Let's say in the TNG era.

They seem to be pretty rare given that they have to be promoted mostly from the ranks of the most accomplished captains. I would guess maybe twenty are encountered or mentioned over the course of TNG.

Are there a dozen or a hundred?

  • 1
    Total officer complement (from Ensign to four-star Admiral) is 52,291. Wikipedia says U.S. Code of law explicitly limits the total number of admirals that may be on active duty at any given time. The total number of active duty flag officers is capped at 216 for the Navy.[2] For the Navy, no more than 16.3% of the service's active duty flag officers may have more than two stars, and no more than 25% of those may have four stars.[3][4][5] This corresponds to 9 admirals.
    – user16696
    Commented Jul 9, 2015 at 15:45
  • 3
    An Admiral is short for multiple ranks of Admiral and not all admirals have anything to do with fleet control or management. Look at army Generals for the same type of treatment. I'm sure there are Star fleet admirals who have never captained a ship
    – user16696
    Commented Jul 9, 2015 at 15:47
  • @cde: Yes, I know, I was merely trying to imply that there are mostly likely many fewer admirals than captains of starships. Commented Jul 9, 2015 at 15:53
  • In 2008, it was reported the (British) Royal Navy had 41 admirals and 40 warships. If (like the modern Royal Navy) Starfleet is somewhat bureaucratic and top-heavy, there could be more admirals than active-duty ship captains. Commented Jul 9, 2015 at 15:59
  • 4
    There are more captains in rank than there are Star ships. The Enterprise A had three on board at one time
    – user16696
    Commented Jul 9, 2015 at 16:38

3 Answers 3


There is no canon or extended universe source that states unequivocally the total number of admirals in Starfleet. However, if we assume that each branch of Starfleet is administered by at least one admiral (of some rank), then we can easily arrive at a lower bound:

Here are the branches of Starfleet, according to Memory Alpha:

  • Academy
  • Administration
  • Administrative Operations
  • Advanced Technologies
  • Applied Sciences Division
  • Command
  • Communications
  • Control
  • Daystrom Institute
  • Dental (yes, really; Starfleet Dental is shown on Admiral Layton's display in DS9 : "Paradise Lost")
  • Diplomatic Corps
  • Engineering (including Engineering Corps)
  • Exploration (including Deep Space Exploration)
  • Fleet Supply and Inventory
  • Information
  • Office of the Inspector General
  • Intelligence
  • Internal Affairs
  • Office of the Judge Advocate General
  • Material Supply Authority
  • Medical
  • Mission Operations
  • Office of Special Planning
  • Operations
  • Operational Support
  • Orbital Operations
  • Operational Safety and Health Command
  • Planetary Geosciences
  • Research and Development (General)
  • Research and Development (Propulsion)
  • Research and Development (Spaceframes)
  • Science
  • Section 31 (separate from Intelligence)
  • Security
  • Shipyards Operations
  • Stellar Cartography
  • Stellar Imaging
  • Systems Management
  • Tactical
  • Tactical Analysis (separate from Tactical, apparently)
  • Terrestrial Defense
  • Training Command

This makes for at least 42 admirals of various ranks. (We can assume that the Commander-in-Chief of Starfleet is the admiral who is the Branch Head of Starfleet Command.)

In any case, counting admirals by counting Starfleet branches would not include those admirals who are away on diplomatic or ambassadorial assignments, nor would it include admirals who are not Branch Heads but who serve on branch committees. Starfleet Tactical likely has a large committee of admirals who discuss short-term and long-term fleet strategy. There may also be several admirals serving as instructors at Starfleet Academy.

So the best we can say is at least 42 admirals, but probably many more.

  • 7
    It would be nice to say that the answer is 42, of course.
    – Praxis
    Commented Jul 9, 2015 at 20:56
  • What is the context for this LCARS display? On its face it is just an alphabetical list of personnel and what their assignment is. Why do you map this to admirals? Snowdon is "Senior Hygenist Starfleet Dental". That is probably not an admiral. If you're just using it for a list of "commands", there are many duplicates in there, so not 38. Commented Jul 9, 2015 at 22:37
  • @ThePopMachine : I wrote this answer on my tablet, on a tram. It was hard to read the (already blurry) screen capture --- thanks for taking a closer look and good catches. I've removed the screen capture (at least for now) since Layton's list doesn't affect my main point either way.
    – Praxis
    Commented Jul 9, 2015 at 22:50
  • McCoy is an Admiral by TNG era. There is also the admirals from the season 1 ender, and the one from drum head.
    – user16696
    Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 2:10
  • 6
    I really want to see a Starfleet Dental spin-off show. Coming this fall — Star Trek: Cavity. Captain Pradeep Singh commands the USS Incisor as it journeys to the farthest reaches of the human mouth! Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 12:11

In the TNG episode "Phantasms" Picard sadly tells Riker (emphasis added):

I've been invited to the annual Starfleet Admirals' banquet. I've managed to avoid it for the past six years, but now it would seem my luck has run out. I can't think of anything more tedious. Fifty admirals shaking hands, making dull conversation, uninteresting food, boring speeches.

So we know there are at least 50 in Starfleet.


Praxis has listed the Starfleet Branches that should have admirals in command.

Note that Dr. Crusher was chief of Starfleet Medical during the second season and thus should probably have been a temporary admiral during that period. Some people wonder when she took the bridge officers' test but she probably took the flag officers' test.

It is common for line admirals to be in command of fleets or the areas of sea they operate in. In a space navy there may be both territorial (or in space volume) commands and fleet commands.

In an interstellar realm an admiral in command of a volume of space may be in charge of all the fleet defense units int a single solar systems, or in ten inhabited solar systems plus all the uninhabited solar systems beteen them, or some other number of solar systems.

Suppose that in one space navy a one star admiral is in command of 100 solar systems; a 2 star admiral commands all fleet units in 1,000 solar systems and has 10 one star admirals under him; a three star admiral commands all fleet units in 10,000 solar systems and has 10 two star admirals under him; a four star admiral commands all fleet units in 100,000 solar systems and has 10 three star admirals under him; a five star admiral commands all fleet units in 1,000,000 solar systems and has 10 four star admirals under him; and so on.

How far can it go? In our galaxy a galactic empire ruling all the galaxy would rule at least 100,000,000,000 solar systems and the ranks would go up to at least ten star admiral.

What about admirals commanding fleets?

In the great sea battle of Jutland in 1916 between the British Grand Fleet under Admiral Jellico and the German High Seas Fleet under Vice Admiral Scheer there were 249 warships engaged, including 28 British battleships and 22 German Battleships.

Jellico had a vice admiral as second in command and a vice admiral as chief of staff and 13 vice admirals and rear admirals commanding various units.

Scheer had 8 vice admirals and rear admirals commanding various units.

in both fleets the battleships were grouped into battle squadrons that had two divisions each, with three or usually four battleships in a division. Each division was commanded by an admiral with each squadron commanded by one of the admirals commanding a division.

So if a space fleet has a 1 star admiral commanded every five to ten space battleships, it might have a 2 star admiral commanding two such groups or ten to twenty ships in all, a 3 star admiral commanding two 2 star admirals and twenty to forty ships in all, a 4 star admiral commanding two 3 star admirals and forty to eight space battleships in all, a five star admiral commanding two 4 star admirals and eighty to one hundred sixty space battleships in all, a six star admiral commanding two 5 star admirals and one hundred sixty to three hundred twenty space battleships in all.

But in the DS9 episode "Sacrifice of Angels" a fleet of 600 ships is commanded by Captain Sisko! What?

In the Lensman series by E.E. Smith there are battles with fleets of millions of space battleships. Imagine how many different ranks of admirals there would have to be to command in such battles.

Since the federation occupies a volume containing hundreds of thousands to hundreds of millions of solar systems, and Starfleet has at least thousands of space warhips during the Dominion war, if Starfleet is logical it could have vast numbers of line admirals in far more ranks than the shows creators ever imagined.

  • 2
    There's no evidence to suggest that Crusher was an Admiral.
    – Valorum
    Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 7:08
  • +1 to Richard. And you dont have to be an admiral to be a head of a department. She might have been appointed as an interim, until somebody with seniority could formaly take over or she might have been temporary promoted as she had most experience on a given sublect ( to cut the reda tape etc )
    – Cherubel
    Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 7:49

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