SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo.-- --
All good things must come to an end. For the 50th Space Communications Squadron’s Sigonella Primary Injection Point at Naval Air Station Sigonella, Sicily, Italy, this statement holds true, as the station’s broadcasting concludes.
After decades of service, the facility has been rendered obsolete, with Sigonella PIP and its Ultra High Frequency Follow-On system satellite’s functions transitioning to the more efficient Wideband Global Satellite communications’ system. The satellite it supports, the aging UFO-10, was once a vital 50 SCS Global Broadcast System component, the centralized hub for broadcast services to the United States military commands.
The WGS is a constellation of satellites, which constitute the backbone of the military’s satellite communications worldwide. It is replacing the UFO for the GBS mission.
The expanded WGS infrastructure is the solution to the station’s obsolescence, said Master Sgt. Michael Kline, 50 SCS operations manager for GBS.
“The new system will provide higher data rates. It will be more efficient overall,” he said.
Sigonella PIP is the last of its kind to be decommissioned, a relic of the earlier days of satellite communications. Its GBS operations transition to the WGS system will be spearheaded in part by 50 SCS Airmen.
“The 50 SCS GBS operational center will be directly involved with moving the mission-off of the UFO-10 satellite to WGS satellites,” said Mark Wietgrefe, 50 SCS GBS program manager.
The transition requires planning and organizing, transferring data and adapting to the new demands.
“It’s a process that has been in planning for several months. The actual transfer is a matter of several hours,” said Wietgrefe.
While the workload is difficult for the 50 SCS, who continually maintained the site, shutting down the facility will save $1.5 million in operational and maintenance costs, he said.
“With the shutdown of the PIP, we are moving to a newer system and saving money,” said Wietgrefe.
Although they will soon cease to function, both the PIP and UFO-10’s longtime service has been fruitful, said Kline. Since the need for the GBS evolved from the days of Operation Desert Storm, the facility provided a wide array of broadcast services, from tactical warfighter information to special forces, to broadcasting the Super Bowl in remote locations.
“They have served its purpose, and exceeded expectations,” he said. “They have definitely exceeded its service life. However, it’s time to move on to something better.”