Lieutenant general is a senior military rank, near the top of the "general officer " system that divides officers into junior, field, and general/flag. In the NATO designation system (STANAG 2116), it is level OF-8, which is equivalent to the naval rank of vice admiral. The next lower rank is "major general". The next higher, again depending on the specific military organization, is "general" or "colonel general". In the U.S. system, however, it is one grade higher than NATO; a U.S. lieutenant general is officer grade O-9, not O-8.
In modern militaries, typical command assignments at this level would be a corps or higher unit, or a very high level of staff responsibilities. Some nations, such as Israel, use this rank for the single head of their military; it was the rank first assigned to Ulysses S. Grant when he was given overall control of the United States Army in the American Civil War. Typical modern assignments for a lieutenant general not commanding troops include, in the U.S., the Director of the Joint Staff, a major agency head such as Director of the National Security Agency, or a Deputy Chief of Staff of a service (e.g., U.S. Army Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations).
The modifier "lieutenant," from the French words for "place" and "holding," implies an assistant, so a lieutenant general, from a linguistic standpoint, is a senior deputy of a general.
Some militaries either do not have the title of brigadier/brigadier general; the Russian military, for example, goes from colonel to major general. Lieutenant general in such an organization, therefore, is equivalent to major general in an army that has the brigadier general level.
Many countries follow U.S. or British usages. In the U.S. military, which does have a brigadier general rank, lieutenant generals wear three stars.
The British and widespread Commonwealth usage has a crown and a pair of crossed swords.
- NATO codes for grades of military personnel: Agreed English texts, 1992, NATO Standardization Agreement (STANAG) 2116
- Raymond Oliver. Why is the Colonel called "kernal"? The origin of the ranks and rank insignia now used by the United States armed forces, McClellan Aviation Museum. Retrieved on 2011-04-22. mirror