Good night, Loran.
In a series of small ceremonies, the U.S. Coast Guard on Monday afternoon will shut down Loran-C, a navigation and timing system that has guided mariners and aviators since World War II.
The death blow came last May when President Obama called the system obsolete, saying it is no longer needed in an age in which Global Positioning System devices are nearly ubiquitous in cars, planes and boats.
Killing Loran-C will save the government $190 million over five years, Obama said. But supporters of Loran -- including the man known as "the father of GPS" -- say the nation's increasing reliance on GPS paradoxically has increased the importance of maintaining Loran as a backup.
Supporters also argue that the mere existence of Loran makes the GPS satellite system a less attractive target for cyber-thugs, terrorists or future military adversaries.
GPS systems today are used not only for navigation, but also to provide precise timing for ATM machines, cell phone towers, water plants and other enterprises, and positioning information for precision-guided weapons for the military. GPS disruptions can be costly to business, dangerous for travelers, and debilitating to the military.
Supporters of Loran -- short for long range navigation system -- say the system is a near-perfect backup because it provides similar information to GPS, but has dissimilar infrastructure.
More info at link
Ten years ago we were on Long Island Sound in our 28 foot sailboat headed for Watch Hill, Rhode Island, about 100 miles away. It was overcast with poor visibility and heavy seas as we neared the Connecticut coast, where strong winds had driven us. We passed a buoy which was not on our charts, and as a last resort got a position on the Loran. It showed we were 15 miles inland!
Later we realized we had sailed across a reef (twice!) with many rocks that were 3 feet deep and we draw 5 feet! Only by dumb luck had we not hit a rock - this would have sunk the boat. We immediately went to the nearest harbor and bought a Garmin 45! We didn't ask the price, our lives were on the line!
At the rate that this administration is spending money watch for more things like that.
This is a really bad move. The company I retired from used both GPS and Loran for timing. The company had a very extensive fiber optic system and there was a need to sync all the terminals and switches to the same time base. The time base was locally generated and phase locked to a master oscillator that was sync'd to both. The problem with doing away with Loran is that it leaves only a system that fades during heavy rain or snow which leaves you with master oscillators that are free running.
Loran's big advantage is that it uses low frequency transmitters and they are all over the country. The signal you receive is a ground wave and isn't subjected to all the phase changes that WWV or WWVB have.
Plus if you take out one system, GPS, you would take down almost 99.9% of our infrastructure. Everything from electrical power generators to the Internet to airplane and shipboard guidance systems depend on an accurate time base.
What if they only shut it down for frequency upgrades for the military? Civvy's won't be able to use it...
I ask because, why leave an unprotected navsys like GPS as the only guidance? It doesn't seem to make sense to me.
Some of the earlier predictions for solar cycle 24 showed it was going to be quite intense. If these hold true, then that could have some implications for satellite based communications/guidance.
Some of the more recent data however suggests that cycle 24 may be quieter with it being similar to cycle 5 which ushered in the Dalton Minimum. Good for satellites, bad for ham radio.
Can you extrapolate, please?
I'm sure there are people here who are more knowledgeable than me concerning solar cycles and communications.
From what I understand, although solar activity approximately follows an 11 year cyclicity accurate prediction of the intensity and length of cycles is still difficult.
Here's a couple of sources for more information:
I'm sorry to see Loran go, it was always nice to know you had a backup to GPS in case something happened to the weak (compared to Loran) sat signals. If the projected solar activity does cause problems for GPS, I wonder how quickly they could bring Loran back online?
... do any of these things have a LORAN receiver built in to act as a backup? How many aircraft have LORAN? Land vehicles? Etc...
You can't claim anything is a backup if very few have any access to the system. The backup argument is a canard...
Most forget that GPS is a military system, not civil. If it is involved in a disruption due to cyber attack, we have much bigger problems heading our way than not being able to drive to the nearest Walmart, access funds at an ATM or text while driving...
At least the components for LORAN are within the U.S. borders, and we would be able to protect them. With nutjobs like Iran able to throw rockets into space, what if they suddenly decide to start to destroy the GPS satellites because the Koran tells them to.
LORAN was a good system for finding your way back to a spot. Most times it didn't do an exact job if finding a particular lat/long. But going back to a spot previously found it was very good.
... what if they suddenly decide to start to destroy the GPS satellites because the Koran tells them to.
I've read about war games that have been run by DOD which begin with a space assets being attacked as a first strike.
The situation always escalates to a nuclear exchange very rapidly...
As I said, if this happens not having LORAN as a backup so you can access your ATM (as if it actually could) will be the last thing anyone would be worried about.
I believe this has been planned for years but don't remember all the particulars.
Re the concern about needing critical timing and losing GPS - in many industrial applications where precision timing is critical, atomic clocks are used. The clocks are syncronized using GPS, but if GPS is lost temporarily, the clocks maintain sufficent accuracy for 24-48 hours to sustain operations.
Re the concern over GPS satellites being shot down, GPS satellites are in MEO, not LEO orbit, making them a more difficult target. There are currently ~30 GPS satllites operating in 6 different orbital planes - it would be very difficult to take out multiple satellites and not invoke the wrath of those "rough men [who] stand ready in the night to visit violence upon those who would do ud harm."
I heard or read somewhere that the GPS satellites are degrading at an alarming rate and the system is in some danger of failing. So we should put all of our eggs in one basket - GPS and forget Loran. Not a good idea in my book. 190 million when your spending TRILLIONS.
Our government is BROKEN!
I heard or read somewhere that the GPS satellites are degrading at an alarming rate and the system is in some danger of failing.
Nothing more than the chicken little syndrome.
SUMMARY: On October 28, 2009, the President signed into law the 2010
DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY
[Docket No. USCG-2009-0299]
Terminate Long Range Aids to Navigation (Loran-C) Signal
AGENCY: U.S. Coast Guard, DHS.
Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act. The Act allows for the termination of the Loran-C system subject to the Coast Guard certifying that termination of the Loran-C signal will not adversely
impact the safety of maritime navigation and the Department of Homeland Security certifying that the Loran-C system infrastructure is not needed as a backup to the GPS system or to meet any other Federal navigation requirement. Those certifications were made; and the U.S. Coast Guard will, commencing on or about February 8, 2010.
For those that want to read more:
Not true. We have some old ones on orbit but overall constellation health is good. They will soon start launching GPS IIFs and development of the GPS IIIAs is moving right along.
...GPS is the better technology, in my opinion, and I would rather spend the money on something more important. I would argue that if we needed to go back to Loran for some catastrophic reason, we still could do so. But for now, why keep supporting it? I don't know what it would take to have a LORAN receiver in the same portable form factor as we have with GPS these days, but again, seems like a good idea to shut LORAN down at this point in time.
There is no doubt that the $190,000,000 is not saved, but already spent on give away programs and bailing out companies that do not understand how ludicrous expenses can adversely effect their bottom line profits. The Government needs to take responsibility for the way it is wrecklessly spending our money. Our future will be higher taxes and paying this debt that will probably never be paid in full.
My dad's been flying since before i was born, personal airplanes like small cesnas and bonanzas...since at least the early 60s...he's getting up there in years, and even though he loves his GPS, he still generally prefers the Loran system.
Seriously though - the argument in favor of it as a backup system, especially because its ground based, is a very good argument as far as I'm concerned. This last Solar Cycle peak we had a year or 2 back was pretty large, with solar flairs so large they had to update the scale they used to measure them. ANd lets not forget that massive cell phone outage we had back in...1997? 1998? when a satellite went out.
And lets add in the fact that the FAA has yet to approve GPS-only navigation for airlines, dispite how good the system is.
Over all i think this is a bad idea, especially condiering that $190million in savings ammounts to about what? 2 days of federal spending?
I agree with everything you have said except how long it takes the Feds to spend $190 mil. The time frame is more like 2 hours.
I don't understand why they seem to think that the only use for Lorain is navigation. And I would like to point out to those who think the system will be decommissioned but could be reactivated at any time, the government doesn't work that way. The transmitters will be sold for scrap, the antennas taken down and sold and the other infrastructure broken up and either used for other uses or scrapped. If the system is shut down, it will disappear in less than 2 years never to rise from the ashes. Even if it is left in place, without constant maintenance, it will be unusable in a very short time. If you are going to leave it in place and maintain it, you might as well pay the electric bill and use it.
The U.S. spends a minimum if $112,633.18 per SECOND.
To spend $190 million we take only 28 minutes, 6.89 seconds...
To spend $190 million we take only 28 minutes, 6.89 seconds...
I stand corrected, its worse than I thought.
I don't understand why they seem to think that the only use for Lorain is navigation.
I'm not exactly an expert on it...what else can it be used for?
At one time (not long ago) most fishing and pleasure boat used Loran-C to navigate. Most fishing boats had their special fishing spots listed on their Loran-C machines. At the beginning of the GPS era the government had them desensitized for private use.
This was for security reasons. What would happen if they decide to do it again? I had both on my boat. The Loran was more accurate. They have been talking about shutting down the loran system for years.
There used to be a lot of different Lorans on the market. A few years ago there were only a very few companies that still sold them. And they were very expensive.
It should come as no surprize they finally did it. The money saved n the Loran program will probably be spent on more perks for the pols.
As a time base for very precise clocks. Like those used in telecommunication, Internet, banking (ATM, etc.) and commercial electrical power generation to name just a few. Almost anything that requires an accurate time base.
Modern clock systems today use GPS as the master reference and Lorain as a backup. They have a precise local oscillator that is in sync with the GPS time signal and another oscillator that is in sync with the Lorain time signal as a backup to use when/if the GPS goes down.
In 1989, I was the director of an Air Medical Helicopter Program in Northern Illinois. Many of our Emergencey Calls were scene responses in very rural areas.
In order to cut down on our response times, and to increase the number of volunteer agencies that would call us first, I purchased dozens of Marine LORAN receivers to install on Ambulances, First Response Vehicles and Police Cars. There was no moving map back then, just a Latitude and Longitude. Once we got the bugs worked out they worked great. Once it was determined that a patient needed to be transported by helicopter, the First Responders called in the Lat/Long of the scene, or nearest Landing Zone (LZ), and the Pilot would program in the location into the LORAN in the helicopter. Respose times were cut significantly and many lives were saved as a result.
Now, for what I spent on each LORAN installation, I could put 3 Garmins on the street. I'm sorry to see LORAN go, but GPS is the future. It will be interesting to see what we're using 20 years from now.
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