“Hole” vehicle armor being developed in UK

The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory in the UK is developing a new type of armor for vehicles that is cheaper and lighter to produce. It is made from ultra hard steel and covered in holes.

Picture 11-20
The armor.

The holes, or the edges of the holes, deflect bullets making them tumble so the “blunt” side hits the armor instead of the front. This spreads out the kinetic energy over the length of the bullet instead of it being concentrated at the front.

I don’t think this would have any effect on shaped charges, which are a mass of hot metal (usually copper), so this type of armor would probably be used in vehicles that would not be armored against shaped charges, such as RPG rounds, in the first place, for example VIP transport vehicles.

RPG-7 launcher and grenade.

From the press release:

It may seem like a strange solution but introducing holes to vehicle armour can actually provide a ective advantage. The trick is to think of them as circular ‘edges’ rather than holes. When a bullet hits an edge, it gets deflected and turns from a sharp projectile into a blunt fragment which makes it much easier to stop. The introduction of holes also reduces weight. As a result perforated Super Bainite steel armour is ballistically very efficient.

Invented, designed and manufactured in the UK, Super Bainite is experimental high performance armour steel developed to save the lives of UK Armed Forces. Traditionally the MOD has utilised offshore suppliers to fulfil its specialist armour requirements. However, following successful industrial production trials, directed by Dstl in partnership with Corus and Bodycote, the UK is now well placed to develop a secure onshore supply of specialist, high hardness steel armour.

Hat Tip: Defense Talk and “null”.

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • jdun1911

    I think the professor should go out and shoot some guns. It might work on non-AP light rounds like 5.56 and 7.62×39. I doubt it will be effect against larger caliber bullets.

  • Won’t the hole’s make for weaker metal also? Unless it is some type of cast system I doubt it will be much cheaper to produce. But then again the post says “covered in holes”. I’m gonna need to see pictures to fully comprehend or pass judgment.

  • null


    Here is the original press release the Defense Talk article is lifted from, and it includes a picture. After looking at the picture, it becomes obvious. It’s not the hole, it’s the edge of the hole. Since this Super Bainite stuff is stronger, it can be made thinner, and put on stuff like Humvees instead of just tanks…I think that is the angle they are going for.

    This super bainite stuff has been the topic of a lot of press releases over the last year or so. Looks to me like the UK is fishing for a customer.

    • null, thanks for the info.

  • Lori

    Buddy I am loving your blog, something I can actually read at work, great blog


  • Steve, shaped charges don’t use “molten metal”.

    “It is universally agreed that conical liner collapse and target penetration both occur by hydrodynamic flow. However, it has been established by X-ray diffraction that the jet is solid metal and not molten. Additionally, best estimates of jet temperature by incandescence colour suggest a mean value of about 450°C, and copper melts at 1083°C at atmospheric pressure. So the following conundrum is the first confusion: The jet appears to behave like a fluid, and yet it is known to be a solid. One recent theory that would help explain this is that the jet has a molten core but with a solid outer sheath. ”


    • Sven, thanks for the correction

  • EzGoingKev

    I really don’t see it.

    What about a flechettes, claymore type weapon with smaller metal balls.

    Also there is huge reduction in liquid or gas type attacks.

  • thekit

    It’s probably designed as an up armor applique. If you space it far enough away from the very light armor skin of something like a conventional up-armor humvee, you might be able to predetonate the rpgs and ruin their focus, and also make all the ap bullets that strike the little holes keyhole and fail to be able to point their ap hard penetrator cores at the target.

    flechettes, might be able to pass through, provided the holes are greater than the diameter of the flechette or the flechette is long enough to stay on track when passing through the hard steel, and heavy enough to keep going after impact.

    on the other hand, I don’t know of any small arms that have successfully fired flechettes and have been fielded in any numbers. Even the .50 cal sabot round the marines use is actually a subcaliber projectile which is bullet shaped, rather than a long thin finned flechette.

    And I’m not sure what a blast wave would do after it goes through a whole bunch of little holes. Reinforce itself at antinodes and do more damage? need to do some physics there, or just study the damage after meeting an IED.

  • The 105mm sabot is a 20mm fletchette. I think the 120mm sabot fired from the Abrams is also, but have no personal experience with it.

    Normal approach to sabot/fletchette is to apply off center load to the front end, so that a bending moment is inflicted on the sabot, causing it to break in bending. This was done in older vehicles by using sloped armor, and can be done in newer Chobham type armor by burying ceramic layers at a steeper angle, or by “bulky armor” by having a series of holes in the armor slabs. If the first line of holes loads the left side of the sabot, turning it slightly, the second line of holes may load the right side of the sabot, each subsequent row increasing the bending load.

  • Peter Davis

    A lot of things work in the lab but in the field its a whole different thing. I should know..was blown up a few times. However, you guys should check our http://www.armoured-solutions.com site, a company based in scotland. They have this modular system that looks fantastic….called something like ZKAK or something. Forget metal holes…use Z…or whatever it is

  • Sam Suggs

    yeah i am sure it works in the lab with a single shot 50 but if you pound that thing with a burst from a heavey machine gun and the under armour cant take it your screwed