RCN ranks 2021

Naval ranks: RCN, NATO and allied partners

CNR Fan, 11 June 2021

One of the skills required from military members, in order to support NATO interoperability with allies and partners, is the ability to recognize other nation’s military ranks.

This became quite important (and challenging!) in the recent years, when multinational operations and exercises gather more than a dozen of nations and thousands of service members. [1][2]

Military ranks of the UK (primarily) have been used as a basis for harmonization with NATO. [7] There are differences and similarities, and sometimes it gets confusing. Let’s briefly explore the rank system and insignia in the RCN, USN, Swedish and Ukrainian navies with reference to NATO standard rank codes.

Current RCN ranks structure


Commissioned officers of the Canadian Armed Forces have ranks ranging from the NATO standard ranks of OF-1 to OF-9. [3] The highest position occupied in the current RCN structure is OF-8, a vice-admiral who serves as the Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy (CRCN, or informally yet respectfully: “The Kraken”) and Chief of the Naval Staff [4].

Flag officers:

  • OF-9 Admiral (Adm)
  • OF-8 Vice-Admiral (VAdm)
  • OF-7 Rear-Admiral (RAdm)
  • OF-6 Commodore (Cmdre)

Senior officers:

  • OF-5 Captain RCN (Capt(N))
  • OF-4 Commander (Cdr)
  • OF-3 Lieutenant-commander (LCdr)

Junior officers:

  • OF-2 Lieutenant Navy Lt(N)
  • OF-1 Sub-lieutenant (SLt)
  • OF-1 Acting Sub-lieutenant (A/SLt)
  • OF n/a - Naval Cadet


Non-commissioned (enlisted) members of the RCN have NATO ratings from OR-1 to OR-9 [3].

Petty officers (senior non-commissioned officer):

  • OR-9 Chief petty officer 1st class (CPO1)
  • OR-8 Chief petty officers 2nd class (CPO2)
  • OR-7 Petty officer 1st class (PO1)
  • OR-6 Petty officer 2nd class (PO2)

Junior non-commissioned officers:

  • OR-5 Master sailor (MS)
  • OR-4 Sailor first class (S1)

Junior ranks:

  • OR-3 Sailor second class (S3)
  • OR-2 Sailor third class (S2)
RCN ranks 2021
Image 1: RCN ranks 2021


In the United States Navy, a rate is the military rank of an enlisted sailor, indicating where an enlisted sailor stands within the chain of command, and also defining one’s pay grade. However, in the U.S. Navy, only officers carry the term ‘rank’, while it is proper to refer to an enlisted sailor’s pay grade as ‘rate’ [5][6].

USN ranks - Officers
Image 2. United States Navy (USN) officer rank insignia. [5]

USN ranks - NCOs
Image 3. United States Navy enlisted rates. [6]


Since 01 October 2019 a new rank system was introduced in the Swedish Armed Forces. The rank insignia below are as worn on the field uniform. Navy rank titles are shown below. [7]

SWE Navy ranks
Image 4. Swedish Armed Forces ranks - Navy. [7]


On 17 October 2019, the parliament of Ukraine approved a change to the rank structure of enlisted in order to conform to the NATO STANAG 2116 standardization. [8][9]

Ukr Navy ranks
Image 5. Ukrainian Navy ranks. [8]

As one may notice by looking at the Image 5, there might be a bit of confusion with the equivalency in ranks of LCdr and Lt(N). Below I took liberty to clarify*:

RCNUkrainian Navy CAF - ArmyNATO Code
CdrКапітан 2-го рангуLColOF-4
LCdrКапітан 3-го рангуMajOF-3
SLtСтарший лейтенантLtOF-1

*to be confirmed.


  1. Operation UNIFIER
  2. Sea Breeze 2021: Ukraine, 29 NATO Allies to conduct joint exercise
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Canadian_Navy
  4. RCN http://www.navy-marine.forces.gc.ca/en/
  5. USN https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Navy_officer_rank_insignia
  6. USN https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_States_Navy_enlisted_rates
  7. SWE https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_ranks_of_the_Swedish_Armed_Forces
  8. Ukraine https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_ranks_of_Ukraine
  9. "New ranks, NATO-style amendments to military instructions". Kyiv Post (kyivpost.com) 07 December 2019.


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