On July 12, 2020, an explosion rocked the deck of the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6), a Wasp-class landing helicopter dock currently in service with the United States Navy. Soon thereafter, fire spread across the vessel and migrated into the island's superstructure. Although the fire was eventually contained and extinguished, it was too little too late.
After completing a walkthrough of the famed vessel earlier this week, Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Admiral Michael Gilday indicated that the ship sustained major fire and water damage to 11 of its 14 decks. In some areas, the Bonhomme Richard's superstructure is severely compromised. Additionally, the vessel's island is completely gutted and the flight deck is extremely warped. The CNO also noted that elevator shafts and engine exhaust stacks will undoubtedly need to be replaced if the Wasp-class LHD is to eventually sail again under its own weight.
Although the Navy is compiling a detailed report of the damage done to the ship, Admiral Gilday's impromptu report seemingly confirms that the vessel will be scrapped. If the damage is truly as extensive as presented, it could cost as much $275,000,000 to fully repair the 22 year-old vessel, meaning the Department of Defense would most likely make the determination to write off its losses and replace the USS Bonhomme Richard with a different ship.
Even if the White House will want accelerate production of the new America-class assault ships to offset the loss, it may not be possible. Just one US shipyard currently builds the America-class, and as such, would be significantly constrained in its ability to pump out more hulls. Any attempt to repurpose another shipyard would take millions of dollars and months of effort, a difficult issue for a Navy without requisite funding and time to spare.
In other news aboard the vessel, Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) announced on August 4 its decision to remove the aft mast of the Richard. This will allow for the continued safety of repair and investigative teams as they conduct their work in the months to come.