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The article is organised as follows:


4.0     Introduction

A three-star officer, with a NATO code of OF-8, is a senior commander within the armed forces of a nation, although exact seniority is country specific.

Typically termed ‘Lieutenant General’, it usually ranks above a Major General (OF-7) and below a General (OF-9), although sometimes it can be the equivalent of either of these two ranks. It is typically either the second or third grade of general officer.

In some countries a Lieutenant General is known as an Army Corps General, Corps General or Lieutenant Colonel General but, when translated to English, is typically termed Lieutenant General for convenience.

4.1     History of the Rank and Formation

The rank can trace its origin to the middle ages where the title of Lieutenant General was held by the second in command (or field commander) on the battlefield, who was normally subordinate to a Captain General. The Lieutenant General was usually a leading noble of the nation whilst the position of captain-general or general was reserved for the ruling sovereign/monarch. Prior to the French Revolution being a general implied one was part of the nobility.

The word corps can trace its ancestry to the Latin word corpus, meaning body, and is a term used for several different kinds of organisation.

Walton (1894, p.825) notes an English Lieutenant General Ginkell in 1690.

In 1760, the Royal Marines received their first “Lieutenant-General” who was “to be taken from officers in the Royal Navy.” (Beatson, 1788, p.364).

Beatson (1788, p.344) notes a “Vice-Admiral of Great Britain” from 1763 to 1771. Beatson (1788, p.397) notes one Sir Hugh Palliffer in the rank of Vice-Admiral in 1774.

During the French Revolution, the rank of Lieutenant General was renamed Général de Division (Divisional General). The appointment of Général could be conferred on a Lieutenant Général who would become the commander-in-chief of a campaign.

In 1798, the US Congress (1799, p.558) authorised the President of the United States to appoint a commander of the army to be “commissioned as lieutenant-general”.

In March 1799, the US Congress (1799, p.752) stated “That a commander of the army of the United States shall be appointed and commissioned by the style of “General of the Armies of the United States,” and the present office and title of Lieutenant-General shall thereafter be abolished.”

The French Revolutionary War saw the first systematic use of the divisional system, which made the army more flexible and easy to manoeuvre, with Napoleon later organising them into corps. By the end of the Napoleonic Wars, all armies in Europe had adopted the divisional and corps system developed by France. The corps, as a formation, gave Napoleon a significant battlefield advantage in the early years of the Napoleonic Wars and was designed to be an independent military grouping of infantry, cavalry and artillery capable of defending against a numerically superior enemy.

In 1814, the French rank of Général de Division reverted to Lieutenant General but was returned, once again, to Général de Division in 1848.

In 1864, “the grade of lieutenant general in the United States army”, a three-star rank, was revived by the US Congress (1866b, p.223). The Act required the selected officer to “…not [be] below the grade of major-general…” (US Congress, 1864, p.12) and provided the same pay, allowances and staff as the original Act of 1798 (further details in Part Seven). The rank of “…Winfield Scott, lieutenant-general by brevet…” was not affected by this Act. Winfield Scott, a brevet lieutenant general, was the Commanding General of the United States Army between July 1841 and November 1861. The Lieutenant General was, in 1865, entitled to a Chief of Staff in the rank of brigadier-general. A brevet was a warrant giving a commissioned officer a higher rank title as a reward for gallantry or meritorious conduct, but without conferring the authority, precedence, or pay of real rank. The promotion would be noted in the officer’s title, e.g. brevet lieutenant general.

On 16 May 1866, the US Congress (1866, p.48) approved the establishment of the grade of “vice-admiral in the United States navy.”

During the 1880s, the French rank of Lieutenant General was reorganised to Général de Division Commandant un Corps D’armée (divisional general commanding an army corps), an appointment conferred on certain Généraux de Division, wearing four stars. This appointment became the position and style (rang et appellation) of Général de Corps D’armée in 1936.

In 1917, the US Congress authorised the President “to designate six officers of the Navy for the command of fleets or subdivisions thereof…” (US Congress, 1917, p.89), with a maximum three in the rank of Admiral and the others in the rank of Vice Admiral to be promoted from the officers in the grades of Rear Admiral and Captain on the active list.

The rank of Air Marshal was created in the Royal Air Force on 01 August 1919, with Sir Hugh Trenchard being the first recipient on 11 August 1919. On 01 April 1922, Sir Hugh was promoted to the higher rank of Air Chief Marshal. The rank is utilised by a number of commonwealth countries and is sometimes used when translating equivalent foreign ranks into English.

4.2     Country-Specific Examples

Table 9 provides examples of country-specific titles for the rank and grade of Lieutenant General (OF-8).

Table 9: Country-specific titles for Lieutenant General
Rank/Grade Title Countries Using Title
Lieutenant General UK, US, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe
Général de Corps D’armée Algeria and France [Note 1]
General de Cuerpo de Ejército Cuba
Generale di Corpo D’armata or Tenete Generale Italy
Генерал-лейтенант Bulgaria
Zhong Jiang China and Taiwan
Generálporučík Czech Republic
Generalløjtnant Denmark and Sweden
Kindralleitnant Estonia
Kenraaliluutnantti Finland
გენერალ ლეიტენანტი (General Leitenanti) Georgia
Generalleutnant Germany and Austria
Αντιστράτηγος Greece
Altábornagy Hungary
Letnan Jenderal Indonesia
Sepahbod Iran
Rav Aluf Israel
Leifteanant-Ghinearál Republic of Ireland
Luitenant-generaal Netherlands
Generalløytnant Norway
Tenyente Heneral Philippines
General Broni Poland
Generolas Leitenantas Lithuania
Tenente-General Portugal
General de Corp de Armată Romania
Генерал-лейтенант (General-Lieutenant) Russia
Teniente General Spain
Korpskommandant, Commandant de Corps, Comandante di Corpo Switzerland
Pol Tho (พลโท) Thailand
Trung Tướng Vietnam
Korgeneral Turkey


  1. A French Army général de division translates as a general of division. The French Air Force equivalent is général de division aérienne (general of air division). The rank insignia is three (3) white stars on the epaulette, sleeve mark or shoulder board. As well as commanding a division, a général de division may be appointed as général de corps d’armée (a corps general) commanding an army corps, or as a général d’armée (a general of an army), commanding a field army. These are not ranks, but appointments of the same rank. The insignia of a général de corps d’armée is four stars in a diamond formation, and that of a général d’armée is five stars in a cross-shaped arrangement.
  2. For countries such as Brazil and Chile, a General of Division is equivalent to Lieutenant General (see Part Three).
  3. There is no equivalent of Brigadier in the Taiwanese or Japanese Armies, these countries use the rank of Major General and Colonel-General in place of Brigadier and General. For these countries the rank of Lieutenant General is equivalent to Major General or Divisional General.

4.3     Service Equivalents

Within NATO, an army Lieutenant General is typically equivalent to:

  • Naval services:
    • Vice Admiral in the Royal Navy, Royal Canadian Navy and US Navy. In the Royal Navy the rank of vice-admiral should be distinguished from the office of Vice-Admiral of the United Kingdom which is an Admiralty position usually held by a retired ‘full’ admiral, and that of Vice-Admiral of the Coast, a now obsolete office dealing with naval administration in each of the maritime counties.
    • Vice-Amiral D’escadre (Vice-Admiral of Squadron or Fleet Vice-Admiral) in the French Navy. Vice-amiral is the most senior of the ranks in the French Navy; higher ranks, vice-amiral d’escadre and amiral, are permanent functions, style and position (in French rang et appellation) given to a vice-amiral ranking officer. The vice-amiral rank used to be an OF-8 rank in NATO charts, but nowadays, it is more an OF-7 rank. In the ancien régime (1669 and 1791), the office of Vice-Admiral of France (Vice-Amiral de France) was the highest rank, with the supreme office of Admiral of France being purely ceremonial.
    • Ammiraglio di squadra (squadron admiral) in the Italian Navy.
    • Daryāsālār in the Iranian Navy.
  • Air Forces:
    • Air Marshal in the RAF. The rank originated with the RAF, but was preceded by the rank of Lieutenant-General from 01 April 1918 to 31 July 1919. The predecessor of the RAF was a branch of the British Army.
    • Général de Corps D’armée Aérien (General of Air Army Corps) in the French air force.
    • Generale di Squadra Aerea (General of Air Squadron) in the Italian air force.
  • Marines:
    • Lieutenant General in the Royal Marines and US Marine Corps.

All of the above, regardless of their actual title, are typically considered equal in rank and status.

4.4     Level of Formation Commanded

Typically, an OF-8 level officer will command:

  • In the army and marines:
    • A corps consisting of two (2) to seven (7) divisions, or approximately 60,000 to 70,000 personnel.
    • Two or more corps may constitute an army (or field army).
  • In the navy:
    • A task force of two to five (2 to 5) task/battle groups.
  • In the air force:
    • An air force consisting of two (2) or more wings organised to perform an operational mission such as bombardment, fighter interception, reconnaissance, or airlift.

OF-8 level officers may also be appointed as professional heads of a branch of military service, as a principal staff officer to the chief of defence staff (or equivalent) or senior directors on service-specific or joint staffs.

In some smaller militaries, such as Latvia, Lithuania and Singapore, a Lieutenant General (or service equivalent) may be the highest rank within the service. However, if the post-holder is also the Chief of Defence Force (or equivalent), they may hold the higher rank of General (or service equivalent).

Due to downsizing in many Western armies, the brigade is once again becoming the operational formation of choice with the division and corps becoming largely administrative in nature. A corps may be commanded by an officer in the rank range of Major General (OF-7) up to a General (OF-9), and be assisted by a Chief of Staff in the rank of Brigadier (OF-6) or Major General.

Although the exact structure of a corps will vary between countries, a contemporary corps will have between two and seven divisions, a HQ unit, armoured cavalry (typically for reconnaissance), engineers, direct field support artillery and air defence, and a support unit (consisting of administration, medical, logistics etc.).

In a number of modern armies, non-infantry/armour regiments and/or battalions are placed together into corps with a geographical footprint, i.e. for administrative and training purposes rather than warfighting/operations. Within the British Army, the ‘Corps of Infantry’ is an umbrella term rather than an actual corps. Broadly speaking, corps can be classified as:

  • Field corps: operational formation consisting of fighting units, e.g. Infantry and armour. Can also be mixed service, e.g. army and marine units.
  • Administrative corps: specialised branch of a military service to group personnel with a common function, e.g. the Royal Logistics Corps.
    Distinct service: the US Marine Corps is a good example.

Within the battlefield environment, the corps is the highest level of the forces that is concerned with actual combat and operational deployment. Higher levels of command are concerned with administration rather than operations, although this is subject to the specific nation’s doctrine. Divisions, together with additional supporting combat service (CS) and combat service support (CSS) personnel, are formed into corps and field armies for the conduct of military campaigns. Corps are typically organised as either infantry or armoured corps, but specialised corps also exist such as airborne (parachute) corps.

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