The independent resource on global security

Coverage

This page presents an overview of the types of weapon systems and types of transfers covered by the SIPRI Arms Transfers Database.

Types of weapons

The SIPRI Arms Transfers Database covers only major conventional weapons, which SIPRI defines as the following:

  • Aircraft: all fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters, including unmanned reconnaissance/ surveillance aircraft with a minimum loaded weight of 20 kg. Exceptions microlight aircraft, powered and unpowered gliders and target drones.
  • Air defence systems: (a) all land-based surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems, and (b) all anti-aircraft guns with a calibre of more than 40 mm or with multiple barrels with a combined caliber of at least 70 mm. This includes self-propelled systems on armoured or unarmoured chassis.
  • Anti-submarine warfare weapons: rocket launchers, multiple rocket launchers and mortars for use against submarines, with a calibre equal to or above 100 mm.
  • Armoured vehicles: all vehicles with integral armour protection, including all types of tank, tank destroyer, armoured car, armoured personnel carrier, armoured support vehicle and infantry fighting vehicle. Only vehicles with very light armour protection (such as trucks with an integral but lightly armoured cabin) are excluded.
  •  Artillery: naval, fixed, self-propelled and towed guns, howitzers, multiple rocket launchers and mortars, with a calibre equal to or above 100 mm.
  • Engines: (a) engines for military aircraft, for example, combat-capable aircraft, larger military transport and support aircraft, including helicopters; (b) engines for combat ships, such as fast attack craft, corvettes, frigates, destroyers, cruisers, aircraft carriers and submarines; (c) engines for most armoured vehicles-generally engines of more than 200 horsepower output. In cases where the system is fitted on a platform (vehicle, aircraft or ship), the database only includes those systems that come from a different supplier from the supplier of the platform.
  • Missiles: (a) all powered, guided missiles and torpedoes with conventional warheads, and (b) all unpowered but guided bombs and shells. This includes man-portable air defence systems (MANPADS) and guided anti-tank missiles. Unguided rockets, free-fall aerial munitions, anti-submarine rockets and target drones are excluded.
  • Sensors: (a) all land-, aircraft- and ship-based active (radar) and passive (e.g. electro-optical) surveillance systems with a range of at least 25 kilometres, with the exception of navigation and weather radars, (b) all fire-control radars, with the exception of range-only radars, and (c) anti-submarine warfare and anti-ship sonar systems for ships and helicopters. In cases where the system is fitted on a platform (vehicle, aircraft or ship), the register only notes those systems that come from a different supplier from that of the platform.
  • Satellites: all reconnaissance and communications satellites.
  • Ships: (a) all ships with a standard tonnage of 100 tonnes or more, and (b) all ships armed with artillery of 100-mm calibre or more, torpedoes or guided missiles, and (c) all ships below 100 tonnes where the maximum speed (in kmh) multiplied with the full tonnage equals 3500 or more. Exceptions are most survey ships, tugs and some transport ships.
  • Other: (a) all turrets for armoured vehicles fitted with a gun of at least 20-mm calibre or with guided anti-tank missiles, (b) all turrets for ships fitted with a gun of at least 57-mm calibre, and (c) all turrets for ships fitted with multiple guns with a combined calibre of at least 57 mm, and (d) air refueling systems as used on tanker aircraft. The database only includes those systems that come from a different supplier from the supplier of the platform (vehicle, ship or aircraft).

The Arms Transfers Database does not cover other military equipment such as small arms and light weapons (SALW) other than portable guided missiles such as man-portable air defence systems (MANPADS) and guided anti-tank missiles. Trucks, artillery under 100-mm calibre, ammunition, support equipment and components (other those mentioned above), repair and support services or technology transfers are not included in the database.
 

Types of transfers

The SIPRI Arms Transfers Database covers all international sales and gifts of weapons, including manufacturing licences. Weapons on loan or lease are included if the loan or lease is for at least three months. To be included in the database, the following conditions must apply:

  • The transfer must be from one country, rebel force or international organization to another country, rebel force or international organization. Weapons supplied to or from a rebel force or international organization are included as deliveries to or from that group, identified under separate 'recipient' or 'supplier' headings._
  • The equipment must be destined for the armed forces, paramilitary forces or intelligence agencies of another country, a rebel force or international organization._
  • The equipment must have a military purpose. Systems such as VIP (very important person) aircraft used mainly for other government branches but registered with and operated by the armed forces are excluded. Weapons supplied for evaluation purposes are not included.
  • The equipment must be transferred voluntarily by the supplier. This includes weapons delivered illegally without proper authorization by the government of the supplier or recipient country but excludes captured weapons and weapons obtained from defector.
     

In cases where deliveries are identified but where it is not possible to identify either the supplier or the recipient with an acceptable degree of certainty, transfers are registered as coming from 'unknown' suppliers or going to 'unknown' recipients.

In cases where there is a transfer agreement for weapons produced by two or more cooperating countries and where it is not clear which country will make the delivery, the supplier is identified as 'multiple'. As soon as actual deliveries have taken place it is generally possible to identify in which of the cooperating countries final assembly has taken place and that country is then registered as supplier.