PortandTerminal.com, November 30, 2020
SAN DIEGO – The Navy decided to scrap the amphibious assault ship that burned for nearly five days earlier this year, concluding after months of investigations that trying to rebuild and restore the ship would take too much money and too much industrial base capacity.
Replacing the warship could cost as much as $4 billion, according to the AP, which cited defense analysts shortly after the incident. At the time of the fire, the Bonhomme Richard was nearing the end of a two-year upgrade estimated to cost $250 million.
The July 12 fire aboard USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) began in the lower vehicle storage area but ravaged the island, the mast and the flight deck as it burned its way through the inside of the warship.
The ship remained watertight throughout the ordeal and hasn’t been moved from its spot on the pier at Naval Base San Diego, but between the fire itself and the days-long firefighting effort, about 60-percent of the ship was ruined and would have had to be rebuilt or replaced, Rear Adm. Eric Ver Hage, the commander of Navy Regional Maintenance Center and the director of surface ship maintenance and modernization, told reporters today in a phone call.
“After thorough consideration, the secretary of the Navy and the chief of naval operations have decided to decommission the Bonhomme Richard due to the extensive damage sustained during that July fire. In the weeks and months since that fire, the Navy conducted a comprehensive material assessment to determine the best path forward for that ship and our Navy,” he said.
Ver Hage said restoring Bonhomme Richard to its original form would have cost between $2.5 billion and $3.2 billion and taken five to seven years. That work would have taken place in the Gulf Coast, he said.
Rebuilding the ship for a new purpose would have cost “in excess of a billion dollars” and also taken about five to seven years. Though cheaper than rebuilding to the original configuration, Ver Hage said it would be cheaper to just design and build a new tender or hospital ship from scratch.
Decommissioning the ship – and the inactivation, harvesting of parts, towing and scrapping the hull – will cost about $30 million and take just nine to 12 months.
The inactivation can’t start just yet, as four investigations into the fire are still ongoing. Bonhomme Richard is already being prepped for towing, though, and Ver Hage said harvesting of some systems has been happening since September and will continue. Once the investigations end, more substantive work can be done to take out larger systems that could be reused by other ships in the fleet, inactivate the ship, and either tow it to the Gulf Coast for scrapping or tow it to storage in the Pacific Northwest until a Gulf Coast yard is ready for it.
It’s still unclear what will happen with the ship’s crew, though Ver Hage said Naval Surface Force Pacific would work with the personnel system to ensure all Bonhomme Richard sailors are taken care of.
With reporting by USNI. Click here to read their full coverage of this story.
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