Rank insignia of the German Bundeswehr
They are regulated by the "presidential order on rank designation and military uniform". The 'ZDv-37/10 – Anzugsordnung für Soldaten der Bundeswehr' (ZDv: Zentrale Dienstvorschrift - Central Service Provision) gives the dress order and design variations. Further, the Federal Office of Equipment, IT, and In-Service Support of the Bundeswehr (Bundesamt für Ausrüstung, Informationstechnik und Nutzung der Bundeswehr) provides numerous details.
- 1 Types
- 2 Basic structure of shoulder straps and sleeve insignias
- 3 Basic form of mounting straps
- 4 Additional elements
- 4.1 Double wing
- 4.2 Corps color
- 4.3 Assignment badges
- 4.4 Officers and officers designated
- 4.5 Feldwebel/ Bootsmann candidates
- 4.6 Unteroffizier/ Maat cadets
- 4.7 Reservist badges
- 5 References
Basically, the different types of rank insignias might be distinguished as follows:
- Shoulder straps or boards
- Cuff titles or sleeve insignias
- Mounting loops or straps (in de: Aufziehschlaufen)
Basic structure of shoulder straps and sleeve insignias
The rank insignias of all service personnel will be explained initially on the example of shoulder straps to the basic uniform or everyday uniform in order provide a general overview.
As to naval persons in uniform there will be additionally depicted sleeve insignias on the uniform jacket. Pertaining army persons in uniform there will be shown next shoulder straps of the uniform jacket. Variations of the first instance depicted rank insignias will be explained in more detail.
(Sleeve and Shoulder)
(Leading exempted man)
(Principal exempted man)
(Staff exempted man)
(Leading staff exempted man)
(shoulder and sleeve)
|Non-commissioned Officers "without swordknot"/ Unteroffiziere "ohne Portepee"|
|Non-commissioned Officers "with swordknot"/ Unteroffiziere "mit Portepee"|
(Leading field usher)
(Principal field usher)
(Staff field usher)
(Leading staff field usher)
(Leading staff boatswain)
Officer cadet ranks
(Sleeve and Shoulder)
|Non-commissioned Officers - Officer Cadets|
|OR-6||Fähnrich zur See|
|OR-7||Oberfähnrich zur See|
(shoulder and sleeve)
|Lieutenants (de: Leutnante)|
|Leutnant zur See|
|Oberleutnant zur See|
|Captains and Captains lieutenant (de: Hauptleute)|
|Senior officers (de: Stabsoffiziere)|
|OF-5||Kapitän zur See|
Generals and Flag officers
(shoulder and sleeve)
* above: description to person in uniform “ Heer Bundeswehr“ (Federal Armed Forces - Army) and „Luftwaffe Bundeswehr“ (Federal Armed Forces - Air Force) ; below – Description to person in uniform “Deutsche Marine” (German Navy)
Army- and Air Force persons in uniform of the commissioned officers rank group may carry in line with ZDv 37/10 self-procured hand stitched rank insignias (image: d.) instead of the metallic version (image: e.). However, this type of rank insignias is rather seldom in practice. Beside the rank insignia on light-grey shoulder straps, as shown above, there is to army persons in uniform a version (see image a.) on dark grey cloth. This version of shoulder straps will be worn to uniform shirt and overcoat.
Naval persons in uniform, of the enlisted personnel rank group, wear relatively seldom the dark blue jacket with the above indicated cuff titles, because enlisted mariner in the age below 30 years prefer to wear the white shirt or blue shirt instead of the uniform jacked. Sleeve insignias on shirts more simple, but pertaining form and dimensions identically to those on jackets.
e. Shoulder strap basic form (metallic version) - Heer (here: lieutenant - OF1b infantry)
In the place of stripes, with parts of metallic spinning fibers wire yarn, the oblique chevrons are made from golden-yellow or steel-blue spinning fibers without any metallic parts of wire yarn (see images b and c.). For Army and Air Force personnel in Bundeswehr dress uniform, as well as for all female soldiers, shoulder straps are mandatory. However, male naval persons in uniform wear cuff titles, known from the jacket.
Deviating from the description above, naval enlisted personnel of the Guard Battalion of the MOD-Germany (de: Wachbataillon beim BMVg) are exempted from wearing any sleeve rating mark on all uniforms.
In opposition to the ZDv 37/10, in representative military units (e.g. Guard Battalion of the MOD-Germany and Staff Military Band of the Armed Forces) for enlisted personnel and non commissioned officers the background of the basic uniform gorget patches shows the specific corps colour of the appropriate armed service, special troop, corps or assignment.
Also in deviation from the description above, on the service jacket and skiing blouse colour pipings or cops background colour on gorget patches are dropped.
Basic form of mounting straps
Mounting straps or loops (de: Aufziehschlaufen) are in principle absolutely identical to the design of the shoulder straps, depicted above. From this point of view it might be sufficient to demonstrate exemplarily the different versions of design, instead to show a complete list. Official procured mounting straps are weaved. The field uniform type of mounting straps, used most, shows black or golden emblems on stone-grey/ olive-colour basic textile.
|Rank||Person in uniform||Remark|
Variations which conform to regulations
Almost similar performed mounting straps do exist for different coloured uniform parts as well as to Army, Air Force and Navy persons in uniform. Army persons in uniform for example wear on shoulder straps to the grey pullover, black mounting straps with bright-grey (for generals gold-yellow) emblems (see image a.).
For naval persons dark-blue mounting straps are widespread in particular to the ship-parka (see image c.).
For Air Force pilots' flying suits there exists a version of mounting straps with bright-grey (generals golden-yellow) emblems on dark-blue basic textile (without double-wing). The Air Force double-wing is mounted to other parts of the flying suit, and is intentional omitted on mounting straps.
Versions being phased out
By amendment of the "Presidential Order on Rank Designation and Uniform of Soldiers" on February 7, 1996, it was decided that the silver-colored rank insignia on the camouflage fighting suit (de: Kampfanzug Tarndruck) would become obsolete. They will be replaced by black-colored ones. 
According to the ZDv 37/10, ”Until official procurement of the newly designed olive-green mounting loops with black-colored rank insignias (for enlisted personnel, non commissioned officers, and commissioned officers including colonels of the Heer and Luftwaffe), the old-fashioned mounting loop with grey-colour rank insignias may be worn."
In practice, the replacement of the obsolete grey-colored mounting loops by the new fashioned black-colour version is almost complete. However, on unicolored flying suits of army pilots and aviation technicians, mounting loops with grey-colored rank insignias conform to the regulations.
a. Mounting loop with bright-grey emblem on stone-grey basic textile – Heer (here: Oberstabsfeldwebel renonnaissance corps)
The following below depicted gallery of mounting loops are practically in use in conjunction with the 5- or 3 color flecktarn fighting suit. However, this particular versions are not neither mentioned and depicted in the ZDv 37/10, nor officially procured. Mounting loops in 5- and 3-color flecktarn are de facto in contradiction to the Presidential Order on Rank Designation and Uniform of Soldiers, and might be only procured individually. However, the below depicted mounting loops in 5- and 3 color flecktarn with black-, grey- or yellow-colored emblems are tolerated and worn up to highest rank groups and grades. In daily service, normal visibility of some black-color emblems, e.g. for the grades feldwebel, lieutenant or major, might be difficult.
Diverse additional elements complete all versions of rank insignias, illustrated above. In most cases they do characterize a rank – or career group within the Bundeswehr. Additional elements are not components of the rank insignia, because the rank or grad level is already clearly defined or specified by any above mentioned particular rank insignia. However, to licensed medical officers as well as to officer designated personnel of the NCO rank group, equipped with specific rank insignias which are differing to the normal one`s, additional elements are significant, in order to define the rank or grad unequivocal.
The double wing (also: aviator wing) is part of the mounting loop to any uniform of the Luftwaffe. It is woven in the color of all other emblems (in most cases: black (image b.) – or gold-colored by general grads (image c.)). The double wing, also part of other elements on aviator´s uniform, serves as unmistakable discrimination feature to the stone-grey/ olive-colored mounting strap to the uniform of the Heer. Double wing mounting loops are longer and wider than other one`s. The double wing is even part of the otherwise empty mounting loop to the lowest private OR1-rank (de: Flieger or Kanonier; see image a.), in order to distinguish between the Air Force – and Army personnel in tarnfleck uniform.
a. Flieger OR1 (tarnfleck uniform – Luftwaffe)
Corps [or troop-function] colours (de: Waffenfarben) have been traditionally used in German armed forces since the 19th century. By German Bundeswehr personnel in uniform of Heer and Luftwaffe corps colored pippin and padding (4 mm broad plain braiding) on shoulder straps and cuffs are used in order to characterise the membership to an armed service, a special force, or a particular assignment. Corps colored loops might be used on mounting straps to the field uniform. The collar patches on uniform jackets show corps colors as well.
- Corps colors
|Collar patches of general grades Heer/ Luftwaffe OF6 – OF7:||Deep-red|
|Army Officers in general staff assignment (i.G.):||Carmine|
|Personnel in Luftwaffe service uniform:||Gold-yellow|
|ABC-Abwehrtruppe (CBRN defense):||Maroon ("Bordeaux")|
|Panzertruppe (Armored, MBT only):||Pink|
|Heeresaufklärungstruppe (Army reconnaissance, HUMINT):||Gold-yellow|
|Feldjägertruppe (Military Police):||Pure-orange|
|Führungsunterstützung (Electronic Warfare, IT, Communication, Psychological):||Yellow|
|Infanterie (Light Inf., Mechanized, Paratroopers, SOF):||Forest-green|
|Heereslogistik- und Instandsetzungstruppe (Logistics, Supply, Maintenance):||Medium-blue|
|Sanitätsdienst der Bundeswehr (Medical Personnel):||Dark-blue|
|Heeresfliegertruppe (Army Aviation):||Ash-grey|
|Militärmusikdienst (Military bands):||White|
Assignment badges (de: Laufbahnabzeichen) of the German Marine are equivalent to the corps colors of Heer and Luftwaffe and have corresponding functions respectively.
Naval personnel in uniform of the rank groups enlisted personnel and non commissioned officers wear on shoulder straps (not on mounting straps or appliquéd cuff title in waved performance) and sleeves specific marks of distinction or badges, in order to characterize the appropriate assignment. Exempted are officer designated (OF(D)) grades.
As well as rank insignias on shoulder straps, assignment badges are metallic gold-colored embossed pins or badges. Both are identically in color and design. However, the assignment badges on sleeves are performed as embroidery or machine-embroidery. Only the steel-blue assignment badges of white shirts to enlisted personnel are waved. Seamen (recruit OR-1) wear assignment badges on shoulder strap or upper-sleeve which are apart from that empty. Assignment badges are normally positioned as follows:
- to enlisted personnel: in the middle below of the rank insignia
- to NCO with portepeed (sword knot): in the middle above of the rank insignia
- to Maat and Obermaat: in the middle of the square, built by the stripes
Assignment badges on shoulder straps should be normally symmetric and are worn between head and rank insignia. Exempted from that are only the asymmetric badges to health service (assignment series 81), where the Hippocratic snake shows always ahead.
Officers and officers designated
Heer and Luftwaffe
In Heer and Luftwaffe shoulder straps to general ranks (OF6 to OF9) on service uniform (basic design) and dress uniform are with gold ornament cordon, made from metallic tissue (piping), as shown above. But officer ranks (OF1 to OF5), including the officer designated grade Oberfähnrich (1. Heer: senior cadet sergeant, 2. Luftwaffe: senior aviation cadet, senior warrant officer, Br. senior acting pilot officer, 3. Marine: senior midshipman-man), show silver ornament cordon, also made from metallic tissue.
The metallic tissue ornament cordon of the general ranks consists of fire-gilded silver-wire. As to the officer ranks the ornament cordon contains aluminum parts. An equal piping is on other uniform parts as well, e.g. on collar points of the service uniform jacket to officer ranks including Oberfähnrich (Heer and Luftwaffe), or as piping on the so-called peaked cap (de: Schirmmütze) or mountain cape (de: Bergmütze).
Most officer designated ranks (Heer and Luftwaffe) wear this particular silver metallic tissue cordon already on shoulder straps, next to the lower end of the mounting loop. The only exemption exists concerning the Oberfähnrich shoulder strap, to be worn on service – and dress uniform. This particular shoulder strap shows the silver piping on its outline, indicating the officer career, but lacks the bronze-colored edging that usually hedges the center part of the insignia with NCO-ranks as opposed to the service uniform shoulder straps of a Hauptfeldwebel (OR7). However, rank badges on the mounting loops of Hauptfeldwebel and Oberfähnrich are identically.
The lowest grades (OR-1) of the enlisted men rank group wear simple silver mounting loops on the otherwise empty shoulder straps. A silver cord on the lower end of the mounting loop is usually to be worn in the branch Heer. By the design in corps color it indicates the membership to the appropriate branch of service, special force or assignment. The visible, silver-colored stripes are essential in order to differ from equivalent NCO-ranks, because an officer candidate wearing the rank of "Fähnrich" may not have professional knowledge about his future troop type yet, which colors he is already wearing as opposed to a "Feldwebel". This is an issue solely related to acute service requirements, since formally, these ranks (e.g. Fahnenjunker and Unteroffizier) do not differ in their position in the command chain.
- OR5: Fahnenjunker versus Unteroffizier
- OR6: Fähnrich versus Feldwebel
- OR7: Oberfähnrich versus Hauptfeldwebel
(Heer, service uniform, military musician service)
(Heer, service uniform, military police corps)
(Luftwaffe, shoulder strap in basic design for officers to the service uniform)
Mounting loop Jäger OA
Mounting loop Gefreiter OA
(Heer mechanized infantry corps, field uniform)
Regarding the Navy, beside the rank insignia there is not any additional element, determined commonly to all officer grades and officer designated ranks. Various assignment badges indicate the different officer chains of career and discriminate officers designated from the other rank groups, e.g. enlisted ratings and noncommissioned officers. Examples as regards assignment badges dedicated to then officers rank group are:
- Military geographical service – a stylized globe with capital letters in the center GEO.
- Military musician service – a three-sided lzre.
- Line officers (de: Truppendienstoffizier(e)) and warrant officers (de: Fachdienstoffizier(e)) – a five pointed nautical star (one point is directed above)
Assignment badges on shoulder straps are worn in principle above the parallel designed gold-coloured galloons. They are designed as gold-colloured metallic stamped stickers in style of the rank insignias to NCOs and enlisted men. Exempted are waved mounting loops, because not any assignment badge or career badge has to be worn on it.
Cuff assignment badges to officers are hand embroidered and made from gold-colloured metallic tissue. In accordance with ZDv 37/10 on dark-blue shoulder straps hand embroidered naval stars, made from gold-coloured metallic tissue, are tolerated as well.
(line officer or warrant officer career)
(military geographical service)
Kapitän zur See
(line officer career)
Leutnant zur See
(military geographical service)
The nautical star identifies, as mentioned above, all officer dedicated ranks as well, with exemption of the medical chain of career (see below).
Oberfähnrich zur See OA
(designed identically to officer ranks)
Oberfähnrich zur See
(designed identically to officer ranks)
(with embroidered nautical star)
Officers of the medical service including officers candidates
The specialty badge is different for medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine and pharmacy. The "head of the snake" points forward, i.e. the direction the soldier is facing.
(Luftwaffe, service uniform, study course medicine)
(Heer, field uniform, study course veterinary medicine, mounting loop interrupting border)
Fähnrich zur See SanOA
(Marine, field uniform, study course pharmacy, badge patch not interrupting border)
Leutnant zur See SanOA
(Marine, service uniform shirt, study course medicine)
(Luftwaffe, field uniform, pharmacist)
(Marine, cuff insignias, physician)
(Heer, sweater, physician)
(Heer, service uniform, veterinarian)
(Heer, service uniform, dentist)
(Luftwaffe, field uniform, physician)
(Heer, field uniform, dentist)
Feldwebel/ Bootsmann candidates
Feldwebel candidate shoulder straps include a bronze cord at the bottom of the strap as career indicator (Barely visible on some pictures; Click on Image to enlarge).
Unteroffizier/ Maat cadets
Aspirants, examination/course of instruction passed
- The abbreviation "OR" stands for "Other Ranks / sous-officiers et militaires du rang"
- The abbreviation "OF" stands for "officer / officier"
- vgl. "An- und einnähbare Schulterklappen für Heer und Luftwaffe (paspeliert oder unterlegt)" (PDF). Bundesamt für Wehrtechnik und Beschaffung. 2006-09-26. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-12-14. Retrieved 2013-12-12.
- Bundespräsident Roman Herzog; Bundeskanzler Helmut Kohl; Bundesminister der Verteidigung Volker Rühe, eds. (22 February 1996), "Anordnung zur Änderung der Anordnung des Bundespräsidenten über die Dienstgradbezeichnungen und die Uniform des Soldaten. Vom 7. Februar 1996" (in German), Bundesgesetzblatt (Bonn) 1996 Teil I (10), http://www.bgbl.de/Xaver/text.xav?startbk=Bundesanzeiger_BGBl&jumpTo=bgbl196s0218.pdf
- SanOA (short for Sanitätsoffizieranwärter or medical officer candidate) is added to the rank designation of soldiers who have not yet finished their studies.
- Excluding the officer candidates and generals, the ranks have slightly different names to differentiate specialties, e.g. a physician holding a rank equivalent to Hauptmann is called Stabsarzt, a dentist Stabszahnarzt, a veterinarian Stabsveterinär and a pharmacist Stabsapotheker.