By Lt. Ryan E. Miller, Task Force 67 Public Affairs
With staff and major support commands based here in lovely Sigonella, Commander, Task Force (CTF) 67 is responsible for command and tactical control of deployed maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft (MPRA) squadrons along with several rotary aircraft units throughout the European and African areas of responsibility (AOR).
“2020 has been a challenge, but CTF 67 has risen to that challenge,” noted Capt. Tim Thompson, commander of CTF 67 and commander, Fleet Air Sigonella (CFAS). “While the majority of our forces are often on the road, the hub here in Sigonella has kept our team properly resourced for operations forward.”
The team Thompson is referring to includes permanently stationed CTF 67 staff, CFAS staff, Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Detachment (AIMD), Aviation Supply Depot (ASD), and Tactical Operation Center (TOC) Sailors, officers, and civilians.
This year, these deployed aircraft have included P-8A Poseidon aircraft, combat aircrews, and maintenance personnel from the Patrol Squadron (VP) 4 Skinny Dragons, VP-47 Golden Swordsmen, and VP-16 War Eagles, all of whom completed six-month deployments to the AOR, and the current VP-9 Golden Eagles and VP-46 Grey Knights. Alongside each squadron were forces from Mobile Tactical Operations Center (MTOC) 8, MTOC 1, and MTOC 4, respectively, and the current MTOC 2 and MTOC 6. These MTOCs supplement TOC Sigonella, which acts as the nerve center with tracking and coordinating operational aircraft in real-time. These teams have accounted for almost 1,050 individual flight events over the past year.
Beyond Sigonella, support has also come from the VP-26 Tridents, who supplemented with 23 flight events during a critical operation. Additionally around the AOR, helicopters from Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 79 Griffins, a helicopter from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 28 Ghost Rider, and an EP-3C ARIES II aircraft from Reconnaissance Squadron (VQ) 1 World Watches have supported the theater.
On top of their normal requirements, deployed forces needed to overcome additional obstacles to include COVID tests, quarantines, and restriction of movement. Despite these new challenges, operational commitments were fully achieved. Often, this was due to air-to-air refueling and quick gas-and-go stops in which the team stays on the plane, allowing operations without breaking safety boundaries. This success is a testament of the entire Navy and Joint team coming together to support operations.
Lt. Cmdr. Peter Andrew, the Officer in Charge (OIC) of TOC Sigonella, spoke in praise of the hardworking watchstanders who have worked through the hardships
“Through travel restrictions and other challenges, we’re happy that we are able to continue to support deployed MPRA during these difficult times,” he said.
Under his leadership, TOC Sigonella has tracked over 9,300 flight hours of P-8A and EP-3C aircraft this year.
Over the last 12 months, forces have conducted real world intelligence collection, submarine tracking, Search and Rescue, and Allied and partnership cooperation. A great example of this partnership was VP-4’s and MTOC 8’s work during NATO’s DYNAMIC MANTA exercise, which ran from Feb. 24 until March 6, east of the Sicilian coastline. During this exercise, Sigonella was critical in basing aviation assets from the U.S., Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and Turkey.
2020 has been a highly successful year for CTF 67, and we look forward to the next year with new challenges and an expected completion of new P-8A hangers here in Sigonella. Thanks for all you do each day to help our team achieve operational success.
Task Force 67 is composed of land-based maritime patrol aircraft that operate over the waters of the Mediterranean in anti-submarine, reconnaissance, surveillance, and mining roles. Task Force 67′s official mission is to provide responsive, interoperable, and expeditionary combat ready maritime patrol aircraft and supporting forces to U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa and U.S. Sixth Fleet.
U.S. Sixth Fleet, headquartered in Naples, Italy, conducts the full spectrum of joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied and interagency partners, in order to advance U.S. national interests and security and stability in Europe and Africa.