The outgoing captain of HMS Queen Elizabeth has said it would be lovely if the Royal Navy had an extra 10,000 personnel.
Captain Jerry Kyd, the £3.1bn warship’s first seafaring commanding officer, is set to be replaced by Captain Nick Cooke-Priest this week – while the aircraft carrier is in New York.
Speaking as HMS Queen Elizabeth was anchored off the island of Manhattan for a week-long New York visit, Capt Kyd said he would like to grow the size of the navy over the coming years.
With more than 32,000 people making up the full-time force of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines, he explained that retention and recruitment is a ‘constant battle’.
Capt Kyd added: ‘This again is why we are looking at innovative manning.
‘It is a constant battle – you have to have a strategy which balances your ends, ways and means.
‘It would be lovely if we had another 10,000 people in the navy... we are okay, we are balanced, we are getting back into balance.
‘What is probably the most challenging is making sure there is balance across the different branches of the navy.
‘It is not numbers as such, it is the right quality of people in the right numbers in the right areas.’
He said retention rather than recruitment is more of an issue, and that they are constantly looking for ways to make it more attractive as a career.
Commodore Mike Utley, the commander of the UK Carrier Strike Group, said the armed forces need highly qualified, highly motivated people – and they are also usually attractive to industry.
‘We are in competition, it is a marketplace,’ he said, but added the global deployments on offer, as well as new ships, aircraft carriers and F-35 jets, are a draw.
Capt Kyd also revealed that the sister ship of HMS Queen Elizabeth, HMS Prince of Wales, is ‘on the gradual build up’ with more than 500 personnel forming the ship's company so far.
With HMS Queen Elizabeth due to enter operational service in 2021, he said the combination of aircraft carriers, cutting-edge jets, Type 45 destroyers and astute class submarines will probably mean it is the ‘most potent a military task group we will have put together since 1982’.
He added: ‘It is a strategic and political tool... it is all about deterrence.’
Discussing the two new aircraft carriers which cost £3.1bn each, Capt Kyd said they mark a ‘truly profound change for the Royal Navy’.
He added: ‘And I think very much signposts the future for the Royal Navy for the next 50 years. It is transformational for us in so many ways.’
This sentiment was mirrored by defence secretary Gavin Williamson, who visited the ship on Saturday and said it is a 'clear sign and clear demonstration' of Britain's capability Britain.
‘It is quite obvious to me that she is going to be an enormous asset to the Royal Navy, and really is an outward sign of rebirth of the Royal Navy, and actually a much more global navy,’ he said.
‘You can see so much of that happening already in the last year, with HMS Sutherland and HMS Albion playing an important role in the Pacific and Indian Oceans.
‘This is the clearest demonstration that we are back in the league of being a great global navy that is able to project power, project influence and make a difference in every sea and ocean.’