Wing Commander (Wg Cdr in the RAF and the IAF, WGCDR in the RNZAF and RAAF, W/C in the former RCAF) is a commissioned rank in the Royal Air Force and the air forces of many other Commonwealth countries. It ranks above Squadron Leader and immediately below Group Captain. The name of the rank is the complete phrase; it is never shortened to "Commander".
It has a NATO ranking code of OF-4, and is equivalent to a Commander in the Royal Navy or a Lieutenant-Colonel in the British Army or the Royal Marines. A Wing Commander is usually the rank of the Officer Commanding of an RAF Flying Squadron.
The equivalent rank in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF), Women's Royal Air Force (WRAF) (until 1968) and Princess Mary's Royal Air Force Nursing Service (PMRAFNS) (until 1980) was Wing Officer. The equivalent rank in the Royal Observer Corps (until 1995) was Observer Commander which had a similar rank insignia.
On 1 April 1918, the newly created RAF adopted its officer rank titles from the British Army, with Royal Naval Air Service Commanders (titled as Wing Commanders) and Royal Flying Corps Lieutenant-Colonels becoming Lieutenant-Colonels in the RAF. In response to the proposal that the RAF should use its own rank titles, it was suggested that the RAF might use the Royal Navy's officer ranks, with the word "Air" inserted before the naval rank title. For example, the rank that later became Wing Commander would have been Air Commander. Although the Admiralty objected to this simple modification of their rank titles, it was agreed that the RAF might base many of its officer rank titles on Navy officer ranks with differing pre-modifying terms. It was also suggested that RAF Lieutenant Colonels might be titled as Reeves or Wing-Leaders. However, the rank title Wing Commander was chosen as Wings were typically commanded by RAF Lieutenant-Colonels and the term Wing Commander had been used in the Royal Naval Air Service. The rank of Wing Commander has been used continuously since 1 August 1919.
In the early years of the RAF, a Wing Commander commanded a flying wing, typically a group of three or four aircraft squadrons. Nowadays a Wing Commander is more likely to command a single flying squadron or a wing which is an administrative sub-division of a station. In the Air Training Corps, a Wing Commander is the Officer Commanding of a Wing.
|Common military ranks|
|Marshal / Field Marshal||Marshal of
the Air Force
|Commander||Lt. Colonel||Wing Commander|
|Lt. Commander||Major / Commandant||Squadron Leader|
|Ensign||2nd Lieutenant||Pilot Officer|
|Midshipman||Officer Cadet||Officer Cadet|
|Seamen, soldiers and airmen|
|Warrant Officer||Sergeant Major||Warrant Officer|
The rank insignia is based on the three gold bands of Commanders in the Royal Navy and consists of three narrow light blue bands over slightly wider black bands. This is worn on both the lower sleeves of the tunic or on the shoulder of the flying suit or the casual uniform.
The command pennant used by a Wing Commander is one of two triangular command pennants used in the RAF. Two thin red lines differentiate this one from the other.
During 1941-45 Fighter Command's Wing leaders (of Wing Commander rank) were also allowed to use their own initials as aircraft identification letters on their personal aircraft, e.g., Wing Commander Roland Beamont's personal Hawker Tempest, JN751, was coded "R-B".
An RAF wing commander's sleeve/shoulder insignia
An RAF wing commander's sleeve mess insignia
An RAF wing commander's command pennant
The rank of Wing Commander is also used in a number of the air forces in the Commonwealth, including the Bangladesh Air Force, Ghana Air Force, Nigerian Air Force, Indian Air Force, Pakistan Air Force, Royal Australian Air Force, Royal New Zealand Air Force and the Sri Lankan Air Force. It is also used in the Egyptian Air Force, Hellenic Air Force, Royal Air Force of Oman and the Royal Thai Air Force.
An RAAF wing commander's sleeve/shoulder insignia
A Hellenic Air Force Antisminarchos (wing commander's) rank insignia
A Indian Air Force wing commander's rank insignia
A RTAF wing commander's rank insignia
The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) used the rank until the unification of the Canadian Forces (CF) in 1968, when Army-type rank titles were adopted. A Canadian Wing Commander then became a Lieutenant-Colonel. In official French Canadian usage, a wing commander's rank title was lieutenant-colonel d'aviation.
In the 1990s, the Canadian Forces Air Command (the post-1968 RCAF) altered the structure of those bases under its control, redesignating them as wings. The commander of such an establishment was re-designated as the Wing Commander (or Wg Comd). Like the United States Air Force usage, the term "wing commander" (as used in the modern Canadian Forces) is an appointment, not a rank.
In the United States Air Force (USAF) wing commander is a duty title, not a rank. The equivalent USAF rank is Lieutenant Colonel who typically has command of a squadron. Because USAF wings are larger formations than RAF wings, the commander of a wing must hold at least the rank of Colonel, and is typically a Colonel or a Brigadier General. The one exception to this is the commander of the 59th Medical Wing (Wilford Hall Medical Center) who is customarily a Major General.
|Commissioned Officer ranks of the British Armed Forces|
|NATO Rank code||Student Officer||OF(D)||OF-1||OF-2||OF-3||OF-4||OF-5||OF-6||OF-7||OF-8||OF-9||OF-10|
|Royal Navy||OC||Mid||SLt||Lt||Lt Cdr||Cdr||Capt||Cdre||RAdm||VAdm||Adm||Adm of the Fleet|
|Royal Marines||2Lt||Lt||Capt||Maj||Lt Col||Col||Brig||Maj-Gen||Lt Gen||Gen|
|Army||O Cdt||2Lt||Lt||Capt||Maj||Lt Col||Col||Brig||Maj-Gen||Lt Gen||Gen||FM|
|Royal Air Force||OC||APO / Plt Off||Fg Off||Flt Lt||Sqn Ldr||Wg Cdr||Gp Capt||Air Cdre||AVM||Air Mshl||Air Chf Mshl||MRAF|