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Datum (geodetic)

Definition In military operations, the term “Datum (geodetic)” refers to a mathematical model of the Earth that provides a reference point for measurement and acts as a standard for mapping and navigation. It incorporates features such as the Earth’s size, shape, and gravitational variations. This concept helps in achieving accurate geographical coordination and positioning during […]


In military operations, the term “Datum (geodetic)” refers to a mathematical model of the Earth that provides a reference point for measurement and acts as a standard for mapping and navigation. It incorporates features such as the Earth’s size, shape, and gravitational variations. This concept helps in achieving accurate geographical coordination and positioning during military operations.

Key Takeaways

  1. Datum (geodetic) refers to a base reference point or surface against which position measurements are made, and is used in geographical and geodetic calculations.
  2. In military operations, this term is crucial for accuracy in navigation, targeting, and weapons systems. It plays a pivotal role in ensuring precise and error-free positioning and mapping.
  3. The most commonly used geodetic datum globally is World Geodetic System 1984 (WGS84), which becomes an essential standard for military, civil navigation, and international mapping.


In military operations, the term “Datum (geodetic)” holds significant importance as it provides a foundational reference framework for mapping and navigation.

A geodetic datum is a coordinate system with an inclusion of a set of reference points used to position data in space, with a two or three-dimensional format.

This concept is crucial in military operations as it allows for precise geo-positioning and orientation.

This precision facilitates accurate planning and execution of movements, weapon deployment, intelligence gathering, and multitude other critical operations, contributing to successful mission outcomes.

Without a standardized geodetic datum shared among allies, collaborative operations could encounter issues with spatial discrepancies leading to miscalculations causing operational inefficiencies or severe consequences.


In military operations, the term “Datum (geodetic)” refers to a specific point of reference used in mapping and navigation. It is typically a pre-established, geographic positioning system that allows for a common base or starting point for geographic calculations.

This geodetic datum pertains to the mathematical model representation of the Earth’s surface, and it’s a vital component of geospatial intelligence and management in the military. The significance of this is seen in the precision and reliability it provides during operations – from navigation to the deployment of weaponry.

Datum (geodetic) is used in critical military applications, such as providing accurate coordinates in the operation of piloting aircraft, driving tanks, navigating ships, or even directing artillery fire. Every map has its own datum to give exactness to the coordinates provided.

Without this, the risk and incidence of navigational mistakes or miscalculations during operations could rise significantly. Furthermore, a datum is crucial when sharing geographic information between units – by referencing the same datum, different military units can ensure that they are literally and figuratively ‘on the same page’. This ensures accurate communication of target locations or navigation instructions, contributing to the efficiency and success of the operations.

Examples of Datum (geodetic)

The North American Datum (NAD): This datum is used primarily in North America. It’s one in a series of geodetic datums that were set up to standardize coordinate systems in the region. One specific one is the North American Datum of 1983 (NAD 83), which is the horizontal control datum for the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Central America, based on a spheroid (earth model) defined by the Geodetic Reference System 1980 (GRS 80).

The World Geodetic System (WGS): This is another datum used extensively in cartography, geodesy, and navigation. The latest is WGS84, which is used by GPS. Essentially, when military personnel are using GPS coordinates to navigate, they are using the WGS84 datum to map their exact position on the Earth’s surface.

The European Datum (ED50): This is a geodetic datum that was established in 1950 and was used for mapping and geodetic surveys in Europe. It was used extensively during the Cold War by the military for things like missile targeting and intelligence gathering, mapping strategic points of interest across the European continent. In short, ‘datum’ in military operations could be understood as the model of the globe over which a map for a specific region is stretched. Real world examples of this are the standard datums used in different regions such as NAD in North America, WGS by GPS systems worldwide, and ED50 in Europe.

Frequently Asked Questions about Datum (geodetic)

What is a Datum (geodetic)?

A Datum, or Geodetic Datum, is a regional or global reference for the earth’s shape and size. It serves as the basis for all geospatial measurements—whether for navigation, mapping, or surveying.

What is the purpose of a Datum in military operations?

In military operations, a Geodetic Datum is crucial for accurate map planning, navigation, targeting systems, GPS tracking and surveillance. It ensures that coordinates are uniform and accurate regardless of geographical differences, enabling more precise military movements.

What is the difference between a local datum and a global datum?

A local datum is specific to a certain region and may not be accurate when used for large-scale mapping or globally. A global datum, however, is designed to best fit the entire earth and is used on all GPS devices and many mapping products.

How are datums created?

Datums are created by making measurements from known locations on the earth’s surface and using complex mathematical models to approximate the earth’s shape and size. They may be continually refined and updated as technology and measurements become more precise.

Why are there different datums?

There are different datums because the earth is not a perfect sphere or ellipsoid. Different datums may be used depending on the part of the world and the specific application, as some are designed to be more accurate in certain regions.

Related Military Operation Terms

  • Horizontal Datum
  • Geodetic Reference System
  • Ellipsoid
  • Datum Transformation
  • Geographic Coordinate System

Sources for More Information

  • National Geodetic Survey (NOAA): A part of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), this survey provides a wide range of geodetic, geophysical, and control survey data and services. They have technical information on datums and their usage.
  • U.S. Geological Survey (USGS): The USGS provides information about geodetic datums as part of their extensive science and research on geology, biology, hydrology, and topography.
  • National Academies Press (NAP): The NAP provides numerous geodetic topics in their published books and resources, including information on datums.
  • Esri: A global market leader in GIS, Esri provides several resources for understanding geodetic datums and how they are used in spatial data analysis.

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