The 6917th U.S Air Force Security Group (USAFSS) opened San Vito dei Normanni Air Station in 1960 with over 700 personnel. Four years later in September 1964, the U.S. Naval Security Group Activity (NSGA) San Vito was commissioned. For 34 years, during the Cold War, San Vito hosted Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force units whose mission it was to monitor, intercept and analyze transmissions from former Warsaw Pact countries, including East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and the Western USSR. Both the 6917th USAFSS and NSGA were disestablished at San Vito Air Station in 1993. Although all intelligence activities ceased, the base has proven useful in a different mission roles, especially in joint operations.
U.S. Naval Security Group Activity (NSGA) San Vito was located at San Vito dei Normanni Air Station, near the port city of Brindisi, on the Adriatic Coast, 60 miles from Bari, 10 km from Avellino, Campania, Italy and 300 miles southeast of Rome, on Italy’s boot heel. San Vito’s 318-acre Air Station is surrounded by artichoke fields and vineyards. San Vito’s Air Station is too small for a runway and flightline, so fixed-wing aircraft operate from a nearby Italian Air Force Base.
In 1993, the U.S. Air Force’s 352nd Special Operations Group and the 16th Special Operations Wing deployed units to San Vito in support of Operation Provide Promise, a humanitarian airlift that sustained thousands of sick and starving civilians trapped by Bosnia’s civil war. Eventually, as Balkan peacekeeping efforts began in earnest, that tasking switched to Operation Deny Flight.
By late 1997 a 1,300-member coalition force spearheaded by Joint Special Operations Task Force 2 operated 10 miles outside of Brindisi at San Vito Air Station. Its role was to support NATO troops deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina and aircrews monitoring a no-fly zone above that volatile country, where swarming Serbian mobs attacked Army patrols in September, 1997. Bolstered by commandos from France’s Armee de l’Air (air force) and a sprinkling of U.S. soldiers and sailors, the 352nd Special Operations Group (352nd SOG), RAF Mildenhall, England, and the 16th Special Operations Wing (16th SOW), Hurlburt Field, FL, comprised the lion-share of the joint task force. Throughout 1998, the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) maintained a constant Search & Rescue alert posture as part of Operation Joint Guard with aircraft and personnel rotating from the 352nd SOG and the 16th SOW into San Vito, Italy on a routine basis. This role increased significantly in March, 1999 during the crisis in Kosovo and Operation Allied Force. During the NATO air campaign to force Serbian forces from Kosovo, special operators conducted Search & Rescue operations to rescue downed American pilots.
The base at San Vito dei Normanni Air Station was closed in 2001 at the termination of Operation Deny Flight, and is now a contingency base under the control of the Commander, U.S. Air Forces Europe (USAFE).
Operated by a defense contractor, the San Vito Solar Observatory, located on San Vito dei Normanni Air Station, is one of six global sites in the Air Force’s Solar Electro-Optical Network which is strategically located worldwide to ensure 24-hour sun monitoring. Organizationally subordinate to the 55th Space Weather Support Squadron, Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, the observatory operates seven days a week, 365 days a year. Its mission is reporting real-time solar events to the 55th, the Department of Defense’s sole centralized space environmental forecast and warning unit, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Operation Center at Boulder, Colorado. They in turn, analyze information to predict solar and space environmental phenomena for nearly 500 organizations, including NASA, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), U.S. Space Command and the Air Force Space Command.
In December, 2001, the U.S. Air Force Europe 31st Contracting Squadron published a solicitation for the removal of the AN/FLR-9 Wullenweber antennae array at San Vito dei Normanni Air Station. The AN/FLR-9 was installed at San Vito in 1962 by the U.S. Air Force and was operational in 1963. The AN/FLR-9 at San Vito was deactivated in October, 1994.