- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 20, 2002

LONDON An electric "force field" for armored vehicles that vaporizes anti-tank grenades and shells on impact has been developed by scientists at Britain's Ministry of Defense.
The "electric armor" has been developed in an attempt to make tanks and other armored vehicles lighter and less vulnerable to grenade launchers such as those used by Taliban and al Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan.
It could be fitted to the light tanks and armored personnel carriers (APCs) that will replace the heavy Challenger II tanks and Warrior APCs in one of the two British armored divisions.
The ubiquitous RPG-7, a rocket-propelled grenade, can be picked up for a mere $10 in many of the world's trouble spots and is capable of destroying a tank and killing its crew.
When the grenade hits the tank, its "shaped-charge" warhead fires a jet of hot copper into the target at about 1,000 mph. It is capable of penetrating more than a foot of conventional solid-steel armor.
The new electric armor is made up of a highly charged capacitor that is connected to two separate metal plates on the tank's exterior. The outer plate, which is bulletproof and made from an unspecified alloy, is grounded, and the insulated inner plate is live.
The electric armor runs off the tank's power supply. When the tank commander feels he is in a dangerous area, he simply switches on the current to the inner plate.
When the warhead fires its jet of molten copper, it penetrates both the outer plate and the insulation of the inner plate. This makes a connection, and thousands of amps of electricity vaporize most of the molten copper. The rest of the copper is dispersed harmlessly against the vehicle's hull.
Despite the high charge, the electrical load on the battery is no more than that caused by starting the engine on a cold morning.
In a recent demonstration of the electric armor for senior army officers, an APC protected by the new British system survived repeated attacks by rocket-propelled grenades that would typically have destroyed it several times over.
Many of the grenades were fired from point-blank range, but the only damage to the APC was cosmetic. The vehicle was driven away under its own power.
Professor John Brown of the Defense Science and Technology Laboratory, which developed the "pulsed power system," said it was attracting a lot of interest from both the British Defense Ministry and the Pentagon.
With the easy availability of RPG-7 rocket launchers, "it only takes one individual on, say, a rooftop in a village to cause major damage or destroy passing armored vehicles," he said.

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