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Prussian "Unterleutnant" (1870)

Unterleutnant (NPA-original abbreviation Ultn.; en: transcription “Under lieutenant” or “Junior lieutenant”) was a Soldier of the German Democratic Republic's armed forces (e.g. National People's Army 1956-1990) of the lowest commissioned officer (CO) rank comparable to NATO rank codes OF1c. It belonged to the rank group of the lieutenants or subaltern officers.[1] The equivalent OF1c-rank of the Volksmarine was Unterleutnant zur See (en: "Under lieutenant to sea").

The rank was first introduced in 1662/74 by France and was taken over by other countries and armed forces as well.


Kaiserreich, Weimarer Republik, Third Reich, Bundesrepublik

In a number of German armed forces of the 19th century before 1871 there was the graduation as follows: Oberleutnant (Premierlieutenant - OF1a) and Leutnant (Secondelieutenant OF1b) without the rank „Unterleutnant“. However, until 1898 there was the rank Unterleutnant zur See in the Imperial German Navy. This rank was equivalent to the Secondelieutenant of the Imperial German Army (de: deutsches Heer). In the Reichswehr, Wehrmacht, und Bundeswehr there was never the rank Unterleutnant (OF1c).

German Democratic Republic

National People´s Army

Flag of East Germany.svg
GDR Army OF1с Unterleutnant.gif    GDR Navy OF1c Unterleutnant zur See.gifVM Aermelstreifen 1-1 Unterleutnant.svg
Engineer corps   /       Volksmarine
Rank insignia NPA officer rank
Introduction 1956
Rank group Commissioned officers
Army / Air Force Unterleutnant
Navy Unterleutnant zur See
Army No Equivalent
Air Force No Equivalent
Navy No Equivalent

Depending on the former Soviet military doctrine as well as to the other armed forces of the Warsaw Pact the so-called GDR armed organs, the Unterleutnant was the lowest officer rank.

In the NPA and in the GDR border troops the lieutenant officer sub-rank group consisted of Unterleutnant (OF1c), Leutnant (OF1b), and Oberleutnant (OF1a). This officer rank could be assigned to military appointments as follows: officer of the operations service, political officer, officer of the technical service, supply, procurement, and military jurstice service.

The graduation to that particular OF1c officer rank was normally possible depending on the education and training, accomplished. The promotion to the following Leutnant OF1b-rank was achievable after two years of service, to Hauptmann after three more years.[2]

After successful passing of the officer course (normally tree years) on a NPA officers school, officer students (de: Offiziersschüler) normally graduated to the rank Unterleutnant. The best school-leavers of the appropriate course could be promoted to the next higher rank, Leutnant. By establishing of the Officers High schools and diploma course of study the final examination all graduates promoted to the rank Leutnant.

The equivalent OF1c-rank of the Volksmarine was initially Unterleutnant zur See. Later the designation was changed to Unterleutnant. Hover, in individual linguistic usage the traditionally wording Unterleutnant zur See was used continuously.


Since then the status of NPA persons in uniform with the rank Unterleutnant changed from professional soldier to longer-service volunteer (de: „Offizier auf Zeit“ – OaZ). The minimum service time was tree years, and the so-called Abitur (en: final examination, qualifying for university entrance) was mandatory. In 1982 the minimum service time was raised to four years. Normally the one year lasting military education and study had to be accomplished on an officer’s high school. By passing of the final examination, the aspirant could be promoted to the Unterleutnat OF1c-rank. This was followed by the first line officer assignment in one of the NPA services or branches of service. An Unterleutnant cold usually be appointed to platoon leader. Pertaining to special abilities, knowledge, or qualification – special assignment could be possible as well.

Under certain circumstances, e.g. successful completion of an reserve officer´s training course during high school study, suitable leavers cold be appointed to Unterleutnant of the Reserve (de: Unterleutnant der Reserve).

In some cases particular able Stabsfeldwebel (OR8) or Fähnrich (NPA) could be appointed to Unterleutnant.

Junior Rank
Coat of arms of NVA (East Germany).svg
National People's Army rank
(Unterleutnant zur See)
Senior Rank


File:GDR VP OF1c ULtn.pdf

Ultn oft he VP

In the GDR Volkspolizei Unterleutnant (official "Unterleutnant der VP") was the lowest commissioned officer rank (comparable top OF1c) as well. Normally officer students, graduated from officer´s training course, could be promoted to that rank. However, the best graduate of the particular year could be promoted to the next higher rank, OF1b Leutnant of the VP.

Members of the GDR Ministry of Interior, graduated from the Ministry of Interior Officers high school "Artur Becker", another high school facility or university, where normally promoted to Leutnant of the VP. Depending on the course of study, duration, and academic or university degree, achieved, promotion to higher ranks could be possible.

Other countries of the Warsaw Pact

Unterleutnant (OF-1c) was the lowest rank of the officer´s rank group in other former Warsaw Pact armed forces as well. Below are some examples given.

Rank insignias Unterleutnant (OF-1c)
Country Flag of Bulgaria.svg
Flag of the Soviet Union.svg
Soviet Union
Flag of Romania.svg
Flag of Czechoslovakia.svg
Flag of Hungary.svg
Flag of SFR Yugoslavia.svg
Rank insignia of младши лейтенант of the Bulgarian Army.png Rank insignia of младши лейтенант of the Bulgarian Air forces.png Rank insignia of младши лейтенант of the Bulgarian Navy.png 8-lt.png 9mllt.png RAF AF F1-3SubLt 2010.png N-7.png RFNAVYSL-JLT.png CsArmy1960podporucik Shoulder.png
Branch Army Arir Force Navy Army Field Air Force Navy Heer Heer Heer Heer
Original Младши лейтенант
(until 2010)
Младший лейтенант Sublocotenent
(ca. 1960-1992)
(ca. 1960-1992)
Mladschi leitenant Mladschij leitenant Podporuchik Podporuchink


Flag of Austria.svg

(Austrian Bundesheer)

Fhr Anzug 75 03 AT.jpg Fhr Rockkragen AT.jpg Fhr Tellerkappe AT.jpg
suit 75/03, jacket gorget, flat cap
Rank insignia Bundesheer CO rank
Introduction 1956
Rank group Commissioned officers
Army / Air Force Fähnrich

In the Austrian Bundesheer there exists an OF1c-rank Fähnrich even today, comparable to Unterleutnant. It is the lowest rank of the lieutenant rank group. The sequence of ranks is Fähnrich (OF1c), Leutnant (OF1b), and Oberleutnant (OF1a). The Fähnrich rank is typical for officer students during studies on the Theresian Military Academy. The promotion to Leutnant depends on successful graduation.

See also

⇒ main article Ranks of the Austrian Bundesheer


This article incorporates information from the equivalent article on this wikiNo language provided for the interwiki translation template!
  1. MEYERS UNIVERSALLEXIKON, 3th[Clarification needed] edition 1980, order number: 576 970 2, licence number: 433 130/198/80, volume III, page 218-219 «National People´s Army and Border troops of the GDR – rank, figure 14 Unterleutnant.
  2. Dictionary to the German military history, 1st edition (Liz.5, P189/84, LSV:0547, B-Nr. 746 635 0), military publishing house of the GDR (VEB) – Berlin, 1985, Volume 1, page 476, definition: Unterleutnant.

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