I'm building a military for this sci-fi book I'm writing, and I'm struggling with the hierarchy of command this military should follow. At this point, I'm just worried about the planetary forces, though space organization is on the cards for later.

This force has an army, a wet navy and an air force. For now, I'm focusing on the army only.

A little bit of background: In my world, the faction I'm militarizing for (The Alliance) controls around 40% of the galaxy. This Dominion is divided into 5 zones, each superintended by a Legion of the planetary army. Each Zone is further subdivided into 4 Quadrants, and each quadrant into 9 Sectors. This is what I have come up with so far:

Team (4 Troopers) - Team Leader (NCO)

Squad (8 Troopers/ 2 Teams) - Squad Leader (NCO)

Quinquagint (50 Troopers/ 6 Squads + 2 Scouts) - Quinquagint Leader (NCO)

Century (100 Troopers/ 2 Quinquagints) - Centurion

Platoon (500 Troopers/ 5 Centuries) - Sergeant

Company (2,500 Troopers/ 5 Platoons) - Captain

Battalion (10,000 Troopers/ 4 Companies) - Lt. Colonel

Regiment (50,500 Troopers/ 5 Battalions + 400 Engineers + 100 Scouts) - Colonel

Brigade (110,000 Troopers/ 2 Regiments + 9,000 Logistical) - Brigadier General

Division (500,000 Troopers/ 4 Brigades + 3 Reserve Battalions + 5,000 Medical + 25,000 Logistical) - Major General

Corps (1,500,000 Troopers/ 2 Divisions + 10 Reserve Battalions + 400,000 Logistical) - Lt. General

Overcorps (3,000,000 Troopers/ 2 Corps) - General

Army (10,000,000 Troopers/ 3 Overcorps + 1 Reserve Division + 500,000 Logistical) - Ubergeneral

Field Army (40,500,000 Troopers/ 4 Armies + 4 Reserve Battalions + 6,000 Scouts + 24,000 Medical + 30,000 Logistical) - Field Marshal

Front Command (170,000,000 Troopers/ 4 Field Armies + 2 Reserve Overcorps + 1 Reserve Corps + 500,000 Logistical) - Front Commander

Sector Army (860,000,000 Troopers/ 5 Front Commands + 10,000,000 Logistical) - Sector Commander

Sector Command (3,450,000,000 Troopers/ 4 Sector Armies + 1 Reserve Field Army + 500,000 Logistical) - Commander-in-Chief

Quadrant Army (14,000,000,000 Troopers!/ 4 Sector Commands + 2 Reserve Front Commands + 460,000,000 Logistical) - Primus

Quadrant Command (75,000,000,000 Troopers/ 5 Quadrant Armies + 1 Reserve Sector Command + 1 Reserve Sector Army + 4 Reserve Front Commands + 10,000,000 Logistical) - Omegus

Zonal Army (350,000,000,000 Troopers/ 4 Quadrant Commands + 3 Reserve Quadrant Armies + 5 Reserve Sector Armies + 4 Reserve Front Commands + 2 Reserve Armies + 3,000,000,000 Logistical) - Alpharion

Legion (4,000,000,000,000 Troopers/ 10 Zonal Armies + 4 Reserve Quadrant Commands + 10 Reserve Quadrant Armies + 60,000,000,000 Logistical) - Maxima

Army (20,100,000,000,000 Troopers/ 5 Legions + 100,000,000,000 Logistical) - Optimus

How can I improve this army hierarchy? Any and all suggestions are welcome.

P. S: Before you ask, artillery units are included in the above classification. The number of units carried differs from group to group. Since each unit only received direct orders from the immediately superior command, it is sufficient to refer to them as, for instance, 4th Company, among the 4 in the Battalion. When orders need to come from higher up, each unit has an identifying UID, down to the last trooper.

Edit: In lieu of a demand for specific questions, I have some:

  1. How big will the forces engaged in actual fighting get? Will there ever realistically be a situation where, say, an entire Sector Army will be deployed?

  2. Is the amount of logistical staff at each level accurate, or will there be need for editing?

  3. Can any of the names be changed or ranks removed? I want a few less ranks of possible, without impairing function.

Note: The logistical staff are assisted by powerful computerized systems and armies of drones and droids in their duties, so each Alliance logistical staff is worth multiple modern ones. Additionally, each Legion is responsible for defending 8% of the known galaxy, and the numbers reflect that.

In fact, except the Sector, Quadrant, and Zonal command staff and a few garrisons on important planets, most soldiers aren't even on constant duty. They return to their old lives as farmers, engineers, even scientists and philosphers, until there is a mobilization order (garrison duty rotates every two years).


closed as primarily opinion-based by Philipp, Cyn, Gryphon, AlexP, Vincent Feb 10 at 16:35

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • $\begingroup$ Hi and welcome to world building SE. As structured, there is no question here to be answered. You might want to take this one too the sand box where you can turn it into a set of questions more suitable for the SE q and a format. $\endgroup$ – pojo-guy Feb 10 at 13:15
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    $\begingroup$ Sergeants above captains? Majors above colonels? "Uber"generals? You may wish to spend more time researching military organizations before writing. $\endgroup$ – Renan Feb 10 at 13:49
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    $\begingroup$ This is an open ended question (how can I improve this hierarchy?), and also opinion based. Please try to make it fit our standards. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch Feb 10 at 14:08
  • $\begingroup$ This is both overbroad and maximally opinion based. Observations: you are using existing words with very unexpected meanings; for example, a cohort is actually made of several centuries, not vice-versa; a platoon is pretty much the modern equivalent of a Roman century, and a company the modern equivalent of a Roman cohort; nobody expects a company to have thousands of soldiers. It makes little sense to have names and ranks for units of more than a million soldiers -- such large numbers cannot possibly have a tactical meaning, and, when strategically coordinated, "army group" is good enough. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Feb 10 at 16:21
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    $\begingroup$ If you really need 20,100,000,000,000 soldiers, then perhaps that military's warfighting strategy needs to be revisited. $\endgroup$ – user535733 Feb 10 at 23:23

Officers and NCOs.

As a very rough guideline, officers get the equivalent of an university-grade education. They do academic classes and write papers for homework. Fresh lieutenants are basically doing a post-graduate traineeship program under the supervision of a captain and some NCOs.

Non-commissioned officers (NCOs, usually some type of sergeant) get the equivalent of a skilled worker apprenticeship. They do much less academics and much more hands-on stuff. Sergeants command squads, but just as importantly they're deputy platoon leaders and assistants of higher officers (company sergeants, regimental sergeant majors, etc.). For that, you need more variety of sergeant, without giving them command positions.

Names matter. A lot.

Your readers are all humans from Earth. You will want your fictional, future military both recognizable and not quite familiar, at the same time.

  • Lieutenants and captains are company-grade officers. They commmand companies or platoons or serve in the staff of larger units. But could happen that a major commands a company, either because he or she was promoted recently and not yet reassigned, or because it is an important/difficult company like an aviation company.
  • Majors, lieutenant colonels, and colonels are field-grade officers. They command regiments or battalions, or serve in the staff of larger units.
  • Above those are general officers. Traditions differ if a brigadier is a brigadier general or not a general, and also if brigades are commanded by brigadiers or colonels.

Breaking that historical precedent should only be done only with utmost care and deliberation.

Principles for the organization.

  • You seem to be underestimating the role of ground-based space defense.
  • There will be "expected" and "unexpected" deviations from the standard. For instance, a division could have two to four brigades according to the published TO&E (Table of Ordnance and Equipment), and a few divisions could be reinforced even beyond the TO&E options because that is necessary on the specific world.
  • The rule of three is powerful in military organizations. A battalion with three maneuver companies could have "two up, one in reserve" to give the commander some options. In the attack, the more successful forward company gets reinforced. In the defense, the reserve counterattacks. There could be a fourth sub-unit with specialized/heavy weapons -- three tank companies and a mechanized infantry company in a tank battalion, three rifle companies and an anti-tank company in an infantry battalion.
  • For a brigade or division, the 4th unit might be artillery.
  • There will also be smaller sub-units. A battalion might have a recon platoon in addition to the maneuver and fire support companies, or a brigade gets an air defense company and a MP company in addition to the maneuver and fire support battalions.

Planet and System Commands.

Depending on the technology of your setting, planets and systems will probably be important organizational levels.

  • Introduce a Planetary Army or something like that. By definition, anything which operates beyond the planet is a spacecraft. The army may have spacecraft, but running them isn't their main job. (Read about the real-world Key West Agreement in the US.)
  • Each significant planet gets a Planetary Army. The size will likely differ with the importance of the planet, see above for variations in the TO&E.
  • Each system might get a System Army. The forces on different planets may be able to help each other out without Navy troopships, using just their own transport assets. They can definitely communicate with each other, even if there is no FTL com, so it makes sense to have one general to coordinate each system. (Again in the real world, both the US Army and the US Air Force had ships. But they were not supposed to fight naval battles.)
  • Interstellar groupings depend very much on the technology and speed for travel.
  • $\begingroup$ Small note regarding Artillery: When you are in a space opera setting, then you can bombard enemy positions from orbit. That would likely make heavy artillery obsolete. $\endgroup$ – Philipp Feb 10 at 14:59
  • $\begingroup$ [NCOs] do much less academics and much more hands-on stuff. Great answer, particularly the principles, and that line made me laugh (cause its so true). $\endgroup$ – LinkBerest Feb 10 at 15:03
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    $\begingroup$ @Philipp, that might be; unless ground-based space defense makes it difficult for the navy to stay in orbit long enough. Or the artillery manages to hide in the ground clutter. $\endgroup$ – o.m. Feb 10 at 15:04
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    $\begingroup$ You might spend more time on the importance of "the rule of three". Psych research shows that most people can only keep 2 to 7 "balls in the air" at once, and the number goes down as stress goes up - and combat is nothing if not stressful. Higher commands can include more units, but that's because the time scale of action/response increases. $\endgroup$ – WhatRoughBeast Feb 10 at 19:16
  • $\begingroup$ @WhatRoughBeast, square rivals triangular, with square becoming pair of pairs at times. Tank platoon, WWI-era trench warfare division, aircraft flight. $\endgroup$ – o.m. Feb 11 at 5:45

These are 22 levels of hierarchy. If you want to make such a deep hierarchy, you need to make sure that all these levels actually provide a benefit. Adding hierarchy levels just for hierarchy sake does nothing but increase bureaucratic overhead and impede communication.

If you build a hierarchy system, then first consider which decisions need to be made and on which level. In case of an interstellar military, those decisions range from:

  • Start a war against that other interstellar empire?
  • Start an offensive campaign into that sector?
  • Which star system to invade next?
  • Land troops on that planet or nuke it from orbit?
  • Which troops to land where exactly?
  • Fortify the foothold in this region or move on into the next?
  • Move the troops over the mountain range or across the plain?
  • Destroy that minor city or capture it?
  • Approach the city from the north or the east?
  • Recon that military installation properly or just assault it with guns blazing?
  • Which squad goes into which building and when?
  • Throw a grenade into that room before assaulting it or don't?
  • Line up that shot properly or just spray and pray from the hip?

These are of course just examples you might want to adjust based on how warfare works in your setting. You might also want to look at decisions which are not directly related to combat, like logistics (which weapon systems to acquire) or administration (which people to promote or reassign or who receives what kind of special training).

Make up your mind about which of these decisions would be made on which hierarchy level. If you do this you might notice that some hierarchy levels really make no meaningful decisions at all. That means they might be unnecessary and can be removed. You might also notice the opposite: Some hierarchy levels make too many decisions, so they might need to be broken down further.

Also, if you write a science fiction story, do not underestimate the power of computerization in warfare. Real-time communication and visualization of strategic information might allow units to self-coordinate without requiring a commanding officer to tell them what to do. Artificial intelligence can make strategic decisions within microseconds which are better than what a staff of officers would make after hours of strategic analysis. So technology might vastly increase the number of direct reports a single person can manage at once. It's not even completely implausible to replace the complete chain of command between politicians and individual soldiers with artificial intelligence. This would of course raise some ethical questions, like whether AI can and should absolve humans from making the decision to kill other humans.


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