The role and capabilities of major weapon systems transferred between 1950 and 2010: empirical examinations of an arms transfer data set

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Arms transfers provide exporters an avenue to provide security to other states while gaining economic benefits. Arms transfers provide importers an avenue to gain security without having to rely on alliances. Past research uses aggregate measures of the monetary or security value of major weapon system transfers without accounting for strategic differences in possible use in interstate and civil conflict. This article presents a data set on interstate transfers of major weapon systems between 1950 and 2010 building upon Stockholm Peach Research Institute’s Arms Trade Register with several improvements. First, it disaggregates land weapons and air weapons into categories reflecting their strategic capabilities. Second, model level characteristics (e.g. age, speed, and range) are drawn from Jane’s Defence sources. Additionally, the data set covers a larger range of time and states than previous data sets categorizing arms. To demonstrate the usefulness, this article first presents summary statistics of the data set and then replicates an earlier test to show that the effect of human rights and regime types on United States transfers differs across the categories of arms compared to alternative measures of arms transfers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)272-297
Number of pages26
JournalDefence and Peace Economics
Issue number3
Early online date20 Apr 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • arms transfers
  • arms trade
  • data set
  • major weapon systems
  • international security

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