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Super M48

Prototype main battle tank

Super M48

The Super M48 could compete with more modern main battle tanks

Country of origin Germany
Entered service -
Crew 4 men
Dimensions and weight
Weight 53 t
Length (gun forward) 6.87 m
Hull length ?
Width 3.63 m
Height 2.9 m
Main gun 105 mm rifled
Machine guns 2 x 7.62 mm
Elevation range - 10 to + 20 degrees
Traverse range 360 degrees
Ammunition load
Main gun 40 rounds
Machine guns 10 000 x 7.62 mm
Engine MB 837 Ea-500 diesel
Engine power 1 000 hp
Maximum road speed 56 km/h
Range ~ 500 km
Gradient 60%
Side slope 30%
Vertical step 0.9 m
Trench 2.3 m
Fording 1.2 m
Fording (with preparation) up to 2.6 m


   The Super M48 was an attempt at a comprehensive upgrade package for the M48 Patton series of medium tanks. It was based on Krauss Maffei and Wegmann's M48A2GA2 upgrade, of which 650 were purchased by West Germany. Subcontractors included Renk (transmission), MTU (engine), Atlas Ekeltronik (fire controls), Blohm & Voss (applique armor), and FWM (added gun stabilization).

   A privately-funded project, the Super M48 was intended to offer users of the M48 Patton an upgrade, which would allow vehicles already in their inventories to compete with more modern MBTs. Though a potentially attractive product for nations unable or unwilling to purchase newer-model MBTs, the timing of the Super M48's arrival onto the market in the mid-1990s could not have been worse. The market was suddenly choked with literally tens-of-thousands of used tanks built in the Cold War, many of which were new and/or well-maintained. Wealthier M48 users could afford to purchase used, reduced cost M1 Abrams', Leopard 2s, and Challenger 1s, while customers with smaller budgets now had access to a flood of T-62s, T-72s, AMX-30s, M60 Pattons, Leopard 1s, and other tanks, that were not only an improvement over M48s, but were also often sold at scrap value (some were even outright given-away to favored clients for free). In this market environment, the Super M48 project was effectively doomed.

   The Super M48 is unmistakable in appearance as an M48 variant, but it is distinguished by a layer of angular applique armor around the turret, rectangular track covers, and track skirts.

   It is 6.87 m long, 3.63 m wide, 2.9 m tall, weights 53 tonnes at combat weight, and has 0.92 kg/cm² of ground pressure. Its gradient, slope ground clearance, vertical step, trench, and fording are all the same as a regular M48 Patton (e.g., the M48A3).

   Propulsion is provided by an MTU MB 837 Ea-500 V12 diesel with 1 000 hp, coupled to a Renk RK-304 automatic transmission with 4 forward and 4 reverse gears. This powerpack was fitted with quick-disconnect couplings, in order to effect a shorter down-time when replacing the powerpack. The suspension and running gear of the Super M48 are the same as used on the regular M48 Patton tanks, except that there are 3 return rollers instead of the usual 5 (as on the M48A2G2).

   The main gun of the Super M48 is an L7A3 105 mm rifled gun with a 52-caliber tube, replacing the original 90 mm/L40 M41 gun of the M48A3. The main gun fires APFSDS, HEAT, HE, HESH, APERS, WP, and is complimented by a 7.62 mm coaxial machine gun, and a 7.62 mm machine gun on the roof. The total machine gun ammunition load is 10 000 rounds.

   In addition to the standard RHA steel armor of the M48 series, the Super M48's turret and hull are covered by a layer of modular applique armor, which may be removed when such protection is not essential, or easily-replaced if damaged. Spall liners, an automatic Halon fire suppression system, and a collective NBC system are standard equipment. Track skirts are unusual feature for an M48 variant, are standard. A bank of 4 Wegmann smoke mortars are fitted to either side of the turret for which HE-FRAG rounds may be loaded, as a means to "discourage" boarders.

   The Super M48's electronics package features a MOLF 48 fire control system, with a digital ballistics computer, a day/night GPS with passive thermal capability, and a laser rangefinder (an optical rangefinder was also included). An APU is also available as an option.

   Five prototype of the Super M48 were built. One Super M48 was experimentally powered by a Garret GT601 gas turbine, however no data is available for this vehicle.



   Article by BLACKTAIL

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Super M48

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