In the ancien Régime French Navy, the rank of chef d'escadre (literally, squadron commander, pronounced [ʃɛf dɛskaːdʁ]) was equivalent to the present-day rank of rear admiral. It was replaced in 1791 by the rank of "contre-amiral" (counter admiral).
- Chef d'escadre was also used as the term for the commander of a Burgundian cavalry squadron or escadre of 24 men.
Chefs d'escadre were naval generals. The first were created by Louis XIII in 1627 - he had a "chef d'escadre of Normandy" commanding the port of Le Havre, a chef d'escadre of Brittany commanding Brest, and a chef d'escadre of Guyenne commanding Brouage. Each of these chefs d'escadres, as officiers d'épée, were flanked by a commissaire général, an officier de plume.
Their numbers grew rapidly: in 1635 a chef d'escadre of Provence was created, then in 1647 a chef d'escadre for Flanders, in 1663 one for Poitou-Saintonge, in 1673 one for Picardy and one for Languedoc, in 1689 one for Aunis, in 1701 one for America, and in 1707 one for Roussillon. After 1715, there were more chefs d'escadre than there were coastal provinces, and so they started taking the title "chefs d'escadre des armées navales" (squadron-chiefs of the naval armies). From 1772, there were 25 of them.
The chefs d'escadres were chosen from among the capitaines de vaisseau; as the flag of their command they flew a "cornette" at the top of their flagship's main-mast (a flag named after its resemblance in shape to a cornette, making it roughly the same shape as a British commodore's 'broad pennant').