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).

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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.

andy reeves

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.

Daniele Mandelli

That will come Andy.


Hopefully with F35s (ours!) on deck

andy reeves

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… Read more »


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… Read more »


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

Glass Half Full

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… Read more »

Steve Taylor

Ships have been getting bigger for years. You can’t compare a Leander from the 70s with an OPV from today just because of size.


Yep they are basic constabulary vessels, lets just leave them that way.

Meiron X

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


I thought the idea was that the B1 were to be recommissioned for home waters and the B2 were to be forward deployed. How the navy are finding the manpower for this though I’m not sure. Hopefully, it’s not at the expense of training.


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.

Robert Blay

Happy days, great to hear some positive news.

andy reeves

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… Read more »

Steve Taylor

It hasn’t been over blown at all. The MoD (N) over the last 20 plus years or so has made some staggeringly poor decisions when it came to manning.

David Steeper

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.

Daniele Mandelli

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.

andy reeves

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… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

They will always go for quality, and rightly so.

But numbers can be improved if the MoD buy wisely.

Robert Blay

What’s with the capital’s? I think we can all read.

Robert Blay

And they will always go for quality, capability keeps us at the top table, not lots of 2nd rate equipment.


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.

Meiron X

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.

Meiron X

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

Steve Taylor

To do that the US has 4 carriers-ish for every station.

We will never operate QE at those tempos.

Steve R

Why build 2 and only operate 1 at a time? Because only having 1 carrier means that if it is due for refit or maintenance then we can’t send it to war. France has one carrier, the Charles De Gaulle; if it’s undergoing maintenance then it’s out of any potential fight. If it’s having a mid life upgrade or serious refit, or has any problems which put it out of action i.e. engine problems, then France cannot deploy a carrier. Also means that if it were sunk in combat then France has lost its naval power projection for the Next… Read more »

Robert Blay

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.


Just as a perspective-the last but one Ark Royal had a full complement of 2500 plus!


How the hell did they fit that many people and that much food on a ship that size! Talk about Tetris.

Daniele Mandelli

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.

Mr Bell

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.


A good point! It does depend on whether the relatively small crews for these vessels actually work in practice!

Geoffrey Roach

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.


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

Daniele Mandelli

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.


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.

Robert Blay

When I joined back in 1999 it was 4 years minimum return of service, though that could be different now.

Daniele Mandelli

I wonder if this is also a bit of political manoeuvering by 1SL.

In so far as making it clear if one of the QEC is flogged off by HMG manpower will NOT be the reason.


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.

Geoffrey Roach

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?

Daniele Mandelli


I am positive.

I am also trying, as usual, to be realistic.


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.

Geoffrey Roach

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!!!!


Encouraging news.

Now we need to focus on boosting RFA numbers. Three of their ships are also in laid-up due to manpower issues.

Gavin Gordon

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.

captain P Wash

Good post Gavin.


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”?


RN and RM forces combined number 38,550 according to press reports I just read


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.

Glass Half Full

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.


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


I think that’s an opportunity they won’t miss out on.

Throw in some RFAs, escorts, and maybe Albion and you’d be looking at a pretty good photo op.

(Sorry, I’d just love to see something like that!)


Throw in a few Spitfires and Hurricanes too, just for good measure.

Daniele Mandelli

No RGR I totally agree.

BBMF, the Reds, Kings Troop RHA, all have a role to play.

captain P Wash.

Concord Painted Green with a few Red Tops A Blue Steel and Sidewinders would have put the Fear of God In any Emeny !!!!!! lol.

Daniele Mandelli


That sort of thing is the perfect PR exercise.

captain P Wash.

Yup, I’d fairly Snot right Up !!!!


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?

Harry Bulpit

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.


Oh ok thanks


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.


Hmm, what could go wrong with that I wonder? Badon Powell must be spinning in his grave.

Robert Blay

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.

captain P Wash.

J, Yes. Whaling Is still Banned in UK waters.

Hope This Helps.


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.

captain P Wash.

Quite. !!!!

Anyway, “Top Gun” was “Awesome” as a recruiting aid for the Yanks.

I’ve always wondered why “We” couldn’t do something Similar.

“Sailor” and “Warship” Worked for me.

captain P Wash.

Altogether now, “I am Sailing, I Am Sailing”.

captain P Wash.

Yup RGR, That worked for me too !!!!!!!



Damn good. Let’s improve pay and conditions across the services so manpower isn’t a problem.


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… Read more »


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.


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.

John Clark

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.


Here are the Jan 2019 figures…

What they dont show is the Branch break down . The old figures up to 2017 used to show the haemorrhaging of trained engineers in the RN…for what ever reason you cannot see that now…


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… Read more »

George Amery

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.


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.


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… Read more »

Meiron X

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… Read more »

Steve Taylor

Um. They are still escorting the carrier if they are over horizon with their TAS deployed.

Meiron X

Ron# There is No plan for 2 battlegroups! Maybe 2 in War time! UK plan is just 1 battlegroup to have 2 carriers, only 1 on ops at a time, and 1 will need to be In port for maintenance and for crew leave, or training new crew, or maybe in refit etc. The UK does not have enough warships presently to form 2 battlegroups.

John Clark

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… Read more »


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… Read more »