Leutnant (German pronunciation: [ˈlɔʏtnant]; OF-1b) is the lowest Lieutenant officer rank in the armed forces of Germany (Bundeswehr), Austrian Armed Forces, and military of Switzerland.


The German noun (with the meaning "Stellvertreter" (in English "deputy") from Middle High German «locum tenens» Platzhalter (in English "place holder") was derived from the French word Lieutenant about 1500. In most German-speaking armies it is the lowest officer rank (in German-speaking navies Leutnant zur See (English "Lieutenant at sea")). In the German Bundeswehr the ranks Leutnant OF1b and Oberleutnant OF1a belong to the Leutnant rank group. In some other armed forces (such as the former National People's Army) there is the lower grade of Unterleutnant (OR1c).

From about 1500 until the middle of the 17th century the designation of Leutnant was commonly used for any deputy to a commanding officer. So at the army level there was the appointment of General-Leutnant (English "lieutenant-general"), at the regimental level there was that of Oberst-Leutnant (English "lieutenant-colonel"), and at the company level the Leutnant was deputy to a Hauptmann (English "captain").

With the formation of standing armies in the second half of the 17th century, the term commonly came to designate the rank of the least senior commissioned officer.

In the 18th and 19th century, at the unit level several Leutnants served as platoon leaders. At that time the ranks of Premier-Lieutenant and Seconde-Lieutenant came into existence. With effect from January 1, 1899, in the German Empire these ranks were renamed as Oberleutnant and Leutnant.[1]


HD H 41 Leutnant FschJg.svg LD B 41 Leutnant.svg
Army and Air Force insignia
Country Germany
Service branchBundeswehr Logo Heer with lettering.svg German Army
Bundeswehr Logo Luftwaffe with lettering.svg German Air Force
NATO rank codeOF-1b
Next higher rankOberleutnant
Next lower rankOberstabsfeldwebel
Equivalent ranksLeutnant zur See (Navy)

The rank of Leutnant has been used in the German armed forces since 1899.


In the Bundeswehr today, a Leutnant (OF1b-rank) will be normally appointed as platoon leader. However, the rank of Leutnant might also be held while a junior officer is studying at the University of the German Federal Armed Forces or at another training or education establishment. The Leutnant of the Bundeswehr belongs to the "Leutnant's rank group" (also: subaltern officer rank group).


In Germany, Leutnant (short.: Lt / on lists also: L) is the designation of a soldier of the lowest officer rank. The equivalent in the German Navy (Deutsche Marine) is the Leutnant zur See.

Rank insignias Leutnant» / Leutnant zur See (OF-1b)
Bundeswehr Logo Heer with lettering.svg Bundeswehr Logo Luftwaffe with lettering.svg Bundeswehr Logo Marine with lettering.svg
HD H 41 Leutnant FschJg.svg 211-Leutnant.png 215-Leutnant-dR.png SanH 211-Leutnant-SanOA-(Veterinärmedizin).png LD B 41 Leutnant.svg LA OS5 41 Leutnant.svg LA OS5 41 Leutnant SanOA ZM L.svg MDS 41 Leutnant zur See Trp.svg MDS 41a Leutnant zur See SanOA San HM L.svg MDJA 41 Leutnant zur See Trp Lu.svg MA OG5 41 Leutnant zur See.svg
(basic version
(Reservist Logistik)
(SanOA (vet.))
(basic version)
(Lw SanOA (dent.))
(SanOA (hum.))
Cuff title Mounting

Soldiers with that particular OF1b-rank, are mandated and authorized to provide military orders as to the so-called Superior-subordinate relations to private ranks (OR1 to OR4 / de: Mannschaften), NCOs without port épée (OR5b and OR5a / de: Unteroffiziere ohne port épée), as well as to Senior NCOs with port épée (OR6 to OR9 / de: Unteroffizier mit port épée).

junior Rank
Bundeswehr Logo Heer with lettering.svg Bundeswehr Logo Luftwaffe with lettering.svg

(German officer rank)

senior Rank

National People's Army

In the GDR National People's Army (NPA) the OF1b-rank Leutnant was the second lowest commissioned offer (CO) rank until 1990. This was in reference to Soviet military doctrine and in line with other armed forces of the Warsaw Pact.

The equivalent rank of the Volksmarine (en: GDR Navy) was the Leutnant zur See, often called simply Leutnant for short. In reference to the Soviet armed forces and to other armed forces of the Warsaw pact Leutnant was the second lowest officer rank until 1990.

Junior Rank
Flag of NVA (East Germany).svg
National People's Army rank
(Leutnant zur See)
Senior Rank
Rank insignias Leutnant / Leutnant zur See (OF-1b)
Emblem of the Ground Forces of NVA (East Germany).svg Land forces Emblem of aircraft of NVA (East Germany).svg Air Force Vehicle roundel of Border Troops of GDR.svg GDR Border troops Flag of warships of VM (East Germany).svg Volksmarine
N/A GDR Air Force OF1 Leutnant.gif Leutnant GT Schulterstück.jpg OF-1b Leutnant zur See.png OF-1b Leutnant zur See VM, Ärmelstreifen.png
Leutnant Leutnant zur See

Nazi Germany

In Nazi Germany, within the SS and Waffen-SS, the rank of SS-Untersturmführer was considered to be the equivalent of an Leutnant (OF1b) in the German Army. However, in the SA the equivalent to Leutnant was SA-Sturmführer.[2][3]

Other countries


Flag of Austria (state).svg
Leutnant in Austria
Anzug 75/03 Schulterstück (Panzertruppe) Tellerkappe

     suit 75/03      jacket gorget       flat cap

Rank insignia Austrian Bundesheer
Rank group Offiziere (en: Commissioned officers)
Army / Air Force Leutnant
Navy no equivalent

In Austria the Leutnant (short: Lt) is the second lowest CO rank. Mandatory to be promoted to that OF1b-rank is a six terms course of high school studies (until August 2008 eight terms) with 180 ECTS points on the Theresian Military Academy in the Wiener Neustadt. The studies are focused on "Military Command and Control" (C2) and the academy-leaver graduate to Bachelor.

The career in the Militia is structured in a different way. Here the modular education comprises the so-called one-year volunteer year (de: Einjährig-Freiwilliger [EF][4]) as well as several courses, seminars, and exercises with a final aptitude test. After an overall service time of five years the promotion to «Leutnant» is possible.

Moreover, the appointment designation Leutnant is possible for leading officials (E1) of the Austrian executive, e.g. the Austrian Federal Police (ge: Bundespolizei) and prison authority personnel (de: Justizwache).

Austro-Hungarian Army

Until 1918 Leutnant (hu: Hadnagy) was in the Austria-Hungarian Army the lowest CO-rank as well, equivalent to Assistenz-Arzt and Leutnant-Rechnungsführer.

Leutnant rank insignias of the k.u.k. Army
Description Rank Insignia
German Hungarian English class Army Mountain infantry
Low grade officers
Leutnant also:
  • Assistenz-Arzt
  • Leutnant-Rechnungsführer
Hadnagy Second lieutenant
K.u.k. Leutnant orangegelbe Eaglisierung.png
Leutnant k.k. Gebirgstruppe 1907-18.png


Flag of Switzerland.svg
Leutnant in Switzerland
Schulterstück eines Leutnants der Schweizer Armee
Rank insignia Swiss Army
Rank group Subalternoffiziere (en: Subaltern commissioned officers)
Army / Air Force Leutnant
Navy no equivalent

In the military of Switzerland the Leutnant (Lieutenant, Tenente) is the lowest commissioned officer rank. Promotion to the next highest rank, Oberleutnant, occurs after three refresher courses (contingent upon good performance) or automatically after six years' service.[5]

For missions outside of Switzerland, the rank Leutnant will be designated in English as Second lieutenant (2Lt), (NATO-Code: OF-1b).


  1. ^ BROCKHAUS, The encyclopedia in 24 volumes (1796–2001), Volume 13: 3-7653-3673-4, page 354; definition: «Leutnant».
  2. ^ Flaherty 2004, p. 148.
  3. ^ McNab 2009, p. 15.
  4. ^ Langenscheidt's Encyclopaedic Dictionary of the English and German language: "Der Große Murat-Sander", Part II German-English First Volume A–K, 9th edition 2002, p. 449
  5. ^ Regellaufbahnen, https://www.vtg.admin.ch/content/vtg-internet/de/organisation/kdo-ausb/_jcr_content/infotabs/items/dokumente/tabPar/downloadlist/downloadItems/186_1591883129631.download/200710_Brosch_Ausbildungs_Dienstleistungsmodell_40_100_d.pdf
  • Die Streitkräfte der Republik Österreich, 1918-1968, Heeresgeschichtliches Museum, Militärwissenschaftliches Institut, 1968.