Conflict Armament Research

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Conflict Armament Research (CAR) is a UK-based investigative organization that tracks the supply of conventional weapons, ammunition, and related military materiel (such as IEDs) into conflict-affected areas. Established in 2011, CAR specialises in working with governments to find out how weapons end up in war zones, and in the hands of terrorists and insurgent groups.

The group maintains the iTrace Global Weapon Reporting system, which is funded by the EU[1] and the Government of Germany. CAR also provides technical support services including training and capacity-building.

Areas of Work[edit]


CAR has worked in 27 conflict-affected countries.[2] Teams embed with national security and defence forces to document weapons at the point of use, and track their sources back through the chain of supply. Investigators photograph all markings and distinguishing characteristics, GPS-record all recovery sites and use in-field interviews with local stakeholders to build a case for each item documented. CAR does not rely on photographs sourced from social media.[3]

All verified data is uploaded to CAR's iTrace system.[4] Data is used to map the global chain of supply of arms, from the place of manufacture, to the point of capture or recovery.


iTrace is a project funded by the EU and the Government of Germany. The iTrace system maps weapons data collected by the organization's field investigative teams. The database is "the world's largest public repository of diverted conventional weapons."[5] iTrace is designed to help national authorities to identify points and risks of diversion, and to generate map weapon flows.


CAR provides technical, policy, and support services to governments, international, regional and non-governmental organizations. These services include: policy support for weapon marking, identification, and record-keeping; IED and UXO contamination mapping; guidance and training on arms management; and analytical input to international arms control processes such as the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) and the UN Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons (PoA).[6]


Iraq and Syria[edit]

In December 2017, CAR published a report documenting more than 40,000 items recovered from Islamic State (IS) forces between 2014 and 2017.[7] The group reported that the majority of arms and ammunition were originally made in China and Russia, with almost a third of recovered weapons having first been produced by EU member states that were former Warsaw Pact countries.[8]

Some of these items had been re-exported by the US and Saudi Arabia to Syrian opposition groups before ending up in IS hands.[9] CAR found that one Bulgarian-made anti-tank missile sold to the US Army made its way to IS forces in just 59 days.[10]

The report also found that IS "has been able to manufacture their own weapons and IEDs on an industrial scale thanks to a robust chain of supply."[11] Turkish territory was the main, but not only, source of chemical explosive precursors for IEDs made by IS.[12]

CAR has also documented attempts by IS forces to develop weaponised drones, including a visit to a drone workshop in Ramadi, Iraq.[13][14]


CAR has provided information on how rebel groups in Yemen are getting weapons, including assault rifles and anti-tank guided weapons that were seized from dhows in February and March 2016 by Combined Maritime Forces, and that were "suspected to have originated in Iran and were destined for Somalia and Yemen."[15][16]

In December 2017, CAR reported on a remote-controlled 'drone boat' that had been reportedly seized in Yemen's coastal waters, providing a breakdown of how the water-borne IED had been constructed.[17]

Sudan and South Sudan[edit]

Reports from CAR show that despite active UN and EU arms embargoes, the Sudanese government has continued to import military and dual-use goods, some of which it has used in the conflict in South Kordofan and Blue Nile state.[18]

Sudan has used foreign imports to build up its own domestic production capabilities. CAR says that since 2014 newly-manufactured Sudanese military materiel has been found in the hands of armed groups in South Sudan, Central African Republic, Cote d'Ivoire, Libya, Mali, and Niger.[19]

In 2015 CAR reported that South Sudan's military has seized a stash of weapons that may have been supplied to a rebel group by Khartoum, which says it is not involved in the conflict.[20][21]

The Sahel[edit]

Based on field investigations carried out in eight countries during 2015 and early 2016, CAR found evidence of widespread circulation of illicit arms between armed groups in West Africa. The group documented how weapons looted or leaked from Libyan stockpiles after the civil war in 2011 had fuelled armed actors in Central African Republic, Chad, Cote d'Ivoire, Mali, Niger, and Syria.[22]

CAR also discovered a new set of weapons used in a series of attacks against hotels and security forces by Islamist armed groups in the Sahel that were "unlike any previously documented in the sub-region."[23] These matched with weapons found in Iraq and Syria, and suggest, according to CAR, possible links in supply sources between groups active in Iraq and Syria and in West Africa.


Joint investigations by CAR and the Small Arms Survey in Mali following the Tuareg rebellion in 2012 identified a range of weapons, ammunition, and related materiel in the hands of various armed groups.[24][25] Armed groups in Mali have received supplies sourced from Libya and captured from military stockpiles in Mali. Weapons confiscated from armed groups in northern Mali include 7.62 x 39 mm to 14.5 x 114 mm calibre ammunition, mortar rounds, rocket-propelled grenades, and air-to-ground rockets.[26]

Central African Republic[edit]

The group have reported on weapons and ammunition used in the Central African Republic on all sides. Stockpiles held by the Séléka included small arms produced in Sudan and China.[27] Séléka forces had used Belgian, Czech, and UK ammunition manufactured in 2007–10, German military trucks, and 2011-manufactured Chinese RPG rounds. Anti-balaka militias had used 12-gauge shotgun shells manufactured in Spain, Italy and Cameroon. Some of these arms appeared to have been diverted from their original intended users. Chinese-manufactured grenades, widely held by Séléka and anti-balaka forces, and common among armed civilians, appear to have been intended to be shipped to Nepal. The report also found that Chinese made Type 82-2 hand grenades can be bought for under US $1, making them cheaper than a bottle of Coca-Cola.



• Weapons of the Islamic State (December 2017)

• Sudanese stockpiles and regional weapon diversion (May 2017)

• Investigating cross-border weapon transfers in the Sahel (November 2016)

• Tracing the supply of components used in Islamic State IEDs (February 2016)

• Non-state armed groups in the Central African Republic (January 2015)

• Rebel forces in northern Mali (April 2013)

• Distribution of Iranian ammunition in Africa (December 2012)


• New Sudanese weapons in Blue Nile state (April 2017)

• Standardisation and quality control in Islamic State’s military production (December 2016)

• Maritime interdictions of weapon supplies to Somalia and Yemen (November 2016)

• Weapons and ammunition airdropped to SPLA-iO forces in South Sudan (June 2015)

• Islamic State weapons in Kobane (April 2015)

• Islamic State ammunition in Iraq and Syria (October 2014)

• Islamic State weapons in Iraq and Syria (September 2014)


• Warsaw Pact-calibre ammunition quantity tables

• Russian MANPADs technology

• Warsaw Pact-calibre ammunition box marking

• Identifying marks on Kalashnikov-pattern weapons

Field Perspectives[edit]

• Anatomy of a ‘drone boat’ (December 2017)

• Islamic State’s multi-role IEDs (April 2017)

• Iranian technology transfers to Yemen (March 2017)

• Islamic State’s weaponised drones

• Inside Islamic State’s improvised weapon factories in Fallujah

• Turkish fertilisers used in Islamic State IEDs in Iraq

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Council Decision (CFSP) 2017/2283". 11 December 2017.
  2. ^ "Annex - Council Decision 2017/2283". 11 December 2017.
  3. ^ Conflict Armament Research. "Methodology".
  4. ^ Conflict Armament Research. "iTrace".
  5. ^ "Annex, Council Decision 2017/2283". 11 December 2017.
  6. ^ Conflict Armament Research. "Services".
  7. ^ Conflict Armament Research (December 2017). "Weapons of the Islamic State".
  8. ^ Ensor, Josie (14 December 2017). "Nearly a third of all weapons used by Isil on the battlefield were manufactured in EU, report claims". The Telegraph.
  9. ^ Crawford, Jamie (14 December 2017). "Report details where ISIS gets its weapons". CNN.
  10. ^ Joselow, Gabe (14 December 2017). "ISIS weapons arsenal included some purchased by U.S. government". NBC News.
  11. ^ Crawford, Jamie (14 December 2017). "Report details where ISIS gets its weapons". CNN.
  12. ^ Eroglu, D. (14 December 2017). "En kapsamlı rapor: IŞİD'in bomba malzemelerinin çoğu Türkiye'den". Diken.
  13. ^ Beck, John (3 January 2017). "ISIL ramps up fight with weaponised drones". Al Jazeera.
  14. ^ Conflict Armament Research. "Frontline Perspective: Islamic State's Weaponised Drones".
  15. ^ Kube, C. (27 October 2016). "U.S. Officials: Iran Supplying Weapons to Yemen's Houthi Rebels". NBC News.
  16. ^ Conflict Armament Research (November 2016). "Maritime interdictions of weapon supplies to Somalia and Yemen".
  17. ^ Conflict Armament Research (December 2017). "Frontline Perspectives: Anatomy of a drone boat".
  18. ^ Conflict Armament Research (May 2017). "Sudanese stockpiles and regional weapons diversion".
  19. ^ Smart-Abbey, N.A. (24 May 2017). "Sudan accused of bypassing arms embargo to import weapons". africanews.
  20. ^ Joselow, Gabe (2 June 2015). "Report: Khartoum Possibly Arming Rebels in South Sudan". Voice of America.
  21. ^ Conflict Armament Research (June 2015). "Weapons and Ammunition airdropped to SPLA-iO forces in South Sudan".
  22. ^ Dettmer, J (20 November 2016). "Jihadists, Insurgents Plundering State Arsenals Across Sahel". Voice of America.
  23. ^ Conflict Armament Research (November 2016). "Investigating cross-border transfers in the Sahel".
  24. ^ Conflict Armament Research (April 2013). "Rebel forces in Northern Mali".
  25. ^ "Mali rebels used Libyan weapons - report". DefenceWeb. 19 April 2013.
  26. ^ ATT Monitor (2016). "Tackling Terror: How the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) could help stop the diversion of arms and ammunition in West Africa" (PDF).
  27. ^ Conflict Armament Research (January 2015). "Non-state armed groups in the Central African Republic".

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