Published on November 4th, 2011 | by Mustafa Unal21
Battlefield 3: Attack Helicopter Tactics
A major patch has been released since I’ve started working on this guide, which means some of the tips below will have to be re-written. Check out the patch notes here, but be warned the list is a little long.
elicopters in Battlefield 3 have a bit of a steep learning curve. There’s no training mode (I’m not counting the second co-op mission) so the majority of players learn how to fly by trial and error in public servers. This article won’t be teaching you how to stop killing yourself when attempting to pilot a helicopter, instead I’ll be focussing on how to maximise their potential once you’re comfortable with the controls.
Transport helicopters also fall into the attack category, but I will be focussing on the Mi-28 Havoc and AH-1Z Viper in this piece. Transport helicopters have their own set of goals and unique advantages so they will be fleshed out in a future article.
Enemy helicopters are your top priority target, ignore everything else until their attack and transport choppers are destroyed. It’s not uncommon to spot both at the same time, so focus on the attack helicopter first and then take down the transport. Don’t take transport helicopters lightly, their miniguns can tear you apart quickly so take them down before they become a serious threat.
In my experience the one who gets shot down first is the one who gets ambushed. If an enemy helicopter hasn’t spotted you yet, gain altitude before getting its attention. The machine gun on attack helicopters can’t look upwards as much as it can look down, so your gunner will have a much easier time staying on target than the enemy as long as you’re at a higher altitude.
Heat seekers generally do little more than add pressure onto the enemy pilot, they will always avoid them with IR Flares so it’s your gunner who will do the real damage. If you’re flying solo and the enemy chopper has both a pilot and gunner, you’re most likely as good as dead. If the enemy only notices you once you’ve started trying to get a lock on them, and if you are at a higher altitude than they are, you should come out on top.
Armoured Ground Vehicles
Focus on the vehicles which your allied infantry will have the most trouble with. Main battle tanks and anti-infantry tanks pose the biggest threat to your ground units. Not only are they invulnerable to most of the weapons at your allied infantry’s disposal, but even an indirect hit from the canon of a main battle tank can kill a friendly unit with ease.
Steer clear from the tank’s main canon when attacking. They too have trouble aiming upwards so take advantage of this, but try and keep moving. If you get hit by the canon, the force of impact will knock you sideways so hard it will become nearly impossible to recover from it if you’re flying low to the ground. I’ve been shot down by main battle tanks more often than I’d like to admit.
If the pilot’s skilled enough to hover above Conquest objectives without crashing into something, it’s a great way to help the team whilst racking up extra points. Use the third person perspective when capturing objectives to ensure the tail of your helicopter doesn’t hit anything. Never land on the ground or hover too steadily, else you’re just begging to get hit by an RPG, tank, or worst of all a sniper taking out the pilot. Helping capture objectives may be a great way to gain points but this should only be attempted if you’ve destroyed the enemy’s helicopters and tanks.
This last target doesn’t reward you with many points but offers a huge tactical advantage. Once you’ve taken out the active units on the battlefield, you can shift your attention to the enemy base where you can destroy the enemy’s jets, choppers and ground vehicles before the enemy has a chance to get inside them.
Destroying vehicles with no player inside doesn’t give you any points but stopping your enemy from using those vehicles whilst your team still has access to theirs can drastically change the tide of a battle. Focus on the jets as they’re easy to destroy and they’re very difficult to shoot down with a helicopter once they take off, just let friendly jets take care of them if they do manage to get away.
There is an AA gun at each base to discourage players from attacking the enemy HQ head-on, but these are usually unmanned. Even if someone is inside, or if you just want to play it safe, you can hover low to the ground and use the terrain or buildings around the AA gun to hide the helicopter.
With no helicopters and tanks, the enemy is forced to rely solely on engineers to destroy your vehicles. Engineers are deadly, but made of flesh and bone, it only takes a few well placed shots from friendly infantry, vehicles or even your own helicopter to take them out.
Pilot and Gunner Responsibilities
You should have a gunner with you as often as possible. It’s even more crucial that both of you can communicate with voice chat and agree on the abilities each of you will be equipping beforehand. If, for example, both of you have equipped the Stealth ability, then you are wasting an ability slot you could have been using to also have faster reload times or an air radar.
If you’re piloting the attack helicopter, you need to make sure you can zip between lamp posts, buildings and trees whilst flying low to the ground. You should nearly always be flying low to the ground, the only exception being when you spot another helicopter and try to gain altitude. Staying low makes you less visible to ground troops in the map and you’re less likely to be picked on by jets who will not only also have a hard time spotting you, but in addition they may be reluctant to chase you through those obstacles.
I see so many players who take off in a helicopter and fly them high up in the sky. This is just inviting enemy jets to focus on you because they know you’re a slower target to catch compared to other jets. Start practicing flying low by staying just above the rooftops of buildings, then crank it up a notch by staying above the ground but below the rooftops and treetops.
An effective route to take on maps is hovering low to the ground on roads. As long as you follow roads there will be no obstacles directly in front of you, but there will be trees and structures on each side to keep you hidden. As a bonus, enemy ground vehicles often use these routes themselves so you’re bound to run into a tank or jeep.
Learning how to fly low without crashing is also critical in order to take advantage of the Below Radar ability you can unlock. I’ll explain more about it further into the article.
Learn how to strafe to the side whilst circling a target. This allows your gunner to fire continuously without forcing you to hover in one spot. It’s generally a bad idea to stay still so circle strafing lets you keep moving whilst facing the target. Be considerate of your gunner and try and keep the helicopter stable when flying so they can get some accurate shots.
Whilst the pilot is busy keeping the helicopter moving through cover, it’s primarily the gunner’s responsibility to spot targets and direct the pilot towards them. Remember, the pilot is busy trying not to crash whilst flying so low, the last thing he wants to do is take his attention away from his task to try and spot ants on the ground to stomp.
Use the cockpit perspective to look around, especially up into the sky above as the machine gun view can’t do this and you need to be the first to know if there’s an enemy helicopter in the air. Once you’ve spotted a target, tell your pilot where it is and what it is, then mark it if possible.
If you’re using IR Flares, let the pilot use theirs first and only deploy yours when they have told you they’ve used their one up. Voice communication is crucial for this kind of thing, make sure you both know what’s going on at all times. Also, don’t be afraid to tell the pilot that you don’t have a clear shot, they can use their own judgement to figure out how much mobility they want to sacrifice to give you a better view of targets.
Before both you and the pilot can get trigger happy, you need to spot something to kill, and they need to get you to that target without blowing up. Gunners are the eyes and ears of an attack helicopter, so keep the pilot aware of what’s happening around you as they will only be concentrating on the obstacles directly in front of them.
Tools of Destruction
This final section will provide a summary of the weapons and equipment you can unlock for attack helicopters. I find that some are more useful than others, so I will explain what each of them do and which, in my opinion, are worth equipping.