The original helicarrier endured numerous trials, including surviving a take-over by the Viper which nearly crashed it into the White House. It eventually succumbed to sabotage and crashed in the Arizona desert in 1988. The most recognizable element of S.H.I.E.L.D., the helicarrier was the product of the most advanced technologies and minds in the aeronautic industry. Constructed in the late 1960's with help from Tony Stark and Reed Richards, the carrier served as S.H.I.E.L.D.'s mobile HQ, permitting a global vigilance unmatched by any other force on Earth.
Housing hundreds of agents and technicians, the carrier also serves as home to several squadrons of fighter aircraft, helicopters, and hover cars. Among its levels, the carrier holds divisions of all of the agency's various departments, including the ESPer Division. The entire command staff hold quarters aboard the carrier, while the lower ranks occupy military barracks-style rooms. By far the largest room is the multi-level bridge which includes the massive wrap-around glass wall found at the fore of the aircraft.
When S.H.I.E.L.D. in 1990, the first priority was to build a new helicarrier. During the early months, S.H.I.E.L.D. operated as a small squad of agents while the second carrier was constructed in secret at the Grand Canyon. Overseen yet again by Reed Richards, this helicarrier utilized cutting edge computer diagnostic and controls imported from Wakanda, courtesy of Prince T'Challa.
Basically following the same designs as the original, this second carrier was more streamlined and not as wide as its predecessor. Among the improvements installed were new security measures to prevent hijacking. In connection with the ESPer division, the computers aboard ship were made holistic with psionic countermeasures capable of neutralizing most mutant telekinetic abilities. Further measures include a stasis field in place all around the carrier which hold solid all silicate chips within the aircraft, thus any electronic media taken off the carrier instantly dissolves. As a final fail-safe, the carrier initiates a 24 hour self destruct sequence should a hijacking actually take place. During its tenure, the carrier endured countless near fatelaties, including a hijacking that nearly sent it crashing into the Sphinx in Egypt and an electronic assault by Hydra which crippled its computers. Curiously, the mutant Wolverine became the only person to infiltrate the carrier twice. After Fury's "death", this carrier was mothballed and scuttled beneath the Atlantic Ocean where it currently rests as a training ground for series blue UDT maneuvers
Put into service following the previous carrier's mothballing, the third carrier featured most of the traditional design elements of the first two. Eschewing the budget-conscious streamlining of the second model, the current helicarrier once again spans a monstrous berth, resembling if not out sizing the original carrier. The construction phase of the current version remains a highly classified and its suspected that much of its designs were undertaken without consultation with Fury. The existence of various secret levels within the carrier allows for speculation that entities such as EXTECHOP may have lent a hand in its construction and design. Most of the computer systems were designed by Agent Rigby Fallon, who graduated from M.I.T. at age seventeen. A daring raid by the Red Skull brought the helicarrer into his possession for a short time, during which his crew adapted it for underwater use in order to avoid detection.
By the 21st century, S.H.I.E.L.D.'s budgets were such that they were operating multiple helicarriers which is just as well as various incidents such as the Hulk's return from outer space, the superhero civil war and the Skrull secret invasion lead to a number of carriers facing fatal crashes. Production of the helicarriers was streamlined to the point that new carriers could be produced in very short time. When Tony Stark took over as director of S.H.I.E.L.D., he had a golden helicarrier made as his command ship and shortly thereafter when S.H.I.E.L.D. was disbanded and HAMMER was formed, Norman Osborne had his own designed. Nick Fury led a renegade band composed of the Secret Warriors and the mercenary group Howling Commandos to take the remaining S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarriers from The Dock where they are stored.
Invincible Iron Man#17
Artist: Salvador Larroca
Colorist: Frank D'Armata