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Military command ready to track Santa, and everyone can follow along

Dec 21, 2023, 9:03 PM

This image provided by the Department of Defense shows volunteers answering phones and emails from ...

This image provided by the Department of Defense shows volunteers answering phones and emails from children around the globe during the annual NORAD Tracks Santa event on Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo., Dec. 24, 2021. (Chuck Marsh/Department of Defense via AP)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(Chuck Marsh/Department of Defense via AP)

WASHINGTON (AP) — As children around the world eagerly await Santa’s arrival on Christmas, the military is ready to track him and see if he’s using any new technology.

Armed with radars, sensors and aircraft, the North American Aerospace Defense Command in Colorado keeps a close watch on Santa and his sleigh from the moment he leaves the North Pole. And it once again will share all those details so everyone can follow along as Santa travels the globe beginning Christmas Eve.

NORAD, the military command that is responsible for protecting North American airspace, has launched its noradsanta.org website, social media sites and mobile app, loaded with games, movies, books and music. And there’s a countdown clock showing when the official tracking of the sleigh will start.

The military will track Santa with, “the same technology we use every single day to keep North America safe,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Elizabeth Mathias, NORAD’s chief spokesperson. “We’re able to follow the light from Rudolph’s red nose.”

Mathias says while NORAD has a good intelligence assessment of his sleigh’s capabilities, Santa does not file a flight plan and may have some high-tech secrets up his red sleeve this year to help guide his travels — maybe even artificial intelligence.

“I don’t know yet if he’s using AI,” said Mathias. “I’ll be curious to see if our assessment of his flight this year shows us some advanced capabilities.”

The tracking Santa tradition began in 1955, when Air Force Col. Harry Shoup — the commander on duty at the NORAD’s predecessor, the Continental Air Defense Command — fielded a call from a child who dialed a misprinted telephone number in a newspaper department store ad, thinking she was calling Santa.

A fast-thinking Shoup quickly assured his caller he was Santa, and as more calls came in, he assigned a duty officer to keep answering. And the tradition began.

NORAD expects some 1,100 volunteers to help answer calls this year in a dedicated operations center at Peterson Space Force Base, in Colorado Springs, ranging from command staff to people from around the world.

“It’s a bit of a bucket list item for some folks,” says Mathias, calling the operations center “definitely the most festive place to be on December 24th.”

The operations center starts up at 4 a.m., MTS, on Christmas Eve and is open until midnight . Anyone can call 1-877 HI-NORAD (1-877-446-6723) to talk directly to NORAD staff members who will provide updates on Santa’s exact location.

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Military command ready to track Santa, and everyone can follow along