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USA Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) in Niscemi, Italy


The Mobile User Objetive System (MUOS) is a modern satellite communications system of the US Navy. It consists of five geostationary satellites and four ground stations, with each of the latter including three swivelling very high frequency satellite dishes with a diameter of 18.4 meters and two Ultra High Frequency (UHF) helical antennas. MUOS will replace the UHF Follow-On (UFO) satellite system currently in operation and it will be used for the capillary coordination of all U.S. military systems deployed around the globe.

One of the ground stations is currently under construction in the southern part of Sicily in the U.S. military base NRTF (Naval Radio Facility Trasmitter) Niscemi, operational since 1991 and about 60 km from the Naval Air Station Sigonella (a military base used by the U.S. Navy and Air Force, by NATO and by the Italian navy). The project is located in the Natural Reserve Sughereta di Niscemi (a cork forest), 6 km from Niscemi.

The Island of Sicily, where several US and NATO military bases are placed, represents a geopolitically strategic site in the Mediterranean due to its proximity to Africa and the Middle East. US military infrastructure on Italian territory are regulated by a secret bilateral treaty between Italy and the USA dating back to 1954. The process of permissions for the new installation began in 2001. In 2006 the Italian Ministry of Defense approved the installation site in Niscemi (originally the installation was planned at the Sigonella base but risks of electromagnetic interferences with weapons led to a change of location). The project for the realization of the MUOS was presented by the US Navy in 2008. In 2009 the administration and population of Niscemi started to express concern about health risks and environmental damage due to electromagnetic waves emissions and a strong opposition to the realization of the new installation emerged. Works for the construction officially started in June 2011 after the authorization issued by the Sicilian Region. Protests have increased progressively since 2012 with demonstrations, pickets near the base and legal actions against the legitimacy of the project authorization. In October 2012 works were temporarily suspended for a few weeks and in early 2013 the new President of the Sicily Region revoked the authorization for the MUOS construction. The National and Regional government agreed to commission a study to assess the impact of the electromagnetic waves on the environment and on the health of the population to the National Institute of Health (Istituto Superiore di Sanità, ISS). The Italian Ministry of defense presented an appeal to the TAR (Regional Administrative Tribunal) against the Sicilian Region for revoking the authorization and asked for compensatory damages (25,000€ per day starting from 29th of March 2013). The appeal was rejected by the TAR. In summer 2013 the Sicilian Region retracted the measures to withdraw the authorization motivated by the results of the ISS study, which refutes health hazards due to MUOS [2], thereby works for the construction of the militar installation restarted. The municipality of Niscemi and local committees presented several appeals to the TAR against the authorization issued by the Region Sicily. In April 2014 the TAR requested a new study including the ISS Report in the research commissioned in 2013 to the University la Sapienza to evaluate effects of the electromagnetic waves generated by the military bases near Niscemi. The first results of the research carried out by the technician Professor Angelo D’Amore were published in June 2013and commented on the lack of rigor and comprehensiveness in the data collected by the Space and Naval Warfare system center and used to evaluate the installations’ impact until the present [1]. The author concludes that there is not sufficient data in order to prove the safety or to fully understand the risks of the installation and the impact of long-distance waves on human health. In November 2014 there will be the next TAR judicial hearing. In January 2014 installation of the three satellite dishes was finalized.

The No Muos movement has grown into a broad-based movement in Sicily with wide support from residents and local municipalities and has employed a wide range of actions including direct action such as blockades and occupations of the spaces, climbing antennas, etc..

If at the beginning the citizens protested because they were worried about health risks and environmental damage due to radio waves (based on scientific studies promoted by local and regional authorities), with the main goal to stop the new installation, in the course of the mobilization, the frames of the protesters were extended beyond the concern for electromagnetic pollution until to the fighting for peace and against the war and territory militarization.[3]

Basic Data

Name of conflict:USA Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) in Niscemi, Italy
State or province:Province of Caltanisetta, Sicily
Location of conflict:Niscemi
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Establishment of reserves/national parks
Land acquisition conflicts
Military installations
Specific commodities:Land
Communications services

Project Details and Actors

Project details

The MUOS Ultra High Frequency (UHF) SATCOM system (300 MHz to 3 GHz frequency range) encompasses four on-orbit satellites, one on-orbit spare and four ground stations placed in Virginia (USA), Hawaii, Australia and Sicily. The first two MUOS satellites were launched in February 2012 and July 2013. The MUOS program, primarily intended for mobile users (e.g. aerial and maritime platforms, drones, ground vehicles, and dismounted soldiers), is still in its development stage and is expected to launch all satellites into orbit by 2015.

The program is expected to provide service through 2025.

The MUOS installation in Niscemi includes three swivelling very high frequency satellite dishes with a diameter of 18.4 meters (1600W) and two UHF helical antennas (105W).

The UHF Follow-On (UFO) satellite system in operation in the NRTF base of Niscemi since 1991 consists in 45 antennas HF and 1 antenna LF with an emission power in the range of 500-2000 kW.

Project area:122
Level of Investment:11,000,000 USD (Niscemi installation)
Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:Niscemi inhabitants are 27 932, but impacts would be felt in a much more extended area
Start of the conflict:2009
Company names or state enterprises:Lockeed Martin Space Systems from United States of America - Prime contractor
Consorzio Team Muos Niscemi from Italy - Constructor
Calcestruzzi Piazza Srl from Italy - Constructor
C.R. Impianti SpA from Italy
Relevant government actors:US Department of Defense, Italian Ministry of Defense; Sicily Region; Municipalities of: Niscemi, Comiso, Riesi, Acate, Butera, Gela, San Cono, Mazzarrone, Mirabella, Imbaccari, Chiaramonte Gulfi, Vittoria, Piazza Armerina, Enna, Caltagirone, San Michele di Ganzaria e Mazzarino, Palermo e Modica; Regional Environmental Protection Agency (ARPA); Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (ISPRA); National Health Institute (ISS)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Coordinamento dei Comitati No Muos; Comitato Mamme No MUOS di Niscemi; Associazione Antimafie Rita Atria; Legambiente; Rete Disarmo; Emergency; WWF Sicilia; Pax Christi; Parlamentari per la Pace; Rifondazione Comunista party, Movimento 5 Stelle; Sinistra Ecologia e libertà party

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Trade unions
Local scientists/professionals
Religious groups
Forms of mobilization:Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Development of a network/collective action
Hunger strikes and self immolation
Public campaigns
Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Land occupation
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Objections to the EIA
Street protest/marches
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Development of alternative proposals
Official complaint letters and petitions
Appeals to the European Parliament


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Potential: Food insecurity (crop damage), Genetic contamination, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Other Environmental impacts
Other Environmental impactsBees, important for maintaining the biological balance of ecosystems are particularly sensitive to the presence of high electromagnetic fields
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Deaths, Other Health impacts
Other Health impactsMicrowaves emitted by the parables of the MUOS system could be high dangerous radiation for the surrounding areas. Moreover in the first years of operation should be added radiations emitted by the 46 existing antennas UHF Follow-On (UFO) satellite system which in measurements made by the Regional Environmental Protection Agency (Agenzia regionale per la protezione ambientale, ARPA) exceeded emission limits prescribed by law as demonstrated in the technical study promoted by the Administrative Tribunal of Sicily in 2013.
Given the risk of biological effects on humans, flora and fauna, the study shows the need to conduct an updated and complete research to verify the conformity of the MUOS.
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Militarization and increased police presence, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Specific impacts on women, Other socio-economic impacts
Other socio-economic impactsThe electromagnetic field induced could interfere with neighboring airports (Comiso, Sigonella and Catania) and airplanes flying in the beam of the MUOS parables.
The Niscemi station of the most advanced U.S. military communications system could expose local population to become a military target.


Project StatusUnder construction
Conflict outcome / response:Criminalization of activists
Land demarcation
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Strengthening of participation
Fostering a culture of peace
Development of alternatives:No Muos movement demands the definitive revocation of the authorization for the installation and activation of the MUOS.
They also question the very reason of having US military installation in Sicily and oppose military interventions in North Africa and Middle East which use Sicily as the main navy base.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:No Muos movement raised the attention of local and national authorities and citizens on important issues as territorial sovereignty and human health. The movement was able to bring into question the legitimacy of the process of authorization and obtained the temporarily revocation of the authorization, mainly for the serious risks to the environment and human health caused by the electromagnetic waves of the MUOS. Presently the project is under construction and all the actions to stop the installation are still in progress.

Sources & Materials

Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

Legge 36/2001 sui limiti alle esposizioni a campi elettromagnetici (Italian law on the limits regarding the exposure to electromagnetic fields)

DIRECTIVE 2013/35/EU OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 26 June 2013 on the minimum health and safety requirements regarding the exposure of workers to the risks

arising from physical agents (electromagnetic fields)

DPCM 2003 che fissa i limiti di esposizione ai campi elettromgnetici

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[1]Final Relation promoted by the TAR Palermo on the MUOS technical studies, issued by Prof. Marcello D'Amore, La Sapienza University of Rome, 2013

United States Government Accountability Office, Report to Congressional Committees, DEFENSE ACQUISITIONS Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs, March 2013

Report, Risks linked with the realization of the MUOS in the NRFT base Niscemi, M.Zucchetti and others, 2014

ENAV aeronautical Report, 2013

MUOS project, SPAWAR Report, 2006

Il MUOStro di Niscemi. Per le guerre globali del XXI secolo, Antonio Mazzeo, 2014

[2]National Health Institute Report, 2013

US and MUOS bases: interview with General Mini (1,2,3), may 2014 ; ;

Legambiente – Comitato Regionale Siciliano, Osservazioni e proposte in merito alla vicenda MUOS all’interno della Riserva Naturale “Sughereta di Niscemi”. Valutazioni sulle illegittimità delle autorizzazioni, Palermo, 22 gennaio 2013.

ISPRA - Istituto Superiore per la Protezione e la Ricerca Ambientale, Indagine Ambientale Campi Elettromagnetici. Relazione Tecnica sul Sistema MUOS, Roma, giugno 2013.

[3]Abstract for 8th ECPR General Conference – Glasgow, 3-6 September 2014, Donatella della Porta (European University Institute) and Gianni Piazza (University of Catania)

ARPA Sicilia:

- Monitoraggio CEM RF Territorio del Comune di Niscemi, Ragusa, 10 marzo 2009.

- Controdeduzioni alle osservazioni contenute nella relazione “MUOS presso il Naval Radio Transmitter Facility di Niscemi: Analisi dei rischi” del Politecnico di Torino, Palermo, 31 maggio 2012.

- Relazione integrativa all’istruttoria sul progetto 002-06/1035 denominato “Installazione sistema di comunicazioni per utenti mobili, sito radio U.S. Navy di Niscemi –U.S.-Navy 41° Stormo-Sigonella” nella Riserva naturale Sughereta di Niscemi, Ragusa, 26 maggio 2009.

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Lockheed Martin website

Space News

Sicily Region website

EU Parliament officials question and answers web page

Niscemi municipality website

No Muos websites -

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network


Other comments:Niscemi’s area also suffers contamination from the neighboring petrochemical complex of Gela [2]

Meta information

Last update18/08/2019



DANGER antennas, road sign

credits: private photo

Protest near military base


Mamme No Muos protest


No Muos demonstration


Activists climbing antennas


MUOS satellite dishes


Muos programme