HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. - Santa Claus will once again have some special escorts as he makes his way through New Mexico Christmas Eve thanks to a Team Holloman volunteer effort dubbed "Operation Assist Santa" (OAS).
Aircraft from the 49th Wing will serve the jolly old elf in a number of ways to ensure he delivers his cargo safely, on-time and on-target.
"We are Santa's favorite wing. All the aircraft tails assigned to the 49th Wing are marked 'HO'. From the moment Santa and his reindeer take off, you can hear him calling for our escort … HO, HO, HO," said Col. Andrew Croft, 49th Wing commander.
The F-22 Raptor will serve as an escort, or wingman, while the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper will provide Santa with "special intelligence" through naughty and nice sensors and sleep detectors installed on the two aircraft. The remotely piloted aircraft will also ensure Santa has safe landing zones in the Tularosa Basin and Sacramento Mountain areas.
"Our mission is to provide would-class support to Santa Claus, while meeting logistical, maintenance and operational objectives during this special mission," Croft said.
All the members of Team Holloman taking part in OAS have volunteered their time both during the important training required to complete the mission and during the operations Christmas Eve. The operation is funded through a special grant from the North Pole, so no taxpayer dollars are spent.
Each aircraft is outfitted with "secret" capabilities to make sure Santa is safe during his travels through New Mexico.
"The F-22 has armament options available such as garland/tinsel flares, snow dispersal units and a Christmas candy payload," said 1st Lieutenant Tory Donato, OAS intelligence officer. "The MQ-1 will not only provide path tracking for Santa's sleigh, but identify delivery points through 'naughty and nice' detectors, while the MQ-9 will use its 'sleep detectors' to assist Santa with safe passage into children's (aged 1 to 92) homes."
Personnel from Holloman have been assisting Santa since the base was created in 1942. Many of the details for these events remain "classified," but some of the support Santa receives from Team Holloman includes: 49th Maintenance Group, ensures all escort aircraft are ready to help Santa and help keep Santa's sleigh in tip-top shape; 49th Security Forces guard Santa's backup sleigh, while 49th SFS K-9 handlers assist with reindeer control; 49th Logistics Readiness provides any extra supplies Santa might need, while 49th LRS fuels handle Santa's highly sensitive "stealth" sleigh fuel; and 49th Operations Support air traffic controller ensure the skies are clear for Santa as he goes across New Mexico and the Southwest, as well as providing route de-confliction.
A special advanced team of elves from the North Pole were brought in to work with BEAR Base personnel to provide storage for toys and food for the reindeer. In addition the 4th Space Control Squadron at Holloman will be assisting NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) with tracking Santa. You can follow Santa's progress on NORAD radar at www.noradsanta.com.
One special group at Holloman who has served Santa faithfully through the years is the 96th Test Group. The 746th Test Squadron, which is the lead test organization in GPS evaluation, continues to do work with Santa to ensure he remains on track during his around the world flight, and the 846th Test Squadron, which is the Air Force's lead organization on all ejection seat testing and the lead facility for all supersonic testing, completes annual tests on Santa's sleigh so he can remain safe during his travels.
This "special" mission serves as a thank you to the residents of the Tularosa Basin and Sacramento Mountains who have supported Team Holloman during 2012. In addition, the mission will serve as a reminder of what 2013 will bring.
"With the tremendous amount of support we've received over the past year from the residents of the area, we wanted to ensure this special visitor completes his mission on time and on target," Colonel Croft said. "As everyone knows it is always a good idea to have a wingman when you're out there performing a mission."
Source: Holloman Air Force Base