Air commodore

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An RAF air commodore's sleeve/shoulder insignia

Air commodore (Air Cdre in the RAF and IAF; AIRCDRE in the RNZAF and RAAF; formerly A/C in the RCAF) is a one-star rank and the most junior of the air-officer ranks which originated in and continues to be used by the Royal Air Force.1 The rank is also used by the air forces of many countries which have historical British influence such as Bangladesh, and it is sometimes used as the English translation of an equivalent rank in countries which have a non-English air force-specific rank structure.

In the present-day RAF, air commodores typically hold senior appointments within groups, acting directly in support of the air officer commanding. However, during the inter-war period, and in the case of the contemporary No. 83 Expeditionary Air Group, the air officer commanding held or holds air commodore rank. In the Air Training Corps, an appointed air commodore holds ultimate authority over the cadet organisation as the Commandant Air Cadets.

Seniority

Air commodore is a one-star rank and the most junior air officer rank, being immediately senior to group captain and immediately subordinate to air vice-marshal. It has a NATO ranking code of OF-6 and is equivalent to a commodore in the Royal Navy or a brigadier in the British Army or the Royal Marines. Unlike these two ranks, however, it has always been a substantive rank. Additionally, air commodores have always been considered to be air officers whilst Royal Navy commodores have not since the Napoleonic Wars been classified as officers of flag rank, and British Army brigadiers have not been considered to be general officers since 1922 when they ceased to be titled as brigadier-generals.

The equivalent rank in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force, Women's Royal Air Force (until 1968) and Princess Mary's Royal Air Force Nursing Service (until 1980) was "air commandant".

Origins

Navies Armies Air forces
Officers
Admiral of
the fleet
Marshal or
Field marshal
Marshal of
the air force
Admiral General Air chief marshal
Vice admiral Lieutenant general Air marshal
Rear admiral Major general Air vice-marshal
Commodore Brigadier Air commodore
Captain Colonel Group captain
Commander Lieutenant colonel Wing commander
Lieutenant
commander
Major or
Commandant
Squadron leader
Lieutenant Captain Flight lieutenant
Sub-lieutenant Lieutenant Flying officer
Ensign Second
lieutenant
Pilot officer
Midshipman Officer cadet Officer cadet
Seamen, soldiers and airmen
Warrant officer Sergeant major
Warrant officer
Warrant officer
Petty officer Sergeant Sergeant
Leading seaman Corporal Corporal
Seaman Private Aircraftman

On 1 April 1918, the newly created RAF adopted its officer rank titles from the British Army, with officers at what is now air commodore holding the rank of brigadier-general. In response to the proposal that the RAF should use its own rank titles, it was suggested that the RAF might use the Royal Navy's officer ranks, with the word "air" inserted before the naval rank title. Although the Admiralty objected to this simple modification of their rank titles, it was agreed that the RAF might base many of its officer rank titles on Navy officer ranks with differing pre-modifying terms. It was also suggested that air-officer ranks could be based on the term "ardian", which was derived from a combination of the Gaelic words for "chief" (ard) and "bird" (eun), with the term "fourth ardian" or "flight ardian" being used for the equivalent to brigadier-general and commodore. However, the rank title based on the Navy rank was preferred and air commodore was adopted on 1 August 1919.

RAF insignia, command flag and star plate

The rank insignia is a light-blue band on a broad black band worn on the both the lower sleeves of the tunic or on the shoulders of the flying suit or the casual uniform. On the mess uniform, air commodores wear a broad gold ring on both lower sleeves.

The command flag of an air commodore has one narrow red band running through the centre and is rectangular with a cut-away section giving it two tails. It is the only RAF command flag of this shape and it is similar in shape to that of a Royal Navy commodore's broad pennant. The vehicle star plate for an air commodore depicts a single white star (air commodore is equivalent to a one-star rank) on an air force blue background. RAF air commodores are classed as air officers and as such have two rows of gold oak leaves on the peak of their service dress hats.

Honorary air commodores, air commodores-in-chief and air commandants

Churchill in his air commodore's uniform at the 1943 Tehran Conference

The Queen may appoint honorary air commodores for RAF flying squadrons and stations. For example, Prince Charles is RAF Valley's honorary air commodore and Winston Churchill was 615 Squadron's honorary air commodore.2 As the title suggests, this is an honorary position bestowed by the Queen and it does not grant the recipient command of a unit or formation. It is designed to strengthen the bond between the military unit and the individual and promote the role of the air force amongst the public.

Serving officers, such as Prince Harry and Prince William, may be granted an equivalent appointment to the honorary rank. In such cases the individual is made an honorary air commandant and they retain their regular rank.3

Larger air force organisations or formations may be honoured by having an air commodore-in-chief appointed in their name. These appointments are rare and to date have been reserved for senior members of the Royal Family. Air commodore-in-chief is not a rank and such an appointment does not convey the rank of air commodore upon the recipient.

Other air forces

The rank of air commodore is also used in a number of the air forces in the Commonwealth, including the Bangladesh Air Force, Ghana Air Force, Indian Air Force, Pakistan Air Force, Royal Australian Air Force, Royal Malaysian Air Force, Royal New Zealand Air Force and Sri Lanka Air Force. It is also used in the Egyptian Air Force, Hellenic Air Force, Royal Air Force of Oman, the Royal Thai Air Force and the Air Force of Zimbabwe.

In the Indonesian Air Force the equivalent rank is marsekal pertama (literally "first marshal") which is usually translated as air commodore in English. The Hellenic Air Force uses the rank of taxiarchos tis aeroporias (literally meaning he who orders the air force or less literally as air force brigadier) which is normally rendered as air commodore in English and was introduced in the early 1940scitation needed when the Greek armed forces were reconstituted along British lines while in exile in the Middle East.

The Royal Canadian Air Force used the rank until the unification of the Canadian Forces in 1968, when army-type rank titles were adopted. An air commodore then became a brigadier-general (following the US title, rather than the British brigadier, which had been held by equivalent officers in the former Canadian Army). In official French Canadian usage, the rank title was commodore de l'air. The position of honorary air commodore still exists in the Royal Canadian Air Cadets.

The Royal Netherlands Air Force's equivalent rank is commodore which has essentially the same rank insignia. The Chilean Air Force equivalent rank is comodoro which has same rank insignia on the sleeve.

See also

References

  1. ^ "Ranks and Badges of the Royal Air Force". Royal Air Force. 2007. Archived from the original on 14 December 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-01. 
  2. ^ "Questions Answered: Winston Churchill in uniform and Ralph or Rafe". The Times. 13 September 2008. Retrieved 14 June 2010. 
  3. ^ "New Royal Air Force honorary appointments". The Official Website of the British Monarchy. 2 October 2008. Retrieved 2011-12-30. 









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