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UK and US officer ranks compared[edit | edit source]

(Rank codes are at each side of the table.)

NATO Rank code British Army and Royal Marines1 U.S. Army, USAF
and USMC
RAF2 Royal Navy U.S. Navy,
U.S. Coast Guard,
and U.S. Public Health Service
U.S. code3
OF-104 Field Marshal (Army)
Captain General (RM)
General of the Army
General of the Air Force (no USMC equiv)
Marshal of the Royal Air Force (MRAF) Admiral of the Fleet Fleet Admiral (FADM) (U.S. Navy only) -
OF-9 General (Gen)5 General (GEN/Gen/Gen) Air Chief Marshal (Air Chf Mshl) Admiral (Adm) Admiral (ADM) O-10
OF-8 Lieutenant‑General (Lt Gen)5 Lieutenant General (LTG/Lt Gen/LtGen) Air Marshal (Air Mshl) Vice‑Admiral (VAdm) Vice Admiral (VADM) O-9
OF-7 Major‑General (Maj Gen) Major General (MG/Maj Gen/MajGen) Air Vice‑Marshal (AVM) Rear‑Admiral (RAdm) Rear Admiral (Upper Half) (RADM) O-8
OF-6 Brigadier (Brig) Brigadier General (BG/Brig Gen/BGen) Air Commodore (Air Cdre) Commodore (Cdre) Rear Admiral (Lower Half) (RDML)6 O-7
OF-5 Colonel (Col) Colonel (COL/Col/Col) Group Captain (Gp Capt) Captain (Capt) Captain (CAPT) O-6
OF-4 Lieutenant‑Colonel (Lt Col) Lieutenant Colonel (LTC/Lt Col/LtCol) Wing Commander (Wg Cdr) Commander (Cdr) Commander (CDR) O-5
OF-3 Major (Maj) Major (MAJ/Maj/Maj) Squadron Leader (Sqn Ldr) Lieutenant‑Commander (Lt Cdr) Lieutenant Commander (LCDR) O-4
OF-2 Captain (Capt) Captain (CPT/Capt/Capt) Flight Lieutenant (Flt Lt) Lieutenant (Lt) Lieutenant (LT) O-3
OF-1 Lieutenant (Lt) First Lieutenant (1LT/1st Lt/1stLt) Flying Officer (Fg Off) Sub‑Lieutenant (SLt) Lieutenant, Junior Grade (LTJG) O-2
Second Lieutenant (2Lt) Second Lieutenant (2LT/ 2d Lt/ 2ndLt) Pilot Officer (Plt Off) Ensign (ENS) O-1
OF(D) Acting Pilot Officer (APO) [Non-Graduate Direct Entrant Officers only] Midshipman (Mid)
Student Officer Officer Cadet (OCdt) 7 Cadet / USMC Midshipman (MIDN) / Officer Candidate / Officer Trainee (OT) Officer Cadet (OC) Cadet (Cdt) 8 USN Midshipman (MIDN) / USCG Cadet or Officer Candidate (OC) 9

Not listed are U.S. warrant officers. A warrant officer is an officer who can and does command, carry out military justice actions and sits on both selection and promotion boards. A US warrant officer is a single-track specialty officer, initially appointed by the US Secretary of the Army; he/she receives a commission upon promotion to Chief Warrant Officer Two (CW2).[1]

In the UK the separation between 'other' ranks and 'officer' ranks can on occasion become permeable. Notably, within the British armed services, both Sir Fitzroy Maclean and Enoch Powell are examples of, rare, rapid career progression with the British army, both rising from the rank of Private to Brigadier during World War II. In the US military such advancement is not uncommon, all four services maintaining programs that select promising enlisted men for the commissioned ranks.

Notes to table above

  1. The Royal Marines rank alongside their army equivalents. However, when borne on the books of any of HM Ships or Naval Establishments Royal Marines are subject to the Naval Discipline Act 1957; in those circumstances, many officer ranks in the Royal Marines formerly enjoyed greater status. Second Lieutenants were equivalent to Sub Lieutenants and ranks from Lieutenant to Major were considered equivalent to one rank higher (OF-2 to OF-4). Lieutenant Colonels were considered equivalent to RN Captains with less than six years in the rank, and Colonels were equivalent to Captains with more than six years seniority. Higher ranks followed the equivalence on the table above. This state of affairs ended on 1 July 1999, when Royal Marine officer ranks were fully aligned with those of the Army.
  2. RAF-style ranks are also used by the Royal Australian Air Force, Royal New Zealand Air Force, Nigerian Air Force, Indian Air Force, Pakistan Air Force, Bangladesh Air Force, Hellenic Air Force, Egyptian Air Force, Trinidad and Tobago Air Guard, Royal Air Force of Oman and Sri Lanka Air Force. The Ghana Air Force and Air Force of Zimbabwe (previously Royal Rhodesian Air Force) also use the same basic system, but replace Pilot Officer and Flying Officer with Air Sub Lieutenant and Air Lieutenant. The Royal Thai Air Force uses the RAF ranks also. The Royal Canadian Air Force and Royal Malaysian Air Force also previously used the system.
  3. Note that the U.S. military usually uses O-1 to O-10 to symbolize officers, and not the NATO codes of OF-1 to OF-10 in which all subaltern officers are classed as OF-1 (O-1 and O-2 in US). O-11 is sometimes used for the U.S. OF-10 ranks, but is not official.
  4. OF-10 ranks in the United States can only be attained during war time; the last five-star officer died in 1981. This is also now generally the case in the UK, although provision is made to award them under special circumstances in peacetime (no promotions to these ranks have been made since they were generally suspended in 1997). Captain-General Royal Marines is a ceremonial rank, usually held by a member of the Royal Family.
  5. Due to its modern day size the ranks of General and Lieutenant-General are not currently used in the Royal Marines Corps, the role of Commandant General being held by a Major-General.
  6. At various times the O-7 rank in the USN has been called "Commodore" and "Commodore Admiral"
  7. Not used in the Royal Marines. Royal Marines officers join as Second Lieutenants; after two years service, provided that Phase 2 training has been successfully completed, they are promoted to the rank of Lieutenant (if under 21 at the time of joining) or Captain (if 21 or older at the time of joining).
  8. No longer used in the Royal Navy. Officers join BRNC Dartmouth as Midshipmen (if non-graduates) or Sub-Lieutenants (if graduates), but use the non-substantive rank of Officer Cadet (O/C) during the pre-Initial Sea Training phase.
  9. Depending on the particular Officer Commissioning Program. Naval Academy, Merchant Marine Academy and NROTC are Midshipmen (MIDN); U.S. Coast Guard Academy are Cadets; U.S. Navy Seaman-to-Admiral 21 (STA-21) and Officer Candidate School are Officer Candidates (OC).

US "Enlisted" and UK "Other" ranks compared[edit | edit source]

The British Armed Forces do not use the term Enlisted Ranks. The equivalent in the Royal Navy is Ratings and in the other services is Other Ranks (divided into Warrant Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers and Soldiers or Airmen).

UK and US ranks are categorised in the NATO rank code system OR-1 to OR-9. Ranks with the same code are equivalent. Within the US military, however, "E-1" to "E-9" is the more common usage.

NATO Rank code US Army USAF USMC USN and USCG British Army Royal Marines Royal Navy RAF
OR-9 Sergeant Major of the Army22
Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force22
Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps22
Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy22
(MCPON) or Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard22
Warrant Officer Class 11
(WO1) (most senior appointments9
Warrant Officer Class 11
(WO1) (Regimental Sergeant Major)
Warrant Officer of the Naval Service (WONS) 22
Chief of the Air Staff's Warrant Officer (CASWO)
Command Sergeant Major (CSM) Command Chief Master Sergeant (CMSgt) Sergeant Major (SgtMaj)18
Master Gunnery Sergeant (MGySgt)18
Fleet or Force Master Chief Petty Officer (FMCPO) Warrant Officer Class 11
(WO1) (Regimental Sergeant Major etc.11
Warrant Officer Class 11
(WO1) (other appointments)
Station Warrant Officer1
Command Master Chief Petty Officer (CMCPO)
Sergeant Major (SGM) Chief Master Sergeant (CMSgt) Master Chief Petty Officer (MCPO) Warrant Officer Class 11
(WO1) (other appointments)
Warrant Officer Class 11
(WO1) (other appointments)
Warrant Officer1
(WO) / Master Aircrew (MAcr)
OR-8 First Sergeant (1SG)18
Senior Master Sergeant (SMSgt) First Sergeant (1st Sgt)18
Master Sergeant (MSgt)18
Senior Chief Petty Officer (SCPO) Warrant Officer Class 21
(WO2) (Company Sergeant Major etc.12
Warrant Officer Class 21
Warrant Officer Class 21
No OR-8 equivalent
Master Sergeant (MSG)18
OR-7 Sergeant First Class (SFC) Master Sergeant (MSgt) Gunnery Sergeant (GySgt) Chief Petty Officer (CPO) Colour Sergeant (CSgt)/Staff Sergeant (SSgt) Colour Sergeant (CSgt) Chief Petty Officer (CPO) Flight Sergeant2
Chief Technician 7
(Chf Tech or CT)
OR-6 Staff Sergeant (SSG) Technical Sergeant (TSgt) Staff Sergeant (SSgt) Petty Officer 1st Class (PO1) Sergeant (Sgt) Sergeant (Sgt) Petty Officer (PO) Sergeant (Sgt)
OR-5 4
Sergeant (SGT) Staff Sergeant (SSgt) Sergeant (Sgt) Petty Officer 2nd Class (PO2)
OR-4 Corporal (CPL) Senior Airman (SrA) Corporal (Cpl) Petty Officer 3rd Class (PO3) Corporal (Cpl) Corporal (Cpl) Leading Hand (LH) Corporal (Cpl)
Specialist (SPC)
OR-3 Private First Class (PFC) Airman First Class (A1C) Lance Corporal (LCpl) Seaman (SN)19
Lance Corporal (LCpl) Lance Corporal (LCpl) Able Seaman 1(AB1)6
Lance Corporal (LCpl) (RAF Regt only; otherwise no OR-3 equivalent)
OR-2 Private (PV2) Airman (Amn) Private First Class (PFC) Seaman Apprentice (SA)20
Private (Pte) etc.17
(Classes 1 to 3) etc.
(Mne) / Musician (Mus) / Bugler
Able Seaman 2 (AB2)6
Leading Aircraft (wo)man (LAC)7

Junior Technician (Jnr Tech or JT) Replaced by Senior Aircraftman Technician (SAC(T))
Senior Aircraft (wo)man 7
OR-1 Private (PV1) Airman Basic (AB) Private (Pvt) Seaman Recruit (SR)21
Private (Pte) etc.17
(Class 4) / Junior
(Mne) / Musician (Mus) / Bugler
New Entry Aircraft (wo)man (AC)

Notes on comparison:

  • In the US Army OR-1 to OR-4a (Specialist) are junior enlisted, OR-4b (Corporal) to OR-6 are Junior Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs), and OR-7 to OR-9 are Senior Non-Commissioned Officers (SNCOs).
  • In the USAF OR-1 to OR-4 are junior enlisted, OR-5 to OR-6 are NCOs, and OR-7 to OR-9 are SNCOs.
  • In the USMC, OR-1 to OR-3 are junior enlisted, OR-4 to OR-5 are NCOs, and OR-6 to OR-9 are Staff Non-Commissioned Officers.
  • In the US Navy and Coast Guard, OR-1 to OR-3 or "nonrated (wo)men" are junior enlisted, OR-4 to OR-6 or Petty Officers are NCOs, and OR-7 to OR-9 or Chief Petty Officers are SNCOs.
  • Generally speaking, the RN assumes a rank up despite the NATO code remaining the same. For example, a LH is more practically comparable to a PO2 or PO1 in the USN.

Addendum: In the US Army (but not the USMC) the term "Trooper/(Troop)" may be used informally for lower enlisted in Cavalry, Scout, Airborne, Air Assault, Ranger, and Special Forces Units, along with the occasional use for any soldier, particularly dismounted Infantry. The specific definition of "Troop" is a company sized unit of Cavalry, organizationally equivalent to "Battery" in Artillery units.[2]

Notes to table above

  1. A Warrant Officer in UK service is a senior non-commissioned rank not comparable to the various grades of Warrant Officer in the US, although holding the Queen's Warrant and with certain privileges similar to those of officers. In the Army and Royal Marines, they are referred to by their appointment, of which there are many (for example, Regimental Sergeant Major is a WO1 appointment). The US rank is held by single track career specialists (ranking between Enlisted Ranks and 2nd Lieutenant) and have no NATO equivalent. A RN Warrant Officer Class 1 incorporated the former rank of Fleet Chief Petty Officer. There are now Executive Warrant Officers, denoting the senior WO1s on ships and shore establishments.[3] There are four Command Warrant Officers in the RN.[4] The most senior Royal Navy WO1 is the Warrant Officer of the Naval Service (WONS)[5]
  2. RAF Flight Sergeants: Although technically equivalent to British Army Staff Sergeant this does not equate to time served or experience since the RAF does not have the rank of WO2.
  3. The RN created the rate of Warrant Officer Class 2 on 1 April 2004. Previously, there was a rate of Charge Chief Petty Officer, who usually ranked as OR-7, although above other CPOs. A Charge Chief Artificer (a highly-qualified technical CCPO) could be given a NATO OR-8 status, but still ranked below WO2 in the Army and Royal Marines. On the creation of WO2, all CCPOs were upgraded to this rate.
  4. In the US "OR #" system, NCOs are from OR4 onwards hence the equivalents in rank name do not tie in exactly. In the US Army a Corporal is considered an NCO, but a Specialist is not.
  5. British Sergeants/Petty Officers are seen as equal to E5 and E6 although Corporals as well as Sergeants may be appointed to an official OR-5 (i.e. E-5) military role as is suited to the particular situation.
  6. From April 1, 1999 Able Rating and Ordinary Rating merged and the rate Operator Maintainer was created to replace them, Marine 1st Class and Marine 2nd Class merged, and Junior Rating and Junior Marine were abolished.
  7. Aircraft Technical trades and musicians only.
  8. Household Cavalry.
  9. The most senior WO1s are, in descending order, the Conductors (Cdr) of the Royal Logistic Corps, the Academy Sergeant Major (AcSM), and the Garrison Sergeant Major (GSM) of the London District
  10. The rank of Lance Corporal is used by the RAF Section of the Combined Cadet Force as an equivalent to OR-3.
  11. Includes Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM), Garrison Sergeant Major (GSM), and Household Cavalry Regimental Corporal Major (RCM). These appointments are similar in function to the equivalent US rank indicated, but are equal in rank to other WO1 appointments.
  12. Includes Company Sergeant Major (CSM), Squadron Sergeant Major (SSM), Royal Artillery Battery Sergeant Major (BSM), Household Cavalry Squadron Corporal Major (SCM), and Band Sergeant Major. These appointments are similar in function to the equivalent US rank indicated, but are equal in rank to other WO2 appointments.
  13. Infantry regiments.
  14. Staff Sergeants can also hold other appointments, such as Company Quartermaster Sergeant.
  15. Royal Artillery.
  16. Brigade of Guards.
  17. The alternatives to the rank of Private are as follows:
  18. In the US Army, First Sergeant is considered senior to and promoted laterally from Master Sergeant when assigned to a First Sergeant billet, typically the senior NCO in a company (troop, battery) sized unit. Upon reassignment a 1SG reverts to his previous rank of MSG. In the USMC the OR-8 ranks are equivalent but on separate career tracks as are the OR-9 ranks, i.e. a Gunnery Sergeant (OR-7) is promoted to either First Sergeant or Master Sergeant depending on his indicated preference for a command/senior enlisted advisor billet or a technical specialty. A First Sergeant is promoted to Sergeant Major and a Master Sergeant to Master Gunnery Sergeant.
  19. The alternatives to the rank of Seaman are as follows:
  20. Also Fireman Apprentice (FA), Airman Apprentice (AA), Hospitalman Apprentice (HA), Constructionman Apprentice (CA).
  21. Also Fireman Recruit (FR), Airman Recruit (AR), Hospitalman Recruit (HR), Constructionman Recruit (CR).
  22. Unique ranks; the senior NCO in each Service.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

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