View Full Version : Thoughts on Situational Awareness

12-25-2004, 03:31 AM
Situational Awareness

Situational Awareness (SA) is one of the most important skills for a combat pilot to develop. Most discussions of SA tend to focus on defensive awareness, much like defensive driving. There are great offensive benefits to be realized as a result of good SA as well. Just as in chess, the player that has made the more correct observations and predictions of his opponent's moves and the positions of all the pieces is at a strong advantage.

In the martial arts of the Orient it is often said that the dreams of a master are the nightmares of his enemies. The meaning of this parable is that by visualizing and guiding our own actions and those of our opponents we make the dream, or planned result, become reality. To bring your opponent into your dream you must correctly anticipate and execute maneuvers, maximizing your possibilities while limiting those of your opponent. Without good SA this is not possible.

Components of SA

Background Data

SA begins before you even enter the server. From experience in the servers you know the relative strengths, weaknesses, and performance of plane types in different flight models and torque settings. You know the basic layouts of installations and safe heights and distances to avoid ground fire. You know the temperment and capabilities of many pilots in different plane types, including yourself. This background data is in large part why good SA is a learned skill. Most of it you can only learn through experience. This knowledge it essential to assimilate and integrate what is going on in the arena and what the possibilities are open to you in any given situation.

Usually passworded servers are private, although some are open to the public if you know where to go to get the password. Some servers are run by squadrons and individuals. These servers usually have "house rules" that you should ask about to avoid irritating others.

Sometimes the server name may indicate that an alternate flight model is to be used. Unfortunately this means that there is no assurance that everyone is using the same patch. Generally you should only fly in these servers while using the appropriate patch.

Often the house rules for servers limit what aircraft may use bombs or rockets, and have some sort of rules of engagement you are expected to follow. You are expected to follow the house rules. Most of them are simple, and often there is a web page available displaying the rules. !

Once you have picked a server that fits your interests, go in and check it out.

Levels of Situational Awareness
Once you have entered the game world, your SA will vary in quality depending on what is happening around you. You can only observe, process, and integrate so much data. Things closest to you take up more of your time and attention, and things happenning farther away are filtered out or just plain missed. The following list of SA Levels describe your SA state, from poorest to greatest. It is important that you take every opportunity to raise your SA level further up the list. Events will bring you lower, if you can learn the habits that allow you a slightly better SA state than your opponent you will have yet another advantage.

Oblivious. Busy chatting, think you are safe, not looking around.

Being fired on. When you are being shot at, usually you have little thought for other than the plane shooting at you and evading its fire.

Firing on an opponent. When you are fixated on a target, you are not looking around. Aimed fire takes concentration.

Nearby threats with advantages.

Nearby threats, you nor they have significant advantage.

Nearby threats/potential targets over which you have advantage.

Unidentified aircraft in the vicinity with apparent advantage

Unidentified aircraft in the vicinity, you nor they appear to have advantage.

Unidentified aircraft in the vicinity over which you have advantage.

Awareness of activities and dispositions of forces in your area but not yet within range of your direct observation (tracers in the distance, sirens going off or AA firing, but no visible enemies).

Awareness of activities and dispositions of forces within your sector.

Awareness of activities and dispositions of forces withn your sector and surrounding sectors.

Awareness of activities and disposition of forces within the entire arena.

Choose Your Engagement
Generally speaking, if you cannot dictate the terms of the engagement, or at least the merge, avoid it. Once combat begins there are a lot of things to keep track of, and your SA will rapidly degrade. By picking your engagements carefully you can minimize the time your SA is degraded and create some buffer of either altitude or distance from threats other than your chosen target. Even in our simulation most kills are due to poor SA, just like in the real aerial combats. Some simple guidlines for keeping "breathing space" so you have time for better SA are:

Forget "Honor" and forget "Fair". This is all about minimizing risk to yourself while maximizing the risk of your opponent. If they are complaining about your methods, then you are doing it right. It is not your job to make it easy for them, it is your job to shoot them down without losing your ride, too.

Do not fly to score kills, fly to survive engagements. Amazingly enough, if you get good at living your opponents will often end up dying.

The more advantages you have secured, the less your SA is degraded and the more your opponent's SA is degraded.

Work the edges of a furball or enemy formation so you may extend away from the threats if needed, or drag one away from his friends.

Plan ahead for your disengagement attempt: note the compass heading for friendly territories or friendly forces.

If you see unknowns or hostiles at co-altitude or higher, retain your advantages or attempt to disengage. The situation is changing and you need to re-assess it.. If your opponent fixates on you and it is a friend coming in, the opponent is going to be hit hard while his SA is low. If it is his friend coming in, you just saved yourself from getting hit hard.

Only a fool fights low, and only a total fool fights low in hostile AA machinegun range when not required to by the mission. Both of these actions take too much of your attention for you to maintain more than immediate SA, if any.

Since we are playing a simulation game, most of the pilots you will face have no fear of dying in the game. It is not uncommon to see a single plane dive into a group of the enemy. It is common to see that plane shot up and downed in short order. It is also common to see a whole group of planes dive on a single opponent, sacrificing altitude advantage. If you stay high and stay fast, you will have time to look around and assess the situation, which is what SA is all about.

Detailed Situational Awareness
More than just being aware of the presence of friends and foes in your immediate vicinity, you need to develop a knack for tracking their relative positions and energy states. There are many axioms of air combat that apply to maintaining SA as a key advantage. We've all heard things like "Altitude = Options", "Speed is life", "Low and Slow = Dead", and "You never see the one that kills you". All of these axioms describe situations where your SA is degraded because you are under immediate threat, or are in dire straights because you weren't paying attention.

Even in the one-on-one fight SA is paramount. Even if no outside interference occurs, you still need to be aware of your position advantages and vulnerabilities, and the energy states of yourself and your opponent. If your opponent gains energy advantage or position advantage you could end up dead very quickly. All it takes is losing track of relative positions and breaking the wrong way. You may be able to perform all sorts of fancy maneuvers, but none are safe when you are in front of hostile guns, or the maneuver puts you in front of hostile guns. If you are aware of your energy state and your opponent's, you can turn a slight advantage into a huge advantage by getting him to bleed it away trying for impossible angles. You can also fritter away your own energy reserves by too agressively trying to gain position.

Before engaging estimate how long you have before more bad guys show up, and make sure you get the kill or a disengagement before that time is up. The fight should be at least half over before your attack begins because you have thought it through. Of course no plan survives long after shots are fired, but by having a plan and a few contingencies you are already ahead. You can set a more liesurely pace for yourself, and still score the kill quickly. Your opponent, however, has a frantic pace and is kept in reactionary mode. This allows you to dictate the terms of the engagement. Secured advantages give you time to think, plan, and observe. They let you see the sucker plays where one opponent is high and behind the first, and immediately pouncing on the first makes you easy meat for his partner.

The Bottom Line

Situational Awareness is the processing and assimilation of information about the things and events around you. The better your SA, the better you will be able to respond to changes in the situation. Good SA does not dictate your actions, but gives you enough data to choose more effective actions.

Hope this enlightens you on SA.


12-25-2004, 04:01 AM
http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/11.gif Bravo viper bravo

Merry Xmas

12-25-2004, 04:24 AM
Yep I liked that, good read. At the risk of sounding a bit "big headed" http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/16x16_smiley-tongue.gif in my 20's I was a failry respected Judo player in my country (England) Your comments on situational awareness, because they are immutable are entirely relevent to that situation also.

Er,, yes,, I hear some of you say. Winning started a fair bit b4 steeping on the mat. Watching your opponent in previous fights observing which foot he leads with, how he walks on to the mat etc all give important clues. All you are doing is giving yourself an edge. I would say that all of the comments about altitude = energy = life, low = slow = death, are all to do with being "switched on". The greatest asset in any contest that any combatant has got is not his weapon, it's his brain. On that note your brain is just like a muscle, use it and it gets stronger, dont use it,,,,,,,

Merry Xmas all. http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_smile.gif

12-25-2004, 08:08 AM
Excellent points. Recommended that all newbs read this. I'm sick and tired of seeing furballs (EDIT: involving Yaks, Spits, La's and Ki's) at 1000 meters from my altitude advantage at 4-6k meters.

12-25-2004, 09:53 AM
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by LStarosta:
Excellent points. Recommended that all newbs read this. I'm sick and tired of seeing furballs (EDIT: involving Yaks, Spits, La's and Ki's) at 1000 meters from my altitude advantage at 4-6k meters. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

I am frustated to see that too... a bunch of hotshots turning down low, but I can only watch, there is not much I can do, until the furball is almost over (such as, when the victor try to leave the scene, someone being chased and by a long line of bandits, etc)

anyway, an excellent read. Bookmarked it already http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/25.gif

12-25-2004, 11:40 AM
nice cut and pastes, good info tho http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_smile.gif Merry christmas viper

12-25-2004, 12:42 PM
Excellent, Viper. Excellent.

But will the noobs listen? http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/16x16_smiley-wink.gif

12-25-2004, 04:59 PM
Yeah Lead Forgot to Credit Delta 6 on this one.

Common Mistakes I was in a rush wrapping presents last night you know. As for the other articles, they are cut and pastes. I just thought it applied well to what most are doing over here in FB.

Kinda interesting actually

Merry Xmas to you Lead as well