Black helicopters is a term which became popular in the United States militia movement and its associated political circles in the 1990s as a symbol and warning sign of an alleged conspiratorial military takeover of the United States, though it has also been associated with men in black and similar conspiracies. Rumors circulated that, for instance, the United Nations patrolled the US with unmarked black helicopters, or that federal agents used black helicopters to enforce wildlife laws. The concept springs from the basic truth that many government agencies and corporations do use helicopters, and that some of these helicopters are dark-colored or black. For instance, dark-colored military helicopters were deployed in the standoff at Ruby Ridge. Earlier tales from the 1970s linked them with UFO conspiracy theories.
Stories of black helicopters first appeared in the 1970s, and were linked to reports of cattle mutilation. The issue was first popularized in the early 1990s by Mark Koernke, also known as "Mark from Michigan", in appearances on Tom Valentine's radio show and in public speeches which were widely circulated on videocassette, and shortly thereafter by Linda Thompson in her film America Under Siege. In Alex Jones' film Police State 2000 unmarked black helicopters are shown flying low in surprise urban warfare training missions with Delta Force operators and foreign troops.
Jim Keith wrote two books on the subject: Black Helicopters Over America: Strikeforce for the New World Order (1995), and Black Helicopters II : The End Game Strategy (1998).
Media attention to black helicopters increased in February 1995, when first-term Republican northern Idaho Representative Helen Chenoweth charged that armed federal agents were landing black helicopters on Idaho ranchers' property to enforce the Endangered Species Act. "I have never seen them," Chenoweth said in an interview in The New York Times. "But enough people in my district have become concerned that I can't just ignore it. We do have some proof." Chenoweth made the charges at a press conference without ever consulting with the Department of the Interior.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which enforces the act, claims not to own any helicopters. The only green and black military helicopters known to be used in Idaho are used by the National Guard. Black helicopters without FAA-required running lights are regularly used by the drug interdiction office of the DEA. In addition, most U.S. Army helicopters (such as the Black Hawk) are finished in a very dark chocolate or olive matte paint.
The black helicopters theory resonates well with the belief held by some in the militia movement that troops from the United Nations might invade the United States. The John Birch Society published an article in The New American detailing how the existence of the covert aircraft was mostly the product of possible visual errors and a tendency towards overboard caution.
The following explanations have been provided by various organizations and experts, including government agencies, regarding the alleged black helicopters:
- At least some sightings of black helicopters are very likely to have been helicopters on exercises and/or missions. Some of them are flown by units of the Army National Guard and are actually black (not dark olive or chocolate brown) when seen in ordinary light. The Department of Homeland Security operates a dozen black-and-gold UH-60 Blackhawk under the US Customs and Border Protection. The American military does in fact operate helicopters painted in black or dark colors, particularly the Pave Low which was optimized for long-range stealthy insertion and extraction of personnel, including combat search and rescue.
- U.S. Army and National Guard helicopters painted olive drab will appear to be black in the reddish light of dawn or dusk, or under other low light conditions during the day when their shadow side is viewed against the sky with the naked eye. The Army's 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment use helicopters primarily painted black.
- In the early 1970s, the CIA operated a black Hughes 500P helicopter in Vietnam, in order to place phone taps. Test flights began at Culver City, California, in 1971. It was noted for its low noise emission, and given the nickname "The Quiet One." After the mission assigned to it had been completed, the helicopter was returned to California and had most of the special features stripped out by mechanics. It was transferred to the ownership of the Pacific Corporation of Washington, D.C.
- The U.S. Army regularly conducts both exercises and operational missions in American airspace. Some of these exercises have taken place in densely populated cities, including Los Angeles, New York, Detroit, San Francisco, Oakland and Washington, D.C. Most operational missions are tasked in narcotics interdiction in the American Southwest and out of Florida and Puerto Rico. By extensive use of IR, Radar, GPS and night vision devices, as well as other classified means, they are able to fly in zero visibility conditions with no running lights. At this high intensity level of operation, training is necessarily almost as dangerous to pilots, other air traffic, and the public as actual combat. Frequent practice is necessary to retain proficiency. Frequent practice results in frequent sightings by concerned members of the public.
- Many defense contractors and helicopter manufacturers also conduct public flight testing of aircraft and components or fly aircraft in public view to test ranges or other corporate airfields for training or demonstrations. Occasionally, some of these aircraft will be made for military clients and are painted in black or dark colors.
- In the UK, police helicopters are required by the CAA to be marked in a standard 'high conspicuosity' paint scheme, to make them more visible and avoid the possibility of air proximity hazards with other low flying aircraft. This paint scheme, also used by UK military training helicopters, requires them to be black on the sides and underneath, and yellow on top. When seen from the ground, these helicopters are black but this is to make them more visible against the sky as a safety feature (and yellow against the ground when seen from above).
- Many US law enforcement agencies use black helicopters for surveillance, transportation, and patrol. Some of the agencies that use them are US Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the US Marshals Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Federal Bureau of Investigations.
The term has also been used to ridicule other conspiracy theories or conspiracy theorists. For instance, a Slate article on basketball refereeing, said: "In the wake of this scandal, every game will be in question, and not only by fans disposed to seeing black helicopters outside the arena."
In popular culture
In the 1978 conspiracy thriller Capricorn One, black helicopters pursue the escaped astronauts that will expose the faking of the Mars landing. The helicopters often act as if they were living beings rather than vehicles, often turning to face each other as if they were talking.
In the 2000 video game Deus Ex, a black helicopter is the player's primary form of transportation for much of the game.
On the 1997 pilot episode of the American television series South Park, a local farmer asks about "CIA black Helicopters flying about" (as the episode's plot includes a UFO encounter) to which police officer Barbrady replies "That was a pigeon" after three fly past behind him.
In episode 4 in the first season of the American television series King of the Hill, Dale Gribble claims a noise to be that of "one of those stealth helicopters with computerised noise-cancellation capability... they're still workin' the 'chings' out." When Bill Dauterive asks him how he knows about stealth helicopters, Dale replies: "alt.conspiracy.black.helicopters".
In the 1997 movie Conspiracy Theory, starring Mel Gibson as a New York City cabdriver, out of whose many conspiracy theories one turns out to be true and he's chased by an obscure US Intelligence Agency; after one of his purchases of The Catcher in the Rye, they pursue him using black helicopters.
In the Rooster Teeth Short, Secret Door, Matt references "Black Helicopters" and to look it up on Google after Gav accuses Burnie, Geoff and Gus of hiding something. Black helicopters are also frequently referenced on Rooster Teeth's podcast, The Drunk Tank.
In the CD of X-Files-inspired music, Songs in the Key of X, the band Soul Coughing has a song called "Unmarked Helicopters" which includes the lyrics "Here comes the super copter / Here comes the noise it makes / ... / It goes black black black black and blacker.../ Unmarked helicopters / Hovering / ... / They said it was a weather balloon."
In The Simpsons Movie, the fugitive Simpson family are chased by black helicopters belonging to the EPA.
In the Codename: Kids Next Door episode "Operation: W.H.I.T.E.-H.O.U.S.E." Nigel Uno is being forced to sign a bill to make Kid's rights illegal. He is surrounded by tanks, whales, and hovering black unmarked helicopters.
In the 2007 film Transformers, the government agency Sector 7 used black helicopters to hunt down the robotic Autobots.
They appear unmarked frequently in the television series The X-Files.
- ^ http://www.crystalinks.com/bh.html
- ^ http://www.rotten.com/library/conspiracy/ruby-ridge-incident/ruby-ridge-uhauls-helicopters.jpg
- ^ A culture of conspiracy: apocalyptic visions in contemporary America
- ^ http://surbrook.devermore.net/worldbooks/pdepartment/pdparanormal.html
- ^ Priorities - May/June 1996 - Sierra Magazine - Sierra Club
- ^ The Paranoid and the Paramilitary
- ^ Hastert Leads Congressional Delegation On Border Tour - Jamd at www.viewimages.com
- ^ http://www.vhpa.org/stories/AAblack.pdf
- ^ http://www.airspacemag.com/military-aviation/the_quiet_one.html?c=y&page=2
- ^ http://www.airspacemag.com/military-aviation/the_quiet_one.html?c=y&page=6
- ^ If the Ref Did It, Here's How It Happened, Slate, July 23, 2007
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