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Transportation United Kingdom Technology

World War II Tech eLoran Deployed As GPS Backup In the UK 139

hypnosec (2231454) writes General Lighthouse Authorities (GLA) has announced that they have deployed a World War II technology called Long Range Navigation system, which they have named eLoran, in seven ports across Britain to serve as a backup for the existing Global Positioning System (GPS). GLA notes that modern ships have a lot of equipment that rely on Global Navigation Satellite Systems for functioning and in case of failure the consequences will be disastrous. For this reason technology that doesn't rely on the GPS was required as a backup. eLoran is a ground-based system rather than satellite-based and is designed to be used in the event of a GPS failure. The system was quite successful and post-WWII era, the system was updated and crowned a new name Loran-C. The navigation system was adopted by mariners across the globe and was used until GPS was deployed. Loran has now been renamed as eLoran because of the upgrades to the technology as well as the infrastructure. The more accurate system generates longwave radio signal, which is 1 million times more powerful than those from positioning satellites, are capable of reaching inside buildings, underground and underwater. According to GLA, eLoran and GPS are quite different from one another and hence there is no common mode of failure.
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World War II Tech eLoran Deployed As GPS Backup In the UK

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  • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Saturday November 01, 2014 @09:42AM (#48287001)
    Funny how two countries can take the exact same situation and arrive at completely opposite decisions [slashdot.org].
    • by FooAtWFU ( 699187 ) on Saturday November 01, 2014 @09:48AM (#48287027) Homepage
      Well, the US operates the GPS system itself, which is a distinct advantage in a time of worldwide military conflict.
      • by AchilleTalon ( 540925 ) on Saturday November 01, 2014 @12:11PM (#48287671) Homepage
        Operating yourself the GPS satellites does not prevent disruption of the GPS service due to solar storms, which I believe is the most likely case behind the UK decision to keep the eLoran system. I don't neither believe shutting down selectively the service is possible in time of war. Remember the GPS communication is one-way only for the positionning devices. The satellite receives nothing from the device.
        • Actually, the US military has a very simple way of selectively shutting down GPS: they locally jam the L1 frequency. The satellites also transmit on a second frequency, L2, with an encrypted, high precision "P(Y)" code for which the keys are closely controlled. They have receivers that can work with just the P(Y)-code, so it doesn't matter to them if L1 is jammed.
    • Err - no. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by queazocotal ( 915608 ) on Saturday November 01, 2014 @09:48AM (#48287029)

      The primary risk to GPS in the UK is the USA deciding to turn it off.
      That risk doesn't apply for US shipping near the US, as if GPS was turned off - rather than severely degraded - so would the local LORAN locators.
      GPS is not going away unless someone actually presses the button.
      It's not vulnerable (theoretically) to single points of failure (ideally) as it's intended to carry on even in the event of moderate wars.

      • Re:Err - no. (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 01, 2014 @10:13AM (#48287145)

        sorry but you are wrong -
        From
        http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-29758872
        "
        The system works using a fleet of satellites orbiting high above the Earth, but the signal they transmit is weak and can be easily interfered with.
        Other sat-nav systems - such as Galileo in Europe and Glonass in Russia - have the same vulnerabilities, says Prof David Last from the Royal Institute of Navigation.
        "A little bit of power from a jammer on the frequency used by GPS close to your receiver can deafen it, and it won't be able to hear the GPS signals," he says.
        "For example, jamming is a real issue in Korea. There have now been three occasions when the North Koreans have transmitted high-powered jamming in South Korea."
        The Sun too can knock satellite systems offline, he adds.
        "It starts to transmit radio noise during solar storms, so intense that it either makes GPS positions wobble about or causes GPS to be lost across the entire sunlit side of the Earth."
        " .....

      • or... The US decides to use the power it has with GPS to manipulate global markets by encrypting the signal or otherwise making it hard to use unless you comply with whatever nonsense the US wishes at the time. But hey, we'd never manipulate the global economy unfairly like that would we?

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

        • by khallow ( 566160 )
          Because doing that would never massively backfire.
          • by Megol ( 3135005 )

            Would the US care? In the right situation - nope.

            • by khallow ( 566160 )
              You can always find idiots who don't think about and don't care about consequences and they occasionally end up in power. But they don't stay in power.
          • Because doing that would never massively backfire.

            When did our government ever think beyond the next election?

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          The GPS specification is public and known 100%. In the early days of the GPS system, there was a random error introduced deliberately that could only be filtered out with a military receiver. The Federal Government stopped including the random error in the early 90s, and made it against the law for them to turn the random error back on in 2000. Modern GPS satellites don't even have the capability of transmitting the error signal.
          • And the government always obeys the law? Further, if the facility exists, anyone can turn the jitter back on. It's no different from what we've been saying about backdoors - once they exist, anyone can use them. There's also risks of social engineering attacks against those running satellites. And, since no software is perfect (and no radiation proofing is perfect), the satellites may spontaneously add jitter, enable encryption (with a gibberish key), or simply activate their steering jets, putting them on

            • Further, if the facility exists, anyone can turn the jitter back on. It's no different from what we've been saying about backdoors - once they exist, anyone can use them. There's also risks of social engineering attacks against those running satellites.

              Satellites launched since 2000 (roughly half the current constellation) lack the necessary transmitters to rebroadcast the jitter, and currently slated replacement satellites will also lack that transmitter. If the federal government wanted to reintroduce the jitter, they would have to replace most of the constellation. At that point, it's pretty much no longer GPS.

      • Turning off the GPS signal would have consequences for USA citizen in a magnitude you can confidently discard this hypothesis. Jamming the signal in specific geographic areas using jamming signals is something else. But shutting down the service? No way.
        • The system can be selectively disabled to prevent use in specific geographic areas. Those areas are fairly large but not global.

          And if the decision was made to disable GPS in the US they would most assuredly turn off any local radionavigation system as well.

        • The FBI wants to ban private encryption, essentially banning eCommerce, eBanking, UNIX, foreign languages, medical implants, boolean operators...

          The mere fact that the director could state this in public and not be fired by the time he'd finished speaking is all the proof you need that Americans - and indeed any post-Babbage civilizations - are expendable in the eyes of the civil (uncouth?) service.

          Which should be no surprise. The difference in social influences, culture and thus attitude between the parano

      • My phone (Nexus 4) in the UK will happily pick up GLONAS satellites so there's no problem!
    • by Anonymous Coward

      It's not only the US, Norway is also about to shut down the (old) LORAN-C system.
      "The Department of Fisheries has desided to close down
      the 4 Norwegian Loran-C stations from January 1. 2016.
      Ther reason given is that there is not many users, the GPS is the
      primary navigation system, and that the equipement in use
      are old and need expensive uppgrade." source: home.online.no/~loran-c/

    • If the following blog post is worth anything, then maybe the USA will still go with eLoran as a backup:

      http://www.panbo.com/archives/... [panbo.com]

      The next question is how cheap is the most affordable eLoran receiver, and where can one be bought?

  • re Loran (Score:3, Interesting)

    by freddieb ( 537771 ) on Saturday November 01, 2014 @09:45AM (#48287013)
    I remember loran from my early ham radio days (50's and 60's). It made a hell of a noise on HF. It probably would not bother anyone any more as the hf frequencies are not utilized as they once were. Sounds like an excellent idea as the gps system is very vulnerable.
    • Modern communications has come a long way since then; it is probably possible to contain that communication to a known band and not spill into neighboring ones. Especially because one of the few times HAM is still relevant is in local emergence communications (when cell is down / overloaded)
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by clifwlkr ( 614327 )
      Funny you say they are not being utilized. Last weekend the bands were jammed end to end for the world wide DX contest. On the major bands the waterfall was full end to end. I made hundreds of contacts. Earlier I did a summits on the air activation and made over 30 contacts in an hour. Never mind the digital modes. The ham bands are alive and well, Jim Olsen K7JEO
    • That was probably LORAN-A, with which we used to share the 160m band (1.8-2.0 MHz). LORAN-C operates (or operated) in a dedicated allocation at 100 kHz. LORAN-A was shut down quite a few decades ago.
  • by wbr1 ( 2538558 ) on Saturday November 01, 2014 @09:48AM (#48287033)
    No common mode of failure? An EMP or nuke would beg to differ.
    • The satellites are hardened.
      And 20000km away from earth.
      As are the uplinks. (well, not the latter)

      • by rossdee ( 243626 )

        See that big ball of gas in the sky 93 million miles away, thats capable of taking out any satellite based system...

      • If they are hardened, chaff or some other form of physical blocking would easily silence the gps system in a given area. Or..just deploy a more powerful clone system with misinformation. I am sure there are many ways to disrupt the current system.
        • GPS can be cryptographically authenticated, at least for authorized users. You can jam it, but you can't easily fake it, at least not against receivers that are worried about such things.

          • That may be true in theory, but Iran succeeded in hijacking a US drone via a GPS attack. Thus, whatever authentication exists is not actually in use. The US, for reasons known only to them, hate encryption. Any encryption. By anyone. Including themselves. For much of the war in Afghanistan, drone camera signals were unencrypted and omnidirectional, leading to video footage being circulated. Slashdot covered the issue in the early days of the war.

            If the US military are too stupid to encrypt drone GPS systems

      • by wbr1 ( 2538558 )
        my point was that a localized EMP or blast would knock out the ships radios and electronics not the satellites.
        • by putaro ( 235078 )

          The common failure mode would be "electronics" and any type of electronic navigation would fall under that. Furthermore, if all a ship's electronics are offline their engines are probably not functioning either.

        • If that happened you'd probably have more important shit to worry about.

      • Kinetic Kill Vehicle (Score:3, Interesting)

        by haulbag ( 1160391 )

        Please understand that the technology to kill satelites has been around for a long time. Several military contractors for the US Defense Department have developed kinetic kill vehicles. They are in orbit as we speak. Their purpose is to destroy satelites by ramming into them at high velocity. They are like an anvil with a guidance system and a simple propulsion system. I know that Boeing had these back in the early 1990s. I'm sure there are hundreds or thousands of them up there by now with their targets lo

        • With the GPS sats at a distance of 20k kilometers, you'd have plenty of warning to bomb the shit out of the attacking country before the kill vehicles could even approach the satellites.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by haulbag ( 1160391 )

            With the GPS sats at a distance of 20k kilometers, you'd have plenty of warning to bomb the shit out of the attacking country before the kill vehicles could even approach the satellites.

            I never said that the first attack would be the satelites, but it very well may be. How much warning do you have when the KKV is already in orbit? All it has to do is change orbit slightly and your satelite is dead. Also, you suggest that a state would use nukes before their satelites are taken out. I don't agree. Whether you agree or not with the concept of MAD (mutually assured destruction), it is clear that the major nuclear powers do. It is quite conceivable that there could be a conventional conflict t

            • How much warning do you have when the KKV is already in orbit? All it has to do is change orbit slightly and your satelite is dead.

              How do you "change an orbit slightly" from LEO to a GPS orbit? By using the Picard manouever?

              • I never said what orbit the KKVs are in or that they would need to change from LEO to MEO.
                • Except that any orbit "slightly away from a GPS orbit" would be immediately suspicious. This isn't 9/11. No spacecraft gets even remotely close to those orbits without someone noticing it and remarking "that's funny".
                  • A dark satellite made from an ultrablack material or using a stealthy topology simply isn't going to be seen. By anyone.

                    Ion engines are slow, but they don't give off any tell-tale glare.

                    The southern hemisphere has very little in the way of monitoring - a satellite traversing any great circle other than equatorial will be difficult-to-impossible to track.

                    This is not a likely threat, on a scale from one to ten, the seriousness is sqrt(-1). Nonetheless, it's not zero.

        • by lgw ( 121541 )

          There are also (far less expensive) anti-satellite missiles that a fighter can launch from high altitude to kill sats in low orbits. Geosync orbit is pretty safe, but GPS sats orbit much lower.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      No common mode of failure? An EMP or nuke would beg to differ.

      I'm sorry, if there's a nuke going off and you're on a cargo ship the last thing in the world you're going to worry about is getting your containers where they belong.

    • If an EMP or Nuke went off close enough to knock out this system, the loss of computerize navigation would be the least of your concerns. I'm pretty sure ship captains would turn around and avoid England irreverent of the state of navigation.

    • are you sure? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Phil Karn ( 14620 ) <(karn) (at) (ka9q.net)> on Saturday November 01, 2014 @11:46PM (#48290979) Homepage
      LORAN-C would probably be rather resistant to EMP. Like just about everything military, the transmitting equipment would be designed to be EMP-resistant, and receiving equipment on vehicles would not be particularly susceptible. It's stuff with long cables that picks up EMP. LORAN-C is certainly much more jam-resistant than GPS. The transmitter power levels are/were enormously higher, some in the megawatt range, to overcome natural background noise and antenna inefficiency. Even the large towers used are only a small fraction of a wavelength (3 km). Also, LORAN-C operates by groundwave propagation (that's why the frequency is so low) so it's not very sensitive to solar activity.
  • good to have backups (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    In the event of a war with a major world power, GPS will be destroyed, because most of those powers have proven they can shoot satellites. If you depend too much on GPS you will be in for a rude shock when it goes away.

    • Boy, do I ever agree with you on that! There needs to be a backup system, preferably with distributed assets, so if the worst happens, planes and shipos can still navigate.
    • The GPS satellites are in pretty high orbits (around 20000km if memory serves). I don't know if anybody has an anti-satellite weapon that can target a satellite that high. For that matter, the WAAS satellites are in geosynchronous orbit and even harder to shoot down.

      You would also have to shoot down several GPS satellites in quick succession to produce a significant gap in coverage. Since the Chinese and Russian anti-satellite weapons are based on orbital launchers (for obvious reasons) the countries in

    • Every major power depends on international trade to the extent that if they're trying to take down the GPS, the world is already doomed.

    • by perpenso ( 1613749 ) on Saturday November 01, 2014 @02:54PM (#48288467)
      I saw a documentary on a US Navy Aircraft Carrier, it had a relevant incident. The carrier has GPS, LORAN, inertial navigation, etc. Yet every day a sailor steps outside the bridge with a sextant and takes readings on the horizon and sun. (does another sailor do so at night with the stars?). He then goes inside and using a WW2 manufactured mechanical chronometer calculates the position of the ship. When asked why the Navy still uses such ancient mechanical technology the sailor replied that this ship is a warship and is expected to be where it needs to be regardless of whether the fancy electronics is working or not.
    • I certainly wouldn't bet that GPS satellites couldn't be destroyed, but most anti-sat weapons demonstrated so far work only on low altitude orbits. The US systems consist essentially of lobbing a small suborbital missile up in the path of the target satellite. Destroying a GPS satellite in a 20,000 km orbit takes a much bigger launch vehicle and considerably more time, and would be much harder to conceal from US space sensors.

      Jamming and spoofing are the much bigger threats.
  • Pretty cool (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 01, 2014 @10:01AM (#48287095)

    This is not your old 70's LORAN system. Thanks to advances in DSP processing, eLORAN gives your position with precision comparable to GPS (10m or so). It also have data channel that's used to broadcast DGPS corrections, so it complements GPS nicely.
    Because of low frequency, signal penetrates buildings and ground (however with greatly reduced range). This may be one of the solutions for a car navigation in tunels. Even if it produces less precise position, it's always better than no position at all.

    Great contrast between UK and USA, where LORAN transmitters were demolished in the past years. When so many things dependd on GPS signals, we really need some backup system for precise timing and positioning. Not thinking about backup only means we will learn about it the hard way - and it will not be pretty.

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Not thinking about backup only means we will learn about it the hard way - and it will not be pretty.

      Exactly. Every major world power has plans to destroy the American GPS constellation in the event of a shooting war. If you don't plan for that, it will be that much rougher when it happens.

      Wars with minor or regional powers that can't destroy GPS, that's one thing. Wars with major powers like China or Russia who can, that's something else.

    • We do. It's called Glasnoss and Galileo. The latter when completed will be superior to GPS
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Even in the 70s LORAN could give 10' accuracy.

      You just used it with hyperbolic geometry instead of in range-range mode.

      The two problems with hyperolic is that you needed at least 3 stations to get a position, range-range could get your position with two.

      For GPS, you need 4 satellites to get a 3D position (needed for flying), 3 would get you a 2D position (Ok if you know you are on the ground...)

    • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

      This is not your old 70's LORAN system. Thanks to advances in DSP processing, eLORAN gives your position with precision comparable to GPS (10m or so). It also have data channel that's used to broadcast DGPS corrections, so it complements GPS nicely.
      Because of low frequency, signal penetrates buildings and ground (however with greatly reduced range). This may be one of the solutions for a car navigation in tunels. Even if it produces less precise position, it's always better than no position at all.

      Great con

  • "WWII tech" (Score:5, Informative)

    by CurryCamel ( 2265886 ) on Saturday November 01, 2014 @11:05AM (#48287351) Journal

    In case anyone is intersted, this slideset gives a nice overview of this "WWII tech".
    http://www.ursanav.com/sites/default/files/pdfs/news/UrsaNav%20ILA-40%20eLoran%20System%20Definition%20%26%20Signal%20Specification%20Tutorial.pdf [ursanav.com]

  • I just viewed a description of eLoran at: www.ursanav.com/ sites/ default/ files/ pdfs/ news/ UrsaNav%20ILA-40%20eLoran%20System%20Definition%20%26%20Signal%20Spec ification%20Tutorial.pdf and scaned for the words: security, encription, jam. Nothing. Looks like there's no provision for these...true?
  • by fnj ( 64210 ) on Saturday November 01, 2014 @11:50AM (#48287583)

    Nice to know the grown-ups are in charge of strategic planning in the UK. Contrast the no-intellect kiddies and political scum in the USA. Congress passed an appropriation in 2008 to implement eLORAN, but some puffed-up asshat in the executive branch zeroed out the funding and nobody ever followed through.

  • Positioning systems for civilian purposes shouldn't be space based due to obvious issues with satellites (expensive, hard to maintain, etc). Hopefully, at some point, we'll have positioning systems that don't require any infrastructure all. Would be nice if they could tell the position from landmarks, the sky and Earths gravity field. ;)
  • Um.. electricity? Without it, pray for clear skies, a sextant, and knowledge how to use it.

  • by ArcadeMan ( 2766669 ) on Saturday November 01, 2014 @12:38PM (#48287823)

    I read the title as "World War II Tech DeLorean Deployed As GPS Backup In the UK".

    Followed by "They had time travel in WW2?"

  • ... announced that they have deployed a World War II technology called Long Range Navigation system, ...

    ... millions of people around the world deploy a stone-age technology called "fire" to cook their dinners each night.

  • It's not "WW II", technology, it's late 1950s LORAN-C technology. LORAN-A was WWII. It's good to have this as a backup. Many aircraft still have LORAN-C receivers. It's good enough to find an airport.

  • Its used in Australia as well, in parallel with GPS and radar. The aircraft transmits a signal, and multiple ground stations compare the arrival time.

  • I was thinking of Global Liberation Army from Command & Conquer: Generals (C&C:G) [ea.com]. :P

  • by Anonymous Coward

    In Britain in world war 2, aircraft would fly hundreds of miles using dead reckoning (initial position, compass direction, airspeed, wind direction). If anything changed, or you had to do maneuvers to protect life and limb, you may lose track of time/distance/direction. Its bad to lose a plane because 'lost, tried flying home, crashed in ocean' or 'lost, tried flying home, had to crash behind enemy lines'. So they had two low frequency long range beacons: Cat and Mouse. Mouse was in Northern Scotland an

  • by macpacheco ( 1764378 ) on Sunday November 02, 2014 @02:46AM (#48291507)

    GPS L1C signal have 60W (a few times more on newer GPS sats) of power being irradiated by the antenna. By the same that signal travels 18000Km to the ground its down to miliwatts, in fact so weak that a one watt transmitter one Km away can still overpower the original signal. A 1 watt jammer can fit in your pocket. A 100 Watt jammer (no more than the size of a suitcase) can jam GPS for a hundred Kms easily.
    GPS works great as long as its not jammed. And the dangers are far worst when there's a signal being spoofed (artificially sending a signal that looks genuine, but has the wrong parameters, potentially leading to aircraft crashes, banking transactions recorded with the wrong timestamp, shutting down celullar towers, leading people to the wrong locationto name just one of the dozens of life threatening scenarios).
    eLoran is the only solution that can actually compliment GPS, providing it with a signal of similar accuracy to GPS L1C that can be received without line of sight to the antenna transmitting the signal 1000 Km away from the antenna.
    In my opinion destroying the Loran-C towers was the single worst decision the Obama administration made. The Loran-C signal was worthless, but the towers and adjacent building could have been shutdown and then repurposed to transmit eLoran.

  • The Seneca LORAN-C station in upstate NY between Rochester and Syracuse, while silent, didn't destroy it's tower or buildings - instead it was taken down one section at a time - and is stacked neatly in the parking lot. Wonder if it's simply been mothballed in case they need to reactivate the system?

    http://tinyurl.com/senecaloran [tinyurl.com]

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