Thursday, August 6, 2020

Loss of U.S. Navy ‘Lightning Carrier’ Will Harm Its Pacific Strategy

The U.S. Navy is valiantly trying to save the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHA-6) from the fire still ravaging the warship since Sunday morning. The impressive amphibious assault flattop is one of the Navy’s so-called ‘Lightning Carriers’ due to its ability to launch a number of F-35B stealth fighters from its flight deck.

As a young Marine Corps officer, I deployed in the Western Pacific aboard an older Tarawa class LHA in the late 1980s  – The USS Peleliu (LHA-5 at the time) and I was in awe of that massive multirole helicopter assault ship. These newer aviation-centric Wasp class ships, however, are even more fearsome.

With the rise of the vertical and short take-off and landing F-35B Joint Strike Fighter, the Bonhomme Richard was at the end of two years of upgrades supporting the full integration of the F-35Bs. It was preparing to play a big role in the Navy’s plan to expand its tactical aviation assets in the Pacific.  This could now be in jeopardy.

Local San Diego news CBS-8 reported that Rear Admiral Philip Sobeck briefed that Naval forces were “doing everything they can” to save the ship more than 24 hours after an explosion and fire erupted on its lower decks, sending temperatures as high as 1,000 degrees in parts of the vessel and leaving it listing in the water.

Sobeck – the Expeditionary Strike Group Three commander – added that the cause of the blaze remains unknown, also noting that since the ship was undergoing maintenance, its built-in flame-suppression system was inoperative at the time of the blaze.

The Wall Street Journal reported that “Navy officials said it could be days before the fire is contained, and pictures and video Monday captured plumes of smoke billowing from the ship into San Diego’s sunny skies.” If the ship is lost it would be the first “carrier” or major capital ship lost by the US Navy since WWII.

And the damage to the Navy’s Pacific expanding strategy will be real. As noted by Defense News:

The loss of Bonhomme Richard, whether a total loss or just lost for extensive repairs, deals a significant blow to the Navy’s plans to have F-35Bs continually deployed in the Pacific. And with Monday’s announcement that the United States had formally rejected China’s claims about the South China Sea, any accompanying boost in naval presence could be slowed by the fire.

Bryan Clark, a retired submarine officer now at the Hudson Institute said, according to Defense News,  “It’s a big problem, considering the F-35B is the … Navy’s only fielded and deployable 5th Generation fighter…We will want those deployed most of the time.”

Clark added, “Only half of [our 10 amphibious assault ships] are able to carry F-35B…So the loss of Bonhomme Richard will impact the Navy’s ability to provide Combatant Commanders sea-based F-35s…” Clark was also quoted in the Wall Street Journal explaining another factor – “You are losing one of the few platforms that you could use to fill in for a carrier in the Middle East when our attention is focused on the Pacific.”

The U.S. Navy had recently deployed the newest USS America class amphibious assault ship – the replacement for the retired USS-Peleliu – loaded with F-35s and V-22 Osprey tilt-rotors – to fill in for our COVID-sidelined supercarriers in the Pacific. With the Bonhomme lost permanently, or for a long period due to major repairs, the US will now need to scramble to find alternatives.

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Paul Crespo
Paul Crespo
Paul Crespo is a defense and national security expert. He served as a Marine Corps officer and as a military attaché with the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) at US embassies worldwide. He holds degrees from Georgetown, London, and Cambridge Universities. Paul is also CEO of SPECTRE Global Risk, a security advisory firm, and a Contributor to American Defense News.

27 COMMENTS

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Recce1
Recce1
22 days ago

Having flown in support of a carrier during the Lebanon crisis I know how critical carriers can be even in non-combat situations.

I hope and pray the can save the Bonhomme Richard.

A. D Roberts
17 days ago
Reply to  Recce1

My guess is that the cry of how much it will hurt is is overstated. We, when were used to be blessed by God, were able to pull together and make a success when under terrible odds. Remember the effort that happened in WWII? But then, we were still serving God back then.

Pamella Berry
Pamella Berry
22 days ago

No mention of anyone hurt. I pray all are safe.

russell remmert
russell remmert
22 days ago

AMEN

maddog
22 days ago

If a fire on a carrier during ww2 could be put out in 2 days, why is it taking so long to put this one out, considering the supposed improvement in fire suppression techniques?

CountryBoy
CountryBoy
22 days ago

This tells me that the Fire Suppression system on this ship is wholly inadequate…. and that it could easily be taken out of commission during a fight…..

There needs to be a FULL Review of the Fire Suppression systems on these , as well as other , ships so that they can keep fighting when they are needed….

safari1024
21 days ago
Reply to  CountryBoy

The article said that the fire suppression system was shut down due to being in dock for maintenance.

Roger
Roger
21 days ago
Reply to  safari1024

Then turn it back on…

John Vieira
20 days ago
Reply to  Roger

Maybe this fact was noted by person or persons with ulterior motives…

Stan Skippenburough
Stan Skippenburough
18 days ago
Reply to  safari1024

Since when is it OK for the built-in flame-suppression system to be inoperative? WTF!? I know sometimes it has to be worked on, but there must be procedures strictly followed when that’s the case.

Jonathan Baker
Jonathan Baker
22 days ago

The article mentions that the fire suppression system was deactivated because of ongoing modifications and improvements to the ship. If it was turned off, it wasn’t going to work at all when needed. Unfortunate, to be sure. I wonder where the buck stops for loss of this ship. Kiss a career goodbye.

Daniel Mount
Daniel Mount
22 days ago

This is not good at all. Very upseting to me.

FiuToYOU
FiuToYOU
22 days ago

There was a very big mistake made by someone!! Either that or this was intentional to build a newer ship!

L.. T.. Wagner
L.. T.. Wagner
22 days ago

IF still available buy the 2 amhib ships from France that were built for the Russians. Stop gap measure. Probably cheaper in the long run.

Al
Al
21 days ago
Reply to  L.. T.. Wagner

Excellent !

Charles Harrison
Charles Harrison
22 days ago

Sounds like it MAY have been sabotage.

Rivahmitch
Rivahmitch
22 days ago

A strong possibility. Hope everyone working on the vessel before the fire will be very carefully vetted.

DonRS
DonRS
22 days ago

Obama replaced the majority of the military leadership, with his supporters, when President. Since then, the NAVY has been leading the other military branches toward the TOILET, BUT NOT BY MUCH!!!!! Screw up after SCREW UP. They truly have become the crew that CAN’T!

James Green
21 days ago

This so called accident smells of sabotage. A critical vessel such as this, especially at this time, should have had better cautionary prevention for the possibility of such an accident. With President Trump pouring more money into our military budget, I would think that the Naval authorities would have already requested that another carrier of the same type would be under construction.

Al
Al
21 days ago
Reply to  James Green

Unexplained like the explosions in Iran ?

Old Aviator
Old Aviator
21 days ago

What the hell is going on with my Navy….a combat ship is “sunk” at a pier in San Diego and they can’t contain an internal fire. Heaven help this Navy if a bad guy ever shoots a missile at one of our ships.

safari1024
21 days ago

If the loss or delay of one ship that was already not in service seriously affects our readiness, then we have some real problems. I think this article is stoking some fears that are a bit unwarranted. China still has a ways to go before coming close to the level of our armed forces.

Roger
Roger
21 days ago
Reply to  safari1024

Definitely a hawk article begging for us to toss more money down the asphole

Warren Rosenberg
Warren Rosenberg
21 days ago

Think of the money saved by turning off the fire suppresion system. Normal procedure? Brilliant. Like getting rid the police. Americans are dumber than shit. American left-wing “educators”, thank you for destroying traditional, high level education standards. We may be 3rd world now, but we’re the BEST 3rd world country! (small satisfaction). Hire Asians to run our education. I fear the disciplined Chinese army could walk through the USA now with our country at war with itself. Stop it! Grow up.

DustoffPilot
DustoffPilot
20 days ago

If the Loss of 1- U.S. Navy ‘Lightning Carrier’ Will Harm our Pacific Strategy… We are in a sad state of Military Readiness!

James
James
20 days ago

I believe that carrier is nuclear powered. That is why they are having a hard time dealing with it. Had they been using the Molten Saline design for nuclear reactors we would not be having any trouble with fires. Just my take on an old problem.. Big oil has blocked the advance of the MSNR type power plants because they are safe, easy to build, and can be scaled to fit almost any environment. The MSNR puts a kink in their sale of fossil fuels and until they can find a way to own the MSNR patents they will keep it down in the basement by lobbying life long politicians who can be easily bribed. Sorta mimics the patents on the COVID-19 drugs. How about it Donald. Why do I not hear you whipping them in shape over this Old/New technology. Been around since the 1950s. jwstx MAGA GBA.

Keith S. Clark
Keith S. Clark
20 days ago

And we never heard a word about this on the MSM Propaganda networks?

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