The Sicilian military base has been transformed into one of the largest centers on the planet for the command and control unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). From spy to killer drones, what does Sigonella represent today?
Trump and Putin – they can’t be serious, can they? Are we really back in the years of the USA-USSR Cold War? It's hard to answer, but the "game" between the two sides in effect re-launched the arms race, especially the nuclear one, cancelling with a swipe of the eraser the hard-won treaties prohibiting the presence of atomic missiles in the heart of Europe. Now no day passes without U.S. spy aircraft making provocations on the western borders of Russia, in the Crimea and Black Sea or with the very secret sorties of drones in the skies of Ukraine and the Donbass.
In words, the Italian government calls for détente and it certainly does not intend to undermine relations with the Russia-based gas and oil transnationals; however, Italy plays a key role in supporting the dangerous war operations of its close ally, the USA. It does so by offering a launch platform to the new large patrol aircraft -- the U.S. Navy P-8A "Poseidon" or the "Global Hawk," UAVs which, with their sophisticated equipment, monitor every square millimeter of the Russian homeland. For the Pentagon, the "platform" has a code name: The Hub of the Med,, i.e. the large Sigonella air and sea station located just a stone's throw (five miles) from the city of Catania, where, according to the Rome-Washington agreements, a large portion of the base is reserved for the exclusive use of the U.S. armed forces.
For some time now, Sigonella has been the permanent home of an air force to track the movement of Russian ships and submarines in the Mediterranean and of air and land units located in Syria. In recent weeks, the Hub of the Med has seen very intense activity of drones, fighters, helicopters and the "P8A-Poseidon" surveillance aircraft. In the waters of the lower Tyrrhenian Sea, the Ionian Sea and the central Mediterranean, an extensive NATO exercise is currently underway, simulating the hunting of "enemy" nuclear submarines (Dynamic Manta 2019, Feb. 26-March 7).
These war games turn Sicily into a giant death camp, confirming what has long been claimed by the peace activists of the island: Sigonella in reality is a cancer in metastases that spreads bases and garrisons everywhere and militarizes society. The U.S. and NATO exercises from the naval station spread to its affiliate centers in Sicily: the U.S. operations center in Pachino; Niscemi (satellite telecommunications facilities and MUOS terminal); Augusta (port of supply of weapons and diesel fuel for war units and nuclear submarines); the airports of Catania-Fontanarossa, Trapani-Birgi, Pantelleria and Lampedusa; the polygons of Piazza Armerina and Punta Bianca (Agrigento), etc.
Sigonella is all this and more. The base now houses 34 strategic commands with over 5,000 U.S. troops; as for importance, "NAS Sigonella hosts the US Navy's second largest security command after the one based at naval support activity Bahrain," as the Pentagon explains. The geographical area of operation is considerable: from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean, from the African continent to Eastern Europe, the Middle East and South-East Asia.
Since the bloody conflict in Vietnam [ended in 1975], there has been no war scenario in which the Sigonella hub has not played a central role: against Gaddafi's Libya in the 1980s; in Lebanon in 1982; the first and second Gulf wars; the Allied bombings on Kosovo and Serbia in 1999 and those on Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria in the 21st century; the U.S. campaigns in the sub-Saharan regions and in the Horn of Africa; the final liquidation of the Libyan regime in 2011 and today's repeated raids in Cyrenaica and Tripolitania with the use of the notorious killer drones (in the period between August and December 2016 alone, during the offensive against the pro-ISIS militias present in the city of Sirte, the U.S. carried out as many as 495 missile attacks, 60 percent of them thanks to the Reaper drones –that for the most part took off from Sicily).
In recent years the Sicilian base has been transformed into one of the largest centers on the planet for the command and control UAVsthat have relentlessly changed the very concept of war, automating and dehumanizing it more and more. The spy and killer drones of the U.S. Navy and Air Force operate in Sigonella, as well as the UAS SATCOM Relay Pads and Facility for satellite telecommunications and the operations of all the pilotless CIA and Pentagon aircraft in every corner of the world. The facility allows the transmission of data necessary for the flight and attack plans of the new war systems, operating as a "twin station" of the German site of Ramstein and the large airfield of Creech (Nevada).
By the summer of 2019, the sophisticated NATO command, control and intelligence system AGS (Alliance Ground Surveillance), the most expensive program in the history of the Atlantic Alliance, will also be operational in Sigonella. The AGS will consist of fixed, mobile and transportable ground stations for planning and operational support of missions, plus an aerial component with five latest-generation Global Hawk surveillance aircraft.
The role assumed in the nuclear supremacy programs of the United States of America is also decisive. Secretly, without the Italian government ever having considered it necessary to inform Parliament and public opinion, in 2018 the Joint Tactical Ground Station (JTAGS), the satellite reception and transmission station of the "early warning" system for identifying the launch of ballistic theatre missiles with nuclear, chemical, biological or conventional warheads, came into operation in Sigonella.
It is a kind of protective shield that is anything but defensive: thanks to the "preventive" control of any possible "enemy" missile operation, it becomes possible to unleash the first nuclear strike, avoiding or limiting the retaliation of the enemy and therefore the dangers of the so-called "Mutual assured destruction" that up to now has prevented a worldwide nuclear holocaust.
Moreover, in May 2001, one of the 15 ground stations of the Global HF System, the high-frequency communications system created by the U.S. Air Force to integrate the network of the Strategic Air Command and ensure control over all aircraft and warships, was transferred to the Sicilian base. One of the most important aspects of the GHF system is the transmission of military orders that have absolute priority, first of all SkyKing messages that include nuclear attack codes.
The European Union and the border control agencies have also focused on Sigonella to strengthen their activities to control and combat migration in the Mediterranean. In fact, the units and aircraft with and without pilots used within the EunavforMed air and sea force (Operation Sophia) were located at the Sicilian base; since September 2013, the Sicilian airport also provided technical and operational support to the various Frontex assets coming from some EU countries (Operation Triton)
The Italian Air Force has also actively contributed to the transformation of Sigonella into a strategic base for the new total war on migrants and migrations. In particular, the 61st Flying Group, equipped with MQ-1C "Predator" drones, was set up here with the aim of "consolidating and strengthening the national security system for surveillance activities in the Mediterranean area." For a year now, the 41st Antisubmarine Warfare Wing of Sigonella has also had its own new ultra-technological weapon system: the all-weather maritime patrol aircraft P-72A, which the strategists hope to use soon to support the all-round projections of the Italian armed forces.
Finally, in the Sicilian station, the Carabinieri Helicopter Squadron "Cacciatori di Sicilia" was set up with a wide range of functions: "anti-terrorism, the search for Cosa Nostra absconders, the prevention and repression of crimes, aid in the rescue of public disasters, etc."
All of these interventions reproduce that new condition of hot peace, that is, the "transfer of responsibilities from the civil sector to the military institutions" widely described by the German researcher Jacqueline Andres Carlo in a recent essay on The Hub of The Med. A reading of the US military geography in Sicily (Sicilia Punto L publisher). "Operations other than war, but which in fact are real new forms and actions of war under the command of the Italian, EU, US and NATO armed forces," explains Andres Carlo. "Just as the advancement of the war against irregular immigration up to the measures taken against maritime terrorism has had as a further consequence the subjection of the entire Mediterranean to the policies of security and almost absolute surveillance of public spaces ...".
Sigonella stands as an emblem of modern doctrines on conflicts: global, all-encompassing, all-inclusive, where the "enemy" is everywhere and can be anyone. Where the spaces of expression, freedom and political practicability of the citizens themselves are reduced to zero and the planet accelerates its crazy race towards the abyss and the annihilation of all forms of life.
The original article was first published in Mosaico di Pace, nr. 4, April 2019, under the title "Da Sigonella in poi".