During a media briefing at the First Sea Lord’s Sea Power Conference this week, Admiral Sir Ben Key, the First Sea Lord, discussed potential changes in crew sizes for future Royal Navy warships.

His remarks were initially reported by the Telegraph here.

Admiral Sir Ben Key highlighted to the room of journalists that the future Multi Role Support Ships (MRSS) could be operated with significantly fewer crew members compared to current standards. Presently, warships such as the current Albion class require around 400 personnel, but with advancements in technology, the number could be reduced on the newer vessels.

The Royal Navy is looking to incorporate more automated systems and robotics that can handle tasks traditionally performed by sailors. This not only helps address manpower shortages but also reduces the risk to human lives during missions.

While the exact designs and specifications of these future ships are still under consideration, it is clear that the Royal Navy is moving towards a model that prioritises technological integration.

The expected crew would see the number of personnel going to sea fall on most types of ships, depending on the final designs and operational requirements but it’s worth noting that the First Sea Lord was very clear that he doesn’t have any specific numbers in mind.

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George has a degree in Cyber Security from Glasgow Caledonian University and has a keen interest in naval and cyber security matters and has appeared on national radio and television to discuss current events. George is on Twitter at @geoallison
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Paul Bestwick
Paul Bestwick (@guest_818971)
5 days ago

I have not seen anything about autonomous damage control and this is what is needed if you are going to reduce manning levels significantly.

Jim (@guest_818985)
5 days ago
Reply to  Paul Bestwick

Best damage control is having two ships instead of one and you can only have two ships if you have a smaller crew.

NRobin (@guest_818993)
5 days ago
Reply to  Paul Bestwick

Hi Paul, I think we have seen the beginning of the DC revolution. I’m late of QNLZ and spent hours of my life in HQ1 over the last few years. Whilst there is far more work to be done, simple transitions like fixed monitoring in engineering spaces, flood detectors in every major compartment below the waterline and the ability to monitor WTI via sensors on doors all contributed to a much more automated and realistic picture of the DC effort. As DCO I was able to pull up CCTV in most major spaces and had access to a wealth of… Read more »

Gunbuster (@guest_819070)
5 days ago
Reply to  NRobin

All for making the DCO/OOD/Section Base life easier. We had a lot of systems of a similar ilk on Bulwark. Some where a boon …others not so much. Flood sensors, fire sensors, heat sensors, CCTV, door and hatch sensors = ✅ DC boards on screens? I was not a fan. Unlike the age old DC State Board and chinagraph/perm marker pen I and many others found that you cannot really see the overall picture at a glance. I found that you ended up zooming in on an area of concern and were missing the other things around it. Even later… Read more »

Andy reeves
Andy reeves (@guest_820511)
4 minutes ago
Reply to  Paul Bestwick

the only real way you could get that would be a halon gas outlet in every compartment in the ship which would need huge space taking room in the ships deign.might have saved Sheffield and ardent in 1882. where fired couldn’t be extinguished fast enough and the damage to the actual structure led to the loss of the vessel.

maurice10 (@guest_818984)
5 days ago

The only way forward is to build naval vessels with less manning in terms of electronic warfare. AI will play a huge role in the transition to more automation and even some seamanship will be included. As for seamanship, docking, cleaning, servicing and general maintenance, manning levels will still need to be workable. However, the days of large crewed vessels are no longer sustainable with a changing public mindset about being part of the services. Luckily, technology is stepping up to the plate and bringing the advent of autonomous drones both above and below the water into active service in… Read more »

Gunbuster (@guest_819071)
5 days ago
Reply to  maurice10

Still need maintainers…Still need operators when the auto primary system goes down and you revert to back up secondary operation.v Still need loaders for weapon systems.
You can go lean but you lose Operational Capability after a point because you cannot sustain the work load. USN has big issues with this on LCS. Tired crew due to wearing many hats and long watches resulting in mechanical defects caused by poor maint or near collisions from tired bridge watch keepers

maurice10 (@guest_819194)
5 days ago
Reply to  Gunbuster

Gunbuster, I’m looking at remote control of much of the tech ops and the same control networked through two or three centres. Tech ops will still be required on board and a chain of immediate command but just much fewer than today.

Jim (@guest_818988)
5 days ago

We are literally building and operating ships with a crew of zero so the concept of getting the crew of a frigate down from 130 to 50 should be a piece of piss.

Frank62 (@guest_818994)
5 days ago

Who’s going to fix the AI/robots/automated systems when they go wrong or take battle damage?

AlexS (@guest_819014)
5 days ago

French just increased again the crew size in their FREMMs.

Michael Hepple
Michael Hepple (@guest_819035)
5 days ago

Less crew is great when everything is working! It’s when it fails that manpower is needed. When we would come alongside I would be working for hours in the cold when the other half of the crew would be queuing in their civvies waiting for the gangway to go down!!

Gunbuster (@guest_819072)
5 days ago
Reply to  Michael Hepple

Been there …done that…

If alongside “Logs and OPS Dept Leave! Leave until 2359. Ship is under sailing orders”

“WE/ME Dept Leave! …Leave your 8s/4s/Overalls on there isn’t any!”

Steve (@guest_819234)
5 days ago

Why do I think we will see more breakdowns /accident due to the reduced crews to properly monitor stuff. Plus I assume longer maintance periods caused by it.

The various crashes /sinking of ally ships in recent years have come down to this.

Last edited 5 days ago by Steve
Mike (@guest_819529)
4 days ago

It will be interesting to see how many crew the RFA will need to man MRSS? At present LSDA run with a minimum of 69 which increases dependant on operations. That said as a crew with addition RN is generally less than 100!!!!!! The most important thing to consider is system engineering as all this tech required substantial maintenance!!!