Ranks and Commands in Full Thrust
The ranks and command structures of the main Interstellar Navies of the 22nd Century draw on, and continue, many of the traditions and practices of the Terran wet navies of the 21st Century.
While the purpose of this article is to examine the ranks of officers commanding interstellar craft, for completeness I have included officer ranks below that of command rank.
Neu Swabian League
The military traditions of the Kriegsraumflotte are drawn from the deep water ports of North Germany, Terra.
Grossadmiral: In the Kriegsraumflotte, the rank of Grossadmiral (Grand Admiral or Oberbefehlshaber der Kriegsraumflotte - Commander of the Space Warfleet) is very much a political post, though usually held by a senior Generaladmiral. The Grand Admiral is the permanent head of the Naval Ministry under the Minister for the Navy. It is very rare for a Grand Admiral to hold an active force command.
Generaladmiral: Each of the NSL Fleets is commanded by a Generaladmiral, the most senior commanding First Fleet. It is unusual for a Generaladmiral to also command a Battleline Task Group (BTG), as he or she is generally more involved in the strategic planning and directing of Fleet operations, but where more than two BTGs or CTGs (Carrier Task Groups) are committed to an operation, the Generaladmiral will command aboard.
Admiral: A Battleline Task Group (BTG) of the Kriegsraumflotte is usually commanded by an Admiral, seconded by a Vizeadmiral and a Konteradmiral. Historically, the Admiral commands the BTG from an SDN, the Vizeadmiral supports him from a SDN or BDN and commands the 'battle line', while the Konteradmiral commands the carrier(s) and escorts.
Vizeadmiral: Senior Vizeadmirals usually take command of the Carrier Task Groups (CTGs), this being a command slot on the track to becoming a full Admiral. The Vizeadmiral, usually aboard the heaviest battle unit (either an SDN or a BDN), is seconded by a Konteradmiral who commands the carrier(s) and escorts.
Konteradmiral: The smaller Carrier Task Groups (CTG) are sometimes commanded by a senior Konteradmiral. More often, Konteradmirals, when not filling their roles with Battleline or Carrier Task Groups, will command detached Cruiser Star Squadrons on independent operations. When exercising independent command, a Konteradmiral is known as a Flottillenadmiral.
Flottillenadmiral: Not a rank, but a title bestowed upon a Konteradmiral with an independent command.
Weltraumkapitaen: Literally 'Space Captain'. The commanding officer of any starship of Cruiser Class or larger. An Admiral may command, but the Captain commands the ship. The Captain of an Admiral's flag ship is often given the honorific title of Flag Captain. A Flag Captain is deemed to outrank all other Captains in a fleet, irrespective of seniority.
Kommodore: Rank bestowed upon a senior Kapitaen or Fregattenkapitaen commanding more than one starship. Destroyer Star Squadrons are commanded by Kommodores, as are smaller garrisons and stations.
Fregattenkapitaen: The commanding officer of a Destroyer or Frigate Class starship. A senior Fregattenkaptain can hold the rank of Kommodore if commanding a squadron of Destroyers, Frigates, or smaller starships.
Eurasian Solar Union
While China dominated the early Eurasian Solar Union, the military traditions of the Voyenno-Komicheskiy Flot are drawn from the Soviet and Russian navies of Terra. This was mainly due to the historical assistance and influence the old Soviet Union provided to the fledging People's Liberation Navy.
Admiral flota: Head of the Voyenno-Komicheskiy Flot the Admiral of the Fleet is often a member of the governing Politburo, or Presidium (both terms are used to describe the permanent committee that governs the Central Committee and the Party Congress), of the Eurasian Solar Union. A purely political role, by tradition the Admiral flota is a retired Admiral.
Admiral: Each of the Sector Fleets is commanded by an Admiral. A Sector Fleet usually encompasses several military districts. Fleet elements are permanently based in the military districts, rotating from station to station within the district, or between districts within the Sector as required. For a major operation, where elements from two or more military districts within a Sector are combined, the Admiral will normally command.
Kontr-admiral: A Kontr-admiral usually seconds the Vitse-admiral of a military district. Some of the smaller Outworld military district forces are commanded by senior Kontr-admirals in their own right. This is an important command step for a Kontr-admiral seeking advancement and is a post keenly sought after. Otherwise, Kontr-admirals are often found in command of detached cruiser squadrons.
Kapitan pervogo ranga: Captain - 1st Rank, as this title is usually translated, is the commanding officer of any starship of Cruiser class or larger. The senior Kapitan in a Cruiser Squadron will command that squadron, but is not known by any special title.
Kapitan vtorogo ranga: Captain - 2nd Rank, as this title is usually translated, is the commanding officer of a starship of Destroyer class. The senior Kapitan vtorogo ranga in a Destroyer flotilla, if there are no Kapitan pervogo ranga present, will command that flotilla, but is not known by any special title.
Narodny Komissar or Narkom: The popular title for a representative of the Committee for Public Safety. The CPS has it's own paramilitary formations and rank structures. These are similar to those used by the People's Liberation Army, though the CPS operates completely outside the control of both the PLA and the Voyenno- Komicheskiy Flot, being responsible directly to the Komissar for Public Safety, who is a member of the Presidium. A Narkom of comparable rank to a vessel's commanding officer is assigned to each starship in the VKF. On vessels of battlecruiser class or larger, the Narkom will have a security detail of CPS rankers assigned to assist in maintaining the revolutionary fervor of the crew. The Narkom is to ensure that the officer commanding the vessel performs his or her duty to the utmost, and is charged to take command in the event that the vessel's commanding officer is deficient is patriot zeal. In some cases, especially where Narkoms and VKF officers have served together for any length of time, a working relationship may evolve where the job at hand gets done without excessive meddling.
New Anglian Confederation
Admiral of the Fleet (five star): In accordance with tradition, the Admiral of the Fleet is almost always the reigning monarch's eldest relative with Naval experience. The role of Admiral of the Fleet, while mainly ceremonial, is also a political one as the Admiral must stand before Parliament during the reading of the Estimates to defend the Navy Budget. The Royal Family, therefore, always ensures that at least some of its members have Naval command experience, and at Flag rank at the very least, no matter the length of time actually logged in space.
Fleet Admiral (four star): Fleet Admirals command the three great Fleet Commands of the Confederacy: Core Command, Home Fleet and Outworld Command. The 'Fighting Admiral' has a long tradition in the Royal Space Navy and Fleet Admirals are still expected to command 'in the field' when major mobilizations take place.
Vice-Admiral (three star): The Heavy Battle Squadrons and Carrier Battle Groups are normally commanded by Vice-Admirals. As NAC tactical doctrine tends to limit the deployment of Heavy Battle Squadrons to Fleet deployments in times of high political volatility, the practice of 'paired' commands has grown up. In this situation, the Vice-Admiral and command staff of a Heavy Battle Squadron are rotated for periods of six months to a year with the command staff of a Carrier Battle Group. This ensures operational skills are maintained or enhanced, and provides valuable strategic planning opportunities for the command team assigned to the Heavy Battle Squadron. Individual elements of the Heavy Battle Squadrons are also rotated through the Carrier Battle Groups to ensure that operational training levels are maintained for the crews as well. A Vice- Admiral is usually seconded by a Rear-Admiral or Commodore.
Rear-Admiral (two star): Senior Rear-Admirals usually second a Vice-Admiral in a Heavy Battle Squadron or Carrier Battle Group. Otherwise, they can be found in command of Cruiser-Destroyer Squadrons, or in command of the coveted Battleship patrol groups.
Captain: The commanding officer of a starship of Cruiser Class or larger. An Admiral may command, but the Captain commands the ship. The Captain of an Admiral's flag ship is often given the honorific title of Flag Captain. A Flag Captain is deemed to outrank all other Captains in a fleet, irrespective of seniority.
Federal Stats Europa
Amiral: The Federal Council of the Federal Stats Europa confirms the nomination of a senior Vice-Amiral to head l'Astromarine des FSE for a term of five years. While holding this post, the Vice-Amiral is known as Amiral and out-ranks all other Vice-Amirals and Vice-Amirals d'escadre. At the end of the five year term, the Amiral may return to active duty as a Vice-Amiral, and a new Amiral is confirmed by the Federal Council. The Amiral's function, beside the ceremonial, is primarily bureaucratic, preparing estimates and budgets and overseeing building programs and unit deployments.
Vice-Amiral d'escadre: Overall command of Home Fleet and Colonial Fleet is invested in two senior Vice-Amirals. Known as Vice-Amirals d'escadre, these officers implement unit deployments, and plan strategic operations and tactical deployments of Battle Groups assigned to their force commands. It is FSE policy to rotate Vice- Amirals d'escadre every five years, many Amirals d'escadre going on to serve as Amiral at l'Astromarine headquarters.
Vice-Amiral: A Battle Group of the l'Astromarine, built up around a Fleet Carrier and a Superdreadnought, is commanded by a Vice-Amiral, seconded by a Contre- Amiral. The Vice-Amiral usually commands the 'battle line', while the Contre- Amiral commands the escort screen.
Capitaine de fregate: The commanding officer of any starship of Frigate or Destroyer Class. A senior Capitaine de fregate may command a Destroyer Task Force of more than one Destroyer, Frigate, or smaller starships.
Capitaine de corvette: The commanding officer of a corvette or scoutship. The most junior command rank in l'Astromarine des Federal Stats Europa.
United Nations Space Command
The UNSC has three major fleet stations in the Core Worlds; Alpha Centauri, Barnard's Star, and Sol, itself. Fleet elements also patrol the Inner Systems of Tau Ceti, Epsilon Eridani, Omicron Eridani, Sirius, Procyon, Altair, DM+02'3482 and BD+50'1725.
Admiral of the Fleet: The UN Security Council confirms the nomination of a senior Admiral to the post of Admiral of the Fleet for a period of five years. Based on Terra, and reporting directly to the Security Council, the Admiral of the Fleet controls Fleet budgets, building programmes and deployments. At the end of his, or her, term the Admiral may return to duty but is usually retired to some ambassadorial role. It is extremely rare for an Admiral of the Fleet to hold an active force command.
Admiral: Admirals command the three major Fleet Stations of the Core Worlds; Barnard's Star, Alpha Centauri and, the most senior, Sol. These officers implement unit deployments, and plan strategic and tactical deployments for Battle Groups assigned to their force commands. They are also responsible for peace keeping in the Inner Colony systems that fall under their jurisdiction, as well as deploying units further afield as situations, and UN resolutions, warrant.
Vice-Admiral: Vice-Admirals command the Battle Groups assigned to the Fleet Stations or deployed as peace keepers in the Inner Colonies as well as Task Groups deployed to monitor or enforce UN resolutions in the Outer Worlds. Battle Groups are usually built up around a Heavy Carrier with Dreadnought supports or a SuperDreadnought with Light or Escort Carrier supports. A Vice-Admiral usually commands the battle-line, seconded by a Rear-Admiral who commands the escorting craft.
Rear-Admiral: Rear-Admirals either command the supporting craft of a Battle Group or command an independent Cruiser Group. Cruiser Groups are usually deployed to over-see the implementation of UN resolutions, to escort high level diplomatic deployments in 'threat' areas where the deployment of a Battle Group might seem provocative, and to maintain cease-fire zones.
Captain: A Captain commands any interstellar vessel of cruiser class or larger. Senior Captains may command a Destroyer Group, as well as their own vessel, but are not accorded any special rank while undertaking such a task. Destroyer Groups are usually deployed in peace-keeping and anti-piracy roles within the Inner Colony worlds, or assigned as observers in Outer Colony conflict areas that the UN has taken an interest in.
Commander: The commanding officer of a interstellar vessel of Frigate or Destroyer Class. A senior Commander may command a Destroyer Group, as well as his or her own vessel. While not accorded any special rank while undertaking such a task, such a posting is usually a sure sign that a Commander is on track for a rapid rise to Captain, and beyond. A Commander may also command one of the UN's flotilla of deep space exploration vessels, a career choice of some appeal to some of the more restless elements in the UNSC.
Lieutenant-Commander: The commanding officer of an interstellar vessel of Scout or Corvette Class. Also, the senior lieutenant on most interstellar vessels of Cruiser Class or larger, seconding that vessel's Captain. The gaining of the 'sine-wave patch', signifying that the wearer has held command of an interstellar craft, is considered by most officers as significant as the day they receive their warrant as an officer in the United Nations Space Command, as it indicates that they are finally on the 'command track'.
Since the completion of this article, I have been made aware of a table of ranks for the al-Bahriyeh al-Itihiid al-Islaam or Islamic Federation Navy which can be found on Laserlight's site.
Sources: Ground Zero Games' Fleet Book 1; Indy's Unofficial Fleet Rosters; Karl Heinz Ranitzsch for NSL Ranks; Adrian Johnson for the use of 'Commodore' in the NAC Navy; UNSC Beta fleet on Star Ranger's Starship Combat News site; Grant A. Ladue for requesting UNSC ranks; Wikipedia - online encyclopaedia for definitions and rank structures in Terran Navies (though check the spelling for non-English terms).