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• # United States Military Grid Reference System

This grid reference system is designated for use with the UTM and UPS grids. The coordinate value of points in these grids could contain as many as 15 digits if numerals alone were used. The US military grid reference system reduces the length of written coordinates by substituting single letters for several numbers. Using the UTM and the UPS grids, it is possible for the location of a point (identified by numbers alone) to be in many different places on the surface of the earth. With the use of the military grid reference system, there is no possibility of this happening.

a.   Grid Zone Designation. The world is divided into 60 grid zones, which are large, regularly shaped geographic areas, each of which is given a unique identification called the grid zone designation.

(1)   UTM Grid. The first major breakdown is the division of each zone into areas 6° wide by 8° high and 6° wide by 12° high. Remember, for the transverse Mercator projection, the earth's surface between 80° S and 84° N is divided into 60 N-S zones, each 6° wide. These zones are numbered from west to east, 1 through 60, starting at the 180° meridian. This surface is divided into 20 east-west rows in which 19 are 8° high and 1 row at the extreme north is 12° high. These rows are then lettered, from south to north, C through X (I and O were omitted). Any 6° by 8° zone or 6° by 12° zone is identified by giving the number and letter of the grid zone and row in which it lies. These are read RIGHT and UP so the number is always written before the letter. This combination of zone number and row letter constitutes the grid zone designation. Columbus lies in zone 16 and row S, or in grid zone designation 16S (Figure 4-8).

(2)   UPS Grid. The remaining letters of the alphabet, A, B, Y, and Z, are used for the UPS grids. Each polar area is divided into two zones separated by the 0-180° meridian. In the south polar area, the letter A is the grid zone designation for the area west of the 0-180° meridian, and B for the area to the east. In the north polar area, Y is the grid zone designation for the western area and Z for the eastern area (Figure 4-10).

b.   100,000-Meter Square. Between 84° N and 80° S, each 6° by 8° or 6° by 12° zone is covered by 100,000-meter squares that are identified by the combination of two alphabetical letters. This identification is unique within the area covered by the grid zone designation. The first letter is the column designation; the second letter is the row designation (Figure 4-11). The north and south polar areas are also divided into 100,000-meter squares by columns and rows. A detailed discussion of the polar system can be found in Technical Report 8358. 1. The 100,000-meter square identification letters are located in the grid reference box in the lower margin of the map. Figure 4-11. Grid zone designation and 100,000-meter square identification.

c.   Grid Coordinates. We have now divided the earth's surface into 6° by 8° quadrangles, and covered these with 100,000-meter squares. The military grid reference of a point consists of the numbers and letters indicating in which of these areas the point lies, plus the coordinates locating the point to the desired position within the 100,000-meter square. The next step is to tie in the coordinates of the point with the larger areas. To do this, you must understand the following.

(1)   Grid Lines. The regularly spaced lines that make the UTM and the UPS grid on any large-scale maps are divisions of the 100,000-meter square; the lines are spaced at 10,000- or 1,000-meter intervals (Figure 4-12). Each of these lines is labeled at both ends of the map with its false easting or false northing value, showing its relation to the origin of the zone. Two digits of the values are printed in large type, and these same two digits appear at intervals along the grid lines on the face of the map. These are called the principal digits, and represent the 10,000 and 1,000 digits of the grid value. They are of major importance to the map reader because they are the numbers he will use most often for referencing points. The smaller digits complete the UTM grid designation. Figure 4-12. Grid lines.

EXAMPLE: The first grid line north of the south-west corner of the Columbus map is labeled 3570000m N. This means its false northing (distance north of the equator) is 3,570,000 meters. The principal digits, 70, identify the line for referencing points in the northerly direction. The smaller digits, 35, are part of the false coordinates and are rarely used. The last three digits, 000, of the value are omitted. Therefore, the first grid line east of the south-west corner is labeled 689000m E. The principal digits, 89, identify the line for referencing points in the easterly direction (Figure 4-13). Figure 4-13. Columbus map, southwest corner.

(2)   Grid Squares. The north-south and east-west grid lines intersect at 90° , forming grid squares. Normally, the size of one of these grid squares on large-scale maps is 1,000 meters (1 kilometer).

(3)   Grid Coordinate Scales. The primary tool for plotting grid coordinates is the grid coordinate scale. The grid coordinate scale divides the grid square more accurately than can be done by estimation, and the results are more consistent. When used correctly, it presents less chance for making errors. GTA 5-2-12, 1981, contains four types of coordinate scales (Figure 4-14). Figure 4-14. Coordinate scales.

(a)   The 1:25,000/1:250,000 (lower right in figure) can be used in two different scale maps, 1:25,000 or 1:250,000. The 1:25,000 scale subdivides the 1,000-meter grid block into 10 major subdivisions, each equal to 100 meters. Each 100-meter block has five graduations, each equal to 20 meters. Points falling between the two graduations can be read accurately by the use of estimation. These values are the fourth and eighth digits of the coordinates. Likewise, the 1:250,000 scale is subdivided in 10 major subdivisions, each equal to 1,000 meters. Each 1,000-meter block has five graduations, each equal to 200 meters. Points falling between two graduations can be read approximately by the use of estimation.

(b)   The 1:50,000 scale (upper left in Figure 4-14) subdivides the 1,000-meter block into 10 major subdivisions, each equal to 100 meters. Each 100-meter block is then divided in half. Points falling between the graduations must be estimated to the nearest 10 meters for the fourth and eighth digits of the coordinates.

(c)   The 1:100,000 scale (lower left in Figure 4-14) subdivides the 1,000-meter grid block into five major subdivisions of 200 meters each. Each 200-meter block is then divided in half at 100-meter intervals. 