Plasma facing components in future thermonuclear fusion devices will be subjected to intense transient thermal loads due to type I edge localized modes (ELMs), plasma disruptions, etc. To exclude irreversible damage to the divertor targets, local energy deposition must remain below the damage threshold for the selected wall materials. For monolithic tungsten (pure tungsten and tungsten alloys) power densities above ≈0.3 GW m−2 with 1 ms duration result in the formation of a dense crack network. Thin tungsten coatings for the so-called ITER-like wall in JET, which have been deposited on a two-directional carbon–fibre composite (CFC) material, are even less resistant to thermal shock damage; here the threshold values are by a factor of 2 lower. First ELM-simulation experiments with high cycle numbers up to 104 cycles on actively cooled bulk tungsten targets do not reveal any cracks for absorbed power densities up to 0.2 GW m−2 and ELM-durations in the sub-millisecond range (0.8 ms); at somewhat higher power densities (0.27 GW m−2, Δt = 0.5 ms) cracks have been detected for 106 cycles.