Situated in eastern Sicily – the Mediterranean’s largest island – the Sigonella Naval Air Station is the main operating base for NATO’s Alliance Ground Surveillance Force (NAGSF). 

As well as hosting the U.S. Navy’s second largest security command, it is also one of the most frequently used stops for U.S. aircraft bound from North America to Southwest Asia and the Indian Ocean. 

In July 2018, a major project began to expand the air base. This involved constructing two areas of approximately 70,000 square metres each: a land-side operations area and an air-side area with hangars and a runway for remotely piloted aircraft. 

We were appointed by NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA) as Quality Assurance Engineers and Site Inspectors for the project. Our role involved providing ongoing support throughout the work’s management – from health and safety coordination to testing during construction.  

What was AECOM’s role in the expansion of Sigonella Naval Air Station? 

This project, developed according to Minimum Military Requirement (MMR) standards, involved the construction of several facilities. These include: 

·       Four hangars for the cleaning and maintenance of five Global Hawk aircraft 

·       Logistics and support buildings (warehouses, buildings for the shelter of NATO ISR Forcewheeled vehicles, electrical substations and water treatment plant) 

·       Buildings for office use and secured buildings for remote controlling of the aircraft 

The works also comprised all the necessary infrastructure, including subservices, roads, and apron. Additionally, to guarantee the specified Class I and II NATO security across facilities, complex security systems were installed throughout. 

Our role on this project included verifying documents, ensuring they were complete, technically accurate and compliant with the contractual documents before their submission to NSPA; reviewing construction drawings produced by the contractor and preparing design review reports; and assessing the quality control of the construction works. We also acted as health and safety coordinator and building tester – both of which are statutory roles for construction projects in Italy.  

Mitigating risks and ensuring environmental sustainability 

Mitigating climate risks and increasing sustainability were important considerations in this project. In December 2005, the Sigonella base was hit by a major flood, which resulted in the evacuation of more than 400 service members and families. Consequently, there was a need to address this in the design to ensure resilience against future floods and major weather events. 

Drawing on our expertise, we advised on measures to ensure the long-term sustainability of the new infrastructure. As well as advanced management of rainwater and wastewater, these measures included using environmentally sustainable recycled materials and installing 600 photovoltaic panels, which generate clean energy by converting sunlight into electricity.  

Sigonella naval air station
Construction of the Sigonella naval air station.

Greener, more efficient infrastructure  

Thanks to our technical excellence, we provided added quality and risk mitigation to the project during the construction phase. By collaborating closely across teams, we were able to maintain a positive work environment and build a strong relationship with the client as a result. 

“This complex project demonstrates our ability to deliver complex solutions in support of NATO military requirements,” said Stacy Cummings, NSPA General Manager. “The new infrastructure will reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions, while providing a safe and operationally effective workplace for those contributing to the NATO ISR Force mission.”