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Out in Front: Complements of the Season

February 1, 2014  - By
Alan Cameron

Alan Cameron

In the wake of last month’s Expert Advice column on eLoran — “The Low Cost of Protecting America” by Dana Goward of the Resilient Navigation and Timing Foundation —  come several positive comments and encouraging developments. Rather than rehearse all the arguments why we should care about this, I’ll repeat the one word that I heard most often in GNSS circles in 2013: jamming. Followed closely by: spoofing.

“I have been advocating strongly for reconsideration of the government’s domestic Loran decision for the last year or so,” writes one reader positioned on Washington’s Beltway, “and specifically working within the Department of Defense (DoD) to ensure it is aware of international developments for eLoran in the UK and South Korea, and the possibilities inherent in other former Loran chains.

“The DoD is beginning to recognize the value of eLoran as a complement to GPS, not only for international missions, but in cooperation with the departments of Transportation and Homeland Security for domestic critical infrastructure.”

Last fall, Don Jewell’s Defense PNT newsletter on the same subject drew this reply from another well-known expert:

“One of the key short-term actions is to prevent the decommissioned [Loran] sites from being sold off for subdivisions. These sites are a national treasure with unique properties: soil conductivity, water content, metal content, and more that are hugely important in siting low-frequency positioning systems. Those long-gone engineers of the 1940s and ’50s knew this and chose accordingly.”

Before last month’s issue appeared but after it had gone to press, President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2014.  It contained several favorable New Year’s auguries for positioners, navigators, and timers.The act evinced an acute awareness of the vulnerability of space systems to disruption. The act is also a law governing the land. Through it Congress requires the administration to, among other things, explain biennially in its “Space Protection Strategy” report exactly how, in the event space systems are disrupted, DOD and the intelligence community “plan to provide necessary national security capabilities through alternative space, airborne, or ground systems.”

Since said administration acted early in its first term to decommission Loran-C, the congressional directive is pointed.

The next big thing coming up on the GNSS international horizon takes place in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, April 15–17: the European Navigation Conference, ENC-GNSS 2014. It includes a track session on “eLoran and other Low-Frequency Systems,” and I’ll be there with pencil sharpened.

Brad Parkinson will give the ENC keynote, and he is on record as one of an august group of Institute for Defense Analyses experts who unanimously recommended that the existing Loran-C be greatly updated and modernized to eLoran. We should hear more from him on this subject amid the wharves, waterways, and docks of Europe’s largest port (world’s third busiest).

There’s barely room left to report the successful tests of Enhanced Differential Loran (eDLoran) by Dutch specialists Reelektronika: absolute accuracy of 5 meters in the North Sea and in the Rotterdam Europort harbor area.

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