Tag Archives: HELSEACOMBATRON 3

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)

After four days…

Below is a statement from RADM Philip E. Sobeck Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group THREE – ESG-3:

After four days of firefighting, all known fires have been extinguished aboard USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6).

Our fire teams are investigating every space to verify the absence of fire. Until every space is checked and there are no active fires we will not be able to commence any official investigations.

We do not know the origin of the fire. We do not know the extent of the damage. It is too early to make any predictions or promises of what the future of the ship will be.

We cannot make any conclusions until the investigation is complete.

What we do know is, that brave Sailors from commands all across San Diego worked tirelessly alongside Federal Firefighters to get this fire extinguished and I want to thank them for their efforts. This was a Navy team effort. We had support from the air and sea. Three helicopter squadrons conducted more than 1,500 water bucket drops, fighting the fire and cooling the superstructure and flight deck enabling fire crews to get on board to fight the fire. Tugs also provided firefighting support from the waterline, cooling the ship’s hull.

We had 63 personnel, 40 U.S. Navy Sailors, and 23 civilians, treated for minor injuries including heat exhaustion and smoke inhalation. We have no personnel hospitalized.

The Navy continues to work together with regulators, county, and state in protecting our environment and preparing to address the community’s concerns as we move forward to the next phase.

I’d like to thank our partners from state and county, the U.S. Coast Guard, and all agencies for continued support.

Now comes the assessment. The worst damage to a U.S. carrier-style vessel since the 1967/1969 fires on Forrestal and Enterprise. Perhaps the worst since the Franklin in 1945. Like what occurred with USS Belknap in 1975, there will be another round of questions as to the use of aluminum in naval shipbuilding. We shall see what comes next.

As a former Ingalls employee that worked on LHDs back in the day (of note, I worked on Boxer, not BHR) and know first-hand the danger of hotwork on these vessels while in the yard, I can’t help but feel connected to “Bonnie Dick.” Whether or not the Navy decides to rebuild– which I would bet that they would, citing past total losses that were reconstructed for the sake of saying it will be done– that remains to be seen.

The fires are dying

The news from San Diego is that hose teams and DC crews have moved into the ship itself and are seeking out hotspots, putting “The Beast” on its heels. Unofficial images that have leaked out show pretty bad internal damage on the vehicle deck and holes on the flight deck. Nonetheless, she is still afloat and on a semi-even keel.

The latest on BHR from the Navy:

“Fire teams consisting of Federal Fire San Diego and U.S. Navy Sailors have been fighting the fire aboard USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6). The fire teams consist of more than 400 Sailors from 12 San Diego-based ships. The ships providing firefighting support include:

The Merlins of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 3 have conducted more than 1,500 helicopter water bucket drops, which is cooling the superstructure & flight deck enabling fire crews to get on board internally to fight the fire. Tugs are also providing firefighting support from the waterline.

Currently, there are no personnel hospitalized. 63 personnel, 40 Sailors, and 23 civilians have been treated for minor injuries including heat exhaustion and smoke inhalation.

On the bright side, just as the Navy learned from the massive USS Enterprise and USS Forrestal fires in the Vietnam era and the Inchon fires in 1989 and 2001, there will be a lot of teachable lessons to be had here that will (hopefully) translate to saving lives and ships down the line.

Meanwhile, USS Tripoli (LHA-7) was quietly commissioned today. The free space at Ingalls may be needed soon.