India Military Ranks

v. 2.0 April 28, 2002

Acknowledgements: Thanks to Mr. Rupak Chatthopadhya and Bharat Rakshak.

Indian military ranks are patterned on the British system. India has given the Field Marshal's baton twice since it became independent in 1947; there has been no Admiral of the Fleet or Marshal of the Air Force. Please note that the Indian cavalry uses traditional ranks. For example, the lowest Army enlisted rank is sepoy, but the equivalent rank in the cavalry is sowar.

Please note the Indian Army has eliminated the rank of 2nd Lieutenant. An important difference between the Indian and other armies is that officers do not command platoons - Naib Subedars, who are Junior Commissioned Officers do. Prior to 1965, the rank of Naib Subedar was known as Jemedar.

In the Indian Army, a unit commander appoints two other ranks: Company Havaldar Major and Regimental Havaldar Major. These are senior sergeant ranks. For the supply services, the equivalents are Company Quartermaster Havaldar and Regimental Quartermaster Havaldar. Cavalry units use the term Daffadar instead of Havaldar.

The Indian Air Force now gives the rank of Pilot Officer only to Stage II trainees. They advance to Flying Officer in Stage III training, and commission into their squadrons with the same rank.

Note by Sachin Keshavan on Indian Army Havildar Majors

As per the Army rules, all ranks up to RHM (Regimental Havildar Major) are appointed by the Commanding Officer. Each company can have 15 Lance Naiks, 10 Naiks, and 5 Havildars. The senior most two Havildars become the Company Quarter Master Havildar, and Company Havildar Major. The CO can promote or demote any of these ranks at his discretion, with valid reasons. At a Regiment level, the two senior Havildars become the Regimental Quarter Master Havildar, and the Regimental Havildar Major (RHM).

The rank of Quarter Master Havildar used to be there in every regiment and not just in supply units. Today, however, the Quarter Master Havildar is slowly being removed. The rank of Quarter Master and Havildar Majors are just appointments. They receive only the pay and perquisites of a normal Havildar. For their extra work, they generally get appointment pay, in the range of Rupees 75 to Rupees 200 per month. If the RHM or CHM has to change his unit, there is every chance he may lose the Havildar Major status. For example, when a Havildar joins a National Cadet Corps unit, he may become a Havildar Major, but when he goes back to his unit, he becomes Havildar again. Havildar Majors and Quarter Masters are not a separate rank. It is just an appointment, which can be cancelled any day.

Note by Mr. Gordon A. Mackinlay on the Indian Army JCO

Indian Army Junior Commissioned Officers are not sergeants or warrant officers as per the British Commonwealth model. Whilst they have come up through the ranks, the appointments that they hold which accords to their actual rank, is that of a commissioned officer. To wit they command rifle or support platoons in the infantry, AFV troops in armored units, quartermasters of units, training appointments etc.

The most Senior JCO is normally the Battalion CO's "personnel adviser". A regiment (in India, but similar in Pakistan) has a (Regimental or Battalion) Havildar Major, this equates to a RSM in the British Commonwealth system. Companies and their equivalent have Company Havildar Majors. These appointments are not held by JCOs. In India, the JCO holds a Commission granted by the President of the Republic of India, appointing him to the rank of Junior Commissioned Officer (as was under the British - the Viceroy's Commissioned Officer). He is saluted by all subordinate ranks, however the higher level of JCO is not saluted by a Lieutenant who holds the Presidents Commission appointing him to "COMMISSIONED" rank.

The best way to equate this is with a combination of the American and the French/German systems. The Warrant Officer rank in the US Military is usually held by a technician, to wit helicopter pilot, EOD expert, quartermaster, medical specialist i.e. pathology or radiographer etc, he is classified as officer (not commissioned but holding a warrant), saluted and paid Lt. - Lt. Col. equal rates of, but has no command authority over officers, and only a limited authority over non commissioned ranks. The French/German appointment, has similar appointments, but is a senior NCO (equal to a British Warrant Officer), but they hold the majority of platoon commander (and equivilents) appointments. For example, a rifle company in Germany has a Captain as company commander, 1st Lt as Coy 2IC, and a 2Lt as a Platoon Commander, while the other two or three platoons are commanded by the higher levels of the Senior NCO structure.

So a JCO is a man who has a position of authority and command over Non Commissioned men, but, is subordinate to the most junior commissioned officer. Nonetheless, it would be a stupid Lieutenent who, when up against a senior JCO, decides to act the "superior " officer.


Indian Army

Indian Navy

Indian Air Force


Field Marshal

Admiral of the Fleet

Marshal of the Air Force




Air Chief Marshal


Lieutenant General

Vice Admiral

Air Marshal


Major General

Rear Admiral

Air Vice Marshal




Air Commodore




Group Captain


Lieutenant Colonel


Wing Commander



Lieutenant Commander

Squadron Leader




Flight Lieutenant




Flying Officer


2nd Lieutenant (abolished)


Pilot Officer


Subedar Major/Risaldar Major

Master Chief Petty Officer I

Master Warrant Officer



Master Chief Petty Officer II

Warrant Officer


Naib Subedar/Naib Risaldar

Chief Petty Officer

Junior Warrant Officer


Petty Officer




Leading Seaman



Lance Naik/Lance Daffadar

Seaman I

Leading Aircraftsman



Seaman II




Proposed Introduction of Colonel-General Rank
April 28, 2002

R. Prasannan

(Forwarded by Gordon A. MacKinlay)

 A lieutenant is two ranks below a major, but a lieutenant-general is above amajor-general. The anomaly is simple to explain. There used to be a rankcalled colonel-general in European armies. Lieutenant-general is acorruption of lieutenant-colonel general. The Russian and many east European armies still have colonel-generals.

Now the Indian Army wants to have atleast 24 of them, above the 60 lieutenant-generals. Today Army commanders, vice-chief, deputy chiefs, directors-general,adjutant-general, military secretary, master general of ordnance, corpscommanders and commandants of various training institutions are three-starlieutenant-generals. The suggestion is to make them except the lastthree colonel-generals. A committee of Special Secretary A.V. Singh and five Army and civilian officers has suggested a major shake-up of the officer cadre.

"There is a lot of frustration in the armed forces, especially when they comparethemselves with the civil service," said an officer. "Any civil serviceofficer is assured of retiring at least with a joint secretary rank,equivalent to a major-general. We have just 196 major-generals."

It is not merely a craving for ranks and promotions. The idea is to make the'greying' Army younger. The age profile of the Indian Army's officer cadreis acknowledged to be high (see chart), which is blunting professional competence. The cutting edge of any Army is the young captains and majors, but the average company commander (major) is 32, already past his prime. By this age, the Army argues, "risk-taking propensity goes down, as do physical levels." As one progresses to become a commanding officer (colonel), the key tactical-level decision-maker, one is middle-aged, bespectacled, night-blind and care-worn with growing children.

The Army buttresses its argument with casualty figures of officers. The Indian Army officer still leads his men from the front, which is reflected in the increasing officer casualty rate while hunting terrorists. If hardly three officers got killed to every 100 men in the 1962 war, nearly seven get killed in the ongoing counter-insurgency war.

The Army suggests faster civil service-like promotions as one of the remedies. "Indian Police Services officers pick up inspector-general rank in 19 or 20 years, whereas only 6.8 per cent of those commissioned rise to the equivalent rank of major-general, that too in 32 to 34 years," pointed out an officer. Faster promotions would also bring down the age of commanding officers and brigade commanders by four to five years, and enhance authority of junior leaders to meet increased responsibilities.

At present any officer can hope to retire as a major at least; the Army wants this to be raised to colonel. It also would like well-grayed colonels to retire with a brigadier's pension. Other demands include permissions for professional enhancement courses at civil institutes and industrial attachments and to appear in the civil service examination after five years.

The last one is certain to raise the hackles of the Indian Administrative Services lobby, which has been blocking any suggestion of introducing compulsory national service. The Army has couched the proposal as one that would attract more young men to short service commission. In return, the Army is ready to reduce total cadre strength by 4,848 (there was an acknowledged shortage of 13,744 officers last year), take in more officers on short service commission, and even reduce the total number of posts. These measures, the Army points out, would result in a net saving of Rs 140 crore. As an officer puts it, "the idea is not just to have a lean and mean army, but also a young army."   





Service Years


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Lt. Colonel















Maj. General





Lt. General





Col. General










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