“There are black helicopters,” he said, “but we generally don’t deploy them on U.S. soil.”
(Black helicopters, on the simplest level, are helicopters intentionally painted black, with sound-suppression and low radar signature—the kind of helicopter intended to conduct operations like the penetration of Pakistani airspace, as in the killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011, and the kind eternally claimed by conspiracy theorists to be used by the U.S. government for various nefarious missions.)
I say hooray for transparency, but, of course, the president is wrong, wrong, and wrong. I don’t just mean on the terminology. They are indeed “deployed” on U.S. soil (that is, they are based in the United States), and they are also used there. Obama was probably referring to the black Army helicopters of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) headquartered at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, but there are actually black helicopters belonging to at least three departments and at a dozen potential locations inside the United States—more on this below.
But what is Obama saying, anyway? That they never train? That they never participate in exercises? That they never “deploy” in support of operations? With all of the news about the fleet of FBI aviation aircraft and the Jade Helm exercise, are you really claiming that “generally” is supposed to mean: Never, or hardly ever? I’m sorry, Mr. President, but you aren’t up to date, and you don’t spend enough time looking at the skies, which are filled with federal and law enforcement helicopters, aircraft, drones, and who knows what else, prying and spying and also engaged in other secret missions: continuity of government, nuclear emergency, border and drug surveillance.
And it doesn’t help matters that one of the main helicopters is called Blackhawk, which leads to headlines such as Black Hawk helicopter to fly over East Massachusetts (which appeared in the Boston Globe this week) because the military is itself confused as to whether the helicopters are Blackhawks (one word) or Black Hawk (two).
We’ve know for decades that the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR) which supports JSOC and these types of operations, flies black helicopters. And since 9/11, that Regiment has doubled in size, with the addition of a 3rd and 4th Battalion.
- 1st and 2nd battalions, Ft. Campbell, Kentucky.
- 3rd Battalion, 160th SOAR, Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia
- 4th Battalion, 160th SOAR, Ft. Lewis, Washington
JSOC also has a unit called the Aviation Tactical and Evaluation Group at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, which flies the most secret helicopters in support of clandestine missions.
And then there’s the FBI Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) at Quantico, Virginia, which has its own helicopter unit doing most of its work inside the United States. That’s the Department of Justice, but it is about as military as military could be.
And what about the apparatus of something called JEEP, the Joint Emergency Evacuation Plan for whisking away presidential successors and VIPs? The helicopters for these missions belong to the Army (at Ft. Belvoir, Virginia), the Marine Corps (at Anacostia Naval Station), and the Air Force (at Andrews AFB, Maryland). And additional helicopters from naval bases in southern Maryland augment that force when middle-of-the-night missions are required.
And that’s not to mention other agencies and departments suspected of having their own black helicopters, including the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office of Air and Marine Operations, U.S. Marshals Services, the U.S. Park Police and the U.S. Capitol Police, all of whom would be mobilized to support federal government emergencies and missions in an emergency. Let’s add to that list the helicopters belonging to the DC, Maryland and Virginia National Guards, which all have “wartime” domestic missions. How many of them can fly black?
And then there’s weird helicopter units we barely know a thing about. Take the Eastern Measurements Office, part of the Nevada Operations Office of the Department of Energy and based as Andrews AFB in Maryland. Their job is nuclear radiation search/detection program and most of their activities are secreted under special access programs.
Oh, and there’s also Air Force Special Operations Command in Florida and New Mexico and SEAL Team 6/Naval Special Warfare Development Group in southern Virginia; and naval special operators in San Diego, and the Northern Command apparatus at Ft. Sam Houston in Texas that directly supports border control, which of course is surveilled by three dozen helicopters of Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations, which also flies Predator drones.
And let’s not forget the DEA. And just regular old cops.
Mr. President, it’s dark out there.
[Top photo courtesy of the Department of Defense. Bottom photo from AP.]
You can contact me at email@example.com, and follow us on Twitter at @gawkerphasezero. If you are into the theater of being underground, you can anonymously deliver tips through Gawker Media SecureDrop.