Part 5B: Armored Web
As the previous post described the general arrangement, intent and function of the spaced array (aka: armored web, iron web etc), a couple games featuring them will be dissected in this second section. The most notable proponents of the format were the C4 and LGN squads, both featured in the first game.
C4 positioned a spaced array from the south spawn on Fort Despair (blue). A frontline IS-7 was used as a threatening brick in the cap area to coalesce enemy attention, and a backline Grille 15 was positioned with sight-lines on the flag circle, as well as the most likely routes of medium rushes on either flank (NW corner and southern Fort heavy channel). Obj140’s and T-62A’s were spaced in-between these front and rear elements with spotting in all directions and shooting lanes into the most likely areas of enemy concentrations. Offensively, the array provided for multiple angles of fire and sufficient cover. While spaced, the array also enabled rapid relocation and defensive support as required. LGN established two separated fire bases, the first supporting two IS-7’s as they probed the cap circle, and the second consisting of two mediums initially in the area of the NW corner. The formation offered both a strong concentration of fire and the flexibly to respond to changing threats. However, unlike on Canal there was insufficient cover to exert cap timer pressure without suffering unacceptable hit point leakage. Without knowing the position of the Grille 15, LGN were prudent in not pushing their medium platoon aggressively around the NW corner.
The teams jockeyed for position and shots in a cautious hit-point exchange over ~2:30 minutes, without either side gaining a particular advantage.
Independently and under camouflage, each team made a medium tank move to break the stand off, essentially simultaneously. C4 “untethered” three medium tanks in two separate moves. The first was a push by two Obj140’s through the southern Fort route to set up for side shots on the massed group of LGN at the cap. Coincidentally LGN had brought their northern two mediums back to their core group, perhaps with the intent to rush the cap area with a tankfist. The C4 flank picked off one of the LGN IS-7’s but as they backed off to hull-down cover a strong defensive secondary move by LGN with two mediums (dashed red line) cleared one of the flankers. During this phase C4 also adjusted the posture of their array by bringing the Grille to a peek-a-boom position at the broken wall, linking two mediums inside the wall, and later sending the Obj140 on the corner to an additional “untethered” position with additional crossfire on the bunched LGN group (dashed line).
This particular phase of play highlights some of the strengths and weaknesses of the armored web. Once an opportunity arose, C4 were able to sling off mediums rapidly to establish crossfire on a massed group. They had likely determined that neither flank was under threat from a LGN thrust, and therefore attempted to deliver an unexpected outcome-influencing blow. The timing of the move was particularly fortuitous, as LGN were still assembling but had not initiated a push through the cap area (if indeed that was their objective). For a moment it appeared that LGN had assembled a decisive tankfist that would in all likelihood burst past the blue IS-7 and wreck the weakened C4 array.
By untethering two tanks, C4 had left the central core of their web extremely vulnerable to a massed push. That it didn’t eventuate may have come down to a just a matter of a few too many seconds taken during assembly by LGN, or a brief moment of indecision at launch. C4’s flanking 140’s caught the leading tanks of the mass from the side and rebooted the looming storyline. LGN reacted perfectly with their medium countermove around the outside of the fort and the battle again reached a temporary equilibrium.
The final phase of the match kicked off with the launch of LGN’s delayed push through and adjacent to the flag area, with the rearguard medium platoon rejoining the main body. An additional C4 medium tank which had moved to assist the flank push from the central courtyard, joined the surviving 140 in a loop back to the southern part of the fort as it was called off. The remnants of the C4 web constricted inwardly in response to the main exchange which was building in intensity in the area circled in white (below). Importantly, what was left of the array kept both appropriate space and distance and generally did not collapse into what would then have become a swirling brawl.
C4 won what was a very close battle because (A) they had fared better during the initial exchange at the flag, (B) they executed their medium flank in the nick of time, and (C) they rebuilt an array in cover after the medium push was fought off and did not get drawn into fighting in the open area of LGN’s thrust. On the other hand, had LGN understood their local numerical advantage, seized the initiative and launched a tankfist at the 4 minute mark, it seems like it would have been game breaking.
A second example of the power of the spaced array again featured C4 (blue) on Fort Despair. Starting from the south spawn they set up virtually the same web against Pramo, who threatened the flag area en masse, with one spotter/flank defense medium at the edge of the courtyard.
At about one minute into the game C4 “untethered” a medium tank and moved it to the NE corner alone, where it eventually dragged one of the cap IS-7’s out into the open. C4 repositioned an additional medium to the rear of the array at the same time. Not able to contribute in its central spotting location, the Pramo medium was first moved to join their main body, then shunted to the outside corner of the Fort to support the isolated IS-7 against fire from the corner.
The decisive moment came when Pramo launched an understrength tankfist of four vehicles into the heart of C4’s net. Doomed from the start it stalled out under withering crossfire from at least 5 established positions. C4 also moved their Grille up and positioned their corner NW medium for additional angles. The relocation of the damaged Pramo IS-7 to the corner was ineffectual.
The murderous focus cross-fire took down all four tanks inside the Fort, as well as the IS-7 on the cap, in under 30 seconds of gameplay. The fate of the full-health FV215b was representative of the outcome of charging into the center of an awaiting array: it evaporated in 6 seconds of focused fire.
Converting to a mobile force, all that remained for C4 was to sweep through the Fort and mop up the two surviving enemy tanks.
In summary, the armored web is a strong and versatile strategy when employed by an experienced and disciplined squad. During the Twister Cup finals it was utilized by multiple teams on numerous maps, including Fort Despair, Winter Malinovka, Desert Sands, Canal and Vineyards. To be effective it requires appropriate spaced locations with cover and converging lines of sight. Of all the maps available currently in-game only Himmelsdorf would seem particularly restrictive to the strategy due to its tight corridors. An array is vulnerable to a concentrated punch, particularly if it has been weakened by team action at a distance. The flexibility of play enabled by an iron web, and the extreme degree of situational awareness that is demanded for its success, make it both a rewarding and challenging posture.