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ADF reportedly eyeing ranking revolution

(left to right) Former Chief of Air Force, Air Marshal (Ret'd) Leo Davis, AO, CSC, Chief of Army, Lieutenant General Rick Burr, AO, DSC, MVO, Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Michael Noonan, AO and Chief of Joint Capabilities, Air Vice-Marshal Warren McDonald, AM, CSC answer questions during the Chief of Defence Force Leadership Forum at the Royal Australian Airforce Base, Townsville.

It is heavily rumoured that the Australian Defence Force will soon change their ranking systems to bring the service chiefs to equivalent rank with their global counterparts, and band four departmental secretaries in the Australian Public Service.

The touted changes would see the service chiefs become four-stars for the first time, with a full Admiral as Chief of Navy, a full General as Chief of Army and an Air Chief Marshal as Chief of Air Force.


Currently, only the Chief of the Defence Force wears a four-star insignia, with a promotion from a three-star ranking when they assume the role.

General Angus Campbell is the current Chief of the Defence Force.

The structure would see four-star rankings being designated for the Chief of the Defence Force, Vice Chief, and all of the individual service chiefs, with deputy service chiefs as three-stars.

It's understood that this would flow on to all the other key leadership roles.



Defence have poured cold water on the rumours however, telling Defence Connect that "there are no plans to change the existing rank of the Australian Defence Force’s Service Chiefs."

The wording of that short statement however may be important, as it may come into play with future service chiefs.

It's also being touted that despite the ranking promotion for the service chiefs, an upgrade in their salary will not take place, at least not immediately.

The three chiefs are entitled to salaries of $581,940, while the Vice Chief of the Defence Force is entitled to $609,640, with the Chief of the ADF earning $864,580.

The Chief of the ADF's salary is matched, intentionally, with the Secretary of Defence.

So, why the change?

The move is almost entirely so that the service chiefs are able to communicate, on a level rank, with their international counterparts.

While Australia's not the only NATO and Five Eyes ally to only have one four-star general (Canada and New Zealand also just have one), key partners such as the US and the UK have multiple.

Australia isn't going to follow the US' lead in total four-star rankings (a total of 41), and will be more in line with the UK, which has five.

The four-star rankings are described by the NATO OF-9 code, with our current service chiefs currently recognised as OF-8.

The equivalent ranking system is as follows.

Equivalent ranks
Item Navy Army Air Force Rank equivalency
1. Admiral of the Fleet Field Marshal Marshal of the Royal Australian Air Force
2. Admiral General Air Chief Marshal
3. Vice Admiral Lieutenant General Air Marshal
4. Rear Admiral Major General Air Vice-Marshal
5. Commodore Brigadier Air Commodore
6. Captain Colonel Group Captain

The three roles above O-10, (Admiral of the Fleet etc) are not an acting serve rank in the Australian Defence Force, with Prince Philip maintaining the ranks since 1954.

Australia has only had one active serving five-star rank officer within the armed forces of the Commonwealth of Australia, Sir Thomas Blamey, who was appointed Field Marshal in the Australian Army in 1950 while seriously ill.

Sir Thomas was presented his field marshal's baton by then governor-general William McKell, and then passed away three months later.

Your thoughts

Do you have any thoughts on the touted moves to the ADF's ranking system? Do you believe it's necessary for our service chiefs to be in line with the rankings of their international counterparts, particularly the US and the UK? Let us know in the comments or get in touch at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

ADF reportedly eyeing ranking revolution
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