Posted by Pepin the Short - 17th December 2013
Tags: Countermeasures,Reactive Armor,Vehicles
There are four countermeasures that are shared between the ground-based armored vehicles (that is, tanks, IFVs, MAAs, and attack boats): IR Smoke, Smokescreen, Active Protection, and the Fire Extinguisher. Of these, only the former three actually serve to counter enemy weapons; the Fire Extinguisher only facilitates a last-minute recovery and escape.
This is an analysis only of vehicles that tread the surface; the countermeasures, and, indeed, all the features of the air vehicles make for an entirely different discussion, that we will cover once the details of the ground vehicles have been made clear. Additionally, the purpose of the fire extinguisher is made more clear when considered with the mechanics of the new reactive armor, which serves quite a different end than it did in Battlefield 3.
The main thing to know regarding the IR Smoke countermeasure is that it is essentially a defensive technique. IR Smoke will block all locks and prevent guided missiles from hitting, and offers protection for 7.5 seconds within the 20-meter radius from where it was initially deployed, and reloads in 25 seconds, resulting in 17.5 seconds of vulnerability.
Wire-guided missiles that are capable of locking designated targets, such as the SRAW, can still be guided towards the vehicle even after the lock has been broken, and IR smoke offers no protection against the MBT LAW. IR Smoke serves, therefore, a function similar to flares in aircraft, or the smoke countermeasure in Battlefield 3 in that it offers protection only against guided missiles.
The primary advantage of smokescreen is how frequently it can be used. Within a four-meter radius from the point of deployment, smokescreen will serve its protection for six seconds, and reloads in only twelve, meaning that it is active for fully half its cycle.
However, the smokescreen cannot break locks or block missiles (though it does break spots). The only protection it offers is in forcing launchers to do their minimum damage no matter what angle or side they hit. The details of damage multipliers is something discussed in a previous post, but the short of it is that, in most cases, incoming missiles will have a 0.9 damage multiplier under the protection of smokescreen.
This includes weapons such as the cannon on the MAA and the 30mm rounds from the attack jet as well as dumb-fire launchers. However, laser-guided missiles, the MBT LAW, and the Javelin, are unaffected by the smokescreen. As mentioned when we discussed the Engineer's launchers, weapons like these deal damage to vehicles through other means than impact damage and side multipliers. You may have noticed this from the fact that they always do the exact same amount of damage, no matter the range of the target or the side that at which you aimed the rocket. Smokescreen does not change this; an MBT LAW hit will always take away 21% of a tank's health.
Active Protection is an incredibly powerful tool, but it has its limitations that prevent it from being the end-all countermeasure. Firstoff, it blocks almost everything. From tank shells, to RPGs, to the 25mm rounds from the scout helicopter. During the active time, all incoming projectiles that can deal damage to the vehicle (with the exception of the MBT LAW) will be blocked by active protection.
Active protection will serve its purpose for five seconds, after which it will begin a debilitating 25-second reload time. The use of active protection is betrayed by a green light over the vehicle, and a flashing red light indicates that it is reloading, with a very brief period between indicated by a purple light.
The disadvantage of active protection, therefore, is the fact that it can generally be used no more than once in an engagement. It may save your life in a one-on-one fight against a tank, but, against a superior enemy or entrenched infantry, the most it can offer is a brief window of escape. Additionally, it will not save you from TV missiles or the MBT LAW.
The Fire Extinguisher is not a countermeasure in the strictest sense, but it does take the place of the true countermeasures. Its effects are simple; all disabling effects on a vehicle (a movement critical or a vehicle disable that causes health to slowly bleed to zero) are cleared, and the vehicle's health instantly recovered to 37% if it is below.
Removing movement-disabling critical hits is among the most useful features of the Fire Extinguisher. These hits are based on the damage dealt in a single hit (so the attack jet's 30mm cannon is not capable of causing a critical hit, but a tank shell is), and the reactive armor upgrade, available only to land vehicles, raises the threshold for what is required.
There are two tiers of critical hits, one that permits some slow movement, and another that prevents all movement, indicated on your screen by the warnings "Low Power" or "Immobilized." Without reactive armor, the thresholds for these are 29% and 39% damage, respectively. With reactive armor, they are 39% and 44%.
A movement critical can be a death sentence when engaging stronger or more numerous enemies. Reactive armor is essential in preventing this, and, while active protection can perhaps prevent the hit that causes the critical, the fire extinguisher can allow recovery from a critical already dealt.
Nobody can speak with confidence on which countermeasure is definitively the best, because it is a function of your style of gameplay when using vehicles. What is more important is understanding the advantages and disadvantages of the countermeasure you are using. More thoroughly quantified information on vehicles and countermeasures can be found at our page for vehicle stats, or, if you have a particular question, feel free to ask it in our forum.
Pepin the Short