Naval Air Station Sigonella

Coordinates: 37°24′06″N 014°55′20″E / 37.40167°N 14.92222°E / 37.40167; 14.92222
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Naval Air Station Sigonella
Base aerea di Sigonella
Near Catania, Sicily in Italy
A C-5 Galaxy of the US Air Force at NAS Sigonella, against the backdrop of nearby Mount Etna
Sigonella is located in Sicily
Location in Sicily
Coordinates37°24′06″N 014°55′20″E / 37.40167°N 14.92222°E / 37.40167; 14.92222
TypeItalian Air Force base with US Navy Naval Air Station
Site information
OwnerItalian Ministry of Defence
Controlled by
WebsiteOfficial website
Site history
Built1957 – 1959
In use1959 (1959) – present
Garrison information
Airfield information
IdentifiersIATA: NSY, ICAO: LICZ, WMO: 164590
Elevation24 metres (79 ft) AMSL
Direction Length and surface
10R/28L 2,462 metres (8,077 ft) Asphalt
10L/28R 2,442 metres (8,012 ft) Asphalt

Naval Air Station (NAS) Sigonella (IATA: NSY, ICAO: LICZ) is an Italian Air Force base (Italian: Aeroporto "Cosimo Di Palma" di Sigonella), and a U.S. Navy installation at Italian Air Force Base Sigonella in Sicily, Italy. The whole NAS is a tenant of the Italian Air Force, which has the military and the administrative control.[1] It serves as an Italian base for the 41º Stormo Antisom (41st Antisubmarine Warfare Wing). NAS Sigonella acts also as landlord to more than 40 other U.S. commands and activities. It is located 15 kilometres (9 mi) west and 11 km (7 mi) south of the city of Catania, and some 40 km (25 mi) south of Mount Etna.

The NAS is located in the western part of the large airport structure, while the Italian military base is located in the eastern part. 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.

Among the aircraft that fly from this island base are Italian Air Force ATR 72MP ( which replaced the Breguet Br.1150 Atlantic in 2017) and United States Air Force C-130, C-17 and C-5 airlifters, KC-135 and KC-10 tankers and U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidons, C-2 Greyhounds, and C-40A Clippers.

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-8A 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 in NRC Detroit at Selfridge ANGB, Michigan.

The Naval Air Station 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.

In Sigonella is based also the Alliance Ground Surveillance Force (NAGSF) with five RQ-4D Phoenix remotely piloted aircraft and the associated European-sourced ground command and control stations.


The United States Naval Air Facility (NAF), Sigonella, was established 15 June 1959. Its first commanding officer was Captain 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 1965 the Italian Air Force sited at Sigonella the 41st Antisubmarine Warfare Wing (86st Gruppo and 88st Gruppo) with mixed crews from the Air Force and Navy.

In the 1980s, "Naval Air Facility" Sigonella was redesignated as a "Naval Air Station".

In 1983 the base was named after World War II pilot Captain Cosimo Di Palma (it), who was shot down by the Luftwaffe while on a mission with the Italian Co-belligerent Air Force and was honored with the Gold medal of Military Valor.

NAS Sigonella during flooding in December 2005.

On the night of 10 October 1985, there were tense hours on NAS II when the Italian Carabinieri, Italian Air Force, and the US Army's Delta Force came close to firing upon one another following the interception by US 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 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 Navy SEALs to board the plane, threatening to open fire on the Americans had they made an attempt to do so. The ensuing stand-off lasted throughout the night, until President Ronald Reagan gave the orders for the Americans to stand down. The hijackers were eventually tried and sentenced by an Italian court.[2]

A taxiway on NAS Sigonella

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.[3]

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.[4][5]

In 2019, an investigation by Sigonella's Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) office and the local Carabinieri led to the arrest of 18 individuals suspected of stealing over 100,000 litres (22,000 imp gal; 26,000 US gal) of JP-5 jet fuel. According to the investigators, the criminal operation, which involved the siphoning of jet fuel from a pipeline connecting Augusta Bay with NAS Sigonella, had been ongoing for almost 3 years and caused approximately 800,000 Euros in damages.[6]

During the COVID-19 pandemic in Italy, most of the base including recreational facilities, daycare programs and the school were shut down to slow the spread of the COVID-19 Coronavirus.[7]


Entrance to the Sigonella air base

The Base Operating and Support Services contractor Gemmo is responsible for pest management at the station.[8]


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).[9]


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[10] 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.

Educational opportunities[edit]

Family support includes pre-Kindergarten and Department of Defense Dependent Schools (DoDDs) K-12 schooling. In-person college-level courses are delivered by several universities.[11] In particular, the University of Maryland Global Campus – Europe (formerly the European Division)[12] offers a wide range of courses, depending on demand.

Based units[edit]

Flying and notable non-flying units based at NAS Sigonella.[13][14][15][16][17][18]

Units marked GSU are Geographically Separate Units, which although based at Sigonella, are subordinate to a parent unit based at another location.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Coletta, Francesco (2011). "Le basi militari alleate in Italia aspetti di rilevanza per l'attività di Polizia Militare". (in Italian). Archived from the original on 29 September 2021.
  2. ^ Taylor, Adam (24 May 2021). "As countries condemn Belarus flight diversion, critics accuse West of similar tactics". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 25 May 2021.
  3. ^ Stars and Stripes Europe, 25 October 1985
  4. ^ "US Repositioning 200 Marines in Italy as Precaution for Libya Unrest."
  5. ^ "Marine rapid reaction unit moved to Italy amid escalating crisis in Libya."
  6. ^ Scianna, Janine (18 October 2019). "Operation 'Black Gold' Nabs 18 Perpetrators of Sigonella Jet Fuel: Sigonella's Carabinieri and NCIS Team Up to Investigate". DVIDS. Sigonella, Italy. Retrieved 1 August 2022.
  7. ^ "Facilities on US bases shuttered as Italy closes just about everything to fight coronavirus"
  8. ^ "Base Operating and Support Services (BOSS) at U.S. Naval Air Station Sigonella, Sicily". Gemmo SpA. 2008. Retrieved 16 September 2022.
  9. ^ Airport information for LICZ[usurped] from DAFIF (effective October 2006)
  10. ^ Boy Scout Troop 53
  11. ^ "NAS Sigonella Sicily, Italy—Installation Overview".
  12. ^ "Sigonella | UMGC Europe".
  13. ^ Carmelo, Lgt. Savoca (13 November 2018). "Cambio di comando al 41° Stormo" [Change of command at the 41st Wing]. Aeronautica Militare (in Italian). Retrieved 20 December 2020.
  14. ^ "Tenant Commands". Commander, Navy Region Europe, Africa, Central – Naval Air Station Sigonella. United States Navy. Retrieved 20 December 2020.
  15. ^ "7 Reconnaissance Squadron (ACC)". Air Force Historical Research Agency. US Air Force. 31 July 2019. Retrieved 20 December 2020.
  16. ^ "324 Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron (USAFE)". Air Force Historical Research Agency. US Air Force. 10 May 2017. Retrieved 20 December 2020.
  17. ^ "Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS)". NATO. 25 November 2019. Retrieved 20 December 2020.
  18. ^ AirForces Monthly. Stamford, Lincolnshire, England: Key Publishing Ltd. April 2021. p. 10.

External links[edit]