The USS Bonhomme Richard, an amphibious assault ship being retrofitted to carry some of the Marine Corps’ newest aircraft, will instead by scrapped after a fire in July caused extensive damage.
Navy officials announced their decision on Monday, Nov. 30. The ship’s repair would have been too costly, estimated between $2.5 billion and $3.2 billion, and would have taken between five and seven years to complete.
“We did not come to this decision lightly,” Secretary of the Navy Kenneth J. Braithwaite said in the announcement. “Following an extensive material assessment in which various courses of action were considered and evaluated, we came to the conclusion that it is not fiscally responsible to restore her.
“Although it saddens me that it is not cost-effective to bring her back, I know this ship’s legacy will continue to live on through the brave men and women who fought so hard to save her, as well as the sailors and Marines who served aboard her during her 22-year history,” Braithwaite said.
The ship remains watertight and still stands at its San Diego Naval Base dock. Still, Navy officials said the ship was at least 60% destroyed. The fire began in the lower part of the ship and, over five days, spread from a vehicle storage area up to the ship’s mast and the flight deck. The blaze required firefighting efforts from hundreds of sailors and federal and local firefighters to extinguish.
On Monday, Navy officials said using the ship for a new mission such as a hospital ship, a submarine tender or command-and-control ship was also explored before the decision was made to scrap the almost completely renovated ship, which was at the tail-end of a $250 million maintenance and system upgrade. With the renovation, it would have transported the fifth-generation Marine Corps fighter plane, the F-35B, to missions across the globe.
Trying to rebuild the ship for use could have exceeded $1 billion, officials said.
Investigations into what happened on the ship are ongoing.
Since July, the Navy has taken several steps to improve fire safety and prevention across its fleet and facilities. Fleet commanders also established a fire safety assessment program to conduct random checks of ships’ compliance with Navy fire-safety regulations, prioritizing ships undergoing maintenance.
Officials are working on the timeline for decommissioning and where the ship will be dismantled, said Lt. Cmdr. Patricia Kreuzberger. The Navy will salvage any usable components, she said.
Source: Orange County Register