Chain of Command of the British Army
Latvian platoon at Camp Lejune.jpg
Unit Soldiers Commander
Fireteam 4 NCO
Squad/Section 8–13 Squad leader
Platoon 26–55 Platoon leader
Company 80–225 Captain/Major
Battalion 300–1,300 (Lieutenant) Colonel
Regiment/Brigade 3,000–5,000 (Lieutenant) Colonel/
Brigadier (General)
Division 10,000–15,000 Major General
Corps 20,000–45,000 Lieutenant General
Field army 80,000–200,000 General
Army group 400,000–1,000,000 Field Marshal
Army Region 1,000,000–3,000,000 Field Marshal
Army theater 3,000,000–10,000,000 Field Marshal
Standard NATO symbol for an infantry brigade.

A brigade is a major tactical military formation that is typically composed of two to five battalions, plus supporting elements depending on the era and nationality of a given army and could be perceived as an enlarged/reinforced regiment. Usually, a brigade is a sub-component of a division, a larger unit consisting of two or more brigades.

Brigades formed into divisions are usually infantry or armoured (sometimes referred to as combined arms brigades), in addition to combat units they may include combat support units or sub-units such as artillery and engineers, and logistic units or sub-units. Historically such brigades have sometimes been called brigade-groups. On operations a brigade may comprise both organic elements and attached elements, including some temporarily attached for a specific task.

Brigades may also be specialised and comprise battalions of a single branch, for example cavalry, artillery, air defence, aviation, engineers, signals or logistic. Some brigades are classified as independent or separate and operate independently from the traditional division structure. The typical NATO standard brigade consists of approximately 4,000 to 5,000 troops. However, in Switzerland and Austria, the numbers could go as high as 11,000 troops. The Soviet Union, its forerunners and successors, mostly use "regiment" instead of brigade, and this was common (e.g. Germany) in much of Europe until after World War II.

A brigade's commander is commonly a brigadier general, brigadier or colonel. In some armies the commander is rated as a General Officer. The brigade commander has a self-contained headquarters and staff. The principal staff officer, usually a major or lieutenant colonel, may be designated chief of staff, although until the late 20th Century British and similar armies called the position 'brigade-major'. Some brigades may also have a deputy commander. The headquarters has a nucleus of staff officers and support (clerks, assistants and drivers) that can vary in size depending on the type of brigade. On operations additional specialist elements may be attached. The headquarters will usually have its own communications unit.



The brigade was invented as a tactical unit by the Swedish king Gustavus Adolphus. It was introduced during the Thirty Years' War to overcome the lack of coordination between normal army structure consisting of regiments by appointing a senior officer. The term derives from Italian brigata, as used for example in the introduction to The Decameron where it refers only to a group of ten, or Old French brigare, meaning "company" of an undefined size, which in turn derives from a Celtic root briga, which means "strife".

The so-called "brigada" was a well mixed unit, comprising infantry, cavalry and normally also artillery, designated for a special task. The size of such "brigada" was a reinforced "company" of up to two regiments. The "brigada" was the ancient form of the modern "task force".

This was copied in France by General Turenne, who made it a permanent standing unit, requiring the creation in 1667 of a permanent rank of brigadier des armées du roi (literally translating to brigadier of the armies of the king) which would in time be renamed simply Général de brigade (but would still be referred to occasionally as brigadier for short).

Individual armies


In the Australian Army, the brigade has always been the smallest tactical formation, since regiments are either administrative groupings of battalions (in the infantry) or battalion-sized units (in the cavalry). A typical brigade may consist of approximately 5,500 personnel between two mechanised infantry battalions, an armored regiment, an armored artillery regiment, and other logistic and engineering units. The brigade is usually commanded by an officer holding the rank of Brigadier, who is referred to as the "Brigade Commander".

United Kingdom

Brigades, with a field not a regional administrative role, have usually been of a named type and numbered since the 19th century (e.g. Cavalry Brigade or Infantry Brigade). From after World War II brigade numbers have been unique and not by type. Brigades in divisions do not usually command their combat support and combat service support units. These remain under divisional command, although they may be permanently affiliated with a particular brigade. Historically infantry or cavalry/armoured brigades have usually been three or four combat arm battalions, but currently larger brigades are normal, made larger still when their affiliated artillery and engineer regiments are added.

In the Royal Artillery, "brigade" was also the term used for a battalion-sized unit until 1938, when "regiment" was adopted. This was because, unlike infantry battalions and cavalry regiments, which were organic, artillery units consisted of individually numbered batteries which were "brigaded" together. The commander of such a brigade was a Brigadier, who was referred to as the "commanding officer".

In the Second World War, a Tank Brigade comprised three tank regiments and was equipped with Infantry Tanks for supporting the Infantry division. Armoured Brigades were equipped with cruiser tanks or US supplied Lend-Lease medium tanks.


The Canadian Forces currently have 3 Regular Force Brigade Groups, known as Canadian Mechanized Brigade Groups: 1 CMBG, 2 CMBG, and 5e GBMC, the French Canadian Brigade Group. These CMBGs are each composed of two mechanized infantry battalions, one light infantry battalion, one armoured regiment, one mechanized artillery regiment, one engineer regiment, one combat service and support (CSS) battalion, and one Military Police platoon. Co-located with each CMBG is a Field Ambulance, a Service Battalion, and a Tactical Helicopter Squadron. Regular Force CMBG strengths are 5,000 personnel.[1] Canada also has 10 Primary Reserve Brigades (Canadian Brigade Group), 31 CBG through 39 CBG, and 41 CBG. The CBG formations are for administrative purposes.

Republic of China (1911–1947)

An NRA Brigade, 旅, was a military unit of the Chinese Republic. Infantry and Cavalry Brigades were composed of two Infantry Regiments. After the 1938 reforms the Brigade was dispensed with within the Infantry Division in favor of the Regiment to simplify the command structure.

United States

A U.S. infantry brigade of around 2,500, formed into eight battalion-sized groupings of around 325 soldiers each.

In the United States Army, a brigade is smaller than a division and roughly equal to or a little larger than a regiment. Strength typically ranges from 2,500 to 4,000 personnel. Army brigades formerly contained two or more and typically five regiments, during the American Civil War and continuing as a formation through World War I, but this structure is now considered obsolete since an Army reorganization before World War II. The U.S. Army has moved to a new generic brigade combat team formation which contain combat elements and their support units, and is standard across the active U.S. Army, U.S. Army Reserve, and the Army National Guard.

In the United States Marine Corps, brigades are only formed for certain missions. Unlike the United States Army, the Marines have intact regimental structures. A Marine brigade is formed only for special expeditionary duty, for which it is outfitted like a smaller Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF). For example, TF TARAWA (2d MEB) during the Operation Iraqi Freedom campaign.

The brigade commander is usually a colonel, although a lieutenant colonel can be selected for brigade command in lieu of an available colonel. A typical tour of duty for this assignment is twenty four to thirty six months.

A brigade commander enjoys an appreciably sized headquarters and staff to assist him in commanding the brigade and its subordinate battalion units. The typical staff includes:

  • a brigade executive officer, usually a lieutenant colonel (if commanded by a colonel)
  • a brigade command sergeant major
  • a personnel officer (S1), usually a major
  • an intelligence officer (S2), usually a major
  • an operations officer (S3), usually a lieutenant colonel
  • a logistics officer (S4), usually a major
  • a plans officer (S5), usually a major
  • a communications officer (S6), usually a major
  • a medical officer, usually a major
  • a legal officer (JAG), usually a major
  • a brigade chaplain, usually a major

In addition, the headquarters will include additional junior staff officers, non-commissioned officers, and enlisted support personnel in the occupational specialities of the staff sections; these personnel will ordinarily be assigned to the brigade's headquarters and headquarters company.

See also



  • (French) Nouveau Larousse illustré, undated (early 20th century)

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  • brigade — [ brigad ] n. f. • v. 1650; « troupe » 1360; it. brigata 1 ♦ Anciennt Unité composée de deux régiments (jusqu en 1914, pour l infanterie et 1940, pour la cavalerie); auj. Unité tactique à l intérieur de la division. La division compte… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Brigade — Bri*gade , n. [F. brigade, fr. It. brigata troop, crew, brigade, originally, a contending troop, fr. briga trouble, quarrel. See {Brigand}.] 1. (Mil.) A body of troops, whether cavalry, artillery, infantry, or mixed, consisting of two or more… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Brigade — Студийный альбом …   Википедия

  • Brigade — Sf eine Truppenabteilung erw. fach. (17. Jh.) Entlehnung. Entlehnt aus frz. brigade, dieses aus it. brigata Kampftruppe , einer Ableitung von it. brigare kämpfen , abgeleitet von it. briga Streit . Die weitere Herkunft ist nicht geklärt. Dazu… …   Etymologisches Wörterbuch der deutschen sprache

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  • brigade — BRIGADE. s. f. Troupe de gens de guerre d une même Compagnie, sous un Officier que l on nomme Brigadier. Brigadier des Gardes du Corps. [b]f♛/b] Il se dit aussi De plusieurs bataillons ou escadrons d une armée, qui sont sous le commandement d un… …   Dictionnaire de l'Académie Française 1798

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  • Brigade — Brigade: Die Bezeichnung für »größere Truppenabteilung« wurde im 17. Jh. aus frz. brigade entlehnt, das seinerseits aus it. brigata »streitbarer ‹Heer›haufen« stammt. Das zugrunde liegende Substantiv it. briga »Streit« ist ohne sichere Deutung.… …   Das Herkunftswörterbuch

  • brigade — [bri gād′] n. [Fr < MFr < OIt brigata, troop, company < brigare, to contend < briga, strife, quarrel] 1. a large unit of soldiers 2. a) Historical a unit of the U.S. Army comprising two or more regiments b) now, a military unit… …   English World dictionary

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