In the end, resurrecting the devastated large-deck amphib would have been too costly, Rear Adm. Eric Ver Hage, commander of the Navy Regional Maintenance Center, told reporters Monday.
The extensive damage to the flattop’s flight deck, island, mast and lower levels from the July 12 inferno would have required about 60 percent of the ship to be replaced, Ver Hage said.
To rebuild and repair the 22-year-old amphib would have cost between $2.5 billion and $3.2 billion, and would have taken five to seven years, he said. To turn the stricken amphib into a hospital ship would have cost more than $1 billion and taken the same amount of time, he said.
By contrast, decommissioning the ship will cost roughly $30 million and will be implemented over the next nine to 12 months, Ver Hage said Details on where the ship will be decommissioned and scrapped are pending, he added.
The ignominious loss of one of the Navy’s mightiest symbols of sea power came after Bonhomme Richard had already been in the shipyard for 18 months, undergoing $250 million worth of upgrades to accommodate the F-35B joint strike fighter.
“It was a pretty substantial investment,” Ver Hage said of those upgrades. “Clearly a loss.”
The Navy is conducting four separate investigations into the fire, including a criminal probe into whether the inferno was caused by arson. Ver Hage declined to comment Monday on the status of those investigations.
The ship will likely be stripped of all usable parts in San Diego before it is eventually towed to the Gulf Coast for decommissioning, he said.
Bonhomme Richard’s crew, which fought the blaze for days, will be notified today of the ship’s final fate, Ver Hage said, and Naval Surface Forces will decide where each sailor is sent next.