‘NORAD Tracks Santa’ Goes High-Tech (Updated)

UPDATE:

If you look at NORAD’s Track Santa countdown clock, you’ll see that — as of this writing — there are less than three days and nine hours remaining for Santa to start his long annual Christmas journey.

NORAD has just issued an update on its activities to get ready to track Santa from the time he leaves the North Pole until he gets back home:

NORAD will rally its detection and monitoring capabilities to track Santa’s worldwide journey. Arctic experts will monitor ice floes and shipping lanes near the North Pole, and weather teams will stay on top of weather patterns to help his navigation. Tracing the infrared signature from Rudolph’s nose, satellite operators will follow the sleigh’s flight. Radars stretching across Canada and Alaska and on Aegis cruisers at sea will signal when Santa leaves the North Pole and approaches North America.

Volunteers at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., are already gearing up to answer phone calls and emails from children around the world checking on Santa’s whereabouts during the North American Aerospace Defense Command’s “NORAD Tracks Santa” event Dec. 24. In this photo, taken Dec. 24, 2011, in the NORAD Tracks Center operations center, more than 1,200 volunteers keep the tradition that started in 1955 alive. They answered almost 102,000 telephone calls and 7,721 emails over a 23-hour period. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Thomas J. Doscher )

Read more here and take your young ones to NORAD’s Track Santa web site here, and have a Very Merry Christmas.

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Original Post:

As I wrote a couple of years ago, one of the most interesting and exciting assignments during my U.S. Air Force career was my tour of duty at the North American Aerospace Defense (NORAD) complex some 1,400 feet beneath granite Cheyenne Mountain, south of Colorado Springs, Colorado, at the height of the Cold War.

Of course, the primary mission of those working deep inside “the mountain” was to detect and protect North America from a space, air or ballistic missile attack.

But every year, around Christmas time, the NORAD personnel and systems were given an additional mission: to detect, identify and track Santa as he made his way from the North Pole to the homes of good children all over the world.

Because of the changing and evolving threats to our national security, some of the missions and organizations have changed at NORAD, but the “Tracking Santa” mission, let us call it a “tradition,” remains unchanged.

For more than 50 years, NORAD and its predecessor, the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) have tracked Santa’s flight.

The story goes that, in 1955, a Colorado-Springs-based Sears Roebuck & Co. advertisement for children to call Santa misprinted the telephone number. Instead of reaching Santa, the phone number put kids through to the CONAD Commander-in-Chief’s operations “hotline.” The Director of Operations at the time, Colonel Harry Shoup, had his staff check the radar for indications of Santa making his way south from the North Pole. Children who called were given updates on his location, and the tradition was born.

Since that time, NORAD men, women, family and friends have selflessly volunteered their time to personally respond to phone calls and emails from children all around the world.

Today, the North American Aerospace Defense Command announced that all the preparations for this year are in place and that all NORAD systems and personnel are poised and ready to help Santa accomplish his important mission. (Watch the video above)

NORAD Fighter Escort for Santa (Courtesy NORAD)

While the technical aspects of the Santa tracking mission have not changed much, the ability of NORAD to inform children of Santa’s preparations and on the progress of his flight has steadily improved. Just read this year’s NORAD news release:

Children of all ages will be able to track Santa Claus on his annual journey, thanks to the North American Aerospace Defense Command.

The “NORAD Tracks Santa” website at http://www.noradsanta.org is up and running. The site features a holiday countdown, games and daily activities, video messages from students around the world and more, officials said, and it is available in English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese and Chinese.

Official apps also are available in the Windows Store, Apple Store, and Google Play so parents and children can count down the days until Santa’s launch on their smartphones and tablets. Tracking opportunities also offered on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google Plus. Santa followers just need to type “@noradsanta” into each search engine to get started.

Starting at midnight Mountain Standard Time on Dec. 24, website visitors can watch Santa make the preparations for his flight. Then, at 4 a.m. Mountain time, trackers worldwide can speak with a live phone operator to inquire as to Santa’s whereabouts by dialing the toll-free number 1-877-Hi-NORAD (1-877-446-6723) or by sending an email to noradtrackssanta@outlook.com.

NORAD’s “Santa Cams” also will stream videos as Santa makes his way over various locations.

Santa’s Countdown Calendar and the Santa Cam videos will feature music by military bands, including the Naden Band of the Maritime Forces Pacific, the Air Force Academy Band, the Air Force Band of Liberty, the Air Force Band of the Golden West, the Air Force Band of the West, the Air Force Band, the Air Force Heartland of America Band, the U.S. Army Ground Forces Band, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Band, the Air Force Band of Mid-America, and the West Point Band.

NORAD Tracks Santa is possible, in large part, to the efforts and services of numerous program contributors. Please read the entire list here

Make sure the young ones, and those who feel young, visit NORAD’s web site regularly and in particular this one to watch some real cool videos, but for sure on Christmas Eve “to see where Santa’s been spotted! Perhaps he’ll fly over your favorite city!”

Author: DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

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