Air commodore (Air Cdre in the RAF and IAF, AIRCDRE in the RNZAF and RAAF, A/C in the former RCAF) is an air-officer rank which originated in and continues to be used by the Royal Air Force. The rank is also used by the air forces of many countries which have historical British influence 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.
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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 never 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 (WAAF), Women's Royal Air Force (WRAF) (until 1968) and Princess Mary's Royal Air Force Nursing Service (PMRAFNS) (until 1980) was Air Commandant.
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.
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.
An RAF Air Commodore's sleeve on No. 1 Service Dress uniform
Air Commodore broad pennant
Air Commodore star plate
The Queen may appoint Honorary Air Commodores for RAF flying squadrons and stations. For example, Prince Charles is RAF Valley's Honorary Air Commodore andWinston Churchill was 615 Squadron's Honorary Air Commodore. 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.
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.
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 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 1940s when the Greek Armed Forces were reconstituted along British lines while in exile in the Middle East.
An RAAF air commodore's sleeve/shoulder insignia
A Hellenic Air ForceTaxiarchos (air commodore's) rank insignia
An Indian Air Force air commodore's rank insignia
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 U.S. 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. However the Chilean Air Force, which in the beginning used the RAF style ranks, soon adpoted its own combining army style and the RAF style ranks, thus the equivalent rank to this is General de Brigada Aerea (Air Brigade General) following French practice.
The Royal Netherlands Air Force's equivalent rank is Commodore which has essentially the same rank insignia.