Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPGs), the scourge of armoured fighting vehicles worldwide, may finally meet their match if a UK developed electric armour system gets the green light from military bosses.
The ready availability of RPGs – they can be picked up for as little as $10 in most of the world’s trouble spots – is allied to a terrifying capacity for destruction.
Upon impact, an explosive warhead shoots a jet of hot copper into the target at several miles per second. Capable of penetrating over 1 foot of solid steel armour, this simple weapon can destroy a modern armoured infantry combat vehicle or tank. Few vehicles could practicably carry the weight of armour needed to resist such impacts, so the MOD’s scientific arm, the DSTL (Defence Science & Technology Laboratory) has been charged with developing a lighter solution.
The result is an Electric Armour system that DSTL claims will reduce the effect of impacts by such projectiles to almost zero.
Developed at DSTL’s R&D facility in Fort Halstead, Kent, the system consists of an outer skin – made from an unspecified high-strength alloy – that can be rapidly electrified to several thousand volts.
When hit by an RPG, the incoming copper jet has to pass through the electrified layers.
DSTL’s Professor John Brown explains how it works: ‘the high speed copper jet is virtually instantaneously dispersed by the powerful fields generated by the so-called ‘Pulsed Power’ System carried by the vehicle. Any residual debris is absorbed by the vehicle’s ordinary armoured hull.’
In a recent demonstration to high level British Army and MOD Customers, an armoured personnel carrier equipped with the system was subjected to repeated attacks, some from point blank range, and suffered only cosmetic damage.
Professor Brown says that the system, which weighs only a couple of tonnes, has a protective effect equal to carrying an extra 10 – 20 tonnes of steel armour.