Home Americas US Navy decommissions fire-stricken assault ship Bonhomme Richard

US Navy decommissions fire-stricken assault ship Bonhomme Richard

USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) decommissioning ceremony
Rear Adm. Philip Sobeck, Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group Three, and Capt. G. S. Thoroman, commanding officer, amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), salute the ensign for colors during a decommissioning ceremony for Bonhomme Richard at Naval Base San Diego April 14. 2021. Photo: US Navy

The US Navy has decommissioned its amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) after the ship was heavily damaged in a fire in July 2020.

The decommissioning ceremony was held at Naval Base San Diego April 14, ahead of the ship’s dismantling.

Following an extensive evaluation of options, the navy decided that repairing the 22-year old ship would not be worth it. According to navy estimates, repairing the ship to its original state would have cost between $2.5 billion and $3.2 billion. The service also evaluated the option of rebuilding the ship for a new role, such as a hospital ship, with an estimated price tag of over one billion dollars. Both options required between five and seven years of work and the navy eventually decided to scrap USS Bonhomme Richard.

USS Bonhomme Richard damages following the fire outbreak

The April 14 ceremony highlighted the history of the ship, its crew, and their legacy. Bonhomme Richard was the third ship to bear the name. It was named in honor of John Paul Jones’ famous frigate, named the French equivalent for “Good man Richard.” This was in honor of Benjamin Franklin, the US Ambassador to France at the time. The name Bonhomme Richard is derived from Franklin’s pen name.

Like the previous five Wasp-class ships, Bonhomme Richard was designed to embark, deploy, and land elements of a Marine landing force in amphibious assault operations by helicopter, landing craft, or amphibious vehicles.

Throughout its history, Bonhomme Richard projected power and maintained presence by serving as the cornerstone of Amphibious Ready Groups (ARG) or Expeditionary Strike Groups (ESG).

Not long after commissioning, the ship was called to action for Operation Stabilize in February 2000, providing peacekeeping and humanitarian operations of the coast of East Timor. This made Bonhomme Richard the first US Navy ship to make a Western Pacific deployment in the 2000s.

Bonhomme Richard’s following deployment put it in the spotlight of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The ship offloaded more than a thousand Marines and their equipment from the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines into Kuwait. After delivering attack and transport helicopters, as well as troops and vehicles, Bonhomme Richard took position just miles off the coast of Kuwait to launch AV-8B Harrier aircraft into Iraq.

From the deck of Bonhomme Richard, Marine Attack Squadrons (VMA) 211 and 311 flew missions into Iraq and expended more than 175,000 pounds of ordnance and provided close air support to Marines on the ground. In total, the ship launched more than 800 sorties in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. More than 500 of those were combat launches.

On April 23, 2012, Bonhomme Richard replaced USS Essex (LHD 2) as the ESG Strike Group 7 command ship and switched homeports from San Diego to Sasebo, Japan. After six years as the centerpiece of the US Navy amphibious operations in the forward-deployed naval forces, Bonhomme Richard returned to San Diego in May 2018 in a homeport change.

As the crew prepared the ship for decommissioning, members of the team slowly began transferring to new commands across the fleet, leaving a minimal-sized crew aboard for the decommissioning ceremony.

Following its decommissioning, Bonhomme Richard will be towed to International Shipbreaking Limited, LLC’s facility in Brownsville, Texas for dismantlement.