The M48 Patton II
was the third and final US
medium gun tank
of the Patton
, named after General George S. Patton
, commander of the U.S. Third
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
tank. The M48 Patton would also serve as an interim tank
until replaced by the US Army's first Main Battle Tank
(MBT), the M60 Combat
Tank. The M48 would serve as the U.S. Army and Marine Corps's
primary battle tank during the Vietnam
. 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
despite a rough similarity from a distance. Some M48A5 models
served well into the 1980s. Internationally, many various M48
Patton models remain in service. The M48 was the last US tank to
mount the 90mm 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
is currently the largest operator
of modernized M48 MBT. It currently has in excess of 1,400 M48s
remaining in its inventory(around 1000 have been phased out/in
storage or modified to ARVs).
Marines of E Company, 2nd Battalion,
3rd Marines, riding on an M48A3 tank, Vietnam, 1966.
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 turret, new redesigned hull and an improved
suspension. The hull machine gunner position was removed, reducing
the crew to 4. Essentially, it was a new tank altogether. 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 gas 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
"cherry juice" (the nickname for the red colored hydraulic fluid)
at high pressure into the crew compartment resulting in a fireball.
The flashpoint was too low at less than 300 F, causing many burn
injuries and deaths to crew members. In 1959, American M48s were
upgraded to the M48A3 model which featured a diesel power plant.
However, in 1975, M48s with gas engines were still in use 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. These Pattons were to
be deployed to battle in Vietnam.
In the mid-1970s, the M48A5 upgrade was developed to allow the
vehicle to carry the heavier 105mm gun. This was designed to bring
the M48s up to speed with the M60
then in regular use. 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.
However, many foreign countries continued to use the M48
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
Sheridan tanks. 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
(ARVN) forces, in particular creating the ARVN 20th
Tank Regiment; which supplemented their M41 Walker Bulldog
units. During the
North Vietnamese Army
Easter Offensive in 1972, tank clashes between NVA T-54
and ARVN M48/M41 units
became commonplace. But on 23 April 1972, tankers of the 20th Tank
Regiment were attacked by an NVA infanty-tank team, which was
equipped with the new 9M14M
) wire guided anti-tank missile
. During this battle, one
M48A3 Patton tank and one M113
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
in the Middle East in 1973.
Men of Troop B, 1st Battalion, 10th
Cavalry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division, and their M48 Patton tank
move through the jungle in the Central Highlands of Vietnam, June
The M48s performed admirably in Vietnam in the infantry-support
role. However, there were few actual tank versus tank battles. One
was between the 1-69th Armor and PT-76
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
Vietnamese M-48s and M-41s fought bravely in the defence of South
Vietnam in the so called Ho Chi Minh Offensive in 1975. In several
incidents in which the South Vietnamese Army successfully defeated
even slowing 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
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
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. 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
they raced to a designated position miles away. If 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
M47s and M48s were again used in tank warfare by the Pakistan Army
against Indian Army
and M4 Sherman tanks in the
Indo-Pakistani War of
with some good results. In the Rann of Kutch the tanks proved surprisingly nimble in marshy
terrain, and Pakistani forces drove back Indian incursions.
Kashmir and Punjab, the tank
had its first real test.
, 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
about 97 Pakistani tanks were lost 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
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
, 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
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
(84mm) of the
Centurion as well as the 75mm 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 105mm L7 rifled guns were used
with stunning success against Egyptian T-54s and T-34s supplied by the
Union. However, on the West Bank front, Jordanian M48s were often defeated by Israeli WWII-era M4
Shermans (up-gunned with 105mm guns).
In pure technical
terms the Jordanian Pattons were far superior to the Israeli
Shermans, with Israeli shots at more than 1,000 meters simply
glancing off the M48s' armor. Other reasons for the Jordanian
Pattons' failure on the West Bank were Israeli air superiority
and a distinct lack of
aggressive handling by the Jordanian crews. 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 Lebanese Army
and the Christian Lebanese Forces
militia in the Lebanese Civil
. The Lebanese Army still operates about 100 M48s. In 2007,
during the 2007 North
Lebanese Army M48s shelled militant outposts
in a refugee camp.
Although only the M-47s were actively deployed in the Operation
Attila I&II in July and August 1974, M-48s are later stationed
in Cyprus by Turkish Armed
Pakistan used M48 Pattons, while rescuing American troops during
the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993.
- 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, an improved turret control.
- 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 M48A1s with diesel engines
and a new fire control system.
- M48A3 Mod. B - Additional
armor on the exhausts and tail lights, and a raised commanders
- M48A4 - Proposed refit of M48A3s with M60
turrets, scrapped with the need of these previous "surplus" turrets
with the failure of the M60A2
- M48A5 - Upgunned with the 105 mm M68 gun.
- M48A5PI - M1 cupola replaced by the Israeli
A USMC M67 "Zippo" during the Vietnam
- 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.
- M67A1 - M67 variant, M48A2 hulls used.
- M67A2 - M67 variant, M48A3 hulls used.
- M8 - Bulldozer and earthmoving equipment for
- M8A1 - Improved bulldozer and earthmoving
equipment for the M48
- M48 Marksman - a
SPAAG version, equipped with a Marksman turret.
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
- E-48 AVLB - a M48 AVLB but with an Israeli
- E-48 (M48A2) - basically unmodified M48A2 from
- E-48 (M48A2C) - basically unmodified M48A2C
- E-48 (M48A3) - basically unmodified M48A3 from
- Magach - a series of
improved Israeli versions of the M48 and the M60.
- AB1 - Jordanian armoured recovery
- AB9B1 - Jordanian upgrade with 120 mm
Republic of China variants
- 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 version
consisting of an up-gunned M48A2 turret and a M60A3 hull. Also has
significant upgrades to the gun tracking equipment and fire
- CM-12 - M48A3 MBT receiving the same weapons
and fire control upgrades as those of CM-11. They retained the
original engine compartment of M48A1/A2, and the upgrade apparently
again included the removal of some fuel cells in the hull,
resulting in a lower operational range than that of M48A5 (the
official figure being 203 km).
- M48A5 MOLF - The Hellenic Army has added the EMES-18 FCS to
their M48A5, denumerating them as “MOLF” for Modular Laser Fire
- M48A5E - M48A5 variant, 105 mm gun with
- Alacran CZ-10/25E - Spanish army combat engineer variant. (M-60.A1)
- Alacran CZ-10/30E - Upgraded CZ-10/25E.
South Korean variants
- M48A3K - This variant uses a diesel engine
instead of the original gasoline one. Other changes include
installation of T-form muzzle brake on the gun, three additional
support wheels on the tracks, commander's periscope on the turret
and smoke grenade launchers. The fire control system has also been
replaced with a South Korean version.
- M48A5K - Replacing the main gun with the
KM68 105 mm gun. Additional side
skirts were provided, and the fire control system has been upgraded
to the Laser Tank Fire Control System. (LTFCS)
- M48A5T1 - Turkish-upgraded M48 variant along
similar lines to the M48A5, with M68 105 mm main armament,
passive night vision and MTU diesel engines.
- M48A5T2 - Turkish-upgraded M48 variant,
improved version of the M48A5T1 with thermal sight and laser
- M48T5 "Tamay" ARV - Turkish-designed armored
recovery vehicle based on the M48 body.
- Minenraeumpanzer Keiler - an armored mine flail, mine clearing vehicle based on a
widely modified M48 A2C cast hull. (Still in service)
- Kampfpanzer M48 A2C - served together with the
M47 starting in the late 1950s (The M47 was replaced by the Leopard
I). When the Leopard II came into service they were send to the
Heimat-Schutzbrigaden (Home Defence Brigades) of the
Territorialheer (Territorial Armee). Many were later upgraded to
- Kampfpanzer M48A2GA2 - upgraded version with
the 105mm L7 cannon and a different MG3
installation from the Leopard 1 as
well as quite a few other Leopard I parts. Served with tank
batallions and in the 5th (heavy) company of some Jäger Batallions
of the Territorial army.
- Combat-Engineer Variants The Bundeswehr used
Combat Engineer Variants of the M48. The early versions were M48
A2C with the M8 dozer blade attached but otherwise normal units.
When the M48 was upgraded to M48 A2GA2 these tanks were not
upgraded but rather lost their gun completely.
- Super M48 - upgraded version M48. Never went
past a prototype/test platform state.
Current users of the M48 Patton in
dark blue, former in cyan.
- - 390 M48A5 MOLF (retiring)
- - 80
- - 561 Magach 5 Golan
- - 200
- - 380 M48A3K and 500 M48A5K (being replaced with K2 Black Panther)
- - 104 M48A1(retired) and M48A5
- - 345 M48A5
- (Taiwan) - 450
CM-11, 100 CM-12
- - 150 M48A5
- - 28
- - (1200)525 M48, 250 M48, 1350 M48 and 750 M48
- - 20 M48- some in reserve
- although the Ordnance Committee Minutes/OCM #33476 ceased
utilizing the heavy, medium, and light tank designations on 07
November 1950; going to the "...Gun Tank designation")
- Hunnicutt/p. 85 & 152
- Pakistan Military Consortium :: www.PakDef.info
- Super M48
- Israel - Army Equipment
- Taiwan - 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
- 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.