Fact Sheet
Bureau of Arms Control
Washington, DC
March 3, 2004

United Nations Register of Conventional Arms

The United Nations Register of Conventional Arms is a voluntary arrangement established on January 1, 1992, under General Assembly resolution 46/36 L of December 9, 1991, entitled "Transparency in Armaments." The resolution called upon all member states to provide annually by May 31 of each year, to the Secretary-General, relevant data on imports and exports of conventional arms to be included in the Register. UN Member States are also invited to report on their military holdings and procurement through national production and relevant policies. In the same resolution, the General Assembly declared its determination to prevent the excessive and destabilizing accumulation of arms in order to promote stability and strengthen international peace and security, taking into account the legitimate security needs of States and the principle of undiminished security at the lowest possible level of armaments.

The technical procedures for the Register were developed by a Panel of Experts appointed by the Secretary-General in 1992. The recommendations by the Panel were endorsed by the General Assembly. Periodic reviews of the operation of the Register and its further developments have been conducted by the Secretary-General in 1994, 1997, 2000, and 2003. Paragraph 2 (a) of the annex to General Assembly resolution 46/36 L and subsequent General Assembly resolutions identify the following seven categories of equipment on which Member States are requested to supply data to the Register: battle tanks, armored combat vehicles, large caliber artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, and missiles or missile systems. Resolution 58/54 endorsed the recommendations of the 2003 Group of Governmental Experts, inter alia, to expand the Register to include transfers of man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) and artillery between 75 and 100 mm. Based on the Group of Experts convened in 1994, 1997, 2000, and 2003, the categories and their definitions to be used for reporting to the Register are as follows:

  1. Battle Tanks: Tracked or wheeled self-propelled armored fighting vehicles with high cross-country mobility and a high-level of self protection, weighing at least 16.5 metric tons unladen weight, with a high muzzle velocity direct fire main gun of at least 75 millimeters caliber.
  2. Armored Combat Vehicles: Tracked, semi-tracked, or wheeled self-propelled vehicles, with armored protection and cross-country capability, either designed and equipped to transport a squad of four or more infantrymen, or armed with an integral or organic weapon of at least 12.5 mm caliber or a missile launcher.
  3. Large-Caliber Artillery Systems: Guns, howitzers, artillery pieces combining the characteristics of a gun or a howitzer, mortars or multiple-launch rocket systems, capable of engaging surface targets by delivering primarily indirect fire, with a caliber of 75 mm and above.
  4. Combat Aircraft: Fixed-wing or variable-geometry wing aircraft designed, equipped, or modified to engage targets by employing guided missiles, unguided rockets, bombs, guns, cannons, or other weapons of destruction, including versions of these aircraft which perform specialized electronic warfare, suppression of air defense or reconnaissance missions. The term “combat aircraft” does not include primary trainer aircraft, unless designed, equipped, or modified as described above.
  5. Attack Helicopters: Rotary-wing aircraft designed, equipped or modified to engage targets by employing guided or unguided anti-armor, air-to-surface, air-to-subsurface, or air-to-air weapons and equipped with an integrated fire control and aiming system for these weapons, including versions of these aircraft which perform specialized reconnaissance or electronic warfare missions.
  6. Warships: Vessels or submarines armed and equipped for military use with a standard displacement of 750 metric tons or above, and those with a standard displacement of less than 750 metric tons, equipped for launching missiles with a range of at least 25 kilometers or torpedoes with a similar range.
  7. Missiles and Missile Launchers: (a) Guided or unguided rockets, ballistic, or cruise missiles capable of delivering a warhead or weapon of destruction to a range of at least 25 kilometers, and means designed or modified specifically for launching such missiles or rockets, if not covered by categories I through VI. For the purpose of the Register, this subcategory includes remotely piloted vehicles with the characteristics for missiles as defined above but does not include ground-to-air missiles. (b) Man-Portable Air-Defense Systems (MANPADS).

All Member States, regardless of their size or their prominence, are invited to participate in the Register. Those member states with no imports and/or exports to annually report can participate by submitting "NIL" returns. Since its establishment in 1992, 167 states have participated in the Register by reporting either on a consistent basis or at least once. In 1993, 94 states submitted returns; in 1994, 93; in 1995, 97; in 1996, 96; in 1997, 95; in 1998, 98; in 1999, 84; in 2000, 99; in 2001, 117; in 2002, 126; and in 2003, 120. Almost all of the major producers, exporters, and importers of major conventional weapons have participated in the Register on a consistent basis.

In 2003, 16 of the 53 African Member States; 31 of the 53 Asian Member States; 22 of the 22 Eastern European Member States; 24 of the 33 Latin American and Caribbean Member States; 27 of the 29 Western European and other Member States; and 2 of the 2 non-Member States had submitted reports to the UN Register. As a result of the Register, regional transparency has been advancing.

The UN Register of Conventional Arms Report is made available to all Member States, encouraging bilateral and regional dialogues on security concerns. Both the reporting forms and that data are available at the UN website, http://disarmament.un.org/cab/register.html

For further information contact:

Mr. Nazir Kamal
Department for Disarmament Affairs
United Nations, NY
Tel: (212) 963-6195
Fax: (212) 963-1121
E-Mail:[email protected]