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Shaped Charge

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Shaped charge for bazooka

Shaped Charge

When a shaped charge detonates, a large part of the force is concentrated in a small stream to the center of the hollow space in front of and along the axis of the charge. This small stream of hot gases and metal fragments moves with such force that for a short distance it has far greater armor penetrating power than a normal explosion. The end result can be a small stream of very hot metal fragments and gas being injected into the interior of a target such as tank or bunker, with devastating effect.

World war II examples of the use of shaped charges include the British PIAT which propelled an explosive charge combined with a powerful spring, the US Bazooka and the German Panzerschreck which propelled shaped charges with rockets; and the German Panzerfaust which was a single use small recoilless gun that propelled an oversized shaped charge on the end of a stick.

The primary armored vehicle defense against shaped charges was to add an outer barrier that would cause the shaped charge to detonate before it reached the main armor plate. In the German army this took the form of shurzen, which were thin armored skirts that hung on the outside of the tank. In the Russian army, barriers of spring wire known in the West as bedspring armor, were mounted upon tanks. In the United States Army, sandbags, spare track links, wood and even concrete were mounted upon tanks for added protection against the enemy from both shaped charges and anti-tank guns.