Explosive Reactive Armor: The Best Protection Against Anti-tank Weapons

Explosive reactive armor increases the survivability of tanks and their crew.

Tanks have experienced considerable upgrades over the years, but explosive reactive armor has been the most meaningful upgrade for tank survivability.

It makes them resistant to hostile fire and improves the crew’s survivability. 

Now, current tanks such as the Abrams and Leopard 2 use this technology to improve their effectiveness and protect the lives of their crews no matter how intense the enemy fire is.

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What is an explosive reactive armor?

Explosive reactive armor
Reactive armour “DYNA” for T-72 MBT by Shaddack. Public domain.

The explosive reactive armor is a type of armor designed to neutralize incoming warheads. 

The Soviet Union originally generated this reactive armor based on the knowledge gained during World War II. However, the first prototypes weren’t robust enough to block all explosive charges.

The first tanks to employ this evolved technology were the Soviet T-64, which was introduced in the late 1960s, and the early production versions of the T-72

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Then, in 1982, the Israeli army tested the effectiveness of this defensive system in the war against Lebanon. Dozens of tanks withstood various anti-tank missiles, especially soviet made RPGs. It was a success, and other military powers started implementing explosive reactive armor in their tanks as a result.

How does explosive reactive armor work?

ABCT beefs up tanks with reactive armor
ABCT beefs up tanks with reactive armor by the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division. Public Domain.

When an object hits the plate, it ruptures and triggers the reserve explosives inside to explode outward, ejecting shrapnel-like fragments at very high speeds from the tank.

Modern explosive reactive armor comprises two or more layers acting as containers for explosives… and are generally in the shape of a tile, made of strong material to protect the vehicle from the penetration of the anti-tank shells, missiles, and ammo. 

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Explosive reactive armor dramatically increases tank survivability

explosive reactive armor
Soldiers with 527 Military Police Company, 709 Military by nara.getarchive.net. Public Domain.

They are the most effective defense system against anti-tank weapons, and now the reactive armors have expanded to protect tanks against HEAT (High Explosive Anti-Tank).

It works by detonating a layer of explosive bricks before the tank round reaches the tank’s armor. The explosion forces the metal shell away from the tank’s armor.

Explosive reactive armor works well along with active protection systems such as the Israeli Trophy or the American Iron Curtain, which eliminate projectiles even before a hit on the tank, greatly increasing the chance of surviving an ambush or direct attack.

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Explosive reactive armors are not perfect though

These explosions should not damage the tank body as the power is directed away from the layout – and is not enough to threaten the lives of its crew. So, it’s a supplementary layer of defense to block the enemy from penetrating the tank’s Armor.

Although explosive reactive armor enhances the tank’s survivability, it is not infallible. Since an attack with contemporary missiles such as the Javelin, and even in some cases, RPG attacks can endanger the tank’s structure because the upper piece of the turret is the weakest due to thinner armor.

Additionally, this armor can be knocked out with multiple attacks in the same place which would render the explosive reactive armor inoperable– and if the crew members aren’t protected, the explosion would be fatal.

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It saves lives on the battlefield

This new generation of armors destroys these rounds before impacting the tank’s body, reducing their power and effectiveness.

Explosive reactive armor is the only kind of armor that safeguard the lives of tankers when a warhead hits the tank. Although multiple attacks will render the tank nonfunctional, its crew has a greater possibility of survival to fight another day.


Featured image credit: Patton Tank by cell105, Licensed under CC by 2.5

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