NITF -- National Imagery Transmission Format

Driver short name


Driver built-in by default

This driver is built-in by default

GDAL supports reading of several subtypes of NITF (National Imagery Transmission Format) image files, and writing simple NITF 2.1 files. NITF 1.1, NITF 2.0, NITF 2.1 and NSIF 1.0 files with uncompressed, ARIDPCM (Adaptive Recursive Interpolated Differential Pulse Code Modulation), JPEG compressed, JPEG2000 (with Kakadu, ECW SDKs or other JPEG2000 capable driver) or VQ (Vector Quantized) compressed images should be readable.

The read support test has been tested on various products, including CIB (Controlled Image Base) and CADRG (Compressed ARC Digitized Raster Graphics) frames from RPF (Raster Product Format) products, ECRG (Enhanced Compressed Raster Graphics) frames, HRE (High Resolution Elevation) products.

Color tables for pseudocolored images are read. In some cases nodata values may be identified.

Lat/Long extents are read from the IGEOLO (Image GeoLocation) information in the image header if available. If high precision lat/long georeferencing information is available in RPF auxiliary data it will be used in preference to the low precision IGEOLO information. In case a BLOCKA (Image Block Information) instance is found, the higher precision coordinates of BLOCKA are used if the block data covers the complete image - that is the L_LINES field with the row count for that block is equal to the row count of the image. Additionally, all BLOCKA instances are returned as metadata. If GeoSDE TRE (Tagged Record Extension) are available, they will be used to provide higher precision coordinates. If the RPC00B (or RPC00A) TRE is available, it is used to report RPC (Rapid Positioning Capability / Rational Polynomial Coefficients) metadata. Starting with GDAL 2.2, RPC information can be retrieved from _rpc.txt files, and they will be used in priority over internal RPC00B values, since the latter have less precision than the ones stored in external _rpc.txt.

Most file header and image header fields are returned as dataset level metadata.

Driver capabilities

Supports CreateCopy()

This driver supports the GDALDriver::CreateCopy() operation

Supports Create()

This driver supports the GDALDriver::Create() operation

Supports Georeferencing

This driver supports georeferencing

Supports VirtualIO

This driver supports virtual I/O operations (/vsimem/, etc.)

Open options

New in version 3.7.

  • VALIDATE=[YES/NO]: Defaults to NO. Whether TRE and DES (Data Extension Segment) content should be validated upon dataset opening. If errors are found, CE_Failure errors are emitted, but dataset opening does not fail, unless the FAIL_IF_VALIDATION_ERROR=YES open option is set. Note that validation is partial, and limited to the constraints documented in the nitf_spec.xml configuration file. Details of errors are also logged in <error> elements in the xml:TRE and xml:DES metadata domains.

  • FAIL_IF_VALIDATION_ERROR=[YES/NO]: Defaults to NO. Whether validation errors reported by the VALIDATE=YES open option should prevent the dataset from being opened.

Creation Issues

On export NITF files are always written as NITF 2.1 with one image and no other auxiliary layers. Images are uncompressed by default, but JPEG and JPEG2000 compression are also available. Georeferencing can only be written for images using a geographic coordinate system or a UTM WGS84 projection. Coordinates are implicitly treated as WGS84 even if they are actually in a different geographic coordinate system. Pseudo-color tables may be written for 8bit images.

In addition to the export oriented CreateCopy() API, it is also possible to create a blank NITF file using Create() and write imagery on demand. However, using this methodology writing of pseudocolor tables and georeferencing is not supported unless appropriate IREP (Image Representation) and ICORDS (Image Coordinate) creation options are supplied.

Creation Options:

Most file header, imagery header metadata and security fields can be set with appropriate creation options (although they are reported as metadata item, but must not be set as metadata). For instance setting "FTITLE=Image of abandoned missile silo south west of Karsk" in the creation option list would result in setting of the FTITLE field in the NITF file header. Use the official field names from the NITF specification document; do not put the "NITF_" prefix that is reported when asking the metadata list.

  • IC=[NC/C3/M3/C8]: Defaults to NC. Set the compression method.

    • NC is the default value, and means no compression.

    • C3 means JPEG compression and is only available for the CreateCopy() method. The QUALITY and PROGRESSIVE JPEG-specific creation options can be used. See the JPEG -- JPEG JFIF File Format driver. Multi-block images can be written.

    • M3 is a variation of C3. The only difference is that a block map is written, which allow for fast seeking to any block.

    • C8 means JPEG2000 compression (one block) and is available for CreateCopy() and/or Create() methods. See below paragraph for specificities.

  • NUMI=value: Defaults to 1. Number of images. See Advanced GDAL NITF Driver Information for the procedure to follow to write several images in a NITF file.

  • WRITE_ALL_IMAGES=[YES/NO]: (GDAL >= 3.4) Defaults to NO. (Only taken into account if NUMI > 1, and on a new NITF file). When set to NO (the default), this causes the driver to only write the first image segment and reserve just the space for extra NUMI-1 images in the file header. When WRITE_ALL_IMAGES=YES, the space for all images is allocated, which is only compatible with IC=NC (uncompressed images). (Behavior with GDAL < 3.4 was similar to WRITE_ALL_IMAGES=YES)

  • ICORDS=[G/D/N/S]: Set to "G" to ensure that space will be reserved for geographic corner coordinates (in DMS) to be set later via SetGeoTransform(), set to "D" for geographic coordinates in decimal degrees, set to "N" for UTM WGS84 projection in Northern hemisphere or to "S" for UTM WGS84 projection in southern hemisphere (Only needed for Create() method, not CreateCopy()). If you Create() a new NITF file and have specified "N" or "S" for ICORDS, you need to call later the SetProjection method with a consistent UTM SRS to set the UTM zone number (otherwise it will default to zone 0). Starting with GDAL 3.5.1, when using the CreateCopy() interface with an image whose source SRS is a UTM WGS84 projection and specifying ICORDS=G or D, the NITF driver will reproject the image corner coordinates to longitude-latitude. This can be useful when it is not possible to encode in the IGEOLO field the coordinates of an image in the equatorial zone, whose one of the northing expressed in a UTM northern hemisphere projection is below -1e6.

  • IGEOLO=value: (GDAL >= 3.5.1) Image corner coordinates specified as a string of 60 characters (cf MIL-STD-2500C for expected format). Normally automatically set from source geotransform and SRS when using the CreateCopy() interface. If specified, ICORDS must also be specified.

  • FHDR=[NITF02.10/NSIF01.00]: Defaults to NITF02.10. File version can be selected though currently the only two variations supported are "NITF02.10" (the default), and "NSIF01.00".

  • IREP=value: Set to "RGB/LUT" (Look Up Table) to reserve space for a color table for each output band. (Only needed for Create() method, not CreateCopy()).

  • IREPBAND=value: Comma separated list of band IREPBANDs in band order.

  • ISUBCAT=value: Comma separated list of band ISUBCATs in band order.

  • LUT_SIZE=value: Defaults to 256. Set to control the size of pseudocolor tables for RGB/LUT bands. (Only needed for Create() method, not CreateCopy()).

  • BLOCKXSIZE=value: Set the block width.

  • BLOCKYSIZE=value: Set the block height.

  • BLOCKA_*=value: If a complete set of BLOCKA options is provided with exactly the same organization as the NITF_BLOCKA metadata reported when reading an NITF file with BLOCKA TREs then a file will be created with BLOCKA TREs.

  • TRE=<tre-name=tre-contents>: One or more TRE (Tagged Record Extension) creation options may be used provided to write arbitrary user defined TREs to the image header. The tre-name should be at most six characters, and the tre-contents should be "backslash escaped" if it contains backslashes or zero bytes. The argument is the same format as returned in the TRE metadata domain when reading.

  • FILE_TRE=<tre-name=tre-contents>: Similar to above options, except that the TREs are written in the file header, instead of the image header.

  • RESERVE_SPACE_FOR_TRE_OVERFLOW=[YES/NO]: (GDAL >= 3.6) Set to true to reserve space for IXSOFL when writing a TRE_OVERFLOW DES.

  • DES=<des-name=des-contents>: One or more DES (Data Extension Segment) creation options may be provided to write arbitrary user defined DESs to the NITF file. The des-name should be at most 25 characters, and the des-contents should be "backslash escaped" if it contains backslashes or zero bytes, as in CPLEscapeString(str, -1, CPLES_BackslashQuotable). The des-contents must contain standard DES fields, starting with DESVER (See MIL-STD-2500C). DESs are not currently copied in CreateCopy(), but may be explicitly added as with Create().

  • NUMDES=value: (GDAL >= 3.4) Number of DES segments. Only to be used on first image segment

  • SDE_TRE=[YES/NO]: Write GEOLOB (Local Geographic (lat/long) Coordinate System) and GEOPSB (Geo positioning Information) TREs to get more precise georeferencing. This is limited to geographic SRS, and to CreateCopy() for now.

  • RPC00B=[YES/NO]: Defaults to YES. Write RPC00B TRE, from a source RPC00B TRE if it exists (NITF to NITF conversion), or from values found in the RPC metadata domain. This is only taken into account by CreateCopy() for now. Note that the NITF RPC00B format uses limited prevision ASCII encoded numbers.

  • RPCTXT=[YES/NO]: Defaults to NO. Whether to write RPC metadata in a external _rpc.txt file. This may be useful since internal RPC00B TRE have limited precision. This is only taken into account by CreateCopy() for now.

  • USE_SRC_NITF_METADATA=[YES/NO]: Defaults to YES. Whether to use NITF_xxx metadata items and TRE segments from the input dataset. It may needed to set this option to NO if changing the georeferencing of the input file.

JPEG2000 compression (write support)

JPEG2000 compression is available when using the IC=C8 creation option, if the JP2ECW (SDK 3.3, or for later versions assuming the user has the key to enable JPEG2000 writing), JP2KAK or JP2OpenJPEG driver are available.

They are tried in that order when several ones are available, unless the JPEG2000_DRIVER creation option (added in GDAL 3.4) is set to explicitly specify the JPEG2000 capable driver to use.

  • JP2ECW: The TARGET (target size reduction as a percentage of the original) and PROFILE=BASELINE_0/BASELINE_1/BASELINE_2/NPJE/EPJE JP2ECW-specific creation options can be used. Both CreateCopy() and/or Create() methods are available. By default the NPJE PROFILE will be used (thus implying BLOCKXSIZE=BLOCKYSIZE=1024).

  • JP2KAK: The QUALITY, BLOCKXSIZE, BLOCKYSIZE, LAYERS, ROI JP2KAK-specific creation options can be used. Only CreateCopy() method is available.

  • JP2OpenJPEG: (only in the CreateCopy() case). The QUALITY, BLOCKXSIZE and BLOCKYSIZE JP2OpenJPEG-specific creation options can be used. By default BLOCKXSIZE=BLOCKYSIZE=1024 will be used.

    Starting with GDAL 3.4.0 and OpenJPEG 2.5, the PROFILE=NPJE_VISUALLY_LOSSLESS/NPJE_NUMERICALLY_LOSSLESS creation option can be used to create files that comply with STDI-0006 NITF Version 2.1 Commercial Dataset Requirements Document (NCDRD). For NPJE_VISUALLY_LOSSLESS, the last quality layer defaults to 3.9 bits per pixel and per band. It can be adjusted with the QUALITY creation option. When those profiles are specified, the J2KLRA TRE will also be written, unless the J2KLRA=NO creation option is specified.


The author wishes to thank AUG Signals and the GeoConnections program for supporting development of this driver, and to thank Steve Rawlinson (JPEG), Reiner Beck (BLOCKA) for assistance adding features.