Military End-Use Controls: Recent Updates and User Guidance

July 5, 2023
Military End-Use Controls: Recent Updates and User Guidance

Military End-Use Controls

What are military end-use controls?

Military end-use controls are regulations imposed by governments to restrict or monitor the export or transfer of goods, technologies, or services that could have military applications or contribute to military activities. 

End-use controls make it possible to place export restrictions on goods that are not specified in the UK Strategic Export Control Lists on an individual basis. In practice, this means that you may still need an export licence, even though the goods you intend to export often do not.

Why are military end-use controls necessary?

These controls are implemented to prevent the spread of weapons, protect national security interests, and ensure that sensitive technologies or equipment do not fall into the wrong hands.

There are several reasons why military end-use controls are important when exporting goods:

  • Ensuring national security and non-proliferation of weapons: Preventing military goods, technologies and equipment from being used by, or transferred to, unauthorised parties.
  • Ensuring strategic trade control: Preventing violation of international arms embargoes, sanctions, or export control regimes that promote stability, disarmament, and peacekeeping efforts.
  • Protecting technological advantage: Limiting the illegitimate transfer of advanced military goods ensures that countries can maintain their competitive defence capabilities. 
  • Preventing destabilisation: Monitoring and restricting exports of military goods minimises the risk of conflicts or escalations between countries. 
  • Protecting Human Rights: Preventing the export of military goods that might be used to violate human rights, ensuring adherence to international humanitarian law, and prohibiting the use of military force against civilians.

Which countries implement military end-use controls?

Updates in NTE 2022/17 military end-use controls

In the Trade Policy Update Written Ministerial Statement of 8 December 2021, the Secretary of State for International Trade outlined the revised Strategic Export Licensing Criteria, revealing plans to expand the scope of end-use scenarios the UK’s military end-use controls applied to. This statement additionally announced that China would be added to the list of those destinations subject to an arms embargo.

On 19 May 2022, these modifications were implemented by The Export Control (Amendment) Order 2022, along with the addition of China, Hong Kong, and Macau to the list of destinations subject to a weapons embargo.

This will not change the extent of the partial arms embargo on China, but the updated military end-use controls will apply.

Controlled Items and Technologies

Dual-use technologies and goods

Dual-use technologies and goods refer to products, technologies, or materials that have both civilian and military applications. The term “dual-use” highlights their dual nature and the potential for their application in both peaceful purposes and for military or security-related purposes.

Examples of dual-use technologies and goods include:

  • Advanced electronics
  • Aerospace and aviation equipment
  • Chemicals and materials
  • Advanced machinery and equipment
  • Nuclear and radiation-related technologies
  • Biotechnology and pharmaceuticals


Weapons systems and components

Weapons systems and components are the units that make up a weapon or piece of military equipment. These can include parts, subsystems, or complete systems that are specifically designed and manufactured for military purposes.

Examples of weapons systems and components include:

  • Firearms (components include the barrel, trigger mechanism, firing pin, magazine, and stock, among others).
  • Missiles and rockets (components include airframes, propulsion systems (including engines or rocket motors), guidance systems, warheads, and control surfaces).
  • Military vehicles (components include chassis, engines, armour plating, weapon systems, communication equipment, and targeting systems).
  • Aircraft and drones (components include airframes, engines, avionics systems, radar systems, weapons systems, and navigation and communication equipment).
  • Naval systems (components of these include hulls, propulsion systems (engines or nuclear reactors), navigation and communication equipment, weapons systems (such as missiles, torpedoes, or naval guns), and sensor systems).
  • Munitions: (components s include casings, explosives, fuses, warheads, and guidance systems for guided munitions).
  • Electronic warfare systems (components include jamming equipment, radar detectors, electronic countermeasures systems, and signal intelligence systems).

Defence-related software and information

Defence-related software and information are software applications, technologies, and data specifically designed and used in defence and military operations. 

Examples of these include:

  • Command and control systems
  • Cybersecurity and Encryption
  • Intelligence and surveillance systems
  • Communication systems
  • Simulation and training systems and software
  • Geographic Information Systems
  • Logistics and supply chain management systems
  • Weapon systems and guidance software
  • Research and Development (R&D) software and information

It’s crucial to remember that precise information on software and information used in defence is highly classified and not accessible to the general public. The examples provided represent broad categories; the actual software and information utilised in defence operations may differ based on the nation, organisation, and particular requirements.

Exemptions and Exceptions

Humanitarian and peacekeeping exemptions

Provisions that provide certain exceptions or considerations to be made in the context of defence and military operations are known as humanitarian and peacekeeping exemptions. These exemptions acknowledge that, even in the midst of armed conflicts or military operations, it is crucial to safeguard and support civilians, advance human rights, and facilitate peacekeeping efforts. 

Below are two typical instances of these exemptions:

  • Humanitarian Exemptions: Humanitarian exemptions are designed to protect and provide relief to people and vulnerable communities afflicted by armed conflicts or other emergency situations. In giving humanitarian aid, these exemptions acknowledge the values of humanity, neutrality, impartiality, and independence. They may consist of:
  • Safe zones: Areas that have been designated as places where aid workers and humanitarian organisations can operate without fear of being directly targeted by the military.
  • Humanitarian corridors: Established routes or channels that permit the safe and unhindered passage of aid workers, supplies, and equipment to reach affected populations.
  • Humanitarian pauses or ceasefires: Temporary suspensions of military operations to facilitate the distribution of aid, medical evacuations, or the negotiating of peace agreements.
  • Rules of engagement: Guidelines for military forces that emphasise the safety of civilians and minimise harm to non-combatants.
  • Peacekeeping Exemptions: Peacekeeping exemptions refer to the specific rules and instructions given to peacekeeping forces sent out by international organisations, such as the United Nations. In accordance with the values of peace, security, and the protection of civilians, these exemptions enable peacekeeping forces to complete their missions efficiently. These exemptions can include:
  • Self-defence and protection: Peacekeeping personnel may use force to defend themselves, civilians, and their mission goals if necessary.
  • Monitoring and reporting: The mission and relevant authorities are informed of violations or potential threats by peacekeeping forces who gather intelligence, observe ceasefires, observe human rights situations, and monitor ceasefires.
  • Mediation and conflict resolution: In order to promote peace, encourage discussions, and facilitate reconciliation procedures between disputing parties, peacekeeping forces may engage in dialogue and mediation activities.
  • Disarmament and demobilisation: Armed groups can be demobilised, combatants can be disarmed, and former combatants can be helped to reintegrate into society with the help of peacekeeping forces.

Strategic Alliances and defence cooperation

Collaborative defence partnerships and agreements between countries or organisations are referred to as strategic alliances and defence cooperation. These alliances are built to advance shared interests, strengthen overall security, and meet common challenges. 

The following are some key aspects related to defence cooperation and strategic alliances:

  • Shared security objectives: By combining their resources, knowledge, and skills, nations work together to pursue common objectives and improve their collective security, such as countering common threats, preserving regional stability, battling terrorism, or solving new security issues
  • Military cooperation: Member countries can improve their military capabilities, interoperability, and preparedness by sharing experiences and exchanging knowledge, including coordinated training initiatives, intelligence exchange, and capacity building. 
  • Intelligence sharing: The sharing of intelligence between participating countries aids in the fight against global dangers including terrorism, organised crime, and the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Intelligence cooperation improves situational awareness, and rates of action, and strengthens overall security.
  • Defence procurement and technology transfer: Defence equipment and technology development, production, and procurement cooperation could lead to cost-sharing, technology sharing, and improved industrial capacities through joint research and development initiatives, technology transfer, and the co-production of military systems.
  • Crisis response and peacekeeping: In peacekeeping missions approved by international organisations like the United Nations, participating governments may coordinate their activities. Examples include the deployment of military forces, the sharing of logistical support, and the cooperative planning and coordination of operations.
  • Regional defence alliances: Alliances that promote cooperation, increase regional stability, and ward off prospective aggressors are created to address regional security issues within particular regions; examples include the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) and NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation).
  • Policy and strategy alignment: Participating nations must coordinate their policies, goals, and military doctrines in order to make it easier for alliance members to coordinate, cooperate, and make decisions together, enabling a coordinated and successful response to security problems.

Temporary exemptions for research and development

In the context of the defence industry, temporary exemptions for research and development (R&D) are rules that offer certain flexibility or relaxations to facilitate experimentation, innovation, and technological improvement. These exemptions temporarily modify or waive certain rules or restrictions in order to promote R&D operations. 

Examples of these include:

  • Regulatory exemptions: Temporary suspension or relaxation of regulations or compliance requirements that may obstruct or delay R&D activities, including certain safety standards, export restrictions, or licensing requirements.
  • Intellectual property protection: These exemptions may enable research partners to share sensitive information, research data, or patented technology without violating any intellectual property rights to promote collaborative R&D.
  • Funding and tax incentives: This can include tax credits, grants, or subsidies that are explicitly aimed towards R&D initiatives to lessen financial burdens and promote innovation
  • Ethical and regulatory review: Temporary exemptions from strict ethical or regulatory approval procedures may be needed for research covering certain sensitive or contentious areas in order to advance scientific knowledge.
  • Data access and sharing: Exemptions granted to facilitate access to restricted or classified data required for R&D; these exemptions may entail easing constraints on data access, sharing, or declassification.

What to do when you are advised of a military end-use concern?

Military end-use controls apply where the exporter has been ‘informed’ that an export requires a licence. This means that the ECJU has informed you that a particular export requires an export licence. 

You will always be “informed” via a written letter that explicitly states that “an export licence is required for this particular export” because both the specific items being exported and the specific end-user are assessed. 

The 2 common scenarios in which you will be informed are:

  • After submitting a licence application to the ECJU, you may receive an electronic letter via the licensing system stating that you require a licence. This means that even if you withdraw the application, a licence is still necessary if you wish later to export the same items to the same end-user.
  • After presenting goods for export, HMRC or Border Force detain the shipment for checks; if the detaining agency consults the ECJU and there are concerns about the goods being used in or by an embargoed destination, you will receive a letter informing you that an export licence is required, along with guidance on how to apply. 

It is a criminal offence to export items without a licence if you have been informed of the need for a licence by ECJU.

If you are informed of a military end-use concern, clearBorder can support you with your next steps and help you navigate the export control regulations so you know what to expect. We will ensure the appropriate licensing and / or release of your goods from seizure.

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