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BriEOD
12-18-2004, 09:58 AM
Santa on the Radar

by Capt. Michael I. Garcia
27th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

12/17/2004 - CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. (AFPN) -- Preparations are underway at the North Pole for Santa’s annual launch, and North American Aerospace Defense Command controllers will be tracking him across the globe from Christmas Eve until he’s finished making his drops to all kids of all ages.

After Santa enters the air space over Newfoundland, Canadian F/A-18 Hornets will escort him to the United States. They will make the handoff over New Brunswick, Maine, to a flight of Air Force F-15 Eagles or F-16 Falcons.

This Christmas marks the 50th holiday season NORAD has tracked Santa’s flight path, said Master Sgt. John Tomassi, NORAD public affairs office.

Starting in 1955 a Colorado department store ran an advertisement inviting calls to Santa. But the number advertised was one digit different from the NORAD emergency phone.

Col. Harry Shoup, the on-duty crew commander for the former Continental Air Defense Command, took the first call and told the young caller that they had spotted Santa on the radar.
With improved technology Santa is now tracked by satellite and by SantaCams strategically placed in undisclosed locations around the globe.

Ringo Starr will be manning a SantaCam in Great Britain, though the location will be under wraps until the moment of broadcast. Sergeant Tomassi said the SantaCams are generally very reliable; however, one in the Himalayas was mysteriously destroyed. He refused to comment on whether the Yeti, also known as the Abominable Snowman, was a suspect, but added that the camera was replaced and is operating again.

One of the most mysterious things about Christmas is how Santa manages to makes his toy drops at every house around the world in only one night. The answer is sheer speed.

The sleigh actually employs a 9RP (Reindeer Power) powerplant that is faster than anything we have, and its mach number is unknown, said Sergeant Tomassi. It also has a climb rate of 1T. That’s one twinkle, a standard of measure used by elves, fairy godmothers, and little stars. There is speculation that Santa’s well-known “bowlful of jelly” belly is actually an advanced G-suit that helps him maintain consciousness in hard turns and climbs.

Despite its speed, the aircraft is easy to track because it leaves a substantial infrared signature, which is unusually pronounced because of the red nose of the lead reindeer, Rudolph.

The system NORAD has worked out with the North Pole works well despite national security concerns. Even so, Santa has never been fired upon accidentally as an intruder, though he’s probably safe anyway. Yep, you guessed it. He just throws those 9RPs into afterburner and he’s outta there. Apparently his classified countermeasures are pretty sophisticated too.

But we don’t have to wait to keep up with Santa. NORAD will be keeping up with his activities and putting out information on the Internet.

Tiny tots with their eyes all aglow who find it hard to sleep can log on to www.noradsanta.org for updates. They can also call toll free at (877) HINORAD to speak with a volunteer who will be keeping tabs on his position.

“Last Christmas Eve, NORAD had 49,492 calls, a half billion hits on the website and 60,000 emails,” Sergeant Tomassi said.

In addition to Mr. Starr, other celebrities helping out Santa include Rich “Goose” Gossage, the former major league baseball player; actress Linda Purl of the “Happy Days” and “Matlock” TV series; and Clifford the Big Red Dog.