Commandant (rank)


Commandant (/ˌkɒmənˈdɑːnt/ or /ˌkɒmənˈdænt/) is a military or police rank. In the French, Spanish, Irish and Monegasque armed forces it is a rank equivalent to major while in Belgium it is a unique rank. In South Africa for most of the second half of the 20th century, commandant was a rank equivalent to lieutenant-colonel.


Kapitein-Commandant (Capitaine-Commandant) is a military rank in the Belgian Army and Belgian Air Force above captain (Kapitein/Capitaine) and below major (Majoor). As such it is a rank unique to the Belgian armed forces, although it shares NATO code OF-3 with major. Within the Belgian Army 'commandant' is considered to be the highest ranking field officer. For example, during the Second World War, commandants were often entrusted with the command of individual fortresses around the major cities.


Commandant d'aviation was the Canadian French term for the air force rank of squadron leader (prior to the 2014 amendment of the National Defence Act).[citation needed] The rank of squadron leader itself had not been held by active duty personnel in the Canadian Forces since 1968 when it was replaced by major.


Commandant (Comdt) (Irish: Ceannfort) is a military rank in both the Irish Army and Irish Air Corps. It is equivalent to major and squadron leader. In the Irish Naval Service, the equivalent rank is lieutenant commander.


Commandant (shortened from capitaine-commandant, i.e. a "captain commanding" (a battalion)), is an officer-grade rank of the Military of France, specifically the French Army and the French Air and Space Force, which is equivalent to major.

The commandant is also styled chef de bataillon ("battalion head") in the infantry, chef d'escadrons ("squadrons head") in the armoured cavalry and chef d'escadron ("squadron head") in the artillery and the Gendarmerie.

Commandant is also the style, but not the rank, of the senior officers of the French Navy (capitaine de corvette, capitaine de frégate and capitaine de vaisseau).

Prior to the French Revolution, the major was the officer appointed by the King to keep track of the expenditures and readiness of a regiment. He could have a deputy (an aide-major) and could be either a commoner or a nobleman. A major was graded as a commissar, not an officer. The officer at commandant rank level was the chef de bataillon or chef d'escadron.

Major is now, however, the most senior warrant officer rank, above adjudant-chef.

Spanish Air Force comandante


In the Spanish Army and Spanish Air Force, the rank of comandante is senior to a captain and junior to a lieutenant colonel, making it equivalent to the rank of major or squadron leader in English-speaking countries.

Latin America

Comandante ("commandant") is a military officer rank used in some Latin American countries.[citation needed] The Chilean Air Force uses the rank of comandante de escuadrilla ("squadron commandant") as a rank equivalent to the British rank of squadron leader. The Peruvian Air Force uses the rank of comandante as an equivalent to lieutenant-colonel or wing commander.

Comandante can be translated into English either as "commandant" or as "commander". The rank may also be found in numerous paramilitary organizations, such as the Sandinistas.

South Africa

South African army commandant insignia

In South Africa, commandant was the title of the commanding officer of a commando (militia) unit, initially in the Cape Colony and later also in the Boer republics.

From 1950 to 1994 commandant was the official designation of the rank of lieutenant-colonel in the South African Army, South African Air Force, and South African Medical Service.

From 1950 to 1957, the rank insignia for a commandant (Kommandant in Afrikaans) was a crown over a five-pointed star.[1][2] In 1957 the crown was replaced by a pentagonal castle device based on the floor plan of the Castle of Good Hope in Cape Town, South Africa’s oldest military building.[2] In 1994, the rank of commandant / kommandant reverted to lieutenant colonel.[3]

From 1968 to 1970, a related rank, chief commandant, existed in the Commando Forces [the rural part-time, territorial reserve, roughly equivalent to a National Guard or Home Guard].[4] This rank of chief commandant existed purely in the army and slotted in between commandant and colonel. The rank was only used by officers commanding commando groups (i.e. a small formation consisting of two or more commando units).

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom the term commandant usually refers to an appointment, not a rank. However, between 1922 and 1928 the rank of brigadier-general was replaced by colonel-commandant. This was not well received, and was replaced by brigadier.

Later, senior commandant and chief commandant were Auxiliary Territorial Service ranks equivalent to major and lieutenant-colonel respectively used between 1939 and May 1941, when they were replaced by senior and chief commander. The Commanding Officers of individual battalions of the Brigade of Gurkhas was designated a Commandant, rather than a commanding officer; and so with the Bermuda Militia Artillery (1895-1965). These ranks were also used in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force until December 1939, when they were replaced by squadron officer and wing officer (equating to squadron leader and wing commander) respectively. The rank was also used for senior commanders of the Ulster Special Constabulary (B Specials).


  1. ^ Jooste, L. (1996). "Die politieke koerswending van 1948 besorg 'n nuwe identiteit aan die Unieverdedigingsma". Militaria (in Afrikaans). 26 (2): 113–128.
  2. ^ a b Radburn, A. (1990). "South African Army Ranks and Insignia". Militaria, South African Journal of Military Studies. 20 (2).
  3. ^ Salut. 1 (1): 4. May 1994. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. ^ Retief, J.J. (December 1997). "Die rang van hoofkommandant in die Suid-Afrikaanse Weermag". Military History Journal (in Afrikaans). 10 (6).