Help Wanted: Royal Navy Uses LinkedIn to Find New Head of Nuclear Subs

Vanguard-class nuclear submarine
Royal Navy file image

Published Jan 8, 2024 6:15 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Royal Navy's submarine service has a long and proud history, including decades of experience operating nuclear-armed subs - the stealthiest, most dangerous vessels at sea. It does not, however, appear to have a clear line of succession for its next top officer: the service has come in for scathing criticism after turning to LinkedIn to recruit a new manager for the UK's underwater nuclear arsenal. 

In December, the Royal Navy posted a job advertisement online seeking a "Director of Submarines." Responsibilities include "highly classified stealth, elite operations and Trident, our nuclear deterrent." The position also has oversight of all of the UK's highly technical submarine repair and acquisition programs. 

Required qualifications for this rear admiral-level position include current service with the reserve forces or previous active-duty service, prior command of a submarine, and availability to start in April 2024. The Royal Navy is willing to consider former officers who last served at the rank of captain, two ranks below the pay grade for the position. The pay is commensurate with the role's serious responsibilities: $190,000 per year. 

Perhaps hoping that the LinkedIn community might have hiring tips, the service asked members of the general public if they "know someone is up for the task" of managing the UK's six attack subs and four nuclear-missile subs.

The news of the unfilled vacancy will be of interest to the UK's primary regional competitor, Russia, and to up-and-coming naval power China. It will also be noted in Australia: the UK Director of Submarines is the lead officer for the AUKUS joint submarine acquisition program on the British side. The AUKUS plan calls for purchasing U.S.-built Virginia-class boats followed by UK-designed subs later in the 2030s. 

One UK military source told The Independent that the Royal Navy was not able to find a suitable candidate in-house, and that the ad was an "unprecedented" step. 

Many NATO nations' maritime forces are struggling to recruit, including the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard. The Royal Navy's recruitment numbers fell by more than 20 percent year-on-year in 2023, and its end strength head count fell by about four percent over the same period. 

The shortfall in personnel poses a generational challenge to the service. Multiple outlets report that the Royal Navy has decided to decommission two older frigates, sister ships HMS Westminster and HMS Argyll, in order to cross-deck the crews to newbuilds that are soon to deliver.