In response to national policy, the USN and USAF in 1949 created a highly secretive program known as the Special Electronic Airborne Search Project (SESP), which was a program designed to equip certain aircraft with SIGINT equipment and man them with SIGINT trained crews.

USAF was initially assigned the Baltic, Gulf of Bosnia, Murmansk, Caucasus, and the Far East. USN initially covered the Black Sea and Mediterranean Sea. BUT each service flew coordinated tracks in each other's areas as directed for national projects. In 1951, USN expanded to the Far East.

The Navy crews were operators, linguists, cryptologists, technicians, and all the CT rate sub-specialties. Many enlisted men in the 1950's were in other ratings with special NEC intelligence program codes - for example I was an AT, AQ, and PT at different times, with special intelligence NECs.

Basically the Western hemisphere crews operating out of Port Lyautey were attached to the Naval Communication Unit (NCU) 32 group but the aircraft were administratively assigned to squadrons in Fleet Air Wing (FAW) 15 at Port Lyautey. The Eastern hemisphere was covered by NCU-31.

NCU-31/32 backenders flew with VC, VP, and VW squadrons, often in Detachment A, and in 1955 became Electronic Countermeasure Squadrons One & Two (VQ-1 & VQ-2).

By the mid-1950's, Navy SIGINT operations were accomplished by Naval Security Group (NSG) personnel. The NSG evolved out of the earlier Navy SIGINT efforts and formally adopted this title in 1950.

The photographs at the link are of US Navy aircraft used by NCU-32, and were taken by Gaynor Abbott, Aviation Electronics Technician First Class (AT1). He passed in 2008, age 78.

The photographs were sent to John Herndon prior to Mr. Abbott's passing who in turn provided them to Lou Demas' excellent Port Lyautey webstite.


Some of the photographs were beginning to deteriorate and this Port Lyautey web-editor is grateful for the talents of Mr. Jerry Zimmerman, a Navy photographer at Port Lyautey in the 1947 - 48 time frame, for taking the time to enhance certain photographs in the collection which are noted. Anyone who may have additional information regarding the photographs, crash incidents or other information per these photographs is invited to share that information on this page.



JerrCrewman Gaynor Abbot fueling aircraft

rCrewman Gaynor Abbot fueling aircraft on wing

rCrewman Gaynor Abbot and fellow aircrew members

rGaynor Abbot on left

rGaynor Abbot

rSome of the other cew-members and their rates can still be made out