The M46 â The First Patton Tank
by Dave Barrett
The limited use of the M26 âPershingâ at the end of WWII, led the U.S. forces to believe they had the basis for a successful tank design. However, it did not meet the requirements laid forth by the Ground
Forces Equipment Review Board in 1945. The key complaint with the tank, was that it was underpowered. The M26 used the same drive train as the M4 series. With its added weight, it was an inevitable
conclusion that a new power plant was needed.
A new engine, the Continental Motors AV-1790-1 V-form, 12-cylinder, water-cooled, gasoline engine was combined with a new design General Motors CD-850-1 cross-drive transmission. This power plant
developed 740 hp, a somewhat limited increase in power. The novel design of this unit, was that it acted as a transmission, braking system, and steering system all in one unit. In addition to this
modification, a bore evacuator was added to the M3A1 90mm tank gun, along with a single baffle muzzle brake. Certain other changes were made, including an M83 telescopic fire control system, and round
transmission access covers.
So in essence, the âPattonâ was basically a modernized âPershingâ. Originally designated the M26E2, the tank was accepted into service as the Medium Tank M46. It was given the nickname
âPattonâ in honor of the great WWII general George S. Patton Jr.
From the inception of the M46 program, it was known that the tank would merely be a stop-gap measure, to be filled at a later date by the T42 medium tank class design. However, with the outbreak of the
Korean War, the tank was rushed into action to combat the North Korean T-34/85s alongside its M26 cousin.
The first M46 entered US service in late 1949. The famous Tiger faced tanks of the 6th Tank Bn. in Korea in 1951 were M46.
The tank saw action in the Korean War 1950-1953 where it proved superior to Russian T34/85, About 200 M46 were used by the US forces in Korea.
The M46 was retired from US service in 1957.
It was exported in comparatively small numbers to Belgium only.