In the context of BF3, to ram means to push violently, to crash into something. That something is usually the enemy’s vehicule : jet, helicopter, tank, jeep, etc. Many players hate that, especially jet and helicopter pilots. Some servers will rule against that. I agree that to ram your plane or your helicopter into another plane or helicopter is not the best thing to do, because both vehicules will be destroyed and you’ll most probably die in the process. Unless your kamikaze tactic definitively helps your team, you might think twice before crashing into another enemy.
That is very different with tanks. Some players will say that if you can’t win a tank battle without ramming, you are a noob. One player in a forum mentioned that he use C4 to give a lesson to those who ram. Interesting, but the goal of any fight is to kill the enemy or disable its vehicule, so using C4, RPG, mines or repair torch are moves that can help achieve your goal as well as ramming.
In fact, ramming is a very primitive human attitude. When two guys are having an argument that seems to escalate into a fight, there are chances that they will run against each other, ever before using fist strikes. In such a situation, ramming is the affirmation of our presence, of the materiality of our body. You say to the other, « I am here », and want to make him feel that. Primitive, as I said, but basically human (well… it’s animal side, if you prefer).
It’s a little different in BF3, because we are not «physically» there, but there are many situations where ramming can be useful. If used properly, it can give you the edge in a close quarter tank battle. Not often though. Most close range tank battles I’ve been in were made of shootings, activating flares, going forward and backward and turning, all these as fast as possible and with the most precision possible (not that easy!), depending on enemy’s moves. If there are no other tanks in the area to shoot you – that usually make the moment shorter… – these fights can look like weirds and inelegant dances between two rivals.
But lets say you’re on the road and at the turn of a curb you meet another tank, you can perfectly hit it with yours to create a surprise. Especially if you drive a SPRUT. M1128 and main battle tanks have a tendency to pass over a SPRUT in face to face hits (it’s low and angled in the front). You won’t win any tank confrontation by only ramming, of course. But here, it can give you the chance (or the disadvantage, who knows?) to position yourself for attack or even quit the scene to run after the enemy from another angle. If you stop and shoot instead of ramming, there’s a lot of chance that the other player will fire and hit you too. All situations are unique. Personally, I think that there is no problem to ram your tank into another one, into a infantry, a jeep, a helicopter that is on the field for repair, etc.
There is some sort of chivalrous feeling in fighting in a «clean» tank battle in BF3, especially among the very experienced tank drivers, since they can show their fascinating skills. But it’s war! And, unless you kill innocent civilians, you can use tank ramming without committing war crimes!
Recently, I was playing on Death Valley. There is a secondary road near F (on maps that have 7 flags), under the south bridge. I was in a T-90 tank and was travelling from the main road to the secondary one when a M1 tank came from there, just in front of me. I shot a shell that hit the underbelly of the tank as it was climbing the slope. It stopped and run backward. I then hit and pushed the tank until it «falls» into the ravine just behind the road where I followed it and finished it. I think that it was a efficient use of ramming. It would be fair to add that the tank gunner had gone out from the tank previously and finally killed me and destroyed my tank with a RPG! But, still, I may not have won the battle tank otherwise. One player and one tank were sent back to base.
I am not in favor of jet and helicopter ramming, but I don’t have any problem with tank ramming because it does not destroy both vehicles and kill the drivers. It’s just another mean that may save your ass and help achieve your goal.