NORAD: over 60 years of tracking Santa

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Stefan Alvarez
  • 325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

With the holiday season rapidly approaching, teams at the 601st Air and Space Operations Center and the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) are ready and waiting for a certain reindeer-led sleigh to take to the skies.

The task of tracking Santa as he journeys around the world delivering gifts is something the United States Air Force, along with our Royal Canadian Air Force partners, has been doing for more than 60 years.

“We help to spread holiday cheer and joy to millions of children around the world who rely on us to track Santa every year,” said Royal Canadian Air Force Col. Clay Rook, A9 director for 1st Air Force and Continental NORAD Region (CONR). “We use satellites, radars, and fighter jets to update his location in real time, so anyone who watches on the website or social media can see exactly where he is.”

The tradition started in 1955 when a young girl unknowingly called the Continental Air Defense Command after dialing a misprinted number on a department store advertisement, wanting to know where Santa was.

“The director at the time pretended to be Santa when a young child called asking about him,” said Rook. “He assigned a duty officer to answer any other phone calls about Santa, and the tradition of tracking Santa with combined efforts has kept going ever since.”

Ever since that night, the program has grown leaps and bounds with millions of followers and hits on social media, and more than 70 national and local contributors assisting the foundation to continue the tradition.

“I was personally involved with the program back in 2007 when I was working at Canadian NORAD Region,” Rook said. “I was the chief of the strategy division and we were executing the tracking on the Canadian side when Santa came through our air space.”

The NORAD Tracks Santa Operations Center is fully operational on Dec. 24. Volunteers will be manning the phones, answering emails and updating the tracker in real time at

“NORAD is the only bi-national air defense organization in the world,” Rook said. “We use all of our capabilities to protect North America and Canada, and our folks are always ready and standing by even if it means making sure Santa gets through our air space safe and sound. We have the watch!”