In reading Thrawn he receives a few ranks which I found interesting. He is a commodore and ultimately a grand admiral.

What was the rank structure in the Empire's navy? And what was the motivation/basis for this structure, particularly when I believe some of the ranks are different than existing ranks in most militaries?

  • I think these are two questions - one has an in-universe answer, and the other has an out of universe answer
    – NKCampbell
    May 24, 2017 at 16:59
  • Are Legends-only answers acceptable?
    – Null
    May 24, 2017 at 17:40
  • @Null prefer non-legends (I didn't tag this as legends). I guess if there are no canonical answers legends would be fine.
    – enderland
    May 24, 2017 at 18:08
  • @NKCampbell do you think it's worth splitting this into two questions?
    – enderland
    May 24, 2017 at 18:08
  • I assumed you wanted an answer from canon since you didn't use the Legends tag, but I'm trying to confirm if Essen's Legends-only answer is acceptable or if it should be deleted.
    – Null
    May 24, 2017 at 18:17

3 Answers 3


The (Legends) ranking system is described in The Essential Guide to Warfare by Del Rey (2012).

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The guide describes the difference between positions and line ranks as following:

Position is an officer's current assignment to a specific ship of unit, as opposed to permanent rank. The positions of Warlord and High Admiral are essentially honorary, normally held by Grand Admirals and Moffs.

Line rank is held by line officers, the men who command the bridge crew, captain ships, and hoist their flag over fleets. There are very few officers with permanent line ranks above senior captain (formally known as captain of the line).

Out-of-universe, the inspiration seems to come from the military rank systems on Earth, with great influence of American and British systems. There are many similar rank names, with some fictional flavor added, of course.

There is a good list of naval officer ranks in Wikipedia.

  • 2
    Which Earth rank systems? May 24, 2017 at 17:27
  • 1
    This is not tagged Legends so a Legends-only answer may not be what the OP is looking for.
    – Null
    May 24, 2017 at 17:40
  • Is this supported by canonical references? Also, part of the reason I am asking is that there are multiple ranks which are never really used in Earth navies - such as senior lieutenant , grand admiral, and the fairly obsolete commodore title.
    – enderland
    May 24, 2017 at 18:20
  • 3
    "Plack"? Did they make that up or is it a valid spelling of "plaque"? May 24, 2017 at 21:03
  • @enderland The Wikipedia list of ranks includes both Grand Admiral and Commodore. In addition, there seems to be Senior Lieutenants in German, Russian, and Finnish armies, like mentioned [here]( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Senior_lieutenant). Like said, the Imperial ranking system is a mix of the ones on Earth; probably of the ones that sounded good.
    – Essen
    May 28, 2017 at 15:17

The Canon ranks are as follows:

  • Ensign
  • Lieutenant (Junior)
  • Senior Lieutenant
  • Captain
  • Lt. Commander
  • Commander
  • Commodore
  • Rear Admiral
  • Vice Admiral
  • Admiral
  • Fleet Admiral
  • Grand Admiral

In many Legends books, the ranks are slightly different:

  • Ensign
  • Lieutenant
  • Lieutenant Commander
  • Commander
  • Captain
  • Rear Admiral (then the ranks continue the same as they do in Canon)

In Canon, most officers holding the Captain rank only actually command smaller vessels (such as Gozanti-Class) or act as First Officers on Star Destroyers and do not actually command their own larger ships (such as Star Destroyers) until the rank of Lt. Commander or Commander.

  • 2
    Can you provide any sources for your findings? Do you have any source books or data books which support your ranking?
    – Edlothiad
    Jun 27, 2018 at 5:07

It seems to me that the lowest rank was Crewman and then we only know officer ranks. Please someone, correct me if I am wrong.

  • Hi, welcome to SF&F. Considering the question is about Grand Admiral Thrawn, it is about officer ranks.
    – DavidW
    Oct 15, 2022 at 22:15

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