Flag officer

Last updated

A flag officer is a commissioned officer in a nation's armed forces senior enough to be entitled to fly a flag to mark the position from which the officer exercises command.


The term is used differently in different countries:

General usage

The generic title of flag officer is used in several modern navies and coast guards to denote those who hold the rank of rear admiral (or its equivalent) and above, also called "flag ranks"; in some navies, this also includes the rank of commodore. Flag officer corresponds to the generic terms general officer (used by land and some air forces to describe all grades of generals) and air officer (used by other air forces to describe all grades of air marshals and air commodores).

A flag officer sometimes is a junior officer, called a flag lieutenant or flag adjutant, attached as a personal adjutant or aide-de-camp.


In the Canadian Forces, a flag officer (French: officier général, "general officer") is an admiral, vice-admiral, rear-admiral, or commodore, the naval equivalent of a general officer of the army or air force. It is a somewhat counterintuitive usage of the term, as only flag officers in command of commands or formations actually have their own flags (technically a commodore has only a broad pennant, not a flag), and army and air force generals in command of commands or formations also have their own flags, but are not called flag officers. Base commanders, usually full colonels, also have a pennant that flies from the mast or flagpole on the base, when resident, or on vehicles that carry them. [1]

A flag officer's rank is denoted by a wide strip of gold braid on the cuff of the service dress tunic; one to four gold maple leaves over a crossed sword and baton, all beneath a royal crown, on epaulettes and shoulder boards; and two rows of gold oak leaves on the peak of the service cap. [2] Since the unification of the Canadian Forces in 1968, a flag officer's dress tunic had a single broad stripe on the sleeve and epaulettes. On May 5, 2010, however, the naval uniform dark dress tunic was adjusted—exterior epaulettes were removed, reverting to the sleeve ring and executive curl-rank insignia used by most navies; commodores' uniforms display a broad stripe, and each succeeding rank receives an additional sleeve ring. There are no epaulettes on the exterior of the tunic, but they are still worn on the uniform shirt underneath. [3]


In India, it is applied to brigadiers, major generals, lieutenant generals and generals in the Army; commodores, rear admirals, vice admirals and admirals in the Navy; and air commodores, air vice marshals, air marshals and air chief marshals in the Air Force. Each of these flag officers is designated with a specific flag. India's honorary ranks (five star ranks) are field marshal in the Army, marshal of the Indian Air Force in the Air Force and admiral of the fleet in the Navy. A similar equivalence is also applied to senior police officers of rank Deputy Inspector General(DIG), Inspector General(IG), Additional Director General(ADG) and Director General(DG).

United Kingdom

In the Royal Navy, there is a distinction between the "flag officer" and "officer of flag" ranks. Formerly all officers promoted to flag rank were considered to be "flag officers" [4] and the term is still widely used to refer to any officer of flag rank. Present usage is that all rear-admirals and above are officers of flag rank, but only those officers of flag rank who are authorised to fly a flag are formally called "flag officers", and have different flags for different ranks of admiral. Of the 39 officers of flag rank in the Royal Navy in 2006, very few were "flag officers" with entitlement to fly a flag. For example, Commander-in-Chief Fleet flies an admiral's flag whether ashore or afloat and is a "flag officer"; the chief of staff (support), a rear admiral, is not entitled to fly a flag and is an "officer of flag rank" rather than a "flag officer". List of fleets and major commands of the Royal Navy lists most admirals who were "flag officers". A flag officer's junior officer is often known as "Flags".[ citation needed ] Flag Officers in the Royal Navy are considered as Rear-Admirals and above. [5]

Equivalent ranks in the British Army and Royal Marines are called general officer rather than flag officers, and those in the Royal Air Force (as well as the rank of air commodore) are called air officers, although all are entitled to fly flags of rank.[ citation needed ]

United States

Captain was the highest rank in the United States Navy from its beginning in 1775 until 1857, when Congress created the temporary rank of Flag Officer, which gave way to Commodore and Rear Admiral in 1862. The rank of "flag officer" was bestowed on senior Navy captains who were assigned to lead a squadron of vessels in addition to command of their own ship. [6] The 19th-century rank of "flag officer" was considered strictly temporary and became obsolete upon the creation and widespread usage of the equivalent naval rank of commodore; however, the term is still in use today, explicitly defined as an officer of the U.S. Navy or Coast Guard serving in or having the grade of admiral, vice admiral, rear admiral, or rear admiral (lower half), [7] equivalent to general officers of an army. In 1862 Congress authorized the use of the title "admiral".

Flag of the Chief of Staff of the United States Army ChiefOfStaffOfTheArmyFlag.png
Flag of the Chief of Staff of the United States Army

In the United States Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps, the term "flag officer" generally is applied to all general officers authorized to fly their own command flags—i.e., brigadier general, or pay grade O-7, and above. [8] [9] However, as a matter of law, Title 10 of the United States Code makes a distinction between general officers and flag officers. [7] Non-naval officers usually fly their flags from their headquarters, vessels, or vehicles, typically only for the most senior officer present. [10] [11] In the United States all flag and general officers must be nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate; each subsequent promotion requires renomination and re-approval. For the Navy, each flag officer assignment is usually limited to a maximum of two years, followed by either reassignment, reassignment and promotion, or retirement. [12]

Related Research Articles

Commodore is a senior naval rank used in many navies which is equivalent to Brigadier and Air Commodore that is superior to a navy captain, but below a rear admiral. It is either regarded as the most junior of the flag officers rank or may not hold the jurisdiction of a flag officer at all depending on the officer's appointment. Non-English-speaking nations often use the rank of flotilla admiral, counter admiral, or senior captain as an equivalent, although counter admiral may also correspond to rear admiral.

Vice admiral is a senior naval flag officer rank, equivalent to lieutenant general and air marshal. A vice admiral is typically senior to a rear admiral and junior to an admiral. In many navies, vice admiral is a three-star rank with a NATO code of OF-8, although in some navies like the French Navy it is an OF-7 rank, the OF-8 code corresponding to the four-star rank of squadron vice-admiral.

Rear admiral is a senior naval flag officer rank, equivalent to a major general and air vice marshal and above that of a commodore and captain, but below that of a vice admiral. It is regarded as a two star "admiral" rank. It is often regarded as a two-star rank with a NATO code of OF-7.

General officer Military rank

A general officer is an officer of high rank in the armies, and in some nations' air forces, space forces, or marines.

Military rank Element of hierarchy in armed forces

Military ranks are a system of hierarchical relationships in armed forces, police, intelligence agencies or other institutions organized along military lines. The military rank system defines dominance, authority, and responsibility in a military hierarchy. It incorporates the principles of exercising power and authority into the military chain of command – the succession of commanders superior to subordinates through which command is exercised. The military chain of command constructs an important component for organized collective action.

Brigadier General or brigade general is a military rank used in many countries. It is the lowest ranking general officer in some countries, usually sitting between the ranks of colonel and major general. When appointed to a field command, a brigadier general is typically in command of a brigade consisting of around 4,000 troops. In some countries a brigadier general is informally designated as a one-star general (OF-6).

Air commodore One-star rank and at the beginning of the air-officer ranks

Air commodore is a one-star rank, very senior Flag Officer Rank and at the beginning of the air officer ranks which originated in and continues to be used by the Royal Air Force. The rank is also used by the air forces of many countries which have historical British influence such as Zimbabwe, and it is sometimes used as the English translation of an equivalent rank in countries which have a non-English air force-specific rank structure. The name of the rank is always the full phrase and is never shortened to commodore, which is a rank in various naval forces.

A group is a military aviation unit, a component of military organization and a military formation. The terms group and wing differ significantly from one country to another, as well as between different branches of a national defence force.

History of Russian military ranks

Modern Russian military ranks trace their roots to Table of Ranks established by Peter the Great. Most of the rank names were borrowed from existing German/Prussian, French, English, Dutch, and Polish ranks upon the formation of Russian regular army in the late 17th century.

Commodore was an early title and later a rank in the United States Navy, United States Coast Guard and the Confederate States Navy. For over two centuries, the designation has been given varying levels of authority and formality.

Military ranks of the Soviet Union

The military ranks of the Soviet Union were those introduced after the October Revolution of 1917. At that time the Imperial Russian Table of Ranks was abolished, as were the privileges of the pre-Soviet Russian nobility.

Lieutenant-general (Canada)

In the Canadian Forces, the rank of lieutenant-general (LGen) is an Army or Air Force rank equal to a vice-admiral of the Navy. A lieutenant-general is a general officer, the equivalent of a Naval flag officer. A lieutenant-general is senior to a major general or rear-admiral, and junior to a general or admiral. Prior to 1968, Canadian Air Force officers held the equivalent rank of air marshal, which was abolished with the unification of the Canadian Forces.

The Indonesian National Armed Forces (TNI) uses a simplified ranking system for the three branches of Indonesian Army, Indonesian Navy and Indonesian Air Force. Most of the ranks are similar with differences for the rank titles of the high-ranking officers. Exception exists, however, in the ranks of the service members of the Indonesian Marine Corps. While Indonesian Marine Corps is a branch of the Navy, the rank titles of the Marine Corps are the same as those of the Army, but it still uses the Navy's style insignia.

One-star rank

An officer of one-star rank is a senior commander in many of the armed services holding a rank described by the NATO code of OF-6. The term is also used by some armed forces which are not NATO members. Typically, one-star officers hold the rank of commodore, flotilla admiral, brigadier general, brigadier, or in the case of those air forces with a separate rank structure, air commodore.

Admiral (Australia)

Admiral is the highest active rank of the Royal Australian Navy and was created as a direct equivalent of the British Navy rank of admiral. It is a four-star rank. Since World War II, in general, the only time the rank is held is when the Chief of the Defence Force is a navy officer.

Admiral (Canada)

The rank of admiral in Canada is typically held by only one officer whose position is Chief of the Defence Staff and the senior uniformed officer of the Canadian Forces. It is equivalent to the army and air force rank of general.

Rear admiral (Royal Navy)

Rear admiral (RAdm) is a flag officer rank of the Royal Navy. It is immediately superior to commodore and is subordinate to vice admiral. It is a two-star rank and has a NATO ranking code of OF-7.

Major general Armed forces general officer rank

Major general is a military rank used in many countries. It is derived from the older rank of sergeant major general. The disappearance of the "sergeant" in the title explains the apparent confusion of a lieutenant general outranking a major general whereas a major outranks a lieutenant.

The Military ranks of Turkey are the military insignia used by the Turkish Armed Forces.

Rear admiral (Pakistan) Third-highest rank in Pakistan navy

Rear Admiral – is a two-star commissioned armed flag officer rank in the Pakistan Navy, coast guards, and marines. It is the third-highest rank in Pakistan armed services with a NATO code of OF-7, and while it is worn on epaulettes with a two-star insignia, it ranks above one-star rank Commodore and below three-star rank Vice admiral.Rear Admiral is equivalent to the rank of Major General of Pakistan Army and Air Vice Marshal of the Pakistan Air Force. Rear Admiral in the Pakistan Navy is a senior flag officer rank and is abbreviated as R/ADMPN to distinguish it from the same ranks offered in other countries, although there is no official abbreviation available for a Pakistani rear admiral. Rear admiral may be also called as two-star admiral to distinguish it from other insignias such as three-star Vice admiral and four-star admiral.


  1. Canada – National Defence: A-AD-200-000/AG-000 The Heritage Structure of the Canadian Forces, Chapter 14, Section 3.
  2. Canada - National Defence: "Navy Rank and Appointment Insignia: Navy Archived 2011-08-14 at the Wayback Machine "
  3. Note: The referenced website, above, has not yet been updated to reflect the change as of July 9, 2010.
  4. See e.g.King's Regulations and Admiralty Instructions Volume I 1913., §192
  5. "BRd 2 THE QUEEN'S REGULATIONS FOR THE ROYAL NAVY Version 5" (PDF). royalnavy.mod.uk. UK Defence Council. 1 April 2017. Retrieved 9 November 2020. Flag Officer. An officer of the rank of Rear-Admiral or above.
  6. "Naval History and Heritage Command - Navy Captain". History.navy.mil. 13 May 2014. Retrieved 8 June 2016.
  7. 1 2 §101 of Title 10, US Code on law.cornell.edu
  8. Offenhauer, Priscilla. "General and flag officer authorizations for the active and reserve components: A comparative and historical analysis" (PDF). Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress, December 2007. Retrieved 15 August 2015.
  9. Kapp, Lawrence. General and Flag Officers in the U.S. Armed Forces: Background and Considerations for Congress, Congressional Research Service, February 18, 2016.
  10. Army Regulation 840-10, Flags, Guidons, Streamers, Tabards, and Automobile and Aircraft Plates Archived 2010-06-07 at the Wayback Machine
  11. Department of the Army Institute of Heraldry website on General Officer Flags Archived 2008-06-14 at the Wayback Machine
  12. "Chief of Naval Operations. Navy Military Personnel Assignment Policy, 2006, pg 6" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-02-24. Retrieved 2013-09-19.