Abstract The hypervelocity impact of a projectile upon a thin metal plate and subsequent formation of back-surface debris is reviewed. At sufficiently high impact velocities, roughly greater than 3.0 km/s (depending upon the shock impedances of the materials involved), shock formation and interaction dominate and control the overall response of both the projectile and the target plate. We focus upon the importance of shock heating, melting, and vaporization in this application. Because of the complexity of the physical interactions, numerical simulation of such problems is necessary to draw quantitative conclusions. Thus, we also assess the current status of computational modeling of this kind of impact event, specifically addressing recent work bearing on the sensitivity of such modeling to the equations of state and certain numerical issues.