eLoran is back, thanks to Kim Jong-un?
Written by Ben Ellison on Feb 27, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub
When this photo went up on Panbo in early 2010, the prospect of an eLoran system to back up GPS in the USA seemed worse than dead. As the Coast Guard dismantled the old Loran C infrastructure, it would obviously get more expensive to resuscitate the eLoran concept. Well, by golly, the rebirth of eLoran USA is happening anyway! I learned about this good news in a fairly startling way earlier this month, and I'd like to share it with you...
On Feb. 4, Briana Sullivan, a friendly research scientist at UNH, let me know about a Congressional hearing, called "Finding Your Way: The Future of Federal Aids to Navigation," being livecast by the Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee which looks after the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation. Frankly, I opened the stream late and wasn't paying much attention until tough-sounding Chairman Duncan Hunter started beating up on Rear Admiral Gerd Glang about eLoran as a GPS back up. You can watch it yourself at about 1:25 into this video. And stick around for the second panel (at 1:35)...
So, while the Admiral seemed rather oblivious about eLoran, the following speaker -- Dana Goward, founder of the Resilient Navigation and Timing Foundation (RNT) -- delivered an articulate argument for its necessity in a world where "GPS is by far the most important and significant federal aid to navigation, bar none." He also said that a U.S. eLoran system could be built for only 40 million taxpayer dollars with help from the private sector, and Duncan was not the only congressman who seemed enthused about the project. Goward got my full attention, and I've since learned more about the eLoran resurgence here, but don't miss the following testimony of Dr. Larry Mayer (Briana's boss) about Chart of the Future.
Goward seems like the perfect guy to operate an eLoran advocacy group like the RNT. He's a retired USCG helicopter pilot credited with the creation of the rescue swimmer program who went on to many management positions including director in charge of all nav aids, waterway operations, and more (bio PDF here). And Duncan (though I might not agree with him on any other issue) seems like the sort of bulldog politician who gets things done. Like when he recently amended the USCG Coast Guard budget to stop them from any further Loran C teardowns, and was quoted thusly:
"One of the reasons I am interested in this is that DHS has studied the presidential directive that told them to create a backup system for GPS and their conclusion was that, "We need to study it more... They did a study and now they are going to do more studies and that's the circle loop, the endless loop of stupidity we have in Congress instead of just getting something done."
eLoran is really happening again in the USA, and again InsideGNSS is covering the story very well. I'm hesitant to start discussing what's now possible with the technology, though a web page mysteriously titled "eLoran, Eurofix & 9th Pulse" is hard to pass up. But how did I get Kim Jong-un in my title? Well, the threat of GPS failure gets especially real when one country purposely jams it in another, and that's what's happening on the Korean penisula, each year worse than the last (study extract below). So what did South Korea, arguably one of the techiest countries on the planet, choose to protect ships, planes and cell towers from the crazies in big hats to their north? A nationwide eLoran system is going up now.