General officer

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"General" and "Generals" redirect here. For other uses, see General (disambiguation).
Navies Armies Air forces
Officers
Admiral of
the fleet
Marshal or
Field marshal
Marshal of
the air force
Admiral General Air chief marshal
Vice admiral Lieutenant general Air marshal
Rear admiral Major general Air vice-marshal
Commodore Brigadier Air commodore
Captain Colonel Group captain
Commander Lieutenant colonel Wing commander
Lieutenant
commander
Major or
Commandant
Squadron leader
Lieutenant Captain Flight lieutenant
Sub-lieutenant Lieutenant Flying officer
Ensign Second
lieutenant
Pilot officer
Midshipman Officer cadet Officer cadet
Seamen, soldiers and airmen
Warrant officer Sergeant major or
Warrant officer
Warrant officer
Petty officer Sergeant Sergeant
Leading seaman Corporal Corporal
Seaman Private Aircraftman

A general officer is an officer of high rank in the army, and in some nations' air forces or marines.[1]

The term "general" is used in two ways: as the generic title for all grades of general officer and as a specific rank.

General officer ranks[edit]

The various grades of general officer are at the top of the military rank structure. Lower-ranking officers in land-centric military forces are typically known as field officers or field-grade officers, and below them are company-grade officers. In the ground forces, all officers who commanded more than a single regiment came to be known as "general officers".[citation needed] The word "general" is used in its ordinary sense in English (and other languages) as relating to larger, general, military units, rather than smaller units in particular.

Common systems[edit]

There are two common systems of general ranks used worldwide. In addition there is a third common international system, the Arab system of ranks, which is used throughout the Middle East and North Africa but is not used elsewhere in the world.

Variations of one form, the old European system, were once used throughout Europe. It is used in the United Kingdom (although it did not originate there), from which it eventually spread to the Commonwealth and the United States of America. The general officer ranks are named by prefixing "general", as an adjective, with field officer ranks, although in some countries the highest general officers are titled field marshal, marshal, or captain general.

The other is derived from the French Revolution, where generals' ranks are named according to the unit they (theoretically) command.

Old European system[edit]

Field marshal or general field marshal
Colonel general
General or captain general
Lieutenant general
Sergeant major general or major general
Brigadier or brigadier general

The system used either a brigadier general or a colonel general rank.

The rank of field marshal was used by some countries as the highest rank, while in other countries it was used as a divisional or brigade rank. Many countries (notably pre-revolutionary France and eventually much of Latin America) actually used two brigade command ranks, which is why some countries now use two stars as their brigade general insignia. Mexico and Argentina still use two brigade command ranks.

In some nations (particularly in the Commonwealth since the 1920s), the equivalent to brigadier general is brigadier, which is not always considered by these armies to be a general officer rank, although it is always treated as equivalent to the rank of brigadier general for comparative purposes. Unlike other general officers, the brigadier general rank is not derived from a field rank of brigadier.

The rank of major general is a shorter form of "sergeant major general", and hence is a lower rank than lieutenant general, as a lieutenant outranks a sergeant major; confusion often arises because a lieutenant is outranked by a major.

French (Revolutionary) system[edit]

For more information, see général.
Marshal
Army general
Corps general
Divisional general
Brigade general

Arab system[edit]

The armies of Arab countries use traditional Arabic titles. These were formalized in their current system to replace the Turkish system that was formerly in use in the Arab world and the Turco-Egyptian ranks in Egypt.

Rank Translation Notes
مشير mushīr Counsellor compare Counsellor of State, State Counsellor etc.
compare etymology "mushir" with "shura"
فريق
أول
farīq awwal First General equivalent to Commonwealth
"full" general
فريق farīq General equivalent to lieutenant general or corps general
لواء liwāʾ Flag Officer (or "banner")
عميد ʿamīd Provost
or "Chancellor"; no exact translation;
equivalent to brigadier/brigade general

Other variations[edit]

Other nomenclatures for general officers include the titles and ranks:

In addition to militarily educated generals, there are also generals in medicine and engineering. The rank of the most senior chaplain, (chaplain general), is also usually considered to be a general officer rank.

The specific rank of general[edit]

In the old European system, a general, without prefix or suffix (and sometimes referred to informally as a "full general"), is usually the most senior type of general, above lieutenant general and directly below field marshal. Usually it is the most senior peacetime rank, with more senior ranks (for example, field marshal, air chief marshal, fleet admiral) being used only in wartime, or as honorary titles.

In some armies, however, the rank of captain general, general of the army, army general or colonel general occupied or occupies this position. Depending on circumstances and the army in question, these ranks may be considered to be equivalent to a "full" general or to a field marshal.

The rank of general came about as a "captain-general", the captain of an army in general (i.e., the whole army). The rank of captain-general began appearing around the time of the organization of professional armies in the 17th century. In most countries "captain-general" contracted to just "general".

General ranks by country[edit]

The following articles deal with the rank of general, or its equivalent, as it is or was employed in the militaries of those countries:

Army generals' insignia[edit]

Air force generals' insignia[edit]

Generals' insignia of disbanded armies[edit]

Air Force and Navy equivalents[edit]

Some countries (such as the United States) use the general officer ranks for both the army and the air force, as well as their marine corps; other nations only use the general officer ranks for the army, while in the air force they use air officers as the equivalent of general officers. They use the air force rank of air chief marshal as the equivalent of the specific army rank of general. This latter group includes the British Royal Air Force and many current and former Commonwealth air forces—e.g. Royal Australian Air Force, Indian Air Force, Royal New Zealand Air Force, Nigerian Air Force, Pakistan Air Force, etc.

In most navies, flag officers are the equivalent of general officers, and the naval rank of admiral is equivalent to the specific army rank of general. A noteworthy historical exception was the Cromwellian naval rank "general at sea". In recent years in the American service there is a tendency to use flag officer and flag rank to refer to generals and admirals of the services collectively.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ In the United States, general officers authorized to display a flag showing their rank are also called "flag officers". Refer: Flag officer – Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster .... . In other nations the term "flag officer" usually applies to admirals.

External links[edit]