G-43. In the past decade, there has been a revolution in armor technology. Research and new developments have come from Europe, the United States, and Israel. These improvements also are becoming much more common in Third World armies. In addition, many older tanks and other armored fighting vehicles are being retrofitted with improved armor protection. These advanced armor configurations improve the vehicles’ survivability against all weapons. They are designed specifically to protect against HEAT warheads and essentially fall into four categories: reactive, laminated, composite, and appliqué. Improved armor types include the following:
- Reactive armor. Reactive armor comes in several varieties, but the principle is essentially the same for all. The armor consists of blocks of explosives sandwiched between two metal plates and bolted on the outside of the vehicle. Small-arms and artillery shrapnel will not set off the blocks. However, when a HEAT round strikes the block, the explosive ignites and blows outward. The blast and moving steel plates disperse and deflect the jet of the HEAT warhead, dramatically reducing its ability to penetrate armor.
- Laminated armor. Laminated armor consists of flat layers of steel armor plates with layers of ceramics, fiberglass, or other nonmetallic materiel’s in between. This armor is highly effective against all types of weapons, but is difficult and expensive to manufacture. Vehicles with laminated armor are characterized by flat, slab sides, such as on the M1-series Abrams tank and the German Leopard II.
- Composite armor. Composite armor consists of a nonmetallic core (usually some kind of ceramic) around which the rest of the steel of the hull or the turret is molded. This is much more effective than conventional steel armor against all types of weapons, but less so than laminated armor.
- Appliqué armor. Appliqué armor is essentially extra plates mounted or welded on top of the hull or turret of a vehicle. It can be made of any material, but is frequently made of ceramic or laminated materials. Like reactive armor, appliqué armor is an easy and cost-effective way of improving the protection of older vehicles.