Slat armor, also known as bar armor, cage armor and standoff armor, is a type of vehicle armor designed to protect against anti-tank rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) attacks. It takes the form of a rigid slatted metal grid fitted around key sections of the vehicle, which disrupts the shaped charge of the warhead by either crushing it, preventing optimal detonation from occurring, or by damaging the fuzing mechanism, preventing detonation outright. Although slat armor is effective against incoming missiles, it does not offer complete protection – as many as 50% of impacts are unimpeded by the slat design.
World War II
The German Wehrmacht was the first employer of cage armor during World War II, using Drahtgeflecht-Schürzen (English: "wire mesh skirts") to fortify its tanks against shell fire. It was found to be just as effective as the steel plate schürzen also being utilized. In March 1943, Adolf Hitler ordered all new Sturmgeschütz, Panzer III, IV, and Panthers be outfitted with schürzen of either the wire mesh or steel plate type. However, the wire mesh was not as easy to mass-produce as steel plate schürzen. Red Army tanks, faced with the new and highly effective German Panzerfaust, were similarly outfitted with "bedspring" armor made from expanded metal mesh grating panels.
Cold War era
In the Vietnam War, slat armor was commonly used on the sides of American patrol barges and boats. The CCB-18 is a surviving example of the Mobile Riverine Force which used such armor. Wire fencing was also placed on vehicles such as the M113 to defeat Vietcong RPGs. The Swedish Stridsvagn 103 of the same era employed a much heavier front-mounted metal grid to protect against incoming projectiles.
In modern times, slat armor has seen use on the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Caterpillar D9R armored bulldozer, the Force Protection Buffalo MPV MRAP vehicle, the General Dynamics Stryker, Ukrainian BTR-4, the Warrior Infantry Fighting Vehicle, the M113 APC, the British Challenger 2, the Leopard 2A6 main battle tank, and Russian T-62 tanks. Slat armor is favored over traditional plate armor not only due to its effectiveness against shaped-charge warheads, but also due to its much lighter weight, which improves maneuverability. BAE Systems has developed an extremely lightweight aluminum system called the LROD, already in use on the Buffalo MPV, which is claimed to weigh half the amount of comparable steel designs. BAE has equipped several US Army RG-31s with a variant of the LROD system, and is developing the system for its RG-33 vehicles, the Caiman and the JERRV. LROD is also the standard RPG solution for the Buffalo MPV in the field. Slat armor is also being fielded on the American M1 Abrams as part of the TUSK urban warfare series.
Slat armor was first used on the IDF Caterpillar D9R armored bulldozer in 2005, but was installed in large numbers only in 2006. The armor proved itself effective against RPGs and even heavier anti-tank missiles (such as the 9K11 Malyutka). The D9's slat armor design was produced by MASHA (Maintenance and Restoration Center), CHATAL (IDF Ground Force Technology Unit) and MANTAK (Armor Administration), who won the IDF's GOC Army Headquarters prize for the armor. Since then it was installed also on other armored fighting vehicles.
Slat armor on an upgraded M113 Armored Personnel Carrier.
Slat armor on a Swedish S-Tank, protecting the front.
Depiction of the TUSK urban warfare system on the M1 Abrams; slat armor can be see in the lower right.
Lighter netting type fitted to a Polish KTO Rosomak in Afghanistan, 2010.
Slat armor on a BvS 10 Viking ATV.
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