As Santa streaks through the sky this Christmas Eve, Rudolph merrily guiding the way, he will be flanked by some new and unusual companions: a jet-fighter escort, bristling with missiles.
That is the twist that — to the dismay of at least some child advocates — the US military has chosen to put on this year's version of its traditional animated tracking of the yuletide journey.
The popular program, without the jet escort, reached 22 million people last year and generated tens of thousands of phone calls from kids and their parents around the country. The mock mission allows families, either by calling or logging on, to get "real-time" updates on Old St. Nick's global trip to bring holiday cheer to girls and boys.
This year's updated segment, now previewing on the military's website, depicts Santa soaring over snow-capped peaks with military aircraft keeping pace on either side.