The growing applications of layered fiber reinforced composite materials lead to the potential use of such lightweight materials for blast and ballistic impact resistant panels. Under such high strain rate loading, through-thickness damage propagation is crucial for the structural integrity of the panels. Experiments performed in composite panels under blast loading exhibited little information for the understanding of the time-line of damage propagation as only post-mortem inspection can be done. Instrumentation may be installed in order to follow the blast but the task reveals itself arduous as all the instruments must be protected against the blast. The sparse information can be valuable for configuration screening purposes, but is not su ffi cient for comparison and validation of numerical models. The work focuses on performing controlled impact experiments in narrow beams filmed side-wise with high-speed cameras. The narrow geometry of the beams leaves the thickness of the specimen exposed to the cameras allowing for a real-time monitoring of the stress waves propagating and for assessing the time-line of through-thickness damage propagation onset. Results showed that polyethylene impactors, given the right diameter, are the most suitable soft impactors. Numerical models including in-plane and out-of-plane damage propagation are being built in order to replicate the experimentally observed damage. The ultimate goal being establishing design rules for such lightweight fiber reinforced panels. It is numerically observed that, the speed propagation of delamination in the longitudinal direction reaches a common constant value for all interfaces.