Images have emerged on social media of Philippine military vehicles that have been hastily equipped with wooden armor as a part of their effort to counter attacks from ISIS and Maute held RPGs. Fighting remains ongoing in the battle for the southern Philippine island of Mindanao, where Philippine President Duterte has declared a state of martial law until the Radical Islamist threat has been eliminated. These pictures of the Cadillac Gage V-150 armored car employed by the Philippine government’s military show discarded ammunition crates and other bits of salvaged wood secured along the exterior hull of the vehicle – prompting the question: would strapping a bunch of wood to your vehicle actually work to repel a rocket propelled grenade attack?
In order to answer that question in a more useful manner, it’s first important to understand how commonly used RPGs work. The cone shape at the end of the RPG serves as a detonator tip and a form of funnel for the explosive energy released by the weapon when it makes contact with its target. That explosive energy is known be capable of penetrating up to 180 millimeters of steel armor, making wood an even less likely candidate for successfully defending against such an attack.
However, as seen in use on the Stryker vehicles employed by the U.S. Army Rangers, solid steel armor isn’t always necessary to defend against an RPG. Many Strykers have been equipped with a cage that surrounds the majority of the outer shell of the vehicle. When an RPG comes into contact with that cage, it engages the detonator, but because the cage is set a fair distance from the hull of the vehicle, the explosive force funneled through the cone doesn’t reach the vehicle itself with enough energy to penetrate it.