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Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR)

The Missile Technology Control Regime at a Glance

July 2017

Contact: Kelsey Davenport, Director for Nonproliferation Policy, (202) 463-8270 x102

Updated: July 2017

The Missile Technology Control Regime Guidelines and Annex

Established in April 1987, the voluntary Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) aims to limit the spread of ballistic missiles and other unmanned delivery systems that could be used for chemical, biological, and nuclear attacks. The regime urges its 35 members,1 which include most of the world's key missile manufacturers, to restrict their exports of missiles and related technologies capable of carrying a 500-kilogram payload at least 300 kilometers or delivering any type of weapon of mass destruction.2

Since its inception, the MTCR has been credited with slowing or stopping several missile programs by making it difficult for prospective buyers to get what they want or stigmatizing certain activities and programs. Argentina, Egypt, and Iraq abandoned their joint Condor II ballistic missile program. Brazil, South Africa, South Korea, and Taiwan also shelved or eliminated missile or space launch vehicle programs. Some Eastern European countries, such as Poland and the Czech Republic, destroyed their ballistic missiles, in part, to better their chances of joining the MTCR.3 The regime has further hampered Libyan and Syrian missile efforts.

Yet, the regime has its limitations. Iran, India, North Korea, and Pakistan continue to advance their missile programs. All four countries, with varying degrees of foreign assistance, have deployed medium-range ballistic missiles that can travel more than 1,000 kilometers and are exploring missiles with much greater ranges. India is testing missiles in the intercontinental range. These countries, which are not MTCR members except India, are also becoming sellers rather than simply buyers on the global arms market. North Korea, for example, is viewed as the primary source of ballistic missile proliferation in the world today. Iran has supplied missile production items to Syria.

How the MTCR Works

Each MTCR member is supposed to establish national export control policies for ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles, space launch vehicles, drones, remotely piloted vehicles, sounding rockets, and underlying components and technologies that appear on the regime's Material and Technology Annex. Members can add items to or subtract them from the annex through consensus decisions.

The annex is divided into two separate groupings of items, Category I and Category II. Category I includes complete missiles and rockets, major sub-systems, and production facilities. Specialized materials, technologies, propellants, and sub-components for missiles and rockets comprise Category II.

Potential exports of Category I and II items are to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Approval for Category I exports is supposed to be rare. The regime's guidelines, which set out criteria for weighing possible exports, instruct members that "there will be a strong presumption to deny" Category I transfers. No exports of production facilities are to be authorized. MTCR restrictions for Category II exports are less severe, largely because many items in the category also have civilian uses. Members, however, are still asked to exercise caution in making such deals. No member can veto another's exports.

The MTCR identifies five factors that members should take into account when evaluating a possible export of controlled items:

  • Whether the intended recipient is pursuing or has ambitions for acquiring weapons of mass destruction;
  • The purposes and capabilities of the intended recipient's missile and space programs;
  • The potential contribution the proposed transfer could make to the intended recipient's development of delivery systems for weapons of mass destruction;
  • The credibility of the intended recipient's stated purpose for the purchase; and
  • Whether the potential transfer conflicts with any multilateral treaty.

MTCR members are asked to obtain an assurance from the intended recipient that it will only use the export for the purpose claimed when requesting the deal. Members are also to secure a pledge from the intended recipient that it will not transfer the requested item or any replicas or derivatives to a third party without permission.

Because the regime is voluntary and the decision to export is the sole responsibility of each member, the MTCR has no penalties for transfers of controlled items. However, U.S. law mandates that Washington sanction entities-individuals, companies, or governments (whether they are MTCR members or not)-exporting MTCR-controlled items to certain countries identified as proliferators or potential threats to U.S. security. Sanctions may also be levied if the United States judges the transfer contrary to the MTCR. Typically, Washington prohibits the charged entity from signing contracts, receiving aid, or buying arms from the U.S. government for a period of two years. Sometimes the penalties can be imposed for longer lengths of time or extended to commercial imports and exports as well.

Outside the MTCR

Several countries have pledged to abide by the MTCR without joining it. Israel, Romania, and the Slovak Republic have all committed to maintaining export controls consistent with the regime.

After several years of the U.S. curtailing its sale of missiles and missile technologies, China announced in November 2000 that it would not help other countries build ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons. Beijing, which was a key contributor to Pakistan's missile development, and has in the past provided sensitive technology to countries like North Korea and Iran, also pledged that it would issue a comprehensive list of controlled items requiring government approval before export. That list, however, was not published until August 2002. In 2004, China applied for MTCR membership, and, at the time, voluntarily pledged to follow the regime's export control guidelines. Although China no longer sells complete missile systems and has tightened its export controls, its membership was rejected due to concerns that Chinese entities continued to provide sensitive technologies to countries developing ballistic missiles, such as North Korea.

In 2008 India voluntarily committed to following the MTCR export control guidelines, since that time the United States has been working to secure India's membership in the regime. India's announcement was made shortly before the Nuclear Suppliers Group granted an exemption to India. New Dehli continues to develop its own ballistic missile program. In June 2015, India formally applied for membership in the regime, but Italy blocked consensus on its application during the October 2015 plenary. Nine other countries applied as well in 2015, none of which were admitted into the regime. India was later admitted in June 2015. 

Hague Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missile Proliferation

MTCR members spearheaded a voluntary November 2002 initiative, the Hague Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missile Proliferation (formerly known as the International Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missile Proliferation), calling on all countries to show greater restraint in their own development of ballistic missiles capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction and to reduce their existing missile arsenals if possible. The aim of the initiative is to establish a norm against missiles that could be armed with chemical, biological, or nuclear warheads. As part of the initiative, participating countries are to annually exchange information on their ballistic missile and space launch vehicle programs, as well as provide advance notice of any launches of ballistic missiles or space launch vehicles. The Hague Code of Conduct has 138 member states, including all MTCR members except Brazil. Brazil has expressed concerns about how the initiative might affect its space program.


1. MTCR members, followed by the year they joined the regime, are: Argentina (1993), Australia (1990), Austria (1991), Belgium (1990), Brazil (1995), Bulgaria (2004), Canada (1987), the Czech Republic (1998), Denmark (1990), Finland (1991), France (1987), Germany (1987), Greece (1992), Hungary (1993), Iceland (1993), India (2015), Ireland (1992), Italy (1987), Japan (1987), Luxembourg (1990), the Netherlands (1990), New Zealand (1991), Norway (1990), Poland (1998), Portugal (1992), Russia (1995), South Africa (1995), South Korea (2001) Spain (1990), Sweden (1991), Switzerland (1992), Turkey (1997), Ukraine (1998), the United Kingdom (1987), and the United States (1987).

2. Originally, the MTCR was limited to stopping the proliferation of nuclear-capable missiles, which was defined as a missile able to travel at least 300 kilometers with a 500-kilogram payload. Five hundred kilograms was considered the minimum weight of a first generation nuclear warhead, while 300 kilometers was believed to be the minimum distance needed to carry out a strategic strike. Members agreed in the summer of 1992 to expand the regime's objective to also apply to missiles and related technologies designed for chemical and biological weapons. That change took effect in January 1993. The move effectively tasked members with a making a more difficult and subjective assessment about an importer's intentions, as opposed to denying a specific capability (a missile able to deliver a 500-kilogram payload at least 300 kilometers), because many more missiles and unmanned delivery vehicles could be adapted to deliver lighter chemical and biological weapons payloads.

3. Prospective MTCR members must win consensus approval from existing members. U.S. policy is that new members that are not recognized nuclear-weapon states must eliminate or forgo ballistic missiles able to deliver a 500-kilogram payload at least 300 kilometers. The United States, however, made an exception in 1998 for Ukraine, permitting it to retain Scud missiles. Three years later, Washington also agreed to let South Korea develop missiles with ranges up to 300 kilometers to secure its membership in the MTCR. Seoul previously agreed in 1979 to limit its missile development to those with ranges less than 180 kilometers. South Korea was granted another extension in October 2012. Seoul and Washington reached an agreement allowing South Korea to extend the range of its ballistic missiles to 800 kilometers with a 500 kilogram payload. This extension will allow Seoul to target all of North Korea. South Korea tested a ballistic missile with a range of 500 km in June 2015 and announced in October 2015 that it would deploy systems with an 800 km range in 2017.

Nuclear/Ballistic Missile Nonproliferation

Posted: July 25, 2017

Mapping Nuclear Security and Nonproliferation Efforts



This new resource aims to inform policymakers, scholars, and the general public on the role that overlapping multilateral initiatives play in nonproliferation efforts.


New Online Resource Maps Efforts to Combat Nuclear Terrorism and Curb the Spread of Nuclear Weapons

For Immediate Release: December 6, 2016

Media Contacts: Tony Fleming, director of communications, 202-463-8270 ext. 110

(Washington, DC)—The Arms Control Association today launched a new online resource in mapping and tracking the objectives and key activities of five major nuclear nonproliferation regimes.

The Nuclear Nonproliferation Initiatives Mapping Project aims to inform and update nuclear policy experts, scholars, students, and the general public, on the role that overlapping multilateral initiatives play in bolstering the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) by securing weapons-usable materials, regulating the spread of dual-use nuclear ballistic missile technologies, and blocking the illicit transfer of weapons-related items.

The Arms Control Association is launching a New Online Resource Maps Efforts to Combat Nuclear Terrorism and Curb the Spread of Nuclear WeaponsProject information and resources are available online at NuclearNonProMap.org
The five initiatives examined in this project include

  • the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism,
  • the Missile Technology Control Regime,
  • the Nuclear Suppliers Group,
  • the Proliferation Security Initiative, and
  • the G7 Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons of Mass Destruction.

"Each of these initiatives plays a critical role in reinforcing governments' efforts under the NPT, which entered into force in 1970, to combat the threat of nuclear terrorism, prevent the rise of new nuclear-armed actors, and strengthening the global nuclear security architecture," noted Kelsey Davenport, director of non-proliferation policy, who developed the site. 

In addition to displaying the geographic scope and providing a brief background of each initiative, this project provides general recommendations that could improve the effectiveness of each in the years ahead. These recommendations are based on open source information about the work of each initiative.

The project also presents options for collaboration amongst these voluntary groups to amplify impacts and results. These recommendations are meant to spur creative thinking about how these voluntary initiatives can adapt and evolve to better address future threats and challenges.
By consolidating references and recommendations, the project serves as a resource to better understand the role that voluntary intergovernmental initiatives play in bolstering nonproliferation and nuclear security efforts. The project was made possible by the generous support of the MacArthur Foundation.

The site will be updated periodically to reflect the changing membership and priorities of each initiative, developments related to the challenges they address, as well as additional recommendations for strengthening multilateral efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and combat nuclear terrorism.


The Arms Control Association is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing authoritative information and practical policy solutions to address the threats posed by the world's most dangerous weapons.


Posted: December 2, 2016

The Nuclear Nonproliferation Initiatives Mapping Project

Visit the full Project site at NuclearNonProMap.org

Table of Contents

Posted: November 21, 2016

India Joins Ballistic Missile Initiatives

India joined a voluntary regime that promotes ballistic missile transparency and was admitted to an export control regime designed to prevent the spread of ballistic missiles. 

July/August 2016

By Kelsey Davenport

India joined a voluntary regime last month that promotes transparency around ballistic missile development and was admitted to an export control regime designed to stem the spread of technologies relevant to developing missiles and unmanned systems capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). 

New Delhi announced on June 2 that it subscribed to the Hague Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missile Proliferation. On June 27, the Dutch chair of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), Piet de Klerk, released a statement saying that the “formal procedures” for Indian membership in the regime were finalized. 

India’s membership in the MTCR was expected after a June 7 joint U.S.-Indian statement, released during Indian President Narendra Modi’s visit to Washington, said that Modi and U.S. President Barack Obama looked forward to India’s “imminent entry” into the MTCR. 

The Hague code of conduct is a voluntary, multilateral initiative subscribed to by 138 countries. It calls on member states “to exercise maximum possible restraint in the development, testing and deployment of ballistic missiles capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction (WMD), including, where possible, to reduce national holdings of such missiles.” States also agree not to assist other countries in the development of ballistic missile programs and to “exercise vigilance” in assisting in space launch programs, given the applicability of the technology to missiles. 

Any state can join the code of conduct by subscribing to the group’s principles. Participating states agree to submit pre-launch notifications and declare policies related to ballistic missile development on an annual basis. Austria serves as the administrator for the group. 

India already notifies Pakistan at least 72 hours in advance of ballistic missile flight tests under an agreement reached by the two countries in 2005. (See ACT, November 2005.

The MTCR is an initiative designed to prevent the spread of missiles and unmanned systems capable of delivering nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. The regime, which was formed in 1987, defines WMD-capable delivery systems as missiles or drones capable of carrying a 500-kilogram payload a distance of 300 kilometers. 

MTCR members agree to consider export policy guidelines designed to limit the spread of technologies applicable to the development of WMD-capable missiles and drones.

With India, the MTCR now comprises 35 member states, and new members are admitted on the basis of consensus. 

De Klerk’s statement said that India’s membership “will strengthen international efforts to prevent proliferation of delivery systems” capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction.

An official familiar with India’s bid to join the MTCR said on June 22 that one of New Delhi’s “primary motivations” for joining these regimes is to strengthen its bid to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). The official said that India is trying to represent itself as a “responsible member of the international community committed to countering proliferation” of weapons of mass destruction and related technologies. 

Despite these steps, India was not admitted to the NSG at the group’s plenary meeting in June (see page 23).

The official said that the impact of India’s membership on slowing missile proliferation depends on how vigorously New Delhi adheres to MTCR export controls. 

India attempted to join the MTCR at the group’s last plenary meeting, in October 2015, but was blocked by Italy over an unrelated matter. (See ACT, November 2015.) At the time of application, India said its space program was suffering because it was not a member of the regime. 

Many technologies and materials applicable to ballistic missile development are also applicable to space launch vehicles, although the MTCR says the regime is not designed to inhibit space programs. 

India’s membership does not guarantee it access to sensitive technologies, and other MTCR partner countries can still deny exports because the regime’s guidelines “do not distinguish between exports to Partners and exports to non-Partners,” according to a summary on the MTCR website.

Posted: July 5, 2016

How Should Washington Respond to Iran’s Ballistic Missile Tests?

Iran’s recent ballistic missile tests, while extremely unhelpful, should not come as a surprise. And although the missile tests violate UN Security Council Resolution 1929, they are not a violation of the soon-to-be-implemented nuclear deal between six world powers and Iran. There should be consequences for violations of Security Council resolutions. However, U.S. policymakers should put the risks posed by the missile tests in perspective and pursue effective actions that address the violation, but do not undermine progress toward reducing Iran’s nuclear potential. Despite the passage of UN...

India’s Bid to Join Missile Regime Fails

November 2015

By Kelsey Davenport

India’s bid to join a multilateral regime designed to stem the spread of certain types of missiles and drones failed last month when its application was blocked by Italy, an official who attended the meeting said.

The official said in an Oct. 19 e-mail that Italy’s objection to India’s membership in the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) was likely motivated by a bilateral dispute between Rome and New Delhi unrelated to the regime.

He and other sources cited a 2012 incident in which two Italian marines guarding an Italian cargo ship killed an Indian fisherman. Indian officials arrested the marines, who claimed that they fired warning shots and were attempting to guard the ship. India and Italy are involved in a dispute over the trial.

India said in June that it applied for membership in the MTCR, an initiative designed to prevent the spread of missiles and unmanned systems capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

India’s application for membership was considered at the annual plenary, which was held Oct. 5-9 in the Dutch city of Rotterdam. Membership is determined by consensus of the group, which currently has 34 members.

Vikas Swarup, spokesman for the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, said on Oct. 9 that the application was well received but “remains under consideration.”

The regime, which was formed in 1987, defines WMD-capable delivery systems as missiles or drones capable of carrying a 500-kilogram payload over a distance of 300 kilometers. India already possesses a number of missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.

MTCR members agree to abide by export policy guidelines designed to limit the spread of technologies applicable to the development of WMD-capable missiles and drones.

Swarup said that India’s membership would “strengthen global nonproliferation objectives.”

From left to right, Indian Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Nirmala Sitharaman, Indian Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker speak to reporters after a meeting in Washington on September 22. In a joint statement with India issued that day, the United States expressed its support for India’s entry into the Missile Technology Control Regime at the group’s meeting in October. [Photo credit: Prakash Singh /AFP/Getty Images]The United States backed India’s bid for membership and affirmed its support prior to the plenary in a Sept. 22 statement on U.S.-Indian relations. The Obama administration voiced support for Indian membership five years ago (see ACT, December 2010) and has consistently supported it since then.

The State Department did not respond to a request for comment on India’s unsuccessful membership bid.

When India applied to join the regime, it said that its space program had suffered because it was not a member of the regime. Membership would not ensure that India would be able to purchase restricted items because MTCR guidelines “do not distinguish between exports to Partners and exports to non-Partners,” according to a summary on the MTCR website. But India has argued that membership would raise its profile as a responsible state committed to nonproliferation.

Technology applicable to missile development is also used in space programs. The statement issued by MTCR members after the plenary meeting noted that the regime is not designed to “impede technological advancement and development, including space programmes,” as long as it does not contribute to WMD-capable delivery systems.

India is not the only country to have applied for membership. Nine additional countries are seeking to join the regime, none of which were accepted, said the official who attended the meeting.

 The official said that Russia objected to allowing several eastern European countries, including Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, to join the regime.

The Oct. 9 statement said that individual applications for membership were “thoroughly discussed” and the issue of expanding the membership will remain on the agenda. The last country admitted to the MTCR was Bulgaria in 2004.

States that are not members of the regime can voluntarily adhere to the export guidelines. The statement noted that, since last year’s plenary, Estonia and Latvia pledged to use the regime guidelines as the basis for their export controls of missile-related technologies, and the statement encouraged other countries to do the same.

Posted: November 2, 2015

Rushing to Failure, Again

Hit or Miss, Sunday's Missile Defense Test Will Not Justify Expansion If the interceptor in Sunday's test hits, its test record would be one-for-three. Good for baseball, bad for stopping nukes. The United States has better alternatives. By Tom Z. Collina In 2004, President George W. Bush began fielding the Ground-Based Missile Defense (GMD) system that is in place today, composed of 30 interceptor missiles in Alaska and California, intended to counter a possible long-range missile attack from North Korea or Iran. Ten years later, it is all-too clear that the prototype system was rushed into...

Saudi Arabia Displays Missiles

In an April 29 parade, Saudi Arabia publicly displayed two ballistic missiles that it purchased from China in the 1980s.

Kelsey Davenport

In an April 29 parade, Saudi Arabia publicly displayed two ballistic missiles that it purchased from China in the 1980s.

This display is Saudi Arabia’s first public acknowledgement of the purchase of Dong Feng-3 (DF-3) missiles.

It remains unclear how many missiles were part of the sale. Estimates range from 30 to 50.

The DF-3 was developed by the Chinese in the 1960s and first deployed in 1971. Saudi Arabia is not known to have tested a DF-3.

It is a liquid-fueled, single-stage missile with a range of about 3,000 kilometers for a 1,000-kilogram payload. It can carry nuclear weapons, but the missiles sold to the Saudis have conventional warheads. China reportedly provided guarantees to the United States that the missiles were modified to prevent them from ever being used to carry nuclear warheads.

The range of the DF-3 allows Saudi Arabia to target Iran. Some experts believe that Saudi Arabia may have displayed the DF-3 as a show of strength, given the hostile relationship between the two countries and Riyadh’s concern about Iran’s nuclear program.

Saudi Arabia reportedly purchased more-modern missiles from China, including the DF-21, a medium-range ballistic missile. No DF-21 missiles were displayed in the April parade. Reports of the sale first emerged in 2010.

The DF-21 is a two-stage, solid-fueled missile with a 2,000-kilometer range. China first deployed the DF-21 in 1991. It is considered a more reliable system than the DF-3, and its solid fuel makes it more mobile.

Posted: June 2, 2014

India Tests Ballistic Missile for Subs

India successfully tested a new, longer-range submarinelaunched ballistic missile (SLBM) on March 24, Indian news outlets reported last month.

Kelsey Davenport

India successfully tested a new, longer-range submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) on March 24, Indian news outlets reported last month.

The test of the missile, known as the K-4, took place off the southeastern coast in the Bay of Bengal using a submerged pontoon. The two-stage, nuclear-capable missile traveled approximately 3,000 kilometers, the news accounts said.

India did not immediately publicize the missile test. But The Hindu on May 8 quoted officials who were present at the test as calling it “excellent” and saying that they would conduct “many more missions” like it to increase the reliability of the missile.

The K-4 eventually is to be deployed on Indian submarines, the first of which is currently undergoing testing.

Avinash Chander, director-general of India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), said May 13 that India would be conducting a test launch of the K-4 from the INS Arihant “within the next few months.”

The DRDO is the main Indian government entity responsible for developing new, advanced military technologies.

India announced the successful development of a shorter-range SLBM, the K-15, in July 2012 and indicated at that time that the longer-range K-4 was under development. (See ACT, September 2012.)

According to the DRDO, the K-15 has a maximum range of 700 kilometers for a 700-kilogram payload.

Only four other countries—China, France, Russia, and the United States—have the capability to produce SLBMs. Although the United Kingdom deploys such missiles, they are produced in the United States.

India is planning to develop four nuclear submarines in total, and the boats are designed to carry four K-4 missiles or 12 K-15 missiles. New Delhi is planning to deploy the submarines by 2023.

Posted: June 2, 2014

European Missile Defense No Answer to Russia

USS Monterey armed with SM-3 Block IA interceptors and the Aegis missile defense system. The SM-3 cannot intercept Russian long-range missiles. The just-passed House Armed Services Committee plan to accelerate U.S. missile defense deployments in Poland to counter Russian action in Ukraine is all bark and no bite. By Tom Z. Collina The United States has a strategic interest in establishing economic and political stability in Ukraine, reassuring nervous NATO allies, and warning Russia that further interference in Ukraine or elsewhere would be a serious mistake. Congress, however, should be...


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