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    Sailor charged with arson attack on USS Bonhomme Richard missile ship

     The US Navy on Thursday filed charges against a sailor, who is accused of arson for setting fire to the USS Bonhomme Richard, a blaze that caused severe damage to the interior and caused the ship to be scrapped, the Associated Press reported.
    “The sailor was a member of Bonhomme Richard’s crew at the time and is accused of starting the fire,” Cmdr. Sean Robertson, a US 3rd Fleet spokesperson in San Diego, said in a statement, according to USNI News.
    The sailor’s identity has yet to be released, but according to USNI News, they will be charged with aggravated arson under Article 126 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and hazarding a vessel under Article 110 based on the evidence. However, it could go further.

    “Vice Adm. Steve Koehler, who commands 3rd Fleet, is considering court-martial charges and has directed a preliminary hearing at which an impartial hearing officer will make determinations and recommendations required by the UCMJ prior to any further trial proceedings – including whether or not there is probable cause to believe an offense has been committed and to offer a recommendation as to the disposition of the case,”  Robertson added, according to USNI News.

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    The sailor being charged is the same one originally questioned in August by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), USNI News added.

    The fire on the USS Bonhomme Richard was started on July 12, 2020 and ravaged the ship for five days while it was docked in San Diego at the end of a two-year-long $250 million upgrade, at times reaching temperatures of 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit. After taking hundreds of firefighters to combat the blaze, the damage was found was so severe that repairing the 22-year-old ship was simply impractical.

    According to Navy Regional Maintenance Center commander Rear Admiral Eric H. Ver Hage, the Navy had also considered reconfiguring the USS Bonhomme Richard into a hospital ship. However, like repairing it, this was far too expensive, with estimates placing renovation costs at around $3 billion. For reference, adjusting for inflation, the USS Bonhomme Richard cost the Navy $1.2b., ABC News reported in late 2020.

    The decommissioning process will see the usable remnants of the ship scrapped, a process estimated to take nine months to a year and cost around $30 million.

    The decision followed doubts voiced at the time of the fire by chief of naval operations Admiral Mike Gilday, who was unsure if it would be cost-efficient to repair the ship.

    “I am 100% confident that our defense industry can put this ship back to sea,” he said at the time. “But, having said that, the question is: Should we make that investment in a 22-year-old ship? And I’m not going to make any predictions until we take a look at all the facts, and we follow the facts, and we can make reasonable recommendations up the chain of command on the future steps, any repair efforts, future repair efforts of Bonhomme Richard.”

    The fire is one of the worst to ever ravage a US warship outside of combat, and resulted in severe damage to the interior and exterior. According to Ver Hage, repairing it would mean replacing 60% of the entire ship.

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