As reported by Inside GNSS: In a nod to the usefulness of international enhanced Loran (eLoran) systems the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) in January began a search for companies able to supply some 50,000 eLoran receivers. Meanwhile a multi-agency team continues sketching out the structure of a potential U.S. eLoran system for federal officials weighing a relaunch of the program as a backup to GPS.
Worried about GPS vulnerabilities, the Department of Defense has become increasingly interested in being able to use the nearly jam-proof eLoran “signals of opportunity” in Europe, South Korea, and other countries. Even NATO is looking at the issue and was briefed on the technology in December.
On Wednesday (January 14, 2015) the Army issued a “Sources Sought” RFI (request for information) for potential receiver suppliers. The announcement makes clear that no funds are available (yet) to buy equipment but also says that the data may be used in development and acquisition strategy. Responses to the solicitation, which is number is W56KGY-15-R-ELOR, are due February 13.
Officials are seeking information on both stand-alone eLoran receivers and receivers that integrate eLoran and GPS. More specifically they are looking for data on the size, weight, power, and cost (SWaP-C) of eLoran receivers designed for maritime, aviation, vehicular, and timing applications.
Acquisition managers also want to know about antennas, how quickly receivers could be demonstrated, potential one-way messaging capabilities using the eLoran data channel and orientation capabilities from a single signal when the receiver is not moving. They told would-be suppliers to assume an order quantity of 50,000 when developing “Rough Order of Magnitude” per-unit costs.
Perhaps more intriguing to would-be vendors, the Army is asking suppliers to consider how they might be able to improve their designs after a five-year development program. In addition to advancing the characteristics and capabilities described earlier, the Army also wants to know about developing signal tracking in environments where GPS is often unavailable, such as indoors, underwater, and in urban environments.
The RFI came out as civil and military officials prepared to meet to develop a concept of operations for an eLoran system in the United States. When done, the CONOPS document will lay out how the system will be operated and by whom. A source familiar with the effort said it is a necessary step before deciding whether to undertake the program and will help determine what the system will cost.
In the past year, support has blossomed again for eLoran in other nations, on Capitol Hill, and among industry and section of the navigation community. Most approaches would repurpose some of the remaining assets of the old Loran system, which President Obama ordered to be discontinued in 2010.
The cost has been a key stumbling block. Although eLoran has been widely endorsed as a practical and cost-effective backup for system by experts, including the National Space-Based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing (PNT) Advisory Board, and many agencies agree they would use it, no government organization has been willing to accept financial responsibility for the program. Concerns over jamming, however, and an increasing understanding of how GPS, and especially GPS timing data, have become integrated into critical infrastructure may be enough to push it over the funding hurdles.
Although not directly related the widely anticipated Army RFI is seen as a plus by proponents for eLoran in the United States.
“The effect of the RFI is definitely positive for us just by nature of the fact that [the Department of Defense] is interested in the technology,” a source told Inside GNSS. “DoD as usual,” they said, “is stepping out to see the art of the possible.”