Marshal of the air force

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 officerSergeantSergeant
Leading seamanCorporal or
SeamanPrivate or
gunner or
Aircraftman or

Marshal of the air force is the English term for the most senior rank in a number of air forces. The ranks described by this term can properly be considered marshal ranks.

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". Nazi Germany's Luftwaffe used the rank of Generalfeldmarschall (also used by the World War II German Army) The premier rank of Reichsmarschall was also 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.[1]

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.

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