The M48 Series
With the M47 being only a stopgap solution the M48 Patton was a completely new design compared to its predecessors. The hull and turret were of cast steel, well curved design and offered much better ballistic
protection than former welded and rather flat designs. The M48 was significantly larger than any earlier medium tank design. The M48 finally omitted the bow machine gun and gunner. It was armed with a co-axial
7.62mm MG and the commanderâs .50 cal MG only. The M48 retained a 90mm M41 gun as main weapon.
The US Army evaluated the first prototypes in 1951 and production of the M48 began in 1952. Production finally
ceased in 1959 with 11703 vehicles being build.
M48/M48A1 M48A2 M48A3 M48A5 Foreign service
The first production M48 can easily be distinguished by the .50cal being mounted on an external cradle without any armour protection.
The tank was fitted with an AV1790 gasoline engine giving it an operational
range of only 115km. Many of the early M48 suffered from the lack of testing and were not considered fit for service. They were quickly superseeded by the M48A1. The M48A1 received the M1 commandersâ cupola
providing armoured cover and enclosing the .50 cal plus numerous other improvements to the tank.
However the M48/ M48A1 was still hampered by its unreliability and lack of range as it was pressed into service due
to cold war threats. To overcome the lack of range a system of jettisonable fuel drums was developed.
The M48A1 was quickly followed by the M48A2 entering service in 1955 with a new power plant and fire control systems.
The M48A2 can be easily distinguished from the earlier versions. It had three instead of
five return rollers and a new engine deck without the extensive grille work atop. However it was still powered on gasoline. The next step, the M48A2C was a further improved version; externally the only major
difference is the absence of the small track tensioning wheel between the sixth road wheel and the sprocket. All M48A2 had a new headlight arrangement, similar to the M60. The M48A2C was the last âall newâ M48
to be produced, all further versions are rebuilds of existing tanks.
Another step further in the M48 development was the M48A3 of 1959, as already stated these were rebuild M48/ M48A1 and possibly a few M48A2. The upgrade included a new diesel power plant, the AVDS 1790 engine,
with the necessity for a new engine compartment, similiar to the A2 but with external side loading air cleaners mounted on top of the fenders. Late M48A3 also had a new vision ring for the commandersâ cupola plus
a few internal upgrades. The CWS hatch was redesigned, providing more internal space but deleting the two periscopes to the rear. The M48A3 was widely used in the US Army and Marine Corps and saw extensive action in
Vietnam where it proofed rugged and reliable. The 90mm main gun was sufficient for the task of infantry support as the Vietnam war was mainly an infantry war due to lack of armoured resistance. The M48A3 performed
very well in this role being able to take most mines and even RPG rounds without immediate danger to crewmembersâ lives. Another M48 version used in Vietnam was the M67A2 flamethrower tank.
The final US version is the M48A5 of 1975. It incorporates a new main gun, the L107 105mm, two M60D 7.62mm machine guns and new tracks with replaceable octagonal track shoes, the T142 track and a new CWS now close
to the IDF âUrdanâ design as most prominent features. Of course the fire control received upgrades also, most M48A5 also have the lighting system reworked to M60 standard. The rearlights and engine access doors
were upgraded, too. The whole M48A5 program nevertheless shows a wide range of actual different conversion statusâ, some even without the new gun but others with the old M1 cupola or track. Conversion packs were
also sold to other M48 users.
The M48A5 has been phased out of any US service by the mid 1990âs.
The M48 has seen and still sees a widespread use in foreign service. The first users being allied NATO countries. Major users were Belgium, Germany, Greece, Norway, Spain and Turkey. Other important foreign users
are Israel, Iran, Jordan, Pakistan, Taiwan and Korea.
The German M48A2/C were upgraded to M48A2GA2 standard by Wegmann. This already included a new 105mm main gun and replacement of the M1 CWS. The german M48
also featured a unique rear turret stowage box and the german made smoke grenade launcher system. All of these have been phased out of service or sold to other NATO partners by the mid 1990âs.
Greece and Turkey
have upgraded their fleets into M48A5. The Greek Army has added the EMES-18 FCS to their M48A5, denumerating them as âMOLFâ for Modular Laser Fire Control System.
The Jordanian M48 and M48A1 saw action
against the IDF in the six-day war in 1967 where they were highly regarded by their opponents.
The IDF used and still uses the M48, nowadays heavily upgraded and only a far cry from the original. Israeli M48 were
first used in 1967 in the Suez areas, they were M48A2, partly received from german stock but after a political outcry in Germany over this arms sale the IDF received M48 directly from US stock.
The IDF story of the Pattonsâ is another story to be discussed separately.
A main modification by the IDF included the L7 105mm gun and new Urdan CWS as first steps on the Magâach way.
Pakistan used its M48 against India in 1965 alongside their M47 with similar results.
The spanish M48 and M48A1 were upgraded in the 1980âs to M48E standard including the AVDS-1790 diesel power plant and fire
The taiwanese M48 were upgraded to M48H standard by 1995, this included the mating of M60 hull to M48 turret and subsequent upgunning to 105mm plus other fire control upgrades, this is locally
named CM-11. The CM-12 on the other hand is the Taiwanese amalgamation of CM-11 turret and M48A3 hulls.
South Korea was and still is a major user of the M48; it received M48, M48A1, A2C and A3 upgraded to M48A5
standard. The latest version is the M48ROK, this includes as most prominent feature side skirts and new fire controls plus a new CWS similar to the M48A5 Urdan style cuppola.