eLoran deader, GPS wounded

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Apr 29, 2010

How horribly ironic!  The screen above is grabbed from a USCG video showing the demolition of Alaska's tallest structure, a Loran tower that might have hosted an eLoran backup to GPS, maybe already was.  Just three weeks earlier, Intelsat let it be known that it had "lost control" of one of the two WAAS satellites, and that it would "drift out of orbit over the next two to four weeks."  And Alaska will be the place that suffers the most loss of WAAS, though all North American navigators should take note that WAAS redundancy just went away.


As I remember from one of the white papers Loran can be used to increase the accuracy of GPS, in a combined GPS/Loran receiver. It's not just theory, it exists in a product from Si-Tex designed specific for the marine market.

What is the point of blowing up the tower, especially in Alaska where it is super expensive and time consuming to build another ?? Someone wants to make the decision to cease Loran operations irreversible?

This is a crime.

Posted by: Dan Corcoran (b393capt) at April 29, 2010 2:51 PM | Reply

Although the decision to shut down LORAN was positioned as a cost-saving measure, I fear it is going to prove very short-sighted. A reliable redundance to GPS is no less desirable now than when the Volpe report was published. When public policy inevitably swings to recognize that, we'll be forced to re-spend all the money and effort that has gone into LORAN over the last several years. And even then, we'll likely have far less than what we could have gotten from a solid, ongoing commitment to eLORAN development. Very disappointing.

Posted by: Carl Herzog at April 29, 2010 10:40 PM | Reply

Meanwhile the Air Force is finally getting a Block IIF GPS satellite up, maybe:


But the overall GPS situation may be rather weak:


Posted by: Ben at April 30, 2010 7:12 AM | Reply

What a great backup system eloran would be in case of national (world) emergency if the US GPS system were to go down or experience a "glitch". And don�t say that could never happen. Another great government decision.

Posted by: Fred Muhl at April 30, 2010 9:12 AM | Reply

When I got a GPS, I didn't wrap my paper chart around my compass and chuck them in the sea.

Posted by: M. Dacey at April 30, 2010 10:01 AM | Reply

We are planning a visit to Newfoundland South Coast this summer. Reports I have received indicate that GPS data in that area does not correspond well to even the most recent charts. Not surprising considering the survey dates involved, but still an inconvenience. We will of course be employing standard good piloting practice, DR, radar, etc. However we will be unable to "offset" GPS data (i.e., plug in a local "fudge") to corrrespond to actual positions. This "trick" is something I have always used with LORAN in locations where LORAN readings did not correspond to actual positions (Bermuda, Bahamas, etc.). I was planning to use this method wih my old LORAN as an additional data source this summer, but now that will not be posssible. Shame, since my 1981 Sitex LORAN was still working and functioning well when I removed it for storage recently.

Posted by: s/v Kerry Deare of Barnegat at April 30, 2010 10:44 AM | Reply

Follow the money! A deal has already been made to use the frequency for something other than marine use. Just wait and watch and you'll learn how things really work in Washington DC. Our safety and security has been sold to the highest bidder/campaign contributor.

Posted by: SeaBlazer at April 30, 2010 11:07 AM | Reply

I've heard that Canadian Loran is still running. Which seems to be confirmed here, though the CCG doesn't sound very enthusiastic about it:


PS Sounds like one more season of Canadian Loran:


Posted by: Ben at April 30, 2010 11:27 AM | Reply

The BBC has another video, with a different POV:

Posted by: norse at April 30, 2010 12:52 PM | Reply

Serious question - does everyone commenting here still have a Loran unit on board?

While I do still carry a sextant I see no reason to continue to devote on-board resources to Loran or RDF.

I realize this is the government and you can't trust anything but I'd rather see them use any Loran money to beef up the GPS infrastructure.

Posted by: John Williams at April 30, 2010 2:30 PM | Reply

John, the issue is not Loran but eLoran, a much improved version designed specifically to back up GPS and provide other features. A lot of the world agree that this is the best system to provide a solid alternative to GPS, lest it breaks or gets jammed, as do many experts in the U.S.


Posted by: Ben at April 30, 2010 3:41 PM | Reply

Ben, I had read earlier that the Canadian cutoff was o/a June 2010. Since there is little reason to cruise the Maritimes much before July, I assumed the LORAN system wouldn't be available. In addition the Canadian chain in the Maritimes includes a few LORAN towers in the US system (along the Maine coast?) that may already have shut down. Yet it might be ineresting to just re-mount the Sitex and see what actually happens during mid- to late summer.

Posted by: s/v Kerry Deare of Barnegat at April 30, 2010 5:12 PM | Reply

Surprise! eLoran in the USA may be back on the table, and is even being tested in New Jersey according to Digital Ship: http://goo.gl/VGN3e

Could all the well publicized worry about GPS interference from LightSquared have had a silver lining?

More info at UrsaNav: http://www.ursanav.com/

(Big thanks to Del for the link!)

Posted by: Ben at March 9, 2012 9:59 AM | Reply

Are the Brits smarter than we are? The Dover Straits just became the first busy shipping area to have eLoran backup for GPS:


Posted by: Ben at January 9, 2013 10:22 AM | Reply

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