A Breakdown of NSNs

A National Stock Number (NSN) is an officially recognized moniker given to any item of supply that is in wide use throughout the federal supply system. It is sometimes referred to as a NATO Number and is comprised of a series of numbers used to identify a single unique item. When the NSN is assigned, data such as item name, manufacturer part number, unit price, and physical characteristics are all taken into consideration to provide an accurate set of digits to describe the part. National Stock Numbers are a critical aspect of the logistics supply chain of militaries throughout the world for their management, movement, storage, and disposal of materials.

NSNs are recognized by the US government, all members of NATO, and many more governments and entities across the globe. Federal agencies such as the US Department of Defense use NSNs to manage billions of dollars’ worth of supplies every single year. The concept of the NSN was created during WW2 as a way for allied forces to use standardized names that all services were familiar with. Before NSNs, different military services and branches had many different names for the same parts. This inevitably caused a great deal of confusion and made sharing important items more difficult.

NSNs are not something that can be obtained. That is to say, a manufacturer or supplier does not have the authority to create or request an NSN. NSNs are assigned once a military service, NATO nation, federal/civil agency, or a Contractor Support Weapons System (CSWS), identifies a need for a given part. For example, say the army purchases a certain type of pistol. If they are happy with the way the pistol performs and suspect that they will continue purchasing it, the pistol and all its parts are assigned an NSN to speed up the process when they go back to buy more.

NSNs are assigned by the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), a branch of the Department of Defense. Each code is assigned through a process called cataloging in which an item is named, assigned a federal supply class codes, its characteristics are named, and finally, given an NSN. Information regarding all NSNs in circulation is maintained by the Federal Logistics Information System which is controlled by the DLA. The DLA is the preeminent authority in the assignment of NSNs.

The NSN is constructed of three parts and has 13 digits in total. The first four digits refer to the item’s federal supply class. The middle two digits denote the part’s country of origin, or the country from which the request came. The final seven digits are sequentially assigned and are used as a unique code to differentiate parts. These last 9 digits are the National Item Identification Number (NIIN). The NIIN is also a code to identify parts, but is different from the NSN. NSNs remain a necessary part of the defense industry to this day. Manufacturers often use many unique names for even the simplest of parts, so the implementation of a standard language has greatly improved the exchange of parts.

At Fulfillment 3Sixty, owned and operated by ASAP Semiconductor, we can help you find all the NSN parts for the aerospace, civil aviation, and defense industries. Our NSN lookup and NSN search tools allow you to quickly and easily find exactly the parts you are in search of.  We’re always available and ready to help you find all the parts and equipment you need, 24/7-365. For a quick and competitive quote on any part in our NSN catalog, email us at sales@fulfillment3sixty.com or call us at 1-480-504-1299.



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March 11, 2021

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