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The rank insignia of the armed forces of the Federal Republic of Germany indicate rank and branch of service in the German Army (Heer'), German Air Force (Luftwaffe), or the German Navy (Marine).

They are regulated by the "presidential order on rank designation and military uniform". The 'ZdV-37/10 – Anzugsordnung für Soldaten der Bundeswehr' gives the dress order and design variations. Further, the Federal Office of Equipment, IT, and in-service support of the Bundeswehr (Bundesamt für Ausrüstung, Informationstechnik und Nutzung der Bundeswehr) provides numerous details.

See alsoEdit

TypesEdit

Basically, the different types of rank insignias might be distinguished as follows:

  • Shoulder straps or boards:
  • Cuff titles or sleeve insignias:
  • Mounting loops or straps (in de: Aufziehschlaufen):

Basic structure of shoulder straps and sleeve insigniasEdit

The rank insignias of all service personnel will be explained initially on the example of shoulder straps to the basic uniform or everyday uniform in order provide a general overview.

As to naval persons in uniform there will be additionally depicted sleeve insignias on the uniform jacket. Pertaining army persons in uniform there will be shown next shoulder straps of the uniform jacket. Variations of the first instance depicted rank insignias will be explained in more detail.

Mannschaften (Personnel)Edit

Heer, Luftwaffe, Marine Flag of NATO
NATO
Personnel
Bundeswehr Logo Heer with lettering Bundeswehr Logo Luftwaffe with lettering Bundeswehr Logo Marine with lettering
(Sleeve and Shoulder)

Soldat
(Soldier)
Flieger
(Airman)
Matrose
(Sailor)

OR-1[1] HD H 11 Panzerschütze Pz L LD B 11 Flieger L MDS 11 Matrose 10 L MDJA 11 Matrose 81 Lo
Gefreiter
(Exempted man)
OR-2 HD H 12 Gefreiter Jg L LD B 12 Gefreiter L MDS 12 Gefreiter 20 L MDJA 12 Gefreiter 50 Lo
Obergefreiter
(Leading exempted man)
OR-3 HD H 13 Obergefreiter HAufkl L LD B 13 Obergefreiter L MDS 13 Obergefreiter 30 L MDJA 13 Obergefreiter 40 Lo
Hauptgefreiter
(Principal exempted man)
HD H 14 Hauptgefreiter Art L LD B 14 Hauptgefreiter L MDS 14 Hauptgefreiter 50 L MDJA 14 Hauptgefreiter 30 Lo
Stabsgefreiter
(Staff exempted man)
OR-4 HD H 15 Stabsgefreiter HFla L LD B 15 Stabsgefreiter L MDS 15 Stabsgefreiter 60 L MDJA 15 Stabsgefreiter 20 Lo
Oberstabsgefreiter
(Leading staff exempted man)
HD H 16 Oberstabsgefreiter Fm L LD B 16 Oberstabsgefreiter L MDS 16 Oberstabsgefreiter 70 L MDJA 16 Oberstabsgefreiter 10 Lo

Unteroffiziere (Subofficers)Edit

Operational ranksEdit

Heer, Lutwaffe Flag of NATO
NATO
Marine
Bundeswehr Logo Heer with lettering Bundeswehr Logo Luftwaffe with lettering Bundeswehr Logo Marine with lettering
(Sleeve and Shoulder)
Subofficers "without swordknot"/ Unteroffizier "ohne Portepee"
Unteroffizier
(Subofficer)
OR-5
HD H 21 Unteroffizier PzGren
LD B 21 Unteroffizier
MDS 21 Maat 10
MDJA 21 Maat 10 Lo Maat
(Ship's mate)
Stabsunteroffizier
(Staff subofficer)
HD H 22 Stabsunteroffizier Pz
LD B 22 Stabsunteroffizier
MDS 22 Obermaat 30
MDJA 22 Obermaat 20 Lo
Obermaat
(Leading mate)
Subofficers "with swordknot"/ Unteroffiziere "mit Portepee"
Feldwebel
(Field usher)
OR-6
HD H 31 Feldwebel Art
LD B 31 Feldwebel
MDS 31 Bootsmann 30
MDJA 31 Bootsmann 60 Lu
Bootsmann
(Boatswain)
Oberfeldwebel
(Leading field usher)
OR-6
HD H 32 Oberfeldwebel HFla
LD B 32 Oberfeldwebel
MDS 32 Oberbootsmann 60
MDJA 32 Oberbootsmann 70 Lu
Oberbootsmann
(Leading boatswain)
Hauptfeldwebel
(Principal field usher)
OR-7
HD H 33 Hauptfeldwebel ABCAbw
LD B 33 Hauptfeldwebel
MDS 33 Hauptbootsmann 70
MDJA 33 Hauptbootsmann 50 Lu
Hauptbootsmann
(Principal Boatswain)
Stabsfeldwebel
(Staff field usher)
OR-8
HD H 34 Stabsfeldwebel Fm
LD B 34 Stabsfeldwebel
MDS 34 Staabsbootsmann 10
MDJA 34 Stabsbootsmann 40 Lu
Stabsbootsmann
(Staff boatswain)
Oberstabsfeldwebel
(Leading staff field usher)
OR-9
HD H 35 Oberstabsfeldwebel HAufkl
LD B 35 Oberstabsfeldwebel
MDS 35 Oberstaabsbootsmann 20
MDJA 35 Oberstabsbootsmann 30 Lu
Oberstabsbootsmann
(Leading staff boatswain)

Officer cadet ranksEdit

Heer, Lutwaffe Flag of NATO
NATO
Marine
Bundeswehr Logo Heer with lettering Bundeswehr Logo Luftwaffe with lettering Bundeswehr Logo Marine with lettering
(Sleeve and Shoulder)
Subofficers - officer cadet ranks
Fahnenjunker
(Ensign esquire)
OR-5
OF(D)
HD H 21a Fahnenjunker FJg
LD B 21a Fahnenjunker
MDS 21a Seekadett Trp
MDJA 21a Seekadett Trp Lo
Seekadett
(Sea Cadet)
Fähnrich
(Ensign)
OR-6
OF(D)[2]
HD H 31a Fähnrich Pi
LD B 31a Fähnrich
MDS 31a Fähnrich zur See Trp
MDJA 31a Fähnrich zur See Trp Lu
Fähnrich zur See
(Ensign-at-Sea)
Oberfähnrich
(Leading ensign)
OR-7
OF(D)
HD H 33a Oberfähnrich HFlg
LD B 33a Oberfähnrich
MDS 33a Oberfähnrich zur See Trp
MDJA 33a Oberfähnrich zur See Trp Lu
Oberfähnrich zur See
(Leading ensign-at-sea)

Offiziere (Officers)Edit

Heer, Luftwaffe Flag of NATO
NATO
Marine
Bundeswehr Logo Heer with lettering Bundeswehr Logo Luftwaffe with lettering Bundeswehr Logo Marine with lettering
(Sleeve and Shoulder)
Lieutenants (de: Leutnante)
Leutnant
(Lieutenant)
OF-1b[3]

OF-1a

HD H 41 Leutnant FschJg
LD B 41 Leutnant
MDS 41 Leutnant zur See Trp
MDJA 41 Leutnant zur See Trp Lu
Leutnant zur See
(Lieutenant-at-sea)
Oberleutnant
(Principal Lieutenant)
HD H 42 Oberleutnant Pz
LD B 42 Oberleutnant
MDS 42 Oberleutnant zur See Trp
MDJA 42 Oberleutnant zur See Trp Lu
Oberleutnant zur See
(Principal lieutenant-at-sea)
Captains and Captains Lieutenant (de: Hauptleute)
Hauptmann
(Captain)
OF-2b

OF-2a
HD H 43 Hauptmann HAufkl
LD B 43 Hauptmann
MDS 43 Kapitänleutnant Trp
MDJA 43 Kapitänleutnant Trp Lu
Kapitänleutnant
(Captain-lieutenant)
Stabshauptmann
(Staff captain)
HD H 44 Stabshauptmann Art
LD B 44 Stabshauptmann
MDS 44 Stabskapitänleutnant Trp
MDJA 44 Stabskapitänleutnant Trp Lu
Stabskapitänleutnant
(Staff captain-lieutenant)
Senior officers
Major
(Major)
OF-3
HD H 51 Major FJg
LD B 51 Major
MDS 51 Korvettenkapitän Trp
MDJA 51 Korvettenkapitän Trp Lu
Korvettenkapitän
(Corvette Captain)
Oberstleutnant
(Lieutenant colonel)
OF-4
HD H 52 Oberstleutnant HFla
LD B 52 Oberstleutnant
MDS 52 Fregattenkapitän Trp
MDJA 52 Fregattenkapitän Trp Lu
Fregattenkapitän
(Frigate captain)
Oberst
(Colonel)(Colonel)</small>
OF-5
HD H 53 Oberst ABCAbw
LD B 53 Oberst
MDS 53 Kapitän zur See Trp
MDJA 53 Kapitän zur See Trp Lu
Kapitän zur See
(Captain-at-Sea)
Generals / Flag officers
Brigadegeneral
(Brigade General)
OF-6
HD H 61 Brigadegeneral
LD B 61 Brigadegeneral
MDS 61 Flottillenadmiral Trp
MDJA 61 Flottillenadmiral Trp Lu
Flottillenadmiral
(Flotilla Admiral)
Generalmajor
(Major General)
OF-7
HD H 62 Generalmajor
LD B 62 Generalmajor
MDS 62 Konteradmiral Trp
MDJA 62 Konteradmiral Trp Lu
Konteradmiral
(Counter Admiral)
Generalleutnant
(Lieutenant General)
OF-8
HD H 63 Generalleutnant
LD B 63 Generalleutnant
MDS 63 Vizeadmiral Trp
MDJA 63 Vizeadmiral Trp Lu
Vizeadmiral
(Vice Admiral)
General OF-9
HD H 64 General
LD B 64 General
MDS 64 Admiral Trp
MDJA 64 Admiral Trp Lu
Admiral

* above: description to person in uniform “ Heer Bundeswehr“ (Federal Armed Forces - Army) and „Luftwaffe Bundeswehr“ (Federal Armed Forces - Air Force) ; below – Description to person in uniform “Deutsche Marine” (German Navy)

VariationsEdit

Army- and Air Force persons in uniform of the commissioned officers rank group may carry in line with ZDV 37/10 self-procured hand stitched rank insignias (File: d.) instead of the metallic version (File: e.). However, this type of rank insignias is rather seldom in practice. Beside the rank insignia on light-grey shoulder straps, as shown above, there is to army persons in uniform a version (see image a.) on dark grey cloth. This version of shoulder straps will be worn to uniform shirt and overcoat.

Naval persons in uniform, of the enlisted personnel rank group, wear relatively seldom the dark blue jacket with the above indicated cuff titles, because enlisted mariner in the age below 30 years prefer to wear the white shirt or blue shirt instead of the uniform jacked. Sleeve insignias on shirts more simple, but pertaining form and dimensions identically to those on jackets.

BW Gesellschaftsanzug Heer (Grundform Männer)

Mess Dress uniform, male Heer

BW Gesellschaftsanzug Heer (Grundform Frauen)

Mess Dress uniform, female Heer

In the place of stripes, with parts of metallic spinning fibers wire yarn, the oblique chevrons are made from golden-yellow or steel-blue spinning fibers without any metallic parts of wire yarn (see images b and c.). For Army and Air Force personnel in Bundeswehr dress uniform, as well as for all female soldiers, shoulder straps are mandatory. However, male naval persons in uniform wear cuff titles, known from the jacket.

ParticularitiesEdit

Deviating from the description above, naval enlisted personnel of the Guard Battalion on MOD-Germany (de: Wachbataillon beim BMVg) doesn’t wear any sleeve insignia.

In opposition to the ZDv 37/10, in representative military units (e.g. Guard Battalion of MOD-Germany and Staff Military Band) for enlisted personnel and non commissioned officers the background of the basic uniform gorget patches shows the specific corps colour of the appropriate armed service, special troop, corps or assignment.[4]

Also in deviation from the description above, on the service jacket and skiing blouse colour pipings or cops background colour on gorget patches are dropped.[4]

Basic form of mounting strapsEdit

Mounting straps or loops (de: Aufziehschlaufen) are in principle absolutely identical to the design of the shoulder straps, depicted above. From this point of few it might be sufficient to demonstrate exemplarily the different versions of design, instead to show a complete list. Official procured mounting straps are weaved. The field uniform type of mounting straps, used most, shows black or golden emblems on stone-grey/ olive-colour basic textile.

Rank Person in uniform Remark
Bundeswehr Logo Heer with lettering Bundeswehr Logo Luftwaffe with lettering Bundeswehr Logo Marine with lettering
Enlisted personnel HA OS5 16 Oberstabsgefreiter PzGren L LA OS5 14 Hauptgefreiter L MA OG5 15 Stabsgefreiter L
Noncommissioned officers HA OS5 22 Stabsunteroffizier Fm LA OS5 35 Oberstabsfeldwebel MA OG3 31 Bootsmann
Staff officers HA OS3 53 Oberst HLog LA OS5 53 Oberst MA OG5 52 Fregattenkapitän
General ranks
Flag officers
HA OS5 64 General LA OS3 63 Generalleutnant MA OG5 64 Admiral

ZDv 37/10-conforme variationsEdit

Almost similar performed mounting straps do exist for different coloured uniform parts as well as to Army, Air Force and Navy persons in uniform. Army persons in uniform for example wear on shoulder straps to the grey pullover, black mounting straps with bright-grey (for generals gold-yellow) emblems (see image a.).

For naval persons dark-blue mounting straps are widespread in particular to the ship-parka (see image c.).

For Air Force pilots´ flying suits there exists a version of mounting straps with bright-grey (generals golden-yellow) emblems on dark-blue basic textile (without double-wing). The Air Force double-wing is mounted to other parts of the flying suit, and is intentional omitted on mounting straps.

Running out versionsEdit

By amendment of the Presidential Order on Rank Designation and Uniform of Soldiers as to February 7, 1996” was provided, that on the so-called fighting suit in camouflage print (de: Kampfanzug Tarndruck) the silver-colored rank insignias became obsolete and will be replaced by black-colored one’s. [5]

The ZDv 37/10 was supplemented by the following sentence:”Until official procurement of the new designed olive-green mounting loops with black-colored rank insignias (for enlisted personnel, non commissioned officers, and commissioned officers including colonel grads of Heer and Luftwaffe), the old fashioned mounting loop version with grey-colour rank insignias has to be worn out.

In the meanwhile this sentence in the ZDV 37/10 was deleted. In practice the replacement of the obsolete grey-colored mounting loops by the new fashioned black-colour version is almost completed. However, on unicolored flying suits of army pilots and aviation technicians, mounting loops with grey-colored rank insignias are Bundeswehr regulations conform.

Tolerated versionsEdit

The following below depicted gallery of mounting loops are practically in use in conjunction with the 5- or 3 color flecktarn fighting suit. However, this particular versions aren´t neither mentioned and depicted in the ZDv 37/10, nor officially procured. Mounting loops in 5- and 3 color flecktarn are de facto in contradiction to the Presidential Order on Rank Designation and Uniform of Soldiers, and might be only procured individually. However, the below depicted mounting loops in 5- and 3 color flecktarn with black-, grey- or yellow-colored emblems are tolerated and worn up to highest rank groups and grades. In daily service, normal visibility of some black-color emblems, e.g. for the grades feldwebel, lieutenant or major, might be difficult.

Additional elementsEdit

Diverse additional elements complete all versions of rank insignias, illustrated above. In most cases they do characterize a rank – or career group within the Bundeswehr. Additional elements are not components of the rank insignia, because the rank or grad level is already clearly defined or specified by any above mentioned particular rank insignia. However, to licensed medical officers as well as to officer designated personnel of the NCO rank group, equipped with specific rang insignias which are differing to the normal one`s, additional elements are significant, in order to define the rank or grad unequivocal.

Double wingEdit

The double wing (also: aviator wing) is part of the mounting loop to any uniform of the Luftwaffe. It is woven in the color of all other emblems (in most cases: black (image b.) – or gold-colored by general grads (image c.)). The double wing, also part of other elements on aviator´s uniform, serves as unmistakable discrimination feature to the stone-grey/ olive-colored mounting strap to the uniform of the Heer. Double wing mounting loops are longer and wider than other one`s. The double wing is even part of the otherwise empty mounting loop to the lowest private OR1-rank (de: Flieger; see image a.), in order to distinguish between the Air Force – and Army personnel in tarnfleck uniform.

Corps colorEdit

Corps [or troop-function] colours (de: Waffenfarben) have been traditionally used in German armed forces since the 19th century. By German Bundeswehr personnel in uniform of Heer and Luftwaffe corps colored pippin and padding (4mm broad plain braiding) on shoulder straps and cuffs are used in order to characterise the membership to an armed service, a special force, or a particular assignment. Corps colored loops might be used on mounting straps to the field uniform. The collar patches on uniform jackets show corps colors as well.

Here some examples of corps colors
  • Collar patches of general grades Heer/ Luftwaffe OF6 – OF7:   deep-red
  • Officers in general staff assignment (i.G.):   carmine
  • Personnel in uniform Luftwaffe:   gold-yellow

Assignment badgesEdit

Assignment badges (de: Laufbahnabzeichen) of the German Marine are equivalent to the corps colors of Heer and Luftwaffe and have corresponding functions respectively.

Naval personnel in uniform of the rank groups enlisted personnel and non commissioned officers wear on shoulder straps (not on mounting straps or appliquéd cuff title in waved performance) and sleeves specific marks of distinction or badges, in order to characterize the appropriate assignment. Exempted are officer designated (OF(D)) grades.

As well as rank insignias on shoulder straps, assignment badges are metallic gold-colored embossed pins or badges. Both are identically in color and design. However, the assignment badges on sleeves are performed as embroidery or machine-embroidery. Only the steel-blue assignment badges of white shirts to enlisted personnel are waved. Seamen (recruit OR-1) wear assignment badges on shoulder strap or upper-sleeve which are apart from that empty. Assignment badges are normally positioned as follows:

  • to enlisted personnel: in the middle below of the rank insignia
  • to NCO with portepeed (sword knot): in the middle above of the rank insignia
  • to Maat and Obermaat: in the middle of the square, built by the stripes

Assignment badges on shoulder straps should be normally symmetric and are worn between head and rank insignia. Exempted from that are only the asymmetric badges to health service (assignment series 81), where the Hippocratic snack shows always ahead.

Officers and officers designatedEdit

Heer and LuftwaffeEdit

As regards to Heer and Luftwaffe shoulder straps to general ranks (OF6 to OF9) on service uniform (basic design) and dress uniform are with gold ornament cordon, made from metallic tissue (piping), as shown above. But officer ranks (OF1 to OF5), including the officer designated grade Oberfähnrich (1. Heer: senior cadet sergeant, 2. Luftwaffe: senior aviation cadet, senior warrant officer, Br. senior acting pilot officer, 3. Marine: senior midshipman-man), show silver ornament cordon, also made from metallic tissue.

The metallic tissue ornament cordon of the general ranks consists of fire-gilded silver-wire. As to the officer ranks the ornament cordon contains aluminum parts. An equal piping is on other uniform parts as well, e.g. on collar points of the service uniform jacket to officer ranks including Oberfähnrich (Heer and Luftwaffe), or as piping on the so-called peaked cap (de: Schirmmütze) or mountain cape (de: Bergmütze).

Most officer designated ranks (Heer and Luftwaffe) wear this particular silver metallic tissue cordon already on shoulder straps, next to the lower end of the mountain loop. The only exemption exists concerning the Oberfähnrich shoulder strap, to be worn on service – and dress uniform. This particular shoulder strap sows the silver piping, indicating the officer career, and contain the old silver(ware) colored metallic rank badges illustrating the rank equivalent to Hauptfeldwebel (OR7). However, rank badges on mounting loots of Hauptfeldwebel and Oberfähnrich are identically.

The lowest grade (OR-1) of the enlisted men rank group wear simple mounting loops on the apart from that empty shoulder straps. A cordon loop on the lower end of the mounting loop is usually to be worn in the branch Heer. By the design in corps color it indicates the membership to the appropriate branch of service, special force or assignment. The silver-colour design is essential in order to differ from equivalent NCO-ranks.

MarineEdit

Regarding the Navy, beside the rank insignia there isn`t any additional element, determined commonly to all officer grades and officer designated ranks. Various assignment badges indicate the different officer chains of career and discriminate officers designated from the other rank groups, e.g. enlisted ratings and noncommissioned officers. Examples as regards assignment badges dedicated to then officers rank group are:

  • Military geographical service – a stylized globe with capital letters in the center GEO.
  • Military musician service – a three-sided lzre.
  • Line officers (de: Truppendienstoffizier(e)) and warrant officers (de: Fachdienstoffizier(e)) – a five pointed nautical star (one point is directed above)

Assignment badges on shoulder straps are worn in principle above the parallel designed gold-coloured galloons. They are designed as gold-colloured metallic stamped stickers in style of the rank insignias to NCOs and enlisted men. Exempted are waved mounting loops, because not any assignment badge or career badge has to be worn on it.

Cuff assignment badges to officers are hand embroidered and made from gold-colloured metallic tissue. In accordance with ZDv 37/10 on dark-blue shoulder straps hand embroidered naval stars, made from gold-coloured metallic tissue, are tolerated as well.

The nautical star identifies, as mentioned above, all officer dedicated ranks as well, with exemption of the medical chain of career (see below).

Officers of the medical service including officers candidatesEdit

The specialty badge is different for medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine and pharmacy. The "head of the snake" points forward, i.e. the direction the soldier is facing.

Feldwebel/ Bootsmann candidatesEdit

Unteroffizier/ Maat cadetsEdit

Aspirants, examination/course of instruction passedEdit

Reservist badgesEdit

Marine

References and external linksEdit

  1. The abbreviation "OR" stands for "Other Ranks / sous-officiers et militaires du rang"
  2. Ranks designated as OF(D): In some NATO countries, the term "officer designate"is used. In the NATO rank scale, it comes below the grade of OF-1 and is annotated as OF(D).
  3. The abbreviation "OF" stands for "officer / officier"
  4. 4.0 4.1 vgl. "An- und einnähbare Schulterklappen für Heer und Luftwaffe (paspeliert oder unterlegt)" (in German) (PDF). Bundesamt für Wehrtechnik und Beschaffung. 2006-09-26. http://daten.bwb.org/AG-Bund/TL/Daten/84550087.pdf. Retrieved 2013-12-12. 
  5. Bundespräsident Roman Herzog, Bundeskanzler Helmut Kohl, Bundesminister der Verteidigung Volker Rühe, ed. (22 February 1996), [Digitalisat (PDF) "Anordnung zur Änderung der Anordnung des Bundespräsidenten über die Dienstgradbezeichnungen und die Uniform des Soldaten. Vom 7. Februar 1996"] (in German), Bundesgesetzblatt (Bonn) 1996 Teil I (10), Digitalisat (PDF) 
  6. SanOA (short for Sanitätsoffizieranwärter or medical officer candidate) is added to the rank designation of soldiers who have not yet finished their studies.
  7. Excluding the officer candidates and generals, the ranks have slightly different names to differentiate specialties, e.g. a physician holding a rank equivalent to Hauptmann is called Stabsarzt, a dentist Stabszahnarzt, a veterinarian Stabsveterinär and a pharmacist Stabsapotheker.

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