Commandant (rank)

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Commandant ( /ˌkɒmənˈdɑːnt/ , /ˌkɒmənˈdænt/ , /ˈkʌmədənt/ ) is a military or police rank used in many Spanish, Irish and French-speaking armed forces, where it is usually equivalent to the rank of major. In South Africa for most of the second half of the 20th century, commandant was a rank equivalent to lieutenant-colonel.



Commandant d'aviation was the Canadian French term for the air force rank of squadron leader (prior to the 2014 amendment of the National Defence Act).[ citation needed ] The rank of squadron leader itself had not been held by active duty personnel in the Canadian Forces since 1968 when it was replaced by major.


Commandant (Comdt) (Irish : Ceannfort) is a military rank in both the Irish Army and Irish Air Corps. [1] It is equivalent to major and squadron leader. In the Irish Naval Service, the equivalent rank is lieutenant commander.


Army-FRA-OF-03.svg France-Airforce-OF-3 Sleeve.svg
Army and air force insignia
CountryFlag of France.svg  France
Service branch Army
Air Force
Rank group Senior officer
NATO rank code OF-3
Next higher rank Lieutenant colonel
Next lower rank Captain
Equivalent ranks Corvette captain

Commandant is an officer-grade rank of the Military of France, [2] specifically the French Army and the French Air and Space Force, in both of which it has NATO level OF-3: equivalent to major or lieutenant-commander. In this context, it is shortened form of the previous rank capitaine-commandant : i.e. a "captain commanding (a battalion)".

The commandant is also styled chef de bataillon ("battalion leader") in the infantry, chef d'escadrons ("squadrons leader") in the armoured cavalry and chef d'escadron ("squadron leader") in the artillery and the Gendarmerie .

In the French Navy, commandant is a appointment or operational command, rather than a rank, namely, the most senior officer of a ship, e.g. capitaine de vaisseau (vessel), capitaine de frégate (frigate), capitaine de corvette (corvette). As such, it can refer to the holders of several ranks.

Prior to the French Revolution, the major was the officer appointed by the King to keep track of the expenditures and readiness of a regiment. He could have a deputy (an aide-major) and could be either a commoner or a nobleman. A major was graded as a commissar, not an officer. The officer at commandant rank level was the chef de bataillon or chef d'escadron.

Major is now, however, the most senior warrant officer rank, above adjudant-chef.


In the Spanish Army and Spanish Air Force, the rank of comandante is senior to a captain and junior to a lieutenant colonel, making it equivalent to the rank of major or squadron leader in English-speaking countries.

Latin America

Comandante ("commandant") is a military officer rank used in some Latin American countries.[ citation needed ] The Chilean Air Force uses the rank of comandante de escuadrilla ("squadron commandant") as a rank equivalent to the British rank of squadron leader. The Peruvian Air Force uses the rank of comandante as an equivalent to lieutenant-colonel or wing commander.

Comandante can be translated into English either as "commandant" or as "commander". The rank may also be found in numerous paramilitary organizations, such as the Sandinistas.

South Africa

South African army commandant insignia
South African army commandant insignia

In South Africa, commandant was the title of the commanding officer of a commando (militia) unit, initially in the Cape Colony and later also in the Boer republics.

From 1950 to 1994 commandant was the official designation of the rank of lieutenant-colonel in the South African Army, South African Air Force, and South African Medical Service.

From 1950 to 1957, the rank insignia for a commandant (Kommandant in Afrikaans) was a crown over a five-pointed star. [3] [4] In 1957 the crown was replaced by a pentagonal castle device based on the floor plan of the Castle of Good Hope in Cape Town, South Africa's oldest military building. [4] In 1994, the rank of commandant / kommandant reverted to lieutenant colonel. [5]

From 1968 to 1970, a related rank, chief commandant (hoofkommandant), existed in the Commando Forces [the rural part-time, territorial reserve, roughly equivalent to a National Guard or Home Guard]. [6] This rank of chief commandant existed purely in the army and slotted in between commandant and colonel. The rank was only used by officers commanding commando groups (i.e. a small formation consisting of two or more commando units).

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom the term commandant usually refers to an appointment, not a rank. However, between 1922 and 1928 the rank of brigadier-general was replaced by colonel-commandant. This was not well received, and was replaced by brigadier.

Later, senior commandant and chief commandant were Auxiliary Territorial Service ranks equivalent to major and lieutenant-colonel respectively used between 1939 and May 1941, when they were replaced by senior and chief commander. The Commanding Officers of individual battalions of the Brigade of Gurkhas was designated a Commandant, rather than a commanding officer; and so with the Bermuda Militia Artillery (1895-1965). These ranks were also used in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force until December 1939, when they were replaced by squadron officer and wing officer (equating to squadron leader and wing commander) respectively. The rank was also used for senior commanders of the Ulster Special Constabulary (B Specials).

Army insignia

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Squadron leader</span> OF-3 rank in the Royal Air Force and other air forces

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Wing commander</span> Commissioned rank in the RAF and air forces of other Commonwealth countries

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Chief warrant officer is a senior warrant officer rank, used in many countries.

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Colonel is a Canadian Forces rank used by commissioned officers in the Canadian Army and Royal Canadian Air Force. Captain(N) is the equivalent rank in the Royal Canadian Navy. A colonel is senior to the army and air force rank of lieutenant-colonel or the naval rank of commander, and junior to the army and air force rank of brigadier-general or the naval rank of commodore.

The officer ranks of the Royal Air Force, as they are today, were introduced in 1919. Prior to that Army ranks were used.

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Commandant-general is a military rank in several countries and is generally equivalent to that of major-general.

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