So, recently I stumbled upon something fairly interesting. Most of the people here know about shaped charges and how they work, the principles behind it are fairly well known. Recently however, there has been research about a new 'class' of shaped charges: Reactive Liner Shaped Charges. As the name implies it's a shaped charge with a liner made out of a reactive material.
Please note that I still do not fully understand the workings of Reactive Liner Shaped Charges, this post may be changed or updated depending on new information and/or discussions.
What is a reactive material, you say? One of the papers explains it like this:
(Demolition Mechanism and Behavior of Shaped Chargewith Reactive Liner, Jianguang Xiao et al., 2016)
In simple terms, it's a material that only explodes when you hit it really really really really hard with a hammer. Or when you fire it into a solid material at several kilometers per second. I dunno. It's one of the two.
What this amounts to is a shaped charge which forms an exploding jet. Neato.
But... why should you care? We already don't fire explosives at an armoured target because it's not very efficient, so why suddenly care now? To answer that I have to compare it to normal shaped charges and explain a few things about explosives. The most important thing to understand is that no explosive detonates instantly, there is always a slight delay. This delay is (almost) negligible at normal projectile velocities, but become important at high velocities. Think hypersonic velocities, like with... shaped charge jets!
The main thing I am not completely sure about is whether the detonation of the shaped charge initiates the liner, or the impact with the target. The self-delay of the reactive material used in most of the tests is ~0.85 and depending on the liner angle the jet can move 2.8 to 5.2 meters before actually exploding. Of course this distance will be a lot less when penetrating because the material slows down. A reactive material with a too low self-delay might detonate during the formation of the jet, or before it actually managed to penetrate the armour (but this only applies in the situation where the reactive liner is initiated by the shaped charge). This is of course not something you want, you want the liner to detonate inside the target to do the maximum amount of damage.
And that's the main reason you should care about shaped charges with reactive liners. They do a fuckton of damage.
This is your brain: This is the result of a shaped charge with an aluminium liner:
This is your brain on drugs: This is the result of a shaped charge with a reactive liner:
To give a sense of scale, that's a 1520 by 1520 mm concrete cylinder. The shaped charge had a diameter of... 81 mm.
As you can see the reactive liner does a fuckton more damage compared to a normal liner, this is because the jet literally detonates when it's inside the armour. Concrete is one of the materials that cannot deal with certain forces, which makes it weak versus explosives detonating inside of it. Steel for example cares a lot less about it, but even steel will suffer more damage from a reactive liner than a normal copper liner. The entry hole for a reactive liner is around 0.65 CD whereas for a copper liner it is 0.5 CD. A paper also states the following:
The paper however does not show or describe the "tremendous increase in steel target damage". It does however give some basic information and show photos of the entry holes:
The penetration capabilities of reactive liners in steel targets were "sacrificed slightly" compared to copper liners, but the paper does not elaborate any further.
Here's some more information and pictures about the effectiveness of reactive liners against concrete targets, just for shits and giggles:
A 'Bam Bam' is the same warhead as the 81mm one (1.8 kg) from the first photos, except scaled to 18.1 kg. The 81mm charge is called Barnie, by the way. The target is the same ~1500 mm too.
As you can see the Bam Bam charge is capable of fucking up massive parts of asphalt roads/runways. A 21.6 cm shaped charge completely destroying around 42 square meters of asphalt.
But hey, a 21.6 cm charge is fucking massive, lets tone it down slightly.
Sadly there's a bunch of information missing in the tables. It is highly likely that different liner thicknesses were used, but these aren't given in the tables.
Results can be found in the full version of Table 1:
...that's around 9-10 square meters of concrete fucked up by a ~1 kg warhead. That's fucking insane.
Some other things to note is that due to the materials used in these tests (an aluminium-polymer mix) the jet velocity is significantly higher and the jet length longer than comparable copper liners:
So the reactive liner used (26% Al, 74% Teflon) has a jet tip velocity that's around twice as high for shallow charges, but drops to around 1.6 at higher angles. The difference in jet tip velocity is most likely due to the lower density of the reactive liner. This is what Wang et al. said about this:
This poor ductility also increases the probability of fragmentation (jet break-up), which can be seen here:
So because the reactive liner has a lower density, it forms a jet quicker, but because of its poor ductility it starts to break up very quickly. Tests have shown that a stand-off that's longer than 2 CD is undesirable, whereas normal liners do not really care about a longer stand-off.
However! The research done to make the Barnie warhead show that it is undesirable to have cavitation during the formation of the jet. This cavitation is visible in the above simulations, but can better be seen in this one:
It is very well possible that Wang et al. had a sub-optimal liner design, since the final Barnie jet looks like this compared to a comparable aluminium liner jet:
They are quite similar and the Barnie jet does not have the 'blobs' visible in the simulations from Wang et al..
And last but certainly not least, Xiao et al. calculated the TNT equivalence (RE factor) of the reactive liner:
In simple terms, the kaboom-effectiveness of this reactive material is 3.4 to 7.7 times as high as TNT. But since these values on their own are kind of meaningless, lets compare them to other RE factors!
The RE factor of C4 is 1.34.
The RE factor of RDX is 1.6.
The explosive with the highest detonation velocity (Octanitrocubane)? 2.38.
THIS FUCKING ALUMINIUM/TEFLON MIX!? MOTHERFUCKING 7.77.
Interestingly the theoretical energy contained in the aluminium/teflon mix is only about 4 times as high as TNT. The higher values are most likely due to the addition of kinetic effects.
So yeah... huzzah for reactive liners.
I might add some stuff to this post later, depending on whether or not I forgot something.