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M-48 Patton Tank

The M-48 Patton Medium Tank is a further refinement of the M-47 Patton Tank featuring a cast steel elliptical hull and turret design for improved ballistic protection. After a period of development that began in October 1950, the first M48-series Patton tank was christened by Mrs. George S. Patton Jr. on 1 July 1952 at the Chrysler Tank Plant, Newark. Delaware. Full production began there later the same year. The M-48 Patton Tank was intended for use in Europe against Soviet tank forces, and was used widely in Vietnam as well as by U.S. allies in conflicts such as between India and Pakistan. With total production of approximately 11,700 units between 1952 and 1959, the M-48 remains in use in many countries. Units designated M48A3 and M48A5 were upgraded from older M48s, not new production.

The M-48 through M-48A3 Patton Tanks had a 90 mm main gun, with one .30 cal. and one .50 cal. machine gun. The M-48A5 was upgraded to a 105mm main gun.

See United States Tanks After World War II for additional information about the M-48 Patton Tank.

11th Armored Cav. M-48 Patton Tank west of Saigon, Vietnam. Probably diesel engine M-48A3, most common variant in Vietnam
11th Armored Cav. M-48 Patton Tank west of Saigon, Vietnam. Probably diesel engine M-48A3, most common variant in Vietnam.

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M-48 Patton Medium Tank: External Model Differences

The many models of the M-48 Patton Medium Tank may be difficult to distinguish in photos or if you encounter a tank on display. Here are some external features that can be used to differentiate:

  • M48 had external .50 cal. machine gun with no protection for the commander. Five return rollers.
  • M48A1 enclosed the .50 cal. with the commander's armored cupola. Five return rollers.
  • M48A2 (1955) and M48A2C had three return rollers, engine deck without grill work, louvered exhaust panels.
  • M48A3 (1959) diesel engine with external air cleaners mounted on the fenders. Since these were upgrades of M48 and M48A1 many had five rollers. Starting in 1963, 1,019 M48A1s were modified.
  • M48A5 (1975) had octagonal track shoes, 105mm main gun, M60 lights. Since these were upgrades of earlier variants, many had five rollers. Late M48A5s are very similar to the M60.

M48s weighed 52-54 tons loaded, depending on model. The M48, M48A1 and M48A2 variants had the ability to reach 32 mph on the road and 25 mph cross country, powered by a Continental AV1790-58 12 cyl. 810 hp gasoline engine. With the M48A3, introduced in 1968, and M48A5 a Continental AVDS-1790-2, 12 cyl. 750 hp supercharged diesel engine was used. [Note: There was an M48A4 model but only a few were produced as a pilot.]

With the development of the M-60 Patton Main Battle Tank, in full production by 1965, the M-48 was replaced in many units. The M48A3 saw extensive service in Vietnam, used by both Army and Marine Corps units. Upgraded M48A5 units remained in U.S. service until the mid-1990s.

Find additional photos and hi-res versions of the M-48 Patton Medium Tank at the Olive-Drab Military Mashup:

M48 tank supports men of the 1st Battalion, Fifth Marines, as they fight beside ancient walls of the Imperial Citadel at Hue, Vietnam, 12 February 1968.
M-48A2C Patton main battle tank marking the entrance of the United States Army Armor Center, Fort Knox, KY, August 1988. The location is on Chaffee Avenue, opposite another M-48A2C similarly displayed. The tank, registration number 2A7361, now belongs to the Patton Museum at Ft. Knox.
An M-48 Patton main battle tank drives ashore from the South Korean medium landing ship KI RIN (LSM-658) during the joint South Korean/U.S. Exercise Team Spirit '91, POHANG, Korea, 1991.
A squad from 3d Bn, 6th Marines engaged in USMC armor and infantry training with M-48 tank, Camp Lejeune, NC.
M48 Patton Tank and crew of the 2d Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, Vietnam.
M113 Armored Personnel Carrier followed by M48A3 tank, between jungle and rubber plantation, Operation Cedar Falls, Vietnam.

M-48 Patton Medium Tank Photo Gallery

M-48 Patton Tank of the 2d Bn, 34th Armor, in position as static road security, Vietna
M-48 Patton Tank of the 2d Bn, 34th Armor, in position as static road security, Vietnam.

U.S. 25th Infantry Division M-48 Patton Tanks on a road in Vietnam, west of Pleiku, 1 April 1966
U.S. 25th Infantry Division M-48 Patton Tanks on a road in Vietnam, west of Pleiku, 1 April 1966.

M-48 Patton Tank at 1st Cavalry Division Museum, Ft. Hood, TX, 2 December 2005
M-48 Patton Tank at 1st Cavalry Division Museum, Ft. Hood, TX, 2 December 2005.Photo: Courtesy of Bob Pettit

M-48 Patton Tank at 1st Cavalry Division Museum, Ft. Hood, TX, 2 December 2005
M-48 Patton Tank at 1st Cavalry Division Museum, Ft. Hood, TX, 2 December 2005.Photo: Courtesy of Bob Pettit

M-48A3 Patton Tank at Texas Military Forces Museum, Camp Mabry, TX, 30 January 2006
M-48A3 Patton Tank at Texas Military Forces Museum, Camp Mabry, TX, 30 January 2006. Photo: Courtesy of Bob Pettit

M-48A1 Patton Tank in front of the Third U.S. Army headquarters building at Ft. McPherson, GA, 18 September 2005
M-48A1 Patton Tank in front of the Third U.S. Army headquarters building at Ft. McPherson, GA, 18 September 2005.

Detail of turret and commander's armored cupola on M48A1 Patton Tank
Detail of turret and commander's armored cupola on M48A1 Patton Tank.

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