NaviesArmiesAir forces
Commissioned officers
Admiral of
the fleet
Field marshal or
General of the army
Marshal of
the air force
AdmiralGeneralAir chief marshal
Vice admiralLieutenant generalAir marshal
Rear admiralMajor generalAir vice-marshal
CommodoreBrigadier or
brigadier general
Air commodore
CaptainColonelGroup captain
CommanderLieutenant colonelWing commander
Major or
Squadron leader
LieutenantCaptainFlight lieutenant
junior grade
Lieutenant or
first lieutenant
Flying officer
Ensign or
Second lieutenantPilot officer
Officer cadetOfficer cadetFlight cadet
Enlisted grades
Warrant officer or
chief petty officer
Warrant officer or
sergeant major
Warrant officer
Petty officerSergeantFlight sergeant
Leading seamanCorporal or
SeamanPrivate or
gunner or
Aircraftman or

Commander is a common naval and air force officer rank. Commander is also used as a rank or title in other formal organisations, including several police forces.

Commander is also a generic term for an officer commanding any armed forces unit, for example "platoon commander", "brigade commander" and "squadron commander". In the police, terms such as "borough commander" and "incident commander" are used.

Commander as a naval and air force rank

Commander is a rank used in navies but is very rarely used as a rank in armies. The title, originally "master and commander,"[1] originated in the 18th century to describe naval officers who commanded ships of war too large to be commanded by a lieutenant but too small to warrant the assignment of a post-captain and (before about 1770) a sailing-master; the commanding officer served as his own Master. In practice, these were usually unrated sloops-of-war of no more than 20 guns. The Royal Navy shortened "master and commander" to "commander" in 1794; however, the term "master and commander" remained (unofficially) in common parlance for several years.[2] The equivalent American rank master commandant remained in use until changed to commander in 1838. A corresponding rank in some navies is frigate captain. In the 20th and 21st centuries, the rank has been assigned the NATO rank code of OF-4.

Various functions of commanding officers were also styled commandeur. In the navy of the Dutch Republic, anyone who commanded a ship or a fleet without having an appropriate rank to do so, could be called a Commandeur. This included ad hoc fleet commanders and acting captains (Luitenant-Commandeur). In the fleet of the Admiralty of Zealand however, commandeur was a formal rank, the equivalent of Schout-bij-nacht (rear-admiral) in the other Dutch admiralties. The Dutch use of the title as a rank lives on in the Royal Netherlands Navy, as the equivalent of commodore. In the Royal Netherlands Air Force, however, this rank is known by the English spelling of commodore which is the Dutch equivalent of the British air commodore.


The rank of commander in the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) is identical in description to that of a commander in the British Royal Navy. RAN chaplains who are in divisions 1, 2 or 3 (of five divisions) have the equivalent rank standing of commanders. This means that to officers and NCOs below the rank of commander, lieutenant colonel, or wing commander, the chaplain is a superior.

To those officers ranked higher than commander, the chaplain is subordinate. Although this equivalency exists, RAN chaplains who are in divisions 1, 2 or 3 do not actually wear the rank of commander, and they hold no command privilege.



In Denmark, the rank of commander exists as kommandørkaptajn (commander captain or commanding captain), which is senior to kaptajn (captain) and kommandør ("commander", which is senior to kommandørkaptajn.


Shoulder insignia of a French capitaine de frégate

In France, the rank of commander exists as capitaine de frégate (frigate captain). It is senior to capitaine de corvette (corvette captain), and junior to capitaine de vaisseau (ship-of-the-line captain).


The rank of commander was used in the Imperial Japanese Navy, and continues to be used in the modern Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force. Though the modern rank is translated as "commander" in English, its literal translation is "captain second rank". The rank is equivalent to that of a commander in the U.S. Navy.


Commander is a rank in the Military and Hospitaller Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem, and is denoted by the post-nominal letters CLJ.


Komandor porucznik, Poland

The corresponding rank in the Polish Navy is komandor porucznik.


In the Russian Navy the equivalent rank to commander is "captain of the second rank".[citation needed][3]

Russian Empire

The rank was introduced in Russia by Peter the Great in 1722. From the introduction of the Russian Table of Ranks to its abolition in 1917, "captain of the second rank" was equal to a court councillor, at the sixth level out of 14 ranks. Until 1856 it was also conferred hereditary nobility on the holder.

Soviet Navy

The equivalent rank in the Soviet Navy from 1918 to 1935 was "first mate", (старпом корабля 1 ранга; starpom korablya pervogo ranga).[Note 1] The rank returned to the Imperial Russian Navy form of "captain 2nd rank" in 1935.

Imperial Russian Navy
Soviet Navy
Soviet Navy
Russian Navy
нарукавный знак флота 1917 IRN F4Commander 1917.png Red Fleet Insignia 8.svg RAF N F4Commander 1940.gif RAF N F4-Kapitan-2nd sleeve.png RAF N F4Com since 2010par.svg
Captain 2nd rank First mate Captain 2nd rank Captain 2nd rank
Shoulder insignia Sleeve insignia Sleeve insignia Sleeve insignia Shoulder insignia


Commander is a naval rank in Scandinavia (Kommandør in Danish and Norwegian, Kommendör in Swedish) equivalent to the Anglo-American naval rank of captain. The Scandinavian the rank of commander is immediately above "commander-captain" (Norwegian: Kommandørkaptein, Swedish: Kommendörkapten, Danish: Kommandørkaptajn), which is equivalent to the Anglo-American naval rank of commander.[4]


In the Spanish Navy the equivalent rank to commander is capitán de fragata.

United Kingdom

Royal Navy

Insignia of a Royal Navy commander

A commander in the Royal Navy is above the rank of lieutenant commander, below the rank of captain, and is equivalent in rank to a lieutenant colonel in the army. A commander may command a frigate, destroyer, submarine, aviation squadron or shore installation, or may serve on a staff.

Royal Air Force

Since the British Royal Air Force's mid-rank officers' ranks are modelled on those of the Royal Navy, the term wing commander is used as a rank, and this is the equivalent of a lieutenant colonel in the army or a commander in the navy. The rank of wing commander is above that of squadron leader and below that of group captain.

In the former Royal Naval Air Service, which was merged with the Royal Flying Corps to form the Royal Air Force in 1918, the pilots held appointments as well as their normal ranks in the Royal Navy, and they wore insignia appropriate to the appointment instead of the rank. A flight commander wore a star above a lieutenant's two rank stripes, squadron commander wore two stars above two rank stripes (less than eight years' seniority) or two-and-a-half rank stripes (over eight years seniority), and wing commander wore three rank stripes. The rank stripes had the usual Royal Navy curl, and they were surmounted by an eagle.

United States

Insignia of a US Navy commander


Commander (trung tá) is a two-star field grade officer of Vietnam People's Navy