South African military ranks

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The South African National Defence Force's rank system is largely based on the British system, with the Air Force (and later the Military Health Service) sharing the Army rank titles. Rank titles changed over time as did the insignia.

In 2002 the South African Air Force redesigned its insignia completely, while keeping the Army titles.

Evolution of rank titles[edit]

Army and Air Force ranks[edit]

General officers

  • Field marshal (1923–c1950)
  • General (1914– ) (called "commandant-general" 1956–68)
  • Lieutenant-general (1914– )
  • Major-general (1914– ) (called "combat general" 1960–68)
  • Brigadier-general (1912–40, 1998– )

Field officers

  • Brigadier (1937–98) (called "colonel-commandant" 1937–40)
  • Colonel (1912– )
  • Chief commandant (Used in the Commandos 1968–70)[1]
  • Lieutenant-colonel (1912– ) (called "commandant" 1950–94)

Company / junior officers

  • Major (1912– )
  • Captain (1912– )
  • Lieutenant (1912– ) (called "field cornet" 1960–68)
  • Second lieutenant (1918– ) (called "assistant field cornet" 1960–68)

Warrant officers

Warrant officer class 1 rank badge 1921–2002
Warrant officer class 1 rank badge 1921–57

In June 2008[2] a new series of warrant officer ranks were introduced.

  • Warrant officer 1st class (1921– )
  • Warrant officer 2nd class (1921– )
  • Warrant officer (1912–21)

Non-commissioned officers

  • Staff sergeant (1912– ) (Air Force equivalent "flight sergeant")
  • Sergeant (1912– ) (Air Force equivalent called "air sergeant" until 1970)
  • Corporal (1912– ) (Air Force equivalent called "air corporal" until 1970)
  • Lance-corporal (1912– ) (Air Force equivalent called "leading air mechanic" until 1970)

Rank and file

  • Private (1912– ) (Air Force equivalent called "air mechanic" 1920–70, "private" 1970–82 and "airman" 1982–)

Naval ranks[edit]

Flag officers

  • Admiral (1972– )
  • Vice-admiral (1965– )
  • Rear-admiral (1940– )
  • Rear-admiral junior grade (1998– )

Senior officers

  • Commodore (1946–98)
  • Captain (1941– )
  • Commander (1913– )
  • Lieutenant-commander (1913– )

Junior officers

  • Lieutenant (1913– )
  • Sub-lieutenant (1913– )
  • Ensign (1913– ) (called "acting sub-lieutenant" until 1965)
  • Warrant officer 1st class (1955– )
  • Warrant officer 2nd class (1955– )
  • Warrant officer (1913–55)

Petty officers

  • Chief petty officer (1913– )
  • Petty officer (1913– )
  • Leading seaman (1913– )
  • Able seaman (1913– )

Ratings

  • Seaman (1913– )

1961–1994 rank structure[edit]

During the Apartheid era, the South African Army's rank structure was shared between the Army, Air Force and SAMS with some small differences. In the Air Force a staff sergeant was a flight sergeant for example. The Air Force ranks had a blue background and the NCO stripes were blue. For SAMS the ranks had a maroon background.

Officers[edit]

Equivalent
NATO code
OF-10 OF-9 OF-8 OF-7 OF-6 OF-5 OF-4 OF-3 OF-2 OF-1 OF(D) and student officer
South Africa
(edit)
No equivalent South Africa-Army-OF-9-1961.svg South Africa-Army-OF-8-1961.svg South Africa-Army-OF-7-1961.svg South Africa-Army-OF-6-1961.svg South Africa-Army-OF-5-1961.svg South Africa-Army-OF-4-1961.svg South Africa-Army-OF-3-1961.svg South Africa-Army-OF-2-1961.svg South Africa-Army-OF-1b-1961.svg South Africa-Army-OF-1a-1961.svg South Africa-Army-OF-(D)-1961.svg
General
Generaal
Lieutenant general
Luitenant generaal
Major general
Generaal-majoor
Brigadier
Brigadier
Colonel
Kolonel
Commandant
Kommandant
Major
Majoor
Captain
Kaptein
Lieutenant
Luitenant
2nd lieutenant
Tweede luitenant
Candidate officer
Kandidaat offisier

Other ranks[edit]

Rank insignia of the South African Defence Force
Warrant officers and other ranks Senior chief warrant officer Chief warrant officer Master warrant officer Senior warrant officer Warrant officer class 1 Warrant officer class 2 Staff sergeant Sergeant Corporal Lance corporal Private

South African Defence Force: pre 1994
Not used
Not used
Not used
Not used
PRE 1994 SOUTH AFRICAN WO1 BADGE.jpg
PRE 1994 SOUTH AFRICAN WO2 BADGE.jpg
SAArmyRankStructurePre1994SSgt.jpg
SAArmyRankStructurePre1994Sgt.jpg
SAArmyRankStructurePre1994Cpl.jpg
SAArmyRankStructurePre1994LCpl.jpg
No insignia

Note: in the artillery and anti-aircraft corps, the corporal and lance-corporal are called "bombardier" and "lance-bombardier". The private is called a "gunner" in the artillery and anti-aircraft, a "rifleman" in the infantry, a "trooper" in the armoured corps, a "sapper" in the engineers, a "signalman" in the signals corps, and a "scout" in the intelligence corps.

Substantive warrant officer posts[edit]

A WO1 wearing RSM insignia

Any warrant officer class 1 could be posted to substantive posts, including

However they would retain the rank of WO1, while wearing unique rank insignia. To distinguish the posting different colour backgrounds were used; for example, red for regimental sergeant major and black for command sergeant major. The sergeant major of each arm of service wore insignia topped by the arms of their respective arm of service.

In 2008 the warrant officer ranks were expanded to make each substantive rank a formal rank.

Army[edit]

The SA Army was formed in 1912 as the Union Defence Force. It was given its present name in 1951. The rank system is derived from that of the British Army. The ranks of General Officers changed in September 2003 when the rank previously called Brigadier became known as Brigadier General.[3]

Officers[edit]

Equivalent
NATO Code
OF-10 OF-9 OF-8 OF-7 OF-6 OF-5 OF-4 OF-3 OF-2 OF-1 OF(D) & Student officer
South Africa South Africa
(Edit)
No equivalent SAA-OF-9.svg SAA-OF-8.svg SAA-OF-7.svg SAA-OF-6.svg SAA-OF-5.svg SAA-OF-4.svg SAA-OF-3.svg SAA-OF-2.svg SAA-OF-1b.svg SAA-OF-1a.svg SAA-OF-(D).svg
General Lieutenant general Major general Brigadier general Colonel Lieutenant colonel Major Captain Lieutenant 2nd lieutenant Candidate officer

Warrant officers[edit]

Equivalent NATO rank WO-1 WO-2 WO-3 WO-4 WO-5
South Africa South Africa
(Edit)
SAA-WO-1.svg SAA-WO-2.svg SAA-WO-3.svg SAA-WO-4.svg SAA-WO-5.svg
Senior warrant officer Master warrant officer Chief warrant officer Senior chief warrant officer Master chief warrant officer

Other ranks[edit]

Equivalent
NATO code
OR-9 OR-8 OR-7 OR-6 OR-5 OR-4 OR-3 OR-2 OR-1
South Africa South Africa
(Edit)
SAA-OR-9.svg SAA-OR-8.svg SAA-OR-7.svg SAA-OR-6.svg No equivalent SAA-OR-4.svg SAA-OR-3.svg No insignia
Warrant Officer Class 1 Warrant Officer Class 2 Staff Sergeant Sergeant Corporal Lance Corporal Private
(or equivalent)

Air Force[edit]

The SA Air Force was formed in 1920. Unlike many other Commonwealth air forces, it had army style rank system. In 2002 the Air Force officer rank insignia structure was changed from one which was shared with the Army to a new pattern based on stripes. The Air Force stated that this was "in order to bring it more in line with international forms of rank".[4] The army-style rank titles were retained. Note: The Rank of General is only used when the Chief of the Air Force is also the Chief of the Defence Force which has occurred on occasion in the past.

Officers[edit]

Equivalent
NATO Code
OF-10 OF-9 OF-8 OF-7 OF-6 OF-5 OF-4 OF-3 OF-2 OF-1 OF(D) and student officer
South Africa South Africa
(Edit)
No equivalent SAAF-OF-9.svg SAAF-OF-8.svg SAAF-OF-7.svg SAAF-OF-6.svg SAAF-OF-5.svg SAAF-OF-4.svg SAAF-OF-3.svg SAAF-OF-2.svg SAAF-OF-1b.svg SAAF-OF-1a.svg SAAF-Candidate Offr.svg
General Lieutenant general Major general Brigadier general Colonel Lieutenant colonel Major Captain Lieutenant Second lieutenant Officer candidate

Warrant officers[edit]

Equivalent NATO rank WO-5 WO-4 WO-3 WO-2 WO-1
South Africa South Africa
(Edit)
SAA-WO-5.svg SAA-WO-4.svg SAA-WO-3.svg SAA-WO-2.svg SAA-WO-1.svg
Master chief warrant officer Senior chief warrant officer Chief warrant officer Master warrant officer Senior warrant officer

Other ranks[edit]

Equivalent
NATO Code
OR-9 OR-8 OR-7 OR-6 OR-5 OR-4 OR-3 OR-2 OR-1
South Africa South Africa
(Edit)
SAA-OR-9.svg SAA-OR-8.svg SAAF-OR-7.svg SAAF-OR-6.svg No equivalent SAAF-OR-4.svg SAAF-OR-3.svg No equivalent No insignia
Warrant officer class 1 Warrant officer class 2 Flight sergeant Sergeant Corporal Lance corporal Aircraftman

Navy[edit]

The SA Navy was originally two separate organisations, namely the South African Division of the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve (formed in 1913) and the South African Naval Service (formed in 1922 and renamed the "Seaward Defence Force" in 1939). They amalgamated in 1942 to form the SA Naval Forces, which were renamed "SA Navy" in 1951. The rank system is based on that of the (British) Royal Navy.

The ranks of Flag Officers changed in 1997 when the rank previously called Commodore became known as Rear Admiral (Junior Grade).[5]

Officers[edit]

Equivalent
NATO code
OF-10 OF-9 OF-8 OF-7 OF-6 OF-5 OF-4 OF-3 OF-2 OF-1 OF(D) and student officer
South Africa South Africa
(Edit)
No equivalent Generic-Navy-O11.svg Generic-Navy-O10.svg Generic-Navy-O9.svg Generic-Navy-O8.svg Generic-Navy-O7.svg Generic-Navy-O5.svg Generic-Navy-O4.svg Generic-Navy-O3.svg Generic-Navy-O1.svg POR-Navy-OFD.svg 07.RNO-MIDN.svg
Admiral Vice admiral Rear admiral Rear admiral
(junior grade)
Captain Commander Lieutenant
commander
Lieutenant Sub lieutenant Ensign Midshipman

Warrant Officers[edit]

Equivalent NATO code WO-1 WO-2 WO-3 WO-3 WO-5
South Africa South Africa
(Edit)
SAA-WO-1.svg SAA-WO-2.svg SAA-WO-3.svg SAA-WO-4.svg SAA-WO-5.svg
Senior warrant officer Master warrant officer Chief warrant officer Senior chief warrant officer Master chief warrant officer

Enlisted[edit]

Equivalent
NATO code
OR-9 OR-8 OR-7 OR-6 OR-5 OR-4 OR-3 OR-2 OR-1
South Africa South Africa
(Edit)
SAA-OR-9.svg SAA-OR-8.svg SAN-Navy-OR-7.svg SAN-Navy-OR-6.svg No equivalent British Royal Navy OR-4.svg No equivalent Trinidad and Tobago-Navy-OR-2.svg No equivalent
Warrant officer class 1 Warrant officer class 2 Chief petty officer Petty officer Leading seaman Able seaman

Military Health Service[edit]

The South African Military Health Service uses the Army rank system. There is a differentiation in that the rank insignia is displayed on a red background as opposed to the army, which is displayed on an olive background.

Master Chief and Senior Chief Warrant Officers[edit]

The highest ranking South African non-commissioned officer is the Warrant Officer of the South African National Defence Force. They are the sole holder of the rank of Master Chief Warrant Officer (NATO equivalent WO-5).[6] As of October 2012 the incumbent MCWO is Mothusi Kgaladi[7]

The rank of Senior Chief Warrant Officer (NATO equivalent WO-4) is only held by the Master at Arms of the Navy, the Sergeant Major of the Army, the Sergeant Major of the Air Force, and the Sergeant Major of the Military Health Service.[6]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Radburn, Arthur (1990). "South African Army Ranks and Insignia". South African Journal of Military Studies. 20 (2): 2.
  2. ^ Pale, Frans (Lt Col). "DOD News Sep 2008" (pdf). SA Department of Defence.
  3. ^ "Airforce Rank Structure". Unofficial SA Airforce website.
  4. ^ SAAF Rank Insignia
  5. ^ Bennett, C. H.; Söderlund, A. G. (2008). South Africa's navy : a navy of the people and for the people. p. 185. ISBN 978-0-620-41446-3.
  6. ^ a b "Fact file: Comparative military and civil service grades". DefenceWeb.
  7. ^ "Mothusi Victor Kgaladi new WO SANDF". DefenceWeb.