The story of the Patton in IDF service begins shortly before the Six-Day War in 1967.
After the War of Independence Israel was in dire need of replacements for their ageing Sherman and AMX 13 tanks. The most
viable options were the British Centurion and the US M48 Patton tanks.
In the early 1960's the US finally agreed to sell Pattons to Israel. However it was not possible to sell these openly from US stock.
Therefore a deal was struck between Germany and the US and Israel that Germany was to deliver 150 M48A1 and A2 tanks to Israel. From 1960 to 1964, Israel received 40 M48A1 and A2C from West Germany. However this
deal had to be abandoned after press leaks and a political outcry over the sale in Germany. Since West Germany was no longer able to supply 150 tanks as requested the US administration decided to supply the
remaining 110 M48A1 tanks to the IDF directly and to add another 100 M48A2 tanks. All M48 were armed with the 90mm main gun and powered by gasoline engines.
Israel planned to upgrade these tanks to M48A3 standard
by replacing their gasoline engines with newer, more powerful and economical diesel engines. The M48 took part in the 1967 fighting mostly on the Sinai front against the Egyptian army. During the war Israel
captured about 100 M48 and M48A1 tanks from Jordan and used them as their own tanks after the war.
The M48 took part in the Six-day War in 1967 in several configurations, most with the 90mm gun and with the old M1 cupola and some as plain M48A2 with gasoline engines but none in M48 or M48A1 configuration.
Some had the old three piece headlight cluster arrangement and some the newer two light configurations like the later M60. Some were already fully upgraded with 105mm guns.
The IDF continued its upgrade program and all M48â€™s were upgraded as planned after the war ended. A number was fitted a Sherman vintage cupola as a stopgap
measure. All received the 105mm L7 gun (same as planned for the Centurion Shâ€™ot MBT) and the Israeli Urdan cupola after the war ended. These tanks are known as Magach 3.
By 1973 the IDF had about 800 Magach 3 in service.
To bolster its armoured force the IDF purchased 150 M60A1 tanks from the US in 1971. During
and shortly before the Yomâ€“Kippur War in 1973 Israel took delivery of additional M60 and M60A1 tanks from US stocks. Most of the M60A1â€™s took part in the 1973 fighting with their M1
CWS in place. Some had a .30 Cal machinegun mounted externally. Most but not all M60â€™s seem to have been upgraded with the unique Urdan cupola prior to any deployment.
The Pattons in the Yom Kippur War were upgraded M48â€™s (Magach 3), M60 with and without the Urdan cupola and M60A1 with the M1 CWS and some with the M1 CWS minus its M85 gun but an
externally cradle mounted .30Cal. Some already featured an additional .50Cal mounted above the main gun for added firepower against soft targets.
After the Yom Kippur War the IDF received large numbers of M48, M60 and M60A1 tanks to replace the tanks that had been lost in the fierce fighting. During the late 1970's Israel
received 150 M48A5 tanks from US, designated Magach 5 by the IDF. From 1980 to 1985 Israel received another 300 M60A3 tanks from the US.
Until 1982, the invasion of Lebanon (Operation Peace for Galilee), the IDF Patton fleet was further upgraded. The T97 tracks were replaced with the new T142
tracks with octagonal track pads whenever necessary or directly supplied with the new M60A3. All Pattons received the reactive armor suite of explosive
reactive armour (ERA) and a 60mm Soltam mortar plus a second turret mounted .30 cal. The M60 and M60A1 fitted with ERA are called Magach 6 (M60) and
Magach 6A (M60A1) and were used extensively during the 1982 Operation Peace for Galilee.
A further upgrade for the M60A1 shortly after and during the campaign was the addition of a
Vidco thermal sleeve to the 105mm M68 main gun, exchange of the two .30Calâ€™s for 7.62mm FN.Magâ€™s and added IMI CL-3030 smoke dischargers. This version is the Magach 6B.
The Magach 6B Gal was the next step in the development, the T142 tracks were replaced step by step with new home made Urdan single-pin steel tracks like those used on the Centurion or
Merkava tank. This necessitated a new sprocket drum adapter, too. Other external modifications were the replacement of the original M60A1 and A3 turret-basket with a unique
large version and the addition of a cross wind sensor with the respective upgrades of the fire controls and gun stabilisation systems.
Most modifications to the Magach 6, 6B and 6B Gal were not carried out all at once, so it is possible to see those Magach tanks with only some of the modifications carried out and
combining parts of each of them. The several internal upgrades like gun stabilisation or fire control systems were incorporated, too. These led to sub designations not discussed here.
The Magach 7A is an upgraded Magach 6 (M60) tank without the Blazer
armour array but a completely new designed type of passive armour added to the turret and hull front, armoured side skirts, new fire controls, a Vidco thermal sleeve for the 105mm gun and Urdan tracks (as on
Magach 6B) plus a new AVDS-1790-5A engine providing 908hp compared to the old AVDS-1790 2Câ€™s 750hp the earlier Magachâ€™s used.
The new type of armor offers superior protection against KE rounds compared to the Blazer ERA that was only effective against CE rounds. It entered IDF service in 1989.
The Magach 7C is basically a 7A with redesigned passive armour array with a more pointed turret front and new IS-6 smoke dischargers. The latest version Magach 6B Gal Batash (aka
Magach 7D or 8) is an upgrade of the M60A1/ A3 Magach. It incorporates the same armour as used on the Magach 7 but was redesigned for the M60A1/A3 turret.
So far the Magachâ€™s have not been rearmed with the IMI produced 120mm smooth bore main gun used on the Merkava 3. The export version â€˜Sabraâ€™ however has this new gun already
installed and testing has shown that rearmament of the old warriors is possible with only minor effort, extending the life of this old tank even further.
The story of the IDFâ€™s Pattons could go on for another decade!