USS Bonhomme Richard burns
Firefighting boats spray water onto the USS Bonhomme Richard as smoke rises from the fire. REUTERS/Bing Guan

The Navy announced Monday that the fire-ravaged USS Bonhomme Richard will be decommissioned because repairs would cost more than building a new ship.

The 41,000-ton amphibious assault ship, which is a small aircraft carrier capable of carrying helicopters and vertical-takeoff jets, sustained severe damage from a fire that burned for four days in July, leaving the vessel listing to the starboard side, its aluminum superstructure collapsed and melted.

“We did not come to this decision lightly,” said Navy Secretary 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.

The Navy said a comprehensive assessment following the fire concluded that restoring the Bonhomme Richard would cost over $3 billion and require between five and seven years to complete.

“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,” Braithwaite said.

The ship remains docked at Naval Base San Diego, but the Navy said planning is underway to tow the vessel to a location where it can be dismantled.

The Navy did not say whether a replacement would be constructed, but the second in the new America class of amphibious assault ships arrived in San Diego in September.

The Bonhomme Richard is the fifth ship in the Wasp class, and was commissioned in 1998.

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.