Feature #14454

Simulate laser guidance by helicopter weapons (like Hellfire for AH-64 Apache and AH-1Z Cobra)

Added by ricnunes over 6 years ago. Updated about 4 years ago.

Status:Assigned Start date:10/16/2010
Priority:Normal Due date:
Assignee:- % Done:


Target version:-
Affected ArmA II version: First affected ArmA II version:
Reproduced by another DH user:No Single / Multi Player?:
I am using some Mods:No BIForumURL:
I am using: NGUrl:
Reproducible for you:No WIKIurl:
Related to content of DLC:


  • Better gameplay (no simple tab lock)
  • Promotes teamwork (LD observer team lasing for chopper targets)
  • With the recent engine changes and fixes this is possible now

Disable manual lock for Hellfire (in veteran + expert with canLock = 1 ref #27763).
This is to disable the standard and basic locking system to make laser lock needed,
but give SP/new players the ability to continue to play with the simple system.

Simple player solution
1) Make Hellfire manually guided by the gunner (manualControl = 1)
(may also need some tweaks to flight characteristics to be able to guide it nicely)
2) Add Laserdesignator_mounted to the gunner.

Advanced solution to work an AI gunner with human pilot
The AI is unable to guide Hellfires on targets as delayed locking system interferes
with canLock = 1 and the AI is unable to get a lock on targets.
This is despite a human pilot is able to command the AI to target vehicles (via 2 menu).
Even better would be to get a command cursor back like in OFP to designate targets also this way (ref #13218)

Note: AI only chopper works regardless of canLock setting.

Original text

Improve the Hellfire and other Helicopter lauched missile guidance system

Currently in ArmA2/OA the aircraft that uses the Hellfire missile (Apache and AH-1Z) can only lock hellfire missiles on active (engine on) vehicles autonomously by using the TAB key.

This is not how the Hellfire missile works in real life - In real life the Hellfire locks into a laser that is aimed by the gunner of the gunship helicopter and that laser can be aimed anywhere (thru the helicopter optical targeting system).
A laser can even be locked into a spot on the ground or even at an enemy aircraft and currently this can only be done thru help of an infantry soldier equipped with laser designators or the an ULB - But an Apache or AH-1Z cannot do this autonomously.
A similar situation also happens with other helicopters such as the Mi-24 where its missiles are manually guided by the gunner but in the game only active vehicles can be engaged by using the TAB key.

  1. Add the manual guidance ability for the Hellfire and other helicopter guided missiles (Falanga, Shturm, Attaka, Vikhr, etc..) modeled in the TOW and Dragon AT missiles (and others)
  2. This would give the gunship helicopter a manual guidance/designation capability for its missiles and would allow a more realistic employment of such weapons and would also give the gunship helicopters the REALISTIC ability to for example, engage infantry soldiers or structures with their guided missiles.
  3. The TAB lock function could be kept as well since it somehow models the autotrack function (even not realistically) present in some helicopter optical targeting system (specially in the Apache, AH-1Z and Ka-52 systems) and/or could be useful if the pilot is human and the gunner AI.

Related issues

related to ARMA2 Community Issue Tracker - Feature #5750: more realistic fire control for missiles Assigned 11/08/2009
related to ARMA2 Community Issue Tracker - Feature #27763: Disable locking of all non guided weapons with AutoGuideA... Assigned 01/13/2012
related to ARMA2 Community Issue Tracker - Feature #13218: Add cursor to driver/pilot view in vehicles like in OFP t... Assigned 08/23/2010
related to ARMA2 Community Issue Tracker - Bug #12025: Cannot mark targets with laser as gunship gunner when mis... Closed 07/15/2010 04/01/2012
related to ARMA2 Community Issue Tracker - Feature #11088: Manually controlled (LOS riders) missiles simulation Duplicate 06/08/2010
related to TOH Community Issue Tracker - Bug #29706: SACLOS guidance unrealistic New 03/26/2012
related to ARMA2 Community Issue Tracker - Bug #4812: Missiles don't lead moving optical/laser targets Assigned 09/22/2009
related to ARMA2 Community Issue Tracker - Feature #10452: Expand IR laser simulation Assigned 05/03/2010
related to ARMA2 Community Issue Tracker - Feature #28784: Realistic rangefinders Assigned 02/19/2012
related to ARMA2 Community Issue Tracker - Feature #2251: Improve radar and friend-foe-identification (IFF) simulation Assigned 06/24/2009
related to ARMA2 Community Issue Tracker - Feature #27346: Equip more vehicles with a laser weapon - Laser FCS (Firi... Assigned 12/25/2011
related to ARMA2 Community Issue Tracker - Feature #50107: Make laserLock and nvLock independant to canLock. Assigned 09/15/2012
related to ARMA2 Community Issue Tracker - Feature #11671: Laser beam end to glow where it hits the ground. Assigned 07/04/2010
related to ARMA2 Community Issue Tracker - Feature #13283: Laser Designator/SOFLAM IR Beam Assigned 08/26/2010
related to ARMA2 Community Issue Tracker - Feature #64105: Should Hellfire get manual control in addition? Or only a... Feedback 11/11/2012
duplicated by ARMA2 Community Issue Tracker - Feature #27864: Real Manual Laser guidance for Hellfire AGM114K (AH64D an... Duplicate 01/16/2012


Updated by kju over 6 years ago

  • Status changed from New to Assigned

Updated by Fireball over 6 years ago

I would make this ticket even strictly regarding the laser lock-on missiles. TOW and Dragon aren't laser guided.

How about:

- Add a laser designator to the helicopters which is active at the same time when laser-guided missiles are selected
- Make laser-guided missiles beam riders (I think they are already marked as such)

That method also includes available in-game features (only slight engine tweaking needed) and it would even increase immersion.

Updated by ricnunes over 6 years ago

I know perfectly that the TOW and Dragon aren't laser guided.
But in real life the laser that guides the laser guided missiles is aimed thu a crosshair in an optical targetting camera. So in real life what a gunner sees is:
1- aims the crosshair in a targetting camera at the target.
2- Fire the missile.
3- keep the crosshair aimed at the target until the missile impacts on target.

And this is common for both laser guided missiles (such as the Hellfire) and wire guided missiles (such as the TOW and Dragon).
The solution that I proposed isn't perfect but IMO it's still much more realistic than what we have now and IMO this solution is very simple to implement by BIS as opposed to a more perfect one such as the one you proposed which BTW I agree.
It would be great to implement a solution that you proposed but I remember to have read that the current ArmA engine versions don't support self-laser designation (you can't lock your own laser targets). So my solution could be considered as fast stop-gap solution until a more realistic solution and engine capability arrises!

Updated by cyrilator about 5 years ago

Why not to implement in vanila version the same Laser guidance than in ACE ? problem resolved.

In fact ACE resolve nearly every issues like that.

ACE shouldn't be considered as a mod, but as a fix !

This is why I consider it should be directly incorporated into an official BIS patch.

Updated by ricnunes about 5 years ago

I tested the latest Beta versions (the latest being v88279) and I'm glad to notice that most of the issues that were posted in this ticket by me were already solved/addressed/implemented. For example, if the player is playing as an Mi-24 or Ka-52 and fire a guided missile (Falanga, Shturm or Vikhr) that the missile will now follow the gunner's crosshair!
Also, if the Apache (and perhaps the AH-1Z as well) has a Laser Designator added by the mission designer/builder it's possible to turn the Laser Designator to ON and when changing to Hellfire missiles the laser target can be locked and the laser marker can be aimed by the gunner's crosshair (now the laser designator on the Apache will always follow the gunner's crosshair).

So and in order for this issue to be considered as "Completed", I would sugest/ask that the Laser designator is implemented by default in the AH-64 Apache and AH-1Z Cobra helicopters.

Updated by cyrilator about 5 years ago

the problem is, despite of manual laser designator introduction in Hind and KA52, which is a very good step, the pilot/shooter can still autolock target using tablock, even without gunner onboard, or even if missile guidance shouldn't allow fire and forget launch (Laser hellfire, Schturm, Metis, Dragon..)

the right click autolock system must be only allowed for fire and forget missiles (Javelin, AGM114-L, and Vikhr). and removed for manual missile guidance (wire, laser, or radio guided systems).

this issue is since OFP, it's one of the first thing to fix for a war simulation where weapon system have a predominant role.

Updated by kju over 4 years ago

  • Subject changed from Improve the Hellfire and other Helicopter lauched missile guidance system to Simulate laser guidance by helicopter weapons (like Hellfire for AH-64 Apache and AH-1Z Cobra)
  • Description updated (diff)
  • CPU deleted (E7500)
  • Audio card deleted (Please specify!)
  • Size of OS swap file deleted (Please specify!)

Updated by ricnunes over 4 years ago


The Vikhr is NOT and NEVER WAS a fire and forget weapon! The Vikhr is a LASER GUIDED missile!

While I agree in that missiles that aren't fire and forget and have SACLOS guidance such as the Vikhr,
Laser guided Hellfire (AGM-114K), Sturm, Ataka, TOW, etc... should never have a fire and forget capability
BUT not sure I agree with the removal of TAB locking.

The matter with TAB locking is that it's the only way that I can think of in order to reliably order a gunner AI (being the human player the pilot) to lock something! Pressing TAB is just like order the gunner: "Lock the next available target".

I would prefer that you can still lock a target using the TAB key and fire against it but if you fire a non-fire and forget weapon (such as the Laser Hellfire) and if you change the target (by pressing the TAB key again) before the missile actually hits the intended target than this missile would follow the new target instead of hitting the previously locked target and thus having the much lesser change to hit the newly designated target since the missile would already used much of its fuel and therefore could not be able to manouver in order to hit the new target. Resuming, eliminate the fire and forget capability of missiles that doesn't have this capability in real life but not the TAB locking itself.

Updated by kju over 4 years ago

ricnunes the problem is this:

Overall is must work for AI only crew, AI gunner or human gunner.
The currently most simple solution is canLock=1 to limit locking to higher difficulty.

A command cursor for the pilot/driver/commander, like in OFP, to designate targets would be the best way (ref #13218).

If you keep TAB lock, everyone will just put AI as gunner and never do two/three man crew vehicles.
So TAB lock has to go - except for very few specific vehicles/weapons (like planes or AAA vehicles with such technology).

The rest must work with RMB designate target - both as gunner yourself or to command an AI gunner.

Updated by cyrilator over 4 years ago

ricnunes wrote:


The Vikhr is NOT and NEVER WAS a fire and forget weapon! The Vikhr is a LASER GUIDED missile!

The Vikhr is a Laser beam Rider with auto-tracking capability.

meaning that once the target have been designated by the laser designation system, an autotracking system keep aiming to the target, so the gunner doesn't need to aim himself to the target until impact.

ingame, since the laser painting is automated it behave mostly like a fire and forget weapon.

this is also why the Vikhr has the capacity to engage air targets.

Updated by ricnunes over 4 years ago


Sorry, but have your facts wrong:

1- First, "auto-tracking capability" has nothing to do with "fire and forget" and nothing to do with the missile itself! "Auto-tracking capability" regarding the Vikhr means that the optical aiming device/camera which is called the 'Shkval' (which equips the Ka-50 and Ka-52) is capable of following a target automatically (keeping the "crosshair" aimed towards the target automatically) and thus keeping the laser aimed at the target. This is a capability that the TADS which equips the Apache or the TSS that equips the AH-1Z also have (does this mean that the Laser Hellfire has "fire and forget" capability? Of course not!). And BTW, the "auto-tracking capability" is a capability that most if not all modern optical tracking systems currently have!

2- "Fire and Forget" capability means that you can lock one target and fire and then lock another target and fire before the first missile reaches or hits the first target, resuming with Fire and Forget each missile is capable of flying towards each target independently and almost at the same time. Laser guided weapons do NOT have Fire and Forget capability! This capability exists on Active radar guided or IR guided weapons (such as the Radar Hellfire or the IR Maverick missile for example). If you fire against a target using the Vikhr missile and then lock another target what will happen is that the first launched Vikhr will try to follow the second target and never the first one.

3- The Vikhr's capability to engage air targets has nothing to do with auto-tracking capability! Any SACLOS weapon could potentially be used against air targets (you just need to aim the 'crosshair' at the air target), of course the missile may not have enough range, speed or agility to reach the air target but that's another story. For example, the Hellfire is just as capable of engaging air targets as the Vikhr is. Actually the Hellfire already managed one confirmed air-to-air kill in a combat scenario a thing that the Vikhr never did.

4- This is important in order to dispell myths: the only thing that the Vikhr has diferent regarding air-to-air capability compared to other laser guided or air-to-ground missiles such as the Hellfire is that the Vikhr has an air-to-air mode and this mode only does ONE THING which is to activate a proximity fuse which in theory gives a better change of hitting moving air targets (compared to the contact detonator only on the Hellfire missile, for example). The Vikhr's air-to-air mode does NOTHING else on the missile (it doesn't change its flight profile or its guidance system, for example)!

Anyway, again in order to dispel miths such as the Vikhr's air-to-air capability and/or autotracking capability I advise anyone interested in playing DCS KA-50! This is considered the most realistic helicopter sim ever made until today and you'll see that apart from the Air-to-Air mode which only activates the Vikhr's proximity fuse the Vikhr and Shkval optical system are actually more rudimentary than the Apache Hellfire and TADS optical system, including in autotracking capabilities/functions.

Updated by ricnunes over 4 years ago


Yes, I completly agree with the "right mouse button" click on the target in order to lock it but would this affect the AI gunner? I mean how do you as a pilot would order an AI gunner to lock a target? By using the the radio-target command, perhaps? But wouldn't this be same or similar as simply using the TAB key until you get the desired target?

If you remove any AI gunner lock target capability than what's the purpose of flying with an AI gunner like happens very frequently in Multiplayer (namely in Co-Op) or ALWAYS in single player?

Updated by kju over 4 years ago

Very nice details there ricnunes - thanks!

Yes RMB works to command AI to target vehicles or air units.
The problem is without the cursor, its hard to know where you are pointing at.

If you are group leader, you have such cursor.

The 2-x targets menu works too, but its not really usable with many targets in the list.
Some see 2-x as abuse too yes. However that can only be solved by making the detection system
less simplistic and better configurable. In addition with the reduction and adjustment
of the radar simulation (see #2251).

As noted the idea with canLock=1 is that one can play with the simple TAB lock system
when playing with AutoGuideAT (more details here #27763).

SP/playing with an AI gunner is a much harder nut to crack to make both working with AI,
and not abuse-able by a player pilot. Instead of no improvement as its seen as too complex,
my vote is to get step by step to a more demanding, playable, gameplay-focused and realistic
system and eventually with also better AI control.

Updated by cyrilator over 4 years ago

ricnunes wrote:

"auto-tracking capability" has nothing to do with "fire and forget"

I already know about all of this.

I didn't say Vikhr was a fire and forget missile, i said that ingame it behave like a fire and forget missile :

example : once the missile has been fired to a locked target, stop the lock, you will see the missile wrongly keep tracking the target, while it should fail to hit.

same goes for TOW from cobra. because ingame helicopter don't make difference between fire and forget style and Saclos style.

Updated by ricnunes over 4 years ago

Relying solely on the right mouse button to designate targets also have the following limitation:

Again the human pilot and AI gunner in an Apache helicopter scenario:
The gunner has access to the optical targeting system (TADS) which in real life gives a much bigger detection and engagement range because TADS have zoomed imaging (and termal imaging also helps).
So if the targeting is done by the pilot thru right mouse button using his eyes only (NO Zoom) what's the point of having the gunner and his targeting system with zoom and/or termal/TV image?

So, I still think that removing the TAB key for higher dificulty levels isn't the solution to make targeting more realistic in ArmA and even to make gameplay "more balanced"!

Lets look for example at Jane's Longbow 2 or EECH which are both sims that are and will always be much more realistic than ArmA - In both these sims you have a lock key which is equivalent to the ArmA's TAB key in which everytime you press it, the gunner will lock the next available and detectable target. So the lock key in Jane's Longbow 2 or EECH or the TAB lock key in ArmA is in the end the pilot saying to the gunner: "Gunner lock the next available target" and that is realistic.

So IMO, the TAB key should work like this for higher levels of dificulty:
  1. TAB lock key is disabled for human gunner (the human gunner could/should use the right mouse button to lock targets)
  2. TAB lock key is disabled for human pilot is human gunner is present (the gunner is the only one responsible for locking targets).
  3. TAB lock key is ENABLED for human pilot with AI gunner!

But with this some major tweaking much be done such as: If and when a target is detected it wouldn't or couldn't be automatically identified (by allegiance and/or by type) - the target could only be identified when the helicopter aproaches a certain distance which would depend on the type of target and size (a Tank should be identified at longer distances than a SUV for example), a SACLOS missile (laser guided, wire-guided, radio-guided, etc...) would ALWAYS follow the presently locked target (and never a follow a target that was locked in the past) and IMO infantry should also be lockable using the TAB key but of course at much lesser ranges than other bigger targets (such as tanks, cars, etc...) afterall the process of locking a tank IS EXACTLY THE SAME as locking an infantry soldier using an optical system like the TADS (only the detectability and engagement ranges vary).

With the KA-50 it's also the same thing (the process of attacking a tank or an infantry soldier is exactly the same) - again if you play DCS Ka-50 you'll see this!

Updated by cyrilator over 4 years ago

the problem with the vanila lock-on system, is that it's not possible to shot laser guided and saclos missiles (Hellfire/TOW/attaka/falanga) with free aiming (crosshair guided). Ingame these missiles are limited to hit radar targets.

Updated by kju over 4 years ago

Hellfire, Arkan 9M117M1 and Refleks 9M119M are the only missiles that lacks manual control.
The rest works - albeit the speed and maneuverability need improvement..

I agree that one needs to communicate effectively in some way with the AI gunner.
TAB lock assignment is the most convenient, but for me not feasible as long as the target detection system is so simple (#2251).

To emphasize it:
The way it works practically in PvP play is that you flight high (due to #12692), just press (spam) TAB, TAB, TAB constantly, you lock targets in 360° - within large ranges (for air its 2x viewDistance setting) - and you know lockable targets are all hostile.

This leads to choppers flying happily fast and high rather to utilize slow, carefully, waiting in autohover to pop up to strike and quickly go back into cover (stand-off attack).
In addition the AI gunner is very capable to guide missiles into the targets, even during high speed flight - try to do this as human gunner!
So the removal of TAB lock would even force players to utilize more realistic usage pattern too.

I will make more suggestions how to improve the detection system, but for now/for the current system a command cursor and an (improved) radio menu is the only way for a fair balance between gameplay and realism.

Or in other words: Why do two man crew AH64/Kamov if you TAB lock easily with an AI gunner.

Updated by ricnunes over 4 years ago


An in my words: What's the point of having an AI gunner if it's not effective at locking and/or engaging targets? Don't forget that ArmA also have a very important Single Player part (where 99.99% of the times the human player is the pilot and an AI the gunner) and even in Multiplayer a human gunner is not always available and the only best thing you can have at you disposal (being you the pilot) is an AI gunner - I would say that this happens to me something like 85% to 90% of all times that I play ArmA in Multiplayer.

IMO, if the AI gunner is tweaked so it detects enemy targets at realistic ranges (same or similar as a human gunner would) and have the same or similar limitations as a human gunner (for example the AI gunner would only be able to lock targets within its field of view) I won't see any advantage of TAB locking compared to the human gunner right mouse click - I even say that the human gunner with right mouse click would have the advantage since this way the intended target would be immediatly locked while with TAB and AI gunner the pilot would probably need to press TAB a few times so it cycles until it locks the pretended target.

Here's another sugestion from me regarding the TAB lock key:
- Everytime the human pilot presses the TAB key, there would be a small time delay before the targets actually becomes locked - This would simulate the time that a real gunner would need in order to effectivelly lock the pretended target. How about that?

Updated by kju over 4 years ago

ricnunes this is why canLock=1 is used. This means by default first two difficulty settings are unchanged.
Also you can revert to the former system for veteran and expert by setting AutoGuideAT to on.

So my suggestion supports both systems at the same time, while you suggest to continue to have only the AI solution.
Do you see the difference now?

Also it is very playable without TAB lock. Many many have been playing with such system since WGL or with ACE nowadays.
You seem to have no idea how much TAB lock can and is abused in every day MP play it seems (and even normal RMB locking to a good degree).
Maybe just try to change your perspective to the AI you are easily blasting away with TAB lock, if you have no PvP experience.
And again the TAB lock is nowhere near anything realistic - in fact the change would lead to more realistic behavior and play.

You must get away from your narrow view and also keep other players with their way of playing Arma/MP in mind.
Again my suggestion offers a good solution to everyone.

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