USCG finally kills LORAN?, hopefully a red herring


The May issue of BoatUS magazine has this “Action Alert”:

With no warning to users, the U.S. Coast Guard has proposed termination of the Loran system by requesting zero budget for Loran in its FY 07 budget request sent to Congress. This surprising development came with no stakeholders’ input and after the Coast Guard spent $160 million modernizing the Loran system, an improvement in signal strength, maintenance and coverage that is nearly complete.

Surprise, indeed! For years I’ve been telling folks that an improved Loran will return as a back-up to GPS. What gives? Well, I take solace in the rosy report currently on the opening page of the International Loran Association, well worth a read even if it predates the USCG announcement. According to the author—the inimitable and very credible Langhorne Bond, who I once interviewed for an article about GPS vunerability—Loran has proven itself the perfect complement to the satellite system for marine and aero navigation, not to mention precision timing (for power plants and much more). But he does note that fair allocation of the operating costs is an issue:

The Coast Guard pays the full operating costs and feels this is inequitable due to the future multi-model uses of LORAN.  The Coast Guard is dead right, although the inter-agency discussion of this is likely to be gritty.

Gritty? Ah ha! I’m hoping that the CG budget surprise is not really about killing Loran, but about forcing other agencies to help pay for it. Still, we should all play our part. I’m taking BoatUS’s advice to write my congress people, only I’m adding a line about sharing the costs/giving the CG a break. I also plan to test the loaner eLoran I’ve been neglecting.

By the way, the picture, flushed out by Google images, is a Loran station on Attu in 1945. There’s even a bit of its history online. The USCG has been at this for some time.

Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now pleased to have Ben Stein as a very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Please don't regard him as an "expert"; he's getting quite old and thinks that "fadiddling fumble-putz" is a more accurate description.

9 Responses

  1. Pat Harman says:

    Marine Loran C receivers are almost impossible to find, I figured Loran C had some military navigation or communications reason to exist. GPS is far better for my surface navigation needs. I can not see any reason to spend that amount of money for something that is of almost no real use. The USCG could save another bundle of money by not operating icebreakers. Russia and the Scandinavian countries have better icebreakers that are available under contract.
    Sorry, this is not an issue for my congressional representatives.

  2. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Pat, It’s certainly not just about recreational boaters. Commercial vessels, planes, and power plants all dependent on GPS, no backup, is really dumb considering how easy it is to spoof or block.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Northstar years ago showed the FAA how vulnerable GPS was to jamming with a few hundred dollars of Radio Shack parts. By sitting on the hill of route two into Boston GPS was jammed (with permission) for all of Boston. It can still be done to this day. They were challenged to find the jammer, and were unable.
    Loran-C is very difficult to jam, and it is easy to detect local jammers. For the price of one GPS satellite you could flood all of North America with Loran-C.
    There are plenty of used Loran-C receivers on the market. In fact some of the original Northstar 6000 receivers are still in use and have never had service.

  4. David says:

    I wouldn’t put too much stock in a zero’ed line item this early in the budget cycle. That is the Coast Guard stating their views on LORAN. Once the Congressional committees get their hands on the budget, there is still plenty of support for LORAN and the program will most likely remain funded. I would be very, very surprised if it was not. Also, Ben’s point is quite correct. GPS is a painfully vulnerable system compared to LORAN.

  5. Anonymous says:

    The aviation community has decided that Loran is their prefered back-up system. Loran is here to stay, this may be just budgetary manuvers on the part of USCG.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Check out the Si-Tex e-Loran unit. Combined GPS and Loran in one unit. Heard great things about this.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Sorry, here’s the link to the Si-Tex unit

  8. Robert says:

    I agree with David….a zeroed line item for FY07 this early is likely a statement more than a real attempt to dump Loran.
    As for vulnerabilities, GPS vulnerabilities aren’t limited to terrestrial jamming…there are also plenty of space environmental effects (natutural and man-made) that can be disruptive, even though these satellites are hardened. I like the idea of an unrelated, back-up technology and I’ll be one of the first in line for an e-Loran that plays well with others. I’ll also continue practicing my DR and sextant skills.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Here another state-of-the-art Loran

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