An adaptive finite element scheme for transient problems is presented. The classic h-enrichment/coarsening is employed in conjunction with a tetrahedral finite element discretization in three dimensions. A mesh change is performed every n time steps, depending on the Courant number employed and the number of ‘protective layers’ added ahead of the refined region. In order to simplify the refinement/coarsening logic and to be as fast as possible, only one level of refinement/coarsening is allowed per mesh change. A high degree of vectorizability has been achieved by pre-sorting the elements and then performing the refinement/coarsening groupwise according to the case at hand. Further reductions in CPU requirements arc realized by optimizing the identification and sorting of elements for refinement and deletion. The developed technology has been used extensively for shock-shock and shock-object interaction runs in a production mode. A typical example of this class of problems is given.