Reactive armor panels have been used for many years as very efficient add-on armor against shaped charge warheads. The main features of the defeat mechanisms of the armor are therefore well known. The origin of the irregular disturbances on the shaped charge jet, which leads to the severe fragmentation and scattering of the jet, is however not described in literature. As this scattering of the jet provides the main protection mechanism of the armor, it is of interest to understand the details of the interaction and the origin of the disturbances. Some experimental observations have been made showing that the backward moving plate often displaces the jet relatively smoothly while it is the interaction with the forward moving plate that causes the disturbances that leads to fragmentation and scattering of the jet. In this work, a mechanism for the interaction is proposed based on the theory of Kelvin–Helmholtz instabilities, which explains the origin of the disturbances on the jet due to the interaction with the forward moving plate. Numerical simulations have been performed to show the difference in the mechanisms of backward and forward moving plates when interacting with the jet. The impact angle of the plate seems to be the dominant parameter for the onset of instabilities. A parametric study has also been performed on how different interaction and material parameters influence the development of instabilities of the interface between the jet and the armor plate. The parametric study shows that low-strength jets promote development of instabilities, a tendency that is amplified by frictional forces between the materials. The influence of the plate strength is more complex due to the influence of the structural stability on the contact forces. The effect of friction and melting of the metals in the boundary layer to the development of the instabilities is discussed. A microscopic study of the edge of the penetration channel has been made, which shows that the materials have been melted during the interaction between the plate and the jet.

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