What if the Russians, North Koreans, Iranians or Mother Nature were to jam GPS satellites?

An interesting question posed in a WSJ commentary …

Answer: We’d be in deep yogurt … and it just wouldn’t be an inability to drive to an unfamiliar destination.

To that point, according to the Department of Homeland Security has identified “18 Critical Infrastructure and Key Resource sectors” … and, 15 of the 18 are GPS-reliant.

That makes sense since the satellite-based Global Positioning System was built primarily for U.S. military ops and then repurposed to civilian applications air traffic control, weather monitoring and precise time-synchronization.

For background, according to NASA:

The Global Positioning System is a United States space-based radionavigation system that helps pinpoint a three dimensional position to about a meter of accuracy (for example latitude, longitude and altitude) and provide nano-second precise time anywhere on Earth.

GPS is currently comprised of a constellation of 24 US government satellites flying in six orbital planes … circling about 12,550 miles above the Earth … monitored by an extensive network of land-based receiving stations.


So, what’s our Plan B if the satellite-based GPS system goes down?


The WSJ authors suggest dusting off and upgrading an existing land-based navigation system:

The good news is that a land-based navigation system, known as Loran, already exists and was used by the U.S. Coast Guard for years.

But President Obama declared Loran obsolete in 2009, and Congress pulled funding for it.

That was incredibly shortsighted.

Loran is a great backup system because its signals would be difficult to jam and it would be less exposed to celestial events (think: solar storms) and enemy take-downs.

Congress is considering a bill (The Department of Homeland Security Authorization Act) that would revive and enhance Loran into a highly reliable, ground-based backup system that would be less vulnerable than GPS satellites.

I figure that – in these perilous time when enemy actors seem to be out-smarting us – it wouldn’t hurt to have a Plan B … even if it is one that relies on  dependably “classic” technology.

And frankly, I’d prioritize a system to back-up GPS higher than a bullet-train running from Anaheim to Las Vegas (which, incidentally, got funded as part of the 2009 Economic Recovery Act).



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