Current STANAG for ammo shelf life?


Is the relevant STANAG for small arms ammunition regarding shelf life to be found anywhere on the net? I’ve tried a few of the usual places, for example, but my search-fu is not good.


I searched a year or two ago for the same information and found nothing.



Is shelf life even addressed in any ammunition STANAG?


I wonder if it is at all as shelf life may be a condition of the RFP of the purchasing entity. After the shelf life is exceeded the ammo gets reinspected and tested (sometimes also chemical analyses) and then declared serviceable for a certain period till it will get inspected again.
Also the shelf life will depend on chemical properties of the used propellant and primer composition. I am not sure if this can be put into a STANAG.
Just my thought.


I was trying to make a list of the different procurement agencies and their rules for inspection of small arms ammo. The FMT (danish) rules are known to me as are the US to a degree through this article: … ab_eq.html
More could be found in the manual SB 742-1 which is sadly not available on the net without paying.
DocAV has touched the subject in an australian context some time ago.
One particular question I would like an answer to is: Does the air forces of the world destroy flown cannon ammo? In other words: Does the flight technicians empty the fighter planes of ammo once it has been flown? Is the 20mm or whatever so damaged by flying in a modern jet that it is discarded after one flight?


Soren–I can answer part of your question. In the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam era we had two major 20mm gun systems using the 20x102mm round. We had the M61 Gatling Gun and the older M39 Revolver Cannon. Any unshot 20mm that had been cycled through the M61 was then downgraded for use only in the M39. The M39 had a much looser tolerance for slight imperfections in the ammunition feed system such as small amounts of dirt, small dents, minor out of roundness, etc. I remember one incidence in Vietnam when we were low on new 20mm for the M61. So we used the once cycled rounds to reload the M61’s. This was done on 8 aircraft (F-4E Phantoms) and 6 of the 8 came back from the mission with jammed guns. All of them had been able to fire less than half of the total available ammunition. We had some VERY mad pilots and that was never done again.


This entire thread has been very interesting for me, due to my association with ammunition inspection, shelf/service life, and NATO. As EOD has stated, it would be practically impossible to include this in a STANAG, which by their very nature are hard to publish, as they must be concurred on by each nation, and harder to change. In the case of the US, we have different shelf life requirements for different types of the same basic munitions item, based on manufacturer, date of manufacture, packaging at production, packaging currently, storage conditions, and the results of prior surveillance inpections for that ammo, that lot, and similar lots. Most of these requirements are included in tech data (Technical Manuals for US Army; Technical Orders for US Air Force, etc.)

The article you included mentions my old friend Jim Wheeler, a Quality Assurance Specialist (Ammunition Surveillance) or QASAS who really reached the top of his field, as Director of the Army’s Defense Ammunition Center. Unfortunately, he passed way too soon and way too young; it was a great loss to the entire Ammunition community.

Now, for Fighter aircraft, I cannot go back as far as Ron with his “war stories” because I was only in from 1974 until 2004; however, during my time, the FLYING of ammo did not affect SHELF life: It could only have affected SERVICE life. These are very different things as far as USAF ammo is concerned. Shelf life involves time in storage, and service life involves time in use; once 20mm is “broken out” and issued for loading, i.e. removed from its original packaging, then service life is over and shelf life begins. As pointed out in the article, the US Army affects shelf life and performs surveillance testing for all “single manager” ammunition in storage. However, service life, which begins when the munition is taken out of storage for use, is normally more controlled by the owning organization, in some cases down to the Major Command of the Service Branch. In the early years of my experience, I worked in a unit that owned A-7 attack aircraft, and the ammunition was kept uploaded until it was either “fired out,” or expended on a mission; had to be downloaded for other reasons–often all ammunition was downloaded for certain types of maintenance such as gun system, fuel system, Phase inspections etc. or if the aircraft had sat on an alert status for 30 days. After download, the ammunition was “reworked” which could have only been an inspection, cleaning, relinking, etc. and then the ammo was reclassified based on the results of that inspection. It could be that the ammunition was reclassified as training use only, or restricted to a less demanding weapon system, as Ron mentions. Also, like Ron said, if a gun jammed, which was very common, then of course the entire gun, feed system and ammo were all downloaded, inspected, maintenance performed, etc. Gun jams were very common for a number of reasons–at that time, I thought that the large amount of “wear and tear” after our SWA experience, the poor climatic conditions in that theater, and ammo produced by the lowest bidder all played a role.

I could go on, but don’t know who is interested, but if you have specific questions, I was involved with “cross servicing” of aircraft for NATO planning purposes from 1986 to 1990, and sat on several NATO ammunition working groups.

Again, I don’t remember ever seeing a STANAG that covered surveillance inspections for any item, from small arms to AIM-9L missiles.



Thanks to both Taber and Ron for clarifying a lot of my questions on this matter. I am trying to find out if AMA made other air force ammo than the 20x102 and reading manuals is one way to research this subject.


The German airforce today and in the past decades (to what I been told by servicemen) is that once flown ammo was disposed of as there are concerns about pressure changes, temperature changes and G forces. All these do affect all sorts of parameters and in particular all sorts of seals.
As we see in this thread there are different approaches of different armies to the same subject.
Side note:
The British for example had special ballast dummies (20x110 HS and 30x112B) they were using for training flights where a fully armed aircraft was simulated. Of course this was not neccessarily for the sole reson of saving ammo but certainly also for safety reasons when no gun use was scheduled in a practice bombing or missile/rocket sortie for example. I guess this is still done today by almost all air forces but there I assume that the planners figured to make regular dummies with the weight properties of life ammo in order to not have something weird like ballast dummies and run more line items than neccessary (and save money again). Thought this could be worth to mention in the context of the discussion here.

A lower level of the same subject is what is done with regular land force ammo which was stored in vehicles in a combat situation and had been driven around on patrols or operations. All this ammo gets replaced on a regular level. And here again the rule for replacement may vary from literally “milage” or just “time” (or a mix of both when one factor is ignorable due to the field situ like which factor is exceeded first).