Tracking Santa With Military Tech

December 26th, 2004 - by admin

NORAD – 2004-12-26 00:40:58

NORAD Helps Kids Follow St. Nick’s Sleigh
ABC Television

NORAD, the joint American and Canadian military operation responsible for scanning North America’s skies for danger, will have a much more pleasant task on Christmas Eve. Its surveillance technology will tell kids when Santa’s coming to town.

[Unfortunately, as of 11:52PM Saturday, Christmas Day, NORAD still had Santa flying endlessly through the St. Louie Arch when he should have been flying back to the North Pole. This seems exceedingly strange since the voice of NORAD spokesperson Bev Harris tells us that Santa has been flying over Missouri at speeds faster than any known aircraft. — EAW]

All Military Eyes on Santa

Dec. 24, 2004 — Santa Claus is known for keeping track of which boys and girls have been good or bad. But who keeps tabs on the jolly old elf himself — especially when he makes his magical flight across the globe? None other than the men and women who make up the North American Aerospace Defense Command.
The joint American and Canadian military operation, better known as NORAD, normally watches the skies over North America for airborne threats. But NORAD official and Canadian army Major Douglas Martin says that same space-based surveillance technology will help kids track when Santa comes to their town.

“That same satellite system is used to detect and follow Rudolph’s nose as he goes around the world with Santa,” says Maj. Martin.

NORAD’s Santa updates will also be beefed up with “live video sightings” from a number of “SantaCams” that have been deployed globally by the military organization. One such camera will be operated by former rocker, Ringo Starr. As an “honorary Santa tracker,” the ex-Beatle will provide progress reports as Santa makes his way through Great Britain.

Maj. Martin says NORAD will also personally welcome Santa with an escort of CF-18 fighter jets when he and his reindeer-powered sleigh crosses into Canadian airspace. “Our fighter pilots get a chance to go up in the sky and intercept Santa and fly with him for a while,” says Maj. Martin. Escort duties will then pass off to American fighter pilots when Santa’s sleigh crosses the border into the U.S.

How It All Began
According to NORAD, the military first became involved with tracking Saint Nick 49 years ago when a newspaper had misprinted the telephone number for a Christmas Eve Santa hotline. Instead of the sponsoring department store in Colorado Springs, however, children were reaching NORAD’s director of operations also located in the Colorado town.

Santa To Get Crack Fighter Escort
From correspondents in Winnipeg, Canada

(December 19, 2004) — SANTA Claus is coming to town … and in these uncertain times, he’s being offered a jet fighter escort. Canadian pilots seconded to the North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD) who normally spend their nights scouring the skies for intruders, will scramble on Christmas Eve for a special mission.

Two CF-18 Hornet interceptor fighters based in Quebec were on standby to meet the festive visitor when he crossed into Canadian airspace over eastern Newfoundland and Labrador, the statement said. Another pair of warplanes based in Alberta would see Santa off as he crossed Canada’s west coast, presumably en route to Asia, the statement said.

NORAD plans to use special ‘SantaCams’ to track the gift-laden sleigh pulled by Rudolf and his reindeer cronies across the night sky. “At Santa’s request, millions of curious children will be able to closely follow his progress and view near real-time updates through special digital photographs and technical information compiled by NORAD,” the release said.

NORAD, jointly operated by the United States and Canada, has been tracking Santa for 50 years, ever since a newspaper in Colorado mistakenly printed a number for a “Santa Hotline”.

The number turned out to be the operations hotline for NORAD headquarters in the state where tense radar operators were hunched over their radar screens on a cold night at the beginning of the Cold War. “Needless to say, the military personnel on duty were very surprised to hear small children’s voices on the operations hotline asking to speak to Santa,” the release said.

The senior officer told childrens he could see Santa heading south from the North Pole, starting a tradition that has now endured for half a century.

Canadian NORAD Region Names Santa Claus Escort Pilots

WINNIPEG, Dec. 16 /CNW/ — Three Canadian fighter pilots have been selected as the official escort pilots for Santa Claus when he visits Canada as he makes his annual Christmas Eve trip around the world. Maj. James Manning and Capt. Daniel Bélanger of 3 Wing Bagotville and Capt. Desmond Brophy of 4 Wing Cold Lake have been selected to fly as Santa’s escorts this year.

Once alerted by Canadian Air Defence Sector Operations Centre in the underground complex at 22 Wing North Bay, Ont., that Santa is en-route, two CF-18 Hornet fighters from 3 Wing Bagotville, Que. will meet Santa Claus as he enters Canadian air space off the Newfoundland and Labrador coast. As Santa finishes his trip across North America from east to west, a CF-18 Hornet fighter jet from 4 Wing Cold Lake, Alta. will escort Santa out of Canadian
airspace to continue his Yuletide trip.
Canadian fighter pilots will take the first pictures of his sleigh when he arrives over the continent. Millions of curious children will be able to closely follow Santa’s progress through special digital photographs and technical information compiled by NORAD, which will be loaded directly on the Internet as per Santa’s request.
NORAD will track Santa’s progress and provide near real-time updates to children around the world on the Internet at Santa has communicated to NORAD that he intends to begin his journey at 5 a.m. MST, Dec 24. At that time, NORAD’s tracking data will be translated into streaming audio and video updates and posted to the web site’s radar map. This site is available in French, Italian, Japanese, Spanish, Portuguese and English.

Children have been visiting the website since it’s Nov. 25 launch to view information about Santa that NORAD experts have collected over the years.

Examples of NORAD intelligence available on the site include: what snacks Santa and his Reindeer enjoy eating; how he manages to visit so many homes in one night; and even how NORAD’s satellites detect Rudolph’s red nose.

To receive updates on Santa’s Christmas Eve journey, children may also call the traditional “NORAD Tracks Santa” telephone hotline at (719) 474-2111. This hotline is available beginning 7 a.m. MST on Dec 24 through 2 a.m. MST on Dec 25.

The “NORAD Tracks Santa” tradition started in 1955 by pure accident after a newspaper in Colorado Springs, Colo., where NORAD Headquarters is located, ran an advertisement for a department store “Santa Hotline.” The ad included a special phone number, which turned out to be the “Operations Hotline” to Continental Air Defence Command (NORAD’s predecessor). Needless to say, the military personnel on duty were very surprised to hear small children’s voices on the Operations Hotline asking to speak to Santa. The senior officer on duty at the time took the first call and quickly figured out what had happened. He told the kids that he was helping Santa and that he could see him on the radar screens heading south from the North Pole. Local media heard of the calls and reported the story locally. The next year, calls came flooding in to Continental Air Defence Command from children who wanted to know where Santa was.

A tradition was born — a tradition NORAD assumed in 1957. Since then, the program has expanded gradually over the years until it hit the Internet in 1997. In 2000, the “NORAD Tracks Santa” site received over 200 million hits during the period of December 23 to 27, which is a world record.

NORAD uses a network of ground-based radars, sensors and fighter jets to detect, intercept and, if necessary, engage any threats to the continent. Canada’s NORAD forces include the Canadian NORAD Region Headquarters at Winnipeg, Canadian Air Defence Sector Air Operations Centre (SAOC) at 22 Wing North Bay as well as Canadian CF-18 Hornet fighter jets from 441 and 416 Tactical Fighter Squadrons at 4 Wing Cold Lake, and 425 and 433 Tactical
Fighter Squadrons at 3 Wing Bagotville. NORAD also receives surveillance data from the U.S. Strategic Command on potential threats from outer space.

Note to editors: For more information and to arrange an interview with a Santa Claus escort pilot from now until Christmas, please contact the Wing Public Affairs Officer at 3 Wing Bagotville, Que., Capt. Francois Giroux at (418) 677-8277 or at 4 Wing Cold Lake. Alta., Capt Leah Gillespie at (780) 840-8000 extension 8121.

Major James Manning
Born in Richmond Hill, Ontario, Maj. Manning spent most of his childhood,
and attended high school, in Georgetown, Ont. He enrolled in the CF in June
1987 and attended Royal Roads Military College at Victoria, and the Royal Military College at Kingston, Ontario, receiving his degree in mechanical engineering and his commission in 1991. Following training as at fighter pilot, Maj. Manning was posted to 425 “Alouette” Tactical Fighter Squadron at Bagotville, Quebec in 1994. During 1999, he participated in Operation Echo, and Operation Allied Force, flying combat missions over the former Yugoslavia.

From 2000 to 2002, Maj. Manning was an exchange officer, flying the F-16 Fighting Falcon jet fighter with the United States Air Force 309th Fighter Squadron at Luke Air Force Base (AFB), Arizona, and the 523rd Fighter Squadron at Cannon AFB, New Mexico, where he served as a flight commander and instructor pilot. He was promoted to Maj. in December 2001, and in the summer of 2002 he returned to Bagotville to become the Standards Officer at 433 “Porcupine” Tactical Fighter Squadron. Maj. Manning has amassed over 2200 flying hours, including 1400 hours on the CF-18, and 400 hours in the F-16.

Capt. Daniel Bélanger
Capt. Daniel Bélanger was born in Rimouski, Quebec. He graduated from the
CEGEP de Chicoutimi au Centre québécois de formation aéronautique in June, 1982 as a commercial pilot. He spent the next five years as a bush pilot in northern Quebec, amassing more than 3600 hours as a commercial pilot. He then attended the CEGEP Edouard-Montpetit, graduating with an air maintenance engineer’s certificate in June, 1987. In September of 1987, he joined the Canadian Forces as a pilot. Following officer training and military flight training, Capt. Bélanger served as a flight instructor on the CT-134 Musketeer trainer at Portage-la-Prairie, Manitoba, from May, 1990 to June, 1991. He then served as Executive Assistant to the Base Commander at Portage until July, 1992. From August, 1992 to June, 1998, he flew the CT-133 Silver Star jet with 417 “City of Windsor” Combat Support Squadron at Cold Lake, Alberta. During his training as a CF-18 Hornet fighter pilot, he was awarded the Jerry “Spike”
Milligan Trophy for accuracy in gunnery. Since January, 2000, Capt. Bélanger has served as a fighter pilot with 433 “Porcupine” Tactical Fighter Squadron at 3 Wing Bagotville.

Capt. Desmond Brophy
Capt. Desmond Brophy was born and raised in Regina, Saskatchewan. In 1992
he graduated from McGill University with a Bachelor of Chemical Engineering.
He joined the Canadian Air Force in 1992, earned a Master of Mechanical Engineering degree from the University of Calgary. In 1997 he completed his advanced jet training and was posted as a flying instructor on the CT-114 Tutor jet trainer aircraft at 15 Wing Moose Jaw, Sask. He completed his fighter pilot training in September 2001, and was posted to 441 “Silver Fox” Tactical Fighter Squadron at 4 Wing Cold Lake, Alta., where he serves as a combat-ready wingman.

For further information: (204) 833-2500 ext. 2029 or 6688, Fax: (204) 833-2512, World Wide Web:

NORAD Tracks Santa

(Dec 24, 2004) — This is the 50th season that NORAD and its predecessor, the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) have tracked Santa. The tradition began after a Colorado Springs store’s advertisement for children to call Santa on a special “hotline” included a misprinted telephone number. Instead of Santa, the phone number put kids through to the CONAD Commander-in-Chief’s operations “hotline.”

The Director of Operations, Colonel Harry Shoup, received the first “Santa” call on Christmas Eve 1955. Realizing what had happened, Colonel Shoup had his staff check radar data to see if there was any indication of Santa making his way south from the North Pole. Indeed there were signs of Santa and children who called were given an update on Santa’s position. Thus, the tradition was born.

In 1958, the governments of Canada and the United States decided to create a bi-national air defense command for the North American continent called the North American Air Defense Command. Canada and the U.S. believed they could better defend North America together as a team instead of separately.

The Command carried out its first Santa tracking in 1958 after inheriting the tradition from CONAD. Since that time, Canadian and American men and women who work at NORAD have responded to phone calls from children personally. Additionally, media from all over the world call NORAD on Christmas Eve for updates on Santa’s location. Last year this Website was visited by millions of people who wanted to know Santa’s whereabouts. This year, the information is provided in six languages.

NORAD relies on many volunteers to help make Santa tracking possible. Many people at Cheyenne Mountain and Peterson Air Force Base spend part of their Christmas Eve with their families and friends at NORAD’s Santa Tracking Operations Center in order to answer phones and provide Santa updates to the many thousands of children who call in.

E-mail at or on December 24th call 719-474-2111 or toll free at 1-877-Hi-NORAD to find out where Santa is right now!

Click on the map to view the official NORAD Santa Tracking Radar. It tells you where he has been, where he is now, and where he is heading. Of course, you can only see movies of the part of his trip we’ve already filmed (the green circles) and video of where he is at right now (the red dot — Rudolph’s nose). To watch the videos of his travels, click on either the green dots or the red dot.

How Does NORAD Track Santa?
NORAD uses four high-tech systems to track Santa – radar, satellites, Santa Cams and jet fighter aircraft.

It all starts with the NORAD radar system called the North Warning System. This powerful radar system has 47 installations strung across Canada’s North and Alaska. NORAD makes a point of checking the radar closely for indications of Santa Claus leaving the North Pole on Christmas Eve.

The moment our radar tells us that Santa has lifted off, we begin to use the same satellites that we use in providing warning of possible missile launches aimed at North America. These satellites are located in a geo-synchronous orbit (that’s a cool phrase meaning that the satellite is always fixed over the same spot on the Earth) at 22,300 miles above the Earth.

The satellites have infrared sensors, meaning they can see heat. When a rocket or missile is launched, a tremendous amount of heat is produced — enough for the satellites to see them. Rudolph’s nose gives off an infrared signature similar to a missile launch. The satellites can detect Rudolph’s bright red nose with practically no problem. With so many years of experience, NORAD has become good at tracking aircraft entering North America, detecting worldwide missile launches and tracking the progress of Santa, thanks to Rudolph. It is important to note, however, that our scientists have tried to determine the chemical process that occurs that creates the heat that is generated by Rudolph’s nose but they have not been able to thus far.

The third system we use is the Santa Cam. We began using it in 1998 — the year we put our Santa Tracking program on the Internet. NORAD Santa Cams are ultra-cool high-tech high-speed digital cameras that are pre-positioned at many places around the world. NORAD only uses these cameras once a year — Christmas Eve.

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 on to our web site for people around the world see. Santa Cams produce both video and still images.

The last system we use is the NORAD jet fighter. Canadian NORAD fighter pilots, flying the CF-18, take off out of Newfoundland to intercept 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-15 or F-16 get the thrill of flying with Santa and the famous Reindeer Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen and Rudolph. About a dozen NORAD fighters in Canada and the United States are equipped with Santa Cams.

Celebrity Messages on NORAD Santa Site. From, in order of Importance:
Santa Claus
Ringo Starr
Richard Dean Anderson
Peter Jennings
Johnny Grant
Cindy Williams
Gaither Vocal Band
Goose Gossage
Diamond Dave Somerville
George Stroumboulopoulos
Clifford, the Big Red Dog
Paul Gross
Brett Butt
Eric Roberts
Erik Estrada
Hayden Panettiere
James Patterson
Jo Jo
Jose Canseco
Kate Linder
Kurtwood Smith
Kyle Brandt and Martha Madison
The LA Police
Linda Purl
Lorenzo Lamas
Magic Johnson
Marion Ross
Masiela Lusha
Penny Johnson Jerald
Spencer and Abigail Breslin
Warren Moon
American Juniors
Brie Larson