The M48 Patton is an American first-generation main battle tank (MBT) introduced in February 1952, being designated as the 90mm Gun Tank: M48. It was designed as a replacement for the M26 Pershing, M4 Sherman, M46 and M47 Patton tanks, and was the main battle tank of the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps in the Vietnam War.: 5 Nearly 12,000 M48s were built, mainly by Chrysler and American Locomotive Company, from 1952 to 1961. The M48 Patton was the first U.S. medium gun tank with a four-man crew, featuring a centerline driver’s compartment and no bow machine gunner. As with nearly all new armored vehicles it had a wide variety of suspension systems, cupola styles, power packs, fenders and other details among individual tanks.
The early designs, up to the M48A2C, were powered by a gasoline engine. The M48A3 and A5 versions used a diesel engine, however, gasoline engine versions were still in use in the US Army National Guard through 1968 and through 1975 by many West German Army units. Numerous examples of the M48 saw combat use in various Arab–Israeli conflicts and the Vietnam War. Beginning in 1959, most American M48A1s and A2s were upgraded to the M48A3 model.
The M48 Patton-series saw widespread service with the United States and NATO until it was superseded by the M60 tank. It was widely exported. The tank’s hull also developed a wide variety of experimental, utility and support vehicles such as armored recovery vehicles and bridge layers. Some M48A5 models served into the mid-1980s with US Army National Guard units, and M48A3s were used as targets for weapons and radar testing into the mid-1990s.
Many M48s remain in service in countries other than the US. Most of these have been modified and their firepower, mobility and protection upgraded to increase their combat effectiveness on the modern battlefield. As of 2015, Turkey is the largest operator with over 750 units in service, Taiwan is second with approximately 500 upgraded variants, and Greece is third with 390 in service.