British English or Canadian English) or armor (American
English; see spelling differences) is a protective covering that is
used to prevent damage from being inflicted to an object, individual
or vehicle by direct contact weapons or projectiles, usually during
combat, or from damage caused by a potentially dangerous environment
or action (e.g., cycling, construction sites, etc.).
Personal armour is used to protect soldiers and war animals. Vehicle
armour is used on warships and armoured fighting vehicles.
A second use of the term armour describes armoured forces, armoured
weapons, and their role in combat. After the evolution of armoured
warfare, mechanised infantry and their weapons came to be referred to
collectively as "armour".
188.8.131.52 13th century Italian
3.1.3 Armoured fighting vehicles
4 See also
Portrait of a Gentleman in armour with two pages. Paris Bordone.
The word "armour" began to appear in the
Middle Ages as a derivative
of Old French. It is dated from 1297 as a "mail, defensive covering
worn in combat". The word originates from the Old French armure,
itself derived from the Latin armatura meaning "arms and/or
equipment", with the root armare meaning "arms or gear".
Main article: Personal armour
Armour has been used throughout recorded history. It has been made
from a variety of materials, beginning with rudimentary leather
protection and evolving through mail and metal plate
into today's modern composites. For much of military history the
manufacture of metal personal armour has dominated the technology and
employment of armour.
Armour drove the development of many important
technologies of the Ancient World, including wood lamination, mining,
metal refining, vehicle manufacture, leather processing, and later
decorative metal working. Its production was influential in the
industrial revolution, and furthered commercial development of
metallurgy and engineering.
Armour was the single most influential
factor in the development of firearms, which in turn revolutionised
The Dendra panoply, Mycenaean Greek armour, circa 1400 BC
Significant factors in the development of armour include the economic
and technological necessities of its production. For instance, plate
armour first appeared in
Medieval Europe when water-powered trip
hammers made the formation of plates faster and cheaper. Also, modern
militaries usually do not equip their forces with the best armour
available because it would be prohibitively expensive. At times the
development of armour has paralleled the development of increasingly
effective weaponry on the battlefield, with armourers seeking to
create better protection without sacrificing mobility.
Well-known armour types in
European history include the lorica hamata,
lorica squamata, and the lorica segmentata of the Roman legions, the
mail hauberk of the early medieval age, and the full steel plate
harness worn by later medieval and renaissance knights, and breast and
back plates worn by heavy cavalry in several European countries until
the first year of
World War I
World War I (1914–15). The samurai warriors of
feudal Japan utilised many types of armour for hundreds of years up to
the 19th century.
Cuirasses and helmets were manufactured in Japan as early as the 4th
century. Tankō, worn by foot soldiers and keikō, worn by horsemen
were both pre-samurai types of early
Japanese armour constructed from
iron plates connected together by leather thongs. Japanese lamellar
armour (keiko) passed through Korea and reached Japan around the 5th
century. These early Japanese lamellar armours took the form of a
sleeveless jacket, leggings and a helmet.
Armour did not always cover all of the body; sometimes no more than a
helmet and leg plates were worn. The rest of the body was generally
protected by means of a large shield. Examples of armies equipping
their troops in this fashion were the Aztecs (13th to 15th century
In East Asia many types of armour were commonly used at different
times by various cultures, including scale armour, lamellar armour,
laminar armour, plated mail, mail, plate armour and brigandine. Around
the dynastic Tang, Song, and early Ming Period, cuirasses and plates
(mingguangjia) were also used, with more elaborate versions for
officers in war. The Chinese, during that time used partial plates for
"important" body parts instead of covering their whole body since too
much plate armour hinders their martial arts movement. The other body
parts were covered in cloth, leather, lamellar, or Mountain pattern.
In pre-Qin dynasty times, leather armour was made out of various
animals, with more exotic ones such as the rhinoceros.
Mail, sometimes called "chainmail", made of interlocking iron rings is
believed to have first appeared some time after 300 BC. Its invention
is credited to the Celts; the Romans were thought to have adopted
Gradually, small additional plates or discs of iron were added to the
mail to protect vulnerable areas. Hardened leather and splinted
construction were used for arm and leg pieces. The coat of plates was
developed, an armour made of large plates sewn inside a textile or
13th century Italian
Early plate in Italy, and elsewhere in the 13th–15th century, were
made of iron. Iron armour could be carburised or case hardened to give
a surface of harder steel.
Plate armour became cheaper than mail by
the 15th century as it required much less labour and labour had become
much more expensive after the Black Death, though it did require
larger furnaces to produce larger blooms. Mail continued to be used to
protect those joints which could not be adequately protected by plate,
such as the armpit, crook of the elbow and groin. Another advantage of
plate was that a lance rest could be fitted to the breast plate.
The small skull cap evolved into a bigger true helmet, the bascinet,
as it was lengthened downward to protect the back of the neck and the
sides of the head. Additionally, several new forms of fully enclosed
helmets were introduced in the late 14th century.
Heavily armoured riders and their barded war horses, 16th century
Probably the most recognised style of armour in the world became the
plate armour associated with the knights of the European Late Middle
Ages, but continuing to the early 17th century
Age of Enlightenment
Age of Enlightenment in
all European countries.
By about 1400 the full harness of plate armour had been developed in
armouries of Lombardy.
Heavy cavalry dominated the battlefield for
centuries in part because of their armour.
In the early 15th century, advances in weaponry allowed infantry to
defeat armoured knights on the battlefield. The quality of the metal
used in armour deteriorated as armies became bigger and armour was
made thicker, necessitating breeding of larger cavalry horses. If
during the 14–15th centuries armour seldom weighed more than
15 kg, then by the late 16th century it weighed 25 kg.
The increasing weight and thickness of late 16th century armour
therefore gave substantial resistance.
In the early years of low velocity firearms, full suits of armour, or
breast plates actually stopped bullets fired from a modest distance.
Crossbow bolts, if still used, would seldom penetrate good plate, nor
would any bullet unless fired from close range. In effect, rather than
making plate armour obsolete, the use of firearms stimulated the
development of plate armour into its later stages. For most of that
period, it allowed horsemen to fight while being the targets of
defending arquebuseers without being easily killed. Full suits of
armour were actually worn by generals and princely commanders right up
to the second decade of the 18th century. It was the only way they
could be mounted and survey the overall battlefield with safety from
distant musket fire.
The horse was afforded protection from lances and infantry weapons by
steel plate barding. This gave the horse protection and enhanced the
visual impression of a mounted knight. Late in the era, elaborate
barding was used in parade armour.
Elements of a Light-Cavalry Armor, ca. 1510, Metropolitan Museum of
Gradually, starting in the mid-16th century, one plate element after
another was discarded to save weight for foot soldiers.
Back and breast plates continued to be used throughout the entire
period of the 18th century and through Napoleonic times, in many
European (heavy) cavalry units, until the early 20th century. From
their introduction, muskets could pierce plate armour, so cavalry had
to be far more mindful of the fire. In Japan armour continued to be
used until the end of the samurai era, with the last major fighting in
which armour was used happening in 1868.
Samurai armour had one
last short lived use in 1877 during the Satsuma Rebellion.
Though the age of the knight was over, armour continued to be used in
many capacities. Soldiers in the
American Civil War
American Civil War bought iron and
steel vests from peddlers (both sides had considered but rejected body
armour for standard issue). The effectiveness of the vests varied
widely—some successfully deflected bullets and saved lives, but
others were poorly made and resulted in tragedy for the soldiers. In
any case the vests were abandoned by many soldiers due to their weight
on long marches as well as the stigma they got for being cowards from
their fellow troops.
At the start of World War I, thousands of the French Cuirassiers rode
out to engage the German Cavalry. By that period, the shiny armour
plate was covered in dark paint and a canvas wrap covered their
elaborate Napoleonic style helmets. Their armour was meant to protect
only against sabres and light lances. The cavalry had to beware of
high velocity rifles and machine guns, unlike the foot soldiers, who
at least had a trench to protect them.
Today, ballistic vests, also known as flak jackets, made of ballistic
cloth (e.g. kevlar, dyneema, twaron, spectra etc.) and ceramic or
metal plates are common among police forces, security staff,
corrections officers and some branches of the military.
The US Army has adopted Interceptor body armour, which uses Enhanced
Small Arms Protective Inserts (E-S.A.P.I) in the chest, sides and back
of the armour. Each plate is rated to stop a range of ammunition
including 3 hits from a
7.62×51 NATO AP round at a range of 10 m
Dragon Skin body armour
Dragon Skin body armour is another ballistic vest
which is currently in testing with mixed results.
Early Korean armour of Gaya, its nickname as the kingdom of Steel.
Iron helmet and cuirass. 5th century. National Museum of Korea.
Medieval Germanic helmet.
Medieval horse armour on display at
Museum of Islamic Art, Doha
Museum of Islamic Art, Doha in
Riot police with body protection against blows
Main article: Vehicle armour
The first modern production technology for armour plating was used by
navies in the construction of the
Ironclad warship, reaching its
pinnacle of development with the battleship. The first tanks were
produced during World War I. Aerial armour has been used to protect
pilots and aircraft systems since the First World War.
In modern ground forces' usage, the meaning of armour has expanded to
include the role of troops in combat. After the evolution of armoured
warfare, mechanised infantry were mounted in armoured fighting
vehicles and replaced light infantry in many situations. In modern
armoured warfare, armoured units equipped with tanks and infantry
fighting vehicles serve the historic role of both the battle cavalry,
light cavalry and dragoons, and belong to the armoured branch.
Further information: Warship
HMS Warrior during her third commission between 1867 and 1871
The first ironclad battleship, with iron armour over a wooden hull, La
Gloire, was launched by the
French Navy in 1859 prompting the
Royal Navy to build a counter. The following year they
launched HMS Warrior, which was twice the size and had iron armour
over an iron hull. After the first battle between two ironclads took
place in 1862 during the American Civil War, it became clear that the
ironclad had replaced the unarmoured line-of-battle ship as the most
powerful warship afloat.
Ironclads were designed for several roles, including as high seas
battleships, coastal defence ships, and long-range cruisers. The rapid
evolution of warship design in the late 19th century transformed the
ironclad from a wooden-hulled vessel which carried sails to supplement
its steam engines into the steel-built, turreted battleships and
cruisers familiar in the 20th century. This change was pushed forward
by the development of heavier naval guns (the ironclads of the 1880s
carried some of the heaviest guns ever mounted at sea)[citation
needed], more sophisticated steam engines, and advances in metallurgy
which made steel shipbuilding possible.
The rapid pace of change in the ironclad period meant that many ships
were obsolete as soon as they were complete, and that naval tactics
were in a state of flux. Many ironclads were built to make use of the
ram or the torpedo, which a number of naval designers considered the
crucial weapons of naval combat. There is no clear end to the ironclad
period, but towards the end of the 1890s the term ironclad dropped out
of use. New ships were increasingly constructed to a standard pattern
and designated battleships or armoured cruisers.
An armoured train from 1915
Armoured trains saw use during the 19th century in the American Civil
War (1861–1865), the
Franco-Prussian War (1870–1871), the First
and Second Boer Wars (1880–81 and 1899–1902),the Polish–Soviet
War (1919–1921); the First (1914–1918) and Second World Wars
(1939–1945) and the
First Indochina War
First Indochina War (1946–1954). The most
intensive use of armoured trains was during the Russian Civil War
Armoured cars saw use during World wars 1 and 2.
Second Boer War
Second Boer War on 15 November 1899, Winston Churchill,
then a war-correspondent, was travelling on board an armoured train
when it was ambushed by Boer commandos. Churchill and many of the
train's garrison were captured, though many others escaped, including
wounded placed on the train's engine.
Armoured fighting vehicles
Vehicle armour and Armoured fighting vehicle
Ancient siege engines were usually protected by wooden armour, often
covered with wet hides or thin metal to prevent being easily burned.
Medieval war wagons were horse-drawn wagons that were similarly
armoured. These contained guns or crossbowmen that could fire through
The first modern AFVs were armoured cars, developed circa 1900. These
started as ordinary wheeled motor-cars protected by iron shields,
typically mounting a machine gun.
During World War I, the stalemate of trench warfare during on the
Western Front spurred the development of the tank. It was envisioned
as an armoured machine that could advance under fire from enemy rifles
and machine guns, and respond with its own heavy guns. It utilized
caterpillar tracks to cross ground broken up by shellfire and
With the development of effective anti-aircraft artillery in the
period before the Second World War, military pilots, once the "knights
of the air" during the First World War, became far more vulnerable to
ground fire. As a response armour plating was added to aircraft to
protect aircrew and vulnerable areas such as fuel tanks and engine.
The US Military's
M1 Abrams MBT uses composite, reactive, and cage
Tank armour has progressed from the Second World War armour forms, now
incorporating not only harder composites, but also reactive armour
designed to defeat shaped charges. As a result of this, the main
battle tank (MBT) conceived in the
Cold War era can survive multiple
RPG strikes with minimal effect on the crew or the operation of the
vehicle. The light tanks that were the last descendants of the light
cavalry during the Second World War have almost completely disappeared
from the world's militaries due to increased lethality of the weapons
available to the vehicle-mounted infantry.
The armoured personnel carrier (APC) was devised during World War I.
It allows the safe and rapid movement of infantry in a combat zone,
minimising casualties and maximising mobility. APCs are fundamentally
different from the previously used armoured half-tracks in that they
offer a higher level of protection from artillery burst fragments, and
greater mobility in more terrain types. The basic APC design was
substantially expanded to an
Infantry fighting vehicle
Infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) when
properties of an armoured personnel carrier and a light tank were
combined in one vehicle.
Naval armour has fundamentally changed from the Second World War
doctrine of thicker plating to defend against shells, bombs and
torpedoes. Passive defence naval armour is limited to kevlar or steel
(either single layer or as spaced armour) protecting particularly
vital areas from the effects of nearby impacts. Since ships cannot
carry enough armour to completely prevent penetration by anti-ship
missiles, they depend more on destroying an incoming missile before it
hits, or causing it to miss its target.
Although the role of the ground attack aircraft significantly
diminished after the Korean War, it re-emerged during the Vietnam War,
and in the recognition of this, the US Air Force authorised the design
and production of what became the A-10 dedicated anti-armour and
ground-attack aircraft that first saw action in the Gulf War.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Armour.
Rolled homogeneous armour
^ "Definition of armour in English". Oxford Dictionaries. Retrieved 12
^ Farris 1998, p. 75
^ Robinson 2002, p. 10
^ Robinson 2002, pp. 169–170
^ Fagan 2004,[page needed]
^ Gabriel 2007, p. 79
^ Williams 2003, pp. 740–741.
^ Williams 2003, p. 55
^ Williams 2003, p. 53.
^ Williams 2003, p. 916
^ Robinson 1951,[page needed]
^ Robinson 2002, p. 208
^ Stewart, pp.74–5
^ Sondhaus, pp.73–4
^ Sondhaus, p. 86.
^ Macksey, Kenneth (1980). The Guinness Book of
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Farris, William (1998). Sacred Texts and Buried Treasures. Honolulu:
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Historical armour types
Mail and plate armour
Karuta (Japanese armour)
Kikko (Japanese armour)
Kusari (Japanese mail armour)
Boiled leather (cuir bouilli)
Modern armour types
Fictional armour types