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Compass Navigation for Light Infantry Leaders

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Learn how to use the most common types of compasses to plot, travel, sight and plan movement.

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Compass Navigation for Light Infantry Leaders

  1. 1. Land Navigation Basic Use of the Magnetic Compass
  2. 2. What is a Compass • The current, hand-held magnetic compass is two different things: • A north-seeking device from which you can determine direction of travel, and (with the aid of built-in scales) the relative locations of items within view. Some of the features on the compass have nothing to do with this function. • An instrument to help you plot onto maps your position from observations, and to plan routes. Some of the features on the compass have nothing to do with this function. 2
  3. 3. Basic Terminology • Bearing is the direction to a target item or destination. Azimuth has essentially the same meaning. • Heading is the direction you are travelling (the way you are heading). • Magnetic North or MN points towards the magnetic north pole. • True North, sometimes TN or denoted with a star points towards the geographic north pole at the center of the map sheet. • Grid North or GN is the direction in which the north/south grid points at the center of the map sheet. • The capsule is the container where the needle floats. A graduation ring around the edge of the capsule denotes direction. 3
  4. 4. Declination • Declination is the deviation between magnetic north (where the needle points) and true north. • To navigate based on information plotted from a map or similar system, you have to account for declination. • Declination varies greatly by location. • Declination is listed on maps, but changes over time so be careful with older maps. 4
  5. 5. Degrees, Mils & More • Degrees are as usual, 360° make up a circle. • Mils is short for milliradians. 6400 make up a circle*. These are common in artillery, machinegunnery and generally on military compasses. • Cardinal points (“NNW,” etc.) and even colors can also be used to denote direction. Any system will work fine as long as you are the only one using it. If you work with others, you have to use the same system as them to be able to communicate. * A mil is not a mil. The US (and now NATO) standard is 6400, but older Swedish compasses use 6300 mils in a circle, older UK compasses, 6280, and the Russians 6000. Be careful if using surplus, foreign or captured equipment in a shared working environment. 5 If you are wondering, a radian is mathematically (geometrically) interesting. Its the angle in which the radius is equal to the curved length of the arc. A “real” milliradian puts 6283 milliradians in a circle.
  6. 6. Baseplate Compass: Sighting This applies to any baseplate (usually, clear baseplate), protractor or Silva 1- 2-3 style compass. 1. Hold the compass level, in front of you, so you can see sort of across and down into the capsule. You will need to see the needle and the north mark on the graduation ring. 2. Turn yourself until the red end of the needle points exactly north (360°, 0, etc.) on the graduation ring. Most clear basepate compasses also have a red arrow in the bottom of the capsule you t can use for this alignment. 3. To use this in conjunction with a map, read the bearing to the target off the top of the graduation ring. 6
  7. 7. Baseplate Compass: Plotting 1. Place compass on your map with the edge along your desired line of travel. 2. Rotate the capsule until North on the graduation ring point towards North on the map (you may need to draw additional faint pencil line on the map more frequently than they are printed). The capsule base will have lines in it to help with this. 3. The compass is now set up for navigating to a destination. 4. A compass already sighted on a target can be used in a reverse procedure to determine (or confirm) your location on a map. 7
  8. 8. Baseplate Compass: Travelling 1. If you are travelling to a location you just sighted, the compass is already setup correctly. Otherwise, you will have set the compass up during the plotting phase. 2. Keep the needle pointing towards north to know the bearing to your destination. The compass can be referred to by holding it against your chest (center hold method). The compass body will then be pointing the way you are; just glance down to see which way you are heading. 3. Line up the needle and north mark, as when sighting, to find a reasonably nearby feature on your path like a tree or distinctive hill. Walk to there (as convenient), then take a bearing to another point and walk there. Repeat until you reach your destination. 8
  9. 9. Differences in the Ranger The Silva Ranger series is the definitive mirror-sighting style of compass. Perform most functions as for a conventional baseplate compass. To sight a distant object: 1. Hold the compass with the capsule at eye level. The mirror will be up at about 45°, so you can clearly see the reflection of the capsule and the needle. 2. Use the line on the mirror (and any notches on the cover) to precisely align the compass and yourself with the target. 3. Without moving, twist the capsule so the direction-of-travel arrow aligns with the north end of the needle. 4. Read the compass, or just use this alignment to walk this bearing. 9
  10. 10. Lensatic Compass: Sighting ● The US lensatic compass can be quickly sighted over the top in the same manner as a baseplate compass. ● For more precision, place your thumb a thru the loop, fold the lens forward and the cover somewhat rear, and hold the assembly against your cheek, as in the illustration. ● Use the notch above the lens with the wire in the lid to sight on a target. Lock the bearing by folding the sight forward. ● You may then read the bearing directly, or lock it in for further navigationby twisting a bezel on top of the capsule. A tritium line on the glass is aligned with the north needle. 10
  11. 11. Lensatic Compass: Plotting • The compass is not used for plotting on the map; a clear card device called a roamer or protractor is used instead. • To avoid drawing lines on maps, or carrying another straightedge, attach a thin string to the center of the protractor. • The line can be drawn from the center to the target to determine angles, which are read off the edge of the card. Both degrees and mils are included. • Small triangle within the card provide additional precision within grid squares for various map scales. 11
  12. 12. Lensatic Compass: Travelling • When travelling, its best to use the lensatic much like the baseplate compass; hold the compass against your chest, so you can glance down and see the capsule and alignment. • If the needle and the luminescent indicator is aligned, you are on course. • If your waypoints are very far apart, and there is time to stop, it may be valuable to use the lens/lid sighting method to more precisely pick the best target. 12