader carries a longer "master cord" that can be simply connected to the explosives by tying knots. Once the charges are in place and the "detonation field" is complete, whole set of mines can be detonated in timely manner. 8-9 man engineers squad could easily do this to 20 identified mines at a time which equals to roughly 6-7 at-mine squares in Combat mission. Enough to get you through a pretty deep mine field.

 

Mixed minefields are whole another thing.. ap mines are very nasty things and many eastern jumping "ap" mines are actually powerful enough to destroy soft skinned vehicles on a good distance and naturally a lot of exposed infantry. One particular type of Yugoslavian jumping ap mine was powerful enough to actually damage lightly armored vehicles. This is a whole another subject in it self... CM ap-mines are in general pretty harmless compared to real life stuff and for example claymores in some form or another could make an interesting addition to the game. But personally i'm fine with the current ap-mine mechanics.

Edited by H1nd
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Its only logical to have mine clearing vehicule in a highly mech warfare zone! And the mine modification is the solution to my light inf probs! Im behind 100% this thread! If anything, mines are the things i hates the most in combat misdion (that i otherwise love to death! )

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Thanks for everyone on commenting and support or critique! I will try to post a case study later this week to demonstrate possible tactical usages of mines in combination of infantry at-weapons and artillery. Nothing too specific since some of the stuff I know could be "semi classified" but to mainly offer a look into just how many mines can be expected to stop a tank etc etc.

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