The best helicopter is the Tornado. By a mile. In both Saints Row 3 and Saints Row 4. It has a minigun and an infinite number of homing missiles that you can rain down on your victims with ease. The minigun heats up over time, but the homing missiles are infinite. In comparison to the other combat helicopter, the Vulture, its barrage of homing missiles are more accurate and easier to make use of compared to the Vulture’s weaker minigun and charge-to-fire streak of missiles. It also seems tougher and more agile than the Vulture, and seems all-round more durable than the VTOL, which I swear explodes if you sneeze on it. The Tornado is also way stronger than the Void, the alien space craft that you can steal or claim for free by climbing up the massive random towers scattered around digital Steelport. The Condor and Interceptor VTOLs are medicore, no one cares about them.
The Tornado is amazing. And if your life is getting difficult, the Tornado will solve all your problems.
But how do you get one?
In Saints Row 3, there are three main ways.
The first way is technically the easiest. You just unlock the Helicopter Homie, who delivers a Tornado helicopter to you. This one is black, and you can save it to your garage by simply flying it back to your base. There’s also a black one available on a rooftop belonging to STAG later on, but Heli Homie is your easiest method.
The second way is with the RC Gun. This is a bit of a pain in the ass because you need to progress through the main quest line AND fully level up the RC Gun to be able to tag special vehicles. There are two variants of the Tornado you can get with this method – the SWAT blue Tornado which requires 4 Notoriety with the police (except when STAG are around) and the red Tornado which requires 5 Notoriety with Morningstar.
The Tan Army Tornado can be acquired by going to the Restricted Zone and stealing the helicopter from there. This is a bit of a tricky one though, for two reasons – firstly you get notoriety as soon as you enter the Restricted Zone and secondly, the Tornado doesn’t always spawn. The bunch of Vultures and Eagles nearby always spawn at least one or two, so at the very least you can definitely get away with one helicopter, but the Tornado is finicky.
I should point out, flying over in a helicopter doesn’t work. The Tornado rarely spawns if you do that. Your best bet is to actually fly a plane realllllly high over the base then parachute down. You can’t really climb the building to get in easily with the military shooting at you, but feasibly the Genki cannon vehicle could work.
In Saints Row 4, there’s only three Tornados you can obtain. The SWAT Tornado involves messing around with a Mayhem activity and is a pain in the ass to actually get your hands on. The black Assault Tornado also appears, the same one that appears on top of the (formerly) STAG-owned building, just sitting there. Well, there’s a tower in the way in Saints Row 4 but the Tornado’s just sitting on a building nearby.
The Tan Tornado is also obtained in the same way as before.
But they are even easier to obtain. Like, it’s insanely easy. Literally all you have to do is get to the chopper, climb inside and press N (or whatever key you’ve got it set to) to save the Tornado into your garage. You can do that with both the Tan and Black helicopters with ease, doubly so if you’ve been upgrading your powers so you can wall-jump and run up walls. You climb in, press N and it’s yours.
Sure, you have to deal with the 3/4 star rating and the alien bastards being pissed off at you, but you have the Tornado now. And you don’t need to make it back to your base or anything either.
Actually, you can wipe your notoriety insanely quickly by immediately starting a Virus Injection/Survival or attacking any of the gang/alien control points nearby. Finishing those missions will wipe your notoriety and let you move on without any hassle. If you have a coop partner, you can do this even faster, wiping notoriety the second you leave the restricted area.
The last Tornado, a purple Saints Tornado in both games, can’t be obtained outside of a handful of missions. Which sucks because you can’t customize helicopters without mods.
Then again, in Saints Row 4, you don’t need helicopters. But it’s worth grabbing them anyway.