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.