Fleet Captain EssayEdit

In the British and US Navys, a "Captain of the Fleet", or "Fleet Captain" was/is the captain in command of an Admiral's, or Commodore's primary "flag ship".

In the chain of command, a "Fleet Captain" is usually welded to the hip of that particular Admiral/Commodore whom s/he serves, and loosely speaking, is the "bull" or chief Captain of the group of Captains who are under the direct command of the same Admiral or Commodore. Besides commanding the primary flag ship of the Admiral/Commodore, a Fleet Captain usually commands his/her fellow Captains (but not the other Captains in the Navy) in the absence of their particular Admiral/Commodore (such as when the flag officer goes ashore) and has a number of other special duties and privileges that have varied era to era, and largely depend upon the rank of the flag officer whom s/he serves.

In very general terms of authority, power, privilege, and prestige, "the Fleet Captain of Admiral So-and-So" preceeds "the Fleet Captain of Rear Admiral Such-and-Such", who preceeds "the Fleet Captain of Commodore Whats-His-Name"; and even more generally speaking, "Fleet Captains" as a group preceed any other Captain in the Navy, Coast Guard and Merchant Marines --- i.e. if you're a rear line pogue, DO NOT piss off a Fleet Captain, or you WILL be sorry. And while I don't know what the modern naval protocal is for seating and quartering flag officers and their Fleet Captains; for civilian purposes, I'd put them next to each other so that when the Admiral/Commodore wants something, the Fleet Captain can more conveniently jump up and go do his flag officer's bidding whenever required without disturbing the whole party.

Although Fleet Captain is regarded as a specialized "position", rather than a "rank", because of their extra duties and privileges, Fleet Captains have often been distinguished from regular Naval Captains by some difference in insignia and/or uniform, especially in times of war. Thus, whenever the uniforms and insignia of a particular period are presented pictorially in a list, such differencings often confuse the "lubbers" into thinking that the "position" of Fleet Captain is a "rank" higher than Captain but lower than Commodore. If modern navies still practice this differencing, you'd have to write and find out, because it sure doesn't appear on their websites.

Originally, the flag officers of the British and US Navies were free to choose their own Fleet Captain, and as the position was acquired by patronage rather than promotion, it appears to have been commonly used in the 1800's as a kind of apprenticeship system for quickly training new Commodores and Admirals, and sometimes even new Captains. As such, not all of the "Fleet Captains" of this era actually held the rank of Captain when first assigned the position of "Fleet Captain", especially in times of war, but the position did mean that they were on the fast track for promotion to a flag officer rank, assuming that they weren't killed or disabled in the meantime.

By the time of World War II, flag officers in the US Navy no longer had the right to select their own Fleet Captains, and instead the Admiralty more simply selected senior Captains with 20 years or more of service and assigned them to a flag officer to be his/her Fleet Captain.

Not being a naval historian, I'm not sure when exactly this new practice went into effect, but it appears to have been sold as a method of eliminating the old patronage system that commonly bypassed senior captains for promotion to a flag officer rank. However, in actual practice for World War II, it looks like it was a bone thrown to those senior captains who, because of age, were going to be bypassed for promotion anyway in favor of younger men. Nevertheless, as far as I've been able to find out, all US Fleet Captains since the American Civil War have retired at the rank of Commodore, or above, except for those who died before promotion, those who served in the Confederate Navy, or those who served as a Fleet Captain during a time of peace.

At any rate, this new practice seems to have given rise to the second dictionary definition of Fleet Captain as being a senior captain with 20 or more years of service. Whether all such senior captains in the US Navy are now styled Fleet Captains irregardless of whether or not they are actually in command of a flag ship, I don't know. So I asked my great grand uncle who served aboard the USS Yorktown during WW II, and initially he said yes, but then when I tried to pin him down about it, he confessed that he didn't really know. Like Roddenberry, he only served a couple of years, then left the service after WW II, and never went back, but that's what he understood at the time.

So --- as this is the period that Roddenberry based his ranks on, it's unknown whether he meant that Captain Pike was the Fleet Captain of a particular flag officer, or whether he meant it a little more generally, that Captain Pike was merely a senior captain with 20 or more years of service.


I'm not sure Fleet Captain as you describe it is the correct term. In the Royal Navy during the Age of Sail (an area of interest to me), an admiral's flagship typically had two captains. The First Captain (Flag Captain) was essentially the admiral's chief-of-staff, helping the admiral lead his command (fleet, squadron, whatever). The Second Captain (Ship's Captain) typically commanded the ship. The First Captain could be a captain or another admiral. When HMS Victory was commissioned in May 1778 as Admiral Keppel's flagship, her First Captain was a rear admiral. Typically, an admiral brought his own captains to a ship (as Keppel did). As time went on and demands for captains and admirals increased, having two captains became a bit of a luxury and only the more senior admirals had both. Most admirals had to make do with one officer who served both roles and was referred to as the flag captain. This flag captain appears to be the "Fleet Captain" described above but I've haven't seen that term used. Note that this is a POST not a RANK. However, the American Navy did consider the idea of a Fleet Captain as a rank, sort of like a Commodore. I don't think it was ever used. 'Commodore' itself seems to have had a somewhat murky usage, sometimes being a POST - the senior captain in command of a squadron might be called the commodore. Sometimes it was an actual flag officer rank. Only senior (1st rank) commodores were entitled to a flag captain. If the term 'Fleet Captain' was used it may have been a descriptive reference to distinguish senior captains or a post. --StarFire209 21:25, 23 August 2007 (UTC)
Despite the naval nature of the franchise, StarTrek producers seem to have been easily confused by the nature of naval terminology. Ranks and posts and the relationship between the two are often muddy. Since the rank/post/descriptive nature of 'Fleet Captain' has not be clarified and StarFleet ranks mirror those of the current US Navy, it would be less speculative to assume it is not a rank. One oddity is that although StarFleet ranks mirror the US Navy, its behavior more closely resembles the 18th and 19th century Royal Navy.--StarFire209 21:25, 23 August 2007 (UTC)

Not a rank? Edit

In the last edit, someone said that this is not a rank. Is there not Canon Evidence that this is in fact a rank? Dlc2006 11:22, 23 November 2006 (UTC)

See the background note recently added. While I feel that the introductory paragraph is somewhat speculative, there is canonnical evidence to support the claims made. --GNDN 03:10, 30 November 2006 (UTC)


I know this is an old conversation but I've seen it other places and it irritates me, where does it ever say in (oh so precious) canon that Fleet Captain isn't a rank.--UESPA 13:59, 12 February 2008 (UTC)

Well, in "Whom Gods Destroy" Garth was always refered to as "Starship Fleet Captain" which sounds more like an honorary title (a captain who commanded one of the 12 Starship-class vessels) than an actual rank in my opinion. -- 14:18, 12 February 2008 (UTC)

Yes, well that's a supposition not (oh so precious) canon.--UESPA 19:35, 12 February 2008 (UTC)

Right, but the same applies for it being a rank. -- 19:39, 12 February 2008 (UTC)

Exactly, so why even have the reference to it being a "title", and then state (like it's 100% true) that it is "not a rank"?--UESPA 19:44, 12 February 2008 (UTC)

I was thinking (it's a miracle) about it, what about changing the first line to "Fleet Captain is a title or rank given to a senior Starfleet captain, with a different set of responsibilities as compared to a starship captain."--UESPA 15:59, 13 February 2008 (UTC)

I feel there is nothing wrong with the first sentence. Pike and Garth were both addressed by this "title" while holding the rank of "Captain" but then you could argue every other rank mentioned in Star Trek is also a title (like Spock being called Lieutenant Commander when he wore Commander braids). You can really get in the weeds with this. A background note could cover it all (I think it actually already does) saying Fleet Captain is a questionable title and could be either an actual rank or simply a formal title. -FleetCaptain 18:47, 13 February 2008 (UTC)

Why not just remove the "not a rank" part then because it makes it sound absolute and were not sure.--UESPA 19:10, 13 February 2008 (UTC)

Minor changes like that I think you should just make. I doubt anyone will object. -FleetCaptain 23:08, 13 February 2008 (UTC)
I'd definitely support a change because the situation really is too ambiguous for us to make a call one way or the other.– Cleanse 05:29, 14 February 2008 (UTC)

Regrets Edit

There is nothing in "The Menagerie" to suggest that Pike regretted handing over command of the Enterprise to Kirk; which is why I deleted the reference. --GNDN 03:10, 30 November 2006 (UTC)

Captain Picard Edit

Although Captain Picard never officially held the rank of Fleet Captain, it is concievable that during the two-part episode "Redemption" he was acting in the capacity of a Fleet Captain seeing as he was the captain of the Flagship of the fleet this goes for the brief period in First Contact when he assumes command of the fleet attacking the Borg Rajrajmarley 01:50, 11 May 2007 (UTC)

One of the coolest things that the Trek producers could have done would have been to stick a fifth pip on his collar during that episode with a full canon explanation of Fleet Captain. You are right, he was a Captain acting as an Admiral in command of entire fleet...the very definition of what a Fleet Captain would be, I think. But, no, the producers did not grant us what we wanted. Much the same when Sisko went to Earth in DS9: "Homefront" to work for the Admiral. I was betting Sisko would be promoted to Commodore in that one, at least temporarily. But, again no. The producers were either clueless as to what the fans wanted or didn't want to spend the time and money to do it. -FleetCaptain 23:29, 11 May 2007 (UTC)
In a traditional sense Picard was acting as a commodore - he was the senior captain commanding an impromptu fleet. After 40+ years he had to be the senior captain in Starfleet! I always thought eliminating the commodore rank was a bad idea. A promotion to rear admiral would have implied fleet duty or desk duty neither of which fit with the series. But Picard could have been promoted to commodore (or fleet captain if that was established as a rank) and still captain the Enterprise. But it was what it was. – StarFire209 21:25, 23 August 2007 (UTC)
In the same sense I think it would have been a perfect explanation if they had ever used the term "Fleet Captain" in reference to Sisko during the Dominion War on DS9. He was clearly still just a captain but he commanded entire fleets during battles and superceded Commodores and even Admirals at that time. FLeet Captain = captain in charge of a Fleet? regardless of whether it is a fleet in design or a fleet in action? Seemed like a waste opportunity. Here's hoping that a future Trek episode shows someone reading a book with the title "Captains of the Fleet: The Battle Tactics of Benjamin Sisko and Garth of Izar". Logan 5 18:35, 13 September 2007 (UTC)

Luther Sloan's RankEdit

I'm saving this on the talk page as I recently learned there are supposed to be script notes about this:

Luther Sloan's deputy director rank could be equivalent to fleet captain; his insignia was four pips above a horizontal bar (indicating a grade higher than captain, but below the rectangle-enclosed pips of an admiral), but there is no canonical justification for associating the two rank/titles, simply a relation between the insignia.

I will check later and re-add when I find it. -FleetCaptain 23:02, 14 February 2008 (EST)

Boxes Edit

Having three boxes (I'm not sure what they're called) looks a little, I don't know, sloppy (for lack of a better term). Are all three really neccesary?--UESPA 22:40, 20 February 2008 (UTC)

The "three boxes" come from two different templates Template:ranks and Template:SFpostrank. You should address concerns about the templates on the specific template talk pages. -FC 22:50, 20 February 2008 (UTC)

What I'm talking about is having them both on the same page.--UESPA 22:58, 20 February 2008 (UTC)

Removal of speculation Edit

I removed this as speculation

In another case, fleet captain could also fall to the captain commanding the vessel in the strongest tactical position as per Regulation 191 (Article 14). Starfleet protocol enabled Captain Picard to take command of a fleet of vessels during the Klingon Civil War (TNG: "Redemption") and Captain Janeway to take command of both the USS Voyager and the USS Equinox during a time of crisis. (VOY: "Equinox")

Neither of the cited episodes said a word about Picard or Janeway becoming a Fleet Captain while they had command of more than one ship. -FC 03:14, 21 January 2009 (UTC)

So, that's not what a fleet captain is? --SennySix 04:03, 21 January 2009 (UTC)

It seems to be a different thing. For example, viewing "fleet captain" as a rank, consider a comparable use of the regulation where two ships were commanded by lieutenants -- one would be in tactical command as per 191~14 -- but that wouldn't automatically make that one a lieutenant commander. -- Captain MKB 04:28, 21 January 2009 (UTC)