|Hierarchy of naval officer ranks|
|Admiral of the navy
Admiral of the fleet • Fleet admiral
Captain is the name most often given in English-speaking navies to the rank corresponding to command of the largest ships. The NATO rank code is OF-5 and the U.S. rank code is O-6, equivalent to an army full colonel.
The equivalent rank in some navies translates as "ship captain" (e.g. French capitaine de vaisseau and Italian capitano di vascello, in the countries speaking Spanish language capitán de navío, Portuguese capitão de mar e guerra), "captain of sea and war", "captain at sea" (e.g. German Kapitän zur See, Dutch kapitein-ter-zee) or "captain of the first rank" (Russian - капитан 1-го ранга).
Any naval officer who commands a ship (titled commanding officer, or C.O.) is addressed by naval custom as "captain" while aboard in command, regardless of their actual rank. Officers with the rank of captain travelling aboard a vessel they do not command should be addressed by their rank and name (e.g., "Captain Smith"), but they should not be referred to as "the captain" to avoid confusion with the vessel's captain. According to U.S. Navy wardroom etiquette, an embarked Navy captain is normally addressed in that setting as "Commodore," since, if a line officer, he will or she will typically be the next senior officer in the chain of command, such as the Commodore of a Destroyer Squadron (DESRON), Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) or Submarine Squadron (SUBRON).
On large ships (e.g., aircraft carriers), the executive officer (XO) may be a captain in rank, in which case it would be proper to address him by rank. Often the XO prefers to be called "XO" to avoid confusion with the CO, who is also a captain in rank and the captain of the ship. The same applies to aircraft carriers in the U.S. Navy, where the Commander and Deputy Commander of the embarked carrier air wing are also captains in rank, but are addressed by the titles of "CAG" and DCAG," respectively.
The command of a ship is often given to the naval rank equivalent to a commissioned officer between commander (OF-4) and commodore or rear admiral (OF-6).[Note 1] The naval rank should not be confused with the army, air force or marine rank of captain, which has a NATO code of OF-2.
Captains with sea commands generally command ships of cruiser size or larger, the more senior the officer, the larger the ship, but ship commanders do not normally hold a higher rank than captain. In the Royal Navy, a captain might command a destroyer flotilla with the appointment (not rank) of captain (D), while naval aviator and naval flight officer captains in the U.S. Navy command aircraft carriers, large-deck amphibious assault ships, carrier air wings, maritime patrol air wings and functional and specialized air wings and air groups.
Rear admirals will normally embark on large capital ships such as aircraft carriers, which will function as the flagship for their strike group or battle group, but a captain will retain command of the actual ship. Even when a senior officer who is in the ship's captain's chain of command is present, all orders are given through the captain as a courtesy. Many captains hold shore commands and staff positions afloat and ashore.
The following articles deal with the rank of captain as it is used in various navies.
- Captain (Canada)
- Captain (United Kingdom)
- Captain (U.S. Navy)
- Kapitän zur See (Germany)
- Komandor (Poland)
Captain insignia of the Egyptian Navy
Aluf-Mishne (captain) insignia of the Israeli Navy
Ploiarchos (captain) insignia of Hellenic Navy
Komandor insignia of the Polish Navy
Insignia of a U.S. Navy captain
- William P. Mack, Harry A. Seymour, Lesa A. McComas (1998). The naval officer's guide. U.S. Navy: Naval Institute Press. p. 91. ISBN 978-1-55750-645-0.
- J. D. Fontana, R. M. Hillyer (1990). General Guide to NOSC Civilians Boarding Navy Ships. San Diego: Naval Oceans System Center. p. 9.