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Military helicopters spotted in LA: Is the military preparing for urban warfare?

Three mysterious helicopters were seen hovering around downtown Los Angeles last week, landing briefly on rooftops in what is suspected to be a military exercise in preparation for urban warfare. The helicopters, all dark gray Bell 407s equipped with unusual antennas, took off from the Hollywood Burbank Airport (also known as Bob Hope Airport) located north of Los Angeles at around six in the evening on Jan. 14, according to online flight tracking data from ADS-B Exchange. The Bell 407s, which have the serial numbers 12-1141, 12-1142, and 12-1143 painted on their tail booms, arrived at the airport two days before that and since then were seen making multiple flights in the area. Two of them, 12-1141 and 12-1142, landed multiple times on the rooftops of the James K. Hahn City Hall East and the privately-owned California Plazas, all in L.A. Because of the brief nature of the landings and the helicopters' strange design, the aerial activity was suspected to be an urban training exercise like the ones conducted before by special military units in the same area.

LA a perfect spot for urban military exercise

The three helicopters ventured together to Long Beach, and before long, 12-1143 turned straight back for Burbank for unclear reasons. 12-1141 and 12-1142 flew routes that took them down the coast to Laguna Beach and eventually back to downtown L.A. All flights followed major freeways and flew at altitudes below 1,000 feet. The two remaining helicopters touched down briefly on the helipads of the James K. Hahn City Hall East and Two California Plaza. 12-1142 also landed on the roof of One California Plaza. The military previously did similar aerial exercises in downtown L.A. In 2019, a fleet of military helicopters was seen flying low in between buildings around the same area.

The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) said that the helicopters were part of the Army's training exercise that teaches soldiers how to navigate a war-torn city. LA's local terrain provides an environment that deployed units may encounter in actual warfare, according to the LAPD.

"This training is coordinated with the appropriate state, county, and city officials as well as private property owners. Safety precautions have been implemented to prevent unnecessary risk to both participants and/or area residents and property," the LAPD said in a statement.

News outlets have tried to reach out to the LAPD regarding the recent aerial activities, but the department has not yet responded.

Black Military Helicopters Recorded going through downtown LA last month.

Helicopters likely manned by top-secret operations unit

The helicopters are suspected to belong to a secretive U.S. government entity conducting military training or testing new weapons. As news outlet the War Zone reported, Army’s secretive Aviation Technology Office (ATO) operates Bell 407s. Previously known as the Flight Concepts Division, the ATO has deep ties to the Central Intelligence Agency and is based at the Felker Army Airfield at Fort Eustis in Virginia. The helicopters' routes before arriving in California also seem to suggest that they came from that direction. Flight tracking data indicated that the choppers flew all the way across the country starting over the weekend or late last week. Before arriving in Burbank, they stopped at Addington Field/Elizabethtown Regional Airport in Kentucky, Albuquerque International Sunport in New Mexico, Flagstaff Pulliam Airport in Arizona and Lake Havasu City Airport in Arizona, among other places. If the ATO turned out to be manning the helicopters, they are understood to be conducting an urban military exercise or testing new equipment under realistic conditions using Bell 407s.

Learn more about the military's covert warfare preparations at



USA Flag
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