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Navy to scrap fire-ravaged USS Bonhomme Richard over $3+ billion repair estimate

USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) on fire at San Diego, California (USA), on 12 July 2020. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Austin Haist)
November 30, 2020

The U.S. Navy decided on Monday to scrap amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) after suffering catastrophic damage in a fire back in July.

The Navy determined after a damage assessment that restoring the warship would cost more than $3 billion and five-to-seven years to complete. The Navy also determined it would cost more than $1 billion to repurpose the ship for other uses such as a hospital ship, and that amount would exceed the cost of a newly constructed ship.

USS Bonhomme Richard cost $761 million to build, according to the Federation of American Scientists.

“We did not come to this decision lightly,” said Secretary of the Navy Kenneth J. Braithwaite. “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.

The Navy did not say when decommissioning will take place, and noted that the details are still to be determined. The ship’s undamaged systems and components will be removed and used in other ships.

“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.

Approximately 160 sailors and officers were on board USS Bonhomme Richard when the fires broke out on July 12. The fire spread quickly and at least two explosions were reported as the fire traveled up the ship’s elevator shaft and exhaust stacks. At least 63 people, including 40 Navy personnel and 23 civilians, were injured as the fire spread aboard the ship and in subsequent efforts to control the blaze. Most of the injuries were minor, and many consisted of heat exhaustion and smoke inhalation.

Numerous local and federal firefighting resources worked the ship fire from the ground, firefighting boats, and aerial water drops over four days as it burned. The ship began to list to one side as a result of the weight of water settling in the ship after days of water drops over the ship.

Defense analysts originally estimated repairs could cost around $4 billion.