Flag officer

Flag officer

A flag officer is a commissioned officer who is senior enough to be entitled to fly a flag to represent where he exercises command. Typically, usage of the term "flag officer" refers to the senior officers in a nation's navy, specifically those who hold the rank of commodore or any of the admiral ranks. However, the term can apply to general officers in the US Army, US Air Force and US Marine Corps, as those officers are permitted to fly their own flags as well.

General usage

The generic title of flag officer is used in several modern navies and associated units to denote those who hold the rank of rear admiral (or its equivalent) and above, also called "flag ranks"; in some navies, this also includes the rank of commodore. Flag officer corresponds to the generic terms general officer (used by land and some air forces to describe all grades of generals) and air officer (used by other air forces to describe all grades of air marshals and air commodores). The term flag officer is only commonly used for naval officers.

A flag officer generally has an officer, called a flag lieutenant or a flag adjutant, attached to him as a personal adjutant (like an aide-de-camp) regardless of any staff under his command. In the Royal Navy, this officer is often known as "Flags".


In the Canadian Forces, a flag officer (French: "Officier général", "general officer") is the naval equivalent of a General Officer of the army or air force, and is composed of the ranks of Admiral, Vice-Admiral, Rear-Admiral, and Commodore (though technically a Commodore only has a broad pennant and not a flag). A flag officer's rank is denoted by a wide strip of gold braid on the cuff of the service dress tunic; one to four gold maple leafs over crossed sword and baton, all beneath a royal crown, on slip-ons or epaulets; and two rows of gold oak leaves on the peak of the service cap.

United Kingdom

In the Royal Navy there is a distinction between "flag officer" and "officer of flag rank". All rear-admirals and above are officers of flag rank, but only those officers of flag rank who are authorised to fly a flag are called "flag officers", and have different flags for different ranks of admiral. Thus, of the 39 officers of flag rank in the Royal Navy in 2006, very few are "flag officers" with entitlement to fly a flag. For example, Commander-in-Chief Fleet flies an admiral's flag whether ashore or afloat and is, therefore, a "flag officer"; his chief of staff (support), a rear admiral, is not entitled to fly a flag and is, therefore, only an "officer of flag rank".

Formerly however, all officers promoted to flag rank were considered to be "flag officers". [See e.g."King's Regulations and Admiralty Instructions Volume I 1913.", §192]

In United Kingdom usage, equivalent ranks in the British Army and Royal Marines are called general officers, and those in the Royal Air Force are called air officers

United States

In 1857, Congress created the title of "flag officer" as an actual rank of the United States Navy.. [http://mysite.verizon.net/vzeohzt4/Seaflags/personal/fo.html Flag Officers of the US Navy] ] The rank of flag officer was bestowed on senior Navy captains who were assigned to lead a squadron of vessels in addition to command of their own ship. During the American Civil War, the Confederate States Navy also used the term. The 19th century rank of "flag officer" was considered strictly temporary and became obsolete upon the creation and widespread usage of the equivalent naval rank of "Commodore"; however, the term is still in use today to denote a category of naval officers equivalent to general officers. [http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode10/usc_sec_10_00000101----000-.html §101 of Title 10, US Code on law.cornell.edu] ] In 1862, Congress finally authorized the first American use of the title "Admiral".

In the US, the term "flag officer" generally is applied to all general officers (rank O-7 and above) in the US Army, US Air Force, and US Marine Corps (as well as in the US Navy) as general officers are also authorized to fly their own command flags. [ [http://www.answers.com/topic/flag-officer Military and Associated Words. US Department of Defense, 2003. Answers.com 11 Jun. 2008. ] ] However, as a matter of law, Title 10 of the United States Code makes a distinction between "general officers" and "flag officers". Non-naval officers usually fly their flags from their headquarters, vessels, or vehicles, typically though only for the most senior officer present. [ [http://www.usma.edu/Protocol/images/AR840-10.pdf Army Regulation 840-10, Flags, Guidons, Streamers, Tabards, and Automobile and Aircraft Plates] ] [ [http://www.tioh.hqda.pentagon.mil/Flags_Guidons/GeneralOfficerFlags.htm Department of the Army Institute of Heraldry website on General Officer Flags] ] In the United States, all flag and general officers must be nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate; each subsequent promotion requires renomination and reapproval. In the US Navy, Rear Admirals (Lower Half), Rear Admirals (Upper Half), Vice Admirals, and Admirals are also known by the number of stars on their shoulder boards (one, two, three and four, respectively).


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Flag officer — Flag Flag, n. [Cf. LG. & G. flagge, Sw. flagg, Dan. flag, D. vlag. See {Flag} to hang loose.] 1. That which flags or hangs down loosely. [1913 Webster] 2. A cloth usually bearing a device or devices and used to indicate nationality, party, etc.,… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • flag-officer — flagˈ officer noun A naval officer privileged to carry a flag denoting his rank of admiral, vice admiral, rear admiral or commodore • • • Main Entry: ↑flag …   Useful english dictionary

  • flag officer — ☆ flag officer n. U.S. Navy any officer above the rank of captain, entitled to display a flag indicating rank …   English World dictionary

  • flag officer — flag′ of ficer n. mil a naval officer above the rank of captain • Etymology: 1655–65 …   From formal English to slang

  • flag officer — noun a) A naval officer with the rank of rear admiral or above, such officers are entitled to fly a personal flag, especially on the flagship. b) (US military, informal) In addition to naval officers of Navy and the Coast Guard, a general officer …   Wiktionary

  • flag officer — high ranking naval officer entitled to display a flag indicating his rank, naval officer in command of a group of ships, any officer in the navy above captain …   English contemporary dictionary

  • flag officer — 1. a naval officer above the rank of captain, as a fleet admiral, admiral, vice admiral, rear admiral, or commodore, who is entitled to display a flag indicating his or her rank. 2. (formerly) an officer in command of a fleet, squadron, or group… …   Universalium

  • flag officer — /ˈflæg ɒfəsə/ (say flag ofuhsuh) noun a naval officer, as an admiral, vice admiral, or rear admiral entitled to display a flag showing their rank …   Australian English dictionary

  • flag officer — noun Etymology: from such officers being entitled to display a flag with one or more stars indicating rank Date: 1665 any of the officers in the navy or coast guard above captain compare general officer …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • flag officer — noun a senior naval officer above the rank of captain • Topics: ↑military, ↑armed forces, ↑armed services, ↑military machine, ↑war machine • Hypernyms: ↑commissioned naval officer …   Useful english dictionary