William Shatner Wants US Space Force To Use Navy Ranks, Just Like Star Trek

Late last year, the United States Space Force was created, separating the Space Command division from the United States Air Force into a new separate branch of the US military. In the last few months there has been some debate over whether Space Force should maintain the rank structure of the Air Force (with lowest ranked officers as lieutenants and highest rank as generals), or use the US Navy system (with ensigns and admirals). Now Star Trek’s first captain is weighing in on the debate.

Shatner calls for Space Force to follow Star Trek

William Shatner, Star Trek’s original Captain James T. Kirk, penned an op-ed appearing today in Military Times titled “What the heck is wrong with you, Space Force?” The issue that the Canadian-born Shatner seems to be most focused on is how the commanders of Naval ships generally hold the rank of Captain, including the real Captain James A. Kirk of the US Navy destroyer USS Zumwalt. But the equivalent Air Force rank is Colonel.

Shatner’s op-ed begins with:

What the heck is wrong with you?

I’m talking about the ranks of the Space Force!

What are you doing to us? 😱 There was no Colonel Kirk; not even in the mirror universe (which is what 2020 feels like at times.)

Do you know your entertainment space history? 🤔 🤷‍♂️

Shatner’s piece goes on to talk about all the great captains of sci-fi from Buck Rogers to Flash Gordon, even noting Han Solo was the “captain” of the Millenium Falcon. Star Wars side note: Shatner is choosing to ignore that Solo was later given the rank of General in the Rebel Alliance. Shatner also takes a swipe at some of fiction’s Air Force officers, including Major Don West from Lost in Space, Major Anthony Nelson of I Dream of Jeannie, and even Colonel Steve Austin, noting the taxpayer expense that made him the Six Million Dollar Man.

Star Trek’s first captain finally argued that the franchise is the key to his argument for Space Force to adopt  US Navy ranking system:

“Star Trek” has borrowed so much of its iconic rank symbols from the U.S. military and NASA. When you unveiled the Space Force logo, many immediately saw it as an homage to “Star Trek” (even though our Delta was an homage to the previous military space insignias). Why not borrow back from “Star Trek” and adopt our ranks as well? We took them from the Navy for good reason, even though Gene Roddenberry was a veteran of the U.S. Army Air Corps. They made better sense when talking about a (space) ship.

Congress is actually weighing this

This talk about Space Force ranks isn’t just a sci-fi debate; this issue is actually related to pending legislation working its way through Congress. Reporting on Shatner’s op-ed today, Stars and Stripes sums up the situation:

The House last month approved its version of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act with an amendment by Texas Republican and former Navy SEAL Dan Crenshaw that would force the service to call its O-1s “ensigns” and those with stars on their shoulders “admirals.” That version has yet to be reconciled with the Senate’s.

The service won’t comment on pending legislation, Space Force spokesman Maj. Nicholas Mercurio said when asked about Shatner’s query. Officials are still developing the service’s uniforms and hope to soon unveil what they’ve decided the service’s personnel will be called to help craft its “unique and identifiable culture,” he said.

Star and Stripes also notes there are some in military circles who oppose the move to Naval ranks, pointing to a recent op-ed published in The Hill.

The Space Force logo and Starfleet

In July Space Force unveiled its new logo and motto. Since the service was created there has been discussion about the similarity between the delta symbol used by Space Force (and previously by Space Command) and the Starfleet delta seen in the Star Trek franchise, beginning with Star Trek: The Original Series. Some saw this as Space Force borrowing from Star Trek. However, the official Space Force logo announcement (seen below) notes the delta heritage goes back to 1961, three years before the first Star Trek pilot (“The Cage”) went into production. As noted by Shatner, both Space Force and Star Trek drew from the same heritage.


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If so, Bill needs to be made an honorary Captain. Don’t transfer him. Don’t promote him.

I’m sure Russia and China have something similar to Space Force. The Russians and Chinese have their own military space programs too. Hopefully the US Space Force is used for the peaceful exploration of space.

Using the Navy ranking system is not a bad idea. William Shatner has a point.

I don’t want to see a nuclear arms race between the great powers of such as the United States, UK, European Union, Russia, China, India, Japan etc over space. The militarization of space is bad for global peace.

Space is the final frontier. It belongs to all not just the rich and powerful countries of the world. We must protect it for future generations.

US Space Force was founded for the express purpose of space warfare. If you want peaceful exploration of space NASA is your best bet (on the US side).

Perhaps recommending a program run by NAZI’s isn’t the most peaceful way to deal with reality. And if you think there aren’t wars in space, you haven’t been paying attention.

I’m well aware that the US hired Germans who had worked for Hitiler for its early space program. Just based on how much time has passed since World War 2 I’m pretty sure most of them are dead by now or at least retired. Is that what you were referring to or would you care to elaborate how today’s NASA is run by Nazis?

“hired Germans” is too generous. The US and the USSR forged documents and background histories so that Nazis guilty of war crimes could escape prosecution and illegally migrate to their respective domains so they could be strongarmed into teaching each country their “superior” espionage and technological expertise for the Cold War.

The US had these Nazis collecting Social Security into this side of the millennium until FOI requests revealed the corruptly documented entitled to no such benefits

Russia’s Strategic Rocket Forces have been around for decades as a separate branch; it’s not strictly speaking a “space force,” but is tasked with maintaining Russian ICBMs.

Great, but how do you convince China of this? The PRC tested an anti-satellite weapon well over a decade ago.

The militarization of space is bad for global peace.

That’s nice. Current insignia aside, this was, and will once again be an Air Force function in the future.

The Air Force and Space Force are not the same thing.

Space is the final frontier after all.

True. Yet, I wish the United States Air Force would have been renamed the Aerospace Force instead of the establishment of the U.S. Space Force.

Without snark Phil, and with understanding of your perspective, I think that time has passed.

The USAF had a good rationale to be in the business when it was ground to space focused, but that’s not a fit for the future. There’s a reason why the USAF doesn’t operate carriers or it’s own ground troops.

With bases and platforms and even small vessels operating off of larger ships, the naval structure and ranks are a more suitable model.

One of the arguments for a separate space force was that the Air Force is subject to the posse comitatus act, whereas Space Force is not; accordingly, the latter can enforce space law.

The situation is analogous to the Army, which is subject to the posse comitatus act, as opposed to the Navy, which can enforce maritime law.

This is why I’m mildly skeptical that it will “once again be an Air Force function in the future.”

Maybe they can have both. The Earth support forces can use the army/air force/marines system and when they have big ships, use naval ranks. The army has its “navy” of little boats which use their system. But it’ll probably be a while before the public sees a huge spaceship Enterprise.

I’d rather Space Force stay away from Star Trek.

My son was one of the first to transfer over last year. He has informed me he fully expects the rank structure and titles to change and soon. No more 2nd Lt, now youre an Ensign

Has your son heard any references to Star Trek while in the Space Force?

Shatner is conveniently forgetting about Col/Gen Jack O’Neill and Col Samantha Carter of Stargate. (To the extent that anything sci-fi really informs this debate, that’s the most relevant example.)

I’ll say here what I tell Stargate fans:
Stargate makes Star Trek references and not the other way around so,
Trek wins!

But, with the Pentagon publicly admitting to “misplacing” trillions of dollars, I wouldn’t be surprised if the U.S. secretly has a full fledged naval space force à la Stargate O.o

Space Force is a real thing now. That’s were the trillions of dollars went. The Pentagon and their war profiteering, what a disgrace.

Reality should take precedence over make-believe.There are no spaceships in this Space Force that is part of the Department of the Air Force and run by Air Force Academy graduates.A grandstanding Texas Congressman should not be able to change generals into admirals and demote colonels to captains.

Colonel to Captain is not a demotion. They are equivalent O-6 ranks. But thanks for the histrionics.

All Shatner needs to do is kiss Trump’s ass and an Executive Order will come shootin’ down the pipeline like that!

Yep. You hit the bullseye!

Well, the big problem here is Space Force has no ships to deploy. So using Navy ranks would be kinda superfluous.

They are building ships as we speak.

They’ll need some space ships first.

What does the Space Force need with a star ship?

Oh, wait. Never mind.

How may I join space force?

Space Force is nothing like Starfleet. It’s a military organisation first that works under the covers, subterfuge and for one nation and a nutty President.
Don’t insult Starfleet.

Starfleet was a peacekeeping force, a military when necessary, but primarily “humanitarian” & exploratory. The US Space Force is a way for America to attempt to assert its spurious “manifest destiny” claim to implicitly own the whole universe barring the terrestrial territory of the other 200ish nations on Earth. Much more Terran Empire than United Federation of Planets. And this is an America problem, not a Trump problem; don’t kid yourself that if the Dems win in November President Biden (or President Harris, he’ll not last long in the role of PotUS) will reform or disband the USSF.

Space Force is a new military organization. President Joe Biden might have better ideas for the organization.

Don’t jinx it, now.

President Joe Biden might have better ideas for the organization.

Oh, how sad that you actually believe that… Joe Biden is not the good guy, he’s not a good guy full stop, he’s just the other head of the same two-headed snake that is the main party duopoly which dominates US politics & gives a false sense of democratic choice.

The Space Force is not separate from the Air Force, it operates under the Air Force and the Secretary of the Air Force has command authority. They operate the same way the Marines are actually part of the Navy. Additionally, they will indeed still fall under the Posse Comitatus Act as ANY Title 10 US Military component does. The rank piece, however, is completely up for grabs as the Navy and Marines use different ranks. Keep in mind, it’s just the rank, or what you call the officer that is different. All services have the same grade structure.

I COMPLETELY agree! Navy ranks all the way. phfff Colonel, that looks as dumb on screen as it sounds in person.

Former Petty Officer, 3rd class, Scott. Surface Sonar Technician and light bulb changer.
US Navy, 1988-1990.

Shatner just has to get Putin to tell Trump to do it.