Flag Officer

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A Flag Officer is a commissioned officer in a nation's armed forces senior enough to be entitled to fly a flag to mark the position from which the officer exercises command.


Flag Officers were first introduced during the 16th Century when the Navy Royal started to be divided for command and control purposes into manageable formations known as Naval Squadrons assigned to these were Vice-Admirals who were subordinate to the Lord Admiral of England. These vice admirals when in battle were allocated flags to distinguish their ship within the fleet and used for communication purposes. In 1620 Flag Ranks were formally established into Navy Royal.

In the Royal Navy, there is a distinction between the "flag officer" and "officer of flag" ranks. Formerly all officers promoted to flag rank were considered to be "flag officers" and the term is still widely used to refer to any officer of flag rank.

Present usage is that all Rear-Admirals, Vice-Admirals, Admirals and Admirals of the Fleet are officers of flag rank, but only those officers of flag rank who are authorised to fly a flag are formally called "flag officers", and have different flags for different ranks of admiral.

Equivalent ranks in the British Army and Royal Marines are called General Officer rather than flag officers, and those in the Royal Air Force (as well as the rank of air commodore) are called Air Officers, although all are entitled to fly flags of rank.

Current RN Flag Officers

# Title Rank
1. Admiral of the Fleet 5 Star
2. Admiral 4 Star
3. Vice-Admiral 3 Star
4. Rear-Admiral 2 Star
5. Commodore 1 Star