M48 Patton Medium Tank

Last updated on February 19th, 2019 at 08:49 pm

The M48 Patton medium tank was the most common United States tank to be used during the Vietnam War.

It was involved in the only tank vs. tank battle between the US Army and the North Vietnamese Army during the Vietnam War, the Battle of Ben Het in 1969, when several M48 Patton medium tanks fought 10 North Vietnamese PT-76 light amphibious tanks.

In October 1950, the Detroit Arsenal began designing a new medium tank with a 3.54 inch (90mm) gun.  In December of that year, Chrysler was given a contract to complete the design and build six prototypes. The first of these was to be built by December of the following year.
M48 Patton medium tank in Vietnam
Ford and the Fisher Body Division of General Motors were given orders to begin producing this tank, which was known as the T48 when it was in development, in March 1951, before Chrysler had finished the first prototype. Production of the T48 began in 1952 and the tank, which eventually became known as the M48 Patton, entered service in 1953.

Later on, some M48s were also built by Alco products of Schenectady, New York and by Chrysler at its Delaware plant.

The M48 Patton medium tank weighs 48.2 tons (48,987 kg) and has a maximum armor thickness of 4.72 inches (120mm).

Main armament is a 3.54 inch (90mm) gun. The M48 Patton also has a 0.3 inch (7.62mm) coaxial machine gun and a 0.5 inch (12.7mm) machine gun in the commander’s cupola.

There are four crewmen. The driver sits at the front of the hull. The commander and gunner sit in the right side of the turret, while the loader sits in the turret on the left.

The M48 Patton medium tank uses a torsion-bar type suspension.  It has six road wheels. The idler is at the front and the drive sprocket is in the back. The number of road wheels ranges between three and five, depending on the model.

The engine and the transmission are located at the rear of the hull. A fireproof bulkhead separates them from the fighting compartment.

Many variants of the M48 were built:  the M48C, which is used for training only, the M48A1, the M48A2, the M48A2C, the M48A3, the M48A4, which never went past the prototype stage, and the M48A5.

The M48A3 uses a diesel, rather than a gasoline, engine. This is the same diesel engine used by the M60A1 main battle tank. The M48A3 also has an upgraded fire control system and a modified commander’s cupola.

The M48A5, which was developed in the 1970s, also has a diesel engine. It carries a 4.1 inch (105mm) M68 main gun, the same gun that is on the M60, as well as an additional  0.3 inch (7.62mm) machine gun.  There is a new commander’s cupola.

In 1960, the United States Army replaced the M48 Patton medium tank with the M60 Patton main battle tank in 1960. By that time, 11,703 M48s had been built.

Other countries continued to use the M48.  Some of them created their own variants of this tank.  

The M48 Patton medium tank was used by the Pakistani Army during the Indo-Pakistani War in 1965 and by both Israel and Jordan during the Six-Day War in 1967. It was used by forces on both sides during the Lebanese Civil War.

By the 1990s, the M48 was no longer in service with the United States. Currently, it is being used by Greece, Iran, Israel, Jordan, South Korea, Lebanon, Morocco, Pakistan, Thailand and Turkey.


M48 Patton Medium

Active: 1953
Crew: 4
Weight: 48.2 tons (49,987kg)
Length: 30 ft 6 in (9.3m)
Height: 10ft 1in (3.1m)
Width: 11ft 10in (3.63m)
Weapons: M48 – M48A4: :Main – 3.5 in (90mm) gun, Secondary – x 0.3in (7.62mm) coaxial machinegun, 0.5in (12.7mm) machinegun; M48A5: Main – 4.1in (105mm) M48 machinegun, Secondary, 2 x 0.3in (7.62mm) machineguns, 1 x 0.5in (12.7mm) machinegun, 2 x 6 smoke grenade dischargers
Armor Maximum – 4.72in (120mm)
Engine: M48 -M48A2: Continental AVDS-1790-5B 12 – cylinder gasoline, 810 hp; M48A3-M48A5: Genral Dynamics AVDS-1790-2D 12-cylinder diesel, 750 hp
Speed: 30mph (48kph)
Range: 310 miles(499 km)