When it is established that an Item of
Supply is unique, its identity is fixed through the assignment of its
own NATO Stock Number (NSN). NSNs are issued by National Codification
The NSN is a 13 digit number and is divided into 3 parts:
The first 4 digits are the NATO Supply Classification Code and
relate the item to the group and class of similar items, as the
following examples show:
The next 2 digits indicate the NCB assigning the NSN.
The final 7 digits of an NSN do not have inherent significance.
However, the number is assigned to one and to only one Item of
Supply within the codifying country.
An example of a NSN and related terms is shown below:
Code (NSC )
NATO Code for
NATO Item Identification Number (NIIN)
NATO Stock Number
The NIIN is the invariable part of the NSN, and it remains
associated with the item of supply concept throughout its life
cycle. However, the NSC may change if there is a change to the
classification structure. NSNs are usually assigned to items that
are needed on a recurring basis. NSNs are assigned by the country of
manufacture, not the country that requires an NSN assignment. That
principle helps prevent NSN duplication.
In each country, the National Codification
Bureau is the central point of contact for getting items codified. You
will find information in the next question about how to find the point
of contact for the NCB in your country.
This Web site contains the points of
contact for each of the NATO National Codification Bureaus and for the
NCBs of sponsored nations, which have a special relationship with the NATO
countries in matters of codification. You will find these points of
contact by clicking on the following link:
What do I do if I need an NATO Stock
Number (NSN) as a matter of urgency ?
Contact the NCB of your country (see the
Web link in the previous question for a list of them). A special
procedure for assignment of NSNs on an emergency basis allows NSNs to be
assigned in as little as 24 hours.
How long will it take to get a NATO
Stock Number ?
The standard time frame for requests for
codification of items is 90 days. However, AC/135 has developed
accelerated and emergency procedures for customers that need faster NSN
assignments. Contact your NCB for details (see question 3 above).
Normally, NSNs are assigned early enough in the logistics process so
that codification does not hamper logistics operations in any way.
The NATO Master Catalogue of References
for Logistics (NMCRL) online and on DVD contains information about all
of the NSNs used by the NATO countries and sponsored countries. You will
find extensive information about it, including pricing and ordering
on the Web.
The forces of all of the NATO countries
and the non-NATO countries that participate in the NATO Codification
System (NCS). Some items of supply are used by only one country, while
others are used by many countries. Some items of supply are used by 15
or more countries. NSNs are used through the life cycle of items of
supply, from procurement through disposal and by all levels of the armed
forces. In many countries, NSNs are also used by the civilian sector of
Can you provide the technical
information of an Item of Supply?
The amount of technical information
available to you depends on what information you are authorized to have.
Anyone can obtain basic information about items of supply from the NATO
MCRL (see question 6 above). If you require more detailed technical
information, contact your National Codification Bureau (see question 3
above). Access to some item of supply information is restricted because
it is proprietary or for national security reasons.
How can you tell who manufacturers the
Item of Supply from a reference listed on the NSN ?
Every part number listed on NSNs in the
NCS is accompanied by a NATO Commercial and Governmental Entity (NCAGE)
code. These five character codes identify exactly who the manufacturer
or other organization is. With one mouse click, users of the NATO MCRL
can easily obtain the name and address and other details associated with
NCAGE codes. NCAGE code information is also available from national
CD-ROM products and databases.
How do I add the United Kingdom, for
example, as a user to a foreign NSN (to a United States NSN, for
In this case you would contact the UK NCB
and they would handle it using a simple electronic transaction. The NCB
of each country is responsible for handling all codification matters.
See question 3 for information about how to contact NATO NCBs.
Why would or should I go to the trouble
of doing either of the last 2 actions above ?
Both adding users and adding part numbers
to NSNs adds value to NCS data. Adding users helps promote
interoperability between countries. Adding reference numbers helps
ensure readiness by maximizing the number of available suppliers and
lowers costs by promoting competition among suppliers.
Why do you need all the technical
source data for the item ?
Technical data helps codifiers write full
item descriptions. These descriptions in turn help users of the NCS
determine if items of supply meet their requirements. Full descriptions
also help promote efficiency by providing the information needed for
item reduction studies and other rationalization projects.
The NCS is governed by the NATO Allies
collectively through NATO Allied Committee 135, known as AC/135. AC/135
is officially recognized by NATO headquarters as the governing authority
for all codification matters within NATO. AC/135 has regular meetings to
manage the NCS and to ensure that the NCS changes to meet the changing
needs of its customers. AC/135's business is managed administratively by
the NATO Support Agency (NSPA), located in Capellen, Luxembourg.
NATO codification is a government to
government function. Normally, the only role contractors play is to
provide technical documentation or part number verification to the NCB
of the country assigning the NSNs. An example of how the process can
work is as follows: Let's say a U.S. company has a contract to sell a
system to the Italian Air Force. The Italian Air Force should work with
the Italian National Codification Bureau to ensure that codification of
the spare parts for the system takes place. That process may include the
Italian Air Force providing tech data to the Italian NCB that it has
obtained from the U.S. company. The Italian NCB will take care of
contacting the U.S. NCB for assignment of NSNs and will forward any tech
data it has obtained from the Italian Air Force to the U.S. NCB to
assist item identification and NSN assignment. In any case, though, NATO
NCBs assign NSNs, not the contractors who sell systems and spare parts.
We hope these questions have provided the information you need
about the NATO Codification System. If you have any other questions or
believe that it would be useful to added other questions to this site,
contact the Webmaster AC/135 at