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Ravaged by fire, USS Bonhomme Richard is bound for scrapyard, Navy says

By Andrew Dyer, The San Diego Union-Tribune on

Published in News & Features

SAN DIEGO — A fire that raged for almost five days in July has doomed the San Diego-based amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard to the scrapyards, Navy officials announced Monday.

The ship will be decommissioned within a year and will be scrapped, a Navy official told reporters during a conference call Monday. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

The cost of repairing the ship was estimated to be between $2.5 billion and $3.2 billion, Rear Adm. Eric Ver Hage said Monday. The cost and time involved were deemed to be too much by Navy leadership.

"After thorough consideration, the secretary of the Navy and the chief of naval operations have decided to decommission the USS Bonhomme Richard," said Ver Hage, the commander of Navy Regional Maintenance Center.

The Navy looked at all possible courses of action to "make sure we understood the art of the possible," Ver Hage said. Officials assessed every space on the ship and Ver Hage said about 60% of it — the flight deck, the island and many of the decks immediately below them — would need to be completely replaced.

The Navy looked at three options for the ship — repairing it to full mission-capabilities, refurbishing it as a tender or hospital ship, or decommissioning, Ver Hage said.

 

In addition to the expense, rebuilding the Bonhomme Richard would take five to seven years, Ver Hage said. To reconfigure the ship would cost more than $1 billion — more than the cost of building a brand new tender or hospital ship.

Decommissioning will cost the Navy about $30 million and will take between nine months and one year, Ver Hage said. He talked of possibly towing it to storage or to shipbreakers in the Gulf of Mexico, adding that no contract has been awarded yet.

The decision to decommission the ship was made by Navy leaders just before Thanksgiving, Ver Hage said, and Navy leadership and Congress were briefed on the decision Monday.

The fire on the 844-foot ship began around 8:30 a.m. on July 12 — a Sunday — and sent acrid plumes of smoke into the San Diego skies for two days.

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