Next-Gen Royal Navy Frigates to Operate With as Few as 50 Sailors

Next-generation Royal Navy frigates could operate with fewer than one-third of present vessels’ crew, helping ease recruitment woes.

Thanks to technological advances, the in-development Type 31 and next-generation Type 32 frigates will include crews of 105 and 50, Babcock’s John Howie told The Telegraph.

Babcok and BAE Systems are leading the vessels’ construction, with the Type 32 joining the service in the 2030s and the Type 31 by 2030.

The Type 31 will replace the over-three-decade-old Type 23 vessels, which housed 185 sailors..

Transition at Play

The transition, in fact, can already be seen with the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth operating with a crew of 750, around one-third of previous generation carriers.

“A lot of that’s been done… through the highly-mechanized weapons handling system,” The Telegraph quoted Babock’s corporate affairs chief as saying.

“On a US carrier they’ve got 250 people doing something that needs just a handful on Queen Elizabeth, because it’s been mechanized.”

Greater Automation, Remote Monitoring

“Type 31s have a core crew that is much lower than Type 23. So some of it you’re getting through remote monitoring and compartments, some of it through automation.

“People talk about a Type 32 frigate – we like to refer to it as Type 31 batch two. We’re doing a crew of about 105 on Type 31, so realistically we should be aiming to half that number for batch two.”

Recruitment Woes

It comes as the service has consistently missed its recruitment target for over a decade.

Its annual recruitment target-intake gap of 27.37 percent in 2023 has been the widest since 2011.

So much so, the service is planning to mothball the amphibious assault ships HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark due to a shortage of sailor, according to The Telegraph.

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