Naval Air Station Sigonella
|Naval Air Station Sigonella
Base aerea di Sigonella
|IATA: NSY – ICAO: LICZ
|Operator||United States Navy
Italian Air Force
|Built||15 June 1959|
|Elevation AMSL||79 ft / 24 m|
Naval Air Station Sigonella (IATA: NSY, ICAO: LICZ), "The Hub of the Med", is a U.S. Navy installation at NATO Base Sigonella and an Italian Air Force base (Italian: Base aerea di Sigonella) in Sicily, Italy. Although a tenant of the Italian Air Force, NAS Sigonella acts as landlord to more than 40 other U.S. commands and activities. It is located 15 km (8 NM) west and 11 km (6 NM) south of the city of Catania, and some 40 km (22 NM) south of Mount Etna. Because of its location near the center of the Mediterranean Sea, NASSIG is well-placed to support operations by the U.S. 6th Fleet, other U.S. military units, and U.S. allies and coalition partners.
It also serves as an Italian base for the 41º Stormo Antisom (41st Antisubmarine Warfare Wing).
Among the aircraft that fly from this island base are U.S. Air Force C-130, C-17 and C-5 airlifters, KC-135 and KC-10 tankers and U.S. Navy P-3 Orions, C-2 Greyhounds C-130s, and C-9B Skytrain IIs and C-40A Clippers, and Italian Air Force Breguet Br.1150 Atlantics. It is one of the most frequently used stops for U.S. airlift aircraft bound from the continental United States to Southwest Asia and the Indian Ocean.
NAS Sigonella has the best claim to be hub of U.S. naval air operations in the Mediterranean. The base command is landlord to more than 40 other U.S. units. Among the largest are a rotating P-3C patrol squadron; a Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station; and a U.S. Naval Hospital. The hospital was built in 1992. Previously, there was only a clinic and the closest U.S. Naval Hospital was at Naples. Sigonella is home to more than 4,000 troops, civilian personnel, and family members.
NAS Sigonella is the Navy's second largest security command, second only to that located at Naval Support Activity Bahrain. NAS Sigonella also has a large support of security personnel from NR NSF Sigonella, a Navy Reserve command based out of NOSC Detroit at Selfridge ANGB, Michigan.
The base comprises two sections: NAS I was the site of the original U.S. base but is now a support facility and NAS II which includes the runways, operations and most tenant commands. NAS I also contains the Navy Exchange and Commissary, the school, and some homes, mainly for the commodore of Task Force 67, the air station commanding officer, air station executive officer and commanding officers of tenant activities. NAS I also is host to other facilities, mainly for entertainment. NAS II is now only used as a service base.
The United States Naval Air Facility (NAF), Sigonella, was established 15 June 1959; its first commanding officer was CAPT Walter J. Frazier. The facility was conceived in the early 1950s, when plans to base U.S. Navy P2V Neptunes at Hal Far, Malta began to outgrow the facility.
When there was no room for expansion at Malta, the U.S. Navy obtained NATO backing to be hosted by Sicilians. Italy made land available under a temporary agreement signed 25 June 1957. Six days later, Landing Ship Tank (LSTs) began to deliver equipment from the Malta base.
Ground was broken in September, and construction on the administrative area at NAF I was started in 1958. It was built on top of an airfield where damaged fighters and bombers of the German Air Force had once landed during the Second World War. The first Americans arrived for work at Sigonella in March 1959—six months before any buildings were ready—and so worked for six months in Catania at a large warehouse complex called Magazzino Generale (General Warehouse), which is opposite the cemetery on the right side of the street as one enters Catania from the base.
By the end of August 1959, the NAF II airfield was available for daylight flights under visual flight rules (VFR); 24 flights were logged by 31 August.
One of Sigonella's first buildings was what is now the American Forces Network (AFN) building. In 1958, that building was Sigonella's vector (pest) control center, where rat poison was stored. The Army Corps of Engineers next used the building for their offices, later sharing it with Special Services, or what is now called Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR). Around 1966, AFN came to Sigonella and joined Special Services, which soon moved out, leaving the building to the broadcasters.
Sigonella's first flood occurred mid-September 1959. The Dittaino Bridge between NAF I and NAF II was under six feet of water on 20 September and all traffic had to go through Catania. Power outages accompanied the floods.
In the 1980s, Naval Air Facility Sigonella was redesignated as a Naval Air Station.
On the night of 10 October 1985, there were tense hours on NAS II when the Italian Carabinieri, Italian Air Force, and the American Navy SEALs came close to firing upon one another following the interception by Navy F-14 Tomcat fighters of an Egyptian Boeing 737 airliner carrying the hijackers of the Italian cruise ship, the Achille Lauro, which had been commandeered by members of the PLO on 7 October. The hijackers had killed a Jewish-American citizen Leon Klinghoffer. The F-14s instructed the Egyptian plane to land at Sigonella where the Americans had planned to take the hijackers into custody. The Italian Prime Minister Bettino Craxi instead claimed the hijackers were under Italian jurisdiction. The Italian authorities therefore refused to allow the SEALs to board the plane, threatening to open fire on the Americans had they made an attempt to do so. This move was supposedly dictated both by security concerns about terrorists targeting Italy if the United States had had it their way, and by the Italian tradition of diplomacy with the Arab world. The ensuing stand-off lasted throughout the night, until President Ronald Reagan gave the orders for the Americans to stand down.
In late 1985, work crews belonging to NMCB 133 were repairing and installing sidewalks in the housing area at NAS I when they uncovered a small stockpile of Luftwaffe antiaircraft ammunition. The stockpile had apparently belonged to an antiaircraft position that had been buried during raids in the Allied invasion of 1943.
On 1 April 2004, the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) opened Defense Depot Sigonella Italy on NAS II to serve as a supply base for the Mediterranean. DLA also provides fuel and property disposal from NAS II.
Sigonella suffered its second major flood mid December 2005. Over 400 service members and family evacuated. In 2006, a newly installed protective berm prevented a nearly second consecutive year of flooding.
When NATO took military intervention to Libya in 2011, NAS Sigonella played an important role in US Operation Odyssey Dawn because of its short distance to the country. As Libya remained unstable in 2013, a Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force–Crisis Response unit was formed and an element of this was moved to the base to be within V-22 range of Libya.
The airport resides at an elevation of 79 feet (24 m) above mean sea level. It has two asphalt paved runways: 10R/28L which measures 2,462 by 45 metres (8,077 ft × 148 ft) and 10L/28R measuring 2,442 by 28 metres (8,012 ft × 92 ft).
Most permanent party military personnel and families are housed in Marinai, located 2 minutes from NAS II and approximately 10–15 minutes from NAS I. Marinai flooded in December 2005 displacing many families temporarily. Also in Marinai is Boy Scout Troop 53 and Cub Scout Pack 53. Previously, "Mineo" was used as a housing base, but has since been returned to Italian Nationals and is no longer in service. Temporarily deployed unaccompanied military personnel, typically from rotational squadrons deployed from the United States, are housed in bachelor enlisted quarters and bachelor officer quarters located at NAS II.
From 1987 to 2002, there was a base housing development Villaggio Costanzo which was located in the village of Santa Maria La Stella, in the comune of Aci Sant'Antonio, and approximately 60 minutes from NAS I. The closest community to the base is Motta Sant'Anastasia, where many military personnel and their families live in rented accommodation on the economy. Relations between the Americans and the local Italian nationals are cordial, despite some anti-American demonstrations outside the base protesting the Iraq War. Many Italian nationals are employed as civilian workers at the base.
See also 
- Airport information for LICZ from DAFIF (effective October 2006)
- Airport information for NSY at Great Circle Mapper. Source: DAFIF (effective Oct. 2006).
- Stars and Stripes Europe, 25 October 1985
- "US Repositioning 200 Marines in Italy as Precaution for Libya Unrest."
- "Marine rapid reaction unit moved to Italy amid escalating crisis in Libya."
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