The Ministry of Defence have rejected claims made by various news outlets carrying stories about a report from Chatham House, arguing manning levels have been cut to the point that Britain risks not being able to crew the new supercarriers that are currently being fitted out and assembled.

The Royal Navy is planning to recruit up to 1,000 personnel from countries including the US, Canada and Australia to fill gaps in critical specialist engineering jobs in the next decade.

Each carrier will have a total crew of 679, increasing to the full complement of 1,600 when the air elements are embarked.

The MoD said in a statement:

“In making investment choices, the MOD takes account of all the requirements that come together to deliver military capability.  These include training, infrastructure, logistics and of course people.The manpower requirement of these new capabilities is fully understood. We would not buy equipment if we did not plan to have the people to operate it. We are currently carrying out a strategic defence and security review which will consider all aspects of the capabilities that we need now and in the future.”

Britain has currently committed to spend 2% of its national income on defence, raising the Ministry of Defence’s budget by 0.5% every year until 2020.

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Which variant of F-35 will operate from this carrier-B or C?

UK Defence Journal


Mark Campbell

Why can’t people just get behind the Navy and give them the support they deserve!! When the carriers and JSF’s come on line, along with the type 45 destroyers and new frigates, it will make the Royal Navy one of the most modern in the world. None of us like change and it was sad to see the Sea Harrier and the Invincible class carriers go, they served the Navy well and can retire with honour but onwards and upwards. I for one look forward to see the progression of the Navy in the years to come!!

Jamie O'Riordan

It’s because the government puts people off from joining the armed forces by making defence cut. People think that what’s the point of joining the forces when the government are cutting available jobs in the navy, RAF and land forces.

Chris Harding

I think it’s a valid concern especially with fact that the new carriers will not even be carrying a half complement of fighters when they are supposedly at full strength (12 fighters per ship).

while I agree that the Harriers were ready to retire I see no reason why a small complement was not saved for the interests of Crew training and to hold the interim until the US’s so called ‘super economy fighter’ is available in numbers for the harrier wings to be phased out squadron by squadron and they had time to prove themselves

UK Defence Journal

The number of F-35 will range from 12 to 36 depending on the ships mission, with surge capacity being around 60.

Chris Harding

then the QE class is reported to have a maximum complement of 50 aircraft how is it supposed to carry the extra 10 fighters?

UK Defence Journal

Many sources report many different maximums, the vessels however are physically capable of operating 58 aircraft, including helicopters remember, in surge conditions.

Jonny Davies

In surge conditions won’t aircraft be stored on the flight deck?

Chris Power

The other issue was the RAF chose (correct decision for them) to keep Tornado over Harrier and the RN was so embedded in Joint Force Harrier they probably couldn’t have supported a stand alone fleet anyway. Might have been different if they still few the Sea Harrier.

James Gale

Sea Harrier was obsolete. Really no more effective in the modern battlespace than a Hawk.

John Fisher

Can’t wait to see it in Portsmouth dockyard

Jason Bartlett

Theres nothing wrong with bringing crew in from the usa,canada etc but i dont think there will be an issue more people can be recruited.

Peter Daly

Christ there aint half some bellyaching on this site ! These Carriers look fantastic along with the new Destroyers and F35Bs etc

Chris Moss

When the total RN complement plus half as much again can fit into the Stadium of Light I think manning levels are well worth looking at.

bill peters

come on, it is hardly a “super carrier” for Gods sake, its too small.


I don’t know if it is political talk or just how it is phrased, but I read the statement as we will free up sailors as part of the SDSR to man the carriers. The only way to achieve that is by reducing the number of other hulls, assuming they don’t mass recruit, which won’t happen.

I hope I am just adding 1+1 and getting 10.

shark bait

Steve, I think by the sounds of things both options are being considered, both extra crew, and reallocating crew.
For starters I think it fairly widely accepted that ocean is being chopped to fill the carriers with sailors.

Colin McCourt

They cant man the Type 45s now, so think it is a valid concern.

Ben Goodall

They’ll man the carriers by cutting crew numbers on the rest of the fleet! With american pilots and jets!


I think you just have to think like a politician. They made the decision in the last review to cut the number of navy personnel. If they now increased it, they would be admitting they made a mistake and the press would run with the story. As such an increase in manpower is a in my opinion a no go from the SDSR. As such they need to find the crew from the existing ships. Getting rid of HMS ocean would free up some of the requirement and i wouldn’t be surprised if to also hear about early retirement/selling of… Read more »


If the MOD is going back to the old colonies to recruit for the Royal Navy why not go the whole hog and bring back The Press Gang? My biggest fear is that none of the Anglo-Saxon World Countries with the potential to provide recruits are EU members which means that the recruits will need visas and face legal barriers as they are considered “aliens”. It’ll only take a case at the ECHR to see this plan overturned and recruitment from EU States only being permitted under free movement of labour. I am a supporter of the EU but it… Read more »

[…] MoD Reject Claims Carriers Will Not Have Sufficient Crew (UK Defence Journal) […]

peter lloyd

We will not be EU members soon.And a lot of the crew on HMS VICTORY at Trafalgar were not British,but from the colonies including the USA.