Bill Supports eLoran as GPS Backup

March 27, 2015  - By
Image: GPS World

A bi-partisan group of legislators led by Congressman John Garamendi (D-Calif.) has introduced a bill that would require the U.S. Secretary of Defense to establish a backup for GPS within three years using eLoran.

The National Positioning, Navigation, and Timing Resilience and Security Act of 2015H.R. 1678, was co-sponsored by Congressmen Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), and Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J). Garamendi is the ranking member of the House Transportation and uInfrastructure Subcommittee on the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation.

H.R. 1678 would require the secretary of defense, in coordination with the commandant of the Coast Guard and the secretary of transportation, to establish and sustain a reliable, land-based positioning and navigation system that will complement and backup America’s GPS for military and civilian uses by using eLoran.

eLoran is the government’s existing and underused long-range navigation system infrastructure. The backup system would step in when GPS signals are corrupted, degraded, unreliable, or otherwise unavailable. A terrestrial-based system, eLoran wouldn’t be affected by atmospheric interruptions such as solar storms, or jamming or spoofing aimed at GPS.

The bill directs the secretary of defense to incorporate the expertise and contributions of the private sector to quickly establish  system architecture, as well as build and operate the system.

“GPS is much more than a LCD screen on your dashboard. It’s a technology used for much of our nation’s critical infrastructure and by almost every major industry in America, as well as the military, law enforcement, and first responders,” Garamendi said in a press release. “We are increasingly reliant on the precision, navigation, and timing services that GPS provides. From land navigation on cell phones to a timing source for our national infrastructure, we need a reliable backup system to GPS.”

Garamendi said the bill would make the nation’s geopositioning infrastructure more resilient to “threats both natural and nefarious.” “A backup system could also reach places that GPS currently cannot, such as inside many buildings. This would help first responders and law enforcement more effectively protect the public,” he added.

Other members of Congress are expected to sign on as co-sponsors after Congress returns from its spring recess, according to Dana A. Goward, president and executive director, Resilient Navigation and Timing Foundation.

The eLoran PNT system would use enhanced long-range signals (eLoran) from 19 towers around the country, each with approximately a 1,000-mile range providing overlapping fields from which a device can derive its location. The back-up system would use the remaining Loran infrastructure and provide a secure and reliable cybersecurity insurance policy, said the press release.

The U.S. atomic clock, accurate to one second in 300 million years, also serves as the base timing source for this backup GPS capability. This exceeds the timing needs of modern cell phones, creating an infrastructure backbone that is prepared to handle the evolution of consumer and industry electronic communications in the years ahead, the press release said.

The bill sets out numerous requirements for the system, saying that it shall:

  • Be wireless, terrestrial, and wide area
  • Provide a precise, high-power 100 kilohertz signal
  • Be resilient and extremely difficult to disrupt or degrade
  • Be able to penetrate underground and inside buildings
  • Take full advantage of existing, unused Loran infrastructure
  • Work in concert with and complement any other similar positioning, navigation and timing systems, including eLoran.

Since 2004, the federal government has recognized that the absence of a reliable backup system for GPS is a glaring economic and security threat to the United States, and has reaffirmed its interest in developing an eLoran as a reliable, land-based backup for GPS signals, the press release said.

In January, the United States Army began soliciting information for eLoran receivers for the warfighter, either stand-alone or integrated with GPS, for use in Army and other Department of Defense maritime, aviation, or vehicular platforms, and for position and timing.

The United Kingdom began using eLoran in October 2014 to protect its shipping lanes, which carry 95 percent of UK trade, in case of GPS signal loss.