Ho, ho, holy cow - Santa gets fighter escort on U.S. military site

WASHINGTON Tue Dec 3, 2013 2:29pm EST

Santa's sled is escorted by a pair of fighter jets in this still image taken from an handout NORAD animated video released November 27, 2013. REUTERS/NORAD/Handout via Reuters

Santa's sled is escorted by a pair of fighter jets in this still image taken from an handout NORAD animated video released November 27, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/NORAD/Handout via Reuters

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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 December 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 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."

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Scott Malone and Lisa Von Ahn)

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Comments (3)
euro-yank wrote:
Sooooo very very tacky!

Dec 04, 2013 10:35am EST  --  Report as abuse
Magictac wrote:
Disgusting.

Dec 06, 2013 1:15am EST  --  Report as abuse
Popsiq wrote:
Tracking good old Santa since 1955, NORAD didn’t need to protect him from the Soviet menace, but now has to provide a fighter escort?

It couldn’t be to prevent terrorism,so it has to be some commentary of the Jolly Elf’s flying abilities, or a demonnstration of how do Christmas better.

If Santa could learn how to be more ‘tactical’, NORAD could take a lesson about what to drop on kids.

Dec 06, 2013 12:51pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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