A standard grade scale is used by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.and its partners for the purpose of comparing military ranks across the member nations militaries. It is used for specifying posts within NATO organisation.

Rank codes

NATO maintains a "standard rank scale" which is also known as a "standardized reference system" in an attempt to standardize NATO codes of rank for military personnel and indicate correspondence with nations ranks.[1] It is intended to be used "by nations when preparing personnel tables, requisitions, reports and returns destined for NATO nations, organizations and commands." The NATO rank reference code categories were established in a 1978 document entitled STANAG 2116 (formally titled NATO Codes for Grades of Military Personnel). The current edition, the 7th dated January 13, 2021[a] is just the cover, and the core of the standard is in set out in APersP-01 "NATO Codes For Grades Of Military Personnel"[b][1].

NATO rank codes are not the same as military ranks (eg private, corporal,, captain...) nor military pay grades (eg the US military E-1, W-1, CW-5, O-1e, O-10, etc.). They are rank codes that allow for interoperability among NATO member nations.[citation needed]

Officer rank codes

OF-1 – OF-10 (lowest rank code to highest) are used for commissioned officers:[2]

Non-officer personnel codes

OR1–OR9 (lowest rank code to highest) are used for other ranks / enlisted ranks and non-commissioned officers (NCO) :[2]

In US armed forces the Warrant Officer is a separate and distinct category of officers. This officer rank and precedence is below those of officer personnel, but above that of non-officer personnel, therefore has a special group of codes (W-1 – W-5).[3] In the Commonwealth tradition (for NATO the British Armed Forces and Canadian Armed Forces in NATO) warrant officers are the highest other ranks.[4]

In the British Armed Forces senior non-commissioned officers are in OR-5 to OR-7 and junior non-commissioned officers (eg corporals) are in OR-3 and OR-4.[5] In the US military OR-5 and above are non-commissioned officers for the US Army and US Air Force but in the US Marine Corps and US Navy (both parts of the Department of the Navy), OR-4 and above are non-commissioned officers.[6] These differences show that each country has the right to have its own vision of the structure of its ranks, which must be consistent with the general vision.[7]

Officer rank code application

Appendix B of the APP-06 standard[8] lists 11 formation/unit groups (13 in US Armed Forces) and identifies the command level of seven of them:

Non-officer rank code criteria

According to Bi-Strategic Command Directive 040-002[9] which sets out the "NATO Non-commissioned officer and junior officer bi-strategic command employment and development strategy" NATO rank indicators for NCOs are described as follows:

Specific roles:[10]

Comparison to US system

The numbers in the system broadly correspond to the U.S. uniformed services pay grades, with OR-x replacing E-x. The main difference is in the commissioned officer ranks, where the US system recognises two ranks at OF-1 level (O-1 and O-2), meaning that all O-x numbers after O-1 are one point higher on the US scale than they are on the NATO scale (e.g. a major is OF-3 on the NATO scale and O-4 on the US scale).

Officer ranks
Rank group General / flag officers Senior officers Junior officers Officer cadet
NATO code OF-10 OF-9 OF-8 OF-7 OF-6 OF-5 OF-4 OF-3 OF-2 OF-1 OF(D) Student officer
Uniformed services pay grade Special grade O-10 O-9 O-8 O-7 O-6 O-5 O-4 O-3 O-2 O-1 Officer candidate/Cadet
Other ranks
Rank group Non-commissioned officers Enlisted
NATO code OR-9 OR-8 OR-7 OR-6 OR-5 OR-4 OR-3 OR-2 OR-1
Uniformed services pay grade Special E-9 E-8 E-7 E-6 E-5 E-4 E-3 E-2 E-1

Use of NATO rank codes by NATO partners

Based on the intentions of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Ukraine to join NATO, NATO codes for military ranks have been officially introduced in these countries. Bosnia and Herzegovina adopted a corresponding law in 2005.[11] In Ukraine, the introduction of NATO codes for military ranks took place in two stages. Firstly in 2020, the Ukrainian parliament amended the structure of military ranks[12] which was followed in January 2021, by the Minister of Defense of Ukraine approving the compliance of military ranks with NATO codes by order[13] though the order had a confidential status.[14].

Some European NATO partners such as Austria[15] and Ireland[16] describe their ranks in terms of NATO rank codes for comparison with NATO forces.

Other use of NATO codes

NATO codes are also sometimes used to describe equivalence for countries that are not aligned with NATO. Eg in setting out commissioned officer ranks in the Israel Defense Forces with those in the US Army.[17][18][19][20], because in the IDF officer ranks are not determined by the position held, but on length of service. Professor Asher Shafrir’s point of view was supported in specialized military publications,[21][22] however, each position has its own shortcomings.[23]

Similar problems can arise when trying to match officer rank systems, such as the Soviet one, with NATO codes.[24]

Comparative ranks of member armed forces

See also


  1. ^ superseding Edition 6 of February 25, 2010
  2. ^ latest edition 2022
  1. ^ a b NATO:NSO 2021, p. 1.
  2. ^ a b NATO:NSO 2022, p. 1-1.
  3. ^ NATO:NSO 2022, p. А-10.
  4. ^ NATO:NSO 2022, p. D-1, D-3.
  5. ^ NATO:NSO 2022, p. D-8, Е-7, F-7.
  6. ^ DoD 2020.
  7. ^ An example would be the position of the Danish Armed Forces: in STANAG 2116 (5th ed.) on p. B-3 there was a note that OR-9 to OR-4 are non-commissioned officers in the Danish Army, however in APersP-01 (Ed. A Ver.3) on p. D-7 states that OR-9 to OR-5 are non-commissioned officers in the Danish Army.
  8. ^ NATO:NSO 2023, p. 795,796.
  9. ^ NATO:Bi-SC 2023, p. 7,8.
  10. ^ NATO:Bi-SC 2023, p. 9.
  11. ^ PSBiH 2005, p. 33,34.
  12. ^ Rada 2020.
  13. ^ rubryka.com.
  14. ^ Among the orders of the Minister of Defense for 2019, posted on the website of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, order No. 1 is missing
  15. ^ www.bundesheer.at.
  16. ^ De Barra 2022.
  17. ^ IDF 2007.
  18. ^ Israel Hayom 2012.
  19. ^ Shafrir 2013b, p. 3.
  20. ^ Gross 2021, p. 32,110 (262,340).
  21. ^ Campbell 2018, p. 65.
  22. ^ Tennyson 2018.
  23. ^ The IDF website put NCOs and Warrant Officers in the same group, which is not correct for the US Army. Professor Asher Shafrir also put NCOs and Warrant Officers in the same group, but besides this he does not identify Staff Sergeant and Sergeant as NCO. The Israel Hayom newspaper did not take into account that the title of Master Warrant Officer does not exist in the US Army. The dictionary edited by Reot Gross does not provide correspondence for all NCO ranks in the IDF. Finally, in David Campbell’s book, after the rank of Sergeant Major with the code OR-9, warrant officer ranks are also indicated with the code OR-9.
  24. ^ In the Soviet system there is no rank of brigadier general or its equivalent (OF-6), and after the rank of lieutenant general (OF-8) comes a group of general and marshal ranks (Colonel general, Army General, Marshal of the branch, Chief marshal of the branch, Marshal of the Soviet Union), excluding the rank of Generalissimus of the Soviet Union. The situation is similar with the admiral ranks: after the rank of admiral (OF-9) come the ranks Admiral of the fleet and Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union, which are lower than the rank of Generalissimus of the Soviet Union. Considering that the highest officer code is OF-10, it is not clear how to place this entire rank of rank.