Lieutenant commander

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A US Navy lieutenant commander's sleeve/shoulder insignia
Navies Armies Air forces
Commissioned officers
Admiral of
the fleet
Marshal or
Field marshal
Marshal of
the air force
Admiral General Air chief marshal
Vice admiral Lieutenant general Air marshal
Rear admiral Major general Air vice-marshal
Commodore Brigadier or
Brigadier general
Air commodore
Captain Colonel Group captain
Commander Lieutenant colonel Wing commander
Major or
Squadron leader
Lieutenant Captain Flight lieutenant
Sub-lieutenant Lieutenant or
First lieutenant
Flying officer
Ensign Second
Pilot officer
Midshipman Officer cadet Officer cadet
Enlisted grades
Warrant officer or
Chief petty officer
Warrant officer or
Sergeant major
Warrant officer
Petty officer Sergeant Sergeant
Leading seaman Corporal Corporal
Seaman Private Aircraftman
Naval officer ranks
Flag officers:

Admiral of the fleetFleet admiralGrand admiral
AdmiralGeneral admiral
Vice admiralSquadron vice-admiralLieutenant admiral
Rear admiralCounter admiralDivisional admiral
CommodoreFlotilla admiral

Senior officers:

CaptainCaptain at seaCaptain of sea and warShip-of-the-line captain
CommanderFrigate captain
Lieutenant commanderCorvette captain

Junior officers:

Captain lieutenantLieutenantShip-of-the-line lieutenant
Frigate lieutenantLieutenant (junior grade)Sub-lieutenant
Corvette lieutenantEnsign

Lieutenant commander (also hyphenated lieutenant-commander and abbreviated Lt Cdr,[1] LtCdr.[2] or LCDR[3][4]) is a commissioned officer rank in many navies. The rank is superior to a lieutenant and subordinate to a commander. The corresponding rank in most armies (armed services) and air forces is major, and in the Royal Air Force and other Commonwealth air forces is squadron leader.

The NATO rank code is mostly OF-3.[5]

A lieutenant commander is a senior department officer or the executive officer (second-in-command) on many warships and smaller shore installation, or the commanding officer of a smaller ship/installation. They are also senior department officers in naval aviation squadrons.


Most Commonwealth and other navies address lieutenant commanders by their full rank or the positions they occupy ("Captain" if in command of a vessel). The United States Navy, however, addresses officers by their full rank or the higher grade of the rank. For example, in day-to-day speech, a Lieutenant (junior grade) is abbreviated as "Lieutenant," and a Lieutenant Commander is abbreviated as "Commander."


Lieutenants were commonly put in command of smaller vessels not warranting a commander or captain. Such a lieutenant was called a "lieutenant commanding" or "lieutenant commandant" in the United States Navy, and a "lieutenant in command," "lieutenant and commander," or "senior lieutenant" in the Royal Navy. The USN settled on "lieutenant commander" in 1862 and made it a distinct rank. The RN followed suit in March 1914.[6]

United Kingdom

Royal Navy

Royal Navy

The insignia worn by a Royal Navy lieutenant commander is two medium gold braid stripes with one thin gold stripe running in between, placed upon a navy blue/black background. The top stripe has the ubiquitous loop used in all RN officer rank insignia, except for the rank of Midshipman. The RAF follows this pattern with its equivalent rank of squadron leader.

Having fewer officer ranks than the army, the RN previously split some of its ranks by seniority (time in rank) to provide equivalence: hence a lieutenant with fewer than eight years seniority wore two stripes, and ranked with an army captain; a lieutenant of eight years or more wore two stripes with a thinner one in between, and ranked with a major. This distinction was abolished when the rank of lieutenant commander was introduced.

Royal Observer Corps

Throughout much of its existence, the British Royal Observer Corps (ROC) maintained a rank of observer lieutenant commander. The ROC wore a Royal Air Force uniform and their rank insignia appeared similar to that of an RAF squadron leader except that the stripes were shown entirely in black. Prior to the renaming, the rank had been known as observer lieutenant (first class).


In the Royal Canadian Navy, the rank is the naval rank equal to Major in the army or air force and is the first senior officer rank. Lieutenant Commanders are senior to Lieutenants (N) and to army and air force Captains, and are junior to Commanders and Lieutenant Colonels.[5]

United States

There are two insignia used by USN and USCG Lieutenant Commanders. On service khakis and all working uniforms, lieutenant commanders wear a gold oak leaf collar device, similar to the ones worn by Majors in the USAF and Army, and identical to that worn by majors in the Marine Corps. In all dress uniforms, they wear sleeve braid or shoulder boards bearing a single gold quarter-inch stripe between two gold half-inch strips (nominal size). Above or inboard of the stripes, they wear their speciality insignia (i.e., a star for officers of the line, single oak leaf for medical with silver acord for Medical Corps, crossed oak leaves for Civil Engineer Corps, United States shield for Coast Guard, etc.).[7]


Pakistani Lt. Commander's insignia.

This rank is also used on in Pakistan Navy.


The rank of lieutenant commander is also used in the Irish Naval Service, having a similar implication to the RN rank. The majority of vessel commanders in the Irish Naval Service hold the rank of lieutenant commander, with a commander being a senior, shore-based position.

Other countries

A French capitaine de corvette maneuvering.

The corresponding rank in the German Navy, Italian Navy, Argentine Navy, Brazilian Navy, French Navy, Spanish Navy and most other French and Spanish-speaking countries is corvette captain. The corresponding rank in the Estonian Navy and Portuguese Navy is captain lieutenant, in the Russian Navy it is "captain of the third rank" (капитан 3-го ранга), and in the Polish Navy it is komandor podporucznik,[5] the equal rank in Finnish Navy is komentajakapteeni, "commander captain", in Finnish service the rank insignia of komentajakapteeni is three stripes of equal width. The insignia of kapteeniluutnantti, the rank immediately below the former, is one thin stripe between two wider ones, which could cause some confusion among the naval personnel of other nations.


  1. "Triservice Officers Pay and Grade" (PDF). UK Government. Retrieved 2013-04-25.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "A Dane giving the orders". Admiral Danish Fleet. Retrieved 2013-04-25.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "US Navy Ranks". United States Navy. Retrieved 2013-04-25.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Uniform Ranks". Royal Australian Navy. Retrieved 2013-04-25.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 NATO Standard Agreement (STANAG) 2116: NATO Codes for Grades of Military Personnel. NATO Standardization Agency.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Lieutenant Commander mokong Ibana". Retrieved 6 October 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>