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Feds pull plug on LORAN-C

Another high tech system becomes a horse and buggy system!


Old navigation system halted

Government to pull plug on outdated LORAN-C network

by Clarke Canfield - Jan. 18, 2010 12:00 AM

Associated Press .

PORTLAND, Maine - The plug is being pulled on a radio navigational system that for decades was the preferred choice of mariners in waters off the U.S.

As low-cost GPS has emerged in recent years, the LORAN-C system has become obsolete and is no longer needed for navigation or safety, the Department of Homeland Security says. Over the protests of some U.S. senators and others who say the LORAN network should be maintained as a GPS backup, most of the nation's LORAN transmission towers will be turned off Feb. 8; the remainder will be shut down by Oct. 1.

LORAN marked a quantum technological leap when it first became popular among fishermen more than 25 years ago. Its passing marks the end of an era brought on by further advances in technology. "It's like changing over from old-fashioned reel-to-reel-tapes to discs and newer technology," said Oscar "Bill" Look, a longtime lobsterman from Beals Island in Maine.

LORAN - short for "long-range navigation" - was developed during World War II for military ships and aircraft. LORAN-C was developed for civilian use in 1957 and uses radio signals from 24 land-based towers operated by the Coast Guard across the U.S. to determine positions at sea or in the air.

For decades, it was the standard-issue navigation system for commercial fishing boats, recreational craft and other vessels, as well as a supplemental navigation aid on many small aircraft. At the peak, an estimated 1.2 million to 1.5 million were in use.

But mariners and pilots began turning to global positioning systems, which use signals from satellites, in the mid-1990s when GPS became widely available.

The Department of Homeland Security says eliminating LORAN could save $36 million in 2010 and $190 million over five years. It would result in the elimination of 256 jobs, according to the Coast Guard.

Relatively small numbers of fishermen, primarily old-timers, and some general aviation pilots use LORAN receivers on their boats and planes.


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