Development – concept to production

Protocol V is one of the very few instruments that addresses the design through to the production of munitions. This is a sensitive area that is generally kept within the domain of national governments and private companies. However, improvements to the design of ammunition and applying strict controls and internationally recognised quality standards throughout the production process can contribute to reducing the rate of unexploded ordnance. This is why High Contracting Parties are urged to take action in these areas.

For a discussion on standardisation across the areas of production to in-service see “A discussion on international harmonisation of the safety and suitability for service assessment” by Dr. Michael W. Sharp, MSIAC.

Specifically on munitions manufacturing management, the third part of the Technical Annex to Protocol V encourages High Contracting Parties to carry out the following measures:

(i) Production processes should be designed to achieve the greatest reliability of munitions.

(ii) Production processes should be subject to certified quality control measures.

(iii) During the production of explosive ordnance, certified quality assurance standards

that are internationally recognised should be applied.

(iv) Acceptance testing should be conducted through live-fire testing over a range of

conditions or through other validated procedures.

(v) High reliability standards should be required in the course of explosive ordnance

transactions and transfers.

(b) Munitions management

In order to ensure the best possible long-term reliability of explosive ordnance, States are

encouraged to apply best practice norms and operating procedures with respect to its storage.

Article 36 of Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions

Under Article 36 of Additional Protocol I, States have an obligation when designing, developing or purchasing new weapons to assess the risks posed by the particular weapon and its compliance with international humanitarian law. This is in line with the direction given to States under Protocol V to ensure that the processes for the production of munitions achieves a high standard of reliability.

Article 36 states: “In the study, development, acquisition or adoption of a new weapon, means or method of warfare, a High Contracting Party is under an obligation to determine whether its employment would, in some or all circumstances, be prohibited by this Protocol or by any other rule of international law applicable to the High Contracting Party.”

The ICRC has published “A Guide to the Legal Review of New Weapons, Means and Methods of Warfare: Measures to Implement Article 36 of Additional Protocol I of 1977“. International Review of the Red Cross, Volume 88 Number 864 December 2006.

Protocol V does not specifically address the issue of procurement of munitions. For a discussion on this issue see “Report of Expert Group 8 Environmental Engineering” CEN Workshop 10 Standardisation for Defence Procurement Expert Group 8 Environmental Engineering, April 2011

Checklist on the development of munitions

The Protocol V Generic Preventive Measures checklist addresses the development of munitions. Set out below are the questions included in the checklist in the areas of specification, concept, development, qualification work and production.


(a) Has each stage (storage, transport, handling, training, use, …) of the life cycle of munitions been defined, in terms of

(i) Normal conditions, abnormal conditions and accidental conditions of use

(ii) Type of environmental conditions and the level to which munitions may be exposed (direct or indirect exposure i.e when integrated in weapon system),

(iii) Duration of exposure to different environmental conditions,

(iv) Configuration/ state of munitions during periods of exposure to different environmental conditions,

(v) Maximum allowable degradation during its operational lifecycle i.e. during storage, transport, handling, use with particular weapons systems …?

(vi) Is there a requirement for a specified life time?

(b) Are quantitative reliability and safety requirements included in the specification for the entire life cycle?

(c) Is there a maximum allowable UXO rate?

(d) Have the types of targets to be engaged and scenarios of use by munitions been considered and characterized?

(e) Are the impact conditions of the munitions considered i.e. angle of impact of munitions/ type of impact surface?

(f) Has fuse sensitivity been defined in specification?

(g) Are any materials, which are forbidden by international standards or regulations, used?

(h) Which design standards shall be applied during development and production? Are they internationally recognized? If not, is there a comparison matrix between standards?


a) Does the design process include a proactive systems safety program (SSP)?

(b) Have the safety aspects and potential hazards of munitions on becoming an UXO been considered?

(c) Does the fusing system incorporate design features that allow assessment to facilitate render safe procedures?

(d) Does the design of fusing systems (or munitions) allow replacement or incorporation of advanced solutions to decrease the failure rate (e.g.: self destruction mechanism, self neutralization mechanism, self-deactivating features, multiple initiating mechanisms, hardware or software upgrades …)?


(a) Does the design work include features and parameters to enable munitions products to meet the specified requirements for reliability, safety, storage, transport and handling, throughout the whole life cycle of munitions (e.g. : including operational usage and disposal)?

(b) Are munitions designed to maintain the required level of reliability in all specified environmental and foreseeable operational conditions throughout all life cycle stages?

(c) Is the quality of the chosen components (materials, mechanical parts, explosive materials, compatibility and time degradation of pyrotechnic materials, electronic parts, battery…) optimised against the performance and the specified UXO rate?

(d) Where appropriate and technically feasible, does the design permit the testing of critical functions, which may lead to UXO prior to use (by user or BIT)?

(e) Does the fusing system incorporate design features, which definitively limit the foreseen active time of munitions: self-destruction mechanism, self-deactivating feature (e.g. Electrical Firing Energy Dissipation), self-neutralisation mechanism (e.g. disarming, sterilisation), and self-disruption?

(f) Are features or functions, related with safety, tested at a 100% level?

(g) Does the design of the fusing system include features that facilitate, as applicable, effective automated and/or manual quality assurance methods, tests and inspections?

(h) Are munitions designed to achieve the specified lifetime without unacceptable degradation of reliability and safety?

(i) Does the design of munitions include features for health monitoring that facilitate, as applicable, a prognostics and diagnostics capability, thereby assuring the effectiveness and reliability of munitions throughout the lifecycle?

(j) Are the lot numbers marked on munitions?

(k) Has a reliability and safety analysis been performed e.g. are potential malfunctions of munitions analysed and is the design improved and verified by analysis and specific reliability and safety tests?

(l) Are critical functions and characteristics, with respect to UXO, defined?

(m) Are quantitative reliability and safety requirements assessed by analysis and tests?

(n) If, in munitions, there are software or programmable components, do you refer to international standards? Do you define, plan and perform specific activities to assure reliability and safety?

(o) Has process analysis been realised to assure the greatest reliability of munitions? (e.g. FMECA process)

Qualification work

(a) Does the qualification program (testing and simulation) cover all military and technical requirements and have the data been recorded and been used to assess the UXO rate and to manage them during the conflict?

(b) Does the qualification program (testing and simulation) have sufficient statistical validity to allow a reliable evaluation of the reliability and safety of munitions in all operational environments?

(c) Is there a safety assessment report which covers all safety aspects (UXO included) for the entire lifecycle?

(d) Is there any independent office or organization to check and approve safety of munitions (e.g. fuse review board, national safety authority …)?


Has the production process been qualified?

Are critical characteristics for safety and UXO rate, defined in safety assessment studies, checked during production?

Have the production process quality assurance methods been validated?

Is there assembly line/configuration management in place during production to record batches of munitions and parts? (e.g.: to permit investigation of defaults found during tests, training and use)?

When some parts of munitions are stored during the manufacturing process, are conditions and limited durations of storage known and applied? Are the parts checked before using?

Is the acceptance test procedure defined in accordance with national or international standards?