Navy to consign Bonnie Dick to the scrappers

200716-N-WD349-1423 SAN DIEGO (July 16, 2020) Sailors depart the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) after combating a fire on board. On the morning of July 12, a fire was called away aboard the ship while it was moored pier side at Naval Base San Diego. Base and shipboard firefighters responded to the fire. Bonhomme Richard is going through a maintenance availability, which began in 2018. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Jeffrey F. Yale/Released)

After an epic four-day fire that captured headlines around the world and scorched or flooded 11 of 14 decks, the Navy has decided that USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) will not be going back to her Pascagoula birthplace for a $3B/5-year rebuild, or get a cheaper $1B conversion to a non-combatant hospital ship, command ship, or submarine tender, and will instead be decommissioned, stripped of all useable components and materials to keep her sisters in service, then sent to the breakers.

“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.

“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.

As noted by USNI News, “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.”

Of ominous note, the loss of BHR will go in the books as the worst U.S. Navy casualty in terms of tonnage, even eclipsing the destruction of the battleships USS Arizona (BB-39) and USS Oklahoma (BB-37) at Pearl Harbor.

As for a replacement? The well-used Tarawa-class gators USS Nassau (LHA-4) and USS Peleliu (LHA-5), whose keels were laid in the 1970s, have spent much of the past decade growing rust and greenery in the backwater of Pearl Harbor’s lochs. Bringing either one back– Peleliu has only been sidelined since 2015– would surely be a headache, especially for their crews as their huge CE boilers by all accounts didn’t age well, but may prove a useful stopgap until the current America-class LHA pipeline can take BHR’s place in the Western Pacific.

“Harry Greene flies his Boeing Stearman Kaydet Primary Trainer airplane over the Naval Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility at Pearl Harbor, Oahu, May 30, 2016. Greene is a helicopter pilot at Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point and an aircraft enthusiast in his off-duty time.” Note Peleliu and Nassau in the foreground. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle/Released)

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