A North American military command is tracking Santa’s every move and kids can follow along

Tracking Santa
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)

By Sagar Meghani/AP

As children around the world eagerly await Santa’s arrival on Christmas, the military is closely tracking his every move.

Armed with radar, sensors, aircraft and Christmas spirit, the North American Aerospace Defense Command in Colorado is reporting on the movements of Santa's sleigh since his takeoff from the North Pole for parts of the globe where Christmas comes first. Once again it is sharing those details so kids can follow along.

NORAD is the joint military command that is responsible for protecting U.S. and Canadian airspace, but it has a jolly side, too. It has launched its noradsanta.org website, social media sites and mobile app, loaded with games, movies, books and music.

By late Christmas Eve in Thailand, late morning Sunday in the eastern U.S., the tracker reported that Santa had departed Bangkok and moved on to Burma, Tibet, China and Russia, distributing nearly 2 billion gifts so far in his travels.

NORAD’s findings could not be independently verified.

The military is tracking 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 that 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.”

In 1955, 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 told his caller he was Santa, and as more calls came in, he assigned a duty officer to keep answering. And the Santa-tracking 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 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 is open Christmas Eve until midnight MST. 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.