NATO revolution in the Polish military cartography

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The article presents a review of contemporary Polish military topographic maps, with special focus on those in the scale of 1:50,000. They are basic maps used in all armies of NATO countries at tactical stages.

After the political breakthrough of 1989 Polish political elites saw the future of our country in the structures of Western Europe, but the Warsaw Pact still existed, and Soviet Army units were stationed in Poland and in the German Democratic Republic. All the Warsaw Pact countries used maps in the “1942” coordinate system and followed standardized rules of map elaboration. The article presents transformation of those maps into NATO standards, the first stage of which was elaboration of the, so-called, maps adapted to NATO standards.

At the end of 1990s there started elaboration of a new topographic map of Poland in the scale of 1:50,000. The project involved preparation of a level 2 map, in NATO nomenclature known as VMap Level 2, and simultaneously using the same base for to generate 580 sheets of a paper map in 1:50,000. Map elaboration finished in 2006 and in the following years the project was enhanced with publication of new maps based on high-resolution image data.

Since 2003 Polish cartographers have been participating in Multinational Geospatial Co-production Program (MGCP). Within the program high-resolution vector data is being prepared for selected areas of interest. They are mainly areas of current or potential military conflict, terrorist threat, ethnic or religious conflict, natural disaster, etc. MGCP data is not a ready product meant for direct usage, and without proper preparation it is simply unreadable. Therefore, special computer applications were developed to facilitate fast preparation of topographic maps in 1:50,000: MGCP Derived Graphic (MDG) and lately MGCP Topographic Map (MTM). Such maps differ from Polish topographic maps both in contents (to a lesser extent) and in graphic form (to a larger extent). They contain less objects, but include aerial information.

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