This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.Find sources: "Air marshal" – news · newspapers · books · scholar · JSTOR (October 2022) (Learn how and when to remove this message)

Air marshal (Air Mshl or AM) is an air-officer rank used by some air forces, with origins from the Royal Air Force.[1] The rank is used by the air forces of many countries which have historical British influence, including many Commonwealth nations. The rank is usually equivalent to a vice admiral or a lieutenant general.

Air marshal is immediately senior to the rank of air vice-marshal and immediately subordinate to the rank of air chief marshal. Officers in the rank of air marshal typically hold very senior appointments such as commander-in-chief of an air force or a large air force formation. Officers in the ranks of air chief marshal and air vice-marshal are also referred to generically as air marshals.[2] Occasionally, air force officers of marshal rank are considered to be air marshals.


Main article: Air marshal (Australia)

See also: List of Royal Australian Air Force air marshals

The Australian Air Corps adopted the RAF rank system on 9 November 1920[3] and this usage was continued by its successor, the Royal Australian Air Force. However, the rank of air marshal was not used by the Australian Armed Forces until 1940 when Richard Williams, an RAAF officer, was promoted.[4]

In Australia, there are four appointments available for air marshals: the Chief of Air Force and, at times when they are occupied by an air force officer, the Vice Chief of Defence Force, the Chief of Joint Operations, and the Chief of Capability Development Group.


The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) used the rank until the 1968 unification of the Canadian Forces, when army-type rank titles were adopted and an air marshal became a lieutenant-general. In official Canadian French usage, the rank title was maréchal de l'air.[5] The Canadian Chief of the Air Staff ordinarily held the rank of air marshal. The following RCAF officers held the rank (dates in rank in parentheses):


Main article: Air Marshal (India)

The rank of air marshal was the highest in the Indian Air Force (IAF), held by the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), from 1947 to 1966. In 1966, the rank of CAS was upgraded to air chief marshal and ACM Arjan Singh became the first CAS to hold the four-star rank.


The Namibian Air Force adopted the RAF rank system in 2010 previously having been using army ranks and insignia. However the rank of air marshal was not used until 1 April 2020 when Martin Pinehas was promoted to that rank and appointed as Chief of the Namibian Defence Force.[7]

New Zealand

In New Zealand, the head of the air force holds the lower rank of air vice-marshal. However, when an air force officer holds the country's senior military appointment, Chief of the New Zealand Defence Force, he is granted the rank of air marshal. The current Chief of Defence Force is an RNZAF officer, Air Marshal Tony Davies.

Other officers to hold the air marshal rank in New Zealand are:


Main article: Air marshal (Pakistan)

United Kingdom

See also: RAF officer ranks

Air Marshal
Command flag
Shoulder and sleeve insignia
Star plate
Country United Kingdom
Service branch Royal Air Force
AbbreviationAir Mshl / AM
NATO rank codeOF-8
Formation1 August 1919 (1919-08-01)
Next higher rankAir chief marshal
Next lower rankAir vice-marshal
Equivalent ranks


Prior to the adoption of RAF-specific rank titles in 1919, it was suggested that the RAF might use the Royal Navy's officer ranks, with the word "air" inserted before the naval rank title. For example, the rank that later became air marshal would have been air vice-admiral. The Admiralty objected to any use of their rank titles, including this modified form, and so an alternative proposal was put forward: air-officer ranks would 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 "second ardian" or "wing ardian" being used specifically for the rank equivalent to a vice-admiral and lieutenant-general. However, air marshal was preferred and has been used since its adoption in August 1919.[8] Sir Hugh Trenchard, the incumbent Chief of the Air Staff when the rank was introduced, became the first air marshal on 11 August 1919.[9][10]

RAF insignia, command flag and star plate

This section does not cite any sources. Please help improve this section by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (September 2021) (Learn how and when to remove this message)

The rank insignia consists of two narrow light blue bands (each on a slightly wider black band) over a light blue band on a broad black band. This is worn on the lower sleeves of the dress uniform or on shoulders of the flying suit or working uniform.

The command flag for an air marshal is defined by the single broad red band running in the centre of the flag.

The vehicle star plate for an air marshal depicts three white stars (air marshal is equivalent to a three-star rank) on an air force blue background.

Other language variants

In the Brazilian Air Force, the highest rank is Marechal-do-ar, a five-star officer, which can be translated as "air marshal" or "marshal of the air". The rank is equivalent to marshal in the Brazilian Army.[11]

In 1927, the rank of Luftmarsk (transl. air marshal), was proposed by Christian Førslev [da] for a protentional united Chief of the Royal Danish Air Force rank. The rank would have been equivalent to a major general.[12]


See also


  1. ^ "Ranks and Badges of the Royal Air Force". Royal Air Force. 2007. Archived from the original on 13 November 2007.
  2. ^ "Forms of Address: Air Chief Marshal, Air Marshal and Air Vice-Marshal". Debrett's. Archived from the original on 19 November 2015. Retrieved 4 December 2015.
  3. ^ Gillison, Douglas Napier (1962). "Chapter 1: Formation of the Royal Australian Air Force" (digitised book). Royal Australian Air Force, 1939–1942 (1st ed.). Australian War Memorial. pp. 5–6.
  4. ^ Gillison, Douglas Napier (1962). "Chapter 5: The New Command" (digitised book). Royal Australian Air Force, 1939–1942 (1st ed.). Australian War Memorial. pp. 92–93.
  5. ^ "The RCAF". Archived from the original on 3 June 2009. Retrieved 22 May 2022.
  6. ^ "Air Marshal Clare L. Annis, OBE, CD". Archived from the original on 11 February 2013. Retrieved 20 December 2012.
  7. ^ "Geingob appoints Pinehas as CDF". New Era Live.
  8. ^ Hobart, Malcolm C (2000). Badges and Uniforms of the Royal Air Force. Leo Cooper. p. 26. ISBN 0-85052-739-2 – via Google Books.
  9. ^ "Marshal of the RAF The Viscount Trenchard of Wolfeton". Air of Authority – A History of RAF Organisation. 24 July 2018. Retrieved 15 November 2020.
  10. ^ Probert, Henry (1991). "The Viscount Trenchard". High Commanders of the Royal Air Force. London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office. ISBN 9780117726352.
  11. ^ a b "Postos e Graduações" [Ranks and Graduations]. (in Portuguese). Brazilian Air Force. Retrieved 7 May 2021.
  12. ^ Kongstad, Jan O. (2008). Den militære flyvnings udvikling i Danmark 1910-1932 [The development of military aviation in Denmark 1910-1932] (in Danish). p. 83. ISBN 978-87-7674-175-4.
  13. ^ "Badges of rank" (PDF). Department of Defence (Australia). Retrieved 31 May 2021.
  14. ^ "OFFICER'S RANKS". Archived from the original on 19 February 2020. Retrieved 11 October 2020.
  15. ^ "Rank Structure". Ghana Air Force. 2018. Archived from the original on 21 January 2018. Retrieved 3 March 2024.
  16. ^ "For Officers". Indian Air Force. Archived from the original on 25 February 2012. Retrieved 23 September 2021.
  17. ^ "Government Notice" (PDF). Government Gazette of the Republic of Namibia. Vol. 4547. 20 August 2010. pp. 99–102. Retrieved 20 December 2021.
  18. ^ Smaldone, Joseph P. (1992). "National Security". In Metz, Helen Chapin (ed.). Nigeria: a country study. Area Handbook (5th ed.). Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress. pp. 296–297. LCCN 92009026. Retrieved 21 October 2021.
  19. ^ "Commissioned Officers". Sri Lanka Air Force. Retrieved 24 September 2021.
  20. ^ "RAF Ranks". Royal Air Force. Retrieved 21 September 2021.
  21. ^ "Ranks and Badges in the AFZ". Air Force of Zimbabwe. Archived from the original on 9 June 2022. Retrieved 29 May 2021.