Squadron Leader
Overview
 
Squadron Leader is a commissioned rank in the Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...

 and the air forces of many countries which have historical British influence. It is also sometimes used as the English translation of an equivalent rank in countries which have a non-English air force-specific rank structure. In these cases a squadron leader ranks above flight lieutenant
Flight Lieutenant
Flight lieutenant is a junior commissioned rank in the Royal Air Force and the air forces of many Commonwealth countries. It ranks above flying officer and immediately below squadron leader. The name of the rank is the complete phrase; it is never shortened to "lieutenant"...

 and immediately below wing commander
Wing Commander (rank)
Wing commander is a commissioned rank in the Royal Air Force and the air forces of many other Commonwealth countries...

.

Several abbreviations are used, including Sqn Ldr, Sqn.
Encyclopedia
Squadron Leader is a commissioned rank in the Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...

 and the air forces of many countries which have historical British influence. It is also sometimes used as the English translation of an equivalent rank in countries which have a non-English air force-specific rank structure. In these cases a squadron leader ranks above flight lieutenant
Flight Lieutenant
Flight lieutenant is a junior commissioned rank in the Royal Air Force and the air forces of many Commonwealth countries. It ranks above flying officer and immediately below squadron leader. The name of the rank is the complete phrase; it is never shortened to "lieutenant"...

 and immediately below wing commander
Wing Commander (rank)
Wing commander is a commissioned rank in the Royal Air Force and the air forces of many other Commonwealth countries...

.

Several abbreviations are used, including Sqn Ldr, Sqn. Ldr., SQNLDR and S/L in the various air forces of the world.

It has a NATO ranking code of OF-3, equivalent to a lieutenant-commander
Lieutenant Commander
Lieutenant Commander is a commissioned officer rank in many navies. The rank is superior to a lieutenant and subordinate to a commander...

 in the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 or a major
Major
Major is a rank of commissioned officer, with corresponding ranks existing in almost every military in the world.When used unhyphenated, in conjunction with no other indicator of rank, the term refers to the rank just senior to that of an Army captain and just below the rank of lieutenant colonel. ...

 in the British Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

 or the Royal Marines
Royal Marines
The Corps of Her Majesty's Royal Marines, commonly just referred to as the Royal Marines , are the marine corps and amphibious infantry of the United Kingdom and, along with the Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary, form the Naval Service...

.

The equivalent rank in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force
Women's Auxiliary Air Force
The Women's Auxiliary Air Force , whose members were invariably referred to as Waafs , was the female auxiliary of the Royal Air Force during World War II, established in 1939. At its peak strength, in 1943, WAAF numbers exceeded 180,000, with over 2,000 women enlisting per week.A Women's Royal Air...

 (WAAF), Women's Royal Air Force
Women's Royal Air Force
The Women's Royal Air Force was a women's branch of the Royal Air Force which existed in two separate incarnations.The first WRAF was an auxiliary organization of the Royal Air Force which was founded in 1918. The original intent of the WRAF was to provide female mechanics in order to free up men...

 (WRAF) (until 1968) and Princess Mary's Royal Air Force Nursing Service
Princess Mary's Royal Air Force Nursing Service
Princess Mary's Royal Air Force Nursing Service is the nursing branch of the British Royal Air Force.It was established as the Royal Air Force Temporary Nursing Service in 1918, and became part of the permanent establishment as the Royal Air Force Nursing Service on 27 January 1921...

 (PMRAFNS) (until 1980) was squadron officer.

Origins

The rank originated in the British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...

 and was adopted by several other air forces which use, or used, the RAF rank system.

On 1 April 1918, the newly created RAF adopted its officer rank titles from the British Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

, with Royal Naval Air Service
Royal Naval Air Service
The Royal Naval Air Service or RNAS was the air arm of the Royal Navy until near the end of the First World War, when it merged with the British Army's Royal Flying Corps to form a new service , the Royal Air Force...

 lieutenant-commanders and Royal Flying Corps
Royal Flying Corps
The Royal Flying Corps was the over-land air arm of the British military during most of the First World War. During the early part of the war, the RFC's responsibilities were centred on support of the British Army, via artillery co-operation and photographic reconnaissance...

 majors becoming majors 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
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

's officer ranks, with the word "air" inserted before the naval rank title. For example, the rank that later became squadron leader would have been air lieutenant-commander. However, the Admiralty
Admiralty
The Admiralty was formerly the authority in the Kingdom of England, and later in the United Kingdom, responsible for the command of the Royal Navy...

 objected to this modification of their rank titles. The rank title squadron leader was chosen as squadrons
Squadron (aviation)
A squadron in air force, army aviation or naval aviation is mainly a unit comprising a number of military aircraft, usually of the same type, typically with 12 to 24 aircraft, sometimes divided into three or four flights, depending on aircraft type and air force...

 were typically led by RAF majors and the term squadron commander had been used in the Royal Naval Air Service. The rank of squadron leader has been used continuously since 1 August 1919.

RAF usage

From 1 April 1918 to 31 July 1919, the RAF used the equivalent rank Major, which was superseded by Squadron Leader.

Before the Second World War, a squadron leader commanded a squadron
Squadron (aviation)
A squadron in air force, army aviation or naval aviation is mainly a unit comprising a number of military aircraft, usually of the same type, typically with 12 to 24 aircraft, sometimes divided into three or four flights, depending on aircraft type and air force...

 of aircraft. Today, however, a flying squadron is usually commanded by a wing commander, with each of the two flights
Flight (military unit)
A flight is a military unit in an air force, naval air service, or army air corps. It usually comprises three to six aircraft, with their aircrews and ground staff; or, in the case of a non-flying ground flight, no aircraft and a roughly equivalent number of support personnel. In most usages,...

 under a squadron leader. However, ground-operating squadrons which are sub-divisions of a wing
Wing (air force unit)
Wing is a term used by different military aviation forces for a unit of command. The terms wing, group or Staffel are used for different-sized units from one country or service to another....

 are ordinarily commanded by a squadron leader. This includes squadrons of the RAF Regiment
RAF Regiment
The Royal Air Force Regiment is a specialist airfield defence corps founded by Royal Warrant in 1942. After a 32 week trainee gunner course, its members are trained and equipped to prevent a successful enemy attack in the first instance; minimise the damage caused by a successful attack; and...

 and University Air Squadron
University Air Squadron
University Air Squadrons are training units of the Royal Air Force which primarily provide basic flying training, force development and adventurous training to undergraduate students at British universities...

s.

The rank squadron leader is the first senior officer rank within the RAF.

Insignia and command flag

The rank insignia
Insignia
Insignia or insigne pl -nia or -nias : a symbol or token of personal power, status or office, or of an official body of government or jurisdiction...

 consists of a thin blue band on a slightly wider black band between two narrow blue bands on slightly wider black bands. This is worn on both the lower sleeves of the tunic or on the shoulders of the flying suit or the casual uniform.

Squadron leaders are the lowest ranking officers that may fly a command flag. The flag may be depicted on the officer's aircraft or, should the squadron leader be in command, the flag may be flown from a flagpole or displayed on an official car as a car flag. If the squadron leader is in command of a numbered squadron, then the number of the squadron is also shown on the flag.

Other air forces

The rank of squadron leader is also used in a number of the air forces in the Commonwealth
Commonwealth of Nations
The Commonwealth of Nations, normally referred to as the Commonwealth and formerly known as the British Commonwealth, is an intergovernmental organisation of fifty-four independent member states...

, including the Bangladesh Air Force
Bangladesh Air Force
The Bangladesh Air Force , is the air arm of the Bangladesh Armed Forces. Bangladesh Air Force currently employs more than 22,000 personnel including 600+ Pilots.-History:...

, Ghana Air Force
Ghana Air Force
The Ghana Air Force is the air force of the African nation of Ghana. The GAF, along with the Ghanaian Army and Navy, make up the armed forces of Ghana which are controlled by that nation's Ministry of Defence....

, Indian Air Force
Indian Air Force
The Indian Air Force is the air arm of the Indian armed forces. Its primary responsibility is to secure Indian airspace and to conduct aerial warfare during a conflict...

 (IAF), Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF), Pakistan Air Force
Pakistan Air Force
The Pakistan Air Force is the leading air arm of the Pakistan Armed Forces and is primarily tasked with the aerial defence of Pakistan with a secondary role of providing air support to the Pakistan Army and the Pakistan Navy. The PAF also has a tertiary role of providing strategic air transport...

 (PAF), Royal Australian Air Force
Royal Australian Air Force
The Royal Australian Air Force is the air force branch of the Australian Defence Force. The RAAF was formed in March 1921. It continues the traditions of the Australian Flying Corps , which was formed on 22 October 1912. The RAAF has taken part in many of the 20th century's major conflicts...

 (RAAF) and Royal New Zealand Air Force
Royal New Zealand Air Force
The Royal New Zealand Air Force is the air arm of the New Zealand Defence Force...

 (RNZAF). It is also used in the Egyptian Air Force
Egyptian Air Force
The Egyptian Air Force, or EAF , is the aviation branch of the Egyptian Armed Forces. The EAF is headed by an Air Marshal . Currently, the commander of the Egyptian Air Force is Air Marshal Reda Mahmoud Hafez Mohamed...

, Hellenic Air Force
Hellenic Air Force
The Hellenic Air Force, abbreviated to HAF is the air force of Greece. The mission of the Hellenic Air Force is to guard and protect Greek airspace, provide air assistance and support to the Hellenic Army and the Hellenic Navy, as well as the provision of humanitarian aid in Greece and around the...

, Royal Air Force of Oman
Royal Air Force of Oman
The Royal Air Force of Oman is the air arm of the Sultan of Oman's Armed Forces-History:...

 and the Royal Thai Air Force
Royal Thai Air Force
The Royal Thai Air Force or RTAF is the air force of the Kingdom of Thailand. Since its establishment in 1913, as one of the earliest air forces of Asia, the Royal Thai Air Force had engaged in many major and minor battles. During the Vietnam war era, the air force has been developed with USAF-aid...

.

The Royal Canadian Air Force
Royal Canadian Air Force
The history of the Royal Canadian Air Force begins in 1920, when the air force was created as the Canadian Air Force . In 1924 the CAF was renamed the Royal Canadian Air Force and granted royal sanction by King George V. The RCAF existed as an independent service until 1968...

 (RCAF) used the rank until the unification of the Canadian Forces
Canadian Forces
The Canadian Forces , officially the Canadian Armed Forces , are the unified armed forces of Canada, as constituted by the National Defence Act, which states: "The Canadian Forces are the armed forces of Her Majesty raised by Canada and consist of one Service called the Canadian Armed Forces."...

 in 1968, when army-type rank titles were adopted. Canadian squadron leaders were retitled as major
Major
Major is a rank of commissioned officer, with corresponding ranks existing in almost every military in the world.When used unhyphenated, in conjunction with no other indicator of rank, the term refers to the rank just senior to that of an Army captain and just below the rank of lieutenant colonel. ...

s. In official French Canadian usage, a squadron leader's rank title was commandant d'aviation. The Chilean Air Force equivalent rank, in Chilean Spanish, is comandante de escuadrilla or squadron commander.

Land forces

In the British Household Cavalry
Household Cavalry
The term Household Cavalry is used across the Commonwealth to describe the cavalry of the Household Divisions, a country’s most elite or historically senior military groupings or those military groupings that provide functions associated directly with the Head of state.Canada's Governor General's...

 and Royal Armoured Corps
Royal Armoured Corps
The Royal Armoured Corps is currently a collection of ten regular regiments, mostly converted from old horse cavalry regiments, and four Yeomanry regiments of the Territorial Army...

, "Squadron Leader" is the title (but not the rank) often given to the commander of a squadron (company
Company (military unit)
A company is a military unit, typically consisting of 80–225 soldiers and usually commanded by a Captain, Major or Commandant. Most companies are formed of three to five platoons although the exact number may vary by country, unit type, and structure...

) of armoured fighting vehicle
Armoured fighting vehicle
An armoured fighting vehicle is a combat vehicle, protected by strong armour and armed with weapons. AFVs can be wheeled or tracked....

s. The squadron leader is usually a Major, although in the Second World War the post was often held by a Captain.

Fiction

The rank has been borrowed in science fiction
Science fiction
Science fiction is a genre of fiction dealing with imaginary but more or less plausible content such as future settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, aliens, and paranormal abilities...

 including the Star Wars
Star Wars
Star Wars is an American epic space opera film series created by George Lucas. The first film in the series was originally released on May 25, 1977, under the title Star Wars, by 20th Century Fox, and became a worldwide pop culture phenomenon, followed by two sequels, released at three-year...

films and its extended universe of literature
Literature
Literature is the art of written works, and is not bound to published sources...

 and comics, though (at least in the Star Wars franchise) more often as the title and\or callsign of the leader of a starfighter
Starfighter
"Starfighter" is a science fiction term used to describe small, fast, usually one-manned craft designed for armed combat .The appearance and use of fictional starfighters is often modeled on fighter aircraft, with little regard for the actual physics of spaceflight...

 squadron, irrespective of rank (similar to the aforementioned RAC usage; see Flight leader), and usually with the word "Squadron" replaced by the name of the squadron, e.g. Red Leader for the commander of Red Squadron, and infrequently as an actual rank. For the most part, this is just another example of common depiction of starfighter forces in most works featuring such craft as closely paralleling contemporary (at the time the work in question was produced) real-world air forces in almost all aspects.
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