"APP-6A, Military Symbols for Land Based Systems" is the NATO standard for military map marking symbols. APP-6A was promulgated in December 1999. The NATO standardization agreement that covers APP-6A is "STANAG 2019" (edition 4), promulgated in December 2000. APP-6A replaced "APP-6" (last version, July 1986), which had been promulgated in November 1984. Edition 3 of STANAG 2019 covered APP-6. The US is the current custodian.

APP-6A's American sister standard is "MIL-STD-2525A, Common Warfighting Symbology"; the contents are essentially identical, but MIL-STD-2525 has been evolving faster than NATO's APP-6. MIL-STD-2525 was issued in September 1994, MIL-STD-2525A in December 1996, MIL-STD-2525A Change 1 in July 1997, MIL-STD-2525B in January 1999, MIL-STD-2525B Change 1 in July 2005, and MIL-STD-2525B Change 2 in March 2007. APP-6A is considerably different from APP-6, while the successive versions of MIL-STD-2525 more or less maintain continuity.

The APP-6A standard provides common operational symbology along with details on their display and plotting to ensure the compatibility, and to the greatest extent possible, the interoperability of NATO Land Component Command, Control, Communications, Computer, and Intelligence (C4I) systems, development, operations, and training. APP-6A addresses the efficient transmission of symbology information through the use of a standard methodology for symbol hierarchy, information taxonomy, and symbol identifiers.

These symbols are designed to enhance NATO’s joint interoperability by providing a standard set of common symbols. APP-6A constitutes a single system of joint military symbology for land based formations and units, which can be displayed for either automated map display systems or for manual map marking. It covers all of the joint services and can be used by them.

ymbol sets

APP-6A recognises five broad "sets" of symbols, each set using its own SIDC (Symbol identification coding) scheme:

* Units, Equipment, and Installations
* Military Operations (Tactical graphics)
* METOC (Meteorological and Oceanographic)
* Signals Intelligence
* MOOTW (Military Operations Other Than War)

Units, Equipment, and Installations consist of icons, generally framed, associated with a single point on the map. All sorts of graphical and textual modifiers may surround them, specifying categories, quantities, dates, direction of movement, etc.

Tactical graphics represent operational information that cannot be presented via icon-based symbols alone: unit boundaries, special area designations, and other unique markings related to battlespace geometry and necessary for battlefield planning and management. There are point, line and area symbols in this category.

Meteorological and oceanographic symbology is the only set not under the standard's control: rather, they are imported from the symbology established by the World Meteorological Organization.

The Signals Intelligence and Military Operations Other Than War symbology sets stand apart from Units, Equipment, and Installations although they obey the same conventions (i.e., they consist of framed symbols associated to points on the map). They do not appear in APP-6A proper, having been introduced by MIL-STD-2525B.

Icon-based symbols

Most of the symbols designate specific points, and consist of a "frame" (a geometric border), a "fill", a constituent "icon", and optional symbol "modifiers". The latter are optional text fields or graphic indicators that provide additional information.

The frame provides a visual indication of the affiliation, battle dimension, and status of an operational object. The use of shape and colour is redundant, allowing the symbology to be used under less-than-ideal conditions such as, for example, a monochrome red display to preserve the operator's night vision. Nearly all symbols are highly stylised and can be drawn by persons almost entirely lacking in artistic skill; this allows one to draw a symbolic representation (a GRAPHREP, Graphical report) using tools as rudimentary as plain paper and pencil.

The frame serves as the base to which other symbol components and modifiers are added. In most cases a frame surrounds an icon. One major exception is equipment, which may be represented by icons alone (in which case the icons are coloured as the frame would be).

The fill is the area within a symbol. If the fill is assigned a colour, it provides an enhanced (redundant) presentation of information about the affiliation of the object. If colour is not used, the fill is transparent. A very few icons have fills of their own, which are not affected by affiliation.

The icons themselves, finally, can be understood as combinations of elementary glyphs that use simple composition rules, in a manner reminiscent of some ideographic writing systems such as Chinese. The standard, however, still attempts to provide an "exhaustive" listing of possible icons instead of laying out a dictionary of component glyphs. This causes operational problems when the need for an unforeseen symbol arises (particularly in MOOTW), a problem exacerbated by the administratively centralised maintenance of the symbology sets.


The "status" of a symbol refers to whether a warfighting object exists at the location identified (i.e., status is "present") or will in the future reside at that location (i.e., status is "planned, anticipated, suspected," or "on order"). Regardless of affiliation, present status is indicated by a solid line and planned status by a dashed line. The frame is solid or dashed, unless the symbol icon is unframed, in which case the icon itself is drawn dashed. Planned status cannot be shown if the symbol is an unframed filled icon.


"Affiliation" refers to your relationship to the operational object being represented. The basic affiliation categories are: unknown, friend, neutral, and hostile. In the ground unit domain, a yellow quatrefoil frame is used to denote unknown affiliation, a blue rectangle frame to denote friendly affiliation, a green square frame to denote neutral affiliation, and a red diamond frame to denote hostile affiliation. In the other domains (air and space, sea surface and subsurface, etc.), the same colour scheme is used.

Mobility and auxiliary equipment

Installation icons

Unit sizes

Above the unit symbol, a symbol representing the size of the unit can be displayed. Here are the different possibilities:

Other information

On the lower left of the unit symbol, the name of the unit can be displayed; on the lower right, the name of the unit it is part of can be displayed (if applicable). So, for example, the symbol for the A company of the (friendly) 42nd armoured infantry battalion would look like this:

A hostile motorised anti-tank division (something that probably would not occur in reality, but presented here as an example) would look like this:

APP-6 organization chart of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF):


* [ 2525b manuals from Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA)]
* [ UK Interim APP-6A Manual] (zipped PDF file) "Note: this document has since been replaced with Issue 1.2, dated December 2003"
* Thibault, D. U.; " [ Commented APP-6A - Military Symbols for Land Based Systems] ", Defence R&D Canada – Valcartier, Technical Note TN 2005-222 (2005-08-01) ( [ cover document] )

External links

* [ Korean War-era map symbols at ARMY.MIL]
* [ The map symbols as TrueType Fonts]
* [ NATO map symbols in Canadian use]

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