A new technique of the Burmese military: How it will affect rebels
This January, the Burmese Army began using a new system of extremely accurate mapping called Universal Transverse Mercator or UTM, which allows easy and quick navigation calculations, possibly expediting the movement of Junta troops.
By Hseng Khio Fah/Elizabeth Chiaravalli
23 January 2009
In 2007 SHAN reported that Burmese generals were receiving training in the UTM system. On 15 December 2008 the order was issued for generals to begin using this new system starting New Year’s Day.
This mapping system is a new way of plotting the earth’s surface. UTM is very accurate, because it does not have the distortion that the traditional latitude and longitude system has. From the top of Greenland to the coast of Antarctica is broken up into 60 vertical UTM zones and 20 horizontal UTM zones. Because each UTM area is an undistorted rectangle simple calculations can be used, therefore making calculations of distance and area much faster.
By switching to UTM, the Burma Army will not gain any new knowledge about the location of rebel groups. However the information that they already have can be accessed much easier, and calculations about relative distances will be much faster.
Whether or not this new system will put the rebel groups at a disadvantage will greatly depend on who in the Burma Army has access to these new maps. From the report in 2007 it seems only the ruling generals will have received training on how to use the UTM system, but all generals will be familiar with UTM. If this is the case then the orders the lower generals receive concerning locations of rebel groups and troop movements will be very accurate, resulting in quicker Junta troop movement. Though, how accurate troop movement becomes will depend on how much contact officers have with those using UTM.
The UTM system will most likely have the greatest impact on the highest level of the army, quickening how information about location is communicated. For instance, because UTM can accurately cite locations to the nearest meter, this will increase the accuracy of planes dropping missiles. However, UTM could have less of an effect on the ground movement of troops, because this movement is affected by other factors like topography and forest cover.