An air officer is a Royal Air Force officer of the rank of air commodore or higher. Such officers may be termed "officers of air rank". The term is also used by many Commonwealth nations who have a similar rank structure to the RAF.
It is equivalent in concept to a flag officer in navies and a general officer in armies and marine corps. However, in the British Armed Forces, while an air commodore is an air officer, his Royal Navy equivalent (commodore) is not considered a flag officer, nor is his British Army or Royal Marines equivalent (brigadier) considered a general officer. However, in 1919 when the RAF introduced its air officer ranks, the equivalent army rank was brigadier-general, which was a general officer rank until its abolition in 1922.
In some other countries, most notably the armed forces of the United States, army, air force and marine corps, one-star officers are considered to be general officers and one-star officers of the navy and coast guard are considered to be flag officers.
Air officers holding command appointments receive the title Air Officer Commanding (AOC), whereas air officers holding commander-in-chief positions are titled as Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief (AOC-in-C). In addition to specific air officer command appointments, the RAF maintains two home country air officer appointments. These are Air Officer Scotland and the Air Officer for Wales.
On ceremonial occasions many RAF air officers are entitled to wear embellished shoulder boards and the gold and blue sash. This applies to all officers at or above the rank of air vice-marshal and holders of the following air commodore posts:
- Commandant of the Royal Air Force College Cranwell
- Air Officer Scotland and Northern Ireland
- Air Officer Wales
With the exception of marshals of the RAF, the embellished shoulder boards feature the golden air officers' eagle and wreath device surmounted by a lion standant guardant. For marshals of the RAF, the embellished shoulder boards display the air officer's eagle and wreath, two crossed marshal's batons and, since the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, the St Edward's Crown representing royal authority. Prior to 1953, the Tudor Crown (sometimes called the King's Crown) was used.