The First Sea Lord has stated that the Royal Navy now has two crews for the new aircraft carriers and plans to end tying up ships in harbour due to lack of crew.

Speaking to The News in Portsmouth, Admiral Sir Philip Jones said:

“Despite having to endure some deficiencies in our manning over the last couple of years –  which caused us to designate a couple of our frigates and destroyers as harbour training ships and adaptive force ships, running with a smaller ship’s companies – we’re now through that.

I’m pleased to say we have two crews for the two carriers [and] it’s not at the expense of manning elsewhere in the fleet.”

The strength of the Royal Navy is as below:


Trained Strength (Mid 2018)

Other Ranks26,470

Last year we reported that HMS Daring was removed from active service to become harbour training ship due to manning issues, joining HMS Lancaster. Both ships however are expected to return to active service.

The Royal Navy currently operates three bases where commissioned ships are based; HMNB Portsmouth, HMNB Devonport and HMNB Clyde.

In addition, a number of commissioned vessels belonging to the University Royal Naval Units (URNU) are stationed at various locations around the United Kingdom.

The total displacement of the Royal Navy is approximately 407,000 tonnes (641,000 tonnes including the Royal Fleet Auxiliary and Royal Marines).


  1. Great news, no idea how they managed it but its definitely welcome. With lower crew requirements for the T26s and T23s hopefully we will see additional hulls ordered in future too.

    • THESE PICTURES ARE NICE PUBLIC RELATIONS stuff, but i’d like a picture with a full escort in attendance not only would it look good but it would be good, and a true reflection of what any aggressor could expect to park on their doorstep.

    • lets see the rivers ‘gunned up to the level of the sigma 10514 corvette, same size, yet, coming with a 76mm gun, two triple torpedo launchers, two quad anti air launchers, 2o more crew and 5 knots faster, oh yes, i forgot exocet. if all the rivers could be kitted out this way, and they are big enough, then the R.N. would be quickly 9 ships(light frigate,corvette) better especially as they are already built.

      • And what would the RN do with them? They’d still just be used as OPVs, except that they’d be even more expensive wastes of money. Upgunning them to Corvettes doesn’t change the fact that they are still needed in home waters where all of those “upgrades” are wasted. The one deployment that would benefit is the Falklands guard ship, which would no longer be dependent on air support from the islands.

        Even if they didn’t already have important roles here at home though, they’re still short range combatants unsuitable as carrier escorts. Forget about expensively modifying OPVs that already have important jobs, the money is better invested in T31.

        • Callum – I agree with your counter-argument re upgunning Rivers but if it is based on “Even if they didn’t already have important roles here at home though, they’re still short range combatants unsuitable as carrier escorts.” then if that is the River’s role (and I’m not arguing that it isn’t) are the River B2s really adding anything vs something like a 42m Border Agency cutter? At least one BA Cutter has even been posted to the Med, I assume for some sort of policing duties (Smuggling? Migrants? People trafficking?).

          I’ve read many times that the River B2s were to a large extent make-work projects to honour a contract with BAE for a certain level of work which, due to delays, couldn’t be fulfilled by T26 builds but, judging purely on what the RN needs, I still have the nagging doubt that we would have been better off procuring 5 cutters and putting the considerable money saved towards boosting the T26/T31 frigate buys, or using the same budget to buy quite a few more than 5 cutters, or some combination of the two.

          Looking at the 42m cutters (e.g. this picture makes me wonder whether just a slight stretch at the back for a bigger UAV-sized rear deck plus covering in the area between the boxes on the aft deck with the comms dishes on top of them (funnels?) to give a UAV hangar plus replace the water cannon mount on the front with a 30mm or even 20mm would have made a perfectly acceptable vessel for policing roles in home waters, the Med and piracy off Africa at significantly lower cost than the River B2s.

          I don’t hate the River B2s but I do sometimes wonder if they have fallen into the slightly awkward middle ground between light frigate and policing-role cutter and that we wouldn’t have ended up with more overall capability had we used the budget to split between a high/low capability to get more vessels in the 42m range with a bit of cash left over to boost funding for the frigate program.

          • You’re 110% right Julian. While the size of the R2s makes it possible to stay at sea for longer and perform better in rougher seas (basically what makes them OPVs and not just cutters), they’re incredibly overcosted and for their role.

            I hesitate to say ordering let’s say 10 cutters instead of 5 new OPVs would’ve been a better allocation of resources, but a lower spec vessel would’ve definitely been more cost effective than the R2s. Unfortunately, the entire reason the OPVs were ordered was to sustain skilled labour

          • Julian, I’d suggest the way to think about the B2’s cost is as a “normally” priced OPV plus a massive subsidy to BAES. You shouldn’t look at the B2 value for money based on what was delivered for the £115M final price each, or assume that budget was available for something else that didn’t involve subsidy.

            Consider that the Amazonas class for Brazil are essentially very similar to the B2s. They were originally sold for £50M each to Trinidad and Tobago, who then cancelled the order after they were built; Brazil subsequently bought them at £44.3M each. So the BAES subsidy was anywhere up to £65M per ship based on the original £50M price. That is perhaps a bit harsh though, because the Amazonas were launched 2009/2010 so inflation would have increased the price and consequently reduced the amount of subsidy by the time of the first B2 orders. The last two of the five B2s were ordered in 2016 for £287m, including support for all five vessels, so it looks like there’s still some subsidy in there too. Perhaps to help compensate for the slow T26 build.

            What I do find rather ironic is that many commenters critique the B2 costs versus what was delivered, but then insist that the UK should be building Solid Support ships in the UK, apparently regardless of costs. The latter would be a subsidy just as much as the B2 order was for BAES IMV.

        • I do agree Callum, that the new Falklands guard ship OPC, shoud be up armed.
          Might be possible with deploying ExLS cell modules?

    • The decline in numbers of personnel and numbers of ships has been reversed. Good news that the navy is growing again.

      • That’s perhaps going a bit far. We can now crew all of our current ships, but that doesn’t change the fact that platforms aren’t actually being replaced on a like for like basis. Like how 8 T26s and 5 T31s may replace the current frigate fleet, but originally there were 16 T23s and 4 T22s that were meant to be replaced.

    • i’ve always believed the talk of a shortage of sailors has been overblown, the recent documentary series covering hms duncans operating in the black sea started with a sailor saying there more crew than beds! as for the anti submarine exercise, well done one and all, it gives more hope that our carrier defence will be of a high quality standard, keep those merlin armed and ready at all times, the americans do just that, a military platform should be able to carry out its tasks at a moments notice and not be delayed until some’shirt’ authorises it. keep the good news coming, all ships that CAN AND WILL be,ready to sail in the shortest time possible now we need to know what the f**k is the latest on type 31 and dragonfire.

  2. The future is bright. The next job is finding the people to man maintain 24 peacetime, 48 wartime F35B’s. Since the RAF is doing what it always does and daggering it’s enemies. The plus side will be when the F.A.A. show everyone what kind of airpower they can provide at a fraction of the cost the RAF can. It could have very important long-term consequences for the future.

    • David, why are you so anti RAF!?

      The Royal Air Force is as important as the RN where power projection and expeditionary capabilities are concerned.

      • keep the carriers ‘locked and loaded’ with their FULL AIR WING, as the americans do all the time, (no u.s carrier sails without its full capability in place), ready to deploy at a moments notice. take note M.O.D and their ‘q.e will deploy anywhere in the world with a ‘modest’ number of f 35’s embarked rubbish’ as the MOD saying about Q.E an operation carrier or any military asset should be available to do its job fully at all times, or don’t bother having them in the first place. a carrier,with 13 destroyers. makes a big, big battlegroup, and sounds a lot better than a carrier with an opv escort.this one carrier in maintenance, one operational, is plain rubbish, why build two if you can only have one.and use the money for escorts.time the SERVICES WERE ASKED ONCE AND FOR ALL, ‘WHAT DO YOU WANT QUALITY OR NUMBERS’ BECAUSE YOU CAN’T HAVE BOTH.ALL THIS POWER PROJECTION IS ALL WELL AND GOOD, BUT, WE ALL KNOW, ITS JUST ‘GUFF’ FOR THE MEDIA.

        • andy, one of the important cost saving advantages of using F-35B is that the aircrew do not need to be carrier qualified for catobar. This means that the air wing can be supplemented when required. It will not be necessary to have billions of pounds worth of F-35 corroding at sea just to keep the aircrew in practice. Aircraft can be flown out to the carrier if needed, and so you are unlikely to see our carriers stuffed with aircraft.

        • One carrier Will need to be In port for maintenance and for crew leave, or training new crew, or maybe in refit etc. Do you Not believe that a ships crew should have time with their family?
          If HMS Ocean was replaced, I could have served of as a third carrier.

          • Sorry, I meant a replacement of
            HMS Ocean serve as a third carrier.
            Maybe with a few F-35b’s as well?

    • The RAF have been involved with the regeneration of carrier strike from the very start of the programme, the F35 force will be 50/50 manned by the RAF and the RN.

  3. Excellent news.

    That 33450 total, does that include the 7,000 odd RM?

    I’d read somewhere that converting 42 Commando to Maritime Ops released many posts which could be filled by Seamen, and a number of officer posts were also reduced and replaced by extra other ranks.

  4. Agree Rob. Even with current personnel numbers we should be able to crew 2x QEC, 6x type 45, 8 X type 26 and at least 10 type 31s. Or if that is too tight the government could easily increase personnel numbers back up. 2000 dismissed in SDSR 2015, 3000+ in SDSR 2010. The RN and all the armed forces are at their lowest numbers since before the Napoleonic wars.

  5. Good news.

    Just hope that the crews hang around long enough for the 2 ships to embark their air wing/wings/shared wing and become operational.

    How long do you sign up for when you join the Navy? Can you get out early?

    Answers on a postcard….

  6. The best bit of navy news I’ve heard in a long, long time. Let’s hope with other positive news we have had this year that 2019 is a year of revival across the board and all the armed forces can move forward.

  7. Well I have a 1988 book that says Royal Navy strength is 69000, including FAA & Royal Marines.
    How the mighty are fallen.

    • I have plenty of books of that era.

      Army 160,000 RAF 92000 RN 69000

      To be fair those numbers are not needed now nor would they be possible to support financially without fantasy uplifts in funding.

      Having said that RN needs to get back to 24 escorts minimum and the army needs its 82000 fully trained.

      • Even during these austere times, I would not drop the British Army below 88000. I think we need those extra 6000 for the tanks, artillery & air defence, the reviews said we did not need anymore.

  8. Excellent news! ISL is reported as saying the RN is proving an attractive career for young people. When the RN prospers the country prospers. Let’s hope this is a turning point for both.

    • Yes I think so to ,if the Navy cant crew 2 carriers what’s the point of having 2,same for number of escorts that’s how the treasury thinks.

      • Come on guys…..positive thoughts. There’s enough s… out there without us dreaming it up. Two carrier battle groups, fully active. When was the last time you or even heard of such a thing?

        • Sorry to be cynical but how have we suddenly found the extra bodies hope its real but still its a bit of a coincidence that rumours about cutting a carrier have surfaced not so long ago.

          • But….It was only a couple of weeks ago that GW said that ha anticipated one carrier east of Suez whilst the other one was likely to be for the North Atlantic or for the Med.

            and….Being a Celt i have this nervous affliction brought on by not wanting to tempt fate and upset the Druids.. I need to go hug an Oak!!!!

  9. With the amount of media time the RN has been receiving of late – TV, worldwide deployments, supercarriers with cutting-edge a/c; plus turnaround foreign basing, family access, first class apprenticeships and full spectrum sports I’d hope for nothing less from our youngsters as realisation dawns of a career to take pride in. Lets hope it converts to longer service, notwithstanding that certain of the benefits are very attractive to the private sector. Still, reflects well on the dynamism of the Royal Navy. Good News.

  10. Although great news it is, I am wondering what is the 1st SL talking about?

    From “UK Armed Forces Quarterly Service Personnel Statistics 1 January 2019”, yes, “RN/RM regular forces ” was 32,540 on 1 Oct 2018, (as stated in the portsmouth news), BUT, …
    – it actually was 32,400 on 1 Jan 2016,
    – and now 32,380 on 1 Jan 2019.
    As clearly seen, it is REDUCTION of 20 persons if compared to Jan 2016 and Jan 2018, and no indication of ~400 increase.

    May be 42 Commando issue is the major “resouse” for those “more crews”?

      • Yes, 38,550 is the “mid-2018” number.

        Latest number, as compared to 2 years ago (Jan 2016) is “32,400 –> 32,380”, in short, 20 less. It is official MOD document = open information.

    • Looking at the MoD report the regular navy and RM numbers have been relatively similar from 2016 to 2019 at 32,400 +/- 50. What that doesn’t show of course is the mix of personnel.

      If for example the RN was short of engineering and/or weapons officers/other ranks, then that could easy cause a ship to stay tied up until those specialist trade occupations were fully resourced, even though the rest of the ship could be fully manned. So relatively low recruitment, or higher retention than expected for key trades, might easily address laid up ships.

  11. I hope that they put both carriers to sea together even just for a photo op and with a few escorts would look awesome, I’d imagine that would boost recruitment

  12. Anyone on here know why so many T23s are sailing without their harpoons? Someone stated that unless their deployed they won’t have them but this doesn’t seem to make sense to me. By that logic are they removing torpedoes and anti air missiles as well?

    • Yes. The ships will only have small arms ammo at most on board. Everything else including 4.5 ammo will be kept in an armoury on shore. The ships then load up with its fall complement of ammunition before deploying.

    • Harpoon is a relatively simple weapon that can just be bolted on and off as long as the infrastructure is in place. Therefore most vessels wont routinely carry them in home waters when on training etc (when they wont be needed) since that just increases wear and tear and only have them bolted on when deploying on ops or live firing exercises. Warships will routinely go to sea unarmed if there is no need to carry the weapons, it being peace time and all.

      • ‘Warships will routinely go to sea unarmed if there is no need to carry the weapons, it being peace time and all.’

        If that’s true, I find it frightening.

        Are we ever really in peace time these days? We have troops deployed in various places, ISIS and other Jihadist nutters would love to drive a suicide speedboat into the side of a Western ship. Gibraltar is under constant harassment from the idiot Spanish, Chinese making claim to half the islands in the south China Sea. Just a few possibly flashpoints.

        As Frank62 said above ‘Be Prepared’

        If some religious loonie knew there’s a good chance that HMS BigGreyTarget was sailing past unarmed….

        • They are always armed with the small arms stuff, and phalanx, mini guns ect, even if Harpoons are not fitted, weapons have a shelf life when fitted to a warship, same with air-air missiles fitted to a fast jet, they need maintenance, so if the risk is low, or not required at all, why fit them? It extends the lives of the munitions, and is less work/maintenance for the crew. The Navy knows the risks, and wont send a Vessel in harms way without the correct weapons fit.

          • Robert, I fully accept your comments.

            I’m still shocked that ships go out under strength / unable to defend themselves fully / our allies/ innocent civilians/ not fully prepared.

            And whilst I accept that the navy / politicians have a lot more information about possible hostiles etc, things can still surprise them.

            Anyone remember a south American lot invading some islands. Or an American ship being suicide bombed in 2000.

            S**t happens.

  13. An emphasis these days at the design stage is to REDUCE the number of crew needed, so quite naturally for a similar capability, there will be less crew than before.

    This is good news for the RN. But what is needed to maintain interest and help recruitment really is more Navy on TV in documenataries, or even some sort of fiction series. Same for the RAF and perhaps Army.

    It gets popular interest, and perhaps counters the silly negativity of much of the press.

    • There have been a few of late, Duncan, QE spring to mind, plus I saw a trailer for a RM documentary. Also the Red Arrows one was good.

      So a few. Sadly TV tends to aim for the Lowest Common Denominator, hence shite like love island, and ‘I think I’m a celebrity even though 99% of people have no idea who I am, but I’m desperate to be on TV, get me out of here’.

      Catchy title if I do say myself!

  14. Great news but is this just crew? What is the situation with shoreside engineering staff for our ever-more-sophisticated kit? (Gunbuster – any thoughts?)

    I also agree with HF. Our servicemen and women deserve not only state-of-the art kit but also to be right at the top end of the rankings vs other militaries when it comes to pay and conditions. Gavin Williamson needs to be campaigning for additional funding there too (in fairness, maybe he is). One problem is that that spending there isn’t as sexy and buying more kit and doesn’t create exciting press releases (“MoD removes mould and re-seals 800 bathrooms and fixes 1,100 leaking roofs”) but i5 is still extremely important though and we owe it to our personnel.

  15. I just realised that my two posts on this thread so far were both a bit whining. On the core announcement in this article – this is great news, even more exciting when transition from T23 to T26/T31 should reduce the total crew tied up with 13 frigates so maybe getting to status quo now removes the crewing barrier to increasing escort numbers in the T26/T31 future. Congratulations to all involved in apparently successfully addressing this particular issue.

  16. Let’s be honest the RN recruiting adverts have been spot on over that last couple of years, giving an aspiration of a great life long career, while the army ones seen to focus no teabag sniffing.

  17. It’s very welcome and encouraging news, let’s hope we have seen rock bottom and we see a steadily improving Royal Navy from here on in.

    They just need to get the numbers up ( of the right trades) and stable in both the RAF and Army now.

  18. All great news, but I do wonder what happens upon contact, as our ships are incapable of sinking another ship and our carriers need at least 24 and ideally 36 F35 to reach their potential.

    Exciting times and I have to say that this 1FSL has been an amazing asset to the RN, UK military and our country. He has navigated the difficulties of manpower, funding and technological change far better than all of his peers. When set against Nick Carter and the debacles of FRES etc… you do have to wonder how they promote people in this country.

    Good for the RN… now let him lead all our armed forces

  19. Hi folks hope are all well.
    Good posts above!
    Yes this is great news and credit to the first sea lord and Gaving Williamson no doubt. Lets hope this is a positive turning point for the RN.

  20. How many per carrier? Wasn’t the original estimate of numbers needed a bit optimistic?

    Last I heard, there were about 200 more than planned on the QE.

  21. Although this is good news it is still not enough. Two carrier groups need a minimum of three crews, one operational, one training up one shore leave/time.
    It is my opinion that the RN should build what I call permanent battlegroups , 1 QE class, 2 T45s and 3 T26s with an Astute plus a tide and a new FSS making up a battlegroup. When this is group goes in for refit, repair or mid life extension the complete group goes in. They work train go on leave refit etc as one. This would do several things at once, reduce costs, reduce manning, improve the groups alertness and understanding.
    The T31s to be used for home, Falklands and Indian Ocean independent patrols whilst the remaining T45s and T26s as an escort for the Amphibious group (Albion and Bulwark) with the attached Bays and Support ships.
    When looked at in this way it does appear that the T31 numbers needs to increase to a minimum of 9 vessels they also need to have a containerised VDS, possibly the older ones from the T23s as an interim solution.
    Does anyone know if there has been an exercise on the carriers where the automated ammo handling system has received battle damage and things have to be done by hand. Is it possible, is there enough crew to carry this out or does the carrier need to come home for repairs?

    • What Is the Point of using Specialist Anti submarine warfare ships to escort a noisy carrier group!! It is a Flawed idea to use ASW warships for escorting close in.

      Read my post on noise from ships below!

      A Type 26 Frigate would need to be miles ahead to be effective!!

      A carrier group need anti air warfare frigates and destroyers, but because UK has only 6 destroyers, and
      also maybe only one might be available, so more AAW frigates are needed, I can see that at least 10 need to be procured really.
      The Type 31 frigate is the only option of a AAW escort frigate for the foreseeable future.

      The Type 26 Frigate is designed to hunt quiet submarines, or subs. tens of miles away.
      The engines of Type 26 sit on dampers and isolaters to stop noise from the engine being transmitted into the water, and being picked up by the warship’s very sensitive towed array sonnar. If a Type23/26 sails too close to a aircraft carrier, the noise coming from the hull of the carrier will be pick up by the warship’s sonnar and be drown out any faint noise coming from subs. not too far away. So a Type23/26 ASW frigate would need to sail some distance ahead of the main fleet in order for this ship’s sonnar system to function most effectively to hunt submarines.

  22. Absolutely, people tend to think of a battle group in WW2 terms, when ships operated close together to allow them to put up a continuous wall of lead against attacking aircraft.

    The anti submarine ships, would aggressively turn, close to the capital ships, aggressively pursuing contacts

    A modern British carrier group, going into a serous shooting war in 2025 say, would be centered on a QE class with 36 F35’s, with 2 T45’s, bracketing the carrier and RFA support ships

    I would hope the T45’s would be equipped with Astor NG and quad packed Seaceptor by then, for combinations of 90+ missiles.

    The T23/T26 ( three) would be some miles further out, just far enough for their kit to work correctly away from the task groups noise pollution, but close enough to be adequately covered by the T45’s air defence umbrella.

    I should imagine the AS frigate group would shift position around the main task group regularly, as opposed to a fairly rigid formation being kept by the rest.

    A single Astute would be patrolling the far outer ark. Probably 50-100 or more miles ahead of the main group.

  23. The numbers are still low, but we have to take crew for modern ships into account. The total displacement of the Royal Navy is approximately 407,000 tonnes (641,000 tonnes including the Royal Fleet Auxiliary and Royal Marines). Lets not include the “commercial” RFA as these ships could well be used for commercial operations according to the MoD. RFA now need to be seen as almost cruise ships, container or tanker ships, not connected to the RN, unlike Germany, Italy, France or Holland etc… Incidently, do commercial ship owners have to tender abroad say, a cruise ship owner building at say Papenburg. Do any commercial aships built in eu empire say continer cruiseship, tanker offshore specialised ship of any type, heve to be tendered internationally, as with our Uk tax funded ships that should be spent here in the UK under conditions of investment etc…!?


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