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US Coast Guard Intends To Kill LORAN-C

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the we-will-always-have-signals-from-the-sky dept.

Government 316

adaviel writes "LORAN (Long Range Aids to Navigation) is an electronic navigation system using low-frequency radio, used by many boaters (including me) before GPS. It has an approximately 200m accuracy and is a functional replacement in case GPS fails or the US implements selective availability in time of war. The US Coast Guard, part of the Department of Homeland Security, intends to turn it off starting February 8." This is in spite of $160M spent on modernizing LORAN stations over the past 10 years.

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I am the Loran (4, Funny)

hguorbray (967940) | more than 4 years ago | (#30745338)

and I speak for the Cs -I mean Seas

-I'm just sayin'

LISTEN, TERRORIST-COMMIE LOVERS !! (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30745618)

This is WAR and if we the good guys have to turn off some shit so you the bad guys can't use it to fuck with us good guys then that's just too fucking bad !! That's what I say. And FOX NEWS is behind me !! Anyone not is a fucking treasonous traitor !! Are you a fucking treasonous traitor ??

Re:I am the Loran (2, Funny)

thoolie (442789) | more than 4 years ago | (#30745656)

Yarrrrrgh matey....ye be a blue suiter of the loranimal variety?

Re:I am the Loran (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30745684)

+1 doctor seuss?

Re:I am the Loran (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30745906)

Good point. With LORAN being shut down and the US government desperate for quick cash, there may finally be some surplus cesium-beam standards for sale on eBay that aren't completely dead.

Re:I am the Loran (2, Funny)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#30746192)

and I speak for the Cs -I mean Seas

-I'm just sayin'

Are you going to pick yourself up by your pants and fly through a gap in the clouds?

hmm (5, Insightful)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#30745350)

It has an approximately 200m accuracy

Wow, I didn't know it was that inaccurate.

and is a functional replacement in case GPS fails or the US implements selective availability in time of war.

If the US implements selective availability of GPS, they can certainly also just turn off Loran-C.

Re:hmm (1)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 4 years ago | (#30745446)

But what about GMDSS [wikipedia.org] for the "oh, shit" moments when your bilge pumps and your GPS both go out in rough seas? Is LORAN-C the IE6 of maritime detection and rangefinding suites?

Disclaimer. I have an FCC GROL with ship radar endorsement, collecting dust, never used it :(
Anybody who actually uses theirs wanna chime in?


Also, from Google's Sponsored Links:

Loran C Sale
Save up to 82% on
Loran C Bargains!

BuyCheapr.com/Loran+C

Re:hmm (4, Informative)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 4 years ago | (#30745488)

Yes the real answer seems to be a complimentary system, that isn't owned by the US. Fortunately, people realized this and the Galileo project was born. After some initial hissing on both sides, the US and EU have worked it out so they'll be compatible, and a single receiver will be able to get data from both GNSS systems. That way should one be turned off, or break or whatever, the other still works, and when both are up it should be even more accurate.

Unfortunately, Galileo is being run by the EU who seems to be able to make the US congress look positively efficient by comparison. As such there are currently 0 Galileo satellites operating. The whole system was supposed to be online by the end of 2008, however now they are targeting having a single satellite up by the end of 2010.

Thus as it stands, the US still does have complete control over GNSS systems.

Complimentary Systems (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30745798)

What a complimentary system sounds like: "My, what a nice position. That lat/long looks so good on you."

Of course, such a system would only be useful as a complement.

Re:hmm (1)

bugs2squash (1132591) | more than 4 years ago | (#30745810)

The Russians and the Chinese have systems too - I don't know how usable they are by the public.

Re:hmm (5, Informative)

afidel (530433) | more than 4 years ago | (#30745970)

GLONASS has 16 operational satellites currently with 2 new birds coming online and one in the process of being decommissioned, they need 24 for full coverage. There are (expensive) commercial units with support for both GPS and GLONASS primarily targeted at surveyors because having the additional signals available makes very accurate (sub-meter) locks significantly faster. There are also commercial providers of GLONASS only units (Septentrio, Topcon, JAVAD, Magellan Navigation, Novatel, Leica Geosystems and Trimble Inc according to wikipedia) if you wanted them. The only reason the constellation will be back to full coverage is that the Indians pitched in a bunch of money to fly a bunch of the new birds. As of 2007 it has been official that the signals can be used for free by consumers in any country free of charge (not that they could stop you before since most devices don't need the L1 key to get accurate positioning, it just speeds things up).

Re:hmm (4, Informative)

plover (150551) | more than 4 years ago | (#30745930)

The U.S. is not the only country providing GNSS services. Russia has long had the GLONASS satellites; although their constellation has had some problems and does not currently provide 100% coverage over the globe (Russian coverage is at 100%, though, and I suspect U.S. coverage is near 100%.) Magellan makes commercially available GLONASS receivers, and I suppose others do as well. You can purchase dual GPS/GLONASS units, and the U.S. and Russia are in talks regarding bringing them to a common protocol so they'll be interchangeable if you have a receiver that picks up both frequencies. And the GLONASS program is receiving assistance from India, so there's more of an international approach to their program than just a Russian system.

I also know that China has their COMPASS satellites, but I don't know their status, or if there are commercially available receivers.

Re:hmm (1)

Rockoon (1252108) | more than 4 years ago | (#30745514)

200m is good enough

hell, 1km is good enough.

The submitter needs to learn how to use a sextant. They appear to get you about 500m accuracy.

Re:hmm (3, Insightful)

ivan_w (1115485) | more than 4 years ago | (#30745578)

200m is good for what ?

- Retrieve a crab/lobstrer pot ?
- Retrieve a Man Overboard ?
- Fetch a gill net ?
- Meet with a sister ship during a seine net operation ? ... No.. lemme tell you.. 200m is NOT good enough !

(No personal experience here - but my Old Man did !)

--Ivan

I don't know ask sig hansen (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 4 years ago | (#30745754)

I don't know ask sig hansen

Re:hmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30745866)

Worked better than the stars which have a ~200 Mile uncertainty

Re:hmm (5, Interesting)

mschuyler (197441) | more than 4 years ago | (#30745872)

Actually, yes. When I was commercial fishing on a troller in Alaska we used Loran grid coordinates, spoken in Danish, to tell our brothers where the fish were. No one else could understand us. If we said "Over and out" the conversation was finished, but if we said "I'm off," that meant to change frequencies, tell how many King's you'd caught, and give the coordinates. Without the Loran our sneaky ways will have to be changed.

Re:hmm (4, Insightful)

geekmux (1040042) | more than 4 years ago | (#30745900)

200m is good for what ?

- Retrieve a crab/lobstrer pot ? - Retrieve a Man Overboard ? - Fetch a gill net ? - Meet with a sister ship during a seine net operation ? ... No.. lemme tell you.. 200m is NOT good enough !

(No personal experience here - but my Old Man did !)

--Ivan

Sit in the middle of the ocean and turn off GPS. Perhaps you'll quickly see the value of "good enough". I'm all for a backup plan, and a backup plan to the backup plan, especially if we can avoid pissing away a $160M investment.

That's NUTS (3, Insightful)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 4 years ago | (#30745998)

Hear hear.

What bugs me is this statement from the Coast Guard:

If a single, domestic national system to back up GPS is identified as being necessary, the Department of Homeland Security will complete an analysis of potential backups to GPS. The continued active operation of Loran-C is not necessary to advance this evaluation.

They're studying whether they NEED a backup so they'll turn off the only current backup before the study is finished or (if required) the replacement backup is deployed?

That's NUTS! What happens if GPS is compromised between the decommissioning of LORAN-C and the deployment of the hypothetical replacement?

Also: Why deploy a DIFFERENT backup and make all the users buy ANOTHER device when they ALREADY HAVE LORAN-C equipment? Even if the equipment was FREE the cost of obtaining it and installing it, multiplied by the number of users, would be astronomical. Unless something damned cheap, built off some other deployed tech, is designed, the cost of maintaining LORAN-C would be a drop in the bucket.

LORAN has better *repeatability* than *accuracy* (4, Interesting)

Gavin Scott (15916) | more than 4 years ago | (#30745926)

At least my recollection is that while the absolute accuracy of LORAN isn't nearly as good as GPS, it actually had better repeatability (i.e. the ability to return tomorrow to that fishing spot you found today) than at least pre-DGPS/WAAS GPS did.

Today's modern GPS systems and supplemental accuracy aids probably make this moot, but it's a major reason why LORAN has survived as long into the GPS era as it did.

G.

How about (4, Insightful)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 4 years ago | (#30746056)

200m is good for what ?
- Retrieve a crab/lobstrer pot ?
- Retrieve a Man Overboard ?
- Fetch a gill net ?
- Meet with a sister ship during a seine net operation ? ... No.. lemme tell you.. 200m is NOT good enough !

How about:

- Find a port when you're somewhere random in an ocean?

I'd be HAPPY to live with a 200 meter error if I'm trying to, say, get the Golden Gate Bridge to show over the horizon in time to beat a squall line into San Francisco Bay. Or to know if I'm FAR ENOUGH OFF the west coast of North America that I won't be blown onto it before a storm I can't outrun blows by.

Re:hmm (1)

Sir_Lewk (967686) | more than 4 years ago | (#30746118)

200m is good enough for a lot of things. Including a few small things like general navigation.

Sailors used to use the stars, are you telling me that 200m is too inaccurate to get you back to port safetly? Hell, sailors used to do all of those things without GPS, as a backup system LORAN-C is great.

Re:hmm (2, Insightful)

Kozar_The_Malignant (738483) | more than 4 years ago | (#30746138)

200m is good for what ?

Not hitting St. George Reef in the fog.

Re:hmm (2, Insightful)

EvanED (569694) | more than 4 years ago | (#30746166)

- Retrieve a crab/lobstrer pot ?
- Retrieve a Man Overboard ?
- Fetch a gill net ?
- Meet with a sister ship during a seine net operation ?

I can't speak to the first three, though I suspect 200m is pretty good there, but the last one? Definitely.

(That is 200 meters, or barely over 650 ft, not 200 miles.)

Re:hmm (3, Interesting)

djupdal (629381) | more than 4 years ago | (#30746156)

500m accuracy for sextants seems unrealistically good to me. My experience is approximately 2km in good conditions and with an accurate clock available. But even that is good enough for navigation.

Re:hmm (3, Insightful)

mysidia (191772) | more than 4 years ago | (#30745600)

Does anyone else see the irony? in using LORAN US implements selective availability, when LORAN is only accurate to 200m ?

Selective availability was a (currently disabled) feature of GPS that adds intentional errors up to 100 meters / 328.08 ft to publicly available GPS signal...

Before SA was turned off in 2000 the typical SA errors were 32ft horizontal, 98ft vertical.

SA is easily defeated using Differential GPS [wikipedia.org] .

One thing to note about LORAN, vs GPS, however is: GPS is basically owned by the United States. The US government has full control over it.

On the other hand, LORAN is an international system, used by many countries... Many countries, the US, Japan, Europe, use LORAN.

I'm sure the US government can't stand being part of an international system... they've got to turn off their receivers, to tighten their stranglehold on navigation control systems.

There can't be an alternative to GPS available, when the US needs to switch it off or block the signal over/around certain areasw in an emergency or time of war...

Re:hmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30745940)

There can be and there are alternatives to GPS [lmgtfy.com] . Get your head out of your ass with your American bashing and your conspiracy theories. Jesus fuck, is everyone around here so fucking stupid?

Re:hmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30746150)

Actually, I am beginning to think that many of them ARE that stupid.

Re:hmm (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 4 years ago | (#30746010)

Huh? Thanks to India GLONASS will back to full coverage by the end of this year and some time this decade Galileo should be operational so it's not like the US has any kind of monopoly on positioning.

Re:hmm (5, Informative)

plover (150551) | more than 4 years ago | (#30746064)

Are you always this paranoid about the U.S. government? Seriously, the Russians have had their version of GNSS flying for 35 years, and you can buy a completely non-American GLONASS receiver that will give you the same data as an American (made in China, of course) GPS receiver. We know full well that we don't have a monopoly on global navigation.

They are shutting LORAN-C off because it's expensive to maintain a separate system, especially one that is not nearly as accurate as GPS, and is at risk of terrestrial attack (a determined terrorist group could easily destroy a critical LORAN-C tower, but the same group does not have physical access to the GPS satellites.) In addition, its consumers are not widespread, and are already using GPS for their primary navigation systems.

You should think before you make up bogus conspiracy theories. They make you look kind of crazy.

Re:hmm (4, Interesting)

Clueless Moron (548336) | more than 4 years ago | (#30745666)

200m is the absolute accuracy (and is a bit pessimistic). The repeatable accuracy is much better.

That is, if you sail into a port's harbour channel and save that as a LORAN-C waypoint you will typically be able to get back to that same spot within 20m or so easily.

Re:hmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30745780)

It's mostly useful for shipping and boating making it an unlikely target for terrorism and not very useful for foreign militaries for say bomb guidance. The level of accuracy is adequate for shipping. Once they are in sight of a port it tends to be more by sight than instruments. What it really means is were will be totally dependent on GPS from here on out. What if several satellites went out? It would be a disaster. People think of GPS for satellite navigation for cars but everything from ships and planes to trucks depend on it. In a sense our whole economy is centered around it since transportation is dependent on GPS.

Re:hmm (1)

bugs2squash (1132591) | more than 4 years ago | (#30745786)

So far as I am aware, the error was pretty much the same for everyone in the same area. By which I mean that if you gave a position by Loran the coast guard could find you with excellent accuracy even if the absolute position was 200m off.

Re:hmm (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 4 years ago | (#30745864)

And 200m is no better than GPS with SA on! In fact with differential techniques or something like WAAS you can still get ~10m accuracy which is why we don't turn it on any more.

Re:hmm (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 4 years ago | (#30745880)

If the US implements selective availability of GPS, they can certainly also just turn off Loran-C.

Besides, GPS with S/A is accurate to 100m, still better than the figures given for LORAN-C.

Re:hmm (1)

ddxexex (1664191) | more than 4 years ago | (#30746048)

Um LORAN-C just sends a radio signal. It won't really stop another country from using it in their own country (unless you bomb theirs). Also for selective availability, DGPS is a pretty good work around for it.

Re:hmm (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 4 years ago | (#30746148)

LORAN doesn't have the same military applications as GPS. If you want your missile or bomb to hit within a few meters of your target (essential if you're trying to take out a well-hardened bunker) you need military-grade GPS.

Re:hmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30746198)

200 meters is the absolute accuracy, in reality you can get to like 60 feet. The big reason for keeping it around is GPS is extremely easy to jam, and is easily blocked by buildings. Loran C uses pulses that are extremely hard to jam. Of course I don't want to confuse an issue on /. with actual facts from someone who has worked on the system over the last 20 years...

Loran-C? (3, Funny)

Camel Pilot (78781) | more than 4 years ago | (#30745366)

What's Loran-C some strange C dialect? Did Loran-C++ eat its lunch or something.

Re:Loran-C? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30745412)

dear nigger,

please read the article summary to know what technology is being discussed

sincerely,
the aryan race

ps. wear a condom and get a job if you want people to take you seriously

Re:Loran-C? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30745598)

Dear troll,

please nigger the nigger to nigger nigger being nigger

sincerely,
the nigger

ps. nigger a nigger and get a nigger if you want nigger to take you nigger

Re:Loran-C? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30745792)

Camelpilot is a sandnigger.

That's half-nigger. He dosen't wear condoms, but he has a job.

Learn to racism, bigot.

Re:Loran-C? (1)

ivan_w (1115485) | more than 4 years ago | (#30745614)

Well.. Guess Loran isn't object Oriented.. Functional is all that's needed for Loran.. (Latitude.. Longigute.. That's all you need to know really)..

And yes - it's just a troll troll..

(Although a professional wouldn't really care about that !)

Costs and benefits (5, Insightful)

MaXintosh (159753) | more than 4 years ago | (#30745414)

This is in spite of $160M spent on modernizing LORAN stations over the past 10 years.

There's this thing called the Concorde Fallacy [wikipedia.org] that is relevant here. It doesn't matter how much money you spent, all that should matter is anticipated future costs and benefits. And I think for a 200m redundant navigation system, future costs >> benefits.

Re:Costs and benefits (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#30746050)

While, as you say, not taking sunk costs into account is Econ101 stuff; looking at your sunk costs does have value.

Some amount of sunk cost writing-off is inevitable, just because of future uncertainty; but excessive amounts of it are a warning sign that your organization is directionless, myopic, or otherwise dysfunctional.

I don't have enough information to say whether or not TFA's example falls into the normal range or not; but, just because sunk costs are not a good guide to future decision making, they are not irrelevant.

Date confusion? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30745424)

The article is dated Jan 6 and claims that "tomorrow" is Feb 7.

The name Bowditch comes to mind (1)

baomike (143457) | more than 4 years ago | (#30745450)

Of course you would need an accurate clock and maybe a sextant?

As for the comment on "only 200 meters", that might not even be all the way to the other end of the ship.

Re:The name Bowditch comes to mind (1)

ivan_w (1115485) | more than 4 years ago | (#30745638)

Humph...

AFAIK, Loran-C was only for coastal operations.. Who would operate a 600ft ship in coastal waters ?

--Ivan

Re:The name Bowditch comes to mind (1)

baomike (143457) | more than 4 years ago | (#30746134)

>
We did , everytime we came into SFRAN. and everytime we went to SDiego, and Port Hueneme.

Re:The name Bowditch comes to mind (5, Funny)

dziban303 (540095) | more than 4 years ago | (#30746152)

Who would operate a 600ft ship in coastal waters ?

Sailors, I guess.

Re:The name Bowditch comes to mind (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 4 years ago | (#30745992)

LORAN also works when it's cloudy, and it gets the same accuracy during the day as it does at night.

Accuracy (1)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 4 years ago | (#30745454)

I was under the impression that selective availability is still more accurate than 200 meters.

Re:Accuracy (2, Informative)

mce (509) | more than 4 years ago | (#30745590)

That is correct. And on top of that, recent satellites no longer have the technical capability to implement selective availability anyway (see http://www.defense.gov/releases/release.aspx?releaseid=11335 [defense.gov] ). It is no longer needed for anything after having been turned off several years ago. That's because civilian users had developed multiple techniques - e.g. differential GPS - to get better accuracy even when back SA was still on. In short, SA is dead and buried forever.

Re:Accuracy (5, Interesting)

ivan_w (1115485) | more than 4 years ago | (#30745730)

SA made GPS accurate to 10m.. With the "SA" feature disabled, you're down to 2m... And with Satelite enhancements, it's more like 20cm !

But that's irrelevant.. Because SA was intended to disable any enemy force from using GPS for accurate positioning - until they realized D-GPS (Differential GPS) made the whole point moot (you take a reference point - you send the signal to the receiver - And therefore - the receiver can deduce the SA introduced clock error - because now you have a ref point .. And believe it or not - it is a United Stated Uniform service - the US Coast Gard - that came up with it to overcome the artificially introduced uncertainty).

However, the military still keep exclusive use of the 1Mhz band (with the 10Mhz being public) - for the only purpose of being able to make real time measurements on tropospheric distortions - so - what happens - is that the military can make 1m accurate reading WITHOUT sat aids.

Idiotic. (-1)

scubamage (727538) | more than 4 years ago | (#30745492)

This is especially idiotic considering GPS satellites that are currently in orbit are beginning to fail, and no country wants the responsibility of modernizing them, or repairing them. So what happens when GPS doesn't work anymore? Further, what if a GPS receiver goes offline on a ship? The reason to keep both was for functional redundancy in case one would in fact go offline.

Re:Idiotic. (1)

Ewann (209481) | more than 4 years ago | (#30745576)

I believe the GPS III [slashdot.org] constellation will be the modernization effort you're looking for.

Re:Idiotic. (2, Interesting)

mce (509) | more than 4 years ago | (#30745628)

And on top of that, other GPS-like systems are being built. Yes, Galileo has been delayed, but it will eventually be launched nonetheless. And it's not the only one.

Re:Idiotic. (4, Insightful)

jpmorgan (517966) | more than 4 years ago | (#30745650)

No country wants to maintain them? What are you smoking?

The GPS system is launched and operated by the US Air Force, first and foremost for US military activities. It wasn't some magical pan-national committee that put the satellites into orbit and built the ground stations. And the USAF maintains them and modernizes them. If GPS goes offline, all those fancy GPS guided weapons go offline too.

As for redundancy... put two GPS receivers on your ship.

Re:Idiotic. You got that part right at least. (4, Interesting)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 4 years ago | (#30745654)

"This is especially idiotic considering GPS satellites that are currently in orbit are beginning to fail, and no country wants the responsibility of modernizing them, or repairing them."
Okay...
1. The DOD depends on GPS and matains the network. So what are you talking about countries wanting to take responsibility for the GPS network? The US DOD does.
2. You do not repair or modernize GPS satellites... You replace them.
3. GPS is going to keep working until it is replaced with something else or the US stops being a nation.
"Further, what if a GPS receiver goes offline on a ship?"
You use the backup? You don't really think that a ship would only have one do you?
The reason to keep both was that many operators spent a lot of money on Loran and GPS was expensive. Now GPS is cheaper and more reliable than Loran.
Your arguments are along the lines of "We should keep paying for hitching posts on our streets so we can keep horses as a back up for cars."

Re:Idiotic. You got that part right at least. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30745782)

wrong.

There are currently 4 (FOUR) different GPS networks orbiting this planet, with another planned to be launched by a private conglomerate in the next 10 years.

The US and its DoD have nothing to do with 3 of them (possibly 2).

GPS will only keep working as long as the satellites have power, arent shot down, or fail in any other way (and many of them are).

Satellites are expensive, to build, launch and maintain. There is more than just physical maintainence, and i would expect a slashdotter to know that he (and I) are speaking of software.

Killing LORAN, a cheap, reliable system that doesnt require vulnerable satellites, is a stupid and idiotic move. since you seemingly know nothing about either system, you shouldnt speak.

Re:Idiotic. You got that part right at least. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30745916)

yes! yes! make the opposition shut up! it's the guaranteed victory!

(and the first resort of those with no reasonable argument. nothing you said makes the idea of GPS being superior in every conceivable way untrue.)

Re:Idiotic. You got that part right at least. (2, Insightful)

afidel (530433) | more than 4 years ago | (#30746114)

The day someone starts blowing up a significant chunk of the ~30 GPS satellites or ~30 GLONASS satellites is the day that GPS accuracy no longer matters because modern society is ending. Attacking GPS is attacking the US military, attacking GLONASS is attacking Russia AND India. It's seriously NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. Again if neither system is being maintained it means 3 of the worlds top economies can no longer afford to maintain a major component of their transportation network, aka the end of civilization.

Re:Idiotic. You got that part right at least. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30745846)

also, recievers are not cheap. many ships, especially smaller privately held ones, DO only have a SINGLE reciever.

Re:Idiotic. You got that part right at least. (1)

The End Of Days (1243248) | more than 4 years ago | (#30745924)

Receivers aren't cheap? Shit, they give out GPS units in cereal boxes these days. They're cheap as hell. They're so cheap they aren't even a differentiating feature on phones anymore, just expected.

Re:Idiotic. (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | more than 4 years ago | (#30745716)

This is especially idiotic considering GPS satellites that are currently in orbit are beginning to fail, and no country wants the responsibility of modernizing them, or repairing them.

Except the US.

So what happens when GPS doesn't work anymore?

Given the military use of GPS, that's unlikely.

Further, what if a GPS receiver goes offline on a ship?

If A GPS receiver goes offline on a ship, you turn on any of the leventy-dozen other GPS receivers on board, including the handheld you bought for a hundred dollars that outperforms the models available just five years ago.

You simply can't get the handheld performance from LORAN that you can from GPS, and it is no big loss for the US LORAN chains to be turned off.

Re:Idiotic. (1)

ivan_w (1115485) | more than 4 years ago | (#30745750)

[[citation needed]] - GPS sats are failing

Re:Idiotic. (2, Interesting)

Martin Blank (154261) | more than 4 years ago | (#30745986)

In my pilot weather briefings, I routinely get notice that one of the satellites (GPS-25, I think) is out of service, and I think GPS-30 showed up in a briefing recently, too.

uhm, yeah, really idotic... NOT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30746124)

Just like loran-C vs GPS, maybe you should keep dial-up ISP in case your broadband internet begins to fail?
Yeah, thought so, you don't have a dial-up ISP anymore do you?

GPS is a system, not a single thing. The USAF (the ones that have the responsibility to modernize them) has invested in system wide redundancy (right now 31 satellites are active, even though only 24 are required). Why didn't they deorbit the extra satellites, it was for functional redundancy of course. ;^)

What if a GPS receiver goes offline on a ship, perhaps they should turn on their backup GPS receiver (instead of being forced to buy an additional eLORAN receiver as a backup). Just like how you might not remember the dial-up backup number your ISP gave you, operators on the ship might not remember the how to operate the ancient LORAN-C reciever.

At some point in time something becomes more trouble than it's worth and that is LORAN-C, new applications can't use the old mechanism (e.g., streaming video through dialup, 200m vs 10m accuracy), and the "backup" just isn't really a backup anymore, it's just a relic...

Just posting anon so my karma doesn't get trounced by responding to a troll...

Been at it for years, and other trivia! (5, Interesting)

thoolie (442789) | more than 4 years ago | (#30745558)

The USCG has been having its budget strained for decades, this is just one way to free up some money to dedicate it to port security, search and rescue, or maritime control.

However, of interesting note, the LORAN stations where some of the most far flung US military installations anywhere in the world! Japan, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, Turkey, Spain, Itially....) They've all been handed back, however (most are now derelict).

Also of interesting note, the USCG LORAN Station Lampedusa was the only US military installation directly attacked in response to the bombing of Libya in the 1980s. They fired a bunch of SCUD missiles a hand full of coasties stationed on an island in the pacific. The guy in charge was a lowly LT.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_United_States_Coast_Guard [wikipedia.org]

Also, if you have some free time, consider asking your congressperson to give the USCG more $$. Right now, they are 1/10 the size of the Navy with 1/15 the funding, yet are responsible for all of our waterways, maritime environment, maritime search and rescue, fishery patrols, drug smugglers, illegal immigration, national security, enforcement of maritime law, port security, and much, much more!

oops (3, Informative)

thoolie (442789) | more than 4 years ago | (#30745586)

It was an island in the Mediterranean....long day.

Anyways, still a neat story :)

Last time... (3, Insightful)

RedBear (207369) | more than 4 years ago | (#30745604)

Last time I saw a LORAN-C device was on my family's sailboat that we used to motor-sail to Alaska from Washington through the Inside Passage. That was 1990. It wasn't much use even at the time. Radar and charts were much more helpful with navigation. I haven't even heard mention of the term LORAN-C for a very long time. I don't think most vessels have a LORAN-C receiver installed anymore. Maybe big ones, but not the hundreds of thousands of small to medium size vessels. Hard to justify keeping it running if nobody is using it. What's the benefit if almost nobody owns the necessary hardware anymore? Just playing Devil's Advocate. I'm sure it's still useful to somebody, somewhere.

Cost/benefit (4, Funny)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 4 years ago | (#30745608)

LORAN (Long Range Aids to Navigation) is an electronic navigation system using low-frequency radio, used by many boaters (including me) before GPS. It has an approximately 200m accuracy and is a functional replacement in case GPS fails or the US implements selective availability in time of war.

Wait -- they're talking about decommissioning a redundant technology and relying on one that the military spends millions on and is mission-critical to its functioning (and thus in no danger of suddenly going offline)? Why is this sudden outbreak of common sense being maligned? I wish our government did this more often!

Backup? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30745612)

How in the world does this qualify as a backup for GPS?

For one, any sudden and immediate loss of GPS would probably impair LORAN as well, at least to some extent, unless its a failure of the GPS equipment on the boat. For two, what happened to Mark 1 Eyeball, ye ol map, sextant, etc...? Depending on electronic system #2 to backup electronic system #1 has a lot of problems when you're talking about something as essential as shipboard navigation...

Re:Backup? (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 4 years ago | (#30746040)

LORAN stations are ground stations. If the Chinese (or other enemy. The Chinese are the ones who have actually demonstrated the capability) execute a satellite intercept strike on a sufficient number of satellites, there goes GPS availability for a region.

One down, many more to go. (5, Informative)

viking80 (697716) | more than 4 years ago | (#30745644)

There is absolutely no use for Loran C. You currently have the following systems in place backing each other up. Many cheaper and better. In fact, many of these most likely will vanish soon.
1. GPS, LAAS, WAAS, DGPS
2. Galileo, EGNOS,
(as well as GLONASS and Baidu)
3. Inertial
4. Visual navigation (computer with terrain sensors, including sonar and radar)
5. Also VOR, DME, ADF, NDB, ILS, TLS, MLS, Marker beacon
with the final fallback
6. Old fashion navigation with compass, light houses, sextant, chronometer etc.

Re:One down, many more to go. (1)

TechForensics (944258) | more than 4 years ago | (#30745756)

Well, pilots of small aircraft (myself included) found it the best, cheapest nav choice prior to GPS. Dunno if it's worth having as a fallback in case GPS is degraded or taken offline or not. Maybe I'm just nostalgic because being able to navigate "Loran Direct" was so superior to flying from VOR to VOR.

Re:One down, many more to go. (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | more than 4 years ago | (#30745960)

Well, pilots of small aircraft (myself included) found it the best, cheapest nav choice prior to GPS.

Unless you happened to fly anywhere near any of the LORAN transmitter sites. Ever see a C172 doing 400 knots? My LORAN told me I was...

And horse and buggy was the best, cheapest transportation prior to the automobile. Anyone keeping a horse and buggy in the garage just in case the oil supplies go away?

Maybe I'm just nostalgic because being able to navigate "Loran Direct" was so superior to flying from VOR to VOR.

Try GPS direct. It's even funner.

Re:One down, many more to go. (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 4 years ago | (#30745836)

TLA WTF IMO, YMMV.

Re:One down, many more to go. (3, Informative)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 4 years ago | (#30746014)

Galileo

There are no operational Galileo satellites in orbit yet.

(not that it makes any of your other points less valid, just a factual correction)

Re:One down, many more to go. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30746116)

Alright now lets count the ones you listed that ACTUALLY WORK!

1. GPS... well GPS can't backup itself
2. Galileo, EGNOS. GLONASS... Valid
3. Inertial... On a BOAT, Rocking back and forth, in water that has currents, this is just "Dead Reckoning" but more costly.
4. Visual, aided by Sonar and Radar... Ok this sort of works but only in well documented areas and only if you have the appropriate terrain maps, the Sea is one of the least explored places on the earth by percentage so there's alot of places (namely almost everywhere not along a coast) where this will do no good at all.
5. VOR, other aviation aids... perhaps your best idea
6. Old Fashion Navigation... did you know they called this "Dead Reckoning" for a reason, may as well use inertial sensors.

In summary alot of your ideas are not applicable to anything larger than a Fishing Boat within sight or still in the same channel it started on. Once you got into any open water or traveled any significant distance from your start point the error rate's are just to high to become acceptable. In modern maritime navigation along rivers you need to be able to stay in shipping lanes also, if you don't then you will crash into shore, run aground, or become 2 boats in one with another freighter. The shipping lanes are marked with buoys but its not like you can stop or turn a 1000 ft. freighter on a dime.

Sunk cost (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30745646)

This is in spite of $160M spent on modernizing LORAN stations over the past 10 years.

Econ 101: don't make decisions on the basis of sunk costs.

Re:Sunk cost (0, Troll)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#30746196)

Aaaand another saying that has never been proven in reality. (No, your anecdotes don’t count.)
Maybe you can get the Mythbusters to do it... if you find a way to make it explode. Just like the econo... damn...

Priorities!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30745670)

Thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands of people die in Haiti due to a massive earthquake and we're talking about freaking LORAN-C??

Get some PRIORITIES!

Re:Priorities!! (1, Insightful)

couchslug (175151) | more than 4 years ago | (#30745752)

"Thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands of people die in Haiti due to a massive earthquake and we're talking about freaking LORAN-C??

Get some PRIORITIES!"

Haiti isn't worthy of discussion. It's tragic, there are lots of tragedies, but that a thing is tragic doesn't make it worth discussion in a tech forum.

Haiti is BTW a hopeless case, the people who live there maintain it so, and their choices aren't my concern. Go to an appropriate forum to whine about Haiti, or go there yourself ("PRIORITIES!") and help out.

Re:Priorities!! (1, Insightful)

mschuyler (197441) | more than 4 years ago | (#30745790)

Excuse me, fella. This is /., not the Red Cross. Do you really expect us to discuss news stories on here? Why not Reid's remarks about Obama, the Massachussetts senate race, or what ever will Conan O'Brien do now, or your mama's corn bread recipe? Because they are largely irrelevant. You wanna talk earthquakes, go where they are discussed.

A drop of piss in the bucket (1)

east coast (590680) | more than 4 years ago | (#30745854)

This is in spite of $160M spent on modernizing LORAN stations over the past 10 years.

Do you know how many times that the government shits out every day on projects they know will probably never see the light of day? It's so bad at this point that I find 160 million into a 10 year old functional project (open to the public, no less) to be the bargain rate.

Satellite versus groundstation (2, Insightful)

sabre86 (730704) | more than 4 years ago | (#30745860)

My main worry about this that the GPS system has a particular set of vulnerabilities that either don't exist or are less significant for a terrestrial system. Solar flares and other space environment risks come to mine, as does capture via hacking and attack via interceptor satellites.

Re:Satellite versus groundstation (1)

gordguide (307383) | more than 4 years ago | (#30746022)

" ... My main worry about this that the GPS system has a particular set of vulnerabilities that either don't exist or are less significant for a terrestrial system. Solar flares and other space environment risks come to mine, as does capture via hacking and attack via interceptor satellites. ..."

The particular set of vulnerabilities for Loran-C is it's only available in coastal areas and the Great Lakes.

Maybe there are risks from solar events, but since at least half the GPS satellites are on the "dark side" of the Earth at any given time, it's probably more along the lines of an annoyance than a full service outage. You can always use the Russian sats as a backup, or use a GPS that tracks both.

Capture via hacking, and attack by interceptor satellites, means there's a war on, or it's about to start. A very big one.

Head to shore, now. That should be no problem at all, since if you're operating an ocean-going vessel, you already know how to navigate the old way. Right?

station tahoe pipeline will be gone (2, Informative)

fearanddread (836731) | more than 4 years ago | (#30745886)

Coasties all know that the way to get a sweet station assignment like Station Lake Tahoe is to spend a year in attu [uscg.mil] . I wonder what the new pipeline will be.

$160M over 10 years? (1)

barzok (26681) | more than 4 years ago | (#30745908)

$16M/year is nothing to the government, they've just been keeping it on life support for 10 years. Even if SA is turned back on, GPS will be accurate enough for commercial navigation and the system proven reliable enough. Let LORAN-C pass.

I'm surprised this is still around (3, Interesting)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 4 years ago | (#30745932)

Frankly, I'm surprised this is still around. Everyone I know has switched over from LORAN-C to GPS or other systems at least a decade ago. Even aside from the cost of maintaining the system to the government, the system is clearly inferior to GPS. For one, since the towers are much lower compared to satelites, it is much easier to have your signal blocked. The system isn't nearly as accurate (as mentioned in the summary) and is also in many contexts much more likely to simply fail. The system also doesn't work if one is far away from land. This is an extremely reasonable cost-saving measure.

RE: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30745934)

You are ignorant GPS, LAAS WAAS and DGPS *are* GPS (Milstar) - it fails - they fail - [X-class solar flare - done - many others (ref needed but I'm too p**sed)]
Galileo - the *zen* PNT system - wait for it - they can't even get the orbital ephemeris figured out
GLONASS - ok - thanks to the Indians
Baidu - Ha - for now
Inertial - no intrinsic place reference - NO time reference
Visual - ever hear of IFR?
VOR, DME, etc - you *really* haven't been paying attention - funding, maintenance, certs, and so forth.
6. - WTF? OK we just us sailing ships - that worked out well - and should work *forever*.

Kill LORAN? (3, Funny)

steveha (103154) | more than 4 years ago | (#30745942)

The Coast Guard is going to "kill" LORAN? This choice of words worries me. What if LORAN decides to strike first, out of self-defense?

"LORAN", "SKYNET", both are short words with an 'N' in them. COINCIDENCE? I think not!

steveha

Not A suprise (2, Interesting)

ddxexex (1664191) | more than 4 years ago | (#30746000)

I visited Cape Race, NL which has both a LORAN-C station and a DGPS station. Looking at the two I don't blame the USCG for getting rid of LORAN-C, the LORAN-C has a nice & large radio tower, as well as a giant room with huge motors spinning around, mainframes that look like they're from the 60s. And since it's so far up North, you have to heat the room in the winter and cool it in the summer. On the contrast, the DGPS site was a couple of racks in a trailer. and 4 6m-ish towers around it. The heating cooling costs are much less and most of the maintanance is just scraping the snow/ice off the towers when it snows :-). Combine this wit the fact that no-one really uses LORAN-C anymore, it's not hard to see why

What about eLoran? (1)

imadork (226897) | more than 4 years ago | (#30746016)

Loran-C may be obsolete, but the enhanced eLoran does make for a good backup system to GPS. It's accurate to about 10 meters or so with modern receivers.
No, Galileo and Glonass are not good backups to GPS, because they are also satellite-based and rely on the reception of weak microwave signals, just like GPS. Those signals can (and do) get jammed, and can even be spoofed under the right conditions. Differential GPS or other GPS augmentation systems aren't even backups at all, as they rely on the main GPS signals being present in order to operate. Loran-C and eLoran are land-based, long wave signals that are very hard to jam. It is most useful in places and under conditions where GPS has problems. And in spite of how popular GPS is, there are definitely areas where it has problems.
The UK and other countries have committed to eLoran for the next 10 to 15 years, so it's not like Loran-based systems are totally going away. They see the benefit of having a truly redundant positioning system, why doesn't the US?

Lexx? (1)

machine321 (458769) | more than 4 years ago | (#30746058)

Wasn't Kai the last of the LORAN-C?

Get ready for network disruption. (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 4 years ago | (#30746102)

Loran-C has been used for distributing TDM network clocking by at least one major long distance telephone carrier, before they all switched over to GPS. I wonder if they got all the equipment converted (or switched to SONET or later non-TDM packet-based stuff)?

Some boxes referencing to Loran-C and some to GPS would work so well that the omission might not be noticed. Until the Loran-C shuts down and the boxes start to lose sync. The resulting frame slips would make little "clicks" in any legacy phone connections. But data traffic could get hit big time.

What, it's still there? (4, Interesting)

m.dillon (147925) | more than 4 years ago | (#30746174)

I've been a sailor most of my life. We haven't used Loran C seriously for almost two decades. Most boats don't even have Loran receivers any more. It's GPS all the way whether you are a casual sailor or a commercial ship captain. In fact, large commercial ships are required to use GPS and special transceivers these days (the boater's equivalent of GPS-based aircraft systems). If backup matters one could pack a RDF or maybe even a sextant, but frankly GPS has not failed even once from the day it became available to boaters. Besides, Loran C pretty much only works near the coastline of major industrialized nations (or did)... it wouldn't be all that helpful if you were lost at sea.

The coast guard should have abandoned Loran C years ago.

-Matt

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