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US military trials British navigation tech to combat GPS jamming

US military trials British navigation tech to combat GPS jamming

  • 2015-05-28

The US military is exploring whether eLoran, a navigation technology that was pioneered in Britain, could protect against GPS jamming attacks

The US military is testing a new type of navigation technology that was developed in Britain, in the hope that it that could prevent criminals from hijacking its vessels with GPS jamming attacks.

GPS is the most widely-used positioning technology in the world today, with a vast array of military, civil and commercial applications, but the technology is widely acknowledged to be vulnerable to attack .

GPS signals are extremely faint, and it does not take much to dazzle a GPS receiver with a more powerful radio signal. This makes it relatively easy for anyone with a GPS 'jammer' to swamp the circuitry in the receiver so that it cannot detect GPS signals.

Some criminals have been known to hijack lorries containing high-value goods by jamming both mobile phone signals and GPS, so the driver does not know where he is and cannot call for help.

Meanwhile, defence officials in South Korea have reported that the North Korean government is using GPS jammers to interfere with their military and civilian receivers on land and at sea. South Korea claims that such sporadic incidents could be the prelude to a major attack.

Now (NYSE: DNOW - news) the US Department of Homeland Security and US Coastguard have starting testing a new navigation technology called eLoran (enhanced Long Range Navigation), which enables ships and aircraft to determine their position and speed by triangulating low-frequency radio signals transmitted by radio beacons on the shore.

eLoran signals are more resistant to jamming than GPS signals because they are around a million times stronger, and the beacons are also much closer to the receiver than a satellite would be. This means that a jammer would have to emit an extremely powerful signal to drown out eLoran.

The US military plans to use eLoran as a backup for existing GPS systems, to provide positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) information in the event that the GPS signals are jammed.

“A preponderance of government, academic, and industry reports have concluded that eLoran is the best independent, multi-modal solution to provide assured PNT as a complement to GPS,” said Chuck Schue, president and chief executive of UrsaNav, which provides engineering and information solutions to the US military.

The UK has pioneered the use of eLoran for navigation, and in 2013 the UK's General Lighthouse Authorities became the first in the world to deploy the technology for shipping companies operating both passenger and cargo services along the south and east coasts.

Two enhanced long-range navigation stations have been opened in Dover and Harwich, and a further five have just been deployed in Thames, Humber, Middlesbrough, Firth of Forth, and Aberdeen.

“The more dependent we become on electronic systems, the more resilient they must be. Otherwise, we face a scenario where technology is actually reducing safety rather than enhancing it," said Martin Bransby, research and radionavigation manager at the General Lighthouse Authorities UK and Ireland (Other OTC: IRLD - news) .

"Demands on marine navigation are only getting tighter, yet electronic systems at sea are primitive compared to those used in air travel. This needs to change."(from YAHOO FINANCE)

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