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General is the highest military rank in most militaries; some, such as Israel, do not have this high a grade. It also may refer to the highest group of ranks (i.e., general officer, sometimes interchanged with the naval term flag officer).

In the NATO designation system (STANAG 2116),[1] it is level OF-9, which is equivalent to the naval rank of admiral. The next lower rank is "lieutenant general". While some militaries have a higher grade of "field marshal" or "general of the army", they are usually wartime only. In the U.S. system, however, it is one grade higher than NATO; a U.S. general is officer grade O-10, not O-9.

In modern militaries, typical command assignments at this level would be a Military formation (ground)#army|field army (i.e., not a ground component commander) or higher unit, or a very high level of staff responsibilities, including being the senior officer of a service or Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (or national equivalent) The commanders of U.S. Unified Combatant Commands are generals or admirals. Typical modern assignments for a general not commanding operational fores include, in the U.S., the Director of National Intelligence, a major support or training/readiness organization such as the Air Combat Command, or Army Materiel Command.

While there are national differences, there are usually four grades of general officer, possibly with a higher rank given rarely and only in wartime.

  • Marshal, General of the Army, Marshal of the Royal Air Force; rarely used
  • General
  • Lieutenant general (sometimes colonel general in militaries that do not have the brigadier general grade)
  • Major general
  • Brigadier general (or brigadier; the "brigadier" title tends to be a Commonwealth term used for the highest rank of the next lower class of "field-grade officers" and not a term for a general officer)


Many countries follow U.S. or British usages. In the U.S. military, which does have a brigadier general rank, full generals wear four stars.

The British and widespread Commonwealth usage has a crown, a star and a pair of crossed swords.


  1. NATO codes for grades of military personnel: Agreed English texts, 1992, NATO Standardization Agreement (STANAG) 2116