IoS identification is the most important element of the NATO Codification System, as it prescribes the characteristics required to uniquely identify an IoS Concept.

The IoS identification consists of the minimum data required to establish clearly the essential characteristics of the IoS, i.e. those characteristics which give the IoS its unique character and differentiate it from every other IoS. The basic rule of thumb is "One IoS, One NATO Stock Number (NSN)".

There are two methods of IoS identification, the descriptive method and the reference method. In both approaches, identification of the True Manufacturer or Design Authority for an IoS is essential for the proper application of the Uniform System of Item Identification (STANAG 3151). It is similarly important that all known manufacturers/suppliers of an IoS and their individual part or drawing numbers be recorded. This process ensures that codification data users in the logistics chain are aware of where the Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) of any given IoS lie and that all known sources of that IoS are known to Acquisition Officers in national procurement organisations. 


The descriptive identification of IoS requires the use of uniform Item Names and technical descriptions using Item Identification Guides (see following sub-paragraph). Also, each Approved Item Name is referenced in the National Handbooks H-6 to a specific Item Identification Guide.

An Item Identification Guide (IIG) is a document used to identify an IoS by describing its attributes or characteristics in order to differentiate it from other Items of Supply and to record the necessary supplementary data required for logistics management. Each IIG is a self-contained document containing a compilation of requirements plus decision making rules to establish the IoS's individual identification. Each guide covers a complete "family" of like Items of Supply and lists the requirement for the recording of the IoS's characteristics, ready-formatted for machine processing.

As an additional tool for use with the descriptive method, the use of reference drawings has been developed. The purpose of these drawings, is to express, pictorially, characteristics of Items of Supply which cannot be adequately described by words alone. Relevant reference drawings are integrated in Item Identification Guides.


The reference identification of an IoS is an indirect process of identification. In this approach, the Item Name is supported by reference data only, consisting of the manufacturer's name (encoded In Accordance With (IAW) the NATO Commercial and Governmental Entity Code (NCAGE) allocation and formatting rules see Paragraph 1.6.4), and the reference/drawing number by which the IoS is known and recognised by the manufacturer.