In anticipation of possible evacuation of American officials from Libya, more Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft and KC-130 tankers have been deployed to Sigonella.
With tension raising in Libya, a U.S. crisis-response team deployed to Sigonella, in southeastern Sicily, to prepare for a possible evacuation of American personnel from the embassy in Tripoli.
Seven MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft supported by three KC-130Js along with a force of about 180 Marines and sailors have been forward deployed to Italy. They will be joined by another Osprey expected in the next few hours.
If called to facilitate the evacuation of the U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya, the aircraft would be able to reach the Tripoli in little more than one hour. Indeed, Sigonella is the perfect location to launch a Special Operation in North Africa.
Actually, this is not the first the U.S. has reinforced its presence in Sicily since the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that cost the life of ambassador Chris Stevens and three others.
Immediately after the deadly attack, the Pentagon mobilized a Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team (FAST), an expeditionary group of skilled and very well equipped Marines capable to reinforce U.S. security forces at embassies and other key installations around the world, to the Mediterranean region.
Last October some 250 marines (200 according to some sources) were deployed from Moron, Spain, to Sigonella, to face potential threats to U.S. diplomats in Libya, that could be sparked by the Delta Force raid to capture Abu Anas al Libi, Al Qaeda leader in the North African country.
In May 2013, 500 American marines were moved from Spain to Sigonella amid growing tensions in Libya.
The Crisis Response Team took also part in embassy evacuations in South Sudan, in December last year during which a CV-22 of the Air Force Special Operations Command was hit by ground fire.
Sigonella, is one of NATO’s largest airbases in southern Europe; it often hosts U.S. warplanes on deployment, tanker aircraft supporting them as well as drones spying on Mali, Global Hawks involved in the search for 200 Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram in Nigeria, and maritime patrol aircraft.
Image credit: U.S. Marine Corps