Summary This work is the logical extension of previous 2-D axisymmetric investigations of the impact of flat, ellipsoidal and torispherical ended cylindrical projectiles with a rigid surface [ Kormi and Duddell, Applied Solid Mechanics-4, (edited by A. R. S. Ponter and A. C. F. Cocks), pp. 5–18. Elsevier Applied Science, London (1991) ]. It is an examination of the behaviour of a missile in collision with a deformable recipient target which is itself supported on an elastic foundation. The impact of a flat ended cylindrical missile with a velocity of 175.3 or 365.7 m s −1 with a circular plate in a 3-D and 2-D axisymmetric structurally equivalent model is investigated. At model construction and assembly level structural integrity is assured either by the inclusion of slide line and appropriate interface elements for 2-D axisymmetric analysis or, in the 3-D model, by using suitable interface elements. The analyses show that the finite rigidity of the recipient target, in comparison with the previously studied infinitely rigid surface, provides a degree of resiliency with an energy absorbing characteristic sufficient to change the nature of the missile response and lead to a marked reduction in stress wave intensity immediately after impact. The method employed to examine the process is of similar nature to that used in our earlier investigations.