Part 6: Episode 7: Tanks for nothing, DICEEpisode 7: Tanks for nothing, DICE
Seriously, fuck vehicle levels in this game, post commentary because the level was too boring to show the whole thing.
The Weapons of Battlefield 3
The M1 Abrams Tank
The M1 tank series (currently comprised of the M1, M1A1 and M1A2) has been the main battle tank of record in the US Armed Forces since 1980. Prior to this adoption the US used the M60 tank series and some of that family served for a full decade after the introduction of the M1 tanks. The Abrams name is a tribute to the Commander of Armed Forces in Vietnam from 1968 to 1972, General Creighton Abrams. Why they chose that particular person is something only Chrysler Defense (now General Dynamics) can answer. The Abrams as become a bit of a military icon in the 30+ years it has been in service, appearing in dozens of movies, TV shows and video games. It has become what Americans think of when someone says tank. Much like the A-10 I described before, the Abrams didn't see full on war until 1991 when it was deployed in Desert Storm. Since that time it has seen combat in Afghanistan and Iraq wars and has had over 9000 units produced.
The 12 foot wide and 26 foot long tank is crewed by four people; gunner, loader, commander and driver. These four share space with a gas turbine engine (like a jet engine) that not only provides the power to move one of the heaviest tanks in active service, but also powers a fairly large electronics suite. Ammo for the main cannon and external machine gun are stored in a safe compartment in order to prevent accidental cook off of the shells and bullets, which would cause them to fire due to heat. One of the striking external features of the Abrams is the armor on the sides. If you look closely it looks like thick squares are attached to the tank. These are specially engineered ceramic plates encased in a metal structure (probably depleted uranium) along with several other layers of material and attached to a material that will allow for some shock absorption. The system is called Chobham armor, developed in the UK and first seen on the Abrams. Due to the use of this armor the Abrams is able to withstand shots from shaped charges and armor piercing kinetic weapons that would have disabled the predecessor M60 tank.
This isn't to suggest that the tank is invulnerable, however. In Desert Storm several were lost, but all through friendly fire incidents. An Identify Friend Foe system would be deployed to help with this by the 2003 Iraq invasion, where several more tanks were damaged or lost due to the Iraqi use of the RPG-29, which had a warhead that used a tandem charge that allowed penetration of the Abram's armor. Anti-tank rounds were the major threat, but a few weak spots on the tank, namely the treads and the space near the turret, were weak against explosives to begin with and if hit could disable the tank.
Currently in development is the M1A3 tank, scheduled for prototype testing in 2014 and an introduction before 2020. The details of the M1A3 aren't fully known yet, but there is a strong chance it will look very familiar and feature enhanced combat electronics and armor.
In BF3 the M1 of choice appears to be the M1A2, though it is only listed as the M1 Abrams when it makes a kill. The Abrams and the Russian counterpart T-90 are very similar in handling, though the Abrams can turn slightly better when at full speed and is shaped so it could possibly get underneath the T-90 when it rams the other tank. Outside of that and height they are functionally the same vehicle. Fire from the main weapon takes a few seconds to reload, and that is cut down if the player has the Autoloader vehicle perk. To make up for the few seconds the tank is vulnerable the driver can switch over to a coaxial Light Machine Gun or Heavy Machine Gun depending on the selection there. In the base tank there is also a seat for a second person who would man an independent LMG. The secondary weapons on the tank are only capable of damaging infantry, jeeps and aircraft, though they do less damage on the last of those than the other two it is still very possible and common for a tank to down the occasional helicopter with just LMG fire.
The Abrams can have a number of other perks, replacing the LMG/HMG with a canister shell that works almost like a shotgun for a tank cannon or a guided shell that allows the driver to lock on to enemy vehicles that have been laser designated and fire a guided missile at them. Once the tank has hit max level the player unlocks the Third Seat perk which is a permanent perk allowing the player to hop into any tank and gain access to a laser designator. This works especially well if the driver has guided shells selected as it will take some of the guess work on range and shell drop from the equation when the driver fires on other vehicles and gives a tank a chance to down a helicopter or jet. Other improvements include Reactive Armor, which will absorb a rocket or explosive on the sides and back of the tank before opening the tank up to normal damage. Proximity scan marks nearby infantry and vehicles on the minimap and is used by nearly everyone because one of the deadliest things tanks face in this game is a good support player with some C4. Zoom and Thermal Optics are featured in the video and are great for long range fighting or sighting enemies hiding in dark locations. Each player starts BF3 for the first time with IR smoke unlocked. IR smoke is the most useful and probably most used tank perk, allowing the tank to break missile locks similar to how flares work on jets.
A good tank driver is a major threat in BF3, some can keep themselves in the same tank all game with or without an engineer there to repair them. Tank vs. Tank combat is a risky proposition for either driver. Most of the time the first to fire will win if it is a head to head fight, but the winner will also end up disabled or near destroyed. If one tank is facing straight and the second tank has the side or back exposed to the enemy the tank facing straight will almost always win due to the greater damage done to the side and back of the tanks. Anti vehicle mines and dumbfire rockets are also a major threat to a tank, however smart players will test the ground in front of them with shells or the marking system before barreling ahead and dumbfire rockets take up to five hits to kill a reactive armor tank. Usually by then the tank driver has figured out where the rockets are coming from. Javelins are a good counter to tanks, but are foiled by the IR smoke. C4 will take a tank out with 3 bricks attached, but getting them on a tank is a difficult proposition at times. Jihad Jeeps, vehicles loaded with C4 or anti tank mines and then rammed into tanks and exploded by the driver are also an option for eliminating tanks, but a straight shot at a tank is generally suicide in and of itself.
Tanks are best suited to leading an attack on points accompanied either by other vehicles or by infantry, especially engineers, which can repair the tank if it is damaged. Keeping friendlies around the tank will help keep rocket and C4 attacks to a minimum and mean a steady stream of gunners and laser designators when others abandon their posts.
Terms of Battlefield 3
In the interrogation scene Blackburn states You OGA guys are all the same. Some may be wondering what OGA even means as it isn't exactly explained. OGA is a military acronym meaning Other Government Agency, generally the CIA. The term has some origins in Vietnam when the Special Operations Group, a CIA outfit, was deployed in the field working on sabotage and scouting missions, sometimes in the same area as Army and Marine forces were operating. The SOG had their own agenda, armament and chain of command, but would also be based at US military outposts. They weren't army, they weren't Marines, they were OGA.
Today that term has become fairly widespread in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as conflict areas like Syria, Libya, Yemen and Pakistan. The increased CIA presence in these countries through drone programs, special operations and sometimes full scale military assaults has led to conflict between the soldiers in the field and the agents of the CIA operating in the same area. In this instance the CIA and OGA are interchangeable terms, OGA agents and employees don't disclose their employer and so the OGA acronym is used despite the agents most likely being CIA. It isn't completely uncommon for a patrol to find a former OGA outpost within their territory that they knew nothing about. In addition to the ground presence, OGAs maintain a drone fleet that flies over combat areas and the airspace of countries near the combat areas. The Pakistan drone strikes of the last few years have gained particular attention, as they are part of a CIA program.
The OGA and military do work together on occasion, the raid on Osama Bin Laden was a collaboration between the CIA and Navy Seals, using CIA intelligence to run a military operation. In BF3 it is very probable that a veteran Marine like Blackburn had some interaction with OGA figures, which would help qualify the ...are all the same line he uses.