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Imperial Officer TCG-CS

A naval captain of the Galactic Empire

"Rex, you're enjoying this…"
"Me, Sir? Never sir."
"We're both captains, Rex… it's Gil. Drop the sir."
"Navy captain outranks army captain, sir. Strictly speaking."
"Shut up, for goodness' sake, man, and come have a drink."
―Captain Gilad Pellaeon and Clone Captain CT-7567 discussing their ranks[1]

The title or rank of captain was often used in military organizations and some civilian contexts, and typically indicated an individual with leadership responsibilities.


Surface forces[]

Rebel Army Captain

A Rebel Army captain

In ground-based military organizations, captains were typically company commanders, a role they served in both the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) during the Clone Wars[2] and in the Imperial Army during the Galactic Civil War.[3] In the Imperial forces, they could also serve as support officers, adjutants and aides-de-camp at battalion level or above.[4] At least one officer, Captain-Supervisor Grammel, held a rank which apparently combined his military rank with the civilian bureaucratic title of Supervisor.[5]

Early in the Clone Wars, clone captains in the GAR were identified by red markings on their armor, while Imperial Army captains seem to have typically worn an insignia with three red pips over three blue, and one code cylinder at the left shoulder,[6] although it seems that in some situations, other variations were known: for instance, a Rebel source indicates that some Army captains aboard the Death Star may have worn a rank bar with a single strip of three pips, and one rank cylinder at either shoulder.[7]

Captains ranked above the lieutenants who commanded platoons, and below the majors who typically led battalions, in the GAR,[2] and also in the Imperial Army.[8] However, in at least some sections of the Imperial military, an extra grade of commander appeared immediately above captain,[6] denoted by an extra code cylinder at the right shoulder. In the GAR, on the other hand, variations on "commander" were used for all clone trooper ranks above major, but all ranks above captain, including major, seem to have worn the yellow rank flashes of a clone commander,[source?] and there was no direct evidence to exclude the possibility of a lower commander rank immediately above captain.

Other militaries were probably broadly similar in their positioning of captain within the chain of command, but the available evidence is not always specific.

Starfighter forces[]

Soontir Fel TIE Interceptor Squadron SWA

Captain Soontir Fel disembarks from his TIE Interceptor

Most starfighter corps followed army-style systems in their rank structure, but this did not always translate into giving officers of the same rank similar responsibilities. In the Rebel Alliance, the rank of Captain, depending on the time period, either occurred between Lieutenant and Commander (such being the case pre–Battle of Hoth)[9] or between Lieutenant and Lieutenant Commander (post–Battle of Hoth).[10] The design of the rank likewise depended on the time period. Pre–Battle of Hoth, it was a silver patch that had three yellow bumps placed in a way that resembled an upside-down triangle.[9] Post–Battle of Hoth, the rank possessed gold-trim borders and had two red bumps, one being at the topmost-center, and the other being on the bottommost-center,[10] similar to the earlier design of the rank of Captain pre–Battle of Hoth.[9] In the Imperial military and some early New Republic formations, a captain like Soontir Fel or Pash Cracken often led a squadron of twelve starfighters,[11] but by the outbreak of the Yuuzhan Vong invasion, a mere flight of four fighters in New Republic Starfighter Command could be commanded by a higher-ranking Major, and captains could serve as merely mid-ranking flight officers with no command responsibility.[12]

Naval forces[]

In naval terminology, "captain" could be a specific rank, but also a title held irrespective of rank. Any military officer with a specific commission to command a capital ship might be styled as captain.

Within the chain of command, a specific rank of captain was found in most naval forces, although the exact significance of the rank varied.

In many naval services, the rank of captain indicated a command-grade officer analogous to an army colonel, above commander but below commodore; this was the situation in the Galactic Alliance, and Chiss Expansionary Defense Force,[13] and probably in the Old Republic, Rebel Alliance and New Republic before them. Typically, officers holding the rank of captain would hold the command of a single warship, but some captains were responsible for entire squadrons of capital ships, and not all warships were commanded by officers holding the substantive rank of captain.

Imp Captain SWGTCG

A captain in the Imperial Navy

For example, in the last years of the Old Republic, Lorth Needa commanded the Carrack-class light cruiser RSS Integrity as a Lieutenant Commander,[14] while the six Dreadnaught Cruisers of Outbound Flight were each under a commander, with a single captain in overall command.[15] Similarly, it seems that the captain in command of the Rendili Home Defense Fleet's flagship was a senior officer with extensive command authority.[16] Occasionally, a captain could serve in a subordinate role: for instance, Captain Theb Tobbra was first officer of the New Republic heavy cruiser Indomitable during the Koornacht Crisis,[17] with Commodore Brand apparently serving as the ship's captain,[18] although he was also overall commander of Task Force Aster.[19]

In the Imperial Navy, a rank of Captain of the Line existed, which was typically held by officers commanding a line, a formation that normally consisted of around four ships but could range in reality from one to twenty, depending on size and role;[20] the rank was also typically held by admirals' adjutants.[21] This was separate from the title of captain held by the commanding officer of any individual ship,[22] but it may still have corresponded to the traditional rank of captain.

There was a great deal of prestige attached to the post of ship's captain in the Imperial fleet, and the ethos of the Navy honored men who prized and cultivated their relationship with a specific ship: captains might often refuse promotions to administrative posts, or even turn down the command of larger and more capable warships.[22]

Civilian use[]

Captain Gideon LoNH by David Kegg

A Devaronian pirate, Captain Gideon

Civilians in command of a private vessel, even a light freighter such as the Millennium Falcon, were also addressed as "captain."[23]

From the early days of the Galactic Republic, the Bureau of Ships and Services, or "BoSS," was responsible for the licensing, certification, and registration of starship captains. In order to be licensed, a civilian captain during the Imperial era needed to pass numerous oral, written, and practical tests. They also needed a standard background check, documentation of at least ten years as a spacer, and a 300-credit fee. The fee was increased to 500 credits to expedite licensing, which eliminated much of the testing and flight-time requirements. Many smugglers operated with forged documents, however, which cost thousands of credits but avoided other legal entanglements.[24]

Captain's licenses were required to legally buy a starship, obtain an arms load-out permit for a starship, or obtain copies of the Spacer's Information Manual from the Imperial Space Ministry. Operating a starship without a captain's license was a Class Four Infraction under the Imperial Penal Code.[24]

The rank of captain was also used by law-enforcement agencies and usually referred to a high-ranking officer in the organization.[25] Sports teams such as limmie teams also had captains.[26]

Behind the scenes[]

The "Retired Imperial Captain" was one of the original twenty-four character templates used by the Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game, first published in the first edition rulebook.[27]


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Non-canon appearances[]


Notes and references[]

External links[]