Land Navigation

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Land navigation is both understanding your location and where you need to go. This is accomplished through the use of a map and a compass (or GPS device). In the virtual world of Steel Beasts Professional (SBP), land navigation can be difficult, especially if the map is disabled or map updates are turned off.


To quote FM 3-25.26: "A map is a graphic representation of a portion of the earth’s surface drawn to scale, as seen from above. It uses colors, symbols, and labels to represent features found on the ground." In SBP such maps are represented in the form of a standard 1:50,000-scale NATO style military map accessible during the Planning, Action (F5), and AAR phases of the simulation.

These maps are topographic in nature, using Contour Lines to depict Relief and Elevation representing the vertical distance above or below sea level. Contour Lines are depicted in brown and have a standard "interval" (indicating the vertical distance between lines) of 10 meters. The closer the contour lines are to each other, the steeper the slope indicated while the farther apart the contour lines, the gentler the slope.

Reading the Map

The grid is labeled on the bottom and left hand side of the map and is always read right and up.

In Steel Beasts Professional the map screen is read the same way as a standard military topographic map; grid coordinates are located along the bottom and left sides of the map and are always read right then up. For example, in the map image above, a four-digit grid to the tank section A11 (the section circled in red) would be 49 19. A four-digit grid is not very accurate as it only narrows the location down to a 1000m sq area, but it is useful for quick reference when making reports on the radio. The more accurate six-digit grid narrows a location down to 100m sq area by subdividing the grid square into ten vertical and horizontal segments. In the same example, a rough estimation of the six-digit grid to A11 would be 492 195 (495 195 being dead center of that grid square). An eight-digit grid adds further precision in narrowing a location down to 10m sq by further dividing each segment of the grid into 10 sub segments, however this level of accuracy is usually reserved to GPS PLGR (Precision Lightweight GPS Receiver) devices.

Coordinates may also reference points of interest identified on the map. For example, "Go to Church A +4, +4," translates as "find the church marked A on the map, move east 400 meters, and north 400 meters."

Terrain Features

The primary terrain features on a Steel Beasts map are hills, ridges, saddles, valleys, spurs and draws. This section describes each of these major terrain features and provides an illustration of each terrain feature from FM 3-25.26, its depiction on the simulated map, and its appearance in the 3D world.


A hill is an area of high ground, from which the ground slopes down in all directions. A hill is shown on a map by contour lines forming concentric circles, with the inside of the smallest closed circle being the hilltop.


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, with the closed end of the contour line pointing away from the high ground.


A saddle is a dip or low point between two areas of higher ground, but 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. Typically, the contours of a saddle demark an hourglass like shape.


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.


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, allowing the ground sloped down in three directions and up in one. Contour lines on a map depict a spur with the U or V pointing away from high ground.


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.

Using a Compass

Steel Beasts Professional lacks a traditional "compass" type interface, instead using a "vehicle clock" icon in the lower right hand corner of the 3D view. This clock indicates direction your unit is facing (Hull Icon), the direction that the turret/main gun is pointed - if so equipped (Turret Icon), and the direction the vehicle commander is looking (White TC dot). Although unmarked, cardinal directions conform to screen orientation, with north towards the top of the screen, south towards the bottom, and east and west conforming to right and left respectively.

Vehicle clock / compass. The Red N was manually added to the image to indicate north.

Beginning with rev. 4.000 it is possible for vehicle commanders and dismounted infantry squad leaders to manually "shoot" an azimuth in the direction the individual is looking. To do so, "Require manual azimuth determination" must be checked under the "Options" tab during scenario creation. Note that enabling this feature disables the vehicle clock described above, but the turret and TC icons still function normally.

Enabling manual azimuth determination in the scenario editor.

Once enabled and the scenario is in the Action Phase, the user must be in the F7 TC or squad leader position in the 3D world view and the vehicle or squad in question must be stationary. In the case of a vehicle commander, they must be unbuttoned and at least at "name tag" defilade in the hatch to take an azimuth. At this point, pressing and holding the K key will cause the words "Determining azimuth" to flash in the lower left corner of the screen. After a short amount of time (ten seconds for a vehicle and five for infantry) two azimuth indicators will appear at the top center of the view, at which point the K key can be released. The top indicator in green is graduated in degrees while the bottom red indicator is in mils. The actual degree/mil value will be numerically highlighted between arrows and will indicate individual azimuths across a 10° (172 mil) arc centered on the initial azimuth. Turning beyond this 10° arc will cause the actual degree/mil value to disappear, and the azimuth indicators will slowly begin to fade as you turn further in either direction, until vanishing about 45° from the center point.

Azimuth of 251o determined from the hatch of an M60.

At any time the user may press and hold K again to take another azimuth. Any movement will cause the indicators to disappear, but changing an infantry unit's posture has no effect.

Reference Points and Coordination Points

Reference/Coordination points can take a variety of forms, in this case, a circle with an "X" through it, a circular area (marked in blue here), and a small cross.

During the planning phase, easily identifiable points of interest should be marked and labeled. Examples: Castle towers on large hills, windmills, churches, towns, river crossings, etc. Then its easier for everyone to see and navigate by those points. These are generally referred to as TRPs (Target Reference Points) or simply "targets" and are marked with circles or crosses. Coordination points (also called "contact points") are easily identified locations located where a phase line crosses a lateral unit boundary and two or more ground units are required to make physical contact to ensure coordination between said units. Coordination points are marked with circle with a X through it.

If the map screen is disabled, then print the map out on paper. If new points of interest are added during the briefing, then be sure to write them down. Plot the intended route on the map, and look for things that can help orient you.

Navigation Techniques

In Steel Beasts Professional, if you find yourself without a GPS PLGR device, an FBCB2 type updating map, or without a map view altogether, then there are a couple of real world land navigation techniques that you can follow to help determine where you are, or what you are looking at.

Terrain Association

As a mounted warrior, terrain association will be your primary method of navigation. By observing map contour lines along with areas of vegetation in detail, major terrain features (hilltops, valleys, ridges, depressions, saddles, and treelines) can be determined. One-by-one, match the terrain features depicted on the map with the same features on the ground then plot your desired route, moving from terrain feature to terrain feature. This the same technique you use when driving through an area you're familiar with, moving along a street or series of streets, guiding on intersections, and keying off features such as stores and parks. So for a typical move, you determine your location, determine the location of your objective, note both positions no the map, and then select a route between the two. After examining the terrain, adjust the route using the following actions:

  • Consider Tactical Aspects. Avoid skylining, select key terrain for overwatch positions, and select concealed routes.
  • Consider Ease of Movement. Using the easiest possible route and bypassing difficult terrain will simplify your task. Remember, a difficult route is harder to follow, may be noisier, might lead to possible recovery issues, and will take more time. On the other hand, tactical surprise is achieved by doing the unexpected, so selecting an axis or corridor may be preferable to a specific route. Also, ensure sure you have enough room to maneuver your vehicles.
  • Use Terrain Features as Checkpoints. Choose checkpoints easily recognizable given the local light and weather conditions, and at the speed at which you will move. You should be able to find a terrain feature from your location easily recognized from almost anywhere and used as a guide.
    • The best checkpoints are linear features that cross your route, such as: streams, rivers, hard-top roads, ridges, valleys, and railroads.
    • The next best checkpoints are elevation changes such as hills, depressions, spurs, and draws.
    • When lacking map updates in Steel Beasts Professional, navigating through densely wooded terrain can be problematic. If you know your entry point, then dead reckoning utilizing the stabilized sight technique (see below) will allow you to cross with no loss of direction.
  • Follow Terrain Features. It is easier to move and navigate along a valley floor or near (not necessarily on) the crest of a ridgeline.
  • Determine Directions. Break the route down into smaller segments and determine the rough directions that will be followed. No compass is needed; just use the main points of direction (north, northeast, east, and so forth). Before moving, note the location of the sun, locate north, and locate changes of direction, if any, at the checkpoints picked.
  • Determine Distance. You should determine the total distance to be traveled and the approximate distance between checkpoints. Note, since vehicles in Steel Beasts Professional lack odometers, the distance between checkpoints must be measured by the time it will take to reach them.
  • Make Notes. Mental notes are usually adequate. Try to imagine what the route is like and remember it.
  • Plan to Avoid Errors. Restudy the route selected. Try to determine where errors are most apt to occur and how to avoid any trouble.

Dead Reckoning



FM 3-25.26 Map Reading and Land Navigation