M48 Patton Unleashed: Specifications, Evolution through Variants and its Role in Military Operations

The first major combat tank built in the United States, the M48 Patton experienced combat during the Vietnam War. With a 105mm gun, a four-person crew, and a 49.6-ton weight, it was designed with a centre-line driver’s cabin among other improvements. From the Vietnamese jungles to the Middle Eastern deserts, the M48 operated effectively in a variety of settings.

Originally known as the 90mm Gun Tank, the M48 Patton was a famous American main combat tank of the first generation that was unveiled in February 1952. It was the first American main combat tank and was intended to replace the M26 Pershing, M4 Sherman, M46, and M47 Patton tanks. It served as the main battle tank of the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps in the Vietnam War. Manufactured largely by Chrysler and the American Locomotive Company, close to 12,000 M48s were produced between 1952 and 1961. Notable for its inventiveness, the M48 Patton had a crew of four, which was a change from its predecessors. It also had a unique centerline driver’s compartment and no bow machine gunner. This was the first medium gun tank built in the United States.


With a mass of 49.6 short tonnes (45.0 metric tonnes) and dimensions of 9.3 metres in length, 3.65 metres in width, and 3.1 metres in height, the M48 is a powerful battle tank. Operated by four men (a commander, a gunner, a loader, and a driver), this tank has thick armour with two lines of sight (220mm) and 178mm at 0° on the front of the turret and 110mm at a 60° angle on the upper glacis. Its main armament is the modified 105mm M68/T254E2 cannon for the M48A5, and the 90mm M41/T139 gun for the M48–M48A3 models. Versions differ in secondary weaponry; the M48 has a .50 cal (12.7mm) installed on an M1 mount, and the M48A1/A2/A3/A5 models have a.50 cal (12.7mm) in the M1 commander’s cupola.

Both variants are also equipped with the M37/T153 Machine gun, and the M48A5 has an additional 7.62mm NATO weapon, the M219. The Continental AV1790 engine, which has 650–750 horsepower depending on the version, powers the tank. With two forward and one reverse gearbox, the Allison gearbox powers the M48, which has a 16.6 horsepower per tonne power-to-weight ratio. Its 16-inch ground clearance and torsion bar suspension provide stability. Model-to-model variations exist in fuel capacity, operating ranges ranging from 113 km to 499 km, and top speeds of 30 mph (48 km/h) for the M48A5. In armoured warfare, the M48 is a powerful presence due to its design and capabilities.


The M48 Patton tank went through several stages of development and use, changing throughout time into some unique versions. The T48 prototypes were created in the early 1950s and used from 1951 to 1955. With its Mod A hull and turret designs, M41 90mm gun, M1 remote-controllable machine gun mount, and AV-1790-5 or -7 gasoline engine, the M48 model that followed was the first in production. However, it was declared unsuitable for deployment in European warfare and limited to the CONUS. The M48A1 had the Mod B hull design, the M1 cupola, and external fuel drums for increased range. The M48A2 featured a modified hull with a Mod B turret design, AVI-1790-8 fuel-injected gasoline engine, and louvred engine access doors. It also had a simplified suspension system. The M13 fire control system was included with the M48A2C. The M60A1 eventually took the place of the M48A3, which was retired from combat service in 1973. It featured the AVDS-1790-2A diesel engine and the M1E1 cupola.

M60 turrets were mounted on M48A1 hulls and modified to M48A3 specifications, along with upgrades for the 105mm cannon. The original M48A5PI conversions kept the AVDS-1790-2A engine; these were subsequently improved in 1976 using components from the M60A1 RISE Hull PIP Update Kit. The M60A3 replaced the M48A5, which was later assigned to the Army National Guard for CONUS training purposes. It was equipped with the M68 105mm cannon, metric-measurement M16 FCS, M219 coax machine gun, and crew NBC protection equipment. The QM60 took the position of the QM48, which was removed by 1994 and used as a target vehicle. Globally, the E48 series denoted military sales to other countries, encompassing altered E48 versions intended for use in non-US environments.

Up-armored versions were available for the Israeli Magach series; Magach 1, 2, 3, and 5 showed different configurations and improvements. While South Korean and Taiwanese variants brought improvements such as Laser Tank Fire Control Systems and hybrid configurations, Spanish variations such as the M48A3E and M48A5E1 to E3 were modified. M48A5T1 and M48A5T2, two Turkish variants that continued the global tradition of the M48 Patton, were equipped with M68E1 105mm cannons, sophisticated fire control systems, and thermal sights.


One of the major combat tanks that was used in many military operations around the world was the M48 Patton. During the Vietnam War, nearly 600 M48 Pattons were deployed, with the initial landing occurring in 1965 with the US Marine 1st and 3rd Tank Battalions. Three US Army battalions also used the M48s, one of which was the 1-77th Armour, that was stationed close to the demarcation zone. The 77th Armour, for example, used 67 M48A2C tanks between August 1968 and January 1969. The Pakistan Army used M47s and M48s in tank warfare against the Indian Army’s Soviet T-55s, British Centurions, and US M4 Sherman tanks in the Indo-Pakistani wars of 1965 and 1971.

They were rather successful, especially during Operation Grand Slam. The M48s saw combat in the Middle East during the 1967 Six-Day War, where Israeli M48s equipped with the advanced 105mm L7 rifled tank cannon proved to be formidable opponents for Egyptian tanks on the Sinai front. Morocco was one of the countries in Africa to get M48A3s in 1973. With the help of US advisers, Morocco upgraded to M48A5. These tanks were used to combat Polisario guerrillas in the desert of Western Sahara. Operating in a variety of environments, from the scorching deserts of the Middle East and Africa to the deep jungles of Vietnam, the M48 Patton showed its versatility in a range of combat situations.