Does this rank even exist, or if it does is it utilized? I've often wondered as it would seem quite applicable in many scenarios. I know that on occasion the non-commissioned ranks have been somewhat obscured for various personnel.

  • 3
    I was going to add a Star Trek tag, but wasn't 100% sure that's what you were asking. You might add another tag to clarify your question. Commented Jan 23, 2014 at 8:46

3 Answers 3


Chief O'Brien is referred to as a Warrant Officer in many scripts, though I do not believe the term was ever appied to him onscreen. Here is an admittedly not-very-good source on the subject; I can't seem to find the source they used on their forum, so I suspect it may be a book, rather than an online source. Memory Alpha does not include Warrant Officers in its list of Starfleet ranks, but Memory Beta, which includes information in all Star Trek media, including non-canon novels and comics, states that Warrant Officers exist in Starfleet.

  • +1. Yeah I've looked Memory Alpha, and there you can see the ranks. But it seems incomplete, especially considering the references in the show itself.
    – ouflak
    Commented Jan 23, 2014 at 9:59
  • 3
    It is les that it is incomplete, and more that canon sources are inconsistent. There is no definitive mention of Warrant Officers existing during any Star Trek television program or film. There are scripts where the term is used, but that's as close as *Star Trek gets to a definitive answer. Commented Jan 23, 2014 at 10:54
  • Yeah, there is conflicting information on that. From TNG, my impression (and what I saw of the rank pips) is that he was either an Ensign or Lieutenant. However, in the episode "Family", he was referred to as a Chief Petty Officer. However, in DS9, it sounded like either Chief Petty Officer or Chief Warrant Officer.
    – Maverick
    Commented Mar 14, 2014 at 21:33
  • Let’s not get into Miles O’Brien’s incomprehensible Starfleet career. Commented Nov 30, 2016 at 12:45
  • I know this is old, but I've been trying to verify the claim that O'Brien was called a warrant officer in DS9 scripts. I can't find any source on that, yet this seems to be a really prevalent claim whenever the topic of O'Brien's rank comes up. Do you have evidence for this?
    – rr_cola
    Commented Oct 23, 2021 at 17:10

"Warrant Officer" isn't a Starfleet rank.

The confusion seems to lie in the fact that the (canon) Star Trek Encyclopedia and (now non-canon) TNG Officer's Manual both have written references for a 'Warrant Officer' rank, despite it not being used in the shows or in any of the show scripts.

Star Trek Encyclopedia
Star Trek Encylopedia

Star Trek TNG Officer's Manual
Star Trek TNG Officer's Manual

This use appears to be a typographical error that should read "Chief Petty Officer" and stands firmly at odds with the ranks laid out (in consultation with both the Studio and Gene Roddenberry) by Robert Fletcher, Senior Costume Designer for the first four Star Trek films and Costume Consultant on TNG, DS9 and Voyager.

These costume notes form the basis for all subsequent representations of Starfleet rank in the subsequent films and TV series and represent the "word of god" on the issue. Specifically, there is "no warrant rank".

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  • Where can these emblems be seen in canon?
    – Ellesedil
    Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 4:02
  • @ellesedil -empireonline.com/images/uploaded/…
    – Valorum
    Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 4:39
  • Ah, TOS. Right. Are they ever used in the later shows?
    – Ellesedil
    Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 4:41
  • @ellesedil - I don't think so. They were superseded by the pips and bars.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 6:11

What is a Warrant Officer

There are three basic kinds of Warrant Officer in the world. All of them are more specialized in their duty than the Commissioned Officers, but with more authority than NCOs usually have.

The actual Warrant was a document issued by other than the Commissioning authority. Which was, in the UK, the Crown, and in the US, the Congress. Warrants in the UK were issued by Captains and by the Admiralty; in the US, by the President, the Admiralty, and by Captains. (It's worth noting as well, until the US CW, all the US "admiralty" were captains...)

UK & Commonwealth Model

Senior members of the Other Ranks, depending on specific service, above Colour Sergeant or Chief Petty Officer.

Note that while some US Warrant officers are promoted from the senior non-commissioned officers, they do not serve as senior NCO's, and still don't qualify.

US & Soviet Model

Professional individuals in specific fields with Officer rank but not full officer training. The Soviet and Russian Praporshik and the US Army Aviation Warrant Officers are of this model.

16th-19th Century US & UK model

In UK and US navies, Captains were commissioned by the Crown or Congress, and given somewhat extensive authority. That Authority included the authority to hire and warrant officers of the ship. These were specialists in charge of departments - The Quartermaster, the Sailmaster, the Botswain, the Gunner, the Carpenter, the Surgeon, and the Engineer. They held the same authority aboard as a lieutenant did, but unlike the lieutenants, they did not have authority off-ship. Later, they were issued by central Warranting boards at the admiralty, and became proper ranks. The term Master was used for many of these, such as Master of Guns, Master Engineer, and Master of Sail...

(The Petty Officers being addressed as Mates are due to their having been assigned to one of the above departments. So, a A Gunner's Mate was a petty officer assigned to assist the Gunner.)

Warrants could also be issued by captains or commodores to field promote Masters to Lieutenants. This is a form of Brevet promotion. Again, it carried weight aboard ship and/or in squadron only.

What We See On Screen In Trek

We see senior non-coms - specifically, Senior Chief Petty Officer Miles O'Brien. If the Fleet uses the UK model, yes, then, we have a warrant officer in the UK model. This is unlikely, tho', as we see Paramount fixated upon the US model in terms, titles, and progressions. Besides, he'd have been "Charge" or "Buffer", not "Chief", in that model.

We see provisional officers in duty positions on Voyager. Lieutennat Torres, Ensign Seska, and several others amongst the Maquis are given provisional rank, and it's issued by the Captain. This is the 18th Centry style of Warrant Officer.

We also see one "doesn't fit cleanly anywhere" rank insignia...

Kosinski and the Traveller

On Mr. Kosinski, we have a 2 rectangle pattern. In silver. One bright & shiny, one dark and matte finished. That sure says "Not a line Officer" to me.

Given that we see Staff Officers in standard uniform with standard pips... The implication is that he's either a Warrant Officer, a provisional officer, or an enlisted man below the rank of Chief Petty Officer. (We see Chief O'Brien in disks through TNG, so we know CPO's wear disks in that era.)

Futher, Mr. Kosinski is called "Mister Kosinski" consistently. This is the normal mode of address for both 19th Century warrants and for current US Naval and Coast Guard Warrant Officers.

Evidence in Licensed Properties

FASA, in their Star Trek Roleplaying Game, included two grades of Warrant Officers. They did not include them for the Movie Era.

Neither Decipher nor Last Unicorn included them.

Some of the fiction uses them, as noted on memory Beta.

Bottom Line

It's likely that they do, as best evidenced by both Voyager and Kosinski, but the term itself has not been used in on-screen canon.

  • This is a really well thought out answer, and incredibly informative! It used to be that I thought Kosinski was a WO too. But according to William Ware Theiss, a single black pip was used to denote Chief Warrant Officers (startrekpropauthority.com/2008/05/…). We can see Miss Gladstone, late series O'Brien, and I think one or two other characters wearing it. This lines up with concept art for VOY's provisional rank pips, as it lists a single black stripe as CWO. Kosinski appeared before the first single black pip though, so who knows!
    – rr_cola
    Commented Oct 26, 2021 at 1:37

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