News

Santa tracking goes military with fighter jet escort

Santa tracking goes military with fighter jet escort

SANTA TRACKING: In this Dec. 24, 2010 photo, volunteers take phone calls and answer emails at the Santa Tracking Operations Center at Peterson Air Force Base near Colorado Springs, Colo. Photo: Associated Press/Ed Andrieski

By Ian Simpson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. military website showing Santa Claus delivering his presents while guarded by warplanes has some children’s advocates worried.

In a twist to its tradition of tracking an animated version of Santa Claus’ sleigh and reindeer as he flies around the globe on Dec. 24, the military is adding the animated fighter plane escort to give a realistic feel to the popular feature, said a spokesman for the North American Aerospace Defense Command.

“We wanted to let folks know that, hey, this is a NORAD video, and we’re the military and this is our mission,” said the spokesman, Navy Captain Jeff Davis.

The popular Santa Tracker program sponsored by NORAD drew 22.3 million visitors last year and generated 114,000 phone calls from around the United States, he said.

The 2013 video shows Santa, guided by Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, zooming over snowy mountains with two warplanes on either side.

Josh Golin, associate director of the Boston-based Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, called the new campaign “reprehensible” since it played on children’s fears by suggesting that Santa Claus was vulnerable to attack.

“It’s a backdoor way of marketing to kids when they are not supposed to be recruiting until they are much older,” he said.

NORAD has the job of tracking and intercepting such potential threats as enemy bombers or ballistic missiles. It has been sponsoring a Track Santa program since the mid-1950s to highlight its mission.

Davis said NORAD videos had linked fighter escorts and Santa since the 1960s, but 2013 marked the first time the planes had been shown in an animated version.

A video on the NORAD website shows military personnel seemingly preparing for a test flight by Santa, who has the call sign “Big Red One.”

“We all know that Santa travels faster than starlight,” an officer says in the video, “but this is nothing that our technologies can’t handle.”

Recent Headlines

in Entertainment

Kate Upton, Lea Michelle to play best pals in new comedy

Fresh
Kate Upton arrives at the 2015 Vanity Fair Oscar Party on Sunday, Feb. 22, 2015, in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Kate Upton and Lea Michele have teamed up for a new William H. Macy comedy called "The Layover."

in Entertainment

Today in entertainment history: March 27

beatles

A look back on Hollywood headlines of years past.

in Music

Ed Sheeran surprises newlyweds at wedding reception

Ed Sheeran performs at the 57th annual Grammy Awards on Sunday, Feb. 8, 2015, in Los Angeles.

Ed Sheeran surprised a pair of newlyweds at their wedding reception by singing Thinking Out Loud for their first dance.

in Music

Taylor Swift named among world’s greatest leaders in new Fortune poll

Singer Taylor Swift attends the SNL 40th Anniversary Special at Rockefeller Plaza on Sunday, Feb. 15, 2015, in New York.

Taylor Swift ranks two spots behind Pope Francis in a new Fortune.com poll of the World's Greatest Leaders.

in Entertainment

‘Downton Abbey’ to end after season six

This photo released by PBS and Carnival Film and Television Limited shows, from left, Lesley Nicol as Mrs. Patmore, and Sophie McShera as Daisy, in a scene from season four of the Masterpiece TV series, "Downton Abbey." As it returns for its much-awaited fourth season, it remains a series about elegance, tradition and gentility, and the pressures of preserving them. The show premieres Sunday, January 5, 2014 at 9 pm ET on PBS.

Producers confirm that the next season of "Downton Abbey" will be the last.