Arms Fairs

The Omega Research Foundation has a long history of collating, analysing, and making public information on arms and security trade fairs from around the world. At Omega, we use this data to monitor the activity of arms companies, identify the launch of new and potentially abusive products, and to expose gaps in existing laws and regulations designed to control the manufacture, promotion, and trade of military, security, and policing (MSP) weapons and equipment. 

To view our data on arms fairs, click here.

We know that the data we collect is useful for researchers, journalists, human rights activists, and anyone else who is interested in exploring and challenging the global arms trade. For this reason we are  working in collaboration with Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) to make the data we have on arms and security fairs and the companies that attend them publicly available.

The arms fair data collected by Omega and CAAT can be accessed in a few different ways. Users who want to access and use the raw data for their own research or project can access all of the data from our repository hosted on Github. Alternatively, users who simply wish to search the data or explore some of the insights that it provides, can do so using our interactive data browser, here.

What is an arms and security fair?

Arms and security trade fairs are events where arms companies exhibit their weapons and equipment to those interested in buying. Attendees include government and military delegations from around the world, other arms companies, and ‘middlemen’ that arrange large deals. Fairs provide an opportunity for companies to showcase and demonstrate their wares, meet potential clients, and broker deals with governments. Dozens of arms fairs are held annually around the world. Some are relatively small, attracting only a few dozen exhibitors from the host country and surrounding states. Others, such as Milipol Paris (France) and DSEI (United Kingdom) are much larger and are frequently attended by 1000s of exhibitors and 10,000s of visitors from around the world.

In the arms fair data repository we have included any event which features an ‘exhibition’ or is attended by ‘exhibitors’, and which meets either of the following criteria:

  • Events that specifically invite or categorise exhibitors in the sectors of ‘defence’, ‘security’, ‘military’, ‘policing’, or ‘hunting’.

  • Events attended by, or organised in collaboration with, state organisations that facilitate the export of controlled goods, such as the Export Control Joint Unit in the United Kingdom, for example.

 Using Omega’s arms fair website it is possible to search for fairs by their main focus. For example, fairs with a focus on aerospace, cyber-security or surveillance, military, naval, or police and law enforcement equipment. 

What companies are listed?

We aim to include complete exhibitor lists for the events described above. Not all companies in these listings are arms companies, some provide purely military products and services while others provide products and services intended primarily for the civilian market but which may have military applications. There are also some notable companies in military-adjacent but benevolent fields such as search and rescue or mine clearance.

In most cases, data is presented as collected without an attempt to correct spelling errors or update company names that have been changed by rebranding or acquisition. Logical errors, for example where a company's country has been listed as its name, and vice versa, have been corrected when encountered. Every effort has been made on our part to ensure that exhibitor lists represent the most up-to-date available data.

How complete is the data?

Our research has so far identified approximately 1750 unique arms and security fairs that are known to have taken place globally. The majority of these events took place over the past twenty years. However, some of the data that we hold in our archive relates to arms fairs held as far back as the 1970s and 1980s.

Of the arms fairs events we have identified, around 500 have so far been added to the repository. Of these, roughly 200 of have complete exhibitor lists (see the repository itself for the latest figures). Thus, at this stage the dataset is far from complete. or now it would therefore not be appropriate to use the data in the repository for comparative analysis. 

This project is still ongoing. Over the coming months, Omega and CAAT will continue to work together to add more data from our archives to the repository and to collaborate to collect data on upcoming fairs as well as to identify additional historical fairs that are not currently included in the dataset.

Suggestions of events that are missing from our records are welcome to be submitted to data@caat.org.uk & info@omegaresearchfoundation.org.

How was the data collected?

For many years now, CAAT & Omega have compiled lists of arms fairs that we know have taken place. For each fair, we manually research whether an exhibitor list can be found, and where these exist we then use computational tools to convert lists into a consistent format.

One of the resources we use to identify lists that are not already in our archive is The Internet archive (also known as the Way Back Machine) https://archive.org/web/.

Does the repository contain information about government and military delegations?

In most cases we do not have any special knowledge beyond what is available in the public sphere, so our delegation lists will usually match the official list. It is also worth noting that fairs may have an incentive to exaggerate the presence of official delegations. Where we know that specific countries have been invited, but have not attended, this is tagged in the data, although this is a very small number of cases. The same is true for countries whose invitation has been retracted (eg. Thailand at Farnborough 2014).

Does the repository contain information about the products exhibited by companies at the fairs? 

In some cases fair organisers classify companies by the types of products that they will exhibit. Where this information is available it is included in the repository.   

Additionally, Omega also analyses exhibitor lists for any companies that are known to advertise items that are prohibited in certain jurisdictions or are of particular human rights concern (including torture equipment, anti-personnel landmines, cluster munitions, and surveillance software). We generally flag these with relevant NGOs at the time of the fair. If there are any weapons or equipment types that you are particularly interested in please email info@omegaresearchfoundation.org

Will company branding and/or advertising including brochures that are offered by the companies at the arms fairs be added to the repository in future? 

We aim to not include any material that is ostensibly covered by creative intellectual property rights. This would include published documents, corporate logos, illustrative images, and descriptive prose. Our goal is to include purely factual information about exhibitor attendance, which we consider to be in the public domain.

How has the repository been funded?

The vast majority of the research work has been covered by CAAT and Omega core funding. We are also grateful for the  grant we received from the Network for Social Change specifically for the work required to develop our collaborative tools and protocols. This grant is what has enabled our two organisations to work on this together.

We can only continue our work on the repository thanks to the generosity of individual supporters and grants from trusts and other human rights funders. Omega will never accept any funding from the industry we research or from companies or organisations that could compromise our independence.

If you would like to suport Omega's work on this project then please click here. If you would like any further information or to discuss your support for Omega, please contact us.

How can I access the data?

The arms fair data collected by Omega and CAAT can be accessed in a few different ways. Users who wish to access and use the raw data for their own research or project can access all of the data from our repository hosted on Github. Alternatively, users who simply wish to search the data or explore some of the insights that it provides, can do so here or via CAAT's website.  

 How can I securely share information with you about a fair I have attended?

We would welcome any information to be submitted to data@caat.org.uk & info@omegaresearchfoundation.org. If you would like to send a secure message, please email us at the addresses listed above and we will send you further contact details.

How can I ask a question about the data?

This project is a collaboration between the Omega Research Foundation and Campaign Against Arms Trade. Any enquiries may be directed to info@omegaresearchfoundation.org or data@caat.org.uk. Corrections may be submitted by email or as GitHub issues.