Black helicopter

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Unmarked black helicopters have been described in conspiracy theories since the 1970s.

The black helicopter is a symbol of an alleged conspiratorial military takeover of the United States in the American militia movement, and has also been associated with UFOs,[1] especially in the UK,[2] men in black, and similar conspiracy theories.[2][1]


Stories of black helicopters first appeared in the 1970s, and were linked to reports of cattle mutilation.[3][4]

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."[5]

The black helicopters conjecture 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 originally promoted it, asserting that a United Nations force would soon arrive in black helicopters to bring the US under UN control.[6] A similar theory concerning so-called "phantom helicopters" appeared in the UK in the 1970s.[7]

Documented usage[edit]

Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters flying in Iraq
U.S. Customs and Border Protection uses black UH-60 helicopters with gold markings.

The following organizations and government agencies are known to operate black and/or unmarked helicopters in the United States for unclassified uses:

Pejorative term[edit]

The term has also been used to ridicule other conspiracy theories or conspiracy theorists:

  • In 2007, a Slate article on the 2007 NBA betting scandal 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."[14]
  • In 2013, Vice President Joe Biden had recourse to the term in a speech responding to the National Rifle Association of America during the White House campaign for background checks on all gun purchasers, saying, "The black helicopter crowd is really upset. It's kind of scary, man."[15]
  • In 2018, the United States Department of Homeland Security proposed a database to monitor the activities of journalists, bloggers and other “media influencers". In response to concerns, DHS's spokesman said, "Despite what some reporters may suggest, this is nothing more than the standard practice of monitoring current events in the media. Any suggestion otherwise is fit for tin foil hat-wearing, black helicopter conspiracy theorists."[16]
  • In 2020, Governor of Florida Ron DeSantis, in a public appearance with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, pushed back on critics of his administration in its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, saying, "We succeeded, and I think that people just don't want to recognize it, because it challenges their narrative, it challenges their assumption, so they got to try to find a boogeyman – maybe it's that there are black helicopters circling the Department of Health. If you believe that, um, I got a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you."[17][18]

In popular culture[edit]

  • In Capricorn One, astronauts Robert Caulfield and Charles Brubaker escape from a U.S. government facility after being forced to fake a Mars landing, and are pursued by a pair of black OH-6 Cayuse helicopters.[19]
  • In Escape from New York, the United States is portrayed as a complete police state by 1997. The United States Police Force (USPF) uses black helicopters to patrol the border walls of Manhattan island, now a prison penal colony. The USPF is also shown using the helicopters to perform extractions, surveillance, and to kill inmates attempting to escape. In its sequel, Escape from L.A., the USPF helicopters are more futuristic in form and function with folding rotors that retract into the top after landing.
  • In Blue Thunder, the protagonist, police helicopter pilot Frank Murphy, uncovers a conspiracy to stir up riots in urban ghettos as a pretext for declaring a national emergency in order to establish a dictatorship, using black helicopters to subdue the population.
  • Airwolf revolves around an advanced black-colored helicopter used by "The Firm" to conduct espionage missions both abroad and within the United States.
  • In Amerika, a television miniseries in which the Soviet Union has taken over the United States, black helicopters are used to intimidate and subdue the American population. Additionally, the invasion of the United States is conducted under the pretext of a United Nations peacekeeping mission using said helicopters.
  • In The X-Files, unmarked black helicopters also play a key role in the finale episodes of season two and nine, involving the Cigarette Smoking Man. In the film The X-Files: Fight the Future, black helicopters pursue Fox Mulder and Dana Scully after they uncover a conspiracy to use bees to carry an extraterrestrial virus.
  • In King of the Hill, conspiracy theorist Dale Gribble discuss "stealth helicopters with computerized noise-canceling capability".[20]
  • In Conspiracy Theory, the protagonist, conspiracy theorist Jerry Fletcher, describes silent black military helicopters to an empty cab.
  • In the South Park series premiere "Cartman Gets an Anal Probe", farmer Bill Denkins tells Officer Barbrady that there have been recent sightings of UFOs and black helicopters. Barbrady dismisses his concerns, but black helicopters fly behind him, which he dismisses as pigeons flying.
  • In Deus Ex, the protagonist, JC Denton, uses a black helicopter as a primary means of transport. The series itself is strongly inspired by conspiracy theories such as black helicopters, and references them frequently.
  • In The Secret World, black helicopters with red-tinted canopies owned by the Orochi Group appear at multiple points in the game, most notably in the Kingsmouth Town area, which includes a quest called "Black Helicopters".
  • In the video game adaptation of the 2007 film Spider-Man 3, after J. Jonah Jameson is kidnapped by a supervillain called the Mad Bomber in a black helicopter, Spider-Man replies, "guess those black helicopter conspiracy theories were true!"
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic mentions "black helicopters coming 'cross the border" in his song "Foil" (a parody of Lorde's song "Royals"), which starts as an advertisement for aluminum foil and devolves into a conspiracy rant.
  • In Grand Theft Auto Online, during an "Operation Paper Trail" storyline mission where the player flies a black-painted helicopter, Agent ULP of the International Affairs Agency (IAA; the Grand Theft Auto universe's satirical CIA equivalent) fondly recalls flying black helicopters early in his career—not as part of any conspiracies, but to draw conspiracy theorists away from actual IAA conspiracies.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Brodie, Lee (2010-02-04). "Behind The Sell-Off: Is That A Black Helicopter?". CNBC. Retrieved 2020-11-30.
  2. ^ a b "History's greatest conspiracy theories". The Telegraph. 2016-03-16. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 2020-11-24.
  3. ^ Barkun, Michael; Barkun, Professor of Political Science Michael (2003-11-07). A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-23805-3.
  4. ^ Ciaccia, Chris (2019-09-20). "Area 51: Top conspiracy theories about the secret military base". Fox News. Retrieved 2020-11-30.
  5. ^ Priorities - May/June 1996 - Sierra Magazine - Sierra ClubArchived October 25, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ "Bring out the cranks and conspiracy theorists". Financial Times. 7 August 2009. Archived from the original on 31 December 2017. Retrieved 18 December 2017.
  7. ^ "History's greatest conspiracy theories". The Daily Telegraph. 19 November 2008. Archived from the original on 30 April 2018. Retrieved 5 April 2018.
  8. ^ Hastert Leads Congressional Delegation On Border Tour - Jamd Archived 2022-01-18 at the Wayback Machine at
  9. ^ "U.S. Special Forces behind last month's training in New Orleans, military confirms". The Times-Picayune. Retrieved 17 April 2012.
  10. ^ "Blackhawks Circle Low Through Chicago Skies as Secret Service Releases Security Details". WFLD. Archived from the original on April 19, 2012. Retrieved 17 April 2012.
  11. ^ a b Chiles, James L (March 1, 2008). "Air America's Black Helicopter: The secret aircraft that helped the CIA tap phones in North Vietnam". Air & Space Magazine. Archived from the original on March 21, 2008. Retrieved 3 June 2019.
  12. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: "Snohomish County Sheriff Helicopter, Hughes NOH-6P/ MD 500C landing at KBFI". YouTube.
  13. ^ "The FBI is Home to Some of the Baddest Special Ops Aviators Around". The Tactical Air Network. 23 November 2015. Archived from the original on December 4, 2015. Retrieved 16 July 2018.
  14. ^ If the Ref Did It, Here's How It Happened, Slate, July 23, 2007 Archived October 1, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ Trotter, J.K. (April 9, 2013). "Biden Directly Confronts NRA and 'Black Helicopter Crowd' as Gun Deal Looms". The Wire. Archived from the original on January 17, 2016.
  16. ^ Staff, Sun Times (April 7, 2018). "Homeland Security to compile database of journalists and 'media influencers'". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on April 7, 2018.
  17. ^ "Ron DeSantis Interview Transcript – Governor Takes Shots at Media Over Coronavirus Predictions". TRANSCRIPT: Ron DeSantis Interview Transcript – Governor Takes Shots at Media Over Coronavirus Predictions. Archived from the original on June 11, 2020.
  18. ^ Sy, Stephanie (20 May 2020). "All 50 states partially reopen as CDC quietly releases its guidelines". Archived from the original on May 21, 2020. Retrieved 20 May 2020.
  19. ^ Hyams, Peter (director) (June 2, 1977). Capricorn One (Motion picture). United States: Warner Brothers.
  20. ^ Knight, Peter (11 December 2003). Conspiracy Theories in American History: An Encyclopedia [2 volumes]. Bloomsbury Publishing USA. ISBN 978-1-57607-813-6.

External links[edit]