Versatile powerhouse: Unveiling the specifications and operations of Israel’s Super Sherman tanks

From the 1950s until the 1980s, the Super Sherman, also known as the Isherman, which was derived from the M4 Sherman tank, was essential to the IDF’s armoured capabilities. Its derivatives, such as the M-50 and M-51, proved their adaptability and combat capability in wars such as the Yom Kippur War, the Six-Day War, and the 1956 Sinai assault.

The Sherman M-50 and Sherman M-51 also referred to as the Super Sherman, were adapted versions of the American M4 Sherman tank, which was vitally used by the Israel Defence Forces from the middle of the 1950s and the beginning of the 1980s. Though these names were never formally approved by the Israeli Defence Forces, it is notable that they were colloquially called “Super Sherman” and “Isherman” by foreign observers. In particular, the M-51 version became known as Isherman, referring to its Israeli conversion. The IDF’s armoured capabilities were greatly enhanced by these tanks, demonstrating the M4 Sherman platform’s versatility and efficiency in fulfilling Israel’s military needs at the time.

 

Specifications:

The Super Sherman’s measurements are 6.15 metres in length, 2.42 metres in width, and 2.24 metres in height. Its mass ranges from 33.5 to 34 metric tonnes (33.0 to 33.5 long tonnes). A crew of five, consisting of an assistant driver/bow gunner, driver, gunner, loader, and commander, oversees its operating capabilities. Fully armed, the main armament consists of a 75 mm CN-75-50 L/61.5 machine gun. A 12.7 mm M2 Browning and two 7.62 mm M1919 Browning machine guns make up the secondary armament. 

Powering this armoured vehicle are two engine options: the M-50 Degem Alef with a Continental R-975-C4 gasoline engine providing 420 horsepower (310 kW), and the M-50 Degem Bet sporting a Cummins VT-8-460 diesel engine producing 460 horsepower (340 kW). There are two types of suspension systems: VVSS and HVSS. The vehicle can go 300 kilometres (190 miles) on a full tank of fuel, which holds 606 litres. It can reach a top speed of 38 to 42 km/h (24 to 26 mph), which makes it an extremely powerful weapon in combat.

 

Operations:

In numerous combat operations involving the Israeli Defence Forces, the Super Sherman tank, and particularly the M-50 and M-51 derivatives, were crucial. During Israel’s 1956 invasion of the Sinai against the Egyptian Army, Operation Kadesh, the M-50 was put to use. Later on in the “War over Water,” in 1965, Maj General Israel Tal led an M-50 into combat with Syrian forces trying to divert water into Jordan. 

The Syrian recoilless rifle was engaged by the tank from a considerable distance, showcasing its potential. Having fought Soviet armour from World War II in the 1967 Six-Day War, the M-50 and M-51 went on to take on more advanced tanks in later battles such as the Yom Kippur War in 1973. With its powerful 105 mm gun, the M-51 was a formidable opponent for heavier tanks like the Soviet T-54/55/T-62. 

These tanks operated in numerous terrains, such as the Golan Heights, the West Bank, and the Sinai Peninsula, displaying their adaptability. The M-50 Cummins and M-51 were gradually phased out in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and the M-50 Continentals were withdrawn by 1972 despite becoming obsolete. During the Lebanese Civil War in 1976, some M-50 tanks were given to Lebanese Christian militias as support. Later, in the late 1980s, roughly 100 tanks of this model—some with modified guns—were sold to Chile. Self-propelled artillery and engineer vehicles were created from the leftover M-51s in Israel.