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U.S. AIR FORCE AUXILIARY. ES Aircrew 2009 Update Training. US National Grid Awareness . Lt. Col. Stan Kegel Minnesota Wing. April 2009. Agenda. Our goal today: Become familiar with the US National Grid (USNG) In short, what is it?

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ES Aircrew 2009 Update Training

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ES Aircrew2009 Update Training

US National Grid


Lt. Col. Stan KegelMinnesota Wing

April 2009

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  • Our goal today:

    • Become familiar with the US National Grid (USNG)

      • In short, what is it?

      • How does it relate to other common grid and coordinate systems?

      • In what situations does it work well?

      • Where did this requirement come from?

      • Who must use it and when?

      • What complications exist?

  • This course is only and introduction and is not intended to fully teach the ability to use USNG in navigation

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What is USNG?

  • A GRID System

    • Each numbered grid describes a square area (not a point like Lat/Long)

    • Supports grids of many scales, from 100 km down to 1 meter (or, theoretically even smaller)

    • Flat, square coordinate system

    • Seamless with respect to political boundaries

    • Truncated (abbreviated) form can be used often (when context tells us what part of the country is relevant)

  • Based on UTM (Universal Transverse Mercator) Coordinates

    • USGS topographic map “Grid North” refers to the UTM (and USNG) coordinate system

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  • MGRS – Military Grid Reference System

    • NATO Standard

  • USNG is nearly the same as MGRS

    • Declared a separate standard so each can be free to change to meet the needs of its audience in the future

    • Right now completely equivalent if the NAD83/WGS84 datum is used

      • Differences in notation if other datums are used

    • One of its benefits of the adoption of the USNG standard is that military personnel essentially already know it (and they are often acting in support of catastrophic incidents)

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UTM Basics – Big Pictures

  • UTM “zones” every 6 degrees of longitude

  • Latitude band every 8 degrees of latitude

  • “Grid zone designation” (GZD)

    • A combination of zone andlatitude band

  • Each “grid zone” has its own map projection.

    • Most of Minnesota is in grid zone 15T


UTM/USNG Grid Zone Designations






























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UTM Basics – Coordinates

  • A Northern Hemisphere UTM Location is given as…

    • Grid Zone

    • “Easting”

      • Measurement (in meters) east/west of the central meridian of the zone

      • The central meridian is given a value of 500,000 meters to avoid negative numbers

      • Numbers greater than 500,000 are east of central meridian

    • “Northing”

      • Measurement (in meters) north of the equator

  • Example: 15 511196 4982565 (Point on St Paul, Lake Elmo Airport)

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USNG Grids – Differences from UTM

  • Grid zones broken up into “100,000 m Squares”

    • Caveat: On the edges of the Grid zone, the 100,000 m squares are not square.

  • Each “Square” is given a two letter “ID”

  • The IDs are arranged so that the same ID occurs only a few times in the country and always a long way away

    • This allows for “truncated” grid references (i.e. omitting the GZD and the 100,000 m Square ID)

  • The use of 100,000 m Squares means that we don’t need the first 2 digits of the UTM Northing and the 1st digit of the UTM Easting, so these digits are omitted from USNG grid coordinates

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USNG Grid Coordinates

  • In full form, given as…

    • Grid Zone Designation

    • 100,000 m Square ID

    • Easting and Northing numbers

      • Always with same number of digits for each part

      • The number of digits defines the grid size/precision

        • Four digits:23 06 Locating a point within a 1,000-m square

        • Six digits: 233 065 Locating a point within a 100-m square (football field size)

        • Eight digits: 2337 0651 Locating a point within a 10-m square (modest size home)

        • Ten digits: 23371 06519 Locating a point within a 1-m square (parking space size)

  • Example: 15T WK 11196 82565 (Point on St Paul Lake Elmo Airport)

  • Truncated form omits GZD and 100,000 m Square ID

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Comparing Coordinates

  • St Paul Lake Elmo Airport

    • UTM:15 511196 4982565

    • USNG:15T WK 11196 82565

    • Lat/Long:44 59.78’ N 92 51.48’ W

  • St Paul Downtown Airport

    • UTM:15 494689 4976117

    • USNG:15T VK 94689 76117

    • Lat/Long:44 56.30’ N 93 04.03’ W

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USNG – Minnesota

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USNG – Big Picture View

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  • For terrestrial navigation

    • Not for aeronautical/maritime use

  • Works best over relatively small areas

    • The land can be modeled reasonably as a flat area when working in small areas

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Who is driving this, and why?

  • NSARC – National SAR Committee (DOD, DHS, et. al.)

    • Addressing Katrina SAR Issues:

      • How do SAR Responders navigate when landmarks are destroyed

      • Need for a grid system for SAR planning (resource deconfliction, etc.)

    • Practical difficulties using Latitude and Longitude for terrestrial small area navigation.

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USNG: What scenarios are driving this?

  • “Catastrophic Incident” SAR

    • Think Hurricane Katrina

    • Think 35W Bridge Collapse

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Catastrophic Incident SARNSARC Georeferencing Matrix

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NSARC Georeferencing Matrix Footnotes

  • During CIS operations, Lat/Long will be in one standard format:


  • Land SAR Responders must use USNG; however a good familiarity with lat/long is necessary to ensure effective interface between land and air SAR responders

  • Air SAR Responders will use Lat/Long

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NSARC Georeferencing Matrix Footnotes

  • Air space deconfliction: only in Lat/Long

  • Air SAR Responders working with land SAR responders have primary responsibility of coordinating SAR using USNG

    • Both need to know USNG and Lat/Long

  • GARS (Global Area Reference System): used for CIS response leadership situational awareness

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What about Lat/Long?Couldn’t a grid system be built on that?

  • Lat/Long:

    • Great system for larger area navigation but…

      • Distances not easy to figure out

        • How far is 1 degree of longitude?

        • Shorter distances get even more awkward. (How far is 0.1 minutes of longitude?)

      • Difficult to accurately plot positions (or grids) based on Lat/Long with using a topo map

  • In small areas, it is easier to think in terms of linear distances (feet, meters, kilometers, miles, etc.)

    • Example: Go 100 m east, then 200 m north

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Would a scrolling-map GPS device solve the problem?

  • GPS devices are great for providing position info

    … in a variety of possible display formats

    • Lat/Long (DD MM.mmm, DD MM SS.s, …)

    • UTM

    • USNG

    • etc.

  • They are horrible maps, however

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    Complications to expect

    • UTM/USNG awkward at and near grid zone boundaries

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    Using USNG On a Topo Map

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    USNG on a Topo Map

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    Plotter for Use for USNGOn Topo Maps

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    The Example on the Big-Picture

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    Example - Truncated

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