Several types of plate impact experiments are discussed from the perspective of their usefulness in studying the dynamic inelastic response of such advanced materials as ceramic/metal composites. These experiments are illustrated by their application to an AlN/AlN/Al composite developed by Lanxide Armor Products, Inc. Pressure-shear waves are used to determine the shearing resistance of the material at high shearing rates. Soft-recovery, normal impact experiments using an eight-pointed star-shaped flyer are used, along with TEM and SEM, to investigate the principal mechanisms of failure under known stress histories. Extensions of the pressure-shear technique to applications involving hard specimens are presented. One interesting extension is the development of the capability for monitoring the normal and in-plane components of the motion at the interface between the rear surface of the specimen and the transparent window plate. This capability makes it possible to monitor the shearing resistance before unloading waves can interfere with the results by causing tensile damage to the specimen or a back-up plate.