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.
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.