The M48 was the first US battle tank to dispense with obsolete World War II features, such as the machine gun in the bow.
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The M48 was developed from 1950 and the first prototype was built in 1951. The commissioning took place in 1952.
Numerous variants of the tank were made to address initial shortcomings in gearboxes, engines and running gear.
A total of 11,700 M48 of all versions were produced.
The original M48 was replaced by the M48A1 in service, which had minor modifications to the commander’s cupola and running gear.
The M48A2 then underwent extensive changes, including improved fuel supply and gun control, a modified running gear, and efforts to mitigate the engine’s infrared signature.
The M48A3, which was a major rebuild of earlier versions, had the most significant changes. These were the installation of a diesel engine and the introduction of other improvements, which were taken from the new M60 main battle tank design. Of these, the running gear and fire protection system of the M48A3 benefited the most.
The M48A5, also a major rebuild of previous variants, was equipped with a new 105 mm gun, which was based on the British weapon L7. The new cannon has significantly improved the combat power of the tank.
The boat-shaped hull of the M48 is cast, as is the large and rather bulky turret. In general, the ballistic design of the hull and turret is good.
The main disadvantage of the tank is its height. The original commander’s cupola was overly bulky and complex. The M48A5 therefore adopted the Israeli-designed, redesigned and flat commander’s cupola.
The vehicle has sufficient armor protection, which is not as thick as most of its opponents. The maximum armor of the turret, which is the most hit part of a main battle tank, is 110 mm. The armor protection of the T-55 on the turret, however, is 203 mm.
Since some shells are stored in the turret ring and turret itself, the tank is potentially susceptible to catastrophic explosions if the turret is penetrated.
Unlike the Centurion and later British tanks, which use an electric motor, the M48 uses a hydraulic system to turn the turret. This is known to cause serious burns to the tank crew if it breaks after damage in combat.
Early models of the M48 had an acceptable firepower in the form of the 90 mm M41 gun. There were about 54 shells for this carried. But compared to some of its opponents, the tank was under-armed.
Only the introduction of the M48A5 and its highly effective 105 mm M68 gun has moved the M48 on the same level.
In his time, the tank had an advanced fire control system that included a coincidence range finder and an electromechanical ballistic computer. The sheer complexity of the fire system is a deterrent to most crews.
Early models of the M48 were equipped with powerful gasoline engines. While they have a good power-to-weight ratio, gasoline engines consume more fuel than diesel engines and are more prone to catch fire when hit. With the M48A3 the diesel engine became the standard. The suspension consists of a torsion bar.
Despite good and credible fighting results in the hands of the Israelis and some other forces, early versions of the M48 were imperfect battle tanks.
They were too bulky, carried a gun of too small caliber, and were powered by highly flammable petrol engines until the M48A3. Only after the introduction of the M48A5 with its 105 mm gun the M48 became a really dangerous opponent on the battlefield.
Many of the early M48 tanks were upgraded to the standard equivalent to the M48A5. German Bundeswehr and Israel carried out particularly extensive improvements. The German version – the M48A2GA2 – is no longer used. The Israeli modernized variant is called Magach.
Pictures of driving with a modified, former M48 main battle tank:
Several armed forces use M48 tanks in service or keep them in reserve. Many of these tanks are modernized, mostly to the M48A5 standard.
Greece has 998 tanks. Jordan about 200 in its emergency reserve. Iran still has a smaller number of M48A5 in use. Israel has 325 M48A5s on duty, most of which have been upgraded to the Magach 7 standard. South Korea has 850 modernized M48. Lebanon 100 tanks and Morocco 224 tanks. Norway has stored 38 tanks. Pakistan has 280 M48A5. Portugal has 865 M48A5 and Spain has 164 modernized M48A5. Thailand 150 M48A5 and Taiwan 100 M48A5 as well as 450 modernized M48H. Turkey still has about 3,000 modernized M48s.
The US Army no longer has the M48 in service, but it is assumed that there are still 500 M48 in storage.
Chrysler Corporation, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Alco Products.
Video of driving the M48 tank
Nearly 10-minute video of driving with a modified, former M48 main battle tank.
Specifications Main Battle Tank M48
|Main Armament||90mm M41 (54 rounds)||90mm M41||105mm L7|
|Secondary Armament||coaxial 7.62mm MG; 12.7mm anti-aircraft||=||=|
|Length with gun forward||7.44m (24.4ft)||8.69m (28.51ft)||9.31m (30.54ft)|
|Height (with cupola)||3.09m (10.14ft)||3.12m (10.24ft)||3.09m (10.14ft)|
|Hull width||3.63m (11.91ft)||=||=|
|Ground clearance||0.39m (15.35in)||0.49m (19.29in)||0.42m (16.54in)|
|Combat weight||?||47,173 kg (104,135lb)||48,987 kg (108,139lb)|
|Ground pressure||?||0.83 kg/cm²||0.88 kg/cm²|
|Power pack||AV-1790-8 Petrol engine||AVDS-1790-2A Diesel engine|
|Power||825 hp||750 hp||750 hp|
|Power to weight ratio||17.39 hp/t||15.89 hp/t||15.31 hp/t|
|Max range (internal fuel)||258km (160 miles)||463km (288 miles)||500km (310 miles)|
|Max road speed||48km/hr (30 mph)||48km/hr (30 mph)||=|
|Fording (unprepared)||1.22m (48in)||=||=|
|Vertical obstacle||0.91m (35.8in)||=||=|
|Trench crossing||2.59m (102in)||=||=|
|Armour||12,7 mm - 120 mm (max 110 mm turret)||=||=|
|Commissioning||1953 (M48 1952)||1967||1975|
References and literature
Panzer und andere Kampffahrzeuge von 1916 bis heute (Christopher F. Foss, John F. Milsom, Colonel John Stafford Weeks, Captain Georffrey Tillotson, Richard M. Ogorkiewicz)
Modern Tanks and AFVs – Armoured Fighting Vehicles (Simon Dunstan)
Tanks – Main Battle and Light Tanks (Marsh Gelbart)