Military Ranking

When it comes to military ranks I get rather confused sometimes. Often I just want to make up new names for the various ranks but… I doubt I’d be able to keep imaginary ranks any more sorted in my head than I am real ones.

So, here are some of the military ranks used in various places (and I will admit to this list being rather “white” -but it’s mostly because there are far too many countries to list the equivalencies across them all and so I stuck with more “common” ones.)

The following list is grouped in rough equivalencies across different military branches, and different countries. Starting with the highest rank and working down. There are ranks which aren’t listed here for a few reasons. They’re either lower on the hierarchical scale, or they were separated out on the lists I used… I think because they weren’t commissioned in some cases? (Bah, just shows you how much I actually know about militaries prior to looking this sort of stuff up. I can’t be the only one šŸ˜‰ )

Top Four

  • NATO Navy: Admiral, Vice-Admiral, Rear Admiral, Commodore of the Navy
  • NATO Army: Lieutenant-General, Divisional-General, Brigade General, Colonel Major
  • NATO Air Force: Brigadier General, Brigadier Major, Brigadier, Colonel Major
  • British Army: Field Marshal, General, Lieutenant-General, Major-General
  • Royal Marines: Captain General, General, Lieutenant-General, Major-General
  • Royal Navy: Admiral of the Fleet, Admiral, Vice-Admiral, Rear-Admiral
  • Royal Air Force: Marshal of the Royal Air Force, Air Chief Marshal, Air Marshal, Air Vice-Marshal
  • US Army/Air Force: General of the Army, General, Lieutenant-General, Major-General
  • US Marine Corps: n/a, General, Lieutenant-General, Major-General
  • US Navy/Coast Guard: Fleet Admiral, Admiral, Vice-Admiral, Rear-Admiral (Upper Half)
  • Canadian Navy: Admiral, Vice-Admiral, Rear-Admiral, Commodore
  • Canadian Army/Air Force: General, Lieutenant General, Major-General, Brigadier-General
  • French Navy: Amiral de France, Contre-Amiral, Vice-Amiral, Vice-Amiral d’escadre
  • French Army: General d’armee, General de division, General de brigade, Colonel
  • French Air Force: General d’armee aerienne, General de corps aerien, General de division aerienne, General de brigade aerienne
  • German Army: General, Generalleutnant, Generalmajor, Brigadegeneral

Next Three

  • NATO Navy: Ship-of-the-Line Captain, Frigate Captain, Corvette Captain
  • NATO Army: Colonel, Lieutenant Colonel, Major
  • NATO Air Force: Commodore of the Air Force, Commodore, n/a
  • British Army: Brigadier, Colonel, Lieutenant-Colonel
  • Royal Marines: Brigadier, Colonel, Lieutenant-Colonel
  • Royal Navy: Commodore, Captain, Commander
  • Royal Air Force: Air Commodore, Group Captain, Wing Commander
  • US Army/Air Force: Brigadier, Colonel, Lieutenant-Colonel
  • US Marine Corps: Brigadier, Colonel, Lieutenant-Colonel
  • US Navy/Coast Guard: Rear Admiral (Lower Half), Captain, Commander
  • Canadian Navy: Captain, Commander, Lieutenant-Commander
  • Canadian Army/Air Force: Colonel, Lieutenant-Colonel, Major
  • French Navy: Amiral, Capitaine de ccorvette, Capitaine de fregate
  • French Army: Lieutenant-Colonel, Commandant, Capitaine
  • French Air Force: Colonel, Lieutenant-Colonel, Commandant
  • German Army: Oberst, Oberstleutnant, Major

Next Three

  • NATO Navy: Ship-of-the-Line Lieutenant, Frigate Lieutenant, Corvette Lieutenant
  • NATO Army: Captain, First Lieutenant, Lieutenant
  • NATO Air Force: Captain, First Lieutenant, Lieutenant
  • British Army: Major, Captain, Lieutenant
  • Royal Marines: Major, Captain, Lieutenant
  • Royal Navy: Lieutenant Commander, Lieutenant, Sub-Lieutenant
  • Royal Air Force: Squadron Leader, Flight Lieutenant, Flying Officer
  • US Army/Air Force: Major, Captain, First Lieutenant
  • US Marine Corps: Major, Captain, First Lieutenant
  • US Navy/Coast Guard: Major, Captain, Lieutenant Junior Grade
  • Canadian Navy: Lieutenant, Sub-Lieutenant, Acting Sub-Lieutenant
  • Canadian Army/Air Force: Captain, Lieutenant, Second Lieutenant
  • French Navy: Capitaine de vaisseau, Aspirant, Enseigne de vaisseau du duexieme classe
  • French Army: Lieutenant, Sous-Lieutenant, Aspirant
  • French Air Force: Capitaine, Lieutenant, Aspirant
  • German Army: Stabshauptmann, Hauptmann, Oberleutnant


  • NATO Navy: Midshipman, Senior Sub-Officer, Master Sub-Officer
  • NATO Army: Sub-lieutenant
  • NATO Air: Force: Ensign
  • British Army: Second Lieutenant, Officer Cadet
  • Royal Marines: Second Lieutenant, Officer Cadet
  • Royal Navy: Midshipman, Cadet
  • Royal Air Force: Pilot Officer, Acting Pilot Officer, Officer Cadet
  • US Army/Air Force: Second Lieutenant, Cadet
  • US Marine Corps: Second Lieutenant, Midshipman
  • US Navy/Coast Guard: Ensign, Midshipman/Cadet
  • Canadian Navy: Navel Cadet
  • Canadian Army/Air Force: Officer Cadet
  • French Navy: Enseigne de vaisseau de premiere classe, Lieutenant de vaisseau
  • French Army: Eleve Officer
  • French Air Force: Aspirant non-eleve, Aspirant eleve, Eleve officier
  • German Army: Leutnant, Oberfahnrich, Fahnrich

As you can see, there is a lot of overlap amongst and between the various branches and countries. In some cases, the same names for different ranks appear in different orders -like Captain is a higher rank in the Royal Navy than the Royal Marines. Personally, I think that’s where a lot of my confusion about ranks comes into play.

Obviously there is a lot more to military ranks, but this at least gives you the hierarchical order of names. And like I said, rough groupings. NATO numbers the ranks 1-11 for officers and I tried sort of keep them organized similarly, but… I’m pretty sure I messed up along the way (it doesn’t help that not all militaries had all 1-11 ranks)…

But, quick and dirty reference if you need it!


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