NORAD marks 65 years of tracking Santa on Christmas Eve
“When is Santa going to get here?” is a common question many children ask on Christmas Eve. For the last 65 years the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) has had the answer.
It started in 1955 when as a young child accidently called the unlisted phone number of CONAD Operations Center and asked about Santa. Colonel Harry Shoup took the call and ordered his staff to check the radar for Santa. A tradition was born.
Every year since NORAD has reported Santa’s location to 24 million children and families worldwide.
To track Santa NORAD uses the same tools it uses to track planes, missiles, space launches, and anything else in the skies of North America: radar, satellites, and jet fighters.
That’s right, Santa gets a CF-18 escort into North American airspace by Canadian NORAD fighter pilots. Once he enters U.S. airspace, American NORAD fighter pilots take over the escort in F-15s, F16s, or F-22s.
Once intercepted, the pilots tip their wing to Santa and say, “Hello Santa! NORAD is tracking you again this year!” Santa always waves back, according to noradsanta.org.
“NORAD tracks everything that flies in and around North America. On December 24, we also have the special mission of tracking and escorting Santa,” Major-General (Maj.-Gen.) Eric Kenny, Commander of the Canadian NORAD Region said in a press release. “Utilizing the North Warning System’s powerful radar and satellite systems, we are able to see into the North better than ever, allowing us to track Santa more precisely, ensuring he has a safe trip through North American airspace.”
With all the technology tracking Santa from home is easy. Smartphone users can download the NORAD Tracks Santa app (available in both Apple and Google Play stores). You can follow on your favorite social media sites @noradsanta. And you can ask Amazon Alexa for Santa’s location.
But if you are feeling the need to go old school, you can still call and get updates at 1-877-HI-NORAD (877-446-6723) just like in 1955 when the tradition began.
In a normal year over 1250 Canadian and American uniformed personnel and DOD civilians volunteer their time to answer phone calls and emails from around the globe.
This year the NORAD Tracks Santa Operation Center will have fewer operators to keep in compliance with COVID safety protocol. Callers who do not reach a live phone operator will get a regularly updated recording with Santa’s location.