From a Sepoy to a Marshal, the Indian defence forces are served by millions of bravehearts, serving in different capacities. Their sacrifices and bravery cannot be compensated but it can be recognised. As the state rightfully does. 

You’d know that officers serve in different capacities in our armed forces. But do you know that there are three ranks across the forces that are seldom conferred? These prestigious ranks are next to impossible to attain, yet are the highest attainable ranks. 

Only a handful of officers have ever received it.


Indian Army – Field Marshal

The highest rank attainable in the Indian Army is Field Marshal. Ranked as a Five Star General Officer, a Field Marshal is ranked above a General. A Field Marshal’s insignia comprises the national emblem over a crossed baton and saber in a wreath of lotus flowers.

Field Marshals hold their rank for life, there is no retirement and they are considered as serving officers till their death. This also means that they do not draw a pension and are in the pay roll for the rest of their lives. Like other army officers, Field Marshals are required to be in full uniform during any official occasion. 

Till date this rank has been conferred on only two individuals. One was Sam Manekshaw, MC. He was known for his bravery, which also earned him the nickname of Sam Bahadur.

The other was KM Cariappa, OBE who was also the first Indian Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army. 

Indian Air Force – Marshal of the India Air Force

Equivalent of the Army’s Field Marshal, the highest rank attainable in the air force is the Marshal of the Indian Air Force. It is mostly awarded in a ceremonial capacity. MIAFs are ranked immediately above the Chief of Air Staff. 

This Five Star rank has been conferred on only one individual till now – Arjan Singh, DFC. With the death of Sam Manekshaw, he is currently the only living defence officer of a five-starred rank in the country.

India is also the only Commonwealth country, besides England, to have conferred this ceremonial rank to an air officer. 

Indian Navy – Admiral of the Fleet

Equivalent of the Army’s Field Marshal and the Air Force’s Marshal of the Indian Air Force, Admiral of the Fleet is the highest attainable rank in the naval force. This Five Star rank is primarily conferred in wartime and honourary capacity. 

This rank has never been conferred on any individual in the country. 

The highest rank is the Chief of the Naval Staff, the office of which is currently being served by Admiral Robin K Dhowan. 

Because they are worth every bit of it.