An RAF air marshal's command flag
Shoulder and sleeve insignia from the Royal Air Force
|Service branch||Air forces|
|Abbreviation||Air Mshl / AM|
|Formation||1 August 1919RAF)(|
|Next higher rank||Air chief marshal|
|Next lower rank||Air vice-marshal|
Air marshal (Air Mshl or AM) is a three-starair-officer rank which originated in and continues to be used by the Royal Air Force. The rank is also used by the air forces of many countries which have historical British influence, including the Commonwealth, and it is sometimes used as the English translation of an equivalent rank in countries which have a non-English air force-specific rank structure.
Air marshal is a three-star rank and has a NATO ranking code of OF-8, equivalent to a vice-admiral in the Royal Navy or a lieutenant-general in the British Army or the Royal Marines. In other NATO forces, such as the United States Armed Forces and the Canadian Armed Forces, the equivalent three-star rank is lieutenant general.
Officers in the rank of air marshal typically hold very senior appointments such as commander-in-chief of an air force or a large air force formation. Officers in the ranks of air chief marshal and air vice-marshal are also referred to generically as air marshals. Occasionally, air force officers of marshal rank are considered to be air marshals.
Prior to the adoption of RAF-specific rank titles in 1919, it was suggested that the RAF might use the Royal Navy's officer ranks, with the word "air" inserted before the naval rank title. For example, the rank that later became air marshal would have been air vice-admiral. The Admiralty objected to any use of their rank titles, including this modified form, and so an alternative proposal was put forward: air-officer ranks would be based on the term "ardian", which was derived from a combination of the Gaelic words for "chief" (ard) and "bird" (eun), with the term "second ardian" or "wing ardian" being used specifically for the rank equivalent to a vice-admiral and lieutenant-general. However, air marshal was preferred and was adopted on 1 August 1919. The rank of air marshal was first used on 11 August 1919 when Sir Hugh Trenchard was promoted to the rank and it has been used ever since.
The rank insignia consists of two narrow light blue bands (each on a slightly wider black band) over a light blue band on a broad black band. This is worn on the lower sleeves of the dress uniform or on shoulders of the flying suit or working uniform.
The command flag for an air marshal is defined by the single broad red band running in the centre of the flag.
The vehicle star plate for an air marshal depicts three white stars (air marshal is equivalent to a three-star rank) on an air force blue background.
The rank of air marshal is also used in a number of the air forces in the Commonwealth, including the Bangladesh Air Force, Indian Air Force, Pakistan Air Force, Royal Australian Air Force and Royal New Zealand Air Force. It is also used in the Nigerian Air Force, Ghana Air Force, Hellenic Air Force (antipterarchos), Air Force of Zimbabwe (including its predecessor, the Rhodesian Air Force) and the Royal Thai Air Force. In the Indonesian Air Force, the equivalent rank is marsekal madya (literally "vice marshal") which is often translated as air marshal in English; similarly, the rank of ? (fariq) in the Egyptian Air Force is commonly translated as "air marshal", although the Arabic-language names of officer ranks are the same across all of Egypt's military and paramilitary forces.
The Brazilian Air Force does not use air marshal ranks as an equivalent to general ranks, rather it uses a number of ranks based on the word brigadier. However, its highest rank is marechal-do-ar, the equivalent to a Brazilian Army marshal. Marechal-do-ar can be translated as air marshal or marshal of the air. Similarly, the Royal Malaysian Air Force's five-star rank of marshal udara translates as air marshal.
The Australian Air Corps adopted the RAF rank system on 9 November 1920 and this usage was continued by its successor, the Royal Australian Air Force. However, the rank of air marshal was not used by the Australian Armed Forces until 1940 when Richard Williams, an RAAF officer, was promoted.
In Australia, there are four appointments available for air marshals: the Chief of Air Force and, at times when they are occupied by an air force officer, the Vice Chief of Defence Force, the Chief of Joint Operations, and the Chief of Capability Development Group.
In New Zealand, the head of the air force holds the lower rank of air vice-marshal. However, when an air force officer holds the country's senior military appointment, Chief of the New Zealand Defence Force, he is granted the rank of air marshal. The current Chief of Defence Force is an RNZAF officer, Air Marshal Kevin Short.
Other officers to hold Air Marshal rank in New Zealand are:
The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) used the rank until the 1968 unification of the Canadian Forces, when army-type rank titles were adopted and an air marshal became a lieutenant-general. In official French Canadian usage, the rank title was maréchal de l'air. The Canadian Chief of the Air Staff ordinarily held the rank of air marshal. The following RCAF officers held the rank (dates in rank in parentheses):
A Royal Thai Air Force air marshal's rank insignia
A Hellenic Air Force air marshal's rank insignia
An Indian Air Force air marshal's shoulder patch
A PAF air marshal's shoulder patch.