No air force in an English-speaking country formally uses the exact title "marshal of the air force", although it is sometimes used as a shortened form of the full title. In several Commonwealth air forces and many Middle Eastern air forces the most senior rank is named "marshal of the", followed by the name of the air force (e.g. marshal of the Royal Australian Air Force).
Brazil and Italy have used rank titles which literally translate as marshal of the air, whereas Portugal's rank translates as "marshal of the air force". The Soviet Union used "chief marshal of air forces" but the modern ranks in the Russian Federation has discontinued this usage. Nazi Germany's Luftwaffe used the rank of generalfeldmarschall (also used by the World War II German Army) and the even higher rank of reichsmarschall which was held solely by Hermann Göring.
The first instance of this rank was marshal of the Royal Air Force, which was established on paper in 1919 and was first held by Lord Trenchard (from 1927 onwards). Other Commonwealth countries later adopted their own national versions of the rank but, unlike the United Kingdom, they have only used it as a ceremonial honour.
Marshals of the air force can be properly considered marshals and such ranks are equivalent to the army rank of field marshal and the navy rank of admiral of the fleet. Marshal of the air force is a five-star rank and in NATO countries it is described by the ranking code of OF-10. As such a senior rank, it is very seldom held. It is awarded either in a ceremonial capacity to heads of state or members of royal families, or to the most senior officers in large air forces.
In the air forces of Australia, India, Thailand and the United Kingdom, marshals of the air force are immediately senior to air chief marshals. In the case of New Zealand, although the rank of marshal of the Royal New Zealand Air Force has been bestowed, no Royal New Zealand Air Force officer has attained higher rank than air marshal and the New Zealand rank of air chief marshal only exists on paper. A similar situation to the one in New Zealand also existed in Malaysia until the 1970s when the Royal Malaysian Air Force replaced its air-officer ranks with general-officer ranks, although it retained the rank of marshal of the Royal Malaysian Air Force. The rank of marshal of the Royal Canadian Air Force was never granted.
During Germany's Nazi period, the Luftwaffe (air force), in common with the Heer (army), used the rank of generalfeldmarschall (field marshal), which was equivalent to großadmiral (grand admiral) in the navy. Generalfeldmarschall was immediately senior to generaloberst (colonel general) and it was the most senior German air force and army rank until the promotion of Hermann Göring, the commander of the Luftwaffe, to the even higher rank of reichsmarschall (imperial marshal or marshal of the realm) in July 1940. The German ranks of reichsmarschall and generalfeldmarschall ceased to exist with the fall of the Third Reich.
The Soviet rank of chief marshal of a troop arm was established in 1943 as an analogue to the British rank of marshal of the Royal Air Force and as an equivalent rank to the Soviet rank of general of the army. As there was no direct correspondence between Soviet and British ranks, chief marshal was only approximately equivalent to marshal of the Royal Air Force and it might also be considered equivalent to air chief marshal. Officers were promoted to the rank of chief marshal of air forces (or chief marshal of aviation, depending on translation). In addition officers were promoted in other troop arms such as artillery and armoured troops which are not covered in this article.
The rank of chief marshal of aviation was subordinate to the rank of marshal of the Soviet Union and superior to marshal of a troop arm (which was also established in 1943 as an analogue to the rank of air marshal). Marshals of a troop arm were immediately senior to Soviet colonel generals. The first man to hold the rank of chief marshal of aviation was Alexander Novikov who led the Soviet Air Force from 1942 to the end of World War II. He was promoted February 1944. Since that time at least seven other Soviet officers have held the rank. The Russian Federation has replaced its chief marshal ranks with general of the army for both army and air force officers.
There are a variety of rank insignia in use by the different air forces which maintain a rank of marshal of the air force. Some, such as the Royal Air Force, derive the pattern from the sleeve lace for an admiral of the fleet, using one broad light blue band on a wider broad black band with four narrow light blue bands each on slightly wider black bands. Others use a pattern of stars, typically numbering five in total.
Current holders of the rank
As of 2013, there are 17 living individuals who hold or have held the rank, or its equivalents, of Marshal of the Air Force. Twelve of those are royalty who have been appointed to the rank in a ceremonial capacity, including Queen Sirikit of Thailand, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales and the current head of state of Malaysia. In the case of Malaysia, the elected Yang di-Pertuan Agong is appointed a Marshal of the Air Force for his tenure as head of state, but relinquishes the rank after completing his term in office. He can, however, be re-appointed to the rank if he later serves another term.
The Duke of Edinburgh holds the ceremonial rank of a Marshal of the Royal Air Force, as well as the honorary ranks of Marshal of the Royal Australian Air Force and Marshal of the Royal New Zealand Air Force; owing to their smaller size, however, neither of the latter two air forces have ever used the rank in an operational capacity. In the case of Canada, although the rank of Marshal of the Royal Canadian Air Force existed on paper until 1968, the Duke of Edinburgh was never appointed to this rank nor to the other Canadian 5-star ranks. In 2012, his son, the Prince of Wales, was appointed to the British rank.
The remaining five holders of the rank were all serving air officers; four of those served as Chief of the Air Staff of the Royal Air Force, and were promoted to the rank of Marshal of the Royal Air Force upon concluding their tenure. Of the four only Lord Criag did not retire at that point as he went on to serve as Chief of the Defence Staff in the rank of Marshal of the RAF. Air Chief Marshal Arjan Singh, DFC, served as the first four-star Chief of the Air Staff of the Indian Air Force from 1964 to 1969, when he retired. He was promoted to the ceremonial rank of Marshal of the Indian Air Force in 2002, thus making India the only other Commonwealth nation besides the UK to have awarded the rank to an air officer.
List of marshals of the air force
||Year of promotion /
||Year of birth
||Year of death
|Australia||1939||HM King George VI||Marshal of the Royal Australian Air Force||1895||1952||Honorary rank.|
|Australia||1954||HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh||Marshal of the Royal Australian Air Force||1921||-||Honorary rank.|
Appointed 1 April 1954.
|Bahrain||HM Hamad ibn Isa Al Khalifah||Marshal of the Royal Bahrain Air Force||1950||-||Honorary rank.|
|Brazil||1959||Armando Figueira Trompowsky de Almeida||Marechal-do-ar||1889||1964||Promoted 30 January 1959|
|Brazil||1960||Eduardo Gomes||Marechal-do-ar||1896||1981||Patron of the Brazilian Air Force. Promoted 22 September 1960.|
|Brazil||Casimiro Montenegro Filho||Marechal-do-ar||1904||2000|
|Egypt||HM King Farouk||Marshal of the Royal Egyptian Air Force||1920||1965||Honorary rank.|
|Egypt||1952||HM King Fuad II||Marshal of the Royal Egyptian Air Force||1952||-||Honorary rank.|
Appointed 26 July 1952 at the age of six months.
|Ethiopia||HIM Haile Selassie||Marshal of the Imperial Ethiopian Air Force||1892||1975||Honorary rank.|
|Ethiopia||HIM Amha Selassie||Marshal of the Imperial Ethiopian Air Force||1916||1997||Honorary rank.|
|Germany||1938||Hermann Göring||Reichsmarschall||1893||1945||Promoted to Generalfeldmarschall 4 February 1938, promoted to Reichsmarschall 19 June 1940|
|Germany||1940||Albert Kesselring||Generalfeldmarschall||1885||1960||Promoted 19 July 1940|
|Germany||1940||Erhard Milch||Generalfeldmarschall||1892||1972||Promoted 19 July 1940|
|Germany||1940||Hugo Sperrle||Generalfeldmarschall||1885||1953||Promoted 19 July 1940|
|Germany||1943||Wolfram Freiherr von Richthofen||Generalfeldmarschall||1895||1945||Promoted 16 February 1943|
|Germany||1945||Robert Ritter von Greim||Generalfeldmarschall||1892||1945||Promoted 25 April 1945|
|India||2002||Arjan Singh||Marshal of the Indian Air Force||1919||-||Honorary rank.|
Appointed 26 January 2002
|Iraq||1933||HM King Ghazi||Marshal of the Royal Iraqi Air Force||1912||1939||Honorary rank.|
Appointed 8 September 1933
|Iraq||1939||HRH Prince Abdul Illah||Marshal of the Royal Iraqi Air Force||1913||1958||Honorary rank.|
Appointed 6 April 1939
|Iraq||1953||HM King Faisal II||Marshal of the Royal Iraqi Air Force||1935||1958||Honorary rank.|
Appointed 2 May 1953
|Italy||1933||Italo Balbo||Maresciallo dell'Aria||1896||1940||Promoted August 1933|
|Jordan||HM King Hussein of Jordan||Marshal of the Royal Jordanian Air Force||1935||1999||Honorary rank.|
|Jordan||1999||HM King Abdullah II||Marshal of the Royal Jordanian Air Force||1962||-||Honorary rank.|
Appointed 7 February 1999
|Malaysia||1970||Sultan Abdul Halim||Marshal of the Royal Malaysian Air Force||1927||-||Honorary rank.|
Appointed 21 September 1970. Relinquished role as Head of State on 20 September 1975. Re-appointed Head of State on 13 December 2011.
|Malaysia||1975||Sultan Yahya Petra||Marshal of the Royal Malaysian Air Force||1917||1979||Honorary rank.|
Appointed 21 September 1975
|Malaysia||1979||Sultan Ahmad Shah||Marshal of the Royal Malaysian Air Force||1930||-||Honorary rank.|
Appointed 30 March 1979
|Malaysia||1984||Sultan Iskandar||Marshal of the Royal Malaysian Air Force||1932||2010||Honorary rank.|
Appointed 26 April 1984, died 22 January 2010
|Malaysia||1989||Sultan Azlan Shah||Marshal of the Royal Malaysian Air Force||1928||-||Honorary rank.|
Appointed 26 April 1989
|Malaysia||1994||Tuanku Jaafar||Marshal of the Royal Malaysian Air Force||1922||2008||Honorary rank.|
Appointed 26 April 1994, died 27 December 2008.
|Malaysia||1999||Salahuddin||Marshal of the Royal Malaysian Air Force||1926||2001||Honorary rank.|
Appointed 26 April 1999 died 21 November 2001
|Malaysia||2001||Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin||Marshal of the Royal Malaysian Air Force||1943||-||Honorary rank.|
Appointed 12 December 2001
|Malaysia||2007||Mizan Zainal Abidin||Marshal of the Royal Malaysian Air Force||1962||-||Honorary rank.|
Appointed 16 February 2007
|New Zealand||1977||HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh||Marshal of the Royal New Zealand Air Force||1921||-||Honorary rank.|
|Oman||1974||Sultan Qaboos||Marshal of the Royal Air Force of Oman||1940||-||Honorary rank.|
|Portugal||1958||Francisco Craveiro Lopes||Marechal da Força Aérea||1894||1964||Honorary rank.|
|Portugal||1990||Humberto Delgado||Marechal da Força Aérea||1906||1965||Posthumous promotion.|
|Soviet Union||1944||Alexander Alexandrovich Novikov||Chief Marshal of Air Forces||1900||1976||Promoted 21 February 1944. Deprived of the rank on 11 May 1946, restored to the rank in 1953.|
|Soviet Union||1944||Alexander Evgenievich Golovanov||Chief Marshal of Air Forces||1904||1975||Promoted 19 August 1944.|
|Soviet Union||1955||Pavel Fedorovich Zhigarev||Chief Marshal of Air Forces||1900||1963||Promoted 11 March 1955.|
|Soviet Union||1959||Konstantin Andreevich Vershinin||Chief Marshal of Air Forces||1900||1973||Promoted 8 May 1959.|
|Soviet Union||1972||Pavel Stepanovich Kutakhov||Chief Marshal of Air Forces||1914||1984||Promoted March 1972.|
|Soviet Union||1977||Boris Pavlovich Bugaev||Chief Marshal of Air Forces||1923||2007||Promoted 28 October 1977.|
|Soviet Union||1984||Alexander Ivanovich Koldunov||Chief Marshal of Air Forces||1923||1992||Promoted 31 October 1984.|
|Thailand||Fuen Ronnaphagrad Ritthakhanee||Marshal of the Royal Thai Air Force||1900||1987|
|Thailand||Chaloamkeit Vatthanagkol||Marshal of the Royal Thai Air Force||1914||1960|
|Thailand||HM Queen Sirikit||Marshal of the Royal Thai Air Force||1932||-||Honorary rank.|
Possibly the only woman to have held such rank.
|Thailand||c. 1964||Thanom Kittikachorn||Marshal of the Royal Thai Air Force||1912||2004||Appointed himself.|
|United Kingdom||1927||Hugh Trenchard, 1st Viscount Trenchard||Marshal of the Royal Air Force||1873||1956||Promoted 1 January 1927.|
|United Kingdom||1933||Sir John Salmond||Marshal of the Royal Air Force||1881||1968||Promoted 1 January 1933.|
|United Kingdom||1936||HM King Edward VIII||Marshal of the Royal Air Force||1894||1972||Honorary rank.|
Appointed 21 January 1936.
|United Kingdom||1936||HM King George VI||Marshal of the Royal Air Force||1895||1952||Honorary rank.|
Appointed 11 December 1936.
|United Kingdom||1937||Sir Edward Ellington||Marshal of the Royal Air Force||1877||1967||Promoted 1 January 1937.|
|United Kingdom||1940||Cyril Newall, 1st Baron Newall||Marshal of the Royal Air Force||1886||1963||Promoted 4 October 1940. Retired 20 days later.|
|United Kingdom||1944||Charles Portal, 1st Viscount Portal of Hungerford||Marshal of the Royal Air Force||1893||1971||Promoted 1 June 1944.|
|United Kingdom||1945||Arthur Tedder, 1st Baron Tedder||Marshal of the Royal Air Force||1890||1967||Promoted 12 September 1945.|
|United Kingdom||1946||Sholto Douglas, 1st Baron Douglas of Kirtleside||Marshal of the Royal Air Force||1893||1969||Promoted 1 January 1946.|
|United Kingdom||1946||Sir Arthur Harris||Marshal of the Royal Air Force||1892||1984||Promoted 1 January 1946, several months after retirement.|
|United Kingdom||1950||Sir John Slessor||Marshal of the Royal Air Force||1897||1979||Promoted 8 June 1950.|
|United Kingdom||1953||HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh||Marshal of the Royal Air Force||1921||-||Honorary rank.|
Appointed 15 January 1953.
|United Kingdom||1954||Sir William Dickson||Marshal of the Royal Air Force||1898||1987||Promoted 1 June 1954.|
|United Kingdom||1958||Sir Dermot Boyle||Marshal of the Royal Air Force||1904||1993||Promoted 1 January 1958.|
|United Kingdom||1958||HRH Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester||Marshal of the Royal Air Force||1900||1974||Honorary rank.|
Appointed 12 June 1958.
|United Kingdom||1962||Sir Thomas Pike||Marshal of the Royal Air Force||1906||1983||Promoted 6 April 1962.|
|United Kingdom||1967||Charles Elworthy, Baron Elworthy||Marshal of the Royal Air Force||1911||1993||Promoted 1 April 1967.|
|United Kingdom||1971||Sir John Grandy||Marshal of the Royal Air Force||1913||2004||Promoted and retired on the same day (1 April 1971).|
|United Kingdom||1974||Sir Denis Spotswood||Marshal of the Royal Air Force||1916||2001||Promoted and retired on the same day (31 March 1974).|
|United Kingdom||1976||Sir Andrew Humphrey||Marshal of the Royal Air Force||1921||1977||Promoted 6 August 1976.|
|United Kingdom||1977||Neil Cameron, Baron Cameron of Balhousie||Marshal of the Royal Air Force||1920||1985||Promoted 31 July 1977.|
|United Kingdom||1982||Sir Michael Beetham||Marshal of the Royal Air Force||1923||-||Promoted and retired on the same day (14 October 1982).|
|United Kingdom||1985||Sir Keith Williamson||Marshal of the Royal Air Force||1928||-||Promoted and retired on the same day (15 October 1985).|
|United Kingdom||1988||David Craig, Baron Craig of Radley||Marshal of the Royal Air Force||1929||-||Promoted 14 November 1988.|
|United Kingdom||1992||Sir Peter Harding||Marshal of the Royal Air Force||1933||-||Promoted 6 November 1992. Resigned commission 14 June 1994.|
|United Kingdom||2012||HRH Prince Charles, Prince of Wales||Marshal of the Royal Air Force||1948||-||Honorary rank.|
Appointed 16 June 2012.
The rank also exists or has existed (on paper) in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brunei, Iran, South Korea, Nigeria, Pakistan and South Vietnam, but not all of these countries have ever actually used it. The Turkish Air Force maintains a rank of hava mareşalı (literally air marshal but equivalent to five-star rank). The Indonesian Air Force maintains the rank of marsekal besar (literally, "great marshal" and also a five-star rank) although no Indonesian Air Force officer has ever been promoted to the rank. The French Air Force, in common with the French Army has marshal of France as its most senior rank. However, unlike the French Army, the Air Force has never had one of its officers created a marshal of France.
The United States does not use the rank, instead using general of the air force which has only been held once and is currently retained only on paper. China also does not use a marshal rank, preferring first class general (kong jun yi ji shang jiang) which has never been held by an air force officer and was abolished in 1994. Spain uses the equivalent rank of captain general of the Air Force which is held only by HM King Juan Carlos.
- CAP 6 Dress Orders for the Royal Canadian Air Force. Ottawa: RCAF, 1958. pp. 3–62.
- "No. 40137". 2 April 1954. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/40137/page/ Announcement of the appointment of HRH Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, as admiral of the fleet in the Royal Australian Navy, field marshal in the Australian Military Forces and marshal of the Royal Australian Air Force.
- Buyers, Christopher. "The Al-Khalifa Dynasty". The Royal Ark. http://www.royalark.net/Bahrain/bahrain10.htm. Retrieved 17 December 2008.
- Buyers, Christopher (May 2001 - July 2007). "The Solomonic Dynasty - page 1". The Royal Ark. http://www.royalark.net/Ethiopia/shoa6.htm. Retrieved 2010-09-02.
- Buyers, Christopher (May 2001 - July 2007). "The Solomonic Dynasty - page 2". The Royal Ark. http://4dw.net/royalark/Ethiopia/shoa7.htm. Retrieved 2008-04-08.
- Buyers, Christopher. "Al-Hashimi Dynasty". The Royal Ark. http://www.royalark.net/Arabia/hijaz1.htm. Retrieved 17 December 2008.
- Sultan Abdul Halim
- Baron Newall
- Barrass, Malcolm (2007-09-29). "Marshal of the RAF Sir Arthur Harris". Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation. http://www.rafweb.org/Biographies/Harris.htm. Retrieved 2008-03-31.
- Barrass, Malcolm (2007-09-01). "Marshal of the RAF Sir Thomas Pike". Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation. http://www.rafweb.org/Biographies/Pike_TG.htm. Retrieved 2008-04-20.
- Barrass, Malcolm (2007-06-16). "Marshal of the RAF The Lord Elworthy of Timaru". Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation. http://www.rafweb.org/Biographies/Elworthy.htm. Retrieved 2008-04-18.
- Barrass, Malcolm (2007-06-16). "Marshal of the RAF Sir John Grandy". Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation. http://www.rafweb.org/Biographies/Grandy.htm. Retrieved 2008-04-01.
- Barrass, Malcolm (2007-10-07). "Marshal of the RAF Sir Denis Spotswood". Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation. http://www.rafweb.org/Biographies/Spotswood.htm. Retrieved 2008-04-02.
- Probert, Henry (1991). High Commanders of the Royal Air Force. London: HMSO. p. 133. ISBN 0-11-772635-4.
- Probert, p. 135.
- Probert, p. 137.
- Probert, p. 139.
- Probert, p. 141.
- "No. 53103". 9 November 1992. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/53103/page/
- "No. 53814". 10 October 1994. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/53814/page/
- "Prince Charles awarded highest rank in all three armed forces," Daily Telegraph, 16 June 2012. Accessed 18 June 2012.
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