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Rank insignia German officer rank
Introduction 1871
Rank group Commissioned officers
Army / Air Force Leutnant
Navy Leutnant zur See
Army Second lieutenant
Air Force Second lieutenant
Navy Ensign (rank)

Leutnant (OF-1b) is the lowest Lieutenant officer rank in the armed forces of Germany (Bundeswehr), Austrian Armed Forces, and Military of Switzerland.


  • History 1
  • Germany 2
    • Bundeswehr 2.1
      • Rank 2.1.1
    • Nationale People's Army 2.2
    • Nazi Germany 2.3
  • Other countries 3
    • Austria 3.1
      • K.u.k. Army 3.1.1
    • Switzerland 3.2
  • References 4


The German noun (with the meaning “Stellvertreter” (in English "deputy") from Middle High German «locum tenens» Platzhalter (in English "place holder") was derived from the French word «Lieutenant» about 1500. In most German-speaking armies it is the lowest officer rank (in German-speaking navies «Leutnant zur See» (English "Lieutenant at sea"). In the German Bundeswehr the ranks Leutnant OF1b and Oberleutnant OF1a belong to the Leutnant rank group. In some other armed forces (such as the former National People's Army) there is the lower grade of Unterleutnant (OR1c).

From about 1500 until the middle of the 17th century the designation of «Leutnant» was commonly used for any deputy to a commanding officer. So at the army level there was the appointment of General-Leutnant (English "lieutenant-general"), at the regimental level there was that of Oberst-Leutnant (English "lieutenant-colonel"), and at the company level the Leutnant was deputy to a Hauptmann (English "captain").

With the formation of standing armies in the second half of the 17th century, the term commonly came to designate the rank of the least senior commissioned officer.

In the 18th and 19th century, at the unit level several Leutnants served as platoon leaders. At that time the ranks of Premier-Lieutenant and Seconde-Lieutenant came into existence. With effect from January 1, 1899 in the German Empire these ranks were renamed as Oberleutnant and Leutnant.[1]


Since 1899 until today the term «Leutnant» (OF1b-rank) has been used in German armed forces.


⇒ see main article Ranks of the German Bundeswehr
⇒ see main article Rank insignia of the German Bundeswehr

In the Bundeswehr today the «Leutnant» (OF1b-rank) will be normally appointed as platoon leader. However, the rank of «Leutnant» might also be held while a junior officer is studying at the University of the German Federal Armed Forces or at another training or education establishment. The «Leutnant» of the Bundeswehr belongs to the Leutnant’s rank group (also: subaltern officer rank group).


In Germany Leutnant (short.: Lt / on lists also: L) is the designation of a soldier of the lowest officer rank. The equivalent in the German Navy (Deutsche Marine) is the Leutnant zur See.

Rank insignias «Leutnant» / «Leutnant zur See» (OF-1b)
(basic version
(Reservist Logistik)
(SanOA (vet.))
(basic version)
(Lw SanOA (dent.))
(SanOA (hum.))
Cuff title Mounting

Soldiers with that particular OF1b-rank, are mandated and authorized to provide military orders as to the so-called Superior-subordinate relations to private ranks (OR1 to OR4 / de: Mannschaften), NCOs without port épée (OR5b and OR5a / de: Unteroffiziere ohne port épée), as well as to Senior NCOs with port épée (OR6 to OR9 / de: Unteroffizier mit port épée).

Nationale People's Army

⇒ see main article Ranks of the National People's Army

In the GDR National People's Army (NPA) the OF1b-rank «Leutnant» was the second lowest commissioned offer (CO) rank until 1990. This was in reference to the Soviet military doctrine and in line to other armed forces of the Warsaw pact.

The equivalent rank of the Volksmarine (en: GDR Navy) was the Leutnant zur See, later simple Leutnant. However, internal the wording Leutnant zur See was used continuously. In reference to the Soviet armed forces and to other armed forces of the Warsaw pact Leutnant was the second lowest officer rank until 1990.

Nazi Germany

In Nazi Germany, within the SS and Waffen-SS, the rank of SS-Untersturmführer was considered to be the equivalent of an Leutnant (OF1b) in the German Army. However, in the SA the equivalent to Leutnant was SA-Sturmführer.[2][3]

ses also main articles

World War II German Army ranks and insignia
Table of ranks and insignia of the Waffen-SS

Other countries


⇒ see main article Ranks of the Austrian Bundesheer

Leutnant in Austria
Anzug 75/03 Schulterstück (Panzertruppe) Tellerkappe

     suit 75/03      jacket gorget       flat cap

Rank insignia Austrian Bundesheer
Rank group Offiziere (en: Commissioned officers)
Army / Air Force Leutnant
Navy no equivalent

In Austria the Leutnant (short: Lt) is the second lowest CO rank. Mandatory to be promoted to that OF1b-rank is a six month course of high school studies (until August 2008 eight terms) with 180 ECTS points on the Theresian Military Academy in the Wiener Neustadt. The studies are focused on “Military Command and Control” (C2) an the academy-leaver graduate to Bachelor.

The career in the Militia is structured in a different way. Here the modular education comprises the so-called one-year volunteer year (de: Einjährig-Freiwilliger [EF][4]) as well as several courses, seminars, and exercises with a final aptitude test. After an overall service time of fife years the promotion to «Leutnant» is possible.

Moreover, the appointment designation «Leutnant» is possible for leading officials (E1) of the Austrian executive, e.g. the Austrian Federal Police (ge: Bundespolizei) and prison authority personnel (de: Justizwache).

K.u.k. Army

⇒ see main article Rank insignias of the Austro-Hungarian armed forces

Until 1918 Leutnant (hu: Hadnagy) was in the Common Army the lowest CO-rank as well, equivalent to Assistenz-Arzt and Leutnant-Rechnungsführer.

Leutnant rank insignias of the k.u.k. Army
Description Rank Insignia
German Hungarian English class OF Army Mountain infantry
Low grade officers
Leutnant also:
  • Assistenz-Arzt
  • Leutnant-Rechnungsführer
Hadnagy Second lieutenant


⇒ see main article Military ranks of the Swiss Armed Forces

Leutnant in Switzerland
Schulterstück eines Leutnants der Schweizer Armee
Rank insignia Swiss army
Rank group Subalternoffiziere (en: Subaltern commissioned officers)
Army / Air Force Leutnant
Navy no equivalent

In the Military of Switzerland the Leutnant (Lt; lieutenant, tenente) is a commissioned officer rank (NATO-Code: OF-1b). At the contrary to the so-called Army-95 time a Leutnant / platoon leader might not be promoted to Oberleutnant automatically. However, he remains Leutnant during two reiteration courses.

In United Nations missions and in NATO Partnership for Peace the rank Leutnant will be designated in English with Second lieutenant (2Lt), NATO-Code: OF-1b.


  1. ^ BROCKHAUS, The encyclopedia in 24 volumes (1796–2001), Volume 13: 3-7653-3673-4, page 354; definition: «Leutnant».
  2. ^ Flaherty 2004, p. 148.
  3. ^ McNab 2009, p. 15.
  4. ^ Langenscheidt´s Encyclopaedic Dictionary of the English and German language: „Der Große Murat-Sander“, Part II German-English First Volume A–K, 9th edition 2002, p. 449
  • Die Streitkräfte der Republik Österreich, 1918-1968, Heeresgeschichtliches Museum, Militärwissenschaftliches Institut, 1968.
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