Magach (מגח; Ma-GAKH) designation refers to a series of tanks in Israeli service. The tanks are based on the American M48 and M60 Patton tanks. Magach 1, 2, 3 and 5 are based upon M48 tanks; Magach 6 and 7 are based upon M60 tanks.
The tanks were sold to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) by West Germany and later the United States, during the 1960s and 1970s. Several dozen Jordanian M48 tanks, captured intact during the 1967 Six Day War, were also commissioned into service, adding to Israel's 150 already in service at that time. During the war, the Israeli tanks served in their original (American) configuration.
Following the 1967 war, several modifications were made to improve the tank to M48A3 level, resulting with the Magach 3. These modifications included replacement of the original 90 mm cannon gun with the British 105 mm L7, lowering the command turret's profile, upgraded communication suite, and replacement of the flammable and weak gasoline engine with a 750 hp diesel one.
When the Yom Kippur War broke out, Israel had a total of 540 M48A3 (with 105mm gun) and M60A1 tanks. During the war, the tanks suffered heavy losses. The location of flammable hydraulic fluid at the front of the turret was discovered to be a severe vulnerability. After the war Israel had only about 200 M48A3 and M60A1 tanks, after a large number of Israeli tanks were destroyed or terminally hit during the war, mostly in the Sinai front in fighting against the Egyptian army. The war's losses were replaced with new M48A5 (Magach 5) and M60 (Magach 6) during the 1970s.
Prior to the 1982 invasion of Lebanon (1982 Lebanon War), Magach 6 tanks were fitted with explosive reactive armor (ERA). Further work has been done on the upgraded Magach 6 models, including new armor, Merkava-based tracks, new fire controls, a thermal sleeve for the gun and smoke dischargers, eventually resulting in the Magach 7 model which is still in use with the IDF.
Since the 1980s and 1990s, the Magachs are gradually replaced with Merkava tanks as Israel's front-line main battle tank. However, the large majority of the IDF's armored corps continued to consist of Magach variants until the 1990s, and the tank was continuously upgraded during this time.
By 2006 all Magachs in regular units have been replaced with the Merkava. However, Merkava production to Israel has been halted so Magachs in reserve units will be in service for many years to come.
In 2013, the IDF announced that they were retiring all the Magach versions from the army due to budget cuts and the fact that regular soldiers who trained and operated Merkava's during their service then had to retrain for the Megach's during their reserves. The Magachs will be replaced by Merkava 2's and Merkava 3's in reserve service.
Source of the name "Magach"
Contrary to a popular belief, "Magach" is not an abbreviation but a Hebrew word meaning "ramming hit". However, as the word is very rarely used and is not known to many Hebrew speakers, several popular explanation of the name exist:
- Short for Merkevet Giborei Hayil (Hebrew: מרכבת גיבורי חיל, literally Chariot of War Heroes.
- One version states that the real source of the name is the designation M48A3 (in Gematria 40 is "mem" ("m"), 8 is "chet" ("ch") and 3 is "gimel" ("g")).
- Like the above, but "g" stands for Germany, a supplier of the first M48 tanks to Israel.
- Yet another version says that M48A3 can be read as MAgAch (4 looks like "A", 8 like "g" etc.).
- A once popular macabre joke in the IDF said that "Magach" stands for "Movil Gviyot Charukhot" — "charred bodies carrier", probably referring to the Yom Kippur War losses and particularly to the aforementioned flammable hydraulic fluid problem of the M48.
- Other variants include "Meshupa Gahon" (one with sloping belly) and even "Mechonat Giluach Hashmalit" (electric shaving machine).
- Magach 1: M48A1.
- Magach 2: M48A2C.
- Magach 3: Modernized M48A1/A2C/A3. The modifications included British 105 mm L7 cannon, low profile commander's cupola, upgraded communication suite, a 750 hp diesel engine Continental AVDS-1790-2A with Allison CD-850-6 transmission. Were eventually fitted with Blazer ERA.
- Magach 5: M48A5 in the original configuration. Generally similar to the Magach 3, but had slightly different engine and transmission—AVDS-1790-2D and CD-850-6A accordingly. Were eventually fitted with Blazer ERA.
- Magach 6: Modernized M60/M60A1/M60A3. Fitted with the Urdan low profile cupola and Blazer ERA.
- Magach 6A (6 Alef): Modernized M60A1. All vehicles were eventually upgraded to the Magach 6B level.
- Magach 6B (6 Bet): Similarly modernized M60A1 RISE (M60A1 with AVDS-1790-2C RISE (Reliability Improved Selected Equipment) engine).
- Magach 6B Gal (6 Bet Gal): Magach 6B with Gal fire control system.
- Magach 6B Gal Batash (6 Bet Gal Batash): Magach 6B Gal fitted with 4th generation passive armor and 908 hp engine. The turret has angled sides and angled mantlet. This variant is sometimes unofficially referred to as Magach 7D or Magach 8. A limited number of vehicles were converted from the Magach 6B Gal variant.
- Magach 6B Baz (6 Bet Baz): Magach 6B fitted with Baz fire control system. A limited number of vehicles were converted from the Magach 6B variant.
- Magach 6C (6 Gimel): Modernized M60A3.
- Magach 6R (6 Resh): Modernized M60, with engine upgraded to the AVDS-1790-2AG level (with more powerful electric generator compared to that of AVDS-1790-2A).
- Magach 6R* (6 Resh*): Magach 6R with preparations for mounting Nachal Oz fire control system.
- Magach 6M (6 Mem): Magach 6R* fitted with Nachal Oz fire control system.
- Magach 7: M60 with 908 hp AVDS-1790-5A engine, additional passive armor, new fire control and Merkava-based tracks. Different configurations exist:
- Magach 7A (7 Alef): Fixed flat mantlet with gun "slots".
- Magach 7B (7 Bet): An interim model with armor configuration similar to the 7C. Apparently never reached production.
- Magach 7C (7 Gimel): Fixed angled mantlet with gun "slots".
Magach should not be confused with Sabra series of upgrade packages (which appear especially similar to Magach 7 versions) for the M60A1/A3 which were developed for export to Turkey. Sabra includes upgrades similar to those of Magach 7, but an essential difference is that it is armed with the MG251 120 mm smooth-bore gun (the same as the Merkava 3).
- Amiad Brezner - MAGACH rammed Magach (Shiryon issue 30, pp 23-25.)
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