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Almendral, Jane Nicole L.
Baylon, Mary Angelou L.
Beconia, Lizzy-Ann S.

TheDecca Navigator Systemwas

ahyperbolicradio navigationsystem which

allowed ships and aircraft to determine their
position by receiving radio signals from fixed
navigational beacons. The system usedlow
frequenciesfrom 70 to 129kHz. It was first
deployed by theRoyal NavyduringWorld War
IIwhen the Allied forces needed a system
which could be used to achieve accurate
landings. After the war it was extensively
developed around theUKand later used in
many areas around the world.

TheDecca Navigation Systemwas originally

developed in the US, but eventually deployed by

the Decca Radio company in the UK and
commonly referred to as a British system.
Initially developed for theRoyal Navyas an
accurate adjunct to naval versions of Gee, Decca
was first used on 5 June 1944 to
guideminesweepersin preparation for the DDayinvasions. The system was developed postwar and competed with GEE and other systems
for civilian use. A variety of reasons, notably its
ease-of-use, kept it in widespread use into the
1990s, with a total 42 chains around the world. A
number of stations were updated in the 1990s,
but the widespread use of GPS led to Decca
being turned off at midnight on 31 March 2000.

Aminesweeperis a
smallnavalwarshipdesigned to
engage inminesweeping, the use
of various mechanisms intended
to counter the threat posed
bynaval mines. Minesweepers
keep waterways clear for

Navy(RN) is
warfare force.

1936 - William J. O'Brien had the

idea of position fixing by means of

phase comparison of continuous
wave transmissions. He developed
his version without knowledge of the
others, and made several
advancements in the art that would
prove useful.

1939 - OBrien sent Harvey F. Schwarz

(chief engineer of theDecca Record

companyin England) his friend, details
of the system so it could be put forward
to the British military.
October 1941 - the British Admiralty
Signal Establishment (ASE) became
interested in the system, which was then
classified as Admiralty Outfit QM.
16 September 1942 - OBrien brought
the Californian equipment to the UK and
conducted the first marine trials
betweenAngleseyand theIsle of Man,
at frequencies of 305/610kHz.

The Decca Navigator principle.

The phase difference between the signals
received from stations A (Master) and B
(Slave) is constant along each hyperbolic
curve. The foci of the hyperbola are at the
transmitting stations, A and B.

Decca Navigator

Early Decca receivers were fitted

with three rotatingDecometersthat

indicated the phase difference for
each pattern. Each Decometer drove
a second indicator that counted the
number of lanes traversed each
360 degrees of phase difference was
one lane traversed. In this way,
assuming the point of departure was
known, a more or less distinct
location could be identified.

The lanes were grouped intozones, with

18 green, 24 red, or 30 purple lanes in

each zone. This meant that on the
baseline (the straight line between the
Master and its Slave) the zone width
was the same for all three patterns of a
given chain. Typical lane and zone
widths on the baseline are shown in the
table below (for chain 5B):

R ange and A ccuracy

During daylight ranges of around 400 nautical
miles (740km) could be obtained, reducing
at night to 200 to 250 nautical miles
(460km), depending on propagation
The accuracy depended on:
Width of the lanes
Angle of cut of the hyperbolic lines of position
Instrumental errors
Propagation errors (for example,Skywave)

By day these errors could range from a few

meters on the baseline up to a nautical mile

at the edge of coverage. At night, skywave
errors were greater and on receivers without
multipulse capabilities it was not unusual for
the position to jump a lane, sometimes
without the navigator knowing.
Although in the days of differentialGPSthis
range and accuracy may appear poor, in its
day the Decca system was one of the few, if
not the only, position fixing system available
to many mariners. Since the need for an
accurate position is less when the vessel is
further from land, the reduced accuracy at
long ranges was not a great problem.

Decca's primary use was for ship navigation in

coastal waters, offering much better accuracy than

the competingLORAN system. Fishing vessels were
major post-war users, but it was also used on
aircraft, including a very early (1949) application
ofmoving map displays. The system was deployed
extensively in theNorth Seaand was used by
helicopters operating tooil platforms. The opening
of the more accurateLoran-Csystem to civilian use
in 1974 offered stiff competition, but Decca was
well established by this time and continued
operations into the 1990s. Decca was eventually
replaced, along with Loran and other similar
systems, by theGPSduring the 1990s. The Decca
system in Europe was shut down in the spring of
2000, and the last worldwide chain, in Japan, in

O ther applications

In the immediate post-war era, Decca began

studying a long-range system like Decca, but using
much lower frequencies to enable reception
ofskywavesat long distances. This was known
asDelrac, short for "Decca Long Range Area Cover".
A further development, including features of
theGeneral Post Office'sPOPIsystem, was
introduced in 1954, proposing 28 stations that
provided worldwide coverage.The system was
predicted to offer 10 miles (16,000m) accuracy at
2,000 miles (3,200km) range 95% of the time.
Further development was ended in favour of the
Dectra system.

O ther applications

In the early 1960s theRadio Technical

Commission for Aeronautics(RTCA), as part of
a widerInternational Civil Aviation
Organization (ICAO)effort, began the process
of introducing a standard long-range radio
navigation system for aviation use. Decca
proposed a system that could offer both highaccuracy at short ranges and trans-Atlantic
navigation with less accuracy, using a single
receiver. The system was known asDectra,
short for "Decca Track".

O ther applications

A more accurate system named HiFix was developed using signalling in

the 1.6MHz range. It was used for
specialised applications such as
precision measurements involved
with oil-drilling and by the Royal
Navy for detailed mapping and
surveying of coasts and harbours.

Thank You and good day