The U.S. Coast Guard’s director of prevention policy has announced plans to cease broadcasting the North American LORAN-C signal beginning Feb. 8. LORAN is an abbreviation for long range navigation.

As a result of technological advancements during the last 20 years and the emergence of the U.S. Global Positioning System, LORAN-C is no longer required by the armed forces, the transportation sector or the nation’s security interests, and is used by only a small segment of the population, according to a Jan. 7 press release from the Coast Guard.

“LORAN-C was originally developed to provide radio navigation service for U.S. coastal waters and was later expanded to include complete coverage of the continental U.S. as well as most of Alaska,” according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Navigation Center Web site.

“Twenty-four U.S. LORAN-C stations work in partnership with Canadian and Russian stations to provide coverage in Canadian waters and in the Bering Sea,” the Web site states. “The system provides better than 0.25 nautical mile absolute accuracy for suitably equipped users within the published areas, and provides navigation, location, and timing services for both civil and military air, land and marine users.”

Approved as an en route supplemental air navigation system for both instrument flight rule and visual flight rule operations, the LORAN-C system serves the 48 continental states, their coastal areas, and parts of Alaska.

The Homeland Security Appropriations Act for fiscal year 2010 allowed for termination of the LORAN-C signal on Jan. 4, after certification from the commandant of the Coast Guard that it was not needed for maritime navigation and from the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security that it was not needed as a backup for GPS.

After termination, the U.S. LORAN-C signal will be unusable and permanently discontinued. This termination does not affect U.S. participation in the Russian American or Canadian LORAN-C chains.

The Coast Guard strongly urges mariners using LORAN-C for navigation to shift to a GPS navigation system and become familiar with its operation as soon as possible.

LORAN-C has become an antiquated system, the Department of Homeland Security announcement said, and is no longer a prudent use of taxpayer funds and is not allowed under the 2010 Homeland Security Appropriations Act.

President Barack Obama’s fiscal year 2010 budget supported the termination of outdated systems and cited the terrestrial-based North American LORAN-C system as an example, according to the Coast Guard’s press release.

“The LORAN-C system was not established as, nor was it intended to be, a viable systemic backup for GPS,” according to the press release. “If a single, domestic national system to back up GPS is identified as being necessary, the Department of Homeland Security will complete an analysis of potential backups to GPS.”

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