Study on Navy’s Waterborne Firefighting Capability After Bonhomme Richard Loss

April 19, 2022 11:04 AM

The following is the March 2022 Navy study, requested by Congress as part of the Fiscal Year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act, if the service needs to purchase additional fireboats following the loss of USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6).

From the report

The HASC Report to accompany the FY2022 NDAA (117-118) – NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2022 directs the Secretary of the Navy to prepare a brief to the House Committee on Armed Services by March 1, 2022 that details the findings associated with the USS BONHOMME RICHARD (BHR) incident investigation and deficiencies identified that would have allowed Navy to more adequately respond to the loss of the BHR; and, develop a fire boat response plan at major Navy Bases. The committee opines there is a lack of fire boats at U.S. Navy Bases, and that this lack of access to dedicated fire boats may be a safety hazard to Sailors and civilian workers and may expose warships worth tens of billions of dollars to unnecessary danger. The committee is particularly concerned about the loss of the BHR in 2020 and that fire boat access may have contributed to the complete loss of this warship.


Following the BHR incident, where firefighting-equipped Navy tug boats were employed, the Navy has reinforced the importance of waterborne and airborne firefighting capability and has ensured both are incorporated into Navy installation emergency response plans. The Navy assesses that existing waterborne firefighting capability and capacity is sufficient and there is no requirement for dedicated fire boats to support shipboard firefighting requirements.


As stated, Navy tug boats have inherent firefighting capabilities. Since the BHR incident, Commander, Navy Installations Command issued a directive (enclosure 1) to ensure that Navy installation emergency response plan functional area annexes and major shipboard fire hazard specific appendices include tug boat firefighting capabilities.


The lack of dedicated fire boats does not directly equate to a lack of firefighting capability. The Navy maintains a fleet of tug boats with firefighting capability at Navy ports. These tug boats were utilized extensively during the BHR incident. The BHR investigation did not identify any specific deficiencies related to fire boats that would have enabled the Navy to respond more effectively.

Download the document here.

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