M48 Patton

M48 Patton
M48 Patton Thun.jpg
M48 Patton on display in Thun, Switzerland
TypeMain battle tank[1]
Place of originUnited States
Service history
In service1953–1990s (United States)
Wars1958 Lebanon crisis
Portuguese Colonial War
Dominican Civil War
Vietnam War
Six-Day War
Indo-Pakistani War of 1965
Indo-Pakistani War of 1971
Yom Kippur War[2]
Western Sahara War
Lebanese Civil War
Turkish invasion of Cyprus
Iran–Iraq War
Battle of Mogadishu (1993)
Kurdish–Turkish conflict
2007 Lebanon conflict
Production history
ManufacturerM48: Chrysler, Fisher Body, Ford Motor Company, American Locomotive Company
ProducedM48: 1952–1959
No. builtM48: ≈12,000
VariantsMany, see the variants section
MassM48: 49.6 short tons (44.3 long tons; 45.0 t) combat ready
Length9.3 m (30 ft 6 in)
Width3.65 m (12 ft 0 in)
Height3.1 m (10 ft 2 in)
Crew4 (commander, gunner, loader, driver)

ArmorUpper Glacis: 110 mm (4.3 in) at 60° = 220 mm (8.7 in) LoS
Turret Front: 178 mm (7.0 in) at 0°[3]
90 mm T54; M48A3 90 mm gun M41; M48A5 and later variants: 105 mm M68 gun
.50 cal (12.7 mm) M2 Browning machine gun
.30 cal (7.62 mm) M73 Machine gun
EngineContinental Continental AV1790AV-1790-2 carbureted V12, air-cooled gasoline engine (early M48s up to and including M48A1) 810 SAE gross hp = 650 DIN hp (478 kW)

Continental Continental AV1790AVI-1790-6 V12, air-cooled gasoline engine M-48A2 These engines used a light fuel injection system (20psi) No gasoline engines with the AVSI designation (air-cooled, V12, Supercharged, Fuel Injected) were used in the combat tanks. This engine designation was only found in the M-88 Tank Retriever and was rated at 1050HP @ 2800 RPM

Continental AVDS-1790-2 V12, air-cooled Twin-turbo diesel engine
750 hp (560 kW)
Power/weight16.6 hp (12.4 kW)/tonne
TransmissionGeneral Motors CD-850-4A or -4B, 2 ranges forward, 1 reverse
SuspensionTorsion bar suspension
Fuel capacity200 US gal (760 l; 170 imp gal)
M48 and M48A1 113 km, M48A2 258 km, M48A3 463 km, M48A5 499 km (all on road)[4]
SpeedM48A5: 30 mph (48 km/h)

The M48 Patton was a main battle tank (MBT) that was designed in the United States. It was the third tank[5] to be officially named after General George S. Patton, commander of the U.S. Third Army[6] during World War II and one of the earliest American advocates for the use of tanks in battle.[7] It was a further development of the M47 Patton tank. The M48 Patton was in U.S. service until replaced by the M60[6] and served as the U.S. Army and Marine Corps' primary battle tank during the Vietnam War. 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 bearing some semblance to the M47, the M48 was a completely new design, featuring a complete new turret as well as modified hull. It was the last U.S. tank to mount the 90 mm tank gun, with the last model, the M48A5, being upgraded to carry the new standard weapon of the M60, the 105mm gun. Some M48A5 models served well into the 1980s with U.S. Army National Guard units, and many M48s remain in service in other countries. The Turkish Army has the largest number of modernized M48 MBTs, with more than 1,400 in its inventory. Of these, around 1,000 have been phased out, placed in storage, or modified as ARVs.


Marines of E Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines, riding on an M48A3 tank, Vietnam, 1966

In February 1951, the Army 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).[8]

By January 1952 Army officials were considering whether the lighter T42 medium tank was better suited to the doctrine preferred by the Ordnance Department that called for lighter, more agile tanks.[9]

A deeper modernization than the M46 and the M47, the M48 featured a new hemispherical turret, a redesigned hull similar to the T43 heavy tank,[9] and an improved suspension. The hull machine gunner position was removed, reducing the crew to four. In April 1953, the Army standardized the last of the Patton series tanks as the 90mm Gun Tank M48 Patton.[6]

In April 1952 Chrysler Corporation began production of the M48 at its Newark, Delaware, plant. The tank was christened after the late General George S. Patton at its public debut at the Chrysler plant in July.[10] General Motors and Ford Motor Company produced the tank in Michigan. Also in July the Army awarded American Locomotive Company a $200 million contract to produce the tank.[11] In December Chrysler took on orders initially intended for the American Locomotive after the Army ordered production cutbacks to its tank program.[12] Under the "single, efficient producer" model of Defense Secretary Charles Erwin Wilson the Army was directed to reduce the number of contractors producing each model of tank. General Motors underbid Chrysler, and in September 1953 Army Secretary Robert T. Stevens awarded GM's Fisher Body division a $200 million contract to become the sole producer of the M48.[13] The decision raised skepticism in lawmakers. Senator Estes Kefauver noted the move would effectively leave GM as the only producer of light and medium tanks when Chrysler wrapped up M48 production by April 1954. The Defense Department was called to the Senate Armed Services Committee in January 1954 to defend the single-producer decision. During hearings Army Under-Secretary John Slezak said the move reduced costs, and that multiple producers were unnecessary to fulfill the Army's diminishing needs for new tanks.[14]

Months later Chrysler underbid GM in the new round of proposals. In September 1954 the Army awarded Chrysler an exclusive $160.6 million contract to restart production.[15] In November 1955 the Army awarded Alco Products a $73 million contract to begin producing 600 M48A2s the next year.[16] Alco opted to wrap up its tank business when its contract ended in July 1957. In May 1957 the Army awarded Chrysler, the only bidder, a $119 million contract to continue production of the M48A2 in Delaware and Muskegon, Michigan.[17]

In 1960 the Government Accounting Office, investigating performance of Army and Marine tanks, found that the M48 and M48A1 were "seriously defective vehicles."[18] In November a House Armed Services investigation largely corroborated the GAO report, which had been disputed by Army Secretary Wilber M. Brucker.[19]

Nearly 12,000 M48s were built from 1952 to 1959. The early designs, up to the M48A2C, were powered by a gasoline 12-cylinder engine and a 1-cylinder auxiliary generator (called the "Little Joe"). The gasoline engine versions gave the tank a shorter operating range and were more prone to catching fire when hit. Although considered less reliable than diesel-powered versions, numerous examples saw combat use in various Arab–Israeli conflicts. The low flashpoint of hydraulic fluid used in the recoil mechanisms and hydraulic systems for rotating weapons or aiming devices was less than 212 °F (100 °C) and could result in a fireball in the crew compartment when the lines were ruptured.[20] The fluid was not peculiar to the M48 and is no longer used in combat armored vehicles, having been replaced by fire resistant hydraulic fluid. Beginning in 1959, most American M48s were upgraded to the M48A3 model, which featured a more reliable and longer-range diesel power plant. M48s with gasoline engines, however, were still in use in the US Army through 1968, and through 1975 by many West German Army units.


In February 1963, the US Army accepted the first of 600 M48 Patton tanks that had been converted to M48A3s, and by 1964 the US Marine Corps had received 419 Patton tanks. The A3 model introduced the diesel engine, countering the earlier versions' characteristic of catching fire.[21] These Pattons were to be deployed to battle in Vietnam.[6] Because all M48A3 tanks were conversions from earlier models, many characteristics varied among individual examples of this type. M48A3 tanks could have either three or five support rollers on each side and might have either the early or later type headlight assemblies.


In the mid-1970s, the vehicle was modified to carry the heavier 105 mm gun. The original program designation was XM736. The designation was subsequently changed to M48A3E1 and was finally standardized as M48A5. As many components from the M60A1 were utilized as possible. Anniston Army Depot was issued a contract to convert 501 M48A3 tanks to the M48A5 standard and this was completed in December 1976. These early M48A5's were essentially M48A3 tanks with the 105mm gun added. They retained the M1 cupola armed with a .50 cal machine gun.[6]

Based on Israeli experience in upgrading M48 series tanks, further changes were included starting in August 1976. These included replacing the M1 cupola with a low-profile "Urdan" type cupola that mounted an M60D machine gun for use by the tank commander. A second M60D machine gun was mounted on the turret roof for use by the loader. Internal ammunition stowage for the 105mm main gun was also increased to 54 rounds. These tanks were initially given the designation M48A5API; but, after early conversions were brought up to the later standard, the API was removed and these tanks were known simply as M48A5.[6]

In addition to the conversion of M48A3 tanks, an additional conversion process for bringing M48A1 tanks to M48A5 standard was also developed. By March 1978, 708 M48A5 tanks had been converted from the M48A1 model.[6]

Work continued until December 1979, at which time 2069 M48A5's had been converted.[6]

The vast majority of M48A5 tanks in service with US Army units were assigned to National Guard and Army Reserve Units. A notable exception was the 2nd Infantry Division in the Republic of Korea, who replaced their M60A1 tanks with M48A5's, which arrived in June and July 1978. On 2nd Infantry Division M48A5 tanks the commander's M60D was replaced with a .50 caliber M2 machine gun.[6]

By the mid-1990s, the M48s were phased out of U.S. service. Many other countries, however, continued to use these M48 models.

Other Languages
العربية: إم-48 باتون
azərbaycanca: M48 Patton
български: М48 Патън
bosanski: M48 Patton
čeština: M48 Patton
Ελληνικά: M48 Patton
español: M48 Patton
français: M48 Patton
한국어: M48 패튼
hrvatski: M48 Patton
Bahasa Indonesia: M48 Patton
italiano: M48 Patton
עברית: M48 פטון
ქართული: M-48 Patton
magyar: M48 Patton
Nederlands: M48 Patton
日本語: M48パットン
norsk: M48 Patton
occitan: M48 Patton
polski: M48 Patton
română: M48 Patton
русский: M48 (танк)
slovenčina: M48 Patton
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: M48 Patton
suomi: M48 Patton
svenska: M48 Patton
Türkçe: M48 Patton
українська: M48 (танк)
Tiếng Việt: M48 Patton