South African military ranks

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The South African National Defence Force's rank system is largely based on the British system, with the Air Force (and later the Military Health Service) sharing the Army rank titles. Rank titles changed over time as did the insignia.

In 2008 the South African Air Force redesigned its insignia completely, while keeping the Army titles.

Evolution of rank titles[edit]

Army and Air Force ranks[edit]

General officers

  • Field marshal (1923–c1950)
  • General (1914– ) (called "commandant-general" 1956–68)
  • Lieutenant-general (1914– )
  • Major-general (1914– ) (called "combat general" 1960–68)
  • Brigadier-general (1912–40, 1998– )

Field officers

  • Brigadier (1937–98) (called "colonel-commandant" 1937–40)
  • Colonel (1912– )
  • Chief commandant (Used in the Commandos 1968–70)[1]
  • Lieutenant-colonel (1912– ) (called "commandant" 1950–94)

Company / junior officers

  • Major (1912– )
  • Captain (1912– )
  • Lieutenant (1912– ) (called "field cornet" 1960–68)
  • Second lieutenant (1918– ) (called "assistant field cornet" 1960–68)

Warrant officers

Warrant officer class 1 rank badge 1921–2002
Warrant officer class 1 rank badge 1921–57

In June 2008[2] a new series of warrant officer ranks were introduced.

  • Warrant officer 1st class (1921– )
  • Warrant officer 2nd class (1921– )
  • Warrant officer (1912–21)

Non-commissioned officers

  • Staff sergeant (1912– )(Air Force equivalent "flight sergeant")
  • Sergeant (1912– ) (Air Force equivalent called "air sergeant" until 1970)
  • Corporal (1912– ) (Air Force equivalent called "air corporal" until 1970)
  • Lance-corporal (1912– ) (Air Force equivalent called "leading air mechanic" until 1970)

Rank and file

  • Private (1912– ) (Air Force equivalent called called "air mechanic" 1920–70, "private" 1970–82 and "airman" 1982–)

Naval ranks[edit]

Flag officers

  • Admiral (1972– )
  • Vice-admiral (1965– )
  • Rear-admiral (1940– )
  • Rear-admiral junior grade (1998– )

Senior officers

  • Commodore (1946–98)
  • Captain (1941– )
  • Commander (1913– )
  • Lieutenant-commander (1913– )

Junior officers

  • Lieutenant (1913– )
  • Sub-lieutenant (1913– )
  • Ensign (1913– ) (called "acting sub-lieutenant" until 1965)
  • Warrant officer 1st class (1955– )
  • Warrant officer 2nd class (1955– )
  • Warrant officer (1913–55)

Petty officers

  • Chief petty officer (1913– )
  • Petty officer (1913– )
  • Leading seaman (1913– )
  • Able seaman (1913– )

Ratings

  • Seaman (1913– )

1961–1994 rank structure[edit]

The Army rank structure was shared between the Army, Air Force and SAMS with some small differences. In the Air Force a staff sergeant was a flight sergeant for example. The Air Force ranks had a blue background and the NCO stripes were blue. For SAMS the ranks had a maroon background.

Officers[edit]

Rank insignia of the South African Defence Force
Officer ranks General Lieutenant general Major general Brigadier general Colonel Commandant Major Captain Lieutenant Second lieutenant Candidate officer

South African Defence Force: pre 1994
SAArmyRankStructurePre1994Gen.jpg
SAArmyRankStructurePre1994LtGen.jpg
SAArmyRankStructurePre1994MajGen.jpg
SAArmyRankStructurePre1994Brig.jpg
SAArmyRankStructurePre1994Col.jpg
SAArmyRankStructurePre1994Cmdt.jpg
SAArmyRankStructurePre1994Maj.jpg
SAArmyRankStructurePre1994Capt.jpg
SAArmyRankStructurePre1994Lt.jpg
SAArmyRankStructurePre19942ndLt.jpg
SAArmyRankStructurePre1994CO.jpg

Other ranks[edit]

Rank insignia of the South African Defence Force
Warrant officers and other ranks Senior chief warrant officer Chief warrant officer Master warrant officer Senior warrant officer Warrant officer class 1 Warrant officer class 2 Staff sergeant Sergeant Corporal Lance corporal Private

South African Defence Force: pre 1994
Not used
Not used
Not used
Not used
PRE 1994 SOUTH AFRICAN WO1 BADGE.jpg
PRE 1994 SOUTH AFRICAN WO2 BADGE.jpg
SAArmyRankStructurePre1994SSgt.jpg
SAArmyRankStructurePre1994Sgt.jpg
SAArmyRankStructurePre1994Cpl.jpg
SAArmyRankStructurePre1994LCpl.jpg
No insignia

Note: in the artillery and anti-aircraft corps, the corporal and lance-corporal are called "bombardier" and "lance-bombardier". The private is called a "gunner" in the artillery and anti-aircraft, a "rifleman" in the infantry, a "trooper" in the armoured corps, a "sapper" in the engineers, a "signalman" in the signals corps, and a "scout" in the intelligence corps.

Substantive warrant officer posts[edit]

Any warrant officer class 1 could be posted to substantive posts, including

  • Regimental sergeant major
  • Command sergeant major
  • Brigade sergeant major
  • Sergeant Major of the Army
  • Sergeant Major of the Air Force

However they would retain the rank of WO1, while wearing unique rank insignia. To distinguish the posting different colour backgrounds were used; for example, red for regimental sergeant major and black for command sergeant major. The sergeant major of each arm of service wore insignia topped by the arms of their respective arm of service.

In 2008 the warrant officer ranks were expanded to make each substantive rank a formal rank.

Brigade sergeant major[edit]

Command sergeant major[edit]

Army[edit]

The SA Army was formed in 1912 as the Union Defence Force. It was given its present name in 1951. The rank system is derived from that of the British Army.

Officers[edit]

Rank insignia of the South African National Defence Force
Officer ranks General Lieutenant general Major general Brigadier general Colonel Lieutenant colonel Major Captain Lieutenant Second lieutenant Candidate officer

South African Army
SA Army OD.jpg

Warrant officers and other ranks[edit]

Rank insignia of the South African National Defence Force
Warrant officers and other ranks Senior chief warrant officer Chief warrant officer Master warrant officer Senior warrant officer Warrant officer class 1 Warrant officer class 2 Staff sergeant Sergeant Corporal Lance corporal Private

South African Army
Sergeant - South African Army.svg Corporal rank insignia - South African Army Rank.svg Lance corporal - South African Army Rank.svg
No insignia

Air Force[edit]

The SA Air Force was formed in 1920. Unlike many other Commonwealth air forces, it had army style rank system. In 2002 the Air Force officer rank insignia structure was changed from one which was shared with the Army to a new pattern based on stripes. The Air Force stated that this was "in order to bring it more in line with international forms of rank".[3] The army-style rank titles were retained.

Officers[edit]

Rank insignia of the South African National Defence Force
Officer ranks General Lieutenant general Major general Brigadier general Colonel Lieutenant colonel Major Captain Lieutenant Second lieutenant Candidate officer

South African Air Force
SAAF-Candidate Offr.svg

Warrant officers and other ranks[edit]

Rank insignia of the South African National Defence Force
Warrant officers and other ranks Senior chief warrant officer Chief warrant officer Master warrant officer Senior warrant officer Warrant officer class 1 Warrant officer class 2 Flight sergeant Sergeant Corporal Lance corporal Airman

South African Air Force
No insignia

Navy[edit]

The SA Navy was originally two separate organisations, namely the South African Division of the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve (formed in 1913) and the South African Naval Service (formed in 1922 and renamed the "Seaward Defence Force" in 1939). They amalgamated in 1942 to form the SA Naval Forces, which were renamed "SA Navy" in 1951. The rank system is based on that of the (British) Royal Navy.

Officers[edit]

Rank insignia of the South African National Defence Force
Officer ranks Admiral Vice admiral Rear admiral Rear admiral JG Captain Commander Lieutenant commander Lieutenant Sub lieutenant Ensign Midshipman

South African Navy
Generic-Navy-O11.svg
Generic-Navy-O10.svg
Generic-Navy-O9.svg
Generic-Navy-O8.svg
Generic-Navy-O7.svg
Generic-Navy-O5.svg
Generic-Navy-O4.svg
Generic-Navy-O3.svg
Generic-Navy-O1.svg
SA Navy O1 rank.jpg
Midshipman-SA.png

Warrant Officers and other ranks[edit]

Rank insignia of the South African National Defence Force
Warrant officers and other ranks Senior chief warrant officer Chief warrant officer Master warrant officer Senior warrant officer Warrant officer class 1 Warrant officer class 2 Chief petty officer Petty officer Leading seaman Able seaman Seaman

South African Navy
SAN Navy CPO rank insignia.png
SAN Navy PO rank insignia.png
SAN Navy LS rank insignia.png
SA Navy AB rank insignia.png
SA Navy E0.jpg

Military Health Service[edit]

The SA Military Health Service uses the Army rank system. There is a differentiation in that the rank insignia is displayed on a red background as opposed to the army, which is displayed on a brown background.

Warrant Officer of the SANDF[edit]

The highest ranking South African non-commissioned officer is the Warrant Officer of the South African National Defence Force. He holds the rank of master chief warrant officer.[4] As of October 2012 the incumbent MCWO is Mothusi Kgaladi[5]

References[edit]

See also[edit]