20 November 2001

Field Manual
No. 3-25.26
Department of the Army
Washington, DC , 20 July 2001

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Table of Contents
Chapters 1 - 6

Chapters 7 - 10

Chapters 11 - 14






FM 3-25.26



An overlay is a clear sheet of plastic or semi-transparent paper. It is used to display supplemental map and tactical information related to military operations. It is often used as a supplement to orders given in the field. Information is plotted on the overlay at the same scale as on the map, aerial photograph, or other graphic being used. When the overlay is placed over the graphic, the details plotted on the overlay are shown in their true position.


Overlays are used to display military operations with enemy and friendly troop dispositions, and as supplements to orders sent to the field. They show detail that will aid in understanding the orders, displays of communication networks, and so forth. They are also used as annexes to reports made in the field because they can clarify matters that are difficult to explain clearly in writing.


There are three steps in the making of a map overlay orienting the overlay material, plotting and symbolizing the detail, and adding the required marginal information (Figure 7-1).

Figure 7-1. Registering the overlay.

a.   Orienting. Orient the overlay over the place on the map to be annotated. Then, if possible, attach it to the edges of the map with tape. Trace the grid intersections nearest the two opposite corners of the overlay using a straightedge and label each with the proper grid coordinates. These register marks show the receiver of your overlay exactly where it fits on his map; without them, the overlay is difficult to orient. It is imperative that absolute accuracy be maintained in plotting the register marks, as the smallest mistake will throw off the overlay.

b.   Plotting of New Detail. Use pencils or markers in standard colors that make a lasting mark without cutting the overlay to plot any detail (FM 101-5-1).

(1)   Use standard topographic or military symbols where possible. Nonstandard symbols invented by the author must be identified in a legend on the overlay. Depending on the conditions under which the overlay is made, it may be advisable to plot the positions first on the map, then trace them onto the overlay. Since the overlay is to be used as a supplement to orders or reports and the recipient will have an identical map, show only that detail with which the report is directly concerned.

(2)   If you have observed any topographic or cultural features that are not shown on the map, such as a new road or a destroyed bridge, plot their positions as accurately as possible on the overlay and mark with the standard topographic symbol.

(3)   If difficulty in seeing through the overlay material is encountered while plotting or tracing detail, lift the overlay from time to time to check orientation of information being added in reference to the base.

c. Recording Marginal Information. When all required detail has been plotted or traced on the overlay, print information as close to the lower right-hand corner as detail permits (Figure 7-2). This information includes the following data:

(1) Title and Objective. This tells the reader why the overlay was made and may also give the actual location. For example, "Road Reconnaissance" is not as specific as "Route 146 Road Reconnaissance."

(2)   Time and Date. Any overlay should contain the latest possible information. An overlay received in time is very valuable to the planning staff and may affect the entire situation; an overlay that has been delayed for any reason may be of little use. Therefore, the exact time the information was obtained aids the receivers in determining its reliability and usefulness.

(3)   Map Reference. The sheet name, sheet number, map series number, and scale must be included. If the reader does not have the map used for the overlay, this provides the information necessary to obtain it.

(4)   Author. The name, rank, and organization of the author, supplemented with a date and time of preparation of the overlay, tells the reader if there was a time difference between when the information was obtained and when it was reported.

(5)   Legend. If it is necessary to invent nonstandard symbols to show the required information, the legend must show what these symbols mean.

(6)   Security Classification. This must correspond to the highest classification of either the map or the information placed on the overlay. If the information and map are unclassified, this will be so stated. The locations of the classification notes are shown in Figure 7-2, and the notes will appear in both locations as shown.

(7)   Additional Information. Any other information that amplifies the overlay will also be included. Make it as brief as possible.

Figure 7-2. Map overlay with marginal information.


Overlays of single aerial photographs are constructed and used in the same way as map overlays. The steps followed are essentially the same, with the following exceptions:

a.   Orienting of Overlay. The photograph normally does not have grid lines to be used as register marks. The borders of the photograph limit the area of the overlay, so the reference marks or linear features are traced in place of grid register marks. Finally, to ensure proper location of the overlay with respect to the photograph, indicate on the overlay the position of the marginal data on the photograph as seen through the overlay.

b.   Marginal Information. The marginal information shown on photographs varies somewhat from that shown on maps. Overlays of photographs (Figure 7-3) should show the following information:

(1)   North Arrow. This may be obtained in two ways by comparing with a map of the area or by orienting the photograph by inspection. In the latter case, a compass or expedient direction finder must be used to place the direction arrow on the overlay. Use the standard symbol to represent the actual north arrow used grid, magnetic, or true north.

(2)   Title and Objective. This tells the reader why the photo overlay was made and may also give the actual location.

(3)   Time and Date. The exact time the information was obtained is shown on a photo overlay just as on a map overlay

(4)   Photo Reference. The photo number, mission number, date of flight, and scale appear here, or the information is traced in its actual location on the photograph.

(5)   Scale. The scale must be computed since it is not part of the marginal data.

(6)   Map Reference. Reference is made to the sheet name, sheet number, series number, and scale of a map of the area, if one is available.

(7)   Author. The name, rank, and organization of the author are shown, supplemented with a date and time of preparation of the overlay.

(8)   Legend. As with map overlays, this is only necessary when nonstandard symbols are used.

(9)   Security Classification. This must correspond to the highest classification of either the photograph or the information placed on the overlay. If the information and photograph are unclassified, this will be so stated. The locations of the classification notes are shown in Figure 7-3, and the notes will appear in both locations.

(10)   Additional Information. Any other information that amplifies the overlay will also be included. Make it as brief as possible.

Figure 7-3. Photographic overlay with marginal information.




An aerial photograph is any photograph taken from an airborne vehicle (aircraft, drones, balloons, satellites, and so forth). The aerial photograph has many uses in military operations; however, for the purpose of this manual, it will be considered primarily as a map supplement or map substitute.


A topographic map may be obsolete because it was compiled many years ago. A recent aerial photograph shows any changes that have taken place since the map was made. For this reason, maps and aerial photographs complement each other. More information can be gained by using the two together than by using either alone.

a.   Advantages. An aerial photograph has the following advantages over a map:

(1)   It provides a current pictorial view of the ground that no map can equal.

(2)   It is more readily obtained. The photograph may be in the hands of the user within a few hours after it is taken; a map may take months to prepare.

(3)   It may be made for places that are inaccessible to ground soldiers.

(4)   It shows military features that do not appear on maps.

(5)   It can provide a day-to-day comparison of selected areas, permitting evaluations to be made of enemy activity.

(6)   It provides a permanent and objective record of the day-to-day changes with the area.

b.   Disadvantages. The aerial photograph has the following disadvantages as compared to a map:

(1)   Ground features are difficult to identify or interpret without symbols and are often obscured by other ground detail as, for example, buildings in wooded areas.

(2)   Position location and scale are only approximate.

(3)   Detailed variations in the terrain features are not readily apparent without overlapping photography and a stereoscopic viewing instrument.

(4)   Because of a lack of contrasting colors and tone, a photograph is difficult to use in poor light.

(5)   It lacks marginal data.

(6)   It requires more training to interpret than a map.

8-2. TYPES

Aerial photography most commonly used by military personnel may be divided into two major types, the vertical and the oblique. Each type depends upon the attitude of the camera with respect to the earth's surface when the photograph is taken.

a.   Vertical. A vertical photograph is taken with the camera pointed as straight down as possible (Figures 8-1 and 8-2). Allowable tolerance is usually + 3° from the perpendicular (plumb) line to the camera axis. The result is coincident with the camera axis. A vertical photograph has the following characteristics:

(1)   The lens axis is perpendicular to the surface of the earth.

(2)   It covers a relatively small area.

(3)   The shape of the ground area covered on a single vertical photo closely approximates a square or rectangle.

(4)   Being a view from above, it gives an unfamiliar view of the ground.

(5)   Distance and directions may approach the accuracy of maps if taken over flat terrain.

(6)   Relief is not readily apparent.

Figure 8-1. Relationship of the vertical aerial photograph with the ground.


Figure 8-2. Vertical photograph.

a.   Low Oblique. This is a photograph taken with the camera inclined about 30° from the vertical (Figure 8-3, and Figure 8-4). It is used to study an area before an attack, to substitute for a reconnaissance, to substitute for a map, or to supplement a map. A low oblique has the following characteristics:

(1)   It covers a relatively small area.

(2)   The ground area covered is a trapezoid, although the photo is square or rectangular.

(3)   The objects have a more familiar view, comparable to viewing from the top of a high hill or tall building.

(4)   No scale is applicable to the entire photograph, and distance cannot be measured. Parallel lines on the ground are not parallel on this photograph; therefore, direction (azimuth) cannot be measured.

(5)   Relief is discernible but distorted.

(6)   It does not show the horizon.

Figure 8-3. Relationship of low oblique photograph to the ground.


Figure 8-4. Low oblique photograph.

c.   High Oblique. The high oblique is a photograph taken with the camera inclined about 60° from the vertical (Figures 8-5 and 8-6). It has a limited military application; it is used primarily in the making of aeronautical charts. However, it may be the only photography available. A high oblique has the following characteristics:

(1)   It covers a very large area (not all usable).

(2)   The ground area covered is a trapezoid, but the photograph is square or rectangular.

(3)   The view varies from the very familiar to unfamiliar, depending on the height at which the photograph is taken.

(4)   Distances and directions are not measured on this photograph for the same reasons that they are not measured on the low oblique.

(5)   Relief may be quite discernible but distorted as in any oblique view. The relief is not apparent in a high altitude, high oblique.

(6)   The horizon is always visible.

Figure 8-5. Relationship of high oblique photograph to the ground.


Figure 8-6. High oblique photograph.

d.   Trimetrogon. This is an assemblage of three photographs taken at the same time, one vertical and two high obliques, in a direction at right angle to the line of flight. The obliques, taken at an angle of 60° from the vertical, sidelap the vertical photography, producing composites from horizon to horizon (Figure 8-7).

Figure 8-7. Relationship of cameras to ground for trimetrogon photography (three cameras).

e.   Multiple Lens Photography. These are composite photographs taken with one camera having two or more lenses, or by two or more cameras. The photographs are combinations of two, four, or eight obliques around a vertical. The obliques are rectified to permit assembly as verticals on a common plane.

f.   Convergent Photography. These are done with a single twin-lens, wide-angle camera, or with two single-lens, wide-angle cameras coupled rigidly in the same mount so that each camera axis converges when intentionally tilted a prescribed amount (usually 15 or 20°) from the vertical. Again, the cameras are exposed at the same time. For precision mapping, the optical axes of the cameras are parallel to the line of flight, and for reconnaissance photography, the camera axes are at high angles to the line of flight.

g.   Panoramic. The development and increasing use of panoramic photography in aerial reconnaissance has resulted from the need to cover in greater detail more and more areas of the world.

(1)   To cover the large areas involved, and to resolve the desired ground detail, present-day reconnaissance systems must operate at extremely high-resolution levels. Unfortunately, high-resolution levels and wide-angular coverage are basically contradicting requirements.

(2)   A panoramic camera is a scanning type of camera that sweeps the terrain of interest from side to side across the direction of flight. This permits the panoramic camera to record a much wider area of ground than either frame or strip cameras. As in the case of the frame cameras, continuous cover is obtained by properly spaced exposures timed to give sufficient overlap between frames. Panoramic cameras are most advantageous for applications requiring the resolution of small ground detail from high altitudes.


Types of film generally used in aerial photography include panchromatic, infrared, and color. Camouflage detection film is also available.

a.   Panchromatic. This is the same type of film that is used in the average hand-held small camera. It records the amount of light reflected from objects in tones of gray running from white to black. Most aerial photography is taken with panchromatic film.

b.   Infrared. This is a black-and-white film that is sensitive to infrared waves. It can be used to detect artificial camouflage materials and to take photographs at night if there is a source of infrared radiation.

c.   Color. This film is the same as that used in the average hand-held camera. It is limited in its use because of the time required to process it and its need for clear, sunny weather.

d.   Camouflage Detection. This film is a special type that records natural vegetation in a reddish color. When artificial camouflage materials are photographed, they appear bluish or purplish. The name of this film indicates its primary use.


Each aerial photograph contains in its margin important information for the photo user. The arrangement, type, and amount of this information is standardized; however, the rapid development of cameras, film, and aeronautical technology since World War II has caused numerous changes in the numbering and titling of aerial photographs. As a result, the photo user may find that the marginal information on older photographs varies somewhat from the standard current practice. With certain camera systems, some of the data are automatically recorded on each exposure, while other systems require that all titling data be added to the film after processing.

a.   Standard titling data for aerial photography prepared for the use of the Department of Defense are as follows. For reconnaissance and charting photography, items 2 through 14 and item 19 are lettered on the beginning and end of each roll of film. Items 1 through 9 and item 19 are lettered on each exposure. For surveying and mapping photography, items 2 through 19 are lettered on the beginning and end of each roll of film, and items 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 13, and 19 are lettered on each exposure.

(1)   Negative number.

(2)   Camera position.

(3)   Taking unit.

(4)   Service.

(5)   Sortie/mission number.

(6)   Date (followed by a double hyphen [=]).

(7)   Time group and zone letter (GMT).

(8)   Focal length.

(9)   Altitude.

(10)   Kind of photography or imagery.

(11)   Geographic coordinates.

(12)   Descriptive title.

(13)   Project number and or name.

(14)   Camera type and serial number.

(15)   Cone serial number (if any).

(16)   Lens type and serial number.

(17)   Magazine type and serial number.

(18)   Type of photographic filter used.

(19)   Security classification.

b.   Automatically recorded data may differ somewhat in arrangement from the sequence listed above, but the same information is available to the photo user. A detailed explanation of the titling items and the codes used to indicate them is found in TM 5-243.


Before a photograph can be used as a map supplement or substitute, it is necessary to know its scale. On a map, the scale is printed as a representative fraction that expresses the ratio of map distance to ground distance, For example:


On a photograph, the scale is also expressed as a ratio, but is the ratio of the photo distance (PD) to ground distance. For example:


The approximate scale or average scale (RF) of a vertical aerial photograph is determined by either of two methods; the comparison method or the focal length-flight altitude method.

a.   Comparison Method. The scale of a vertical aerial photograph is determined by comparing the measured distance between two points on the photograph with the measured ground distance between the same two points.

SCALE (RF = Photo Distance
Ground Distance

The ground distance is determined by actual measurement on the ground or by the use of the scale on a map of the same area. The points selected on the photograph must be identifiable on the ground or map of the same area and should be spaced in such a manner that a line connecting them will pass through or nearly through the center of the photograph (Figure 8-8).

Figure 8-8. Selection of points for scale determination.

b.   Focal Length-Flight Altitude Method. When the marginal information of a photograph includes the focal length and the flight altitude, the scale of the photo is determined using the following formula (Figure 8-9).

Figure 8-9. Computation of scale from terrain level.

When the ground elevation is at sea level, H becomes zero, and the formula is as shown in Figure 8-10.

Figure 8-10. Basic computation of scale from sea level.


When aerial photos are taken of an area, it is convenient to have a record of the extent of coverage of each photo. A map on which the area covered by each photo is outlined and numbered or indexed to correspond to the photo is called an index map. There are two methods of preparing index maps.

a.   The four-corner method (Figures 8-11 and 8-12) requires location on the map of the exact point corresponding to each corner of the photo. If a recognizable object such as a house or road junction can be found exactly at one of the corners, this point may be used on the map as the corner of the photo. If recognizable objects cannot be found at the corners, then the edges of the photo should be outlined on the map by lining up two or more identifiable objects along each edge; the points where the edges intersect should be the exact corners of the photo. If the photo is not a perfect vertical, the area outlined on the map will not be a perfect square or rectangle. After the four sides are drawn on the map, the number of the photograph is written in the enclosed area for identification. This number should be placed in the same corner as it is on the photo.

Figure 8-11. Four-corner method (selection of points).


Figure 8-12. Plotting, using the four-corner method.

b.   The template method is used when a large number of photos are to be indexed, and the exact area covered by each is not as important as approximate area and location. In this case, a template (cardboard pattern or guide) is cut to fit the average area the photos cover on the index map. It is used to outline the individual area covered by each photo. To construct a template, find the average map dimensions covered by the photos to be indexed as follows. Multiply the average length of the photos by the denominator of the average scale of the photos; multiply this by the scale of the map. Do the same for the width of the photos. This gives the average length and width of the area each photo covers on the map--or the size to which the template should be cut (Figure 8-13).

Figure 8-13. Constructing a template.

c.   To index the map, select the general area covered by the first photo and orient the photo to the map. Place the template over the area on the map and adjust it until it covers the area as completely and accurately as possible. Draw lines around the edges of the template. Remove the rectangle and proceed to the next photo (Figure 8-14).

Figure 8-14. Indexing with a template.

d.   After all photos have been plotted, write on the map sufficient information to identify the mission or sortie. If more than one sortie is plotted on one map or overlay, use a different color for each sortie.

e.   In most cases, when a unit orders aerial photography, an index is included to give the basic information. Instead of being annotated on a map of the area, it appears on an overlay and is keyed to a map.


Orienting the photograph is important because it is of very little value as a map supplement or substitute if its location and direction are not known by the user.

a.   If a map of the same area as the photograph is available, the photograph is oriented to the map by comparing features common to both and then transferring a direction line from the map to the photograph.

b.   If no map is available, the shadows on a photograph may be used to get an approximate true-north line. This method is not recommended in the torrid zone (Figure 8-15).

Figure 8-15. Using shadows on a photograph to find north.

(1)   North Temperate Zone. The sun moves from the east in the morning through south at noon to west in the afternoon. Conversely, shadow fall varies from west through north to east. Before noon, therefore, north is to the right of the direction of shadow fall; at noon, north is the direction of shadow fall; and after noon, north is to the left of shadow fall. On an average, the amount of variation in shadow fall per hour is 15 degrees. From marginal information, determine the number of hours from noon that the photo was taken and multiply that number by 15°. With a protractor, measure an angle of that amount in the proper direction (right to left) from a clear, distinct shadow, and north is obtained. For photographs taken within three hours of noon, a reasonable accurate north direction can be obtained. Beyond these limits, the 15° must be corrected, depending on time of year and latitude.

(2)   South Temperate Zone. The sun moves from east through north at noon to west. Shadows then vary from west through south to east. Before noon, south is to the left of shadow fall; at noon, south is shadow fall; and after noon, south is to the right of shadow fall. Proceed as in (1) above to determine the direction of south.

c.   On a photograph that can be oriented to the surrounding ground features by inspection, a magnetic-north line can be established using a compass.

(1)   Orient the photograph by inspection.

(2)   Open the compass and place it on the photograph.

(3)   Without moving the photograph, rotate the compass until the north arrow is under the stationary black line.

(4)   Draw a line along the straight edge of the compass. This is a magnetic-north line.


Since aerial photographs are seldom exactly the same scale as a map of the same area, it is not feasible to print military grids on them. A special grid is used for the designation of points on photographs (Figure 8-16). This grid, known as the point designation grid, has no relation to the scale of the photo, to any direction, or to the grid used on any other photograph or map. It has only one purpose, to designate points on photographs.

Figure 8-16. Point designation grid.

a.   The point designation grid is rarely printed on photographs; therefore, it becomes the responsibility of each user to construct the grid on the photograph. All users must construct the grid in exactly the same way. Before the grid can be constructed or used, the photograph must be held so that the marginal information, regardless of where it is located, is in the normal reading position (Figure 8-17, step 1).

(1)   Draw lines across the photograph joining opposite reference marks at the center of each photograph (fiducial marks). If there are no fiducial marks, the center of each side of the photograph is assumed to be the location of the marks (Figure 8-17, step 2).

(2)   Space grid lines, starting with the center line, 4 centimeters (1.575 inches) apart (a distance equal to 1,000 meters at a scale of 1:25,000). The 1:25,000 map coordinate scale can be used for this dimension and to accurately designate points on the photograph, but this does not mean that distance can be scaled from the photograph. Extend the grid past the margins of the photograph so that a horizontal and vertical grid line fall outside the picture area (Figure 8-17, step 3).

(3)   Number each center line "50" and give numerical values to the remaining horizontal and vertical lines so that they increase to the right and up (Figure 8-17, step 4).

Figure 8-17. Constructing a point designation grid.

b.   The point designation grid is used, once the photograph is oriented, in the same manner as the grid on a map (Figure 8-18), read right and up. The coordinate scale used with the UTM grid on maps at the scale of 1:25,000 may be used to subdivide the grid square in the same manner as on a map. However, because the same point designation grid is used on all photographs, the coordinates of a point on the photograph must be prefixed by the identifying marginal information of the photograph.

Figure 8-18. Reading point designation grid coordinates.

c.   A grid coordinate using the point designation grid (Figure 8-19) consists of three parts:

(1)   The letters "PDG" to indicate an aerial photograph rather than a map grid coordinate.

(2)   The mission and photo negative number to identify which photograph is being used.

(3)   The six numerical digits to locate the actual point on the photograph.

Figure 8-19. Locating the grid coordinate on a point designation grid.


The identification of features on a photograph is not difficult if the following facts are remembered. The view that is presented by the aerial photograph is from above and, as a result, objects do not look familiar. Objects that are greatly reduced in size appear distorted. Most aerial photography is black and white, and all colors appear on the photograph in shades of gray. Generally speaking, the darker the natural color, the darker it will appear on the photograph.

a.   The identification of features on aerial photographs depends upon a careful application of five factors of recognition. No one factor will give a positive identification; it requires the use of all five.

(1)   Size. The size of unknown objects on a photograph, as determined from the scale of the photograph or a comparison with known objects of known size, gives a clue to their identity. For example, in a built-up area the smaller buildings are usually dwellings, and the larger buildings are commercial or community buildings.

(2)   Shape (Pattern). Many features possess characteristic shapes that readily identify the features. Man-made features appear as straight or smooth curved lines, while natural features usually appear to be irregular. Some of the most prominent man-made features are highways, railroads, bridges, canals, and buildings. Compare the regular shapes of these to the irregular shapes of such natural features as streams and timber lines.

(3)   Shadows. Shadows are very helpful in identifying features since they show the familiar side view of the object. Some excellent examples are the shadows of water towers or smoke stacks. As viewed directly from above, only a round circle or dot is seen, whereas the shadow shows the profile and helps to identify the object. Relative lengths of shadows also usually give a good indication of relative heights of objects.

(4)   Shade (Tone or Texture). Of the many different types of photographic film in use today, the film used for most aerial photography, except for special purposes, is panchromatic film. Panchromatic film is sensitive to all the colors of the spectrum; it registers them as shades of gray, ranging from white to black. This lighter or darker shade of features on aerial photographs is known as the tone. The tone is also dependent on the texture of the features; a paved highway has a smooth texture and produces an even tone on the photograph, while a recently plowed field or a marsh has a rough, choppy texture and results in a rough or grainy tone. It is also important to remember that similar features may have different tones on different photographs, depending on the reflection of sunlight. For example, a river or body of water appears light if it is reflecting sunlight directly toward the camera, but appears dark otherwise. Its texture may be smooth or rough, depending on the surface of the water itself. As long as the variables are kept in mind, tone and texture may be used to great advantage.

(5)   Surrounding Objects. Quite often an object not easily recognized by itself may be identified by its relative position to surrounding objects. Large buildings located beside railroads or railroad sidings are usually factories or warehouses. Identify schools by the baseball or football fields. It would be hard to tell the difference between a water tower next to a railroad station and a silo next to a barn, unless the surrounding objects such as the railroad tracks or cultivated fields were considered.

b.   Before a vertical photograph can be studied or used for identification of features, it must be oriented. This orienting is different from the orienting required for the construction or use of the point designation grid. Orienting for study consists of rotating the photograph so that the shadows on the photograph point toward yourself. You then face a source of light. This places the source of light, an object, and its shadow in a natural relationship. Failure to orient a photograph properly may cause the height or depth of an object to appear reversed. For example, a mine or quarry may appear to be a hill instead of a depression.


One of the limitations of the vertical aerial photograph is the lack of apparent relief. Stereoscopic vision (or as it is more commonly known, stereovision or depth perception) is the ability to see three-dimensionally or to see length, width, and depth (distance) at the same time. This requires two views of a single object from two slightly different positions. Most people have the ability to see three-dimensionally. Whenever an object is viewed, it is seen twice--once with the left eye and once with the right eye. The fusion or blending together of these two images in the brain permits the judgment of depth or distance.

a.   In taking aerial photographs, it is rare for only a single picture to be taken. Generally, the aircraft flies over the area to be photographed taking a series of pictures, each of which overlaps the photograph preceding it and the photograph following it so that an unbroken coverage of the area is obtained (Figure 8-20). The amount of overlap is usually 56 percent, which means that 56 percent of the ground detail appearing on one photo also appears on the next photograph. When a single flight does not give the necessary coverage of an area, additional flights must be made. These additional flights are parallel to the first and must have an overlap between them. This overlap between flights is known as side lap and usually is between 15 and 20 percent (Figure 8-21).

Figure 8-20. Photographic overlap.


Figure 8-21. Side lap.

b.   The requirement for stereovision can be satisfied by overlapping photographs if one eye sees the object on one photograph and the other eye sees the same object on another photograph. While this can be done after practice with the eyes alone, it is much easier if an optical aid is used. These optical aids are known as stereoscopes. There are many types of stereoscopes, but only the two most commonly used are discussed in this manual.

(1)   Pocket Stereoscope. The pocket stereoscope (Figure 8-22), sometimes known as a lens stereoscope, consists of two magnifying lenses mounted in a metal frame. Because of its simplicity and ease of carrying, it is the type used most frequently by military personnel.

Figure 8-22. Pocket stereoscope.

(2)   Mirror Stereoscope. The mirror stereoscope (Figure 8-23) is larger, heavier, and more subject to damage than the pocket stereoscope. It consists of four mirrors mounted in a metal frame.

Figure 8-23. Mirror stereoscope.

c.   A method to orient a pair of aerial photographs for best three-dimensional viewing is outlined below:

(1)   Arrange the selected pair of photos in such a way that the shadows on them generally appear to fall toward the viewer. It is also desirable that the light source enters the side away from the observer during the study of the photographs (Figure 8-24).

Figure 8-24. Placement of stereoscope over stereopair.

(2)   Place the pair of photographs on a flat surface so that the detail on one photograph is directly over the same detail on the other photograph (Figure 8-24).

(3)   Place the stereoscope over the photographs so that the left lens is over the left photograph and the right lens is over the right photograph (Figure 8-24).

(4)   Separate the photographs along the line of flight until a piece of detail appearing in the overlap area of the left photograph is directly under the left lens and the same piece of detail on the right photo is directly under the right lens.

(5)   With the photograph and stereoscope in this position, a three-dimensional image should be seen. A few minor adjustments may be necessary, such as adjusting the aerial photographs of the stereoscope to obtain the correct position for your eyes. The hills appear to rise and the valleys sink so that there is the impression of being in an aircraft looking down at the ground.

(6)   The identification of features on photographs is much easier and more accurate with this three-dimensional view. The same five factors of recognition (size, shape, shadow, tone, and surrounding objects) must still be applied; but now, with the addition of relief, a more natural view is seen.






Compasses are the primary navigation tools to use when moving in an outdoor world where there is no other way to find directions. Soldiers should be thoroughly familiar with the compass and its uses. Part One of this manual discussed the techniques of map reading. To complement these techniques, a mastery of field movement techniques is essential. This chapter describes the lensatic compass and its uses, and some of the field expedient methods used to find directions when compasses are not available.


The lensatic compass is the most common and simplest instrument for measuring direction. It is discussed in detail in paragraph 9-2. The artillery M2 compass is a special-purpose instrument designed for accuracy; it will be discussed in Appendix G. The wrist/pocket compass is a small magnetic compass that can be attached to a wristwatch band. It contains a north-seeking arrow and a dial in degrees. A protractor can be used to determine azimuths when a compass is not available. However, it should be noted that when using the protractor on a map, only grid azimuths are obtained.


The lensatic compass (Figure 9-1) consists of three major parts: the cover, the base, and the lens.

Figure 9-1. Lensatic compass.

a.   Cover. The compass cover protects the floating dial. It contains the sighting wire (front sight) and two luminous sighting slots or dots used for night navigation.

b.   Base. The body of the compass contains the following movable parts:

(1)   The floating dial is mounted on a pivot so it can rotate freely when the compass is held level. Printed on the dial in luminous figures are an arrow and the letters E and W. The arrow always points to magnetic north and the letters fall at east (E) 90° and west (W) 270° on the dial. There are two scales; the outer scale denotes mils and the inner scale (normally in red) denotes degrees.

(2)   Encasing the floating dial is a glass containing a fixed black index line.

(3)   The bezel ring is a ratchet device that clicks when turned. It contains 120 clicks when rotated fully; each click is equal to 3°. A short luminous line that is used in conjunction with the north-seeking arrow during navigation is contained in the glass face of the bezel ring.

(4)   The thumb loop is attached to the base of the compass.

c.   Lens. The lens is used to read the dial, and it contains the rear-sight slot used in conjunction with the front for sighting on objects. The rear sight also serves as a lock and clamps the dial when closed for its protection. The rear sight must be opened more than 45° to allow the dial to float freely.

NOTE: When opened, the straightedge on the left side of the compass has a coordinate scale; the scale is 1:50,000 in newer compasses.


Some older compasses will have a 1:25,000 scale. This scale can be used with a 1:50,000-scale map, but the values read must be halved. Check the scale.


Compasses are delicate instruments and should be cared for accordingly.

a. Inspection. A detailed inspection is required when first obtaining and using a compass. One of the most important parts to check is the floating dial, which contains the magnetic needle. The user must also make sure the sighting wire is straight, the glass and crystal parts are not broken, the numbers on the dial are readable, and most important, that the dial does not stick.

b.   Effects of Metal and Electricity. Metal objects and electrical sources can affect the performance of a compass. However, nonmagnetic metals and alloys do not affect compass readings. The following separation distances are suggested to ensure proper functioning of a compass:

High-tension power lines ................................................. 55 meters.
Field gun, truck, or tank .................................................. 18 meters.
Telegraph or telephone wires and barbed wire ................ 10 meters.
Machine gun ................................................................... 2 meters.
Steel helmet or rifle .......................................................... 1/2 meter.

c.   Accuracy. A compass in good working condition is very accurate. However, a compass has to be checked periodically on a known line of direction, such as a surveyed azimuth using a declination station. Compasses with more than 3° + variation should not be used.

d.   Protection. If traveling with the compass unfolded, make sure the rear sight is fully folded down onto the bezel ring. This will lock the floating dial and prevent vibration, as well as protect the crystal and rear sight from damage.


Magnetic azimuths are determined with the use of magnetic instruments, such as lensatic and M2 compasses. The techniques employed when using the lensatic compass are as follows:

a.   Using the Centerhold Technique. First, open the compass to its fullest so that the cover forms a straightedge with the base. Move the lens (rear sight) to the rearmost position, allowing the dial to float freely. Next, place your thumb through the thumb loop, form a steady base with your third and fourth fingers, and extend your index finger along the side of the compass. Place the thumb of the other hand between the lens (rear sight) and the bezel ring; extend the index finger along the remaining side of the compass, and the remaining fingers around the fingers of the other hand. Pull your elbows firmly into your sides; this will place the compass between your chin and your belt. To measure an azimuth, simply turn your entire body toward the object, pointing the compass cover directly at the object. Once you are pointing at the object, look down and read the azimuth from beneath the fixed black index line (Figure 9-2). This preferred method offers the following advantages over the sighting technique:

(1)   It is faster and easier to use.

(2)   It can be used under all conditions of visibility.

(3)   It can be used when navigating over any type of terrain.

(4)   It can be used without putting down the rifle; however, the rifle must be slung well back over either shoulder.

(5)   It can be used without removing eyeglasses.

Figure 9-2. Centerhold technique.

b.   Using the Compass-to-Cheek Technique. Fold the cover of the compass containing the sighting wire to a vertical position; then fold the rear sight slightly forward. Look through the rear-sight slot and align the front-sight hairline with the desired object in the distance. Then glance down at the dial through the eye lens to read the azimuth (Figure 9-3).

NOTE: The compass-to-cheek technique is used almost exclusively for sighting, and it is the best technique for this purpose.

Figure 9-3. Compass-to-cheek technique.

c.   Presetting a Compass and Following an Azimuth. Although different models of the lensatic compass vary somewhat in the details of their use, the principles are the same.

(1)   During daylight hours or with a light source:

(a)   Hold the compass level in the palm of the hand.

(b)   Rotate it until the desired azimuth falls under the fixed black index line (for example, 320°), maintaining the azimuth as prescribed (Figure 9-4).

Figure 9-4. Compass preset at 320 degrees.

(c)   Turn the bezel ring until the luminous line is aligned with the north-seeking arrow. Once the alignment is obtained, the compass is preset.

(d)   To follow an azimuth, assume the centerhold technique and turn your body until the north-seeking arrow is aligned with the luminous line. Then proceed forward in the direction of the front cover's sighting wire, which is aligned with the fixed black index line that contains the desired azimuth.

(2)   During limited visibility, an azimuth may be set on the compass by the click method. Remember that the bezel ring contains 3° intervals (clicks).

(a)   Rotate the bezel ring until the luminous line is over the fixed black index line.

(b)   Find the desired azimuth and divide it by three. The result is the number of clicks that you have to rotate the bezel ring.

(c)   Count the desired number of clicks. If the desired azimuth is smaller than 180°, the number of clicks on the bezel ring should be counted in a counterclockwise direction. For example, the desired azimuth is 51°. Desired azimuth is 51°¸ 3 = 17 clicks counterclockwise. If the desired azimuth is larger than 180°, subtract the number of degrees from 360° and divide by 3 to obtain the number of clicks. Count them in a clockwise direction. For example, the desired azimuth is 330°; 360°-330° = 30 ¸ 3 = 10 clicks clockwise.

(d)   With the compass preset as described above, assume a centerhold technique and rotate your body until the north-seeking arrow is aligned with the luminous line on the bezel. Then proceed forward in the direction of the front cover's luminous dots, which are aligned with the fixed black index line containing the azimuth.

(e)   When the compass is to be used in darkness, an initial azimuth should be set while light is still available, if possible. With the initial azimuth as a base, any other azimuth that is a multiple of three can be established through the use of the clicking feature of the bezel ring.

NOTE: Sometimes the desired azimuth is not exactly divisible by three, causing an option of rounding up or rounding down. If the azimuth is rounded up, this causes an increase in the value of the azimuth, and the object is to be found on the left. If the azimuth is rounded down, this causes a decrease in the value of the azimuth, and the object is to be found on the right.

d.   Bypassing an Obstacle. To bypass enemy positions or obstacles and still stay oriented, detour around the obstacle by moving at right angles for specified distances.

(1)   For example, while moving on an azimuth of 90° change your azimuth to 180° and travel for 100 meters. Change your azimuth to 90°and travel for 150 meters. Change your azimuth to 360°and travel for 100 meters. Then, change your azimuth to 90°and you are back on your original azimuth line (Figure 9-5).

Figure 9-5. Bypassing an obstacle.

(2)   Bypassing an unexpected obstacle at night is a fairly simple matter. To make a 90° turn to the right, hold the compass in the centerhold technique; turn until the center of the luminous letter E is under the luminous line (do not move the bezel ring). To make a 90° turn to the left, turn until the center of the luminous letter W is under the luminous line. This does not require changing the compass setting (bezel ring), and it ensures accurate 90° turns.

e.   Offset. A deliberate offset is a planned magnetic deviation to the right or left of an azimuth to an objective. Use it when the objective is located along or in the vicinity of a linear feature such as a road or stream. Because of errors in the compass or in map reading, the linear feature may be reached without knowing whether the objective lies to the right or left. A deliberate offset by a known number of degrees in a known direction compensates for possible errors and ensures that upon reaching the linear feature, the user knows whether to go right or left to reach the objective. Ten degrees is an adequate offset for most tactical uses. Each degree offset moves the course about 18 meters to the right or left for each 1,000 meters traveled. For example, in Figure 9-6, the number of degrees offset is 10. If the distance traveled to "x" in 1,000 meters, then "x" is located about 180 meters to the right of the objective.

Figure 9-6. Deliberate offset to the objective.


When a compass is not available, different techniques should be used to determine the four cardinal directions.

a.   Shadow-Tip Method.

(1)   This simple and accurate method of finding direction by the sun consists of four basic steps (Figure 9-7).

Figure 9-7. Determining directions and time by shadow.

Step 1.   Place a stick or branch into the ground at a level spot where a distinctive shadow will be cast. Mark the shadow tip with a stone, twig, or other means. This first shadow mark is always the west direction.

Step 2.   Wait 10 to 15 minutes until the shadow tip moves a few inches. Mark the new position of the shadow tip in the same way as the first.

Step 3.   Draw a straight line through the two marks to obtain an approximate east-west line.

Step 4.   Standing with the first mark (west) to your left, the other directions are simple; north is to the front, east is to the right, and south is behind you.

(2)   A line drawn perpendicular to the east-west line at any point is the approximate north-south line. If you are uncertain which direction is east and which is west, observe this simple rule--the first shadow-tip mark is always in the west direction, everywhere on earth.

(3)   The shadow-tip method can also be used as a shadow clock to find the approximate time of day (Figure 9-7).

(a)   To find the time of day, move the stick to the intersection of the east-west line and the north-south line, and set it vertically in the ground. The west part of the east-west line indicates 0600 hours, and the east part is 1800 hours, anywhere on earth, because the basic rule always applies.

(b)   The north-south line now becomes the noon line. The shadow of the stick is an hour hand in the shadow clock, and with it you can estimate the time using the noon line and the 6 o'clock line as your guides. Depending on your location and the season, the shadow may move either clockwise or counterclockwise, but this does not alter your manner of reading the shadow clock.

(c)   The shadow clock is not a timepiece in the ordinary sense. It makes every day 12 unequal hours long, and always reads 0600 hours at sunrise and 1800 hours at sunset. The shadow clock time is closest to conventional clock time at midday, but the spacing of the other hours compared to conventional time varies somewhat with the locality and the date. However, it does provide a satisfactory means of telling time in the absence of properly set watches.

(d)   The shadow-tip system is not intended for use in polar regions, which the Department of Defense defines as being above 60° latitude in either hemisphere. Distressed persons in these areas are advised to stay in one place so that search/rescue teams may easily find them. The presence and location of all aircraft and ground parties in polar regions are reported to and checked regularly by governmental or other agencies, and any need for help becomes quickly known.

b.   Watch Method.

(1)   A watch can be used to determine the approximate true north and true south. In the north temperate zone only, the hour hand is pointed toward the sun. A south line can be found midway between the hour hand and 1200 hours, standard time. If on daylight saving time, the north-south line is found between the hour hand and 1300 hours. If there is any doubt as to which end of the line is north, remember that the sun is in the east before noon and in the west after noon.

(2)   The watch may also be used to determine direction in the south temperate zone; however, the method is different. The 1200-hour dial is pointed toward the sun, and halfway between 1200 hours and the hour hand will be a north line. If on daylight saving time, the north line lies midway between the hour hand and 1300 hours (Figure 9-8).

Figure 9-8. Determining direction by using a watch.

(3)   The watch method can be in error, especially in the lower latitudes, and may cause circling. To avoid this, make a shadow clock and set your watch to the time indicated. After traveling for an hour, take another shadow-clock reading. Reset your watch if necessary.

c.   Star Method.

(1)   Less than 60 of approximately 5,000 stars visible to the eye are used by navigators. The stars seen as we look up at the sky at night are not evenly scattered across the whole sky. Instead they are in groups called constellations.

(2)   The constellations that we see depends partly on where we are located on the earth, the time of the year, and the time of the night. The night changes with the seasons because of the journey of the earth around the sun, and it also changes from hour to hour because the turning of the earth makes some constellations seem to travel in a circle. But there is one star that is in almost exactly the same place in the sky all night long every night. It is the North Star, also known as the Polar Star or Polaris.

(3)   The North Star is less than 1° off true north and does not move from its place because the axis of the earth is pointed toward it. The North Star is in the group of stars called the Little Dipper. It is the last star in the handle of the dipper. There are two stars in the Big Dipper, which are a big help when trying to find the North Star. They are called the Pointers, and an imaginary line drawn through them five times their distance points to the North Star. There are many stars brighter than the North Star, but none is more important because of its location. However, the North Star can only be seen in the northern hemisphere so it cannot serve as a guide south of the equator. The farther one goes north, the higher the North Star is in the sky, and above latitude 70°, it is too high in the sky to be useful (Figure 9-9).

Figure 9-9. Determining direction by the North Star and Southern Cross.

(4)   Depending on the star selected for navigation, azimuth checks are necessary. A star near the north horizon serves for about half an hour. When moving south, azimuth checks should be made every 15 minutes. When traveling east or west, the difficulty of staying on azimuth is caused more by the likelihood of the star climbing too high in the sky or losing itself behind the western horizon than it is by the star changing direction angle. When this happens, it is necessary to change to another guide star. The Southern Cross is the main constellation used as a guide south of the equator, and the above general directions for using north and south stars are reversed. When navigating using the stars as guides, the user must know the different constellation shapes and their locations throughout the world (Figure 9-10 and Figure 9-11).

Figure 9-10. Constellations, northern hemisphere.


Figure 9-11. Constellations, southern hemisphere.


The GPS is a space-based, global, all-weather, continuously available, radio positioning navigation system. It is highly accurate in determining position location derived from signal triangulation from a satellite constellation system. It is capable of determining latitude, longitude, and altitude of the individual user. It is being fielded in hand-held, manpack, vehicular, aircraft, and watercraft configurations. The GPS receives and processes data from satellites on either a simultaneous or sequential basis. It measures the velocity and range with respect to each satellite, processes the data in terms of an earth-centered, earth-fixed coordinate system, and displays the information to the user in geographic or military grid coordinates.

a.   The GPS can provide precise steering information, as well as position location. The receiver can accept many checkpoints entered in any coordinate system by the user and convert them to the desired coordinate system. The user then calls up the desired checkpoint and the receiver will display direction and distance to the checkpoint. The GPS does not have inherent drift, an improvement over the Inertial Navigation System, and the receiver will automatically update its position. The receiver can also compute time to the next checkpoint.

b.   Specific uses for the GPS are position location; navigation; weapon location; target and sensor location; coordination of firepower; scout and screening operations; combat resupply; location of obstacles, barriers, and gaps; and communication support. The GPS also has the potential to allow units to train their soldiers and provide the following:

  • Performance feedback.

  • Knowledge of routes taken by the soldier.

  • Knowledge of errors committed by the soldier.

  • Comparison of planned versus executed routes.

  • Safety and control of lost and injured soldiers.

    (See Appendix J for more information of the GPS.)



    CHAPTER 10


    The elevation of points on the ground and the relief of an area affect the movement, positioning, and, in some cases, effectiveness of military units. Soldiers must know how to determine locations of points on a map, measure distances and azimuths, and identify symbols on a map. They must also be able to determine the elevation and relief of areas on standard military maps. To do this, they must first understand how the mapmaker indicated the elevation and relief on the map.


    The reference or start point for vertical measurement of elevation on a standard military map are the datum plane or mean sea level, the point halfway between high tide and low tide. Elevation of a point on the earth�s surface is the vertical distance it is above or below mean sea level. Relief is the representation (as depicted by the mapmaker) of the shapes of hills, valleys, streams, or terrain features on the earth's surface.


    Mapmakers use several methods to depict relief of the terrain.

    a.   Layer Tinting. Layer tinting is a method of showing relief by color. A different color is used for each band of elevation. Each shade of color, or band, represents a definite elevation range. A legend is printed on the map margin to indicate the elevation range represented by each color. However, this method does not allow the map user to determine the exact elevation of a specific point only the range.

    b.   Form Lines. Form lines are not measured from any datum plane. Form lines have no standard elevation and give only a general idea of relief. Form lines are represented on a map as dashed lines and are never labeled with representative elevations.

    c.   Shaded Relief. Relief shading indicates relief by a shadow effect achieved by tone and color that results in the darkening of one side of terrain features, such as hills and ridges. The darker the shading, the steeper the slope. Shaded relief is sometimes used in conjunction with contour lines to emphasize these features.

    d.   Hachures. Hachures are short, broken lines used to show relief. Hachures are sometimes used with contour lines. They do not represent exact elevations, but are mainly used to show large, rocky outcrop areas. Hachures are used extensively on small-scale maps to show mountain ranges, plateaus, and mountain peaks.

    e. Contour Lines. Contour lines are the most common method of showing relief and elevation on a standard topographic map. A contour line represents an imaginary line on the ground, above or below sea level. All points on the contour line are at the same elevation. The elevation represented by contour lines is the vertical distance above or below sea level. The three types of contour lines (Figure 10-1) used on a standard topographic map are as follows:

    Figure 10-1. Contour lines.

    (1)   Index. Starting at zero elevation or mean sea level, every fifth contour line is a heavier line. These are known as index contour lines. Normally, each index contour line is numbered at some point. This number is the elevation of that line.

    (2)   Intermediate. The contour lines falling between the index contour lines are called intermediate contour lines. These lines are finer and do not have their elevations given. There are normally four intermediate contour lines between index contour lines.

    (3)   Supplementary. These contour lines resemble dashes. They show changes in elevation of at least one-half the contour interval. These lines are normally found where there is very little change in elevation, such as on fairly level terrain.


    Before the elevation of any point on the map can be determined, the user must know the contour interval for the map he is using. The contour interval measurement given in the marginal information is the vertical distance between adjacent contour lines. To determine the elevation of a point on the map 

    a.   Determine the contour interval and the unit of measure used, for example, feet, meters, or yards (Figure 10-2).

    Figure 10-2. Contour interval note.

    b.   Find the numbered index contour line nearest the point of which you are trying to determine the elevation (Figure 10-3).

    Figure 10-3. Points on contour lines.

    c.   Determine if you are going from lower elevation to higher, or vice versa. In Figure 10-3, point (a) is between the index contour lines. The lower index contour line is numbered 500, which means any point on that line is at an elevation of 500 meters above mean sea level. The upper index contour line is numbered 600, or 600 meters. Going from the lower to the upper index contour line shows an increase in elevation.

    d.   Determine the exact elevation of point (a), start at the index contour line numbered 500 and count the number of intermediate contour lines to point (a). Locate point (a) on the second intermediate contour line above the 500-meter index contour line. The contour interval is 20 meters (Figure 10-2), thus each one of the intermediate contour lines crossed to get to point (a) adds 20 meters to the 500-meter index contour line. The elevation of point (a) is 540 meters; the elevation has increased.

    e.   Determine the elevation of point (b). Go to the nearest index contour line. In this case, it is the upper index contour line numbered 600. Locate point (b) on the intermediate contour line immediately below the 600-meter index contour line. Below means downhill or a lower elevation. Therefore, point (b) is located at an elevation of 580 meters. Remember, if you are increasing elevation, add the contour interval to the nearest index contour line. If you are decreasing elevation, subtract the contour interval from the nearest index contour line.

    f.   Determine the elevation to a hilltop point (c). Add one-half the contour interval to the elevation of the last contour line. In this example, the last contour line before the hilltop is an index contour line numbered 600. Add one-half the contour interval, 10 meters, to the index contour line. The elevation of the hilltop would be 610 meters.

    g.   There may be times when you need to determine the elevation of points to a greater accuracy. To do this, you must determine how far between the two contour lines the point lies. However, most military needs are satisfied by estimating the elevation of points between contour lines (Figure 10-4).

    Figure 10-4. Points between contour lines.

    (1)   If the point is less than one-fourth the distance between contour lines, the elevation will be the same as the last contour line. In Figure 10-4, the elevation of point a will be 100 meters. To estimate the elevation of a point between one-fourth and three-fourths of the distance between contour lines, add one-half the contour interval to the last contour line.

    (2)   Point b is one-half the distance between contour lines. The contour line immediately below point b is at an elevation of 160 meters. The contour interval is 20 meters; thus one-half the contour interval is 10 meters. In this case, add 10 meters to the last contour line of 160 meters. The elevation of point b would be about 170 meters.

    (3)   A point located more than three-fourths of the distance between contour lines is considered to be at the same elevation as the next contour line. Point c is located three-fourths of the distance between contour lines. In Figure 10-4, point c would be considered to be at an elevation of 180 meters.

    h.   To estimate the elevation to the bottom of a depression, subtract one-half the contour interval from the value of the lowest contour line before the depression. In Figure 10-5, the lowest contour line before the depression is 240 meters in elevation. Thus, the elevation at the edge of the depression is 240 meters. To determine the elevation at the bottom of the depression, subtract one-half the contour interval. The contour interval for this example is 20 meters. Subtract 10 meters from the lowest contour line immediately before the depression. The result is that the elevation at the bottom of the depression is 230 meters. The tick marks on the contour line forming a depression always point to lower elevations.

    Figure 10-5. Depression.

    i.   In addition to the contour lines, bench marks and spot elevations are used to indicate points of known elevations on the map.

    (1)   Bench marks, the more accurate of the two, are symbolized by a black X, such as X BM 214. The 214 indicates that the center of the X is at an elevation of 214 units of measure (feet, meters, or yards) above mean sea level. To determine the units of measure, refer to the contour interval in the marginal information.

    (2)   Spot elevations are shown by a brown X and are usually located at road junctions and on hilltops and other prominent terrain features. If the elevation is shown in black numerals, it has been checked for accuracy; if it is in brown, it has not been checked.

    NOTE: New maps are being printed using a dot instead of brown Xs.


    Depending on the military mission, soldiers may need to determine not only the height of a hill, but the degree of the hill's slope as well. The rate of rise or fall of a terrain feature is known as its slope. The speed at which equipment or personnel can move is affected by the slope of the ground or terrain feature. This slope can be determined from the map by studying the contour lines the closer the contour lines, the steeper the slope; the farther apart the contour lines, the gentler the slope. Four types of slopes that concern the military are as follows:

    a.   Gentle. Contour lines showing a uniform, gentle slope will be evenly spaced and wide apart (Figure 10-6). Considering relief only, a uniform, gentle slope allows the defender to use grazing fire. The attacking force has to climb a slight incline.

    Figure 10-6. Uniform, gentle slope.

    b.   Steep. Contour lines showing a uniform, steep slope on a map will be evenly spaced, but close together. Remember, the closer the contour lines, the steeper the slope (Figure 10-7). Considering relief only, a uniform, steep slope allows the defender to use grazing fire, and the attacking force has to negotiate a steep incline.

    Figure 10-7. Uniform, steep slope.

    c.   Concave. Contour lines showing a concave slope on a map will be closely spaced at the top of the terrain feature and widely spaced at the bottom (Figure 10-8). Considering relief only, the defender at the top of the slope can observe the entire slope and the terrain at the bottom, but he cannot use grazing fire. The attacker would have no cover from the defender's observation of fire, and his climb would become more difficult as he got farther up the slope.

    Figure 10-8. Concave slope.

    d.   Convex. Contour lines showing a convex slope on a map will be widely spaced at the top and closely spaced at the bottom (Figure 10-9). Considering relief only, the defender at the top of the convex slope can obtain a small distance of grazing fire, but he cannot observe most of the slope or the terrain at the bottom. The attacker will have concealment on most of the slope and an easier climb as he nears the top.

    Figure 10-9. Convex slope.


    The speed at which personnel and equipment can move up or down a hill is affected by the slope of the ground and the limitations of the equipment. Because of this, a more exact way of describing a slope is necessary.

    a.   Slope may be expressed in several ways, but all depend upon the comparison of vertical distance (VD) to horizontal distance (HD) (Figure 10-10). Before we can determine the percentage of a slope, we must know the VD of the slope. The VD is determined by subtracting the lowest point of the slope from the highest point. Use the contour lines to determine the highest and lowest point of the slope (Figure 10-11).

    Figure 10-10. Slope diagram.

    Figure 10-11. Contour line around a slope.

    b.   To determine the percentage of the slope between points (a) and (b) in Figure 10-11, determine the elevation of point (b) (590 meters). Then determine the elevation of point (a) (380 meters). Determine the vertical distance between the two points by subtracting the elevation of point (a) from the elevation of point .The difference (210 meters) is the VD between points (a) and (b). Then measure the HD between the two points on the map in Figure 10-12. After the horizontal distance has been determined, compute the percentage of the slope by using the formula shown in Figure 10-13.

    Figure 10-12. Measuring horizontal distance.

    Figure 10-13. Percentage of slope in meters.

    c.   The slope angle can also be expressed in degrees. To do this, determine the VD and HD of the slope. Multiply the VD by 57.3 and then divide the total by the HD (Figure 10-14). This method determines the approximate degree of slope and is reasonably accurate for slope angles less than 20�.

    Figure 10-14. Degree of slope.

    d.   The slope angle can also be expressed as a gradient. The relationship of horizontal and vertical distance is expressed as a fraction with a numerator of one (Figure 10-15).

    Figure 10-15. Gradient.


    All terrain features are derived from a complex landmass known as a mountain or ridgeline (Figure 10-16). The term ridgeline is not interchangeable with the term ridge. A ridgeline is a line of high ground, usually with changes in elevation along its top and low ground on all sides from which a total of 10 natural or man-made terrain features are classified.

    Figure 10-16. Ridgeline.

    a.   Major Terrain Features.

    (1)   Hill. A hill is an area of high ground. From a hilltop, the ground slopes down in all directions. A hill is shown on a map by contour lines forming concentric circles. The inside of the smallest closed circle is the hilltop (Figure 10-17).

    Figure 10-17. Hill.

    (2)   Saddle. A saddle is a dip or low point between two areas of higher ground. A saddle is not necessarily the lower ground between two hilltops; it may be simply a dip or break along a level ridge crest. If you are in a saddle, there is high ground in two opposite directions and lower ground in the other two directions. A saddle is normally represented as an hourglass (Figure 10-18).

    Figure 10-18. Saddle.

    (3)   Valley. A valley is a stretched-out groove in the land, usually formed by streams or rivers. A valley begins with high ground on three sides, and usually has a course of running water through it. If standing in a valley, three directions offer high ground, while the fourth direction offers low ground. Depending on its size and where a person is standing, it may not be obvious that there is high ground in the third direction, but water flows from higher to lower ground. Contour lines forming a valley are either U-shaped or V-shaped. To determine the direction water is flowing, look at the contour lines. The closed end of the contour line (U or V) always points upstream or toward high ground (Figure 10-19).

    Figure 10-19. Valley.

    (4)   Ridge. A ridge is a sloping line of high ground. If you are standing on the centerline of a ridge, you will normally have low ground in three directions and high ground in one direction with varying degrees of slope. If you cross a ridge at right angles, you will climb steeply to the crest and then descend steeply to the base. When you move along the path of the ridge, depending on the geographic location, there may be either an almost unnoticeable slope or a very obvious incline. Contour lines forming a ridge tend to be U-shaped or V-shaped. The closed end of the contour line points away from high ground (Figure 10-20).

    Figure 10-20. Ridge.

    (5)   Depression. A depression is a low point in the ground or a sinkhole. It could be described as an area of low ground surrounded by higher ground in all directions, or simply a hole in the ground. Usually only depressions that are equal to or greater than the contour interval will be shown. On maps, depressions are represented by closed contour lines that have tick marks pointing toward low ground (Figure 10-21).

    Figure 10-21. Depression.

    b.   Minor Terrain Features.

    (1)   Draw. A draw is a less developed stream course than a valley. In a draw, there is essentially no level ground and, therefore, little or no maneuver room within its confines. If you are standing in a draw, the ground slopes upward in three directions and downward in the other direction. A draw could be considered as the initial formation of a valley. The contour lines depicting a draw are U-shaped or V-shaped, pointing toward high ground (Figure 10-22).

    Figure 10-22. Draw.

    (2)   Spur. A spur is a short, continuous sloping line of higher ground, normally jutting out from the side of a ridge. A spur is often formed by two rough parallel streams, which cut draws down the side of a ridge. The ground sloped down in three directions and up in one direction. Contour lines on a map depict a spur with the U or V pointing away from high ground (Figure 10-23).

    Figure 10-23. Spur.

    (3)   Cliff. A cliff is a vertical or near vertical feature; it is an abrupt change of the land. When a slope is so steep that the contour lines converge into one "carrying" contour of contours, this last contour line has tick marks pointing toward low ground (Figure 10-24A). Cliffs are also shown by contour lines very close together and, in some instances, touching each other (Figure 10-24B).

    Figure 10-24A. Cliff.

    Figure 10-24B. Cliff.

    c.   Supplementary Terrain Features.

    (1)   Cut. A cut is a man-made feature resulting from cutting through raised ground, usually to form a level bed for a road or railroad track. Cuts are shown on a map when they are at least 10 feet high, and they are drawn with a contour line along the cut line. This contour line extends the length of the cut and has tick marks that extend from the cut line to the roadbed, if the map scale permits this level of detail (Figure 10-25).

    Figure 10-25. Cut and fill.

    (2)   Fill. A fill is a man-made feature resulting from filling a low area, usually to form a level bed for a road or railroad track. Fills are shown on a map when they are at least 10 feet high, and they are drawn with a contour line along the fill line. This contour line extends the length of the filled area and has tick marks that point toward lower ground. If the map scale permits, the length of the fill tick marks are drawn to scale and extend from the base line of the fill symbol (Figure 10-25).


    Terrain features do not normally stand a lone. To better understand these when they are depicted on a map, you need to interpret them. Terrain features (Figure 10-26) are interpreted by using contour lines, the SOSES approach, ridgelining, or streamlining.

    Figure 10-26. Terrain features.

    a.   Contour Lines. Emphasizing the main contour lines is a technique used to interpret the terrain of an area. By studying these contour lines, you able to obtain a better understanding of the layout of the terrain and to decide on the best route.

    (1)   The following description pertains to Figure 10-27. Running east to west across the complex landmass is a ridgeline. A ridgeline is a line of high ground, usually with changes in elevation along its top and low ground on all sides. The changes in elevation are the three hilltops and two saddles along the ridgeline. From the top of each hill, there is lower ground in all directions. The saddles have lower ground in two directions and high ground in the opposite two directions. The contour lines of each saddle form half an hourglass shape. Because of the difference in size of the higher ground on the two opposite sides of a saddle, a full hourglass shape of a saddle may not be apparent.

    Figure 10-27. Ridgelining and streamlining.

    (2)   There are four prominent ridges. A ridge is on each end of the ridgeline and two ridges extend south from the ridgeline. All of the ridges have lower ground in three directions and higher ground in one direction. The closed ends of the U's formed by the contour lines point away from higher ground.

    (3)   To the south lies a valley; the valley slopes downward from east to west. Note that the U of the contour line points to the east, indicating higher ground in that direction and lower ground to the west. Another look at the valley shows high ground to the north and south of the valley.

    (4)   Just east of the valley is a depression. There is higher ground in all directions when looking from the bottom of the depression.

    (5)   There are several spurs extending generally south from the ridgeline. They, like ridges, have lower ground in three directions and higher ground in one direction. Their contour line U's point away from higher ground.

    (6)   Between the ridges and spurs are draws. They, like valleys, have higher ground in three directions and lower ground in one direction. Their contour line U's and V's point toward higher ground.

    (7)   Two contour lines on the north side of the center hill are touching or almost touching. They have ticks indicating a vertical or nearly vertical slope or a cliff.

    (8)   The road cutting through the eastern ridge depicts cuts and fills. The breaks in the contour lines indicate cuts, and the ticks pointing away from the roadbed on each side of the road indicate fills.

    b.   SOSES. A recommended technique for identifying specific terrain features and then locating them on the map is to make use of five of their characteristics known by the mnemonic SOSES. Terrain features can be examined, described, and compared with each other and with corresponding map contour patterns in terms of their shapes, orientations, sizes, elevations, and slopes.

    (1)   Shape. The general form or outline of the feature at its base.

    (2)   Orientation. The general trend or direction of a feature from your viewpoint. A feature can be in line, across, or at an angle to your viewpoint.

    (3)   Size. The length or width of a feature horizontally across its base. For example, one terrain feature might be larger or smaller than another terrain feature.

    (4)   Elevation. The height of a terrain feature. This can be described either in absolute or relative terms as compared to the other features in the area. One landform may be higher, lower, deeper, or shallower than another.

    (5)   Slope. The type (uniform, convex, or concave) and the steepness or angle (steep or gentle) of the sides of a terrain feature.

    Through practice, you can learn to identify several individual terrain features in the field and see how they vary in appearance.

    NOTE: Further terrain analysis using SOSES can be learned by using the Map Interpretation and Terrain Association Course. It consists of three separate courses of instruction: basic, intermediate, and advanced. Using photographic slides of terrain and other features, basic instruction teaches how to identify basic terrain feature types on the ground and on the map. Intermediate instruction teaches elementary map interpretation and terrain association using real world scenes and map sections of the same terrain. Advanced instruction teaches advanced techniques for map interpretation and terrain association. The primary emphasis is on the concepts of map design guidelines and terrain association skills. Map design guidelines refer to the rules and practices used by cartographers in the compilation and symbolization of military topographic maps. Knowledge of the selection, classification, and symbolization of mapped features greatly enhances the user's ability to interpret map information.

    c.   Ridgelining. This technique helps you to visualize the overall lay of the ground within the area of interest on the map. Follow these steps:

    (1)   Identify on the map the crests of the ridgelines in your area of operation by identifying the close-out contours that lie along the hilltop.

    (2)   Trace over the crests so each ridgeline stands out clearly as one identifiable line.

    (3)   Go back over each of the major ridgelines and trace over the prominent ridges and spurs that come out of the ridgelines.

    The usual colors used for this tracing are red or brown; however, you may use any color at hand. When you have completed the ridgelining process, you will find that the high ground on the map will stand out and that you will be able to see the relationship between the various ridgelines (Figure 10-27).

    d.   Streamlining. This procedure (Figure 10-27) is similar to that of ridgelining.

    (1)   Identify all the mapped streams in the area of operations.

    (2)   Trace over them to make them stand out more prominently.

    (3)   Then identify other low ground, such as smaller valleys or draws that feed into the major streams, and trace over them.

    This brings out the drainage pattern and low ground in the area of operation on the map. The color used for this is usually blue; but again, if blue is not available, use any color at hand so long as the distinction between the ridgelines and the streamlines is clear.

    10-8. PROFILES

    The study of contour lines to determine high and low points of elevation is usually adequate for military operations. However, there may be a few times when we need a quick and precise reference to determine exact elevations of specific points. When exactness is demanded, a profile is required. A profile, within the scope and purpose of this manual, is an exaggerated side view of a portion of the earth's surface along a line between two or more points.

    a.   A profile can be used for many purposes. The primary purpose is to determine if line of sight is available. Line of sight is used 

    (1)   To determine defilade positions.

    (2)   To plot hidden areas or dead space.

    (3)   To determine potential direct fire weapon positions.

    (4)   To determine potential locations for defensive positions.

    (5)   To conduct preliminary planning in locating roads, pipelines, railroads, or other construction projects.

    b.   A profile can be constructed from any contoured map. Its construction requires the following steps:

    (1)   Draw a line on the map from where the profile is to begin to where it is to end (Figure 10-28).

    Figure 10-28. Connecting points.

    (2)   Find the value of the highest and lowest contour lines that cross or touch the profile line. Add one contour value above the highest and one below the lowest to take care of hills and valleys.

    (3)   Select a piece of lined notebook paper with as many lines as was determined in (2) above. The standard Army green pocket notebook or any other paper with 1/4-inch lines is ideal. Wider lines, up to 5/8-inch, may be used. If lined paper is not available, draw equally spaced horizontal lines on a blank sheet of paper.

    (4)   Number the top line with the highest value and the bottom line with the lowest value as determined in (2) above.

    (5)   Number the rest of the lines in sequence, starting with the second line from the top. The lines will be numbered in accordance with the contour interval (Figure 10-29).

    Figure 10-29. Dropping perpendiculars.

    (6)   Place the paper on the map with the lines next to and parallel to the profile line (Figure 10-29).

    (7)   From every point on the profile line where a contour line, stream, intermittent stream, or other body of water crosses or touches, drop a perpendicular line to the line having the same value. Place a tick mark where the perpendicular line crosses the number line (Figure 10-29). Where trees are present, add the height of the trees to the contour line and place a tick mark there. Assume the height of the trees to be 50 feet or 15 meters where dark green tint is shown on the map. Vegetation height may be adjusted up or down when operations in the area have provided known tree heights.

    (8)   After all perpendicular lines have been drawn and tick marks placed where the lines cross, connect all tick marks with a smooth, natural curve to form a horizontal view or profile of the terrain along the profile line (Figure 10-29).

    NOTE: The profile drawn may be exaggerated. The spacing between the lines drawn on the sheet of paper determines the amount of exaggeration and may be varied to suit any purpose.

    (9)   Draw a straight line from the start point to the end point on the profile. If the straight line intersects the curved profile, line of sight to the end point is not available (Figure 10-30).

    Figure 10-30. Drawing lines to additional points.

    (10)   Determine the line of sight to other points along the profile line by drawing a line from the start point to additional points. In Figure 10-31, line of sight is available to 

    A Yes D Yes G Yes
    B No E No H No
    C No F No I No

    Figure 10-31. Drawing a hasty profile.

    The vertical distance between navigable ground up to the line of sight line is the depth of defilade.

    c.   When time is short, or when a complete profile is not needed, one may be constructed showing only the hilltops, ridges, and if desired, the valleys. This is called a hasty profile. It is constructed in the same manner as a full profile (Figure 10-31).


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