Animated US fighters to escort Santa through disputed Chinese airspace Christmas eve

Every Christmas since 1955, NORAD (the North American Aerospace Defense Command) has tracked Santa as he circumnavigates the globe.

This year, however, due to increasingly disturbing saber-rattling from China, Santa looks like he will have some company on his Christmas eve ride: a massive, fully-armed, animated US fighter jet escort.


US Air Force artist rendition.

(Google will also be tracking Santa this year, but since everyone knows the NSA already bugs Google, you’re already covered by just sticking with NORAD.)

On November 23rd, China established an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) extending over much of the East China Sea.  International concern immediately turned to the safety of an imminent trip to the region by – not Joe Biden – but Santa Claus.

The establishment of the air defense zone means China is requiring all aircraft that enter the zone, which covers the Diaoyu/Senhaku islands — China, Japan and Taiwan all claim sovereignty over the islands — to provide identification and flight plans, as well as maintain communication with Chinese authorities.

China’s assertion of authority in establishing an ADIZ has antagonized Japan, and given the United States, Australia and South Korea cause for concern, as relative diplomatic progress was seen to have been made in the region in recent months. The US strongly, and publicly, objected to China’s move.

While China has defended the move as both a necessary early-warning system and a replication of previous zones established by the United States and Japan elsewhere, the timing of the move has led the other countries involved to question China’s commitment to peace in the region.

While both the United States and Japan have, thus far, ignored the zone, flying planes through it on a daily basis since the announcement, it appears that the US military has found a way to actively respond in a slight, yet quintessentially American fashion.

They’re arming Santa to the teeth.

The Air Force escort for Mr. Claus will look something like this, according to a recently released Pentagon video:

NORAD gearing up to help Santa troll China’s ADIZ on Christmas eve

In light of the United States’ refusal to recognize the Chinese air defense zone, a NORAD spokesperson indicated that Santa’s flight plan likely would not respect the ADIZ, telling Buzzfeed’s Andrew Kaczynski:

“We don’t know Santa’s route, only Santa knows that, but I’m guessing Santa probably has clearance to go everywhere.”

Buzzfeed also quotes Caitlyn Hayden, a national security spokesperson at the White House, who had this to say:

I’m not empowered to speak for Mr. Claus, nor would his sleigh be subject to the same regulations as U.S. civilian airliners. As a general matter, the United States does not recognize the newly announced ADIZ, which appears to be a provocative attempt to unilaterally change the status quo in the East China Sea, a highly sensitive area, and thus raises regional tensions and increases the risk of miscalculation, confrontation and accidents.

John has confirmed that the White House quote is in fact real (I’m not making this up).

Counterintuitive as it may seem, in terms of soft power, using Santa to publicly ridicule the ADIZ may actually make some modicum of sense.

Flexing our muscles by flatly ignoring China’s warnings, and continuing to fly planes through the area without giving deference to Chinese authorities, is one thing. But China is also acutely sensitive about its image in the international sphere. By effectively double-daring China to mess with Santa, we show the Chinese that we aren’t going to take their new claim in the East China Sea seriously, and we highlight how off-base and absurd their move is, especially if they’re at all serious about maintaining stability in the region.

NORAD has taken some heat over the animated addition, which it must have anticipated, as practically the only visitors will get on Christmas eve are going to be kids and parents (well, okay, and drunk college students). And a lot of kids and parents at that: Last year, the NoradSanta reached 22 million visitors, and received tens of thousands of phone calls from kids and parents seeking updates on where Santa was in real time.

More on the concerned parents from the LA Times:

Santa means presents, good times and “everything else that is positive about Christmas,” Allen Kanner, a child and family psychologist, told the Boston Globe. The co-founder of the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood said the Pentagon has gone too far.

The associate director of the campaign, Josh Golin, goes a step further. He told CNN that it was “a back-door way to market” the military to kids. The Pentagon took this holiday tradition and added “violence and militarism,” he said.

And I have my own gripe.  Does the jet really have to be bigger than Santa and all of the reindeer combined?

Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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41 Responses to “Animated US fighters to escort Santa through disputed Chinese airspace Christmas eve”

  1. LanceThruster says:

    Santa’s Claws.


  2. karmanot says:


  3. LanceThruster says:

    Come to think of it…we are in a crippling economic recession. I say we have them take down Santa.

    Then there’d be plenty of presents for the deserving 1% (since they are so gung-ho military…except in enlisting or actually paying for it).

    Venison and stocking stuffers for our betters!

    That would be the ultimate in saber-rattling insanity.

    You think we won’t f#ck with you guys?!? We just smoked Santa!

  4. pappyvet says:

    Theft of our worship days. Just one of the tricks used to secure a place for their peaceful , loving religion.

  5. Ford Prefect says:

    How else would he know who’s naughty or nice? But what’s his black budget up to now?

  6. Ford Prefect says:

    Clearly, we’re on the same page.

  7. emjayay says:

    I wonder what Santa is doing buzzing a world famous Muslim mausoleum.

  8. karmanot says:


  9. karmanot says:

    “Children wouldn’t understand nor care about Chinese/American relations” Except kids who go to Montessori schools. They are pretty hip and tec savvy.

  10. karmanot says:

    According to the Snowden tapes, Santa is an agent of the CIA.

  11. karmanot says:

    Yep: Miss Muffet and the special forces spider.

  12. karmanot says:

    Special forces elf ninjas for sure.

  13. karmanot says:

    Not to worry Jon. Mr Claus is peddling cheap Chinese junk for kiddies everywhere.

  14. LanceThruster says:

    If Santa was that patriotic, you’d think he’d give his ultra high-speed bio-organo-propulsion systems tech to the US military (I think it may even have certain stealth capabilities, Norad tracking claims notwithstanding…)

    The SR-71 in comparison ain’t shit.

    Just sayin’.

  15. LanceThruster says:

    Yes. Stop making Santa cry!

  16. LanceThruster says:

    General “Buck” Turgidson: Mr. President, we are rapidly approaching a moment of truth both for ourselves as human beings and for the life of our nation. Now, truth is not always a pleasant thing. But it is necessary now to make a choice, to choose between two admittedly regrettable, but nevertheless *distinguishable*, postwar environments: one where you got twenty million people killed, and the other where you got a hundred and fifty million people killed.
    President Merkin Muffley: You’re talking about mass murder, General, not war!
    General “Buck” Turgidson: Mr. President, I’m not saying we wouldn’t get our hair mussed. But I do say no more than ten to twenty million killed, tops. Uh, depending on the breaks.

  17. LanceThruster says:

    General “Buck” Turgidson:
    If the pilot’s good, see, I mean if he’s reeeally sharp, he can barrel
    that baby in so low… oh you oughta see it sometime. It’s a sight. A
    big plane like a ’52… varrrooom! Its jet exhaust… frying chickens in
    the barnyard!

  18. Ford Prefect says:

    “Justice will be served, by Raytheon.”

  19. Ford Prefect says:

    LOL! I can almost hear Gen. Buck Turgidson ranting about the need for the fighters to blow up the commie heathen Chinese threat to Santa. It seems the War on Christmas may go hot this year. ;^)

  20. LanceThruster says:

    I smell false flag. You’d think they’d welcome the opportunity to seek revenge on the attackers of Santa.

    Why they’d be WORSE THAN HITLER!!

  21. LanceThruster says:

    President Merkin Muffley:
    Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the War Room.

  22. LanceThruster says:

    You’d think an elf or two would fit in the sleigh as an advance team (and clean-up crew to boot).

  23. BeccaM says:

    I don’t like it either. Commercialization, militarization, politicization — all of it detracts from what the holiday is supposed to be about.

    And from this Wiccan’s point of view, it’s not the acknowledged fictional birthday of a possibly fictional historical religious figure. ;-)

  24. maria says:

    Now if we can just get Santa to put in the sink after he’s done the plate and glass holding the milk and cookies we leave out for him at out house every Christmas eve…

  25. LanceThruster says:

    We got a red sleigh down we got a red sleigh down!

    Santa seems to have been able to handle himself quite successfully all these years. Why the change all of the sudden? Something up?

  26. Ford Prefect says:

    And what of our own ADIZ? It’s actually more restrictive than the Chinese version. But since ours has been around since 1947, perhaps Santa knows our own FAA protocols well enough to avoid being vaporized.

  27. Ford Prefect says:

    We must be running out of things to militarize. Even children’s stories must now be infused with fighters sporting Sidewinder missiles, it seems. Awesome.

    Of course, people around the world will see this on their evening news and be fully convinced we’ve all gone completely batty. Way to go Pentagon! Who will be escorting the Easter Bunny next year? A Stryker Brigade?

  28. gratuitous says:

    Silly? Yes. Teach the Chinese a lesson? Didn’t know they went on the NORAD site to track Santa. Who is it aimed at? Hard to argue that it’s not meant for children to see, so they can get a little more inculcation of our national religion here in the land of the High Church of Redemptive Violence.

  29. Naja pallida says:

    Even so, the US does not have an aircraft with a combat range of more than about 1300 Nm. Just to fly across the country they have to swap out all armament for fuel tanks. Santa don’t have no time to slow down for no damn mid-air refueling!

  30. dcinsider says:

    Gee, are we that serious now? C’mon everyone lighten up.

  31. Naja pallida says:

    Actually, those are Canadian CF-18 Hornets, the nighthawk design on the tail is the symbol for the 409 Squadron out of Cold Lake, Alberta.

    Even if they weren’t Canadian, the US Air Force doesn’t fly F-18s, only the Navy and Marines. :)

  32. Indigo says:

    Shades of Evil Santa!

  33. cole3244 says:

    we used to be athens, we are now sparta.

  34. perljammer says:

    Humbug. NORAD Tracks Santa relies on corporate sponsorship, and is not financed by taxpayers. The people who answer the phones are volunteers. See

  35. fletcher says:

    The Chinese wouldn’t dare shoot down Santa Claus. It would put tens of thousands of workers assembling stuff for famous American toy brands on the unemployment lines and grumbling about there living standards and with all that time on their hands… Hey! Maybe that’s how with get rid of China’s Commie government once and for all!

  36. therling says:

    Your tax dollars at work.

  37. Bite your tongue ;-)

  38. perljammer says:

    It’s not that complicated. The message is a light-hearted poke at the Chinese government over their tiresome saber rattling. As these things go, it has about as much chance of affecting Chinese policy as a “sternly worded letter” from the US State Dept.

    Norad has been tracking Santa on Christmas Eve for nearly 60 years now. The history of this volunteer-staffed exercise is pretty interesting, see

    Here’s a snippet from Wikipedia on the origins of all this:

    “The program began on December 24, 1955, when a Sears department store placed an advertisement in a Colorado Springs newspaper which told children that they could telephone Santa Claus and included a number for them to call. However, the telephone number printed was incorrect and calls instead came through to Colorado Springs’ Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) Center. Colonel Harry Shoup, who was on duty that night, told his staff to give all children that called in a “current location” for Santa Claus. A tradition began which continued when the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) replaced CONAD in 1958.”

  39. Drew2u says:

    I don’t understand what’s going on; why insert real-world politics and political consequences into something make-believe?
    Were it Korean animators doing it, I could give it a pass due to their history of wacky animated videos, but NORAD? Why was this necessary? I don’t get it; to “flex” a muscle at China? Who is the recipient of the message? Children wouldn’t understand nor care about Chinese/American relations.

  40. BrianG says:

    Like an F-22 can keep up with reindeer . . .

  41. perljammer says:

    Ever seen an F-22 up close? It’s over 60 ft long. I’d say they got the scale about right.

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