Commandant (rank)

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For more information on commandant when used as a position, see Commandant.

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. In South Africa for most of the second half of the 20th century, commandant was a rank equivalent to lieutenant-colonel in other countries.


In the Canadian Forces, “Commandant” is the French language title for a major of any unit. However, in English, “Commandant” is used exclusively to identify those commanding officers responsible for units that provide a service or oversight to some lodger population (such as a military school with trainees, a military college with students, a detention facility with prisoners, or a long-term care facility with patients). Prior to its amendment in 2014, the National Defence Act identified “Commandant d'aviation” as the French translation for the rank of Squadron Leader.


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


French Air Force commandant

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 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" - note the singular "squadron") 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).

French infantry
Commandant des armes à cheval.png
French cavalry

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.

The rank comandante en jefe, ("commandant-in-chief" or "commander-in-chief") may be found in the nation of Cuba as a supreme military rank held by Raúl Castro.[citation needed] The rank of comandante en jefe is the equivalent of a field marshal or general of the army.

South Africa

South African army commandant insignia

In South Africa, 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. Prior to this in 19th and early 20th centuries it was the title of the commanding officer of a commando (militia) unit.

From 1950 to 1957, the rank insignia for a Commandant (Kommandant in Afrikaans) was a crown over a five-pointed star.[1]:113-128[2] In 1957 the crown was replaced by a pentagonal castle device [2] based on the floor plan of the Castle of Good Hope in Cape Town, South Africa's oldest military building. In 1994,the rank of Commandant / kommandant reverted to Lieutenant Colonel.[3]:4

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, 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. 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).<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 Radburn, A. (1990). "South African Army Ranks and Insignia". Militaria, South African Journal of Military Studies. 20 (2).<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Salut. 1 (1). May 1994. Missing or empty |title= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Retief, J.J. (December 1997). "Die rang van hoofkommandant in die Suid-Afrikaanse Weermag". Military History Journal (in Afrikaans). 10 (6).<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

See also

  • Captain-Commandant, in the Belgian Army, the highest rank of subaltern officer, ranking above captain and below major