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For other uses, see Seaspray (disambiguation).
Active 1981-?
Branch United States Army
Role Covert air transport and intelligence
Size Company-sized
Garrison/HQ Fort Eustis, Virginia

SEASPRAY was a joint U.S. Army special operations and CIA clandestine aviation unit.[1][2][3][4]

The CIA and U.S. Army decided to establish SEASPRAY in March 1981 as part of an expansion of the Army's covert special forces capability. The company-sized unit was initially equipped with unmarked Hughes 500D helicopters which were modified for their role, and was based at Fort Eustis in Virginia.[4] The unit later also acquired Cessna and Beechcraft King Air fixed-wing aircraft. In line with typical CIA practices, these helicopters and aircraft were not included in the official register of U.S. Army aircraft and were instead registered as belonging to a company called Aviation Tech Services.[3] The existence of SEASPRAY did not become publicly known until 1985.[4]

In April 1981 a SEASPRAY helicopter flew Lebanese Christian leader Bachir Gemayel from Cairo to Lebanon as the first stage of a trip to the United States.[4] From 1982 until 1985 SEASPRAY fixed-wing aircraft conducted signals intelligence sorties over Honduras.[5] In the early 1980s the Army rejected a proposal from the CIA that SEASPRAY aircraft be used to follow small aircraft which were potentially being used to smuggle weapons from Nicaragua to El Salvador, and the CIA conducted this operation using civilian aircrews instead.[5] SEASPRAY established a base at Tampa, Florida to support its operations in Central America.[3] SEASPRAY has also been reported to have assisted the CIA to "obtain, exploit and spoof foreign aircraft and technology".[6]

Michael Smith's 2011 book Killer Elite states that SEASPRAY was placed under the control of the Intelligence Support Activity (ISA) at an unspecified date. Following this change the unit was renamed the Flight Concepts Division, and operated under the code name "Quasar Talent". As of the time the book was published, the unit was reported to form part of the Joint Special Operations Command and was used to covertly transport ISA, CIA, Delta Force and SEAL Team Six personnel.[7]

Sean Naylor's 'Relentless Strike' reported in 2015 that the unit became, at some point, E Squadron, Delta Force.[8]


  1. ^ Bamford, James (July 3, 1988). "Where Secret Armies Clash By Night". The Washington Post. via HighBeam (subscription required). Next was Seaspray, a joint Army/CIA aviation unit that specialized in deep penetrations with specially rigged helicopters. 
  2. ^ Weiner, Tim (February 10, 1987). "Covert Forces Multiply, Some Run Amok". And, they said, there were similar problems in a Special Operations unit code-named Seaspray, which flew aerial reconnaissance missions in Central America for the CIA and the National Security Agency. 
  3. ^ a b c Paglen, Trevor (February 5, 2009). Blank Spots on the Map: The Dark Geography of the Pentagon's Secret World. Penguin Publishing Group. pp. 162–. ISBN 978-1-101-01149-2. 
  4. ^ a b c d Hersh, Seymour M. (November 22, 1987). "Who's In Charge Here?". The New York Times. In March 1981, Longhofer's unit went operational. The Army and the C.I.A. agreed to set up a special aviation company, called Seaspray. 
  5. ^ a b LeoGrande, William M. (1998). Our Own Backyard: The United States in Central America, 1977-1992. Chapel Hill, North Carolina Press: University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 0807898805. 
  6. ^ Ambinder, Marc; Grady, D.B. (2012). The Command deep Inside the President's Secret Army. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 1118346726. 
  7. ^ Smith, Michael (2011). Killer Elite: America's Most Secret Soldiers. London: Hachette. ISBN 1908059060. 
  8. ^ Naylor, Sean (2015-09-01). Relentless Strike: The Secret History of Joint Special Operations Command. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 9781466876224. 

Further reading[edit]