Support by fire is a term that not many fully understand. It is closely related to Overwatch but serves a different purpose. While support by fire is, in a way, a type of overwatch it is a smaller component of overwatch by being one that is intentionally in position to provide direct fires onto the objective area or an area with enemies in support of a friendly element.
Most of us have been a part of a Support By Fire Element (SBF Element) or at least seen one without knowing it. Often times you will see a squad of infantry in a position that gives them a solid point of view over an objective and all they are doing is staying put and shooting at the enemy. This is a type of support by fire – they are there to shoot at the enemy, which indirectly helps out all of the friendlies nearby because the enemies no longer have freedom of maneuver in the area that the SBF Element can freely fire upon. A more effective SBF Element would be in place to provide supporting fires in support of a particular friendly unit.
For example: Alpha squad emplaces themselves on a hilltop overlooking a 3-story control point building. Their position allows them to fire onto the building and the avenues of approach leading up to the two ground floor entrances. They are at a decent distance. Bravo squad is approaching from a flank. Alpha squad can put a heavy amount of fire down onto the building to prevent the enemy from shooting out of it at bravo squad as they approach and shoot down the paths leading up to the building to prevent or at least deter the enemy from trying to enter the building once bravo squad has breached the building. This supports Bravo squad directly by denying the enemy freedom of maneuver and killing or at least greatly weakening the enemy that decide to brave the hail of gunfire that alpha squad is sending their way.
Setting up a SBF Squad
Ideally you’ll want guns. Lots of guns. Heavy Assaults are the bread and butter of a SBF squad. Engineers are handy to have to provide ammo but no more than two per a 12-man squad and of course a medic or two to keep the squad happy. Engineers can also be used for their Mana Anti-Infantry turret, however be aware that they do not move easily and become really big and easily identifiable targets. For really long range engagements, you’ll ideally want someone with some magnification for better spotting capabilities, this can be an engineer with a battle rifle with 6x scope.
Establishing an ideal SBF Position
The ideal position to emplace a support by fire element is largely common sense. It should offer a good field of view, cover from enemy fire, variable firing positions, and preferably a quick route that allows the SBF element to move in support of the friendly elements in the area.
While many are quick to go for the high ground, be aware that the high ground is a position easily identified by the enemy and often times does not offer good cover. You will also be silhouetted against the sky when being observed from below. This trade of increased field of view while losing defensibility. If possible, look for negative spaces that offer decent field of view. A negative space would be a depression, gully, ditch, trench, or any low-lying terrain feature.
The position should be at distance, which will help with security and give the element time to react if the enemy is seen maneuvering against the SBF element.
The SBF Element WILL eventually take fire so cover and security is important, too. The ability to duck below a rock or ridge to evade enemy fire is paramount to the longevity of the SBF element. Ideally cover should allow the SBF element to move around behind it so the enemy isn’t playing the MMOFPS version of whack-a-mole.
Don’t forget security! Having one or two to watch flanks is very important. Medics and engineers can be tasked out to do this. Prevent the enemy from surprising you from the side or rear!
Once in place, the leader of the SBF element should begin identifying the enemy’s avenue of approach, most likely course of action and all that stuff that OCOKA and MET3 cover. He should also be identifying left and right limits and giving any sort of structures numbers so that everyone in the element can quickly identify buildings by numbers – just number them off from left to right. The easy way is to get everyone looking downrange, the squad leader shoots at the building that he is numbering, tells everyone the number, then moves on. It takes less than a magazine to cover most situations. Quick and so easy a caveman can do it!
Once done there, the squad leader needs to assign focus areas for each person or sets of people in the squad. This way the entire squad doesn’t get tunnel vision. It is as simple as “2 through 4, your primary focus is from the trail left of building 1 to the left side of building 2 and your secondary focus is the gap to the right of building 2 and the cliff wall. 5 through 7, your primary focus is from the right side of building 1 to the cliff wall right of building 2 and your secondary focus is the trail left of building 1.” That should be a fairly clear mental image when overlooking two buildings that sit in a cliff valley. It also establishes overlapping fields of fire which brings in a form of redundancy while helping to mitigate tunnel vision.
Members really need to have discipline though and not jump out of their focus area unless called to do so. They must understand that they are assigned their focus area as a piece of the pie and other members are covering other pieces of the pie. If they start firing at a focus area that is not assigned to them, they will get tunnel vision and perhaps 50+ enemy will pour through their focus area uncontested!
Locked, loaded and Ready to Make Shit Dead!
The SBF Element is in position and there are targets downrange. Juicy targets that deserve to be shot… a lot! But is that what the mission calls for? Perhaps the other squad that is going to maneuver while the SBF squad is providing supporting fires isn’t in position yet to make their move. If the SBF element fires, the entire operation may lose the element of surprise. This is largely dependent on the plan and common sense so I won’t go into that.
The SBF works by a concept that is called accuracy through volume. Essentially, if enough rounds are sent downrange at the target, enough rounds will hit the target to kill it.
But you don’t need a target to shoot! The whole idea of support by fire is not necessarily to kill the enemy but to deny him freedom of movement! If you are shooting over his head or where he might try to go, he will probably not want to go there. So show him just how much you will ruin his day by shooting through that doorway he wants to come through or past the corner he is about to turn around. How many people do you know that would honestly walk into a hail of gunfire?
Keep your guns firing by making them talk! Have your shooters alternate firing, one fires in large bursts, when his burst ends, the next shooter does the same. This will mitigate the “everyone standing around reloading” problem.