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Bonhomme Richard’s dismantling to begin in April

The fire-ravaged amphibious assault ship Bonhomme Richard, which burned for more than four days while pier side in San Diego last summer, will begin to be dismantled on April 15, according to a fleetwide Navy message released Friday.

While the cause of the July 12 inferno remains the focus of several investigations, Navy officials said late last year that the extensive damage to the flattop’s flight deck, island, mast and lower levels would have required about 60 percent of the ship to be replaced.

Rebuilding and repairing the 22-year-old ship would have cost up to $3.2 billion and taken five to seven years, Rear Adm. Eric Ver Hage, commander of the Navy Regional Maintenance Center, told reporters in November.

Even turning the stricken amphib into another asset, like a hospital ship, would’ve taken years and cost more than $1 billion, he said.

While the Navy’s message last week did not include a price tag fort the dismantling work, Ver Hage said last year that such an effort would cost about $30 million.

Retiring Bonhomme Richard would involve stripping it of usable parts in San Diego before it is towed to the Gulf Coast for decommissioning, he said.

Go inside charred interior of Navy ship that burned for four days

Images of the badly scorched interior of the U.S. amphibious assault ship Bonhomme Richard, which burned for four days at a San Diego pier recently, have emerged online. Photos that first surfaced on Twitter show the extent of the damage to the ship. They have since been verified by the Navy.

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.”

Friday’s fleet message also announced that the first two littoral combat ships, the Freedom and Independence will be placed in an “out of commission, in reserve” status later this year, available to be called back up if needed.

The dock landing ship Fort McHenry will be placed into a similar reserve status in the coming months, according to the message.

The coastal patrol ships Zephyr and Shamal will be dismantled this year, while sister ship Tornado will be sold to a foreign military, as will the fleet ocean tug Sioux.

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