This is a major step in Armour design. Introduced around Tech level 7. This is a composite metal-ceramic armour/hull. This armour is similar in concept to spaced armour (where a second layer of hard steel is installed at a distance from the main armour).
Composite armour is a type of vehicle armour consisting of layers of different material such as metals, plastics, ceramics or air. Most composite armours are lighter than their all-metal equivalent, but instead occupy a larger volume for the same resistance to penetration. It is possible to design composite armour stronger, lighter and less voluminous than traditional armour, but the cost is often prohibitively high, restricting its use to especially vulnerable parts of a vehicle.
The most common type of composite armour is Chobham armour. Chobham sandwiches a layer of ceramic between two plates of steel armour, which was shown to dramatically increase the resistance to high explosive anti-tank (HEAT) rounds. HEAT had posed a serious threat to armoured vehicles. Fabrication of the ceramic in large tiles gives vehicles a "slab sided" look.
High speed photography shows that the ceramic material shatters as the HEAT round penetrates, blowing up to a huge volume which then expands back out the hole and pushes the metal jet of the HEAT with it.
Other versions have glass reinforced plastic sandwiched between inner and outer steel layers. Through a mechanism called thixotropy, the resin changes to a fluid under constant pressure, allowing the armour to be moulded into curved shapes. A boron carbide-filled resin aggregate provides greatly improved protection. Ceramic armour is significantly less effective against a kinetic energy penetrator, so sometimes depleted uranium layers are added to provide extra protection against these warheads. The deeper interior heavy metal layer is a sometimes cast aluminium slab with rods of tungsten (encased in titanium) or depleted uranium running perpendicularly through it, intended to cause the points of high-velocity long-rod penetrator armour-piercing projectiles to deform, which sometimes causes the projectile to tip and strike the armour at an angle, presenting far greater surface area to the armour and therefore greatly increasing the resistance.
Explosive reactive armour, uses layers of high explosive sandwiched between steel plates. When a shaped-charge warhead hits, the explosive detonates and pushes the steel plates into the warhead, disrupting the flow of the charge's liquid metal penetrator (usually copper at around 500 degrees; it can be made to flow like water by sufficiently immense pressure). It is less effective against kinetic penetrators. Reactive armour poses a threat to friendly troops in the area of the vehicle. Non-explosive reactive armour is an advanced sort of spaced armour, using the changing geometry of materials under stress to increase its protection.
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