For nearly 70 years, the North American Aerospace Defense Command has used its military technology to not only protect American airspace but to track Santa Claus on Christmas Eve.
Earlier Friday, we spoke with Brig. Gen. Derek O’Malley, who oversees the Canadian Region about their tracking efforts and when North Dakota kids can expect to see Santa.
NORAD’s been doing this for 66 years now, tracking Santa all around the world. Can you give us some insight into where he is now?
“I’m actually focused on our airspace right now, so I know he’s on the other side of the world where nighttime is already here. But we are gearing up. I’ve got fighters on the ground that are going to scramble as he gets closer to the North American Airspace this evening. We’re just so excited. We look forward to this every year. It’s so much fun, both for people on the ground but also for our fighter pilots both from Canada and the U.S. that get to participate in escorting Santa through the airspace.”
For all the North Dakota kids out there, when can they expect to head on NORAD and find out where Santa is and when he’ll be over North Dakota?
“We are anticipating, based on Santa’s current trajectory, that he should be arriving somewhere between 9 and 12 p.m. Now sometimes, as you well know, Santa, he won’t show up if the kids aren’t asleep, but he always comes back. So it’s fun because we have to track him, we’ll see him go to a neighborhood and kids aren’t asleep yet so he’ll go somewhere else, so it’s very dynamic tracking him. But yes, between 9 and 12 p.m., he’ll be there earlier if the kids go to bed and are asleep.”
How exactly does NORAD track Santa? What kind of technology is used to find out where he’s at?
“So it is a massive effort, obviously, a great team of teams across Canada and the United States. But we have what we call the Northern warning system, which is a group of radars that are along the Northern territory in Canada and in Alaska. So those radars are used to detect any aircraft or any air vehicles flying in our airspace to include Santa. We also have satellites that we use, integrated sensors across the globe, that really give us situational awareness on anything that would be coming into our airspace. So we use those together to keep a close eye on Santa. The other one that’s really neat that we recently started employing, our satellites in NORAD obviously have the capability to detect missile plumes that potentially would be bad guy missiles coming our way. Those same detectors, infrared detectors can be used to track Rudolph’s nose. So that’s been very helpful when Santa’s doubling back for us to use that to be able to keep track of where he is.”
Background on the history of NORAD and Santa tracking, when did you start doing this and why?
“As I understand it, 66 years ago, somebody accidentally called NORAD, just a wrong number, and the colonel that received the phone call recognizing it was a child wondering where Santa was, went ahead, he had the information and shared it with the child. But obviously, what we’re doing today is no different from what we do every day, it’s just a lot more fun and obviously a lot more visibility as we’re keeping track of somebody we all know and love so much.”
To find out where Santa is now, head to noradsanta.org or you can call NORAD’s command center at 1-877–446-6723 and a live operator or recording will give you Santa’s current location.