The Navy will remove the aft mast USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) this week out of an abundance of caution, after the fire on the ship last month particularly affected the superstructure area of the amphibious assault ship.
“Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) is commencing work to remove the aft mast aboard USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6). The fire compromised the structural integrity of the aft mast, located above the ship’s superstructure. Although damage assessments are ongoing, the Navy made the decision, out of an abundance of caution, to move forward with removal, which will be facilitated using two cranes on floating barges located alongside the ship,” Navy spokesman Lt. Ryan Slattery told USNI News.
Prep work on antennas and sensors located on the mast already took place over the weekend, and the mast itself will be removed this week. Additional assessments will determine what work would be required to similarly remove the forward mast.
Images taken during the firefighting effort on the ship show extensive damage to the superstructure, with the fire burning holes right through parts of the island. The forward mast was seen collapsed.
“The superstructure and the upper decks continue to burn and sustain damage, and the forward mast has collapsed,” Rear Adm. Philip Sobeck, the Expeditionary Strike Group 3 commander, said during a media briefing the day after the fire broke out.
Slattery said the Navy owns one of the cranes that will be used in the removal process and contracted for the second one.
The service “modified an existing LHD-6 salvage/firefighting delivery order to SMIT AMERICAS to cut, rig, remove and dispose of the aft mast. The delivery order was issued as part of NAVSEA’s existing Emergency Salvage Services contract for the West Coast,” he said.
In addition to this salvage work, the Navy awarded General Dynamics NASSCO $ 10 million for fire-related cleanup. NASSCO was already on contract to do maintenance on the ship prior to the fire. Bonhomme Richard had been at the NASSCO shipyard just north of the Naval Base San Diego waterfront for a dry dock repair period from June to December 2019, and NASSCO was conducting pier-side maintenance at the naval base when the fire broke out.
Slattery said there was still work to be done before figuring out what comes next for the ship.
“Damage assessments are ongoing. Due to the size of the ship and extent of the damage, the initial assessments are expected to take several weeks to complete. The team’s findings will allow the Navy to make informed decisions regarding Bonhomme Richard’s future,” he said.
“The current work scope is limited to removal of the aft mast, and is being conducted out of an abundance of caution following structural analysis by NAVSEA. Any additional work that will be required will be fully assessed.”