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U.S. picks up the check

Jan 1, 2003

U.S. PICKS UP THE CHECK to operate foreign Omega station. The U.S. government has elected to finance Australia's share of the worldwide Omega navigation system in an effort to keep the system from shutting down this year. The U.S. will contribute funding at the rate of almost $1 million a year for as long as it considers necessary to keep the system operating, according to officials of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The Australian Maritime Organization, a nongovernmental entity that funds the nation's participation in Omega, a global hyperbolic radionavigation system, through user fees, announced in February it would discontinue funding because of lack of use within the maritime community. Widespread use of GPS has precluded the need for Omega, according to Australian officials who announced earlier this year they could no longer contribute as paying members of the Omega navigation community.

Omega provides continuous worldwide medium-accuracy navigation lines of position using very low frequency signals. The system, which became operational in its present configuration in August 1982, comprises eight transmitting stations placed across the globe. Seven stations need to be on air simultaneously to provide worldwide coverage. Australia is one of eight participating nations. Without an eighth member, the system would be frequently unavailable as various transmitters were shut down for maintenance or repairs.

The Omega system is heavily used by meteorological researchers for tracking the position of weather balloons.