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How Reactive Armor Works

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  • How Reactive Armor Works

    If you’ve seen photos of tanks in the last twenty years, you’re seen reactive armor – those blocks festooned all over some armored fighting vehicles. Have you ever wondered what they do and how they work? You have come to the right place.

    Reactive armor, more completely known as Explosive Reactive Armor (ERA), was originally designed to defeat High Explosive Armor Piercing (HEAT) warheads, the sort found on antitank rockets and missiles. Before you can understand how ERA stops them, you need to know how HEAT warheads work. And, of course, before that you need to know how conventional anti-tank warheads work.

    Conventional rounds work by brute force: mass, velocity, all that stuff. The momentum of the penetrator carries it through the armor, or not, depending. The impacting penetrator transfers so much kinetic energy to the armor, the material of the armor loses its structural integrity and behaves as a fluid, enabling the moving mass of the penetrator to push the material of the armor aside.. So far, nothing unexpected, right?

    The HEAT warhead usually moves at a lower speed, sometimes a much lower speed, but the explosion of the warhead creates a narrow jet of super-heated metal moving forward at extremely high velocity, and this jet of metal is what penetrates the armor. Here’s where it gets interesting. Although you may have heard that a HEAT warhead “burns” through the armor, you heard that from an ignoramus. It does not burn through the armor any more than a conventional round does, in ...


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