Loran C Signals to Go Silent Next Month

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Mark Phelps

In a move that will save each American taxpayer $1.38 over the next five years, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has directed the Coast Guard to discontinue support for Loran C, starting Feb. 8. The USCG notice said, "At that time, the U.S. Loran-C signal will be unusable and permanently discontinued." Though overwhelmingly superseded by GPS, ground-based Loran-C technology has elements that make it attractive as a backup. For example, its signal is much higher-powered and less vulnerable to jamming; and it operates at low frequencies, allowing it to diffract around obstacles. Development of an enhanced Loran version — so called eLoran, was envisioned as one possible backup for GPS. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association has protested previous proposals to remove funding for Loran C until another viable backup to GPS is identified. As part of its international agreements, the United States will temporarily continue to participate in Russian-American and Canadian Loran-C chains. But according to the Coast Guard statement, "Continued use of limited resources to operate Loran-C is no longer prudent use of taxpayer funds and is not allowed under the 2010 DHS Appropriations Act." According to AOPA, the cost to retain Loran C over the next five years would have been $190 million, or about 28 cents per year, for each of 138 million American taxpayers.