The US M48 Patton Medium Tank

The US M48 Patton Medium Tank

The US M48 Patton Medium Tank entered a rather rushed development during 1952 and entered service in the following year. Despite some resemblance to earlier Paton’s, it was a new vehicle, with a new cast hull and turret. Some 11700+ were built by various companies such as Chrysler, Ford, GMC and Alco with production ending in 1959. The M48 would also later be developed in to the M60 Series.

The US M48 Patton Medium Tank Specifications

Weight 49.6 tonnes
Length 9m
Width 3.65m
Height 3.1m
Crew 4 (commander, gunner, loader, driver)
Armour 120mm
Primary armament 90mm T54
Secondary armament .50 cal (12.7mm) M2 Browning machine gun .30 cal (7.62mm) M73 Machine gun
Engine 810hp Continental AVDS-1790-5B V12, air-cooled Twin-turbo gasoline engine
Power/weight 15.1 hp/ton
Transmission General Motors CD-850-4A or -4B, 2 ranges forward, 1 reverse
Suspension Torsion bar
Operational range 461km

The US M48 Patton Medium Tank Variants

M48 – Original production model.

M48A1 – Commander has upgraded cupola with an internal .50 cal MG.

M48A2 – Fuel injection fitted to engine and 5 return rollers.

M48A2C – M48A2 with an improved rangefinder, M17, new ballistic drive and bore evacuator for the main gun, and the auxiliary tensioning wheels were deleted.

M48A3 – Original engine replaced with a Continental 750hp AVDS-1790-2 V12, air cooled Twin-turbo diesel engine and upgrade fire control system. All earlier models bought up to this variant.

M48A4 – Cancelled upgrade that would have seen M60 series turret fitted.

M48A5 – Over 2000 M48 vehicles upgraded with a 105mm M68 main gun and low profile commanders cupola.

The US M48 Patton Medium Tank – Zippo

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.

M48 AVLB – Scissor type bridge.

The US M48 Patton Medium Tank Operator upgrades


M48A2GA2: Upgraded A2 with the 105mm L7 cannon and a different MG3 installation from the Leopard 1 as well as quite a few other assemblies.

The US M48 Patton Medium Tank – Minenräumpanzer Keiler

Minenräumpanzer Keiler: mine flail, mine clearing vehicle based on a widely modified M48A2C cast hull. The first of 24 Keilers was supplied to the German Army by Rheinmetall in 1997. This vehicle remains in service.


M48A5T1: Turkish M48 variant upgraded along similar lines to the M60A1, with an M68 105mm main gun, passive night vision, M60A1 fire control system and an MTU diesel engine.

The US M48 Patton Medium Tank – M48A5T2 Turkey

M48A5T2: Improved version of the M48A5T1 upgraded along similar lines to the M60A3 with thermal imaging, M60A3 fire control system and a laser rangefinder.

The Turkish Army is the largest operator of the modernized M48 MBT, with more than 1400 M48s in its inventory (around 1,000 have been phased out/in storage or modified to ARVs).


The US M48 Patton Medium Tank – M48H/CM-11 “Brave Tiger” Taiwan

M48H/CM-11 “Brave Tiger”: ROC M60 version consisting utilizing an up-gunned M48A2 turret mated to an M60A3 hull. Also has significant upgrades to the gun tracking equipment and fire control.


The US M48 Patton Medium Tank – M48A5E Spain

M48A5E: M17B1C optical rangefinder. M13A4 ballistic computer, IR/white light projector over main armament.

M48A5E1: improved M48A5E

M48A5E2: 1981-1983. Hughes Mk7 fire control system with laser rangefinder and solid state ballistic computer; passive night vision equipment, Urdan cupola. 164 upgraded vehicles, retired 1997.

South Korea

The US M48 Patton Medium Tank – M48A5K Korea

M48A5K: Replacing the main gun with the KM68 105 mm gun. Additional side skirts were provided, and the fire control system was upgraded to the Laser Tank Fire Control System (LTFCS).


The US M48 Patton Medium Tank – Magach 3 Israeil

Magach 3: They were originally M48A1 & A2. The 90mm cannon was replaced with the battle proven L7, a replacement AVDS 1790a diesel engine and a CD-850-6 auto transmission. Along with new communications systems, it was fitted with ERA – AKA ‘Blazer armour’.

Magach 5:  Same as Magach 3 but these were M48 A5’s. Click here for Magach Series page


The US M48 Patton Medium Tank – M48A5 MOLF Greece

M48A5 MOLF: The Hellenic Army has added the EMES-18 FCS to their M48A5 (“MOLF” for Modular Laser Fire Control System).

The US M48 Patton Medium Tank Operators (current & former)

Spain (former)
South Korea
Germany (former)

The US M48 Patton Medium Tank Combat History

Vietnam War – The M48s saw extensive action were over 600 Patton’s were be deployed with US Forces during the war. The initial M48’s landed with the US Marine 1st and 3rd Tank Battalions in 1965. The M67A1 flamethrower tank (nicknamed the Zippo) was an M48 variant used in Vietnam.

The M48s performed admirably in Vietnam in the infantry-support role. However, there were few actual tank versus tank battles. One was between the US 1-69th Armour and PT-76 light amphibious tanks of the NVA 202nd Armoured Regiment near Ben Het in 1969. T

The M48 provided adequate protection for its crew from small arms, mines, and rocket-propelled grenades the North could throw at it.

South Vietnamese M-48s and M-41s fought in the so called Ho Chi Minh Offensive in 1975. In several incidents, the South Vietnamese Army successfully defeated NVA T-34 and T-55 tanks.

Indo-Pakistani Wars – M47s and M48s were again used in tank warfare by the Pakistan Army against Indian Army’s Centurion and M4 Sherman tanks in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 with some good results.

The Patton was later used by Pakistan in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, with mixed results. In a repetition of 1965, Patton’s 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 Light Brigade, 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 are displayed.

Middle East Conflicts – 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 success against Egyptian T-34s and SU-100s

However, on the West Bank front, Jordanian M48s were often defeated by Israeli WWII-era M4 Shermans (up-gunned with 105mm guns). 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, the Christian Lebanese Forces militia, the Druze Progressive Socialist Party militia and the South Lebanon Army in the Lebanese Civil War. The Lebanese Army still operates about 100 M48s. In 2007, during the 2007 North Lebanon conflict Lebanese Army M48s shelled militant outposts in a refugee camp.