Imperial Insignia: Officer Examples


Officer Cadet

Officer cadets have no rank cylinders because they are in training and are not assigned to any post. They do not need security access.




This is the lowest officer aboard a Navy vessel. A midshipman or ensign is a young officer who has just finished his academy studies and is taking experience on an active warship. Status as a working officer would require the possession of at least one rank cylinder. Distinguishing an ensign from the superior rank of Acting Sub-Lieutenant requires the possession of more than one cylinder.

In some contexts, the term "midshipman" may also refer to an officer trainee in an academy, but such a person is never called an "ensign". The insignia of ensigns and the cadet type of midshipmen are traditionally the same.



Acting Sub-Lieutenant

A naval acting sub-lieutenat is equal in status to an army second lieutenant. Superior to a midshipman, but still quite junior in naval officer ranks. Verbally addressed as simply "Sub-Lieutenant" without use of the "Acting" prefix. Sometimes known as a "Junior Lieutenant".

Second Lieutenant

A second lieutenant is the lowest commissioned rank in the Imperial Army. Status as a working officer would require the possession of at least one rank cylinder. A second lieutenant is equal in status to a naval acting sublieutenant.




A naval Sub-Lieutenant is the second-lowest commissioned rank in the Imperial Navy. The higher rank of Lieutenant is distinguished from the Sub-Lieutenant by the difference in number of rank cylinders. As with naval Captains and Commanders, the higher rank has the least cylinders.


Lieutenant [Army]

An Army Lieutenant commands a Platoon, which normally consists of four squads. Army Lieutenants are equal to a naval Sub-Lieutenant. For the sake of clarity, this kind of Lieutenant is sometimes called a First Lieutenant, in reference to a Second Lieutenant.



A naval Lieutenant is not of sufficient rank to command a capital ship but may supervise a section of a ship's operations. The rank of Lieutenant is distinguished from the lower level of Sub-Lieutenant by the number of rank cylinders. The higher rank has fewer cylinders, as with the insignia of captains and commanders.


Captain [Army]

An Army captain commands a company, which usually consists of four platoons. Army captains are equal in status to a naval lieutenant.



Lieutenant Commander

The naval rank of Lieutenant Commander is equivalent to the army rank of Major. The insignia for a lieutenant commander or army major is higher than a naval lieutenant and lower than a commander. When expressed in the standard form, the naval Lieutenant insignia is the highest possible rank with only two red squares. Therefore the standard-form Lieutenant Commander insignia must have three reds. To distinguish it from the higher rank levels of naval commander and captain, the number of rank cylinders must exceed two.


A Major commands a battalion.

The rank of Major is equivalent to the naval rank of Lieutenant Commander. Therefore the standardised insignia for these ranks must be the same. For this unfortunate and unavoidable reason the rank badge for major illustrated in The Imperial Sourcebook must be discarded. To adapt the major badge into a rational and self-consistent rank system the minimum necessary modification is the removal of one red square. More specific reasons for the configuration of the badge and rank cylinders are given in the section below which deals with the Lieutenant Commander insignia.

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A commander may command major sections of a capital starship's operation, without being sufficiently senior to command the entire vessel. A commander may be given command of a warship of modest size, or a fixed facility like a naval depot or space station. The immediate subordinates and closest aides of a ship's captain will be of Commander rank.


Lieutenant Colonel

A lieutenant colonel is of the same status as a naval commander and therefore must have equivalent insignia. An army regiment is commanded by a lieutenant colonel.


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There are two types of Navy captain: a ship's captain and a captain of the line. As the title suggests, a ship's captain has command of an entire warship, though some officers of equal rank serve as aides to admirals or dignitaries like Lord Darth Vader. In general though, a staff position holds less prestige than command of a vessel, no matter how small or antiquated the ship may be.

The insignia of a captain is distinguished from that of a commander by the number of code cylinders. A captain has one rank cylinder, whilst a commander has two.



A colonel is exactly equivalent in rank to a naval Captain and therefore must have exactly the same insignia. This rank is immediately above Lieutenant Colonel, and immediately below High Colonel (which was introduced in The Imperial Sourcebook).

This is a point of difficulty in published references because The Imperial Sourcebook neatly contradicts itself, and subsequent books have blindly followed the sourcebook's errors (if they take any position at all). The rank of Colonel is given an insignia illustration (which turns out to be impossible because it does not match a naval Captain), but the chapter describing the Order of Battle fails to mention this rank altogether. It describes the adjacent ranks of Lieutenant Colonel and High Colonel. The sourcebook should be ignored regarding the Colonel insignia, and it should be understood to be incomplete regarding the description of a Colonel's role. Perhaps it should be theorised that in practice a Colonel takes the role of a senior Lieutenant Colonel or a junior High Colonel.



Line Captain

This rank is marginally senior to that of an ordianry ship's Captain. A Line Captain (or "captain of the line") commands a naval line. A line is the smallest Navy element consisting of more than one ship. The number of ships in a line is roughly dependent on the size and firepower of the ships. A line of light warships will generally have more ships than a line of heavy warships.


High Colonel

A High Colonel commands a battlegroup, a unit which is equivalent to the Old Republic's divisions. This kind of unit consists of several regiments. A high colonel is equal in rank to a naval "Captain of the Line".

Although the rank of High Colonel does not seem to exist in the forces of real-world anglophonic nations, something similar does exist in Sweden and some other European countries. There it an intermediate of Colonel and Major General, as expected. A High Colonel also should be junior to a Brigadier, which is a distinct rank with a particular meaning, more akin to a junior general than a senior colonel.




This is an inferred rank badge for a rank described in the eighth chapter of The Imperial Sourcebook. Note also that this sourcebook reversed the ranks of Commodore and Admiral. The entries at this web site correct the error. The higher rank of Rear Admiral (equivalent to an army Major General) is known to have one cylinder, therefore a commodore must have two or more cylinders. A commodore is in equal in status to an army brigadier.

A Commodore commands a squadron, which consists of several lines. Without direct orders from a Moff or higher authority, a squadron is usually the largest naval force to be stationed in a single system.



A brigadier is the Army counterpart to a naval Commodore, and he commands a brigade. At present, there don't seem to have been any brigadiers named in filmed or unfilmed STAR WARS literature, but they almost certainly exist, at least for the sake of providing an Army equivalent of a Commodore. Brigades are not mentioned as a unit in The Imperial Sourcebook, but the book has many contradictions and omissions in its description of mid-level ranks and military units.

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A Rear-Admiral is equivalent in rank to a Major General in the Imperial Army. This rank is not assigned a particular level of naval force in the Order of Battle (at least according to the incomplete and imperfectly-reliable intelligence gathered by rebel spies). Under normal circumstances an officer in this intermediate rank will effectively act as a commodore, but with seniority over actual commodores.


Major General

A Major General commands a Corps, consisting of several battlegroups. In practice the Corps is one of the most important levels of organisation in the Imperial Army. Cooperation with the Navy is best at this level of command, and the Army's standard transport ships are built to accomodate a Corps each. The Corps is also the lowest level at which Imperial Intelligence is represented in the command structure, with one Ubiqtorate representative.

The standard Imperial Army garrison is based upon the Corps Headquarters, although relatively few garrisons are equipped with a full Corps. Consequently, Corps HQ are more common than Corps themselves, and major generals are more abundant than their moderately high status would suggest. This is done so that garrisoned planets have a suitable command structure in place to coordinate Corps-level action in an emergency.




This is another intermediate rank, like that of rear admiral.


Lieutenant General

A lieutant general is equivalent to the naval rank of vice-admiral.




An Admiral commands a systems force and may also be referred to as a systems admiral. A systems force is responsible for maintaining control and securtiy over a region which contains dozens of inhabited star systems.


A General commands an Army. A standard Army consists of four Corps. At the height of the Galactic Empire Armies rarely saw combat as a single unit, although this preference naturally changed as the Galactic Civil War increased in ferocity. A naval Troop Squadron carries an entire Army.

By comparison with the naval rank of Fleet Admiral and the army ranks of Lieutenant General and Major General, the standardised badge for a General must have five red squares and fewer than four cylinders. I choose just one cylinder because this matches the illustration of General Drost in The Last Command Sourcebook.


[Air] Marshal

The rank of starfighter senior officer equivalent to a full navy admiral or army general. In terrestrial terms, the rank is "air marshal"; in a space-based society it would be logical to drop the "air" because of atmospheric connotations. Nevertheless, the one example seen in the literature to date uses the untruncated terrestrial form.



Fleet Admiral

A fleet admiral commands a Fleet and usually answers to no authority other than the appropriate Moff, Grand Moff or Grand Admiral. A fleet may see combat anywhere within a sector. The fleets of a particular Sector Group therefore have overlapping domains. This is the lowest level of command at which transfers between sectors can be made.


High General

A High General commands a Systems Army and usually answers to no authority other than the appropriate Moff or Grand Moff. As a whole a Systems Army rarely sees action; rather it is an administrative unit existing for the sake of coordinating its constituent units amongst themselves and in cooperation with other military units of the same sector.



High Admiral

A High Admiral is the being who commands a Sector Group, the sum total of all naval forces available within a particular sector of the galaxy. In most sectors the Moff holds this title. Occassionally the High Admiral may be a separate individual, for a variety of possible miscellaneous reasons. Presumably the multiple Sector Groups under the command of a Grand Moff may each have a High Admiral.


Surface Marshal

A Surface Marshall commands a Sector Army. The title is the Army equivalent of the High Admiral; it usually is held by the Moff of the particular sector but this role may be delegated to a subordinate officer. A Sector Army is transported by a naval Assault Fleet.

Note: The insignia of a Surface Marshall have never been seen, to my knowledge. The badge and rank cylinders given above are chosen on the very reasonable assumption that a Surface Marshall's insignia should correspond to that of a High Admiral. Refer to the section above for a justification of the High Admiral insignia.



A Moff commands both the Army and Naval forces assigned to a Sector of space, in addition to acting as the political ruler of the sector. Moffs are appointed by the Emperor's Imperial Advisors. They report to Military High Command in Imperial City on Coruscant, and to the Imperial Advisors. Connection to the Imperial Advisors is known to seriously entangle some Moffs as pawns to personal feuds within the Emperor's Court.



Grand Moff

A Grand Moff commands all of the military resources of an Oversector, which is a temporary territory comprising several adjacent Sectors which are troubled by serious cross-border criminal and/or rebel activity. A Grand Moff is appointed to deal with those problems which are too big or too far-spread for local Moffs to handle. Accordingly, a Grand Moff usually commands the equivalent of several Sector Armies and naval Sector Groups.

A Grand Moff answers directly to the Emperor and not to any other authority such as the intermediate Imperial Advisors or ministers. The Emperor made this arrangement in order to help counterbalance the influence of his Advisors, secure ultimate military and political power for himself and to enable Grand Moffs to operate without hassles from above.



Grand Admiral

There were twelve (or thirteen?) Grand Admirals at any time (though the total might be greater if we consider attrition and replacement). Each is directly appointed by the Emperor and directly responsible to him. There is no higher authority within the Imperial navy, and only a proxy from the Emperor, like Lord Vader, can command the Grand Admirals. Grand Admirals do not have any political territory; their sphere of duty is the Empire as a whole. It is reasonable to assume that most Grand Admirals are associated with High Command on Coruscant, or else patrol the whole galaxy as Lord Vader does. Grand Admiral Thrawn, the thirteenth person appointed to this rank, spends many years completing secret missions for the Emperor in the Unknown Regions of the galaxy. Grand Admiral Thrawn never wore code cylinders in any illustration seen to date. STAR WARS Essential Chronology accounts for the fates of most of Thrawn's peers, but (interestingly) suggests that several Grand Admirals perished aboard the second Death Star as well.


Grand General

The computer game Force Commander makes mention of an officer called Grand General Malcor Brashin. This is probably an Army equivalent of the Imperial Navy's Grand Admiral rank. Online documentation for says that "with numerous military victories to his credit, Brashin has become one of the most respected - and feared - generals in the Imperial Army." He appears to be the final authority within the game. Unfortunately the game graphics show the same Veers-like uniform for all officers, regardless of rank and branch of service. (For instance Brenn Tantor is shown in the same uniform at every stage of promotion from lieutenant to general; and his brother Dellis Tantor wears an Army-style uniform despite being in Imperial Intelligence.) Therefore we can't make any comparison between Brashin's insignia and that of the Imperial Starfleet's Grand Admirals.

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