NORAD Santa Tracking Is Back For The Holidays

If the U.S. government is watching the skies, and if Santa is real, then the U.S. government knows it and should be tracking his every move. In a Snowden-level plot to keep the public believing both of these things simultaneously, or in a fun move to engage the public and especially small children, U.S. air defense command tracks Santa each Christmas Eve – and has every year since 1955.

When NORAD Isn’t Tracking Santa, They’re Preparing For Nuclear War

The North American Aerospace Defense Command is a joint U.S.-Canadian effort officially providing aerospace ‘warning and control’ and it is located at Peterson Air Force Base outside of Colorado Springs. It’s often mistakenly believed to be inside the Cheyenne Mountain Complex (where there’s actually the Alternate Command Center).

Or at least I’ve confused the two close by locations since the 1983 Matthew Broderick film WarGames where control of the nation’s nuclear arsenal was transferred to a supercomputer after air force controllers were unwilling to turn their keys and launch a nuclear strike during a drill, and Broderick winds up hacking into that computer which was housed at NORAD inside Cheyenne Mountain.

NORAD’s systems have indeed failed on multiple occasions, including when a test tape was loaded without switching the system to test mode – sending out false warnings and causing Pacific Air Forces to load planes with nuclear bombs.

But If You Want To Know Where Santa Is, Who Better To Ask?

On Christmas Eve 1948 the Air Force announced that an “early warning radar net to the north [detected] one unidentified sleigh, powered by eight reindeer, at 14,000 feet, heading 180 degrees.” This was a one-off.

Then on Christmas Eve 1955 NORAD’s predecessor organization Continental Air Defense Command sent a press release that they were tracking Santa’s sleigh. It was framed as a military action in The War On Christmas.

CONAD, Army, Navy and Marine Air Forces will continue to track and guard Santa and his sleigh on his trip to and from the U.S. against possible attack from those who do not believe in Christmas.

In NORAD’s version though this began with a misprinted department store holiday ad, listing the air defense center’s phone number by mistake – leading to a child calling.

The tradition has continued with NORAD reporting on Santa Claus movements departing the North Pole and delivering presents around the world. They’ll take your call to find out where Santa is at 877-HI-NORAD. The normal 150 person staff on duty flexes up to 1500 volunteers for this effort because it includes taking calls from the public.

What Kids Ask NORAD About Santa

NORAD reports the most common question they get is “when is Santa coming to my house?” And they have an official answer: “Based on our tracking, we can give you a rough idea, but you have to be in bed, and you have to be asleep for Santa to come to your house.“ (HT: Jeff W.)

According to government tracking Santa “moves faster than anything on the planet and experiences time differently than we do, which is why he can visit every place on the globe in a 24-hour cycle.” He’s presumably faster than Superman, but no organized NORAD effort appears to be tracking the native of Krypton.

Facts About Santa That NORAD Has Uncovered

Given the speeds Santa can be tough to track, however the takeoff of Santa’s sleigh resembles a missile launch and so they “lock onto Rudolph’s nose as the heat signature.”

In a further effort for the state to co-opt the holiday, as soon as Santa “enters North American airspace, [the U.S. will] have fighters alongside to greet him and to escort him.”

NORAD indicates that Santa and the reindeer do not take training flights at other times throughout the year, and Santa has not adopted ADS-B because it’s unnecessary for him.

Other U.S. Government Agencies Interact With Santa, Too

The U.S. DOT as well as NATS in the U.K. assert jurisdiction over Santa’s use of airspace, but grant him annual waivers.

Even though Santa enrolled in Global Entry in 2016, he still gets patted down going through TSA.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. The government should stop LYING to kids. Norad is not tracking Santa. Instead, they are lying to the American public about it.

    They should just be honest by saying “Norad wishes you and your family a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! We’ll be working 24/7 during this period to monitor the skies and help insure that American is safe”

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