The M48 Patton is a main battle tank 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. The M48 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 Patton was a completely new tank design. Some M48A5 models served well into the 1980s with American forces, and many various M48 Patton models remain in service in other countries. The M48 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.
The Turkish Army has the largest number of modernized M48 MBTs, with more than 1,400 M48s in its inventory. Of these, around 1,000 have been phased out or are in storage, or have been modified to ARVs.
- 1 History
- 2 Combat service
- 3 Variants
- 4 Operators
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 External links
On 27 February 1951, OTCM #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, new redesigned hull, and an improved suspension. The hull machine gunner position was removed, reducing the crew to 4. It was essentially a new tank. On 2 April 1953, the Ordnance Technical Committee Minutes (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's, were powered by a gasoline 12-cylinder engine which was coupled with an auxiliary 8-cylinder engine (called the "Little Joe"). The gasoline engine gave the tank a short operating range and were prone to catching fire when hit. This version was considered unreliable but numerous examples saw combat use in various Arab-Israeli conflicts. They also were prone to fire when the turret was penetrated and the hydraulic lines ruptured spewing hydraulic fluid (nicknamed "cherry juice" because of its red color) at high pressure into the crew compartment resulting in a fireball. The flashpoint was too low, less than 300 °F (150 °C), causing many burns and deaths to crew members. Beginning in 1959, most American M48s were upgraded to the M48A3 model which featured a 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 including the 124th Panzer Battalion.
In February 1963, the US Army accepted its first of 600 M48 Patton tanks that had been converted to M48A3's, 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 3 or 5 support rollers on each side and might have either the early or later type headlight assemblies.
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In the mid-1970s, the M48A5 upgrade was developed to allow the vehicle to carry the heavier 105 mm gun. This was designed to bring the M48s up to speed with the M60 tanks then in regular use and to simplify ammunition logistics. Most of the M48s were placed into service with reserve units by this time.
By the mid-1990s, the M48s were phased out of U.S. service. Many other countries, however, continued to use the M48 models.
The M48s saw extensive action during the Vietnam War, over 600 Pattons would be deployed with US Forces during the war. The initial M48s landed with the US Marine 1st and 3rd Tank Battalions in 1965; the Marine 5th Tank Battalion would later become a reinforcement unit. Remaining Pattons deployed to South Vietnam were in three U.S. Army battalions, the 1-77th Armor near the DMZ, the 1-69th Armor in the Central Highlands, and the 2-34th Armor near the Mekong Delta. Each battalion consisted of approximately fifty seven 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. The M67A1 flamethrower 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 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.
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 near Ben Het in 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 so-called Ho Chi Minh Offensive in 1975. In several incidents, the South Vietnamese Army successfully defeated NVA T-34 and T-55 tanks and even slowed the North's offensive. However since the United States Congress passed bans on the transfer of fuel and ammunition to South Vietnam, the American-made tanks were soon out of ammunition and fuel and were abandoned to the North Vietnamese Army in 1975 which put them in predictably short service of the Vietnamese People's Army after the war ended in May 1975.
M48s, alongside Australian 20 pounder (84mm) gunned Centurions of the 1st Armoured Regiment, were the only vehicles in Vietnam 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. 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; 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 which would be considered "totaling" the tank.
M47s and M48s were again used in tank warfare by the Pakistan Army against Indian Army's Centurion and M4 Sherman tanks in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 with some good results. In the Rann of Kutch the tanks proved surprisingly nimble in marshy terrain, and Pakistani forces drove back Indian attacks. In Kashmir and Punjab, the tank had its first real test. During Operation Grand Slam, Pakistani tank forces broke through the Indian lines very quickly, and defeated armored counterattacks. The Pakistanis used approximately a division worth of tanks though not all were Pattons. The Patton failed to live up to expectations in the Battle of Asal Uttar, where about 97 Pakistani tanks were lost, the majority of them being Pattons. Later the tank was the main Pakistani tank at the Battle of Chawinda and its performance at that battle was deemed satisfactory.The Patton was later used by Pakistan in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, with mixed results. In a repetition of 1965, Pattons spearheaded the Pakistani advance through Chamb, and the Patton was the main Pakistani tank at Shakarghar. In the latter battle, a brigade of tanks (the Changez Force) successfully resisted the Indian advance, in a repeat of Chawinda. However, in what became known as Pakistan's Charge of the Light Brigade, a counterattack led by 13th Lancers and 31st Cavalry was mauled by the Indian 54th Division around Battle of Barapind. India later set up a war memorial named "Patton Nagar" ("Patton City") in Khemkaran District, where the captured Pakistani Patton tanks are displayed.
Analyzing their performance, the Pakistani Army held that the Patton was held in reasonably high esteem by both sides and that tactics were to blame for the debacle at Asal Uttar. However, a U.S. study of the battles in South Asia concluded that the Patton's armor could in fact be penetrated by the 20 pounder gun (84 mm) of the Centurion as well as the 75 mm gun of the AMX-13.
M48s were also used with mixed results during the 1967 Six-Day War. On the Sinai front, Israeli M48s up-gunned with 105 mm L7 rifled guns were used with success against Egyptian T-34s and SU-100s supplied by the Soviet Union in the second battle of Abu-Ageila. However, on the West Bank front, Jordanian M48s were often defeated by Israeli WWII-era M4 Shermans (M-51s up-gunned with 105 mm guns). In pure technical terms the Pattons were far superior to the Shermans, with shots at more than 1,000 meters simply glancing off the M48s' armor; However the 105 mm gun of the Israeli Shermans fired a HEAT round designed to defeat the T-62 tank which was the Soviet response to the M48's successor in US service, the M60. The Jordanian Pattons' failure on the West Bank could also be attributed to 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.
M48s were used by the Israel Defense Forces, the Lebanese Army, the Christian Lebanese Forces militia, the Druze Progressive Socialist Party militia and the South Lebanon Army in the Lebanese Civil War. On 10 June 1982 ten Israeli M48A3s and some APCs were lost in an ambush by Syrian T-55 tanks and BMP-1 during the Battle of Sultan Yacoub.
Iranian M48 tanks were used when the country was attacked by Iraqi forces.
In 1987, United States sold Morocco 100 M-48A5 tanks from the Wisconsin National Guard. They were used in Western Sahara desert against Polisario guerrillas.
- M48: Differed from the M47 in having yet another new turret design and a redesigned hull, doing away with the bow machine gun position, featuring the M41 90 mm gun. These turrets give the M48 its distinctive non-M26 style look. Originally the gun featured a Y-shape muzzle brake, but this was changed to the more characteristic T-shape.
- M48C: Over a hundred original production hulls were found to be lacking correct ballistic protection and were relegated to training as the M48C.
- M48A1: New driver hatch and M1 commander's cupola, allowing the M2HB .50 caliber machine gun to be operated and reloaded from within the vehicle.
- M48A2: Improved powerpack and transmission, redesigned rear plate, and improved turret control.
- M48A2 AVLB: M48A2 chassis, fitted with a scissors-type bridge.
- M48A2C: M48A2s with an improved rangefinder, M17, new ballistic drive and bore evacuator for the main gun, and the auxiliary tensioning wheels were deleted.
- M48A3: Refit of M48A1 through M48A2C models to diesel engines and a new fire control system. 1,019 converted [unreliable source]
- M48A3 Mod. B: Additional armor on the exhausts and tail lights, and a raised commander's cupola.
- M48A4: Proposed refit of M48A3s with M60 turrets, scrapped with the need of these previous "surplus" turrets with the failure of the M60A2
- M48A5: Up-gunned with the 105 mm M68 gun. 2,069 converted 
- M48A5 AVLB: M48A5 chassis with a 60-foot scissors-type bridge.[unreliable source]
- M48A5PI: M1 cupola replaced by the Israeli Urdan model.
- M67 "Zippo": M48 armed with a flamethrower inside a dummy model of the main gun with fake muzzle brake. Named after a popular brand of cigarette lighter.
- M48DB: (M48 Dozer Blade) Outfitted with dozer blade type M8 and M8A1 (Bulldozer, Earth Moving, Tank Mounting M8/M8A1) .
- M8A1DB: Improved M48 tank with equipment as above
- M48A2DB German Army version
- M8A1DB: Improved M48 tank with equipment as above
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 uparmored versions are called Magach.
- E-48 AVLB: A M48 AVLB but with an Israeli bridge.
- E-48 (M48A2): An unmodified M48A2 from Germany.
- E-48 (M48A2C): German designation for the M48A2C.
- E-48 (M48A3): US-made M48A3 in German service.
- Magach: A series of improved Israeli versions of the M48 and the M60.
Taiwan (Republic of China)
- M48A3 (ROC Variant): Most of Republic of China Army M48A3 began their lives as M48A1/A2 and have (unlike those serving other nations) retained the original engine compartment, the engine installation made possible by removing adjacent fuel cells, resulting in a lower operational range of 312 km.
- M48H/CM-11 "Brave Tiger": ROC M60 version utilizing an up-gunned M48A2 turret mated to an M60A3 hull. Also has significant upgrades to the gun tracking equipment and fire control.
- CM-12: M48A3 retrofitted with the same weapons and fire control upgrades as the CM-11. They retained the original engine compartment of the M48/M48A1, and the upgrade apparently included the removal of some fuel cells in the hull, resulting in a lower operational range than that of the M48A5 (the official figure being 203 km).
The picture of the Brave Tiger shows one of the first M60 with an M48 turret.
- M48A5 MOLF: The Hellenic Army has added the EMES-18 FCS to their M48A5, denumerating them as "MOLF" for Modular Laser Fire Control System. About 400 M48A5 were rebuilt at 304 Π.Ε.Β. (Hellenic Army Factory) and most of the electronics of the EMES-18 have been manufactured by ECON electronics in Greece. The MOLF system shares 80% of its parts with the EMES-18 used in Hellenic's Army 500+ Leopard 1A5GR.
- M48A5E: 1978-79, M48A5 variant, 105 mm gun with M17B1C optical rangefinder. M13A4 ballistic computer, IR/white light projector over main armament.
- M48A5E1: improved M48A5E
- M48A5E2: 1981–1983. Hughes Mk7 fire control system with laser rangefinder and solid state ballistic computer; passive night vision equipment, Urdan cupola. 164 upgraded vehicles, retired 1997.
- M48A5E3: 1991. Prototype only. E2 with thermal sights and main gun stabilization. Cancelled in 1993.
- M48A3K: 381 vehicles were converted from M48A1 to M48A3 Mod.A with M48A5 standard FCS. This variant uses a diesel engine instead of the original gasoline type. Other changes include installation of a T-shaped muzzle brake on the gun, three additional support wheels on the tracks, commander's periscope on the turret and smoke grenade dischargers. The fire control system has also been replaced with a native South Korean version.
- M48A5K1/A5K2: 195 M48A5K1 was converted from M48A2C, and 210 M48A5K2 was converted from M48A1. Replacing the main gun with the KM68A1 105 mm gun. Additional side skirts were provided, and the fire control system was upgraded to the Laser Tank Fire Control System (LTFCS). M48A5K2 equips Israeli Urdan cupola. Korea also received 275 ex-USFK M48A5 in 1995, and upgraded to "K" standard but side skirts.
- M48A5T1: Turkish M48 variant upgraded along similar lines to the M60A1, with an M68 105 mm main gun, passive night vision, M60A1 fire control system and an MTU diesel engine.
- M48A5T2: Improved version of the M48A5T1 upgraded along similar lines to the M60A3 with thermal imaging, M60A3 fire control system and a laser rangefinder.
- M48T5 "Tamay" ARV: Turkish-designed remote controlled armored recovery vehicle built on the M48 chassis.
- Minenräumpanzer Keiler (mine clearing tank "wild boar"), a mine flail, mine clearing vehicle based on a widely modified M48A2C cast hull. The first of 24 Keilers was supplied to the German Army by Rheinmetall in 1997. This vehicle remains in service.
- Kampfpanzer M48A2C: Served together with the M47 starting in the late 1950s (the M47 was replaced by the Leopard 1). When the Leopard 2 came into service they were sent to the Heimat-Schutzbrigaden ("home defence brigades") of the Territorialheer (Territorial Army). Many were later upgraded to M48A2GA2 standard.
- Kampfpanzer M48A2GA2: Upgraded version with the 105 mm L7 cannon and a different MG3 installation from the Leopard 1 as well as quite a few other assemblies. The tank served with tank battalions and in the 5th (heavy) company of some Jäger Battalions of the Territorial Army. 650 were converted by Wegmann (Kassel) between June 1978 and November 1980
- Combat-Engineer Variants: The Bundeswehr used several Combat Engineer Variants of the M48. The early versions were based on the M48A2C with an M8 dozer blade attached but otherwise unmodified vehicles. When the M48 was upgraded to the M48A2GA2, these tanks were not upgraded but given to the Home Defense Forces and lost their gun completely. In Service until the early 1990s
- Super M48: Private venture upgrade for the M48. Featured a 105 mm L7 cannon, a new Diesel engine and add-on armor on the turret front. Never developed beyond a prototype/test platform stage.
- M48 Marksman: An M48 hull with the British-designed Marksman anti-aircraft turret mounted. Not in service.
- Greece: 390 M48A5 MOLF
- Iran: 80
- Republic of Korea: Around 300 M48A3K and 500 M48A5/A5K1/A5K2 are in service. M48A3K are expected to be replaced with K2 Black Panther in the distant future.
- Lebanon: 104 M48A1 and M48A5
- Morocco: 225 M48A5
- Republic of China: 450 CM-11, 100 CM-12
- Thailand: 105 M48A5
- Turkey: 758 M48A5T2 in service. All other variants, 2,250 pieces including the 1,389 M48A5T1 are phased out of active service.
- Norway: 38 M48A5
- Pakistan: 300 M48A5's in active service till 2002, Currently in Reserve.
- Portugal: M48A5 phased out and replaced by M60A3 TTS and Leopard-2A6.
- South Vietnam: Few hundreds. 20 passed on to Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
- Spain: 164 M48A5E
- Tunisia: 28
- West Germany
- Vietnam: 20 M48s, retired due to lack of spare parts.
- United States of America
- M46 Patton
- M47 Patton
- M60 Patton
- M88 Recovery Vehicle - An armored recovery variant based on the M48 Patton/M60 Series tanks chassis and part of the automotive component.
- M103 heavy tank
- List of armoured fighting vehicles
- G-numbers - SNL G254
- Type 61 - a similarly armed Japanese design
Tanks of comparable role, performance and era
- Hunnicutt, p. 35
- The Yom Kippur war the revised and definitive edition by the insight team of the sunday times page 140
- Hunnicutt, p. 93
- although the Ordnance Committee Minutes/OCM #33476 ceased utilizing the heavy, medium, and light tank designations on 7 November 1950; going to the "...Gun Tank designation")
- Hunnicutt, pp. 85 & 152
- Starry p. 113
- Starry p. 80
- Бой у Султан-Яакуб
- Bowden, p. 324
- "M60A1/M48A5 Armored Vehicle Launched Bridge". Retrieved 12 March 2013.
- Marin&Mata: Atlas Ilustrado de vehículos blindados españoles. Susaeta Ediciones 2010
- "Rheinmetall Landsysteme Keiler armoured mineclearing vehicle (Germany)". Jane's Military Vehicles and Logistics. Janes Information Group. 14 Aug 2008. Retrieved 2009-08-30.
- Super M48
- Information on Jane's about the Super M48
- Taiwan - Army Equipment
- Israel - Army Equipment
- "Pakistan Land Forces military equipment and vehicles of Pakistani Army".
- Pakistan - Army Equipment
- Steven J Zaloga, Tony Bryan, Jim Laurier - "M26–M46 Pershing Tank 1943–1953", 2000 Osprey Publishing (New Vanguard 35), ISBN 1-84176-202-4.
- Keith W. Nolan "Into Lao's, Operation Lam Son 719 and Dewey Canyon II" 1986. Presidio Press. Account of the US Army's final offensive of the Vietnam War.
- Abraham Rabinovich - "The Battle for Jerusalem June 5–7, 1967", 2004 Sefer Ve Sefer Publlishing, Jerusalem, ISBN 965-7287-07-3
- Starry, Donn A., General. "Mounted Combat In Vietnam"; Vietnam Studies. 1989; Department of the Army.
- Hunnicutt, R. P. "Patton: A History of the American Main Battle Tank." 1984, Presidio Press; ISBN 0-89141-230-1.
- Dunstan, Simon. "Vietnam Tracks-Armor in Battle." (1982 edition, Osprey Publishing), ISBN 0-89141-171-2.
- Bowden, Mark "Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War" 2001, Signet; ISBN 0-451-20393-3.
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