An admiral of the fleet or fleet admiral (equivalent rank to admiral of the navy or grand admiral) is a military naval officer of the highest rank. In many nations the rank is reserved for wartime or ceremonial appointments. It is usually a rank above admiral (which is now usually the highest rank in peacetime for officers in active service), and is often held by the most senior admiral of an entire naval service.
It is also a generic term for a senior admiral in command of a large group of ships, comprising a fleet or, in some cases, a group of fleets. If actually a rank, its name can vary depending on the country. In addition to "fleet admiral" and "admiral of the fleet", such rank names include "admiral of the navy" and "grand admiral".[note 1]
It ranks above vice admiral, rear admiral and usually full admiral, and is usually given to a senior admiral commanding multiple fleets as opposed to just one fleet. It is often classified in NATO nations as a five-star rank.
The title admiral of the fleet can trace its origins to the Middle Ages, where the title was typically granted to a nobleman who was appointed by a monarch to raise and command a navy for a specific campaign.
The following articles contain specific information on the rank as it pertains to individual countries:
Ambiguity exists when translating the French amiral into English (into admiral of the fleet or admiral). A French title of amiral de la flotte, outranking a full admiral was created in 1939 for Darlan, who was the only person in French history to hold that title. Amiral de la flotte became a rank in 1942, when Darlan was commander in chief of the military forces of the Vichy Regime. The rank of Amiral de la flotte was still mentioned in French laws in 1957.
Before the fall of the monarchy in 1952, the Egyptian Navy had the equivalent rank of sayed elbehar elazam.
In the Turkish Navy, the corresponding rank büyük amiral, literally meaning "grand admiral", can only be bestowed by the National Assembly, and only given to an admiral who leads the navy successfully in and out of a war, criteria tougher than those for equivalent ranks. No one has ever been bestowed this rank yet in the republican era. During the period of the Ottoman Empire, commanders of the navy carried the rank of kapudan-i derya as equivalent.
In Poland, the rank is the second-highest and is a 3-star rank. The stars are not used, however, except in the very admiral's flag.
(United States Navy)
The rank also exists or has existed (never conferred to any individual) in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Oman and Pakistan, although not all of these countries have actually bestowed the rank on an individual.