NORAD Tracking Santa for the 60th Year
For 60 years now, NORAD and its predecessor, CONAD — in addition to providing warning of impending missile and air attacks, safeguarding the air sovereignty of North America, and maintaining airborne forces for defense against attack — have been performing another essential mission: Tracking Santa’s flight from the moment he departs the North Pole until he has delivered the last toy to every child around the world.
“The tradition began in 1955 after a Colorado Springs-based Sears Roebuck & Co. advertisement misprinted the telephone number for children to call Santa. 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 a tradition was born.”
NORAD uses similar technology and systems as those used to defend North America to track Santa, such as:
The NORAD radar system called the North Warning System consisting of 47 installations strung across Canada’s North and Alaska.
Satellites located in a geo-synchronous orbit at 22,300 miles above the Earth with infrared sensors, sensitive enough to detect Rudolph’s bright red nose with no problem.
SantaCams, ultra-cool, high-tech, high-speed digital cameras pre-positioned at many places around the world. However, “NORAD only uses these cameras once a year – on 24 December. We turn the cameras on about one hour before Santa enters a country then switch them off after we capture images of him and the Reindeer. We immediately download the images onto our web site for people around the world to see. SantaCams produce both video and still images.”
Finally, jet fighters to escort Santa: “Canadian NORAD fighter pilots, flying the CF-18, take off out of Newfoundland and welcome Santa to North America. Then at numerous locations in Canada other CF-18 fighter pilots escort Santa. While in the United States, American NORAD fighter pilots in either the F-15s, F16s or F-22s get the thrill of flying with Santa and the famous Reindeer – Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen and Rudolph. Even though Santa flies faster than any jet fighter (Santa actually slows down for us to escort him).”
All of these systems together provide NORAD with a very good continuous picture of his whereabouts.
NORAD provides the following (unclassified) specifications for Santa’s sleigh:
Designer & Builder K. Kringle & Elves, Inc.
Probable First Flight Dec. 24, 343 A.D.
Home Base North Pole
Length 75 cc (candy canes) / 150 lp (lollipops)
Width 40 cc / 80 lp
Height 55 cc / 110 lp
Note: Length, width and height are without reindeer
Weight at takeoff 75,000 gd (gumdrops)
Passenger weight at takeoff Santa Claus 260 pounds
Weight of gifts at takeoff 60,000 tons
Weight at landing 80,000 gd (ice & snow accumulation)
Passenger weight at landing 1,260 pounds
Propulsion Nine (9) rp (reindeer power)
Armament Antlers (purely defensive)
Fuel Hay, oats and carrots (for reindeer)
The climbing speed and max speed are classified but are rumored to be, one “T” (Twinkle of an eye) and “faster than starlight,” respectively.
For some reason, NORAD has classified the emissions as “Top Secret.”
NORAD answers the most frequently asked questions here.
The following are some of the questions and answers:
When will Santa arrive at my house?
NORAD Tracks Santa, but only Santa knows his route, which means we cannot predict where and when he will arrive at your house. We do, however, know from history that it appears he arrives only when children are asleep! In most countries, it seems Santa arrives between 9:00 p.m. and midnight on December 24th. If children are still awake when Santa arrives, he moves on to other houses. He returns later…but only when the children are asleep!
What route does Santa travel?
Santa usually starts at the International Date Line in the Pacific Ocean and travels west. So, historically, Santa visits the South Pacific first, then New Zealand and Australia. After that, he shoots up to Japan, over to Asia, across to Africa, then onto Western Europe, Canada, the United States, Mexico and Central and South America. Keep in mind, Santa’s route can be affected by weather, so it’s really unpredictable. NORAD coordinates with Santa’s Elf Launch Staff to confirm his launch time, but from that point on, Santa calls the shots. We just track him!
Does Santa visit everyone (i.e. Afghanistan, Israel, non-Christian countries)?
Indeed! Santa visits all homes where children believe in him.
How can Santa travel the world within 24 hours?
NORAD intelligence reports indicate that Santa does not experience time the way we do. His trip seems to take 24 hours to us, but to Santa it might last days, weeks or even months. Santa would not want to rush the important job of delivering presents to children and spreading joy to everyone, so the only logical conclusion is that Santa somehow functions within his own time-space continuum.
Do your planes ever intercept Santa?
For 60 years, our fighter jets (F-16s, F-15s, F-22s and CF-18s) have intercepted Santa many, many times. When the jets intercept Santa, they tip their wings to say, “Hello Santa! – NORAD is tracking you again this year!” Santa always waves. He loves to see the pilots!
Does NORAD have any pictures of Santa taken from your planes?
Our fighter pilots love to take photos of Santa. We also have NORAD Santa Cams in space which take video of Santa as he flies round the world. These videos appear almost every hour on December 24th at www.noradsanta.org.
Finally, some of the questions that are on every child’s lips (and on some adults’ lips, too)
Is there a Santa Claus?
Mountains of historical data and 60 years of NORAD tracking information leads us to believe that Santa Claus is alive and well in the hearts of people throughout the world.
How old is Santa?
It’s hard to know for sure, but NORAD intelligence indicates Santa is AT LEAST 16 centuries old.
What does Santa look like?
Based on flight profile data gathered from 60 years of NORAD’s radar and satellite tracking, NORAD concludes that Santa probably stands about 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighs approximately 260 pounds (before cookies). Based on fighter-aircraft photos, we know he has a generous girth (belly), rosy cheeks from sleigh riding in cold weather, and a flowing white beard.
How does Santa get down chimneys?
Although NORAD has different hypotheses and theories as to how Santa actually gets down the chimneys, we don’t have definitive information to explain the magical phenomenon.
NORAD starts tracking Santa on December 24, from the moment he and his reindeer launch from the North Pole. Children (and adults) can track Santa at noradsanta.org
For those wanting to talk to someone at NORAD to find out where Santa is, the NORAD Tracks Santa® Operations Center will be fully operational beginning at 3:00a.m. MST on December 24th. You can call 1 877 HI-NORAD (1 877 446-6723) to talk directly to a NORAD staff member who will be able to tell you Santa’s exact location. Operators are available until 3:00 a.m. on Dec. 25th to answer your calls!
Or, on December 24th, you can send an email to [email protected] A NORAD staff member will give you Santa’s last known location in a return email. You can also track Santa on your mobile phone, through the official Windows 10 app, and you can even chat live with a NORAD operator to find out Santa’s location!
To find out what NORAD does the other 364 days of the year please go to www.norad.mil or follow NORAD on Facebook at facebook.com/noradnorthcom.
Finally, for those who worry about how much money the military-industrial complex spends on this effort, don’t!
More than 1,250 Canadian and American uniformed personnel and DOD civilians volunteer their time on December 24th to answer the thousands of phone calls and emails that flood in from around the world. In addition to the support provided by our corporate contributors to make this program possible, NORAD has two lead project officers who manage the program.
Most of the information and all the photos and graphics are from the NORAD Track Santa web site.