United States of America (1945)
Medium Tank – 185 Built
In 1945, after a long and convoluted development process, the T26E1 – that lead to the M26 Pershing – entered service, and saw action in the closing months of the Second World War in Europe. The T26/M26 was armed with a powerful, high-velocity 90 mm gun that was perfect for engaging armored targets but was not practical in infantry support roles.
One of the most successful Sherman types to see service in the Second World War was the M4 (105). As the name suggests, these M4s were armed with the 105 mm Howitzer M4. These tanks provided infantry teams with a mean of knocking out enemy positions or obstructions with their powerful High-Explosive (HE) rounds. With a new tank coming into service, it was only logical to develop a similar vehicle based upon it. After all, vehicles based on the same base chassis helped ease production, crew training and ensured a plentiful supply of spare parts.
What would emerge can be described simply as a howitzer-armed version of the T26E1, with a few other, smaller modifications. This vehicle was initially known as the T26E2, but would later receive the designation Medium Tank M45. Only a small number of these vehicles were produced, and they would arrive too late to see action in World War II. They would, however, go on to see limited service during the Korean War.
The M26 Pershing was the result of a request for a new tank for the United States Army. The development process was long and complicated with numerous changes of direction. The initial request was for the tank to be armed with a 76 mm (3 in) gun from the start, but this was later changed to a 90 mm. There were three separate experimental vehicles, the T23, T25, and T26. Of course, it was the T26E3 that became the serialized vehicle, and would later be designated as the M26 Pershing, after General John J. Pershing, the Commander of American Forces in the First World War. The T26 started out as a Medium Tank, was reclassified as a Heavy Tank in 1944, and was then returned to Medium Tank status in 1945.
Other than the replacement of the T26/M26’s 90mm Tank Gun M3 with the 105mm Howitzer M4, very little changed between the M26 and M45. The hull, powertrain and suspension remained identical.
The tank was 20 ft 9.5 in (6.34 m) long, 11 ft 6 in (3.51 m) wide and 9 ft 1.5 in (2.78 m) tall and weighed 46-tons (41.7 tonnes). It was operated by a five-man crew, consisting of the commander, loader, gunner, driver, and bow gunner. It was propelled by the 450-500 hp Ford GAF 8-cylinder, gasoline engine. This and the transmission were placed at the rear of the tank. With this engine, the tank could achieve a top speed of 30 mph (48 km/h). The suspension consisted of a torsion bar system, with six paired road-wheels and five return rollers per-side. The drive sprocket was at the rear with the idler at the front.
Development of the T26E2
In 1944, designers initially turned to the T23 prototype for this new howitzer-armed tank. Work on this went as far as the development and construction of a new combination gun mount (a mount that includes the primary sight and coaxial machine gun) for the 105 mm Howitzer, based on that of the T23’s 76 mm gun. However, with attention turning to the T26E1, work on a T23-based howitzer-armed tank ceased.
This new development of the T26 was initially designated as the Heavy Tank T26E2. The new design incorporated a heavier gun shield. As the 105 mm was so much lighter the 90 mm, extra metal on the mantlet was required to properly balance the turret. The mantlet was also re-worked to protect the trunnions and trunnion bearings from the force of a shell impact.
Drawings of the howitzer mount, turret, and fighting compartment were prepared and sent to the builders of the T26/M26, Fisher Tank Arsenal and Chrysler, based at the Detroit Tank Arsenal, in October 1944. Wooden mockups of the new internal layout of the turret were also provided. There were a number of new internal features such as a stabilizer for the gun and new ammunition stowage. Fisher then went on to produce a pilot turret that would be tested on a chassis provided by the Detroit Arsenal.
The M45 in Focus
The 105mm Howitzer M4
The howitzer chosen for the M45 was carried over from the 105 mm-armed Shermans. This was the 105 mm Howitzer M4. This was simply a rework of the M2A1 towed artillery piece. It underwent a rework to allow it to be mounted and operated inside the confines of the turret. The biggest modification to the artillery piece was the breech block which was rotated 90-degrees. The vertically sliding breech block was also replaced with a horizontal one. The breech was of the manual type. Placing a round into the chamber would trigger it to start closing, but the loader would have to finish the job with the breech operating handle. The single recuperator located atop the barrel of the field gun was also replaced by two smaller ones on each side of the barrel. The barrel had a length of 22.5 calibers (93.05 inches/2.3 meters) and was fully rifled. Depending on the shell type used, maximum muzzle-velocity of the gun was 1,550 feet-per-second (470 meters-per-second).
A new mount for the gun was developed for installation in the T26E2. This included the coaxial machine gun and M76G gun site. It was initially designated the Combination Mount T117, but was later serialized as the Combination Mount M71. In this mount, the gun had an elevation range of +35 to -10 degrees. Unlike, the regular 90mm-armed T26E1, the T26E2 was equipped with a vertical stabilizer.
The ammunition used with the howitzer was semi-fixed, meaning the projectile is only loosely attached to the propellant case. This allowed the projectile to be removed and the propellant charge to be adjusted as required. A number of shell types were available: M1 HE (High Explosive), M67 HEAT (High-Explosive Anti-Tank), and M60 WP (White Phosphorus ‘Willie Pete’). The M67 HEAT shell was capable of penetrating 4 inches (100 mm) of armor.
Secondary armament consisted of a coaxial Browning M1919A4 .30 Cal. (7.62mm) machine gun and a Browning M2 .50 Cal. (12.7mm) heavy machine gun placed on a pintle-mount towards the rear of the turret roof. This could also be placed in a similar mount in front of the commander’s cupola. There was also the bow machine gun which, again, consisted of a Browning M1919A4.
As mentioned above, the howitzer was lighter than the 90 mm gun. The M4 Howitzer weighed 1,140 pounds (520 kg) while the M3 Gun weighed 2,260 lb (1,030 kg). This unbalanced the turret. To remedy this and rebalance the turret, the mantlet was thickened from 4.5 inches (114 mm) to 8 inches (203 mm). The turret face was also thickened from 4 inches (101 mm) to 5 inches (127 mm), as was the armor on the side of the turret, which was increased from 3 inches (76 mm) to 5 inches (127 mm). This additional armor, of course, increased the tank’s overall weight by 645 pounds (292 kg).
The biggest internal change to the turret was the ammunition stowage. Room was found for 74 rounds of 105mm. These were stored in eight separate bins (4-per side) aligned perpendicular to the hull, versus the three longitudinal bin layout of the M26.
Limited Production and Service
It had been anticipated that the pilot T26E2 would be completed by April of 1945. However, interest in 105 mm Howitzer armed tanks had somewhat dropped at this point and it was not delivered to Aberdeen Proving Grounds (APG) until July, almost 2 months after the end of the War in Europe. Remarkably, the original plan was to produce more howitzer tanks than gun tanks. Battle experience in Europe soon highlighted the effectiveness of the high-velocity 90 mm gun, however, and as such, the trend was reversed.
Both Chrysler and Fisher had been awarded contracts to produce the T26E2. With the end of the conflict in Europe – paired with the waning interest in howitzer tanks – Fisher’s contract was canceled and Chrysler’s was heavily reduced in number. Serial production started in July 1945 at the Detroit Tank Arsenal. During production, the order was cut back even further and by the end of production, and the year 1945, only 185 vehicles had been built.
Like its T26/M26 brother, the vehicle went through a period reclassification. During development, it was classified as a heavy tank (it received this classification in June 1944), and was designated ‘Heavy Tank T26E2’. After the war, it was reclassified as a medium tank. Following this, when the tank finally received its type-classification in May 1946, it was designated as the ‘Medium Tank M45’.
The only combat service the M45 would ever see would be during the Korean War (1950-53), alongside its M26 brother and, later, its M46 nephew. Here, 105mm Howitzer tanks found a place as mobile light artillery and were used for indirect fire-missions. The M45’s compatriots, such as the M4A3 (105) and the M4A3 POA-CWS-H5 flame tank (this had a 105mm Howitzer with a coaxial flame gun) were often used in this role. They were dug into special positions in groups. Grooves were cut into the ground with a berm at the front that the tanks would sit on to increase their elevation angle. It is likely that the M45 was also used in this way. Unfortunately, information about their time in service on the Korean Peninsula is extremely scarce. It is known that the tanks were used solely by the US Army 6th Tank Battalion, 24th Division.
Thanks to a personal account, we do know that at least a few M45’s remained in Korea after the war:
“I saw two at Tongduchon in 1956, about a mile down the road from our unit (Tank Company 31st Inf. 7 Div). Supposedly, they were not on anyone’s property books and looked pretty ragged. They had belonged to the 6th Tank Battalion, who were supposed to turn them in for scrapping after the ceasefire. No one knew how they got to us and the crews had no information. According to a crew member of one of the tanks, the Ford V8 was ‘old and beat’ and used almost as much oil as gasoline. It was covered in jerry cans full of spare oil cans. I just wish they had considered converting a few M46s. With their better engine and transmission, they would’ve been an ideal infantry support tank.”
– Specialist William Campbel, 31st Infantry, 7th Division, US Army
The M45 was one of the last howitzer armed tanks to be produced by the United States. It may appear to some as a wasted effort. It was designed for the European theatre of the Second World War but arrived too late, then had to wait 5 years to see combat, by which time it was showing its age. Nonetheless, in its short, approximately 10-year career, it found a place although it never performed the role it was intended for.
Unfortunately, probably due to its extremely short production run, it is widely thought that no M45s survive today.
Pre-production pilot of the ‘Heavy Tank T26E2’ during testing in 1945, with the stenciling on the fenders. The Gun and mantlet are protected from the elements with the weather-proof canvas cover. The roof-mounted .50 Cal (12.7mm) machine gun is in the standard position for a T26/M26 type of tank.
A Medium Tank M45 as it served in the Korean War during the early-1950s. The .50 Cal machine gun has been moved to the position in front of the commander’s cupola and the fenders have been lost. This illustration is based on the description given by a Korean War veteran, William Campbell. All details are as he recalls, apart from the ’45’ number – this is speculation as he has forgotten the exact number of the tank he saw.
Both of these illustrations were produced by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet.
20 ft 9.5 in x 11 ft 6 in x 9 ft 1.5 in (6.34 x 3.51 m x 2.78 m)
Total weight, battle ready
46 tons (47.7 long tonnes)
5 (commander, driver, assistant driver, loader)
Ford GAF 8 cyl. gasoline, 450-500 hp (340-370 kW)
22 mph (35 km/h) on road
Individual torsion arms with bumper springs and shock absorbers
The first issue of the Tank Encyclopedia Magazine has been remastered and rereleased. It covers vehicles ranging from the French WWI Frot-Turmel-Laffly Armoured Road Roller up to the Salvadoran Cold War Marenco M114 converted vehicles. The star of this issue is a full article on the Improved Protection version of the famous M1 Abrams – the M1IP.
Our Archive section covers the history of the Mephisto A7V tank, the only one of its kind that still survives to this day in Queensland museum in Australia.
It also contains a modeling article on how to create Weathering and Mud Effects. And the last article from our colleagues and friends from Plane Encyclopedia covers the story of the Sikorsky S-70C-2 Black Hawk in Chinese service!
All the articles are well researched by our excellent team of writers and are accompanied by beautiful illustrations and photos. If you love tanks, this is the magazine for you! Buy this magazine on Payhip!
United States of America (1984-2000)
Main Battle Tank – 890 Built
The Improved Performance M1, often referred to as IPM1 or M1IP, was a stopgap before the introduction of the M1A1 upgraded standard. It was intended to implement some of the features being added on the M1E1 prototype and rush it into a production Abrams while some of the other planned features were undergoing further testing, such as the Rheinmetall 120mm cannon. There were also studies that indicated the increasing lethality of Soviet ammunition, which led to the requirement for the M1E1 project to also increase the protection of the vehicle to withstand these new threats. This stop-gap vehicle featured a new turret based on the one intended for the M1E1, sometimes referred to as the ‘long turret’. This turret offered greater protection and a rear turret bustle rack for more stowage space for the crew’s personal gear and to secure their gear better. There were also some improvements to the suspension and powerpack to accommodate the heavier turret and the rear side skirts were adjusted from field feedback. This resulted in about 890 of these M1IP’s were produced between 1984 and 1986.
Fresh Production M1IP, note no unit markings. Source: N/A
The M1 Abrams Design
The M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank, named after General Creighton Abrams, entered service in 1980 and remains the United States’ front line tank as the M1A2 (from 1992). The original M1 Abrams was armed with a 105 mm M68A1 rifled cannon and was the US military’s first vehicle that was deployed with base composite armor.
Weighing in at 55 tons, it had a high degree of mobility with a Honeywell AGT1500C multi-fuel turbine engine, generating 1500 hp and giving the tank a top speed of 45 mph (72.5 km/h). The tank rolled on a torsion bar suspension with seven road wheels, with the drive sprocket at the rear and idler at the front.
Orthographic view of an M1IP. Source: Hunnicutt’s Abrams
The turret armor of the M1IP was one of the main upgrades over the standard Abrams, however, it is not easy to distinguish between the standard and upgraded versions. The frontal thickness of the turret was increased by the addition of a larger armor module. This larger module not only changed the visual features of the tank turret but also provided additional protection, improving it over the existing M1 standard. In gross terms, this supposed an increase from 400mm RHAe (Rolled Homogeneous Armor equivalent) protection against Kinetic Energy (KE) ammunition to about 450mm, and from 700mm RHAe protection against Chemical Energy (CE), better known as HEAT (High Explosive Anti-Tank) ammunition, to about 900mm RHAe.
This additional armor increased the total weight and altered the weight distribution, which lead to a need to reinforce the suspension and make adjustments to the powerpack in order to accommodate the roughly extra ton from the armor and new turret design. These changes reduced the tank’s top speed performance by roughly 3.5 mph (5.6 km/h) down to 41.5 mph (67 km/h) from the original 45 mph (72.5 km/h).
Quality of Life Improvements
The first generation side skirts on the Abrams covered roughly half the rear drive sprocket. This allowed mud to build up in the area and cause the tracks to come out of alignment. Several field modifications were done to alleviate the issue, ranging from cutting a portion of the rear skirt off or just fully removing the rear skirt segment. The final solution was what we see on the current model Abrams, with the familiar smooth blended cut out around most of the drive sprocket.
Rear side skirt comparison, illustrated by Perry Manley
The original M1 Abrams also had issues with crew gear stowage, with limited space inside and the unpopular rear turret storage straps. This lead to the M1E1 project adding a rear turret bustle rack. This was also passed on to the M1IP and is probably one of the most recognizable features of the tank. Following the M1IP and M1A1, the basic M1’s would receive a field kit to install a rear turret bustle as well.
One of the easiest ways to distinguish between the first generation M1 Abrams and an M1IP had originally been the turret bustle but, as time went on and a retrofit kit was distributed to standard M1’s, the M1 and M1IP became difficult to differentiate using this method. The M1IP does retain the 105 mm M68A1 cannon from the M1’s along with the ability to field and fire the same ammunition as the previous.
However, the one key feature that was not shared over time was the gun mantlet. With the armor increase to the ‘long turret’, the mantlet was also thickened. This resulted in previous features being adjusted. The lifting bracket above the gun was originally a straight piece of metal, but on the M1IP, it featured a gooseneck shape. This is still seen today on the modern Abrams. There was also the Gunner’s Auxiliary Sight (GAS) port, which was now split between two faces of armor instead of on a single face which looks ‘cut off’ on the bottom half of the port.
Diagram of the M1 vs M1IP mantel. Source: Vodnik on armorama.com
Along with these was an adjustment of the tow cables on the turret side, now positioned further back from the sloped frontal cheeks. The removal of the retainer ring off the drive sprocket was thought to also be a feature of the M1IP, but this is not entirely true, as there are images contradicting this claim. This feature could simply be due to production changes from early to later models.
The M1IP was deployed to various US Army units around the globe, primarily in the continental United States and then to West Germany.
M1IP on exercise in West Germany. Source: N/A
The M1IP would achieve fame during the 1987 Canadian Army Trophy. The Canadian Army Trophy (CAT) was a tank gunnery competition between NATO members dating back to 1963 being sponsored by the Canadian government and held in West Germany. This contest was intended to bring out excellence, camaraderie, and competition between the members of the alliance. The competition would slowly evolve from just stationary gunnery to a more realistic simulation of combat conditions, including driving skills and the ability to fight as a combat unit. Each nation was invited to place a team (or several) of what would be equal to a tank company of four platoons of three vehicles (12 vehicles in total) as their representatives. The scoring of the competition was based on a formula that used main gun hits on targets, machine gun hits on targets, time it took to complete a run, ammunition remaining, and shots off target. The winner of the competition, based on the highest score, would receive the Silver Centurion Trophy (based off a Canadian Centurion) and would host the trophy the next time around (usually every 2 years). The last of these competitions was held in 1991.
Early production M1IP’s were used by the 4/8th Cavalry during the Canadian Army Trophy (CAT) shoot in 1987, and used the mascot ‘Bill the Cat’. This would be the first time an American team would come first and bring home the Silver Centurion in the competition, beating the German 124th Panzerbataillon platoons equipped with Leopard 2’s.
M1IP’s partaking in CAT 87 competition.
“Bill the cat” as seen on one of the M1IP’s from 4/8th Cavalry at the CAT87 competition with crew members. Source: N/A
The M1IP would see deployment during the US-led coalition to Saudi Arabia and Operation Desert Shield in 1990. However, fearing the Iraqis had modern Soviet ammunition for their T-72’s, many units had their M1IP’s (and even M1A1’s) replaced with Depleted Uranium reinforced M1A1HA’s right before Operation Desert Storm was launched. It remains, however unclear, exactly how many of the 105 mm armed Abrams did see combat, as most were replaced by 120mm Abrams before hostilities commenced. If any did see combat the numbers would be fairly low. Although one could judge they would have been lethal enough based off the performance of USMC M60A1’s that saw combat around the Kuwait International Airport, where the 105 mm M68 cannons took out Iraqi armor at an on par efficiency to that of the 120 mm on the M1A1’s.
M1IP on maneuvers in Saudi Arabia during Desert Shield note the markings belonging to the US Army 24th infantry division. Source: N/A
They would continue to see use as front line units throughout the early 1990s, most notably in South Korea. By the 2000s, most M1IP’s and standard M1’s were relegated to the Army reserves. However, in the mid-2000s, a program was started to upgrade some of these old 105mm armed Abrams to the M1A2 standard through a total plant refit, resulting in a cheaper solution to totally new M1A2’s at almost the same quality. So, although the M1IP was phased out of service along with the original M1’s that mounted the 105 mm cannon, around 1,000 of them had their lives extended by being converted up to the standard for the modern-day M1A2
The M1IP Abrams has been often an overlooked model of the Abrams series, although it was one of the first steps towards today’s Abrams tanks. From the simple addition of a turret basket to the increase of the area for the armor array, it would set forth the steps that we still can see in the design of the Abrams in today’s M1A2’s. Although it may not have seen combat anywhere near the scale of the M1A1 and M1A2, the M1IP was still a solid tank for its crew and the U.S. Army. Even to this day, the M1IP is still in service, for some of the modern M1A2’s in their hearts and souls are that of an M1IP built in the mid-1980’s.
32′ (gun forward) 25′ (without gun) x 9.5′ x 9.4′
(9.77m (7.92m) x 3.66m x 2.89m)
M1IP ‘Boogie Men’ in desert camouflage and operational markings, Operation Desert Shield, 1990-1991.
M1IP with a 3-tone camouflage at the National Training Center (NTC).
M1IP of the 4/8th Cavalry unit during the CAT87 competition, 1987.
What-if winter camouflage of an M1IP based on color schemes present on M1 vehicles during exercises.
M1IP in a 3-tone camouflage serving with the California National Guard.
Front, rear, top and side views of an M1IP in the base forest green color.
All illustrations were done by Cut_22. Funded by Christian Henle through our Paypal.
Tanks Encyclopedia Magazine, #1 Republished
The first issue of the Tank Encyclopedia Magazine has been remastered and rereleased. It covers vehicles ranging from the French WWI Frot-Turmel-Laffly Armoured Road Roller up to the Salvadoran Cold War Marenco M114 converted vehicles. The star of this issue is a full article on the Improved Protection version of the famous M1 Abrams – the M1IP.
Our Archive section covers the history of the Mephisto A7V tank, the only one of its kind that still survives to this day in Queensland museum in Australia.
It also contains a modeling article on how to create Weathering and Mud Effects. And the last article from our colleagues and friends from Plane Encyclopedia covers the story of the Sikorsky S-70C-2 Black Hawk in Chinese service!
All the articles are well researched by our excellent team of writers and are accompanied by beautiful illustrations and photos. If you love tanks, this is the magazine for you! Buy this magazine on Payhip!
United States of America (1975)
Main Battle Tank – 526 Built
In the middle of the Cold War, there was some debate regarding the main tank weapon of the future, largely focused on conventional kinetic energy rounds (cannon shell) versus missiles. In 1966, in an effort to utilize both capabilities, General Dynamics Land Systems designed a new low profile turret, equipped with a 152mm Gun/Missile Launch system that could fire conventional HEAT (High-Explosive Anti-Tank) and HE (High-Explosive) rounds, or launch ATGMs (Anti-Tank Guided-Missiles).
The new turret was mated to a Medium Tank M60 Patton hull, creating the M60A2, unofficially nicknamed the “Starship”. Though the vehicle was one the most technologically complex of its era, this also contributed to its failure, largely due to difficulties with maintenance, training, and complicated operation.
The M60A2 was designed as a stop-gap vehicle until the joint US-German MBT-70 project was ready for service. This project was intended to provide both the United States and German militaries with one Main Battle Tank. It would use the same Gun/Launcher weapon as the A2 and later in the M551 Sheridan.
The United States ordered the M60A2 in 1971, however, production did not start until 1973, and continued through 1975, at the Chrysler Tank Plant in Warren, Michigan. Initial plans called to replace the turret of every M60 with the new A2 turret, but only 526 vehicles were produced (according to official US Army documentation).
Aside from the turret and weaponry changes, the tank was nearly identical to the regular M60. It featured the same 4.29 in (109 mm) glacis armor, torsion bar suspension, and the 750hp Continental AVDS-1790-2 V12, air-cooled twin-turbo diesel engine which would propel the vehicle to approximately 30 mph (48 km/h).
The M60A2 featured a unique Gun/Launcher mounted in a new, low profile “space age” turret. It consisted of a large disk with a narrow channel in the center. Each crew member in the turret had their own hatch, a rare feature in tanks. As a result, each crew member was effectively isolated from one another with the gunner and loader separated by Shillelagh missiles in their storage position. The commander was isolated in the rear compartment under a large rotating machine gun equipped cupola, which somewhat negated the low profile silhouette of the turret.
There was a mounting point to the left of the gun for a Xenon White-Light or Infrared Spotlight for night time operations. A large basket for storage was added to the rear of the turret and also included banks of smoke-grenade launchers, one bank of four on each side of the turret.
The main feature of the A2 turret, is its main armament, the M162 Rifled 152 mm Gun/Launcher, a weapon similar to the M81E1 found on the M551 Sheridan Light Tank. As mentioned previously, it was capable of firing both HEAT (High-Explosive Anti-Tank) and HE (High-Explosive) rounds or launch the MGM-51 Shillelagh ATGMs (Anti-Tank Guided-Missiles). Load-out for the main armament was 33 conventional rounds and 13 missiles.
The conventional rounds had a range of 1.5km (1640 yds). The HE was a more than capable anti-infantry weapon, while the HEAT ideal for close range anti-armor engagements. For a longer range anti-armor capability, the ATGM was to be utilized.
The Shillelagh ATGM guided system. After acquiring a target a small charge would launch the missile out of the barrel. Once clear, four rear stabilizing fins would deploy followed by ignition of the engine. The missile was guided to the target via IF (Infrared) beam. As long as the gunner kept the target in his scope, the missile would strike accurately. This system, however, contributed to one of the tank’s major issues. The M162 Gun/Launcher experienced frequent faulty breeches. Often, not closing correctly, allowing the exhaust of the launching Shillelagh to vent hot noxious gasses into the crew compartment.
The Gun/Launcher was fully stabilized. This meant that while moving over rough terrain the gun would stay relatively level and the gunner able to keep a target in his sight. This did not apply to the use of the ATGM however, which could not be fired on the move.
An A2 being restocked with the MGM-51 Shillelagh
In early testing, the system was plagued with misfires and premature detonations of the conventional case ammunition, caused by unburnt propellant in the bore and breech. This was often catastrophic as it set off the projectile in the barrel as it was fired. To combat this, early versions of the gun were equipped with a traditional fume extractor on the barrel. Later versions would use the Closed Bore Scavenger system, a compressed air system that pushed the fumes and gasses out of the muzzle when the breech is opened.
Secondary armament consisted of an M85 .50 Cal. machine gun in the commander’s rotating cupola, and a coaxial M73 7.62mm machine gun. Neither weapon was especially liked by the crews and later replaced. For the commander’s cupola, the traditional .50 Cal. (12.7mm) M2HB “Ma Deuce” was installed, and the coaxial replaced by the M240, a license-built copy of the Belgian FN Mag. Loadout for the MGs was 5, 560 rounds of 7.62 mm and 1, 080 rounds of .50 Cal. (12.7mm).
One of the A2’s more hi-tech features was its laser range finder and the M60A2 was the first tank to be equipped with one. This worked well in daylight but less so in darkness, effective to 600 meters in 25% moonlight. A special filter was added to the exterior searchlight to alleviate this issue.
The crew of a late model A2 sit atop their tank. Photo: Sabot Publications
Early model M60A2, US Army 3rd Armoured Division. Note the fume extractor on the barrel.
Later model M60A2 in MERDC (Mobility Equipment Research and Development Center) camo scheme. Note the barrel is without fume extractor. Both Illustrations are by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet
Service and Failure
In total, around 520 M60A2s were built, with service in the US Army and the US Marine Corps. A study by the US Army, proposed the M60A2 operate in an “overwatch” role, in support of more traditionally armed tanks, and provide long-range anti-tank support capability from the rear.
The A2 had a short service life succumbing to the same failings of Sheridan, concerning the missile system. The designers of the missile, Ford Aeronutronic, a division of the Ford Motor Company, greatly underestimated the task of producing a fully operational Anti-Tank Guided Missile as advanced as the MGM-51. Development of the Shillelagh was awash with technical and mechanical issues, including problems with the propellant, ignition of the propellant, tracking system and the infrared command link responsible for missile guidance.
Despite its many problems, the A2 did succeed in enabling “carry-over” technology for the MBT-70 project and the later M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank. The A2 was fully removed from service by 1981. Many of the A2s had their turrets removed and replaced by M60A3 turrets. In 1985 some M60A2s were converted into engineering vehicles such as the M60A1 AVLB bridge layers or the remotely controlled Panther mine clearing vehicle.
The M60A2 is frequently referred to as the “Starship”. However, there is no official use of the name in any documentation, at least dated to when the vehicle was in service. It may well be a post-service name. It is widely believed that it bears this name due to either its highly sophisticated technology (for its time) or the non-traditional appearance of its turret.
Early model A2 taking part in training. Sabot Publications
An article by Mark Nash
30’9″ x 11’9″ x 10’7″ ft.in
(9.43m (6.94m) x 3.63m x 3.27m)
United States of America (1978)
Main Battle Tank – 9,000 Built
The American iconic MBT
The M1 Abrams eclipsed for the last thirty years all past MBTs to date, including the M48/M60 series. It represented a definitive change in US tank design since World War 2 and was engineered with the crew protection in mind, but without sacrificing either the firepower or mobility.
Hello dear reader! This article is in need of some care and attention and may contain errors or inaccuracies. If you spot anything out of place, please let us know!
Since numerous reports from the 1973 Yom Kippur war were carefully dissected, this was expressed inside NATO as the “air-land battle” concept in 1976, formulated in 1982 as the AirLand Battle Doctrine, which emphasised adequate combinations of land and air power to deal with a considerable fleet of soviet tanks with increased lethality. The future tank was to be capable of tactical superiority on the battlefield in order to compensate for the numerical inferiority.
The approach taken by the Army staff was not to build the best tank overall, but to reach any objectives within the lowest budget possible. Since any MBT is a compromise, the process was not simple, and the Army chose to play for a competitive process, each company trying the best possible tank design for a development at the lowest cost. The two companies chosen were without surprise, Chrysler Corporation (builder of the M60) and the General Motors Corporation (builder of the MBT-70).
Eventually, the M1 proved its excellence in combat, during the first Persian gulf war (1991), and the post nine-eleven operations in Afghanistan and Irak. In all these operations, the M1 reigned supreme and washed over any armored opposition with apparent ease, earning a solid reputation as one of the world’s very best MBTs.
Developed from the MBT-70
The MBT 70 (For “Main Battle Tank, 1970) was an attempt to devise a joint US-German project for a new battle tank. US Army already evaluated the Leopard when in Germany in the 1960s and it was clear that both countries learned a great deal about the evolution of tactical warfare and ideas revolving on new concepts based on armored mobility, with new standards both in protection and firepower. At that time, both the M48 and M60, derived from the postwar M47 proceeded from the same 1st generation basic design, with classical RHA protection, and the upgrade of the British L7 105 mm “sniper gun”.
When the existence of the T-62 and its 120 mm smoothbore gun were known, the need for a new MBT generation was even accentuated. At that time theories about AT missiles which could be fired by a tank, like the Shillelagh program tested on the M60A2 and Sheridan, were largely in favour, but proved later ill-fated in practice and abandoned in the 1980s.
The whole program began in 1965 or so, with a memorandum of understanding. The program however soon encountered multiple difficulties over different armies requirements over the engine, gun, armour features, and overall the use of either the SAE or metric system for measurements. These were settled by using both, and considering all options at once in a same package, raising costs at a staggering levels. However the concept concentrated many new technologies, unheard of for the time. The height-adjustable pneumatic suspension which allowed the tank to elevate or depress the gun like never before, and at the same time, allowed for far greater speeds in a smooth ride.
The small body saw the driver always facing the direction of travel. The main gun (for US service) was a 152 mm tailored to fire the MGM-51 Shillelagh missile and conventional rounds. But the whole program proved to be too heavy, complex, and moreover expensive. Fearing the cancellation, the U.S. Army introduced the XM803 as a “backup” solution, sharing some technologies but removing the more costly and troublesome ones. but doing so, this produced a still expensive system with capabilities which were not advanced compared to the M60. Germany on the other hands, was not satisfied either, pulling more and more the project in another direction.
The first prototypes construction started in 1965, with 7 hulls of both the US and German versions, for a total of 14. Others tests were performed from 1966 to 1968 with the full trials. Problems occurred with the centerline cupola, XM-150 gun/launcher autoloader, 20 mm AA gun, turbine engine, and overall weight (near 60 short tons at the end of the development).
Genesis of the Abrams
Soon, the original MBT 70 program estimated $80 million (292.8 million DM) plan was shattered, as in 1969 the project cost was $303 million (1.1 billion DM). The Bundestag stopped all further developments and the Bundeswehr used what was already gained to built the Keiler (Future Leopard II).
The US. Congress eventually canceled the MBT-70 in November, followed by the alternative XM803 in December 1971. The funds were reallocated to the XM815, renamed later XM1 Abrams. This new program reused most of the XM803 features but again, in a simpler and cheaper way. The need to eliminates the costliest technologies from the failed MBT-70 project, defined those used in the new tank.
The name of the new tank was a departure from the postwar tradition, chosen to honor General Creighton Abrams, considered as an equal or even a better tank commander by Patton himself. A veteran of the Korean and Vietnam war, Abrams was promoted Chief of Staff of the United States Army in June 1972 before passing away in 1974.
In June 1973, The Chrysler Corporation and the Detroit Diesel Allison Division of the General Motors Corporation were awarded the contract to built prototypes of the new tank designated M1, handed over to the US Army for trials in February 1976. The first prototypes were armed with the license-built 105 mm L/52 M68 rifled gun (L7), and both were compared in field tests between themselves and to the Leopard 2. Chrysler Defense actively promoted a turbine-engine model and was selected for the development of the M1.
Chrysler’s experience with so-propelled land vehicles was going back indeed to the 1950s. After 1982, General Dynamics Land Systems Division purchased Chrysler Defense. Initial production was set up at the Lima Army Modification Center at Lima in 1979, and the first production vehicles rolled out the factory in 1980. The first production was preceded by eleven Full-Scale Engineering Development (FSED) XM-1 testbed vehicles produced in 1977-78, also called Pilot Vehicles (PV-1 to PV-11). The first batch of M1s, before standardization, were still designated XM-1s, as Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) models.
The hull is made of solid RHA, a single block made of massive parts welded together (bottom, front beak, glacis plate, sides, rear plate), with compartmentation. The driver is located in the front center, at the feet of the turret ring, with three periscopes (see later) and a one-piece hatch which can be opened at any time in regards to the turret.
The particular hull front is composed of a beak sloped downwards, which joined an almost vertical glacis plate up to the turret. The hull armor is made of RHA but the turret was made of a composite armor. There is a characteristic rear hull elevation to house the turbine engine. The sides are flat, but tooling storage is assumed by the turret’s sides and rear baskets and bins.
Crew protection inside the tank comprised the halon automatic fire extinguisher system. In addition, smaller hand-held fire extinguishers are also provided. The engine compartment’s one is engaged by pulling a T-handle located on the left side of the tank. Fuel and ammunition are safely stored in armored compartments with blowout panels to prevent the ammo from “cooking off” if damaged, and the main gun’s ammunition is stored in the turret rear with blast doors which opens and slides automatically when ejecting a spent round. The tank is fully NBC-proven with a special lining, a 200 SCFM clean conditioned air system, a Radiac Radiological Warning Device AN/VDR-1 and a chemical agent detector, in addition to the crew’s protective suits and face masks.
The big heart of the Abrams, siege of unparalleled performances, is the Lycoming AGT 1500 multi-fuel gas turbine (later manufactured by Honeywell) capable of delivering 1,500 shaft horsepower (1,100 kW). It was served by a six-speed (four forward, two reverse) Allison X-1100-3B Hydro-Kinetic automatic transmission. Top speed was 45 mph (72 km/h) on paved roads, and 30 mph (48 km/h) cross-country with a governor, but up to 60 mph (97 km/h) on road with the engine governor removed, which was way ahead of the M60 and M48, and equalled the Christie “race tank” performances back in 1930.
However in operations, to prevent any damage to the drivetrain and shock injuries for the crew, a cruising speed of just above 45 mph (72 km/h) was maintained. The engine is multifuel according to NATO’s standards, accepting diesel, kerosene, motor gasoline and even high-octane jet fuel like JP-4/8. For logistical reasons, the JP-8 is preferred by the US military.
This gas turbine was proven quite reliable in practice and in combat conditions but was soon hampered by its equally high fuel consumption, ending in a serious logistic issue. Starting the turbine alone consumed no less than 10 US gallons (38 L) of fuel, and was rated for 1.67 US gallons (6.3 L) for each mile or 60 US gallons (230 L) per hour on flat, much more cross-country and even to 10 US gallons (38 L) when idle.
The use of a mine plough could increase these numbers by 25 percent. The M1 uses around 300 gallons in 8 hours for a sustained usage which can depend on the missions specifics, terrain and weather. The refueling process of a single tank takes about 10 minutes and rearming, in addition, a full tank platoon can take around 30 minutes under ideal conditions and with a trained crew. Not surprisingly it is the Achilles heel of the Abrams, restricting its operational range.
Moreover, the turbine own’s high-speed & temperature, equalling a jet blast from the rear prevented the infantry to follow the tank closely, an issue especially in urban combat. However it was very quiet compared to diesel engines, with less resonance when perceived from afar. For this, the M1 was nicknamed “whispering death” during its first REFORGER exercise in Germany.
This power was transferred to the ground by a set of seven doubled ruberrized roadwheels (per side) suspended by torsion arms. The first pair was further apart to the front. Another pair acted as tensioners. The High-hardness-steel torsion bars were given rotary shock absorbers and provided an even smoother ride than the M60, while being still compatible with the general ordnance and less complex mechanically, easier to maintain than the original hydropneumatic system. The tracks were of the RISE standard for durability.
The driver is laying low in his seat due to the hull’s gacis extreme angle and Reclining. He has at his disposal a full station displaying the condition of vehicle with fluid levels, batteries and electrical equipment (now digitalized) and in some cases a steer-to indicator to find the best tactical route. He can scan for the best ground and the protection offered by the terrain through a set of three observation periscopes (or two and a central image intensifyer for night vision and poor visbility in general; dust, snow, heavy rain, fog…), covering a 120° frontal arc. This AN/VSS-5 image intensifier is developed by Texas Instruments, based on a 328 x 245 element uncooled detector array, working in the 7.5 to 13 micron waveband.
For the first time, the Turret was designed from the beginning to operate a laser range finder, a ballistic computer, a gunner thermal-imaging day and night sight, a muzzle reference sensor to measure the gun-tube distortion and a wind sensor. It was a real leap forward compared to previous generations.
The crew of three take place inside the central inner turret, with a standard loader instead of an autoloader. The latter was a uniquely shaped pentagram, with a sloped faceted nose, flat sides and rear. Fastening equipments took place all over. The turret was in fact much smaller, but with side composite armour blocks that acted as massive extensions.
This was already a modular compartimentation, although the blocks were welded and not just held in place by brackets. The two cupolas (commander to the right and loader to the left) are side by side.
The turret is fitted with 2×6 L8A1 (M250) smoke grenade launchers (2×8 for the USMC version) blocking both vision and thermal imaging, and in support a smoke generator triggered by the driver. This system is well known. Fuel is injected into the hot turbine exhaust, creating a massive smoke cloud. But because of the JP-8 used more commonly, this possibility was disabled due to the risk of fire damage in the engine compartment.
Active protection consists of the the AN/VLQ-6 Missile Countermeasure Device (MCD) Softkill Active protection system, mounted on the turret, in front of the loader’s hatch. It is box-shaped and fixed into position. The MCD can disrupt SACLOS guidance systems, wire and radio guided ATGMs. It could also thermally blur the infrared image with a condensed, massive emission that confuse the IR view or any targeting acquisition system, when detected, and the missile is left to detonate elsewhere.
He is situated in the right hand side of the turret, in front of the commander seat. His Primary Sight-Line of Sight GPS-LOS is manufactured by the Electro-Optical Systems Division of Hughes Aircraft Company. It is a single axis stabilized head mirror. Daylight optics has a x10 narrow x3 wide magnification wide field of view on 18 degrees at close range. The night vision Thermal Imaging System has a x10 narrow/ x3 wide agnification field of view.
It is a part of the eyepiece of the gunner’s sight, coupled with the range measurement provided by the laser range finder. The two-axis GPS-LOS provides an increased first round hit probability due to fast target acquisition & gun pointing, with a stabilization accuracy/bore sight retention less than 100 microrads. His secondary sight is a Kollmorgen Model 939 with a magnification x8/8°.
The Hughes LR is composed of a neodinium yttrium aluminium garnet (Nd:YAG), a laser transmitter, and a receiver. Data transferred and integrated into the FCS in real time. The laser beam reflection provides a time of travel for accurate range measurement with a wavelength of 1.06 microns. The upgraded laser rangefinder includes a Raman resonator decreasing the wavelenght to 1.54 microns, safe for the eye. The laser beam could be emitted at a rate of 1 shot per second. It is accurate within a 32 feets (10 m) margin and target discrimination of 65 feets (20 m).
Fire Control System
The FCS computer is manufactured by Computing Devices Canada (Ontario). It is composed of an electronics unit, data entry, and test panel. The range data is transferred to computer that calculate the fire control solution. This data includes the lead angle measurement, bend of the gun, wind velocity crossed with data from a pendulum static cant sensor (center of the turret roof). Manual Inputs to the FCS are the ammunition type, temperature and barometric pressure.
The commander cupola (right hand side) gets six vision blocks for a 360° panoramic view, a day/night sight periscope with range is -12 to +20° in elevation, with 360 degrees in azimuth and a x2.6 at 3.4° narrow field of view magnification up to x7.7 at 10.4° wide magnification. He can also scan his tank interior condition via the inter vehicular information system (IVIS) and in some cases an appliqué digital screen. He also have an automatic sector scanning, and an automatic target cueing of the gunner’s sight and back-up fire control in case. The commander has a gyrostabilized head for sensors and a hand control grip to selecting parameter settings on a panel, an electronics unit with a remote cathode ray tube display. Usually the system is tailored for the commander to spot the target, then digitally pass the information to the gunner and main FCS that directs the fire, while the commander is already picking the coordinates of the next target. With such flow, it is estimated that the Abrams can neutralize ten targets in the matter of 30 seconds.
He is seated on the left hand side of the main armament, with a simple two-pieces hatch over him. Inside the turret, he is responsible for loading the main gun with ready rounds (and supplying new ones) and serving the coaxial M240 7.62 mm light machine gun, placed on the right hand side of the main gun. Outside the turret, he could use a secondary 7.62 caliber M240 machine gun placed on a Skate mount. It has a -30 to +65° elevation and 265° traverse. He is well placed inside the tank to vizualise the digital displays and generally scan for targets and antitank guided missile (ATGM), using the detection sensors and activating/maintaing the AN/VLQ-6 MCD active protection system.
The Ballistics Research Laboratory at Aberdeen Proving Grounds began a crash program for a Chobham-inspired armour in 1978, and the first production M1 in 1981 weighed about sixty tons fully loaded, combining a normal RHA steel armour under a new composite special armor (layers of both steel and composites, heat and shock absorbing materials), proven against any sorts of HEAT and kinetic energy penetrators. The general scheme is derived from the “Burlington” armour tested on the Chieftain. It is a multi-layered armour combining various alloys of steel, sandwiched with ceramics and plastic composites, including kevlar.
The order of these layers and relative thickness are top secret and classified. The whole has an equivalent of 1,320–1,620 millimetres (52–64 in) of RHA on the turret front against all chemical energy rounds, and 940–960 mm (37–38 in) for kinetic energy penetrators (APFSDS or “sabot” rounds). The M1 also tried in operations reactive armor over the track skirts to defeat RPGs, mostly encountered in an urban environment, or slat armor (rear and rear fuel cells) against ATGMs. A Kevlar liner prevents any spalling.
The very core of the early Abrams was its M60A1 105 mm rifled gun, similar to the one used by both the M60 and the upgraded M48, and licence built after the original British Royal Ordnance L7 gun. The turret is however tailored to accept the German Rheinmetall 120mm gun if necessary. With the advent of more advanced 105 mm rounds like the DU penetrator M833 round, it was possible to delay gun upgrade until 1985 (M1A1), despite the arrival of the T-64 and T-72 in the Soviet arsenal, both armed with 120+ mm guns, in addition to the T-62. The improved M883 round was indeed capable of penetrating 420mm of RHA at 60° at 2,000 meters.
This gun can fire the large variety of ammunitions in use within NATO, including the following series:
high explosive anti-tank (HEAT)
high explosive (HE)
Anti-personnel (multiple flechette)
Optimal range was 2000 meters which gave the biggest percentage of first hit probability, maximal range was 3000 meters (1.9 miles). For greater range, a bigger round, and a smoothbore gun were necessary, which led to the introduction of the M256 tank gun with the M1A1.
Secondary armament comprised a combination of 0.3 and 0.5 caliber machine guns, all located in the turret.
The turret top receive the traditional “Madeuce” .50 cal. (12.7 mm) M2HB in front of the commander’s hatch, mounted on the Commander’s Weapons Station, allows it to be aimed and fired from within the tank. With the introduction of the Common Remote Operated Weapons System (CROWS) kit, the M2A1 HMG, M240, or M249 SAW could be adapted to a remote weapons platform (similar to the one used on the Stryker). Transparent gun shields are also prvided, on the TUSK variant. The M1A1 Abrams Integrated Management (AIM) add a thermal sight for night and low-visibility shooting.
A 7.62 mm M240 machine gun in placed in front of the loader’s hatch (right-placed skate mount). Some were later fitted with gun shields during the Iraq War, and night-vision scopes for low-visibility and night fighting. The second M240 LMG is in a coaxial mount to the right of the main gun, and fired with the same computer and FCS which operates the main gun. An optional second coaxial 12.7 mm M2HB could be mounted directly above the main gun in a remote weapons platform (TUSK upgrade kit).
The M1IP or IPM1 (1984)
The M1IP, in which “IP” stands for “improved performance”, and was devised as a quick limited upgrade, with 895 delivered to the US Army starting in 1984 before the introduction of the M1A1. The IP contained a series of upgrades and modifications, such as an upgraded turret with thicker frontal armor.
The M1A1 (1985)
The major upgrade of the Abrams, centered around a new 120 mm smoothbore gun and a series of protection improvements and other upgrades, designed to keep pace with contemporary advanced Soviet designs such as the T-64A, upgraded T-72, and the T-80.
External differences are easy to spot: The turret is the “long” model, at the rear with a rear bustle rack for improved stowage, a thicker front armour, new blast doors, new engine compartment access doors, reinforced suspensions, pressurized NBC system, the absence of drive sprocket ring retainer, and moreover the shorter and thicker gun barrel and more massive bore recuperator.
The first series in 1985 were equipped with the same armour, but improved turret armour as seen on the late production M1IP. However, starting in 1987, the M1A1 received improved armor packages incorporating depleted uranium (DU) components, under “Heavy Armor” (HA) upgrade name. These were located to the front of the turret and hull, and believed to add an equivalent to 24 inches (610 mm) of RHA.
This combination increased resistance towards most AP rounds, but added a considerable weight due to a 1.7 times superior density compared to lead. The first M1A1 so upgraded were stationed in Germany, in first line against the Soviet Union. In 1991 (during Desert storm) some US-based tank battalions received an emergency HA upgrade shortly after the beginning of operations.
The later M1A2 tanks had an uniform depleted uranium armor (not only the front), but received engine upgrades in the meantime to deal with the additional weight. To this day, all M1A1 tanks in active service have been upgraded to this standard.
Nowadays upgrades practiced on older models includes depleted uranium armor, and the M1A1 AIM FCS and the M1A1D digital enhancement package. There is also a commonality program to standardize parts between the U.S. Army and the Marine Corps M1A1s resulting in the M1A1HC.
The German Rheinmetall 120mm smoothbore cannon served as a model for the new US gun. This gun was used by all versions of the new Leopard II, until the arrival of the L55 on the Leopard IIA6. However US studies concluded prior to its adoption that this tank gun was overly complex and expensive by American engineering standards.
A simpler version with fewer parts was quickly developed. It had a completely redesigned coilspring recoil system (no more hydraulic). US Ordnance adopted the new tank gun as the 120 mm M256 and it was produced by Watervliet Arsenal, New York. Along with its adoption, many adjustments had to be made to the turret interior, ammunition management, fire control system and storage facilities inside the hull for the new bigger rounds. The larger bore also meant new and more varied ammunitions could be used and the gunners were trained accordingly.
There are plans today to upgrade this gun to the new German standard L55, but still, the M829 APFSDS ammunitions already fired had the same kinetic energy than the German L55 fired tungsten penetrators (around 18-20 megajoules). There are a lot of pros and cons to use the new caliber, the most obvious one being the greater muzzle velocity which can be achieved with older ammunitions.
However comprehensive testing will have to be done to ensure that the current munitions will behave properly with this new caliber. As of 2015, programs with the new gun are still pending due to their cost compared to upgrades on the existing rounds.
Perhaps the most famous ammunition set for the new gun was the M829A1 APFSDS-T (1991). This kinetic energy penetrator (long rod), is made of depleted uranium. It could reach a muzzle velocity of 1,575 m/sec, with a maximum effective range of 3,500 meters. During Operation Desert Storm some M1A1 demonstrated that a 4000 m reach was possible and scored several registered kills this far away. Nicknamed the “Silver Bullet” this ammunition gained fame thanks to the 1991 campaign at the same time this ordnance was first introduced and used operationally.
The DU (Depleted Uranium) “sabot” round is a nasty piece of ordinance. The “dart” is much smaller than the launching envelope, called the “discarding sabot petals”, so in essence it is supposed to pack less punch. But the final speed it reaches combined to its very high density creates a “pyrophoric” effect when hitting an armour plate.
Both the penetrator and the steel are melted due to the tremendous pressure, creating a temperature high enough to carve a pathway right through 610 mm equivalent RHA of armour plate at 2,000 meters, projecting what left of this process inside the turret. This causes untold injuries, and everything in the path of the jet could catch fire, including stored ammunitions.
The APFSDS-T M829A2 (1994) replaced the former M892A1, and was produced by the General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems. It includes the use of a new manufacturing process to improve the DU penetrator strenght. The sabot envelope itself is made lighter because of alloys and composites. This is combined to a new propellant for greater muzzle velocity, around 100 m/sec greater than before or 1,675 m/sec but at slightly lower pressure. It is estimated by expert to be able to defeat 730 mm equivalent of RHA at 2,000 meters.
It is gradually replaced by the most effective round so far, the M829A3. Specifics and performances are classified, but the round itself is 10 kgs (much heavuer than the A2 (4.6 kgs) or A1 (4.9 kgs). Increased accuracy and range resulted in an estimated Muzzle Velocity of 1,555 m/sec and penetration performance of 765 mm at 2,000 meters. This round is now made by the Alliant Techsystems Inc. (ATK) based in Rocket Center, West Virginia.
The other rounds usually carried includes the M829 (1985) AP round, and the M830 High Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT). The latter has a maximum effective range of 3,000 meters. New ammunitions in developement outside the “sabot” are intended to deal with new generation of Russian armour systems like the Kontakt-5 ERA pack, and its modernized variants like the “Kaktus” type.
M1A1HA (Heavy Armor): Added 1st generation depleted uranium armor components. Some tanks were later upgraded with 2nd generation depleted uranium armor components, and are unofficially designated M1A1HA+.
M1A1HC (Heavy Common): Added new 2nd generation depleted uranium armor components, digital engine control and other small upgrades common between Army and Marine Corps tanks.
M1A1D (Digital): A digital upgrade for the M1A1HC, to keep up with M1A2SEP, manufactured in quantity for only 2 battalions.
M1A1AIM v.1 (Abrams Integrated Management): Complete overhaul (see later).
M1A1AIM v.2: Added new 3rd generation depleted uranium armor components.
M1A1FEP (Firepower Enhancement Package): AIM v.2 for USMC tanks.
M1A1KVT (Krasnovian Variant Tank) visually modified to resemble Soviet-made tanks for use at the National Training Center.
M1A1M: The export variant ordered by the Iraqi Army.
M1A1SA (Special Armor): configuration for the Royal Moroccan Army.
The M1A2 (1986) and upgrades
The M1A2 is the sum of improvements over the M1A1, but moreover and brand new FCS with a powerful computerized core, and consisted in a commander’s independent thermal viewer and weapon station, a new position navigation equipment, and other controls and displays managed by a central digital data bus. More data can be treated simultaneously, improving the tank first hit probabilty, range, and rate of fire altogether.
Upgrades are developed by General Dynamics Land Systems for the US Army and USMC since the end of the production of the M1A2:
SEP version 1 (1998)
The SEP (System Enhancement Package), or “M1A2 Tank FY 2000” configuration was first applied to tanks in service with the 1st cavalry division based in Fort Hood, Texas. It comprised a Second Generation Forward Looking Infared (2nd Gen FLIR) sight, digital maps and FBCB2 capabilities, along with a better cooling system to cope with the additional heat created by these equipments and a thermal management system. Target detection, recognition, identification are improved and coupled with the Firepower Enhancement Package (FEP).
The FCS computer is upgraded with increased memory and faster processors, full color map display and compatibility with the Army Command and Control Architecture; This allows each tank to be monitored and exchange informations in real with the unit command, sharing better situational awareness with other units in the process.
The Under Armor Auxiliary Power Unit (UAAPU) provided the extra power required. Developed by the TARDEC US Army lab, this was a high power density 330 cc (20 cu in) Wankel rotary engine, modified to operate with various fuels, especially the high octane military grade jet fuel.
The armour upgrade consists of a third generation steel with sandwiched depleted uranium armor layers.
The entire retrofit program was to be applied to the entire fleet ot M1A2, M1A1 and M1s, but in 2004 this was curtailed due to funds shortages and priority given to the Stryker and Future Combat Systems (FCS) programs.
SEP version 2 (2007)
The SEPv2 (version 2) is a joint program led by US Army TACOM and General Dynamics Land Systems. This second upgrade package consists of an increase of reliability and durability of various components and systems (like RISE was for the M60), and various technology upgrades. The first contract was signed on November 2007, for the upgrade of 240 M1A2 SEP. This includes a whole set of new displays, improved sights, more intuitive and exhautive interfaces, a new operating system, and a tank-infantry phone.
Other aspects includes protections enancements with a better front and side armor, and better suspended and reworked transmission to increase durability. Phase II was done in 2008-2009 for the remaining 434 M1A1s in the inventory. Total for these includes 240 new constructions, 300 M1A2s upgraded to M1A2SEP, unknown numbers of upgraded basic M1s and M1IPs, and 400 oldest M1A1s upgraded to M1A2SEP.
FEP (Firepower Enhancement Package) – USMC
The FEP upgrade was awarded to DRS Techologies for the GEN II TIS destined to the US Marine Corps M1A1 tanks. This system comprises a 480 x 4 SADA (Standard Advanced Dewar Assembly) detector, an eyesafe laser rangefinder, a north-finding module and precision lightweight global positioning receiver. These enable the new Far Target Locate (FTL) targeting solution capability.
This subsystem provides accurate targeting data to a range of 8,000 m with a 114 feets (35 m) Circular Error of Probability. This system extends the firing range into uncharted territories, a below-horizon capability with the earth curvature taken in account in what it is barely a “direct fire” anymore.
The Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station is called CROWS (or CROWS II). This remote-control weapon system is compatible with a variety of military platforms. It also includes a laser range finder and a miniaturized sensor suite to be kept operational under the worst conditions. Five time more .50-cal. can be stored. 370 CROWs II kits were installed. They are often combined with the TUSK upgrade to be deployed (and battle-tested) in Iraq, and inspired by the Israeli experience with these systems.
Called Tank Urban Survival Kit this program was aimed to improve the tank survivability in an urban environment where threats can be located in any directions, including over the tank. Basically, the side, rear and top armour is enhanced. These armor upgrades include ERA blocks fit on the side skirts to defend against ATGMs, as well as slat armor on the rear to protect against RPGs and other shaped charge warheads (ARAT).
This is usually accompanied by a remote-controlled firing platform (CROWS) and/or a transparent armor gun shield (LAGS) and Remote Thermal Sight system (RTS) and Power Distribution Box (PDB) for the loader’s external 7.62 mm LMG and 12.7 mm HMG (Kongsberg Gruppen Remote Weapon Turret) of the commander. An exterior telephone with infantry (TIPS) is also fitted to communicate directly with the tank commander. These kits were made available for field conversions in the areas of operations, mostly in Iraq, without the need of reaching a maintenance depot. Contract was awarded in 29 August 2006 to General Dynamics Land Systems for 505 kist under a US$45 million contract, completed in april 2009.
The Continuous Electronics Enhancement Program (CEEP) comprises the latest System Enhancement Package (SEP) and the Tank Urban Survivability Kit (TUSK) both for M1A1 and M1A2s operating in Iraq and Afghanistan. This program comprises advanced digital systems and better compatibility for the Army’s future combat systems integration. It is a retrofit for SEP models. This comprises more detailed HD color maps, better sensor imagery and a more efficient situational and combined arms tactical display.
Wireless technologies is enable for remote diagnostics, vehicle monitoring and remote command and control capability in the field. All crew members had to receive individual displays and a better intra-vehicular connectivity. New, more efficient batteries are provided in place of the noisy auxiliary power unit.
The AGT 1500 turbine engine is getting old (last produced in 1992) and poses problems of maintenance, of declining reliability, fuel consumption and o&s costs that should be adressed. A two-phased PROSE (Partnership for Reduced O&S Costs, Engine) program was devised first to improve the engine readiness at lower costs, then to overhaul the existing components (Total InteGrated Engine Revitalization or TIGER program).
This program is aimed at reducing the overall operating costs while doubling the service life of the turbines. The second phase is a full replacement by a new engine, with the global aim to improve reliability by 30%. Honeywell International Engines and Systems and General Electric were both selectioned to develop a new LV100-5 gas turbine engine for the M1A2, lighter and smaller with better acceleration, quieter and with a much reduced thermal signature. The XM2001 Crusader program featured also a 33% reduction in fuel consumption (50% less when idle) and easier replacement, but it was terminated due to budget cuts.
This latest version is under development, prototypes were delivered in 2014, and operational production was estimated to be by 2017, when the Army first planned to re-launch the Lima tank plant production. The sum of improvements includes a lighter L44 120 mm gun, new road wheels with improved suspension and a more durable track, a lighter armor and long-range precision armaments (for ranges up to 8000 m), upgraded infrared camera and laser detectors. A new internal computer for the FCS is scheduled, relied with fiber-optic lines, also to gain weight. As of today, the M1A3 is delayed to FY2018.
Total : 8800 – 3273 M1 (US Army), 4796 M1A1 (US Army + USMC), 755 m1A1 co-produced in Egypt, 77 M1A2 for the US Army, 315 for Saudi Arabia, 218 for kuwait.
The original builder, Chrysler Defense, ceased to built the Abrams in 1995, which was to be followed by the Lima Army Tank Plant in 2013 as planned by the Army. However General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS) opposed the Army decision to postpone the production until 2017, and estimated the costs for shutting down the factory and restarting the production to be higher than a continuous run.
By 1999, the cost of a single tank was estimated to US$5 million and soared since then due to more complex FCS systems and communication upgrades. The production was eventually resumed, pending the FY2017 full restart and/or foreign sales, and in the meantime, overhauls are maintaining the activity.
M1A1 AIM overhaul program
The Abrams Integrated Management (AIM) program overhauls old M1A1s to original factory standards, a program first initiated in 1997. First step is performed at the Anniston Army Depot in Alabama, since 1998. Hulls are separated from the turrets, components are uninstalled, treated and stored separately. Both hulls and turrets are sandblasted until retreiving the original bare steel finish.
These are stored, then sent by rail to the Lima Army Tank Plant in Ohio for complete upgrade, re-assembly (including the turret-hull “marriage”) and tests before delivery. These upgrades includes a Forward-Looking Infra-Red (FLIR) and Far Target Locate sensors, tank-infantry phone, full communications suite (FBCB2 & Blue Force Tracking) for crew situational awareness, and a thermal sight for the .50 caliber machine gun.
There are still some questions about the Abrams relevance as a potential 4th generation MBT in the next twenty years. A tank is not a nuclear aircraft carrier, and although the upgrade process could be done indefinitely, there are regular concerns about future weapons systems in adequacy to new (mostly asymetric) threats, and cheaper vehicles to operate and maintain alongside MBTs for low intensity conflict zones, like the M8 Armored Gun System.
But the U.S. Army’s Future Combat Systems XM1202 Mounted Combat System was not funded, and the M1A3 program was delayed due to budget restrictions for an adoption scheduled in 2018. The Pentagon finds itself in the peculiar position of facing Congressional support for an apparently unwanted refurbishment program instead of funding properly a new generation of vehicles that are thought more appropriate to deal with current asymetric threats.
Did an “hibernation” process in the Sierra Army Depot (as the Iowa class ww2 battleships) should be considered as an option ? Officially the 1st generation M1A1 are planned to remain in service at least until 2021 and 2040 for the M1A2/A3s.
M1 TTB (Tank Test Bed): Prototype with unmanned turret, the crew is housed in an armored capsule in front of the hull, remotelly operated 120 mm smoothbore gun and autoloader.
CATTB (Component Advanced Technology Test Bed – 1987–1988): 140 mm smoothbore gun test vehicle with upgraded hull with an autoloader, new engine and other upgrades.
M1 Grizzly CMV: Engineering vehicle. Tested but cancelled in 2001.
M104 Wolverine Heavy Assault Bridge: Current US Army heavy bridgelayer, tested in 1996 to replace the slower M60 AVLB, 44 delivered so far from 2003.
M1150 Assault Breacher Vehicle: USMC variant with a full-width mine plow, two linear demolition charges, lane-marking system, protected by ERA. Small turret with two rear-mounted MICLIC launchers and remote M2HB HMG, grenade launchers.
The US Army operates today some 1,174 M1A2 and M1A2SEP variants, and 4,393 M1A1 and variants, while the USMC fielding 403 M1A1 FEP. Potential customers includes Greece (400 ex M1A1 tanks offered in 2011, 90 apparently procured in 2012. This new was debunked since). For Morocco 200 surplus M1A1s were requested in 2011, including a Special Armor (SA) configuration, refurbishment and associated parts, but this is yet to be confirmed.
Peru in May 2013 ordered comparative tests to find a replacement for the T-55s. The Taiwanese government also considered placing an order for 200 overhauled M1A1s.
The Australian Army acquired some 59 revalorized M1A1 (AIM) mixing U.S. Army/U.S.M.C equipment and without HA (depleted uranium layers in armor) in 2006, to replace the Leopard AS1.
The Egyptian Army took delivery of 1,005 M1A1s co-produced by the US and Egypt and another 200 on order.
The Iraqi Army were provided 140 M1A1Ms (downgraded, without HA). 22 U.S. Army M1A1s were also lend for training in 2008-2011. During the June 2014 Northern Iraq offensive, the Islamic State operated an estimated 30 captured ex-Iraqi M1A1Ms.
The Kuwaiti Army ordered 218 M1A2s (downgraded, without HA)
The Saudi Arabian Army took delivery of 373 Abrams tanks M1A2, in the process of being upgraded to M1A2S configuration, with 69 more delivered until 31 July 2014.
The first active unit receiving the M1 Abrams (at that time the first serie was still called “XM-1”) was the 1st armoured division in 1980. The best units operating in Europe (stationed in germany for the most) shifted their M60A3s for this new model. They participated in numerous NATO exercizes in Western Europe (mostly West Germany) in combination with M60A3s and related Leopard-IIs until the fall of the berlin wall, but also in South Korea. In USA various exercizes saw a large variety of 1-tones seasonal camouflage patterns being tested (MERDC), later abandoned for the olive drab.
NATO Black/Med-Green/Dark-Brown standard CARC (Chemical Agent Resistant Coating) pattern were also applied for some time to M1s deployed in Northern Europe. In Iraq however, the tanks were painted in desert tan. With the following operations in the 2000s in Afghanistan and Iraq, some repaired tanks showed a mix of parts in desert tan and olive drab depending of the depot supplies. Nowadays only the Australian tanks shows a 3-tone disruptive camouflage made of black, olive drab and brown.
Strategic mobility was provided by a C-5 Galaxy or C-17 Globemaster III, but with quite a limited capacity (2 for a C-5, and 1 in a C-17), causing an lengthy deployment and serious logistical problems during first Persian Gulf War. Eventually the bulk of the 1,848 tanks deployed for the operation were shipped by sea. The USMCs Abrams could be carried by the Wasp-class LHDs which generally could land a platoon (4-5 tanks) attached a Marine Expeditionary Unit, or transported by LCACs to the shore (1 combat-ready tank each).
By road, the M1070 Heavy Equipment Transporter (HET) truck usually carries the M1, with reasonable cross-country capabilities, and even accommodates the 4 tank crewmen. First operational airlifts into a battlefield zone occurred in April 2003 (belonging to the 1st Infantry Division) in northern Iraq from Ramstein, Germany.
Desert Storm (1991)
By 1991 and the Operation Desert Storm, resulting from the invasion of Kuwait by Iraqi forces in 1990 the M1 Abrams were deployed operationally for their first major action. This was the biggest test so far for any american tank against an army alledged to be the world’s fouth largest army, a fact later refuted by experts and largely made up by media corporations to raise audiences. At that time the bulk of the army deployed to Saudi Arabia comprised M1A1s, which introduced for the first time the new APFSDS “sabot” round.
These tanks encountered a mix of T-55, T-62s, T-72s from ex-Soviet and Polish stocks and possibly local downgraded “Saddams”, a T-72M variant. Their general readiness and combat capabilities were further limited by the lack of modern night vision systems and rangefinders. After the bombing campaign which destroyed many of the enemy armour, the ground operation saw several battles where the M1s distinguished themselves. In fact, none of the tanks engaged was reported as a total loss, crew included.
23 M1A1s were damaged to more or less great extent, some fatally, but with no casualty. Of the nine destroyed, seven were so by friendly fire. By contrast, over 250 enemy tanks were claimed, many kills being scored at ranges in excess of 2,500 metres (8,200 ft), and some in very poor visibility. There was however a few cases of friendly fires which included direct hits with M829A1 “Silver Bullet” APFSDS rounds, which all were survived, and one including an intentional attempt to destroy an abandoned Abrams stuck in the mud, which failed.
The battle of Khafji: In 29 january 1991 was the first major ground engagement for mostly USMCs M60A1/A3s but also some M1A1s counter-attacking the captured of the Saudi city of Khafji by the Iraqi Third Corps, spearheaded by the 3rd Armored Division and 5th Mechanized Division, the only non-Republican guards equipped with T-72s.
The opposing Saudi forces deployed AMX-30 tanks, V-150 and LAV-25 wheeled vehicles. American units engaged were the 1st Marine Division, 2nd Light Armored Infantry Battalion and 2nd Marine Division but most of the kills came from a massive air support as the city was retaken two days later.
At the battle of 73 Easting: In 26 february 1991, the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment (2nd ACR) stumbled upon a far superior, entrenched Iraqi Republican Guard’s brigade. M1 Abrams destroyed 21 T-72s in the first unit spotted. In total the only allied loss (British troops were also deployed) was a Bradley IFV (one killed) whereas the unit claimed 85 tanks, 40 AFVs, 30 wheeled vehicles, two artillery batteries and about 600-1000 killed or wounded.
At the battle of Medina ridge: The following day, the 1st Armoured division clashed with the 2nd Brigade of the Iraqi Republican Guard Medina Luminous Division outside Basra. This resulted in a decisive engagement, with 61 to 186 Iraqi tanks destroyed (most of the T-72 type), and 127 AFVs destroyed, for no losses but 4 tanks damaged. The M1 were greatly helped however by attack helicopters and A10 thunderbolt II in strafing attacks.
Several lessons were retained from this operation. The most obvious one was linked to the rate of losses occured due to friendly fire. Abrams but also other U.S. combat vehicles were systematically fitted with Combat Identification Panels for better recoignition, fitted on the sides and rear of the turret.
The most characteristic aspects were the flat panels with a four-cornered “box” image placed on the turret front both sides. A secondary storage bin on the back of the bustle rack was also often added (referred to as a bustle rack extension) as it was shown the crews needed to carry more supplies and personal belongings to remain autonomous in operations.
Enduring Freedom (2003)
The previous operation Desert Storm left a sizeable part of the Iraqi Army safe, and the 2001 terrorist attacks and following events led to invade iraq in 2003. The battle of Bagdad was the most serious engagement of US forces so far, with many engagements following in the aftermath of Saddam’s Hussein capture and sentence. As of March 2005, approximately 80 Abrams tanks were registered of action by enemy attacks.
One of these fights involved a platoon of M1A1s, claiming the total destruction of seven T-72s in a point-blank skirmish (46 m) near Mahmoudiyah, south of Baghdad. Due to the urban nature of the folowing engagements, some crews were issued M136 AT4 shoulder-fired anti-tank weapons to cover the tank in case the main gun was unable to be brought to bear due to tight spaces.
Cases of Abrams irrecoverably lost due to mobility or other problems were often destroyed by other Abrams to prevent their capture. Several cases were due to resolute ambushes by Iraqi infantrymen using well-known tactics in Urban environments. Some aimed their short-range anti-tank rockets on tracks, and on the rear and top of the tank to great effect due to the relative lack of armor.
The flammable fuel stored externally in the lightly protected turret racks were also a cause of a fire that disabled the turbine, when finding their way into the engine compartment. Post-invasion, a growing number of Abrams were frequently damaged by improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The amount of losses far exceeded those of the 1991 operations, but the lenght of this protacted fight and the nature of combat (urban) also was a factor.
The 1st battle of Fallujah (april 2004): One of the most notorious engagement of the post-invasion era was urban in nature, but involved M1A1 Abrams engaged by the Marines as bait, to lure defenders out into the open. Apparently however this ruse quickly faded as it was reported that “The enemy (…) would initiate an ambush with small-arms fire on one side of a tank in order to get the tank crew to turn its armor in the direction of fire. They would then fire a coordinated 5 or 6 RPG [rocket propelled grenade] salvo into the exposed rear of the tank” (wikileaks).
By December 2006, a report stated that more than 530 Abrams had been shipped back to the U.S. for extensive repairs. In the meantime the Tank Urban Survival Kit (TUSK) was issued to some tanks operating in the most sensible areas.
By may 2008, another reported a damage caused by an RPG-29, (tandem-charge HEAT warhead) developed in Russia to penetrate not only the layer of explosive reactive armor (ERA) blocks, but also the composite armor behind it.
This created a schock among the head of staff and even conducted other operations with Abrams without appropriate modifications, and jeopardized the planned purchased of Abrams to the newly formed Iraqi Army, fearing these would be captured by insurgents. This would be realized indeed in 2013-2014 in the hands of ISIL combatants.
Eventually by mid-2014 after the planned retirement of occupation US troops in Iraq, the Iraqi Abrams saw action in the north when the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria launched the June 2014 Northern Iraq offensive. Some M1A1Ms (overhauled) were destroyed in fighting against ISIL forces and other were reported captured in various conditions. At least one was reportedly used by ISIL fighters in the Battle for Mosul Dam in early August 2014.
Operations in Afghanistan & Iraq
M1A1/M1A2s deployed there, from various strongpoints and camps were free of tank to tank fights, most mission being conducted in infantry support and patrols. This also changed the missions and configuration of the tanks from a wide open-space terrain, to mountaineous terrains that favoured helicopter-deployments instead, and limited urban warfare (villages for the most).
Ambushes could be fatal due to a wide variety of weapons which can be used from various angles by the Talibans. SPGs for the most, but also ATGMs, mines, and especially the infamous IEDs, which can be built quickly and detonate remotelly using a cellular telephone.
M1A2 TUSK of the 26th heavy mechanized division in Iraq.
Therefore the emphasis was put on urban survival, using a great deal of the Israeli experience which goes back as far as the Lebanon conflict in the 1980s. The urdan cupola was example of the US Army pushing the adoption of a system developed on American tanks used by the Irsaelis in an urban environment. But the particular situation in these areas led the the US Army to devise kits and packages with extra armor or protections systems that can be fitted easily in the field, without sending the tank to a depot.
The CROWS and CROWS II systems are part of these. Large shields, partly made of bulletproof glass, plexiglas or transparent composites found their way on the secondary weapons. For night vision, individual thermal sights and sensors were added. New remote-controlled weapon systems were introduced, especially for the cal.50 HMG. The second was for the tank weak points (the front is traditionally well armored) by fitting extra ERA protection to the side, rear and extra armour on the turret and engine deck as well. To defend against RPGs and other shaped charge projectiles, the easiest and lightest way was to fit a simple metal grid (slat armor) on the sides and rear, this time the fruit of Russian experience in Afghanistan and Chechnya.
Current upgrades & tests
The actual upgrades are led by the US Army’s Force XXI Battle Command, Brigade and Below (FBCB2) program. This includes rugged appliqué computers and modular cells, and under the FBCB2 standard, the digital battle command information system is aimed to enhance and explore the interoperability and situation awareness from brigade to individual soldier, using also personal interfaces, with a broader and faster connectivity on the internet.
Tests with 3d virtual reality googles (like Oculus rift) for external awareness could be also part of these future upgrades. The latter are to be provided to the drivers, following a succesful campaing in the Danish Army this year.
United States of America (1960)
Main Battle Tank – 15,000 Built
A logical evolution of the M48
The M60 looks, at first glance, very much like the M48 designed five years earlier, and for good reasons. It was nothing more than an evolution of the type but modified too extensively in too many ways to be considered by the US Ordnance a simple version of the latter. The OTCM (Ordnance Technical Committee Minutes) #37002 officially standardized the type as the 105 mm Gun Full Tracked Combat Tank M60. It was not officially named “Patton”, but it was the first officially named as a “main battle tank”, and not a medium tank.
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For three decades, the M60 was the workhorse of the US Army, USMC, NATO’s and Allied or affiliated nations to the western block around the world.
With more than 15,000 built over a large period of time, modernized in various ways, it was still in service in the US in 1997 and is still frontline with many armies in the world today, a testimony to the soundness of the original design. Although considered very much like a 1st generation MBT, it was modernized as a 2nd generation MBT, on par with its European counterparts of the sixties, the British Chieftain, German Leopard and French AMX-30. Now it is retired from US service, but some specialized variants are still active.
105mm Gun Tank M60
In a general way, the M60 is very much an upgraded M48 and had the same issues and advantages which kept it in service for such a long period of time, even long surviving the introduction of the more advanced M1 Abrams. The M60 was criticized for its high profile and lack of cross-country mobility compared to European models, but it was also roomy and comfortable, proving time and time again its extraordinary aptitude to be upgraded, as well as its reliability and ruggedness.
The M60 mostly owes its existence to a singular event, the capture of Soviet T-54A, driven onto the British Embassy gardens at Budapest during the 1956 Hungarian revolution. It was recovered and sent to NATO’s top brass and experts. Live ammunition firing tests showed not only that this tank could withstand the British 20 pounder of the Centurion or the American 90 mm (3.54 in) of the M47 and the new M48. Therefore, the Royal Ordnance L7 was quickly designed and became NATO’s standard tank gun for years.
The British decided that all future modernization and new tanks will be based on it, leading to discussions between Germany, Italy and France for a future “Europanzer”, which would also use the gun. In the USA it was decided to adopt the gun for mass production under license. A new platform was quickly designed around the new M68 tank gun, largely based on the M48A3. It was to be named M68 (like the cannon) in 1959 when the first prototype was tried, but the Ordnance Bureau renamed it the M60, according to the year of acceptance. In 1963, the initial model was replaced by the M60A1, which would be the production standard until 1980.
105mm Gun Tank M60 design
Studies for a better-protected tank with a 105 mm (4.13 in) gun started in 1957. At first, the hull was a one piece steel casting divided into three compartments, with a straight front slope and beak (the M48 had a rounded one). However, the bottom hull was still “boat-like”, with a pronounced recess between the upper tracks and external suspension arms. The armor was improved, at 6 inches (155 mm) on the front glacis and mantlet of solid rolled homogeneous armor, while it was 4.3 inches (110 mm) on the M48. The M60 was the last American tank using this RHA, 1st gen. tank armor formula. Despite the added weight of the engine, armor and new gun, the tank was only two ton heavier, at 50.7 tons versus 48.5 tons of the M48A1. The driver sat in the middle of the flat portion after the glacis slope and had three day periscopes. The central one would be replaced by an infrared vision device. He had an escape hatch under the hull, in case of an evacuation if the gun would block the upper hatch. His own access to the turret was restricted, as the turret needed to be turned backward. Armor scheme progression by version/ degrees of inclination (version) *equivalent of RHA.
Gun mantlet: 114 mm/60 *131 mm (M60), 130 mm/30 *260 mm (A1), *292 mm (A2), 130 mm/30 *260 mm (A3)
Turret face: 178 mm/55 *217 mm (M60), 208 mm/55 *254 mm (A1), *292 mm (A2), 208 mm/55 *284 mm (A3)
Turret sides: 76 mm/55 *92 mm (M60), 115 mm/55 *140 mm (A1), 121 mm/90 *121 (A2), 115 mm/55 *140 mm (A3)
Turret bustle: 51 mm/80 *92 mm (M60), 58 mm/80 *66 mm (A1), 64 mm/80 *73 mm (A2), 58 mm/80 *66 mm (A3)
Turret Roof: 24 mm/0 *24 mm (M60), 25 mm/0 *25 mm (A1), 31 mm/0 *31 mm (A2), 25 mm/0 *25 mm (A3)
Hull glacis: 93 mm/25 *225 mm (M60), 109 mm/25 *257 mm (A1, A2, A3)
Hull beak: 85 mm/35 *131 mm (M60), 143 mm/35 *249 mm (M60A1, A2, A3)
The turret had a clamshell shape, similar to the one on the M48, but it was changed in 1963 to the distinctive “needle nose” design of the M60A1, which made for a narrower front cross-section, minimizing the surface offered to enemy fire. This allowed optimizing the layout of the combat compartment, as this turret was more elongated and significantly roomier, for the same central width. The earlier production M60s did not have any commander cupola. It was added in the form of a heavy commander cupola/heavy machine-gun turret, with the hatch on top. This particular arrangement, which reminds of the old M3 Lee, allowed the commander to operate the cal.50 (12.7 mm) machine-gun from inside, fully protected (see later). Although provisions for additional pintle mounts were made, the main auxiliary weapon of the tank was this HMG. The coaxial cal.30 (7.62 mm) M73 acted as much as a targeting device as an anti-personal close defense system. The arrangement was typical of US tanks of the time, with the gunner on the front right and the commander right behind him, while the loader was on the left-rear hand side.
The turret roof was characterized by this massive “secondary turret” on the turret’s right, which counted a beak mantlet at the front with the main periscopic sight above, a one-piece, hinged at the top-rear hatch in the middle, and six vision blocks with bulletproof glass on the sides and rear. Three welded handles allowed this turret-cupola to be lifted for repairs and maintenance. This was dictated by NBC measures as well as for the tank commander’s protection when firing his weapon and especially in an urban environment. Compared to the M48 similarly-arranged turrets featuring the classical “Ma Deuce” cal.50 (12.7 mm), the M60 cupola was given the M85, a revised 12.7 mm (0.5 in) derived from the M2HB HMG, but modified for AA defense. Thanks to the much more compact dimensions and being horizontally-fed, the M85 could fit more easily inside the cramped cupola forward space.
M60A3 Turret front detail
But experience showed that due to this tight fit and excessive vibrations, the mounts had tendencies to break up. It was also a high, obvious target, but provided much better protection than the M48 cupolas, as shown by the injuries reports. Tanks commander could better brace themselves during brutal cross-country maneuvers. At the end of the production, on the M60A3, the design reverted to a lower, more conventional “Urdan” type (Israeli influenced) cupola. The next M1 Abrams also eliminated this feature to revert to a lower profile. The single-piece, hinging backward loader’s hatch was located on the left-hand side on the roof. A mushroom-shaped fume extractor took place at the rear left of the turret bustle.
The firepower is provided by a bore evacuated 105 mm (4.1 in), 52 caliber M68 rifled tank gun derived from the British Royal Ordnance L7. A real improvement over the previous 90 mm (3.54 in), it gave almost twice the range, with much greater accuracy and far better muzzle velocity. It is characterized by its 1/3 down length placed bore evacuator with a specific eccentrically mounted extractor and an American vertical sliding breech block. Not only the gun could share standard NATO ammunition of the HE, Frag, AP, HEAT types, but it could be replaced by foreign-supplied models if needed in combat conditions, because of its full compatibility. It could fire at an average of 10 rounds per minute (maximum) with a well-trained crew.
The M68 was standard until the mid-1980s when the M1 Abrams swapped it for a 120 mm (4.72 in). It was complemented by a coaxial M73 0.3 cal. (7.62 mm) machine gun and an M85 cal.50 (12.7 mm) took place on the roof, inside the commander cupola’s smaller turret, which allowed him to fire while being protected. Round storage was distributed between the turret bustle, a few ready rounds of various types were fastened and accessible for the gunner, and the rest was stored inside safe containers on the hull floor. The M60A2 introduced a 152 mm (6 in) missile gun. Types of ammunition used by the M60 (from the M60 to the M60A3)
APDS-T : M392, M392A2, M728
HEP-T : M393, M393A2
HEP TP-T : M393A1
SMOKE, WP-T : M416
HEAT-T : M456, M456A2
Dummy : M457
HEP TP-T : M467
HEAT-TP : TM490, TM490A1
APERS-T : M494
TPDS-T : M724, M724A1
TPCSDS-T : DM128
APFSDS-T : M735, M735A1, M774, M833, M900
The engine was a Continental AVDS-1790-2 V12, air-cooled twin-turbo diesel engine, which provided 750 bhp (560 kW), giving a power to weight ratio of 15.08 bhp/t, compared to the 810 hp gasoline engine of the first M48 version. This change was required after seeing the M48 plagued by its short range in operations. The diesel almost doubled the operational range, and to put it like the American tankers of the 1960s did, “now the army has legs”. This new power unit was served by a single-stage, cross-drive Allison CD-850-6 transmission, combined with differential steering with 2 forward and 1 reverse ranges, and braking unit. This powerpack was reliable and, although not giving tremendous speeds, nor cross-country mobility prowess, was appreciated by the drivers for its ride smoothness.
Closeview of the M60 running gear.
The drivetrain was identical to the one on the M48 with one exception, it counted only three return rollers, versus five on the M48, and the roadwheels were cast in aluminum, and not in steel, a weight-saving measure. However, this made them slightly more fragile, and costlier, so spare steel roadwheels were kept. There were six paired roadwheels on each side, for a total of 24, all rubberized. The front idler was an un-ruberrized roadwheel pair. The back drive sprocket were identical to the standard model. The tracks were also identical and equipped with rubber shoes.
The M60A1 (1962)
This was the first major version and mass-production model, characterized by a new “needle nose” turret. The latter was not adopted immediately, and a significant number still fielded the M48A3 turret. It was in service since the spring of 1962. As it was at least two tons heavier, this forced the adoption of a shock absorber on the second roadwheel pair and was also accompanied by a slight relocation of the first return roller.
The Continental engine was now the AVDS-1790-2C, served by the Allison CD-850-6A powershift cross-drive transmission. Other minor internal modifications were made to the hull. Early M60A1s had no gun stabilization system. An AOS or add-on-stabilizer was retrofitted in the early 1970s, enhancing first hit killing rate by keeping the gun close to the aim while on the move.
M60A1 in a German village, Operation REFORGER, 1982
Protection was improved (thanks to reports from the 1973 war) with the adoption of add-on chin armor for the turret. In the engine, a new hydraulic fluid prevented the danger of internal fire by lowering the point of ignition. In 1974 and 1975, these tanks were upgraded with RISE (Reliability Improvement of Selected Equipment), consisting in a new engine configuration, and in 1977, the RISE/passive appeared. It consisted in the adoption of passive IR sights for the driver, gunner and commander. The need for a massive IR illuminator above the gun was therefore eliminated. In 1978-79, a battery of two smoke dischargers banks was fitted on either side of the turret. The M60A1 was also retrofitted with the M60A3 T142 tracks with replaceable trackpads. But by the 1980s, after these upgrades, the M60A1 was only distinguished from the M60A3 by its lack of crosswind sensor, armored flap of the TTS and thermal shroud for the main gun. These tanks formed the backbone of the US armored forces until the M1 Abrams became operational. At 58 tons, the late A1 was much heavier than the M60 (50.7 tons), or the early A1 (52-54 tons), thus reducing its mobility. M60A2 “Starship” at the American Armor Foundation [AAF]
The M60A2 “Starship” (1969)
In 1966 General Dynamics Land Systems designed a new low profile turret, equipped with a 152mm Gun/Missile Launch system. The new turret was mated to a 105mm Gun Tank M60 hull, creating the M60A2, unofficially nicknamed the “Starship”. Though the vehicle was one the most technologically complex of its era, this also contributed to its failure, largely due to difficulties with maintenance, training, and complicated operation.
The M60A3 (1980)
Work on a vastly enhanced version began in 1978, at the same time the M1 Abrams program began. This was chiefly to keep the M60 in operation alongside the much costlier new main battle tank, and to be able to face off the T-64 and T-72. Although the hull and turret remained unchanged for the most, it was easily distinguished by the fitting of two banks of smoke dischargers, an AN/VVG-2 flash-lamp pumped ruby-laser based rangefinder, an M21 ballistic computer and a turret stabilization system. At mid-production, it was also decided to delete the cupola.
This was done for three reasons. Israeli studies on their own M60A1/A3s in combat (IDF tactical doctrine imposed that the commander fight unbuttoned, exposed) showed that a non-penetrating hit on the turret roof, burying itself at the base of the cupola (acting as a shot trap) could dislodge it, instantly killing the commander. In addition, the locking mechanism of the hatch was dangerous to use under fire. The performances of the remote-controlled M85 heavy AA MG as originally intended were even worse than those of the pintle-mount cal.50 (12.7 mm), due to limited elevation. Therefore, late versions are recognized by their low-profile, simpler “Urdan cupola”, and the overall silhouette of the tank was greatly diminished in the process.
The service duration of the M60A3 was impressive, spanning two and a half more decades, from 1980 to 2005. This was due to a number of factors, that made it compare well with the much more advanced M1, especially from a cost and maintenance point of view. The infantry telephone on the back plate was still on the M60 but was eliminated on the M1 and later retrofitted with TUSK. Although having lower performance, the M60 engine was much cheaper to maintain, more fuel-efficient and had also a lower temperature. It was, therefore, less dangerous for infantry marching behind.
The floor escape hatch, absent on the M1, was also an added safety feature for the crew, if the tank was turned over or under enemy fire. Indirect fire was also easier on the M60 and allowed a more variety of operations in coordination with infantry. So, in tactical doctrine, the M1/M60 rôles were refined and well distributed. The M1 Abrams was to spearhead the armored assault and deal with enemy tanks, while the M60 was to follow with infantry to clear and sanitize the area, especially in an urban environment. However, both tanks were equally sensitive to IEDs.
M728 CEV: Combat engineers version, featuring a A-frame crane and winch, M135 165 mm (6.5 in) demolition gun, mine plough or bulldozer blade.
M9: Dozer blade kit for the M60.
M728 Combat Engineering vehicle with mine rake.
The M60 was kept for US service alone (although some were sent to Israel), whereas the M60A1 was supplied to U.S. allies, like Austria and Italy in Europe, Iran, Israel, and Jordan in the Middle East. The M60 is still used by the USAF for testing purposes. The M728 Combat Engineer Vehicle and the M60AVLB are also still in service.
The Austrian M60A1s were rebuilt to the A3 standard by Steyr-Daimler-Puch in Austria. In the 1990s they were sold to Egypt.
This country operates some sixty M60A3 to this day.
Eighty-five M60A3s were delivered in 2012. They are still in service.
Ninety-one M60A3 TTS were purchased. They are in service today.
This is currently the biggest user of this model, with 1016 M60A3s and 700 M60A1s.
The Ethiopian army purchased an unknown number of M60 or M60A1.
The Greek army received 357 M60A1 RISE Passive and 312 M60A3 TTS MBTs. They are now retired.
The Israeli defense force operates some 711 Magach 6 Archuv and Magach 6 Archuv 2, and 111 Magach 7 as of today. They received extensive protection with ERA or passive armor. Older models were known as the E60 (M60), E60A (M60A1), and E60B (M60A3).
Israel also developed the M60 Sabra and the M60T or Sabra Mk.II. This is a highly upgraded M60A1 developed for the Turkish Army, with a new 120 mm (4.72 in) smoothbore gun, electric stabilization system, new FCS, and upgraded armor package. IDF E60A Blazer ERA at Latrun.
Italy produced 200 M60A1s under license at OTO Melara, and received 100 more, for a total of 300 in the 1970s. They are no longer in service.
This country operates some 150 M60A1(as of 2010). In 1961, the first delivered defected, crossed the border, and was captured and studied by USSR. As of today, these tanks are in the process of being upgraded to the Samsan (Sword) standard. Locally developed, with some help from Russia, it includes ERA (Kontakt-5) protection, an EFCS-3 fire control system, a laser warning system and IR jammers.
The Jordanian kingdom operates 182 M60A3s. The King Abdullah II Design And Development Bureau developed the Phoenix, a radical local upgrade which includes a 120 mm (4.72 in) RUAG smoothbore gun, shoot-on-move capability, and improved protection with ERA and side skirts. The number of conversions is unknown.
About 66 M60A3s were purchased in 2008, the first batch of ten was received on May 22, 2009.
The Moroccan army operates a total of 260 M60A3TTS and 167 M60A3.
The Omani army operates some 93 M60A3 tanks as of today.
The Saudi Royal Army operates some 450 M60A1 and M60A3 as of today.
Spanish Marines M60A3 TTS landing off during exercises.
The Fuerzas Armadas Españolas received, in early 1990, around 300 M60A3 & A3 TTS (16 of them for the Marines) from Central Europe, according to the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (FACE), and 50 of the A1 version. However, the latter were worn out and did not have the spare parts required. It was thought off applying the modernization program developed for the AMX-30E2 with a Hughes/ENOSA Mk.9A/D imager and FCS, MTU 833 diesel and ZF LSG 3000 transmission, but the perspective to acquire the Leopard II led to the cancellation of this project. The Fuerzas Armadas Españolas today use 16 M60A3TTS for the Marines (Infantería de Marina), 38 modified M60CZ-10/25E Alacran (combat engineer variant), and 12 specialized M60VLPD-26/70E (converted bridgelayer with the “Leguan bridge system”).
Fourteen M60A3TTS are in service today. In addition, six M60A2 had their turrets for training.
Republic of China
The Taiwanese army operates some 450 M60A3 TTS as of today.
The Thai army has some 178 M60A1 and M60A3 in service, obtained from the U.S. Army
The Tunisian Army operates some 59 M60A3 and 30 M60A1.
The second-largest user of the type (after Egypt), operates some 658x M60A3 TTS, 104x M60A1 RISE, and 170x M60A1 specialized variant the Sabra. The Israeli Military Industries won a contract in March 2002 to upgrade 170 Turkish Army M60A1 tanks with the installation of a new 120mm smoothbore gun, Elbit Systems’ electric gun and turret drive stabilization system, including a new fire-control system and a new armor package. These upgraded M60A1 main battle tanks are also known as the Sabra MkIII upgrade. Turkish Army M60A3 tanks were deployed inside Syria after rockets were fired over the border in August 2016.
Turkish Army M60A3 tank
The Yemeni Army operates some 240 M60A1 or A3. No other details could found.
USAF M60 in Doha, Qatar.
The 105mm Gun Tank M60 in action
Due to an impressive service length span, the M60 and variants participated in some major conflicts and many operations. The most important such battle theatre also saw the most number of M60 of many nations engaged, within the coalition forces in 1991 (Operation Desert Storm).
In US service, the M60 never saw service in Viet-nâm, contrary to the M48. For the US Army, the only operations were at Grenada (1982), Beirut (1983), and the Gulf War (1991). In the mid-1980s, close air support trials took place along with ground-combat equipped F-16s and pioneered tactical doctrines and technologies later used with M1 Abrams-equipped units. These occurred notably at the Red Flag exercise at Nellis AFB Nevada. After the end of the Cold War, most of the M60s (which were USMC M60A3s) were placed in reserve and only specialized variants were kept in service, like the M728 Combat Engineer vehicle and the bridgelayer version AVLB.
Yom Kippur War (1973)
The M60 was first blooded during this war opposing Israel to Egypt, Syria and Jordan. About 150 M60A1 (E60A) were opposed, with success, to the Egyptian-operated T-54/55 and T-62. But, at the same time, in the Bar-Lev line, they were destroyed in rows by Egyptian-manned portable AT-3 Sagger shaped-charge missiles, following the Egyptian crossing of the Suez Canal. Due to their effective gun, mobility and excellent safety records, IDF M60s had been highly regarded and were upgraded significantly, leading to the Magach 6/7 types and the Sabra for the export market. During this conflict, Jordan also possessed M60A1, but none was deployed.
Iran–Iraq War (1982-89)
The Iranian M60s were seriously tested against Iraqi T-55, T-62 and T-72s, and performed well alongside some M48s. Before the revolution, Iran had some 350 M60A1s, but this number dwindled rapidly due to the lack of maintenance and spare parts, to the actual figure of 150 tanks in 2011. At least one M60 was captured by Iraqi troops, evaluated, and was found in Baghdad in 2003.
Lebanon War (1982)
The Israeli Magach 6 formed the core of the armored forces involved in Operation Peace in Galilee, dealing with Syrian T-54/55 and T-72s or even ex-PLO T-34/85s. The only loses occurred when encountering Syrian infantry hunter-killer teams using ATGMs, RPG-7s and SA-7 Grail MANPADs. HOT missiles fired from Syrian Gazelle helicopters were also deadly. A single M60 was damaged, evacuated by its crew and shipped back to Syria to be studied by Soviet technicians, which gave them clues about the latest NATO ammunition on board. It is now still on display in Damascus.
First Gulf war (1991)
During Operation Desert Storm in February 1991, USMC’s M60A1 ERA rolled into Kuwait City after a fierce battle at the Kuwait Airport. Some 200 participated in the largest tank battle for an USMC unit since World War Two, dealing with Iraqi T-54/55, Type 69, and T-72 tanks, north from Khafji. This unit claimed nine dozen Iraqi tanks destroyed for a single M60A3 lost.
At the same time, USAF 401st TFW (P) unit used M60s based in Doha AFB, Qatar, modified to deal with unexploded ordnance from tarmac runway and taxiway surfaces. Saudi, Egyptian and Omani forces also deployed their own M60s in this operation.
Operations in Afghanistan (2002-2012)
Only specialized variants were deployed, having a great deal of activity altogether in several sub-operations at tactical organic unit level, notably to create provisional bases and depots.
105mm Gun Tank M60 Gallery
30’9″ (22’8″ without gun) x 11’9″ x 10’7″ ft.in
(9.43m (6.94m) x 3.63m x 3.27m)
Main: 105 mm (4.1 in) gun M68, 70 rounds
Sec: 1 x cal .50 M85 (12.7 mm)+ 1 cal .30 (7.62 mm) Browning M73
RHA max. 6.125 in (155 mm)
Total production (all combined)
The M48, for comparison.
105mm Gun Tank M60 in trial markings, first pre-production run, 1959.
105mm Gun Tank M60 of the main production series in exercises in the 1960s.
Camouflaged 105mm Gun Tank M60 used until the 1990s by the US Reserve or National Guard unit, now preserved at the Fort Lewis Military Museum, Washington.
105mm Gun Tank M60A1, early production version with the aluminium roadwheels, 1963.
M60A1 with steel roadwheels in drilling exercises, fall 1960s.
Greek Army M60A1.
Iranian Samsan (Farsi for sword), locally-developed upgrade of the 1976-78 M60A1.
M60A1, apparently used in exercises in the desert in the 1980s.
M60A1 ERA of the USMC, battle of Kuwait Airport, February 1991. This was the largest tank battle of the USMC since World War Two.
Libyan M60A1 in 2011. Notice the laser range finder and thermal sleeve.
Egyptian M60A1, Operation Bright Star, 1985.
M60A1 RISE in the 1980s.
M60A1 of the USMC, 1970s.
M60A1 of the US Army in the 1970s.
M60A1 Rise TTS.
M60A3 RISE US Army Nevada, 1980s.
Egyptian M60A3, 1990.
Turkish M60A3 TTS.
Taiwanese M60A3, during an exercise at the 58th Artillery Command.
United States of America (1955)
Medium Tank – Around 12,000 Built
A real departure from the M47.
Third in line to be named after US Army’s ardent promoter of tanks during ww1 and legendary commander during WW2, the M48 was a development of the M47 Patton (or “Patton II”). It was born soon after it and pressed into service in 1953. The M47 has been largely a stopgap model, made from the marriage of the T42 tank prototype (the real successor of the M46) and the M46 chassis, itself an improvement over the WW2 M26 Pershing. Most were replaced in the US Army and Marine Corps when the M48 was made available and sold abroad. The M48 was instead a radical technical departure, adopting a brand new turret and chassis, revised suspensions, more powerful engine and many other improvements.
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In 1958, the 90 mm main gun was no longer adequate against newest Soviet tanks, and the M48A5 adopted the 105 mm M68 main gun derived from the Royal Ordnance L7 gun, an upgrade to keep pace with the new M60. The M48 had been more longer and largely produced than the M47 and saw much more versions in active service. During all these coldwar years, it was throroughly battle-tested in action under foreign colors and is still frontline today in some of these countries. Back in USA, it is known for its active commitment in Viet-Nâm, but was gradually replaced by the M60 in the sixties.
OTCM #33791 directive designated the 90mm Gun Tank T48 as to be the next step in tank design and development on February 27, 1951. As on the drawing board, the design was in every bit revolutionary and nearly all but a few parts, namely the main gun, rangefinder, roadwheels, return rollers and drive sprockets, were redesigned. The most externally striking aspects were the new hull, longer, lower, with a sloped front part, and the hemispherical turret, reminder of the Soviet T-54/55 design.
Internally, the crew was reverted to four after the abandon of the hull machine-gunner. After the usual 1/8 and 1/4 models kits, and the test prototype T48, on 2 April 1953, the Ordnance Technical Committee Minutes (OTCM) approved the new model for standardization and production as the 90mm Gun Tank M48. Production will last from 1952 to 1959 with over 12,000 units.
The development took some gradual improvements over time. After the unsuccessful M48C quickly relegated to training, the M48A1 and A2 had some engine troubles which were eventually corrected on the M48A3 diesel conversions. Long after the production was over, the M48A5 final upgrade saw the adoption of the more modern M68 105 mm main gun along with new FCS and other improvements to the M60 standard.
M48A2 cutaway – Credits: Wikimedia commons.
Compared to the M47, the hull, gun pointing forward, was almost one meter longer, and 15 mm wider. The hull length, without the gun, was 274.3 inches or 676.7cm. However it was made more compact, with a low turret ring, and combined with the turret design, the overall height was a real improvement over the M47, at 10ft 2in versus 11ft 6in (3.10 versus 3.35 meters) high. The overall weight was on paper just one ton higher at 49.6 short tons vs 48.6 short tons, allowing no significant modification in transportation standards.
The armor was well improved due to intelligence reports over the T-54 main gun capabilities and raised from 4in (100 mm) to 4.3 in (110 mm). There was a redesigned “frog” front beak glacis (53-60° slope) plate ranging from 4.33 to 2.4 inches (110 mm to 65 mm), 2-3 in (50-76 mm) on the sides and 1-1.38 in (25-35 mm) angled to 30-60° at the rear. This front nose was rounded as seen from the top, another characteristic compared to the flat nose of the M47. Vertical surfaces were 2.25 inches thick (57 mm) on top, and 0.5 to 1.5 inches to the rear, central and front floor (13-38 mm).
As customary with tanks working closely with the infantry, there was a small telephone box on the back plate, with a red light to inform the following infantry that the tank commander was about to communicate.
The drivetrain still comprised the same arrangement of six paired, rubberized steel standard roadwheels, with the same rear drive sprockets (11 teeth) and front idlers (in fact dual standard roadwheels), but five return rollers. The main reason for this seemed to be the larger (heavier) tracks, with lateral extensions meant to give them a better grip over soft terrains. These new track links had a new center guide, redesigned double pin, deeper rubber backed steel shoes, and were 28 inches wide (71 cm), with a 6.94 inches pitch (17 cm). The 79 track links formed ground contact length of about 157 inches (4 meters) and gave an 11.2psi or 786kg/cm² ground pressure.
This new track link standard will be adopted also on the M60 and received only minor modifications on the contemporary M1 Abrams. The second change was the improved suspensions. All six roadwheels pairs were sprung on independent improved torsion arms, while the two front pairs and rear ones received extra shock absorbers (it was the reverse on the M47) with dampers to block excessive amplitude from the torsion arms. There was a dual compensating at the front, and dual auxiliary track tension wheels behind the last road wheels, like for the previous M47-M46s. There few modifications on later versions: From the A2, these rear tension dual wheels were eliminated, while in some later versions, the five return rollers reverted to three.
M48 practicing night firing. Src https://www.michiganhistorymagazine.com – Credits wikimedia commons.
Engine, transmission and steering
The powerpack comprised at the beginning an upgraded version of the M47 engine, the Continental AV-1790-5B/7/7B/7C 12 cylinder, 4 cycle, 90°-V gasoline. On the first versions (up to the M48A2C), it was coupled with an auxiliary 8-cylinder engine (called the “Little Joe”). It had a net HP of 704@2800rpm, gross: 810@2800rpm, and torque net of 1440 ft-lb @2000rpm and Gross torque HP of 1610@2200rpm. Fuel capacity was 200 US gallons (757L).
However the engine and the hydraulic lines if ruptured were prone to catch fire when hit, even giving a fireball, due to a too low flashpoint. This dual-engine was also deemed unreliable.
The engine could be accessed through two main deck ventilation panels, and the transmission and filter access were behind. The hull was not treated NBC but waterproof and there was a fording capacity of about 48 inches (1,20 meter). The transmission was a General Motors CD-850-4A/4B, with 2 ranges forward, 1 reverse.
Performances were as follows: A top speed (on road) of about 28 mph sustained (45 kph), climbing capability of a 40% side slope and 60% max grade, or a vertical obstacle of 36 inches (91 cm). The tank could pivot on itself and cross a 102 inches (2.59 m) trench.
The driver, relocated to the front center with a small oval hatch above his head, had an aircraft-style steering wheel, instead of the single wobble stick control found on the M46 and M47. On paper and later on trials it was indeed found “as easy to drive as your car”. It had also multiple disc brakes. The weakest point of this powerpack was by far the lack of range, with limited fuel capacity and a gasoline engine, which made only for 70 miles (110 km). As a practice, tankers usually spent part of the day to run and the following day to wait for the fuel trucks to catch up. It was good enough to operate on a specific point on the map, in support of the infantry, but not in a perspective of a fast, autonomous, deep armored thrust into enemy territory. Also, this was corrected on later diesel versions.
M48 being lifted aboard TS Nabob, New York 1956.
Another novelty was the turret, a radical departure from previous designs which goes back to the 1944 Pershing. Instead of a low-profile, lozenge section shaped turret, engineers chose a much lower, fully hemispheric shape, with its center of gravity virtually on the turret ring, which makes much for the tank lateral stability. The turret as seen from above was equally rounded at the rear, with a much reduced “shot trap”. It completely made of cast homogeneous steel and rounded, but lengthened by a central section of about 80 cm. For better smoothness of the armor (7 inches, 180 mm equivalent at the front), the Stereoscopic T46E1 rangefinder was replaced in the beginning of the central section. The armor was 3 inches thick on the sides, 2 inches at the rear, and one inch on top.
The characteristic flat gunshield (instead of the “pig’s snout” mantlet of the M47) was 4.5 inches (110 mm) thick. The small oval driver’s hatch and commander cupola were side by side in between, with a 0.50 cal M2HB heavy machine gun mounted around the commander’s cupola. Since this position was exposed, on the M48A series, a fully enclosed cupola replaced it. At the rear left there was an access well above the radio unit, and externally a rear storage basket, and lateral handles. There were three welded lifting handles, one axial, and two on the rear sides, to balance the weight.
The main armament comprised a 90 mm M41, with the M87 mount. The early version had a “Y”-shaped fume extractor later reverted to the standard “T”-shaped. 60 rounds were carried of HE and AP types. There was a 360° manual and electric-hydraulic traverse, (24°/sec) and the gun could be depressed to -9° and elevated to +19°. The main protecting gun shield housed the coaxial, manually operated cal 0.30 M1919A4E1 machine-gun with 5900 rounds in store for the gunner and the gun sight. The dual-purpose armament was incarnated by the commander cupola’s cal.50 M2HB, with 500 rounds in store. The commander was seated in the right rear of the turret while the gunner was on the front right and loader to the left rear.
The exact factory count gave 11,703 units manufactured by the by Chrysler Corporation, Ford Motor Company, and the Fisher Tank Arsenal. This includes all versions. The production of the first M48 version was approved in April 1952. The construction was characterized by large cast sections of homogeneous steel, electrically welded together. During production, an infrared periscope was added to the driver’s hatch. The first 100 produced (later called M48C) were rejected because of lacking correct ballistic protection and affected as training machines. To cope with the lack of range, four external jettisonable 55gal (210L) fuel drums were mounted on the rear deck, to give an extra 135 miles.
M48A1. Credits wikimedia commons.
The main feature of this version appeared in 1955, was the M1 commander’s cupola. The cupola engulfed the rear of the .50cal machine gun, which could, therefore, be loaded and even fired from inside the tank. This new cupola also had a roof periscope for all-round visibility and rear-hinged section. But it was also cramped, and ammunition storage severely limited (50 instead of 100 rounds inside). Modifications included also a larger driver’s hatch.
This version, first accepted in 1956, first had and improved powerpack and transmission (a fuel-injected version of Continental’s V-12)
Second, a redesigned rear plate with exhaust louvers and side hull intake grilles surrounded a solid center area overtop of the exhaust tunnel, greatly improving the infrared signature. The more compact design inside the engine compartment allowed to fit bigger capacity fuel tanks, for 335 US gallons (1270L), giving an approximative range of 160 miles or 260 km. Moreover, the A2 had an improved turret control and relocated engine’s air cleaners for better access and maintenance. The suspensions also were modified, with a modified compensating idler wheel attachment, double bump spring on the first road wheel arm, and friction snubbers instead of the hydraulic shock absorbers. The second and fourth track return rollers were deleted. The driver’s steering wheel was enlarged, and the transmission shifter was relocated to the floor on the driver’s right. It had also a modified personnel heater exhaust pipe, an improved turret control system, and flattened fenders.
2,328 were produced in all. The M48A2C had its old telescopic rangefinder replaced by a more user-friendly M17 coincidence model, coupled with a new ballistic drive which integrated temperature data while the entire FCS shifted to all-metric measurements (notably for exports). The main gun had also a larger bore evacuator, and the rear auxiliary tension wheels were deleted (from now on).
M48A3. Credits wikimedia commons.
The issues experienced with the gasoline engines led to a completely new engine upgrade in February 1963, which was applied as a whole to 1019 A1 to A2 production models. These conversions were handed over by the Anniston Army Depot and the Red River Army Depot. The stereoscopic rangefinder was upgraded to the M17A1 standard, the driver received an M24 IR sight, the main gun was upgraded to the M87A1 mount. The Continental AVDS-1790-2 V12, air-cooled Twin-turbo diesel was completed by the fitting of the M60 grilles and exhaust louvers, and dry air cleaners instead of the oil bath system prone to catch fire. Of course, the auxiliary engine/generator was omitted due to the better performances of the new powerpack. The suspension and personal heaters (with the exhaust relocated to the right) were also taken to the M48A2 and M60 standards respectively. There was also a better fire extinguisher, and the gun was externally characterized by a xenon white light or an infrared searchlight above its base and shield, which also featured an upgrade of the FCS.
By 1967, Bowen-McLaughlin-York, Inc. started the Mod.B upgrade for the M48A3, featuring a modified armor framing, armor box around the taillights, but first and foremost, a distinctive raised-up commander cupola, consisting of an adapter ring incorporating all-around vision blocks. There were also improved driver’s controls and gauges (from the M60A1) and relocated fuel lines for more safety. This included also knock-out holes for the torsion bars, modified mud guards above the return rollers, detachable headlights, raised-up detachable telephone intercom, and Infrared fire control. In 1968 and the early 1970s they received the excellent AVDS 1790 2C/2D diesel series rated at 750 horsepower, which also was found in retrofitted NATO models like the US M47, M88A1, the British Centurion, or the French AMX-30 among others. When the Mod.B was applied to all remaining M48A3s, the distinction was abandoned.
This last upgrade was a major one, raising the firepower of the M48 to the M60 standard. This modification was accepted in October 1975 and applied to 2069 remaining M48s from the previous versions, including the A3, by the Anniston Army Depot. The engine was upgraded to the Continental AVDS-1790-2D, with a 385gal/1460L capacity giving 300 miles (480 km) range. The fitting of the 105mm gun M68 was accompanied by borrowing many other parts from the M60, helped by the commonality between the two models. The M1 cupola was replaced by an Israeli-designed “Urdan” model August 1976, with a vertical opening hatch with three periscopes. M60D machine-guns replaced the old M1919A4 models. The engine was later upgraded once more to the AVDS 1790 Red Seal model rated at 750 Horsepower in the 1980s, and the Gold Medallion Engine in the early 1990s on the M48A5E1, also characterized by the adoption of a full resolution digital fire control system, a laser range finder, and an improved day/night sight assembly.
The M48A2 AVLB bridge layer was based on the M48A2 but fitted with a scissors-type bridge. The M48A5 AVLB bridge layer of the modernized version, still with the same scissor-type bridge, lengthened to 60 feets.
The flamethrower version derived from the M48, designed at the initiative of the US Marine Corps. The M7 projector was fitted inside a fake gun with a fake muzzle brake to give the illusion of a standard tank. Fired liquid petrol up to 120 meters (490 feets). Widely used this model in Viet-Nam.
Exports & users
The Bundeswehr received several hundreds of the Kampfpanzer M48 in 1957-58, soon reinforced by Kampfpanzer M48A2C in 1958-59, while the M47 was replaced gradually by the Leopard. When the Leopard 2 appeared in the 1980s, the M48A2C were passed from the Bundeswehr into the Heimat-Schutzbrigaden (“home defense brigades”) of the territorial army, acting as a reserve. 650 were upgraded to the M48A2GA2 standard, a conversion made by Wegmann at Kassel, which took place between 1978 and 1980. The M48A2GA2 had the 105 mm L7 cannon and MG3 FCS and several other subsystems from the Leopard. They were given to tank battalions and the heavy company of several Jäger Battalions of the Territorial Army. All these are now retired.
M48s were also transformed into genie versions. Namely, these were M48A2Cs with M8 dozer blade, and the Minenräumpanzer Keiler, a heavily modified M48A2GA2 mine-flail version derived in 1997 by Rheinmetall, still in service.
A private venture built the “super M48” with the latest evolution of the L7, a new diesel engine, upgraded systems and an ERA protected turret with add-on armor. It was never ordered by the Bundeswehr. Great Britain also developed a modified SPAAG for export, the Marksman. Greece
Still a current user, Greece received 390 M48A5 MOLF, upgraded to a new standard for the Hellenic armored forces. This comprised the EMES-18 FCS (MOLF) for Modular Laser Fire Control System, designed by ECON electronics and shared at 80% by the Greek Leopard I. Norway Is a former operator of 38 M48A5s. Portugal Had an unknown number of M48A5s now replaced by M60A3TTS and Leopard 2s. Spain Once used several hundred of M48A5s, many being upgraded in 1978-79 with the M17B1C optical rangefinder, M13A4 ballistic computer, and an IR/white light projector. The M48A5E1 was improved and the E2 featured the Hughes Mk7 FCS/laser rangefinder and solid state ballistic computer. It had also a passive night vision system and the Israeli-built Urdan cupola. 164 were upgraded this way in 1981-82, retired since 1997.
Jordan purchased 200 of these, now retired from active service. Iran once received 80 M48s, and still use them actively. Their current level of modernization is unknown. Israël was one the most proficient user of the M48s, either captured and purchased from Germany or the USA. These were extensively modernized, in a package called locally “Magach” which use many common parts with the M60s. Other local variants include the E8 (M48A2/2C/A3) and E-48 AVLB bridgelayer. By the 1990s, they were still 561 Magach 5 Golan in service. They are now retired. Lebanon acquired 104 M48A1 and M48A5s (second hand) and still use them. Turkey was another prolific user, starting with the 3000 M48s purchased in 1964. In 1982, some of these were modernized as the M48T5 (around 180 converted). With another massive purchase of M48A1s in 1970, 1262 were later modernized into the M60A1 standard (M68 105 mm, passive night vision, FCS and MTU diesel engine) as the M48A1T1 in 1983-85. By 1987, Turkey modernized 758 of these into the M48A1T2 standard along the lines of the M60A3 (new thermal imaging, FCS and laser rangefinder). They are currently in service. A variant, the M48T5 “Tamay” ARV is a remote-control recovery vehicle.
Morocco purchased 225 M48A5, still now in active service. Tunisia purchased 28 M48s, now retired.
Pakistan a usual customer of recent US-built tanks, purchased some 300 M48A5s, now retired since 2002. Republic of China (Taiwan) once acquired hundreds of M48A1/A2s. They were modernized to the M48A3/ROC standard in a specific way, still, have short operational range. The CM-11 “Brave Tiger” was a marriage of an upgraded A3 turret with the M60A6 hull (400 converted). The CM-12 (100 converted) were “entire” M48A3 modernized along the CM-11 standard (but apparently having an even lower operational range of 200 km). Both versions are still in service. Republic of Korea (South Korea) purchased M48A1 and M48A2Cs. These were respectively modernized into the M48A3K (M48A3 Mod.A standard with the M48A5 standard FCS.) and M48A5K1/A5K2 (from A2C and A1), which had the KM68A1 105 mm gun, additional side skirts, and laser Tank Fire Control System (LTFCS). The K2 has the Israeli-designed Urban cupola. These 300 and 500 modernized variants are currently in service but scheduled for replacement by the K2 Black Panther. South Korea also operates the M48A5K since 1995, local upgraded versions of former US tanks (to the K standard). South Vietnam received a few hundred M48s, and 20 were later passed onto the Vietnamese army but demobilized because of the lack of spare parts. Thailand purchased 105 M48A5, still in active service.
Marines of E Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines on a ride in VN, 1966.
The M48 in action
Although Vietnam was the most remembered theater of operation for most M48s (at least in US service), this tank was also well-proven in combat in foreign colors, mainly in Asia and in the middle east.
In US/SVN service: The Vietnam war
Over 600 M48A3s were deployed in this sector, The US Marine corps was the first user, landing the 1st and 3rd Tank Battalions in 1965, reinforced by the 5th, for forward operations. Kept in the southern sector were three other armored battalions, the 1-77th near the DMZ, the 1-69th in the Central Highlands, and the 2-34th near the Mekong Delta (approx. 57 M48 tanks each). They also served with Armored Cavalry Squadrons before their replacement by the faster Sheridan. However, M48A3s tanks were kept in service with the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment until the end of the war.
Due to the nature of this war, these were deployed chiefly in infantry-support rôle, and to back up large-scale search and destroy operations and massive sweeps in NVC-controlled areas, proving also useful, especially in urban combat. Due to their volume of fire and the protection they offered, plus the support of flame-thrower M67s versions, they were also well-employed against covered units in the jungle. Very few tank-to-tank engagements occurred with the exception of the battle of Ben Het in 1969 when Pattons of the 1-69th Armor destroyed NVA 202nd Armored Regiment PT-76s. The Pattons also performed well against landmines and rocket-propelled grenades and the crew appreciated their level of protection, including the enclosed heavy MG of the A3 cupola. At An Khe and Pleiku, M48 were employed as is, in pairs, to quickly clear mines, each on one side of the trail, with constant fire on it to make explode the devices. If one was struck, it was only a matter of replacing one or two roadwheels, while the column kept advancing.
By the time US forces were withdrawn, hundreds were passed onto the ARVN 20th Tank Regiment, making the bulk of the South Vietnamese armored forces along with some M41 Walker Bulldogs. They immediately saw heavy action in 1972 with NVA armored battalions and performed quite well against T-54, T-55, PT-76, and T-34/85s. One became on April 1972 the first casualty of the Soviet-built 9M14M Malyutka “SAGGER”. They did slow down the massive, final Ho Chi Minh Offensive in 1975, pinning the advance of much bigger forces in some sectors. However, due to the Congress ban of deliveries of fuel, parts and ammunitions to SVN, remaining M48s quickly ran out of supply.
U.S. Marines riding atop an M-48 tank, firing. Vietnam War, April 3, 1968.
In Pakistani service
US-built M47 and M48 formed the bulk of the Pakistani 1st armored division by the eve of the 1965 Indo-Pak war. They crossed the marshy area of the Rann of Kutch and surprised Indian forces. Again, they cut open the Indian frontline at Operation Grand Slam (Kashmir and Punjab campaign). However, well-placed Indian AT positions literally decimated the division at the battle of Asal Uttar on 8-10 September (97 lost). M48 performed well however at the Battle of Chawinda (17-22 September) inflicting heavy losses to the Indian upgraded Shermans, light AMX-13s, and some Centurions, although both could pierce their armor (according to later US intelligence reports).
By the time of the second Indian-Pak war of 1971, Pakistani’s M48s made a breakthrough at Chamb, and also at Shakarghar. During this battle, a single brigade, the Changez Force, successfully repelled an Indian attack. However, at the battle of Barapind, M48 Pattons of the 13th Lancers and 31st Cavalry counterattack was awaited again by well-placed Indian AT positions from the 54th Division. The result was a disaster, and the captured tanks joined the ones captured in the 1965 war at the memorial near Khem Karan, the famous “Patton Nagar” (“Patton City”).
In Israeli and Jordanian service
6-days war: In 1967, Israeli upgraded M48s (with the 105 mm L7 gun) engaged in the Sinaï sector, mauled down dozens of Egyptian T-34s and SU-100s (second battle of Abu-Ageila). On the reverse, on the West Bank front, Jordanian M48s were defeated by M51 “Super Shermans” firing HEAT rounds, combined with a very efficient air support. IDF captured around 100 M48 and M48A1 which were later upgraded and pressed into service.
Upper view of a M48A3 Patton tank (Magach 3) in Yad la-Shiryon Museum, Israel. Credits Bukvoed – wikimedia commons.
Lebanon:By 1982, the situation degenerated into an open civil war. M48s were used, captured, and recaptured either by the Christian militia, South Lebanon forces, and the Druze Progressive Socialist Party militia, as well as IDF M48A1s. No less than ten M48A3s were lost to Syrian forces at the battle of Sultan Yacoub on June, 10. Lebanese tanks were again called to action during the 2007 North Lebanon conflict. Cyprus: Turkish M48s were thrown into action during the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974. Iran-Irak war: Iranian M48s saw combat from 1980 to 1988 against Iraki tanks, mainly of Soviet origin.
By an agreement in 1987, USA supported the Moroccan repression against Polisario guerilla in the western Sahara desert and sold the former contingent of the Wisconsin National Guard, about 100 tanks M48. At the battle of Mogadishu in 1993, Pakistani brigades equipped with M48s supported US operations against local warlord Haïdid. This episode had been related in Ridley Scott’s “Blackhawk Down”.
“Big Picture” on the M48 Patton development
Video from the US army media service (US National Archives – www.archives.org).
South Korean M48 Patton, Seoul defence area, 1970.
M48A1 Patton, A company, 37th armored regiment, 4th armored division, Neukirchen, Exercize Wintershield III, february 1961.
M48A2 from the USMC in Viet-Nam, 1966.
M48A2C from the Company A, 3rd Med 40th armor battalion, US 1st Cavalry, South Korea, 1962.
Israeli, M48A2C Ugdo Tal 7th armoured brigade, 79th tank batallion, sinaï, 1967.
M48A2C Bundeswehr, 35th Armoured Brigade, 12th Panzerdivision, (“Orange Force”), Exercize “Certain Thrust” part of Reforger III, october 1970. M48A3, possibly from the 1st tank batallion, Viet-Nam, 1966.
M48A3 “Playboy Bunny”, C Company, 2nd Platoon, 3rd Tank Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, South Vietnam, 1968.
United States of America (1950)
Medium Tank – 8,576 Built
First real postwar US MBT
The M47 was a relatively short-lived MBT (then called “medium tank” created to replace the M46 Patton/M26 Pershing and the M4 Sherman). It was widely produced to fit the needs of the US Army, US Marines, but also NATO nations as a whole as a stopgap measure before new models could be built locally.
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Although a good all-over tank, the M47 Patton was used only for a few years, before its replacement by the M48 in 1953 which was really a generation ahead. Declared obsolete in 1957, the impression it left and service time nevertheless far outlasted the fifties under other colors. The Soviet T-54 was modified to face it and the M47 defeated many foreign-built models with success, even taking part in massive tank battles.
The M47 was not even conceived when the T42 was in development, to be the real replacement for the Pershing and its M46 upgrade and the whole fleet of M4 Shermans still in service in 1950. The T42 was intended as a real departure from previous designs, but soon development problems emerged. At least six issues were detected and the production was still not in view.
By that time, the Korean war erupted, and it was sought that there was no time to fix them. So a stopgap measure was taken. A new prototype tank would be built, the M46E1, marrying the M46 hull (modified) and the T42 turret. Detroit tank Arsenal was put in charge of the final design, and the production was scheduled to start in June 1951, and the first tanks rolled off the factory line and entered service soon after.
The M46 hull, engine, transmission, drivetrain, were kept with few modifications. The hull had long storage bins which protruded on both sides and halfway across the engine deck. The turret ring was enlarged and received a needle-nose design which better protected its front base. The hull received a front bow machine-gun, the usual M1919A4 Browning cal.30 (7.62 mm) machine-gun, in a ball mount. The M47 Patton was also the last US medium tank to feature a bow machine-gun. Armor was 4 in (100/102 mm), with a well sloped front beak.
The engine was an improved Continental AV-1790-5B V12, air-cooled, Twin-turbo gasoline giving 810 hp (600 kW). Despite the same overall 48.6 ton weight, the weight ratio was more favorable, at 17.6 hp/t versus 18.4 hp/t. The transmission was also the same General Motors CD-850-3/4, with 2 speeds forward, 1 reverse. Fuel capacity was 233 US gal (880 liters or 194 imperial gallons), giving an operational range of 100 miles (160 km) on average with a mix of road/off-road terrains, equivalent to the M46. Top speed was however far greater at 37 mph versus 30 mph (60 vs 48 km/h) on its predecessor.
The drivetrain comprised exactly the same roadwheels, tracks and torsion bar/shock absorbers system arrangements based on the 1943-44 prototypes which led to the M26 Pershing, but with the extra pair of track tensioners at the rear featured on the M46: Seven doubled roadwheels and three return rollers instead of five, plus the rear drive sprockets per side. Shock absorbers were fitted to the front and two rear roadwheels pairs. The standard track links received rubber shoes. Longer mufflers on rear fenders were also fitted.
The real change was the much roomier and higher turret, characterized by a long rear bustle, well protected, which sloped sides which gave its characteristic “pear” shaped section. The turret was also fitted with an M12 stereoscopic rangefinder which protruded on both sides. This new system, which will become a standard, improved first-round hit probability but was somewhat difficult to use. The main armament was constituted by the upgraded 90 mm M36 (replacing the M3A1) with 71 rounds distributed along the hull and turret, with 8 ready to use at hand for the loader.
Secondary armament comprised a coaxial cal.30 M1919A4 (7.62 mm), and a cal.50 (12.7 mm) located on the roof, near the commander cupola, and fitted with optional AA sights.
The production set up accused delays due to shipments of the new M12 rangefinder, and testings were prolongated due to emerging problems with a rushed conception. Standardization came eventually in may 1952, and the production started at Detroit Tank Arsenal, which delivered 5,481 tanks, quickly joined by American Locomotive Company (Alco) with 3,095 more, for a total of 8576. The M47 was sometimes called “Patton II” to make a difference with the M46.
M47M – The much improvement model started in the late 1960s. This tank featured the engine and fire control elements from the M60A1 and the assistant driver’s position was eliminated (for more 90 mm ammo). Apparently, 800 of these modified vehicles were produced for export and sold to Iran and Pakistan. Later on in the 1980s, Iran devised its own modernization program called the Sabalan. This version had full side skirts, a completely rebuilt turret fitted with a 105 mm gun, a modern laser range finder, and a new fire control system and communication equipment.
-The M47E was a Spanish M47M in austere version: still fitted with the original fire control system.
-The M47E1 was a second local Spanish upgrade batch with rearranged main gun ammunition storage and crew heater. It became a standard and in all 330 were so converted.
-The M47E2 was another Spanish variant, basically a M47E1 with the new Rh-105 105mm gun and an improved electromechanical but improved FCS, but also a passive night vision sight the for driver and commander. 45 were so converted but retired in 1993.
-The M47ER3 was a Spanish armored recovery vehicle. 22 were reconstructed and served until the 1990s. They were sub-distinguished between the M47ER3M and M47ER3L according to the tanks they assisted.
-The American M6 was a “dozer kit” for an Earth Moving Tank Mounting Bulldozer conversion for the M47 series.
NATO : The M47 was the cornerstone of the Western European Defence for years, until 1960 and before their replacement by the M48. By importance, they were Italy (2480), West Germany (1120), France (856), Belgium (784), Greece (396 -later, including former West-German tanks, decomm. in 1992-95), Spain (389 -see variants), Portugal (161), Austria (147). Switzerland received two for evaluation. SEATO :
South Korea received 531 tanks. 463 for the army (1956-1959) and 68 for the Marines (1963-1964). They were used actively and upgraded with the new US 90mm M41 main gun until the late 1990s before going into reserve in the 2000s. The last were decommissioned in 2007. Japan received one for evaluation, which had some influence on the design of its first postwar tank, the Mitsubishi Type 61. Others : Surprisingly enough, Yugoslavia, then at the peak of its autonomy from the Soviet sphere, received no less than M47 319 Pattons by a decision of U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower which feared a Soviet invasion of the Country by the Hungarian border in the 1950s.
Turkey, firmly in the US sphere of influence also received 1347, in several batches, the 1960s being former west-German tanks. All M47 were scrapped and their steel recycled for civilian use.
In the Middle East and Africa, these were Iran (400), Saudi Arabia (131), Jordan (49), Ethiopia (30) Somalia (25, ex-Saudis), and Sudan (17, ex-Saudis). In Asia, Pakistan was also an early known user, with some 400 tanks which fought actively (see later).
The M47 Patton in action
In US service
The first units equipped were the 1st and 2nd Armored Divisions of the US Army until summer 1952. The From 1951 to 1953, the M47 was frontline, but in 1955 it was declared a limited standard, a gradually replaced by the M48 (which started already in 1953). By 1957 it was declared obsolete, but nevertheless was left in service with infantry division battlegroup assault gun platoons (four each), and later in reserve units. In 1960-63, they were withdrawn completely (replaced by the SS-10 anti-tank light truck) and sold abroad, kept in storage or scrapped.
The US Marine Corps received its own M47s in late 1952. They were seven Marine tank battalions, three divisional, and two reserve training, and two force level. The last were withdrawn completely from active duty much later, in 1959. Exports, however, started sooner, in the mid-1950s. They apparently never fought in Korea and did no appearance in Vietnam, but their career was far more active abroad.
Indo-Pakistani War of 1965.
Pakistani M47s were around 400 in service by the time of this war, 15 armored cavalry regiments, each with about 45 tanks in three squadrons. They took part actively (and decisively) in the Pakistani 6th Armoured Division victory at Chawinda, the push of the 1st Armoured Division at Khem Karan (Operation Windup). But however, they took tremendous losses at the famous Battle of Asal Uttar (Indian for “Fitting Response”). The area was even called later Patton Nagar (“Patton’s town”) due to the number of M47s knocked out or captured (ninety-seven M47, M48, and Shermans). The Pakistani M47s served long after the war, being retired in the early 2000s.
Six Day War (1967).
Jordan used its 49 M47 Pattons during the assault against Israel (“Operation Khaled”) with the planned captured of Motza and Sha’alvim along the strategic Jerusalem corridor. These were part of the 11 armored brigades (300 tanks) which took part in the operations.
Turkish invasion of Cyprus 1974
An estimated 200 M47 Pattons took part in the operation in the summer of 1974, at least one was captured by the Cyprus National Guard and is now a memorial.
1980s Iran-Irak war
Iranian M47s were heavily engaged during this conflict, despite their age. The war experience conducted the Iranian army to engage a drastic modernization program which came out as the Sabalan. These tanks are still frontline today.
War against the PKK (1980s)
Turkish M47 took part in the fight against PKK insurgent guerillas along the Turkish-Iraq border. They were later replaced in the early 1990s by the M48A5.
The Somalian Civil War (1991)
Somalia acquired before the war some 25 second-hand M47 Pattons from Saudi Arabia (date unknown). But they were quickly worn out due to the lack of maintenance and spare parts.
Croatian War of Independence (1995)
The Croatian army was largely equipped with US-built tanks along with other models and had some 20 M47 active during their operations against the Bosnian Serbs. However, the 16 remainder after the war were quickly withdrawn and used for target practice.
M47E2 from the Spanish Ejercito, late 1980s. This was one the lastest evolution of the Patton. These were deactivated in 1994.
The very latest evolution M47 Patton, The Sabalan, is a complete rebuilding by the Self-Sufficiency Jihad Organization of the Iranian Army Ground Force (2012-2014). Finding photo evidence does not tell a lot about the rear part of the turret, so this is only a possible reconstitution.
M47 Patton gallery
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