Navy will scrap assault ship damaged by massive fire

Courtney Kube

The Navy has decided to scrap the USS Bonhomme Richard, the amphibious assault ship that caught fire over the summer in San Diego, officials announced Monday.

Navy Secretary Kenneth Braithwaite said the decision was made after officials determined the damage was too extensive and the cost of repair too high to justify salvaging the vessel.

“We did not come to this decision lightly,” Braithwaite said. “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 fire broke out July 12 and took four days to extinguish. The ship, which works to deploy elements of Marine landing forces, was based at Naval Base San Diego after having spent six years in Japan.

Investigators believe the fire may have been intentionally set but the Navy has yet to formally declare it a case of arson.

The damage caused by the fire was extensive. “Probably 60% of the ship would require replacement,” including the mast, island, and the levels directly below the flight deck, said Rear Admiral Eric Ver Hage, the commander of Navy Regional Maintenance Center.

Following an extensive review, the Navy concluded that rebuilding the ship would cost more than $3 billion and take between five and seven years to complete. Braithwaite said the Navy also examined rebuilding the ship for alternate purposes but determined the cost could exceed $1 billion, which he said was as much or more than it would cost to build a new hospital ship, submarine tender, or command and control ship.

The Navy has already started preparations to tow the USS Bonhomme and begin harvesting parts for other ships.

“Then it will ultimately be scrapped,” Ver Hage said.