USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6)
USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6), underway in the Gulf of Mexico during builder's sea trials, circa early 1998.
|Ordered:||11 December 1992|
|Laid down:||18 April 1995|
|Launched:||14 March 1997|
|Commissioned:||15 August 1998|
|Homeport:||Naval Base San Diego|
|Motto:||I have not yet begun to fight!|
|Nickname(s):||Bonnie Dick, BHR|
|Class and type:||Wasp-class amphibious assault ship|
|Displacement:||40,358 long tons (41,006 t) full load|
|Length:||844 ft (257 m)|
|Beam:||105 ft (32 m)|
|Draft:||27 ft (8.2 m)|
|Speed:||22 kn (41 km/h; 25 mph)|
|Range:||9,500 nmi (17,600 km; 10,900 mi) at 18 kn (33 km/h; 21 mph)|
|Well deck dimensions:||266-by-50-foot (81 by 15.2 m) by 28-foot (8.5 m) high|
|Boats & landing |
|Troops:||1,894 troops (plus 184 surge) Marine Detachment|
|Sensors and |
USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) is a Wasp-class amphibious assault ship that was heavily damaged by a fire on July 12 2020 and will not be operational for the foreseeable future. She is the third ship of the United States Navy to bear the name. She was named in honor of John Paul Jones' famous frigate, which he had named in French "Good Man Richard", in honor of Benjamin Franklin, the U.S. Ambassador to France at the time; "Richard" is derived from Franklin's Poor Richard's Almanac.
The primary mission of Bonhomme Richard is to embark, deploy and land elements of a Marine landing force in amphibious assault operations by helicopter, landing craft and amphibious vehicle, and if needed, to act as a light aircraft carrier.
On 12 July 2020, a fire started in a lower deck while the ship was undergoing maintenance at Naval Base San Diego. It took four days for firefighters to extinguish the fire, which injured at least 63 sailors and civilians. The cause of the blaze is under investigation. The damage was extensive and the future of the ship remains uncertain.
Construction and career
The contract to build her was awarded to Ingalls Shipbuilding on 11 December 1992, and her keel was laid down on 18 April 1995. She was launched on 14 March 1997, delivered to the Navy on 12 May 1998, and commissioned on 15 August 1998.
The average cost of a Wasp Class landing helicopter assault (LHA) ship was estimated to be about $750 million whereas the program unit cost of an America Class LHA was expected to be about $3.3 billion (2015 dollars). Cost of replacement was estimated about $4 billion (2020 dollars).
Bonhomme Richard departed her building yard, Ingalls Shipbuilding division of Litton Industries, Pascagoula, Mississippi, on 8 August 1998, sailing into Pensacola Harbor at Naval Air Station Pensacola for commissioning activities and culminating with the main ceremony, which was held on 15 August 1998.
U.S. Representative John P. Murtha, of Pennsylvania's 12th Congressional District, delivered the principal commissioning address. Then Secretary of the Navy, John H. Dalton, placed the new ship in commission. Congressman Murtha's wife, Mrs. Joyce Murtha, served as Ship Sponsor, and christened the ship at Ingalls in May 1997. During the commissioning, Mrs. Murtha gave the traditional order to "Man our ship and bring her to life!"
Bonhomme Richard participated in several operations. From 24 January to 24 July 2000, the ship made the first Western Pacific (WESTPAC) deployment of any U.S. Navy ship in the 2000s as part of Operation Southern Watch. She deployed as part of Operation Enduring Freedom from 1 December 2001 to 18 June 2002.
Her next deployment was in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, beginning 17 January 2003 and lasting to 26 July 2003. Bonhomme Richard played two significant roles in Operation Iraqi Freedom; first, she offloaded more than 1,000 Marines and gear from the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines into Kuwait. Second, after delivering her attack and transport helicopters, troops, and vehicles, she took up position just miles off the coast of Kuwait and became one of two light aircraft carriers, or "Harrier Carriers", along with USS Bataan in the Persian Gulf, launching AV-8B Harrier strike aircraft into Iraq. Pilots from Marine Attack Squadron 211 (VMA-211) and VMA-311, embarked aboard Bonhomme Richard, expended more than 175,000 pounds (79,000 kg) of ordnance, providing close air support to the Marines on the ground and during predetermined strikes in Iraq. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, Bonhomme Richard launched more than 800 sorties, including 547 combat launches.
Beginning 6 December 2004, Bonhomme Richard detached as a supporting unit of Operation Iraqi Freedom and sailed to Sri Lanka to provide support for relief efforts following the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and its subsequent tsunamis. On 4 January 2005, the ship helped airlift relief supplies to the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia.
Bonhomme Richard deployed in Operation Unified Assistance from 5 January 2005 to February 2005. On a port visit in Guam on 28 December, the ship and her Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) were ordered to the Indian Ocean to help in relief efforts following the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake. Her helicopters flew supplies and medical personnel into various areas of Indonesia, as well as evacuating the wounded.
The following July, Bonhomme Richard participated in RIMPAC 2006. From 23 May to November 2007 she joined up with two U.S. Navy aircraft carriers, John C. Stennis and Nimitz and their Carrier Strike Groups (CSG) off the coast of Iran to carry out previously unannounced air and sea exercises. In July 2008, the ship took part in RIMPAC 2008 off the coast of Hawaii.
From September 2009 to April 2010, Bonhomme Richard deployed to the Fifth and Seventh Fleet Areas of Operations (AoR). Ports of call include East Timor, Phuket, Thailand, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Oahu, Hawaii. In July she participated in RIMPAC 2010 in the Kaulakahi Channel, between Kauai and Niihau Islands, Hawaii, near the Pacific Missile Range Facility.
During the summer of 2013, Bonhomme Richard participated in Exercise Talisman Sabre 2013. Maneuvers were performed off Queensland, Australia and in the Coral Sea. After the exercise, the ship sailed for Sydney, arriving 16 August 2013.
In June 2017, Bonhomme Richard participated in Exercise Talisman Saber 2017 involving more than 33,000 Australian and U.S. troops. Alongside Bonhomme Richard, 20 other ships and over 200 aircraft took part in what was Australia's largest exercise to date. This was followed by a week long port call in Melbourne.
On 8 May 2018, Bonhomme Richard completed her homeport change to San Diego.
2017 Osprey crash
On 5 August 2017, a U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265 with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit took off from Bonhomme Richard and then crashed in Shoalwater Bay on the east coast of Australia. Twenty-three personnel were rescued, while three died, their bodies being recovered about three weeks later.
July 2020 fire
On 12 July 2020, an explosion occurred about 8:50 a.m. aboard Bonhomme Richard while in home port at Naval Base San Diego undergoing maintenance. The resulting fire was fueled by paper, cloth, rags or other materials, not fuel oil or other hazardous materials, Rear Admiral Philip Sobeck, commander of Expeditionary Strike Group 3, told reporters that evening. Since the ship was in maintenance, on-board fire-suppression systems had been disabled, delaying the onset of firefighting efforts, according to Admiral Sobeck.
The day the fire erupted, 17 sailors and four civilians were taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries; all but five were released by morning of the next day, Navy officials said. By 14 July, the number of injured had risen to 61, as more people were treated for minor injuries, including heat exhaustion and smoke inhalation, the following day.
On 14 July, extensive firefighting efforts continued aboard the burning ship. Sobeck expressed confidence that firefighters would be able to contain the fire and prevent it from spreading to a section of the ship where fuel is stored. The United States Coast Guard had established a safety zone 1 nautical mile (1.9 km) in diameter and 3,000 feet (910 m) in altitude around the warship, while civilian authorities were advising local residents to remain in their homes to avoid the billowing acrid smoke.
On 16 July, five days after the explosion, the Navy announced that all fires had been extinguished. The minor injury total had risen to 63 total (40 sailors and 23 civilians). Admiral Michael Gilday, Chief of Naval Operations, said the event was "a very, very serious incident" and that the Navy would address any systemic problems. He said the firefighting efforts had involved sailors from many ships and units in San Diego, including the helicopter squadron HSC-3, which dropped water on the ship.
The Navy will remove the aft mast of the damaged ship to ensure it will not collapse. 
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- This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. The entry can be found here.
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