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|Type||Main battle tank|
|Place of origin||United States|
|In service||1953–1990s (United States)|
1958 Lebanon crisis|
Portuguese Colonial War
Dominican Civil War
Indo-Pakistani War of 1965
Indo-Pakistani War of 1971
Yom Kippur War
Western Sahara War
Lebanese Civil War
Turkish invasion of Cyprus
Battle of Mogadishu (1993)
2007 Lebanon conflict
|Manufacturer||M48: Chrysler, Fisher Body, Ford Motor Company, American Locomotive Company|
|No. built||M48: ≈12,000|
|Variants||Many, see the variants section|
|Weight||M48: 49.6 short tons (44.3 long tons; 45.0 t) combat ready|
|Length||9.3 m (30 ft 6 in)|
|Width||3.65 m (12 ft 0 in)|
|Height||3.1 m (10 ft 2 in)|
|Crew||4 (commander, gunner, loader, driver)|
Upper Glacis: 110 mm (4.3 in) at 60° = 220 mm (8.7 in) LoS|
Turret Front: 178 mm (7.0 in) at 0°
|90 mm T54; M48A3 90 mm gun M41; M48A5 and later variants: 105 mm M68 gun|
.50 cal (12.7 mm) M2 Browning machine gun |
.30 cal (7.62 mm) M73 Machine gun
750 hp (560 kW)
|Power/weight||16.6 hp (12.4 kW)/tonne|
|Transmission||General Motors CD-850-4A or -4B, 2 ranges forward, 1 reverse|
|Suspension||Torsion bar suspension|
|Fuel capacity||200 US gal (760 l; 170 imp gal)|
|M48 and M48A1 113 km, M48A2 258 km, M48A3 463 km, M48A5 499 km (all on road)|
|Speed||M48A5: 30 mph (48 km/h)|
The M48 Patton is a main battle tank (MBT) that was designed in the United States. It was the third tank to be officially named after General George S. Patton, commander of the U.S. Third Army during World War II and one of the earliest American advocates for the use of tanks in battle. It was a further development of the M47 Patton tank. The M48 Patton was in U.S. service until replaced by the M60 and served as the U.S. Army and Marine Corps's primary battle tank during the Vietnam War. It was widely used by U.S. Cold War allies, especially other NATO countries.
The M48 Patton tank was designed to replace the previous M47 Pattons and M4 Shermans. Although largely resembling the M47, the M48 was a completely new design. It was the last U.S. tank to mount the 90 mm tank gun, with the last model, the M48A5, being upgraded to carry the new standard weapon of the M60, the 105mm gun. Some M48A5 models served well into the 1980s with U.S. Army National Guard units, and many M48s remain in service in other countries. The Turkish Army has the largest number of modernized M48 MBTs, with more than 1,400 in its inventory. Of these, around 1,000 have been phased out, placed in storage, or modified as ARVs.
On 27 February 1951, OTCM (Ordnance Technical Committee Minutes) #33791 initiated the design of the new tank, designated the 90mm Gun Tank T-48 (the prefix letter "T" would be replaced by the prefix "X" beginning with the M60 series tank). A deeper modernization than the M46 and the M47, the M48 featured a new hemispherical turret, a redesigned hull, and an improved suspension. The hull machine gunner position was removed, reducing the crew to four. On 2 April 1953, OTCM order #34765 standardized the last of the Patton series tanks as the 90mm Gun Tank M48 Patton.
Nearly 12,000 M48s were built from 1952 to 1959. The early designs, up to the M48A2C, were powered by a gasoline 12-cylinder engine and a 1-cylinder auxiliary generator (called the "Little Joe"). The gasoline engine versions gave the tank a shorter operating range and were more prone to catching fire when hit. Although considered less reliable than diesel-powered versions, numerous examples saw combat use in various Arab–Israeli conflicts. The low flashpoint of MIL-PRF-6083 hydraulic fluid used in the recoil mechanisms and hydraulic systems for rotating weapons or aiming devices was less than 212 °F (100 °C) and could result in a fireball in the crew compartment when the lines were ruptured. MIL-PRF-6083 fluid was not peculiar to the M48 and is no longer used in combat armored vehicles, having been replaced by fire resistant hydraulic fluid. Beginning in 1959, most American M48s were upgraded to the M48A3 model, which featured a more reliable and longer-range diesel power plant. M48s with gasoline engines, however, were still in use in the US Army through 1968, and through 1975 by many West German Army units.
In February 1963, the US Army accepted the first of 600 M48 Patton tanks that had been converted to M48A3s, and by 1964 the US Marine Corps had received 419 Patton tanks. The A3 model introduced the diesel engine, countering the earlier versions' characteristic of catching fire. These Pattons were to be deployed to battle in Vietnam. Because all M48A3 tanks were conversions from earlier models, many characteristics varied among individual examples of this type. M48A3 tanks could have either three or five support rollers on each side and might have either the early or later type headlight assemblies.
In the mid-1970s, the vehicle was modified to carry the heavier 105 mm gun. The original program designation was XM736. The designation was subsequently changed to M48A3E1 and was finally standardized as M48A5. As many components from the M60A1 were utilized as possible. Anniston Army Depot was issued a contract to convert 501 M48A3 tanks to the M48A5 standard and this was completed in December 1976. These early M48A5's were essentially M48A3 tanks with the 105mm gun added. They retained the M1 cupola armed with a .50 cal machine gun.
Based on Israeli experience in upgrading M48 series tanks, further changes were included starting in August 1976. These included replacing the M1 cupola with a low-profile "Urdan" type cupola that mounted an M60D machine gun for use by the tank commander. A second M60D machine gun was mounted on the turret roof for use by the loader. Internal ammunition stowage for the 105mm main gun was also increased to 54 rounds. These tanks were initially given the designation M48A5API; but, after early conversions were brought up to the later standard, the API was removed and these tanks were known simply as M48A5.
In addition to the conversion of M48A3 tanks, an additional conversion process for bringing M48A1 tanks to M48A5 standard was also developed. By March 1978, 708 M48A5 tanks had been converted from the M48A1 model.
Work continued until December 1979, at which time 2069 M48A5's had been converted.
The vast majority of M48A5 tanks in service with US Army units were assigned to National Guard and Army Reserve Units. A notable exception was the 2nd Infantry Division in the Republic of Korea, who replaced their M60A1 tanks with M48A5's, which arrived in June and July 1978. On 2nd Infantry Division M48A5 tanks the commander's M60D was replaced with a .50 caliber M2 machine gun.
By the mid-1990s, the M48s were phased out of U.S. service. Many other countries, however, continued to use these M48 models.
The M48 saw extensive action with the US military during the Vietnam War. Over 600 Pattons would be deployed with US forces during that war. The initial M48s first landed with the US Marine 1st and 3rd Tank Battalions in 1965, with the 5th Marine Tank Battalion later becoming a back-up/reinforcement unit. The remaining Pattons deployed to South Vietnam were in three US Army battalions, namely the 1-77th Armor near the DMZ (67 M48A2C (23 tanks supplied from US Army Training Center at Fort Knox, KY USA, and 44 tanks from Letterkenney Army Depot Chambersburg, PA USA) tanks were used by the 77th Armor from August 1968 to January 1969. These were later replaced with M48A3s), the 1-69th Armor in the Central Highlands of central South Vietnam and the 2-34th Armor positioned near the Mekong Delta. Each battalion consisted of approximately 57 tanks. M48s were also used by Armored Cavalry Squadrons in Vietnam until replaced by M551 Sheridan Armored Reconnaissance Airborne Assault Vehicles (ARAAV) in the Divisional Cavalry Squadrons. M48A3 tanks remained in service with the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment until the unit was withdrawn from the conflict. The M67A1 flame tank (nicknamed the Zippo) was an M48 variant used in Vietnam.
The M48 Patton has the distinction of playing a unique role in an event that was destined to radically alter the conduct of armored warfare. When US forces commenced redeployment operations, many of the M48A3 Pattons were turned over to the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) forces, in particular creating the battalion-sized ARVN 20th Tank Regiment; which supplemented their M41 Walker Bulldog units. During the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) Easter Offensive in 1972, tank clashes between NVA T-54/PT-76 and ARVN M48/M41 units became commonplace. But, on 23 April 1972, tankers of the 20th Tank Regiment were attacked by an NVA infantry-tank team, which was equipped with the new 9M14M Malyutka (NATO designation: Sagger) wire guided anti-tank missile. During this battle, one M48A3 Patton tank and one M113 Armored Cavalry Assault Vehicle (ACAV) were destroyed, becoming the first losses to the Sagger missile; losses that would echo on an even larger scale a year later during the Yom Kippur War in the Middle East in 1973. By 2 May, 20th Tank Regiment had lost all of their tanks to enemy fire. During the first month of the First Battle of Quảng Trị a total of 110 M48 Pattons were lost.
The M48s performed admirably in Vietnam in the infantry-support role. However, there were few actual tank versus tank battles. One was between the US 1-69th Armor and PT-76 light amphibious tanks of the NVA 202nd Armored Regiment at Ben Het Camp in March 1969. The M48s provided adequate protection for its crew from small arms, mines, and rocket-propelled grenades. South Vietnamese M48s and M41s fought in the 1975 Spring Offensive. In several incidents, the ARVN successfully defeated NVA T-34 and T-55 tanks and even slowed the North's offensive. However, due to shortages of fuel and munitions faced by the South Vietnamese military because of the US Congress-placed ban on the further funding and supply of military equipment and logistics to the country, the American-made tanks soon ran out of ammunition and fuel and were quickly abandoned to the NVA, which then put them in their service after the war ended in May 1975. In total, 340 of the ARVN's M48A3s were destroyed and captured and those captured (at least 30) were only used briefly before being phased out and turned into war-memorial displays all over Vietnam.
M48s, along with Australian 20 pounder (84mm)-gunned Centurions of the 1st Armoured Regiment, were the only vehicles in use by the anti-communist side in the Vietnam War that could reasonably protect their crews from land mines. They were often used for minesweeping operations along Highway 19 in the Central Highlands, a two-lane paved road between An Khe and Pleiku. Daily convoys moved both ways along Highway 19. These convoys were held up each morning while the road was swept for mines. At that time, minesweeping was done by soldiers walking slowly over the dirt shoulders of the highway with hand-held mine detectors. During this slow process, convoys would build up into a dangerously-inviting target for the enemy, especially their guerillas and partisans. As a result, a faster method was improvised, the "Thunder Run", in which one M48 lined up on each side of the road, with one track on the dirt shoulder and the other track on the asphalt, and then with all guns firing, they raced to a designated position miles away. If the M48s made it without striking a mine, the road was clear and the convoys could proceed. In most cases, an M48 that struck a land mine in these operations only lost a road wheel or two in the explosion; seldom was there any hull damage that would be considered "totalling" (entirely destroying) the tank.
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M47s and M48s were used in tank warfare by the Pakistan Army against the Indian Army's Soviet T-55s, British Centurions and US M4 Sherman tanks in both the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 as well as the following war in 1971 with at least some good results. During Operation Grand Slam, Pakistani tank forces, comprising mainly of M47 and M48 Patton tanks, thrust through the Indian defence-lines very quickly and swiftly defeated back Indian Army armoured counter-attacks. The Pakistanis used approximately a division's worth of tanks in the operation, although not all were Pattons, with upgraded Shermans included as well. In contrast, Pakistan's Patton tank failed to live up to its high expectations in the Battle of Asal Uttar in September 1965, where about 97 Pakistani tanks were lost, the majority of them being Pattons (M47s and M48s). Later, the Patton tank was the main Pakistani tank at the Battle of Chawinda and its performance at that battle was deemed satisfactory against Indian armour.
The Patton was later used by Pakistan again, this time, in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971. A counter-attack led by the 13th Lancers and the 31st Cavalry army units was defeated by the Indian 54th Division around Battle of Barapind in December 1971. India later set up a temporary war-memorial so named "Patton Nagar" (or "Patton City") in Khemkaran District in Punjab, where the captured Pakistani Patton tanks were displayed for a short period of time before being scrapped or sent all across India for use as war monuments and military memorials.
Analysing their overall performance in their wars with India, the Pakistani military held that the Patton was held in reasonably-high esteem by both sides and that combat-tactics were to blame for their utter defeat and the following debacle at Asal Uttar. However, a post-war US study of the tank battles in South Asia concluded that the Patton's armour could, in fact, be penetrated by the 20-pounder tank gun (84 mm) of the Centurion (later replaced by the even-more successful L7 105mm gun on the Mk. 7 version which India also possessed) as well as the 75 mm tank gun of the AMX-13 light tank.
M48s were also used with mixed results during the Six-Day War of 1967. On the Sinai battlefront, Israeli M48s upgunned with the then-advanced 105 mm L7 rifled tank gun were used with considerable success against Egyptian IS-3s, T-54s/T-55s, T-34/85s and SU-100s supplied by the Soviet Union during the 1950s and the 1960s (such as during the Second Battle of Abu-Ageila. However, on the West Bank war-front, Jordanian M48s (Jordan was also a user of the M48 Patton as was Israel at the same time-period) were often defeated by Israeli 105mm-armed Centurions and WWII-era upgraded M4 Shermans (M-51s upgunned with French-built 105 mm tank guns (not to be confused with the British L7 105mm tank gun)). In purely-technical terms, the Pattons were far superior to the much-older Shermans, with shots at more than 1,000 meters simply glancing off the M48's armor. However, the 105 mm main gun of the Israeli Shermans fired a HEAT round designed to defeat the Soviet T-62 tank, which was the USSR's response to the M48's successor in US service, the M60 Patton. The Jordanian Pattons' general failure on the West Bank could also be attributed to excellent Israeli air superiority. The Israeli Army captured about 100 Jordanian M48 and M48A1 tanks and pressed them into service in their own units after the war, as the same as were the Jordanian M113 APCs they seized during the war.
Aside from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), the M48 was also operated by the Lebanese Army, the Christian Lebanese Forces militia, the Druze Progressive Socialist Party's People’s Liberation Army militia and the Israeli-backed South Lebanon Army (SLA) in the Lebanese Civil War. On 10 June in 1982, eight Israeli M48A3s, two M60A1s and at least three M113 APCs were lost in a successful ambush by Syrian T-55 tanks and BMP-1 infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) during the Battle of Sultan Yacoub in 1982.
When the Turkey-PKK conflict began, the Turkish Armed Forces had a number of M48s. These were used throughout the 1980s and the 1990s as static artillery and was used in defending military-base perimeters from enemy attacks.
Iranian M48 tanks were used widely in the Iran–Iraq War from 1980 to 1988, where they faced Iraqi T-55s, T-62s and T-72s, alongside M60 Pattons, in fierce and harsh combat with their Iraqi foes, with mixed results.
In 1973, Morocco took delivery of its first M48A3s. By the end of the 70's, further deliveries of M48A5 had occurred and the upgrade to M48A5 was achieved locally with the aid of US consultants. In 1987, a final shipment of 100 M-48A5 tanks from the Wisconsin National Guard was delivered to the Moroccan army. There are unconfirmed reports of deliveries of Israeli M48A5s during the 80's. The tanks were used in the Western Sahara desert against Polisario guerrillas with great success. The M48's superior fire control system and APFSDS rounds proved fatal to the Polisario's T-55s.
Israel created an extensive number of variants of the series from tanks acquired initially from a number of sources, including capturing them in battle, or from other countries, such as Germany and the United States. Many of the Israeli M48's have been upgraded with additional reactive or passive armor, drastically improving their armor protection. These up-armored versions are called Magach.
The picture of the Brave Tiger shows one of the first M60s with an M48 turret.
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