Group captain is a senior commissioned rank in the Royal Air Force, where it originated, as well as the air forces of many countries that have historical British influence. It is sometimes used as the English translation of an equivalent rank in countries which have a non-British air force-specific rank structure. Group captain has a NATO rank code of OF-5, meaning that it ranks above wing commander and immediately below air commodore, and is the equivalent of the rank of captain in the navy and of the rank of colonel in other services.
|Service branch||Air forces|
|Abbreviation||Gp Capt / GPCAPT|
|NATO rank code||OF-5|
|Formation||1 April 1918RAF)(|
|Next higher rank||Air commodore|
|Next lower rank||Wing commander|
It is usually abbreviated Gp Capt. In some air forces (such as the RAF, IAF and PAF), the abbreviation GPCAPT is used; in others (such as the RAAF and RNZAF), and in many historical contexts, the abbreviation G/C is used. The full phrase “group captain” is always used; the rank is never abbreviated to "captain".
On 1 April 1918, the newly created RAF adopted its officer rank titles from the British Army, with Royal Naval Air Service captains and Royal Flying Corps colonels becoming colonels in the RAF. In response to the proposal that the RAF should use its own rank titles, 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 group captain would have been "air captain". Although the Admiralty objected to this simple modification of their rank titles, it was agreed that the RAF might base many of its officer rank titles on naval officer ranks with differing pre-modifying terms. It was also suggested that RAF colonels might be entitled "bannerets" or "leaders". However, the rank title based on the Navy rank was preferred and as RAF colonels typically commanded groups the rank title group captain was chosen. The rank of group captain was introduced in August 1919 and has been used continuously since then.
In the post-World War II period the commander of an RAF flying station or a major ground training station has typically been a group captain. More recently, expeditionary air wings have also been commanded by group captains.
The rank insignia is based on the four gold bands of captains in the Royal Navy, comprising four narrow light blue bands over slightly wider black bands. This is worn on both the lower sleeves of the tunic or on the shoulders of the flying suit or the casual uniform. Group captains are the first rank in the RAF hierarchy to wear gold braid on the peak of their cap, informally known as 'scrambled egg'; however, they still wear the standard RAF officer's cap badge.
The command pennant for a group captain is similar to the one for a wing commander except that there is one broad red band in the centre. Only the wing commander and group captain command pennants are triangular in shape.
An RAF group captain's sleeve/shoulder insignia
An RAF group captain's sleeve mess insignia
An RAF group captain's sleeve as it appears on the No. 1 dress
The rank of group captain is also used in a number of the air forces in the Commonwealth, including the Bangladesh Air Force, Ghana Air Force, Indian Air Force (IAF), Namibian Air Force, Nigerian Air Force, Pakistan Air Force (PAF), Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF), Sri Lankan Air Force and the Trinidad and Tobago Air Guard. It is also used in the Egyptian Air Force, Hellenic Air Force, Royal Air Force of Oman, Royal Thai Air Force and the Air Force of Zimbabwe.
The Royal Canadian Air Force used the rank until the unification of the Canadian Forces in 1968, when army-type rank titles were adopted. A Canadian group captain then became a colonel. In official French Canadian usage, a group captain's rank title was colonel d'aviation. In the Argentine Air Force comodoro (commodore) is the rank in Argentine Spanish while in the Chilean Air Force, the rank in Chilean Spanish is coronel de aviacion or "colonel of aviation". Until 1973 it was used by the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF), beyond that the sleeve insignia is that of a full colonel.
An RAAF group captain's sleeve/shoulder insignia
A RNZAF group captain's sleeve/shoulder insignia
A RCAF colonel's sleeve/shoulder insignia, with rank braid in the traditional Commonwealth style.
A HAF sminarchos (group captain's) rank insignia
An Indian Air Force group captain's sleeve/shoulder insignia
A Namibian Air Force group captain's rank insignia
A PAF group-captain's rank insignia.
A RTAF group captain's rank insignia
In addition to the equivalents used in most air forces, such as colonel, other air services, especially non-combat auxiliaries in Commonwealth countries, have used a variety of alternative names for equivalent ranks.
The equivalent rank in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force, Women's Auxiliary Australian Air Force, Women's Royal Air Force (until 1968) and Princess Mary's Royal Air Force Nursing Service (until 1980) was "group officer".
The equivalent rank in the Royal Observer Corps (until 1995) was "observer captain", which had a similar rank insignia.