The mysterious organization known as "The FIRM" is a covert branch of the Central Intelligence Agency, whose Deputy Director, Michael Coldsmith Briggs III (Alex Cord), is code-named Archangel.

In the first two seasons, Archangel is often assisted by Marella (Deborah Pratt). She had doctorates in Aeronautical Engineering, Electronic Engineering, Psychology,Microbiology, and French Literature, and was one year away from completing her Medical Doctorate as of the episode "Fallen Angel." Marella is last seen in the second season closing episode "Short Walk to Freedom;" in the third season, her place was taken by a number of different actresses.

The first season of the series was dark, arc-driven, and quite reflective of the contemporary Cold War, with the FIRM personnel distinctly dressed in white, implicitly boasting that "wearing white hats" distinguished them as good, instead of evil. Hawke remained unconvinced, and Santini was skeptical also; this was explained in "Daddy’s Gone a Hunt’n." Early episodes frequently detailed the efforts of the United States government to secure Airwolf from Hawke who is officially charged with having stolen it. Because CBS wanted to make the series more family-oriented, the program was transformed during Season Two into a more light-hearted show with Hawke and Santini being portrayed as cooperative partners with the FIRM.

The FIRM, during the first three seasons, served as both ally and enemy for Hawke and Santini; when an opportunity to seize Airwolf presented itself, FIRM operatives often took it.