Millions of children around the globe may notice the newest member of Santa Claus’ sleigh entourage this year when they track his voyage via NORAD’s website. Absent pointy ears, antlers or a glowing nose, this companion instead is equipped with missiles. The North American Aerospace Defense Command, known as NORAD, updated their annual Santa tracker to include a fighter jet escort to follow Santa’s voyage on Christmas Eve. The two military aircraft will flank the reindeer and sleigh, tagged with the call sign “Big Red One,” to help track and protect the Christmas Eve voyage.
The website, which drew 23.3 million visitors in 2012, features videos previewing this year’s flight, which includes NORAD operations tracking Santa on a “test flight” while explaining their defensive military mission at the same time.
“It’s still cutesy since it’s for kids, but we don’t want people to lose sight of our true mission,” said Jeff Davis, Navy Captain and NORAD spokesman.
Davis told the Boston Globe that the addition of the jets is “part of our effort to give the program more of an operational feel.” Reuters wrote that Davis also said that though this was the first time the jets were in the animation, fighter jet escorts had been previously linked to Santa since the 1960s.