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Add-On - Reactive Armor
Explosive Reactive armor (ERA) is a common form of
add-on armor, used on many Armored Fighting Vehicles (AFV).
This concept is combat proven. Protection by explosive modules was deployed by the Israel Defense
Forces in the late 1970s, and was first, and successfully used in
combat with the Israeli Army M-60s and Centurion tanks in the 1982
War, and later, by the Russian Army by the mid
80s. Reactive armor utilize add-on protection modules conforming
of thin metal plates and a sloped explosive sheath, which explode
when sensing an impact of an explosive charge (such as High
Explosive Anti-Tank - HEAT projectile).
The ERA enables a significant increase in the level
of protection, primarily against shaped charges, without a
proportional increase in the weight of the protected platform. The
operating mechanism is based on an initiation of an explosion,
the plasma jet created from the shaped charge warhead as it
penetrates the armor.
The early models of reactive armor were considered effective against all types of
chemical energy projectiles, primarily ATGMs and HEAT rounds but
they did not have redundancy and offered limited protection
against multiple attacks.
Modern reactive armor is designed to use a combination of
energetic and passive materials and formation that can withstand multiple attacks.
The modern modular armor is designed
in smaller tiles, and more complex shapes that offer optimal plate
slopes to counter potential threats.
reactive armor suite was developed by RAFAEL for the Bradley
M-2 Infantry Fighting Vehicle (BIFV), under cooperation
between General Dynamics and RAFAEL.
version of Russian ERA, dubbed Kontakt5, deployed with T-80 and
T-90 tanks. This version is believed to provide some protection improvements
to counter kinetic energy (KE) rounds as well as shaped charges.
(Photo at left shows Kontakt5 modules on a Russian T-90 Tank).
An advanced version of ERA is the
Self Limiting ERA (SLERA). Based on better understanding of the
dynamics of ERA based shaped charge defeat mechanism, modern
systems are utilizing improved mechanisms, which utilize lower
masses of explosives which could be classified as passive armor.
These considerations have significant implications on the
logistics, storage and handling of AFVs and protection systems,
without degradation in the protection levels. Other applications
of reactive armor are based on the use of reactive properties of
the protection module, yet the initiation of such reactions are
not triggered by an explosive charge. Another type of non-metallic
ERA is the CLARA,
developed by Dynamit Nobel. As Non-Explosive Reactive
Armor (NERA) or Non Explosive reactive Armor (NxRA) modules do not
use energetic components, and therefore are not consumed when
being hit. Therefore, they provide an effective multi-hit
protection capability which cannot be obtained by ERA or SLERA.
Furthermore, the loads inflicted on the vehicle's structure are
much smaller and therefore, such modules can be applied to lighter
vehicles. from the reactive armor system. The downside of
NERA is that while it is effective against CE threats, its
performance is not sufficient when engaging KE threats. Scientists
are predicting that future developments of NERA will be able to
defeat medium caliber KE threats.
Further advancements of the
ERA, considered for future implementation, include a "Smart Armor"
concept that will has integrated sensors and microprocessors embedded into the armor,
which sense the location, type, velocity and diameter of the
projectile or jet, will trigger smaller explosive elements, to form an effect
tailored against a specific penetrator. Another future version of
the reactive armor concept is the Momentum Transfer Armor - which
is also designed to counter KE
threats. This technology is applicable for front and side
protection, where adequate space can be allocated for such
installation. The system will be activated by
threat warning sensors that
will detect an incoming projectile and launch a small steel bar in a
direction perpendicular to the flight-path of the approaching
threat. Such concepts are studied as part of futuristic armor
concepts, among others to the US Army
FSAP and French Leclerc 2010 concept.