Reactive armor is an incredible battlefield technology protecting our troops on the battlefield. Reactive armor shields a vehicle from incoming projectiles and is known for being most effective against shape charges and long rod penetrators. Multiple types of reactive armor are being used on tanks and other armored vehicles in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan today. Reactive armor has been used in vehicles since the 1980’s by the Russians and throughout Europe, although leaps and bounds are being made in this armor technology. The image below shows an “up-armored” M3A3 Bradley fighting vehicle fitted with reactive armor in a huge contract given to General Dynamics.
Explosive Reactive Armor can only withstand one hit from a shape charge as the armor literally explodes upon impact. Explosive Reactive Armor isn’t safe to install in vehicles that will be deployed with infantry units. The amount of shrapnel discharged from an impact with explosive reactive armor is enough to kill any infantry nearby. Despite these shortcomings ERA is widely used in armor all over the world like the Russian kontakt 5 deployed with the T-80 and T-90 tanks. Kontakt 5 has improvements that help protect the Russian tanks from KE-penetrators and shape charges.
Non explosive Reactive armor (NERA) the other hand can withstand multiple hits as long as two charges don’t hit in the same location. When a penetrator rod impacts NERA the armor plate bends and bulges effectively increasing the thickness of the armor making it hard for the rod to penetrate the armor. Pound for pound Explosive Reactive armor packs more of a punch when it comes to protecting your vehicle although its drawbacks are evident allowing only 1 impact. NERA’s performance when engaging Kinetic energy threats is sub-par.
Electric Reactive Armor (NxRA) is an incredible new technology that is being developed. By using electric charges, this armor will be able to vaporize a penetrator rod or shape charge or turn it to plasma. This technology has not publicly been released on any operational vehicle although it sounds pretty amazing.
Weapon Systems such as the Javelin fire-and-forget missile can defeat most known types of reactive armor using a tandem warhead, meaning it contains two shape charges. One of the shape charges is meant to detonate the Armor while one uses its energy to penetrate the tank. Hellfire missiles and the CBU-105 Sensor Fused Weapon also contain similar technology to overcome these advances in armor.
If you want more information on reactive armor and its nemesis’, check out this very explanatory 7 minute video below.