Main Battle Tank (MBT)
The Israeli Magach grew out of modified versions of American M48 and M60 Patton series tanks delivered throughout the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.
Authored By: JR Potts, AUS 173d AB | Last Edited:
Israel needed tanks to defend her borders from the Arab states and the American M48 tank was the best choice based on reliability and available stock. Israel ordered 1950-era M48 tanks from stock piles in Germany as part of the reparations from the Holocaust of World War 2. These were M48A1 & M48A2C production models and, when media outlets found out about the transaction, the order was stopped and rerouted to originate from the United States instead. The replacement for older M48s in the European Theater was now the newer M60 Patton tank - a combat system capable of matching similar Soviet Bloc equipment.
Israel eventually upgraded their M48s to become the "Magach" series. The tanks arrived in Israel with 90mm guns and, at first, only small modifications were made. As a point of reference the IDF (Israeli Defense Force) was, and is not today, forth coming with specific changes and some data released was false so as not to allow enemies access to current data. In this case, the M48 coming from the USA also came with uncompromised data. By 1965, the Magach had been progressively upgraded by adding the British Centurion 105mm main gun and reactive armor blocks for improved protection.
In 1967, the combined forces of Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and Iraq attacked with 547,000 troops, 957 aircraft and 2,800 of the best tanks the Soviets could provide - namely T-54's, T-55's, T-85's (with 85mm guns) and some 22 SU-100 tank destroyers (these with 100mm guns). To counter the Arab world's upcoming attack, Israel would field 50,000 active service troops calling up a further 214,000 reservists. Additionally, she would field 300 aircraft, multiple naval elements and 800 tanks - including the Magach and World War 2-era M4 Shermans, both early and upgraded versions of the latter.
Israeli forces concentrated on the border with Egypt included six armored brigades, one infantry brigade, one mechanized infantry brigade, three Paratrooper brigades and 700 tanks giving a total of around 70,000 men. The Israeli plan was to surprise the Egyptian forces using a pre-emptive armored assault coinciding with the IAF striking at Egyptian airfields.
The casualties of the war, far from Israel's anticipated heavy estimates, were quite low with 338 soldiers lost on the Egyptian Front, 300 on the Jordanian Front and 141 on the Syrian Front. Egypt lost 80% of its military equipment with hundreds of tanks captured, 10,000 soldiers and 1,500 officers killed. Jordan suffered 6,000 to 7,000 personnel killed. Syria lost 2,500 dead and half of their tanks and almost all the artillery positioned in the Golan Heights were captured or destroyed. The major reasons that resulted in the Israeli Six Day War victory was the air campaign and superior tank tactics using flanking movements rather than head-on attacks utilized by the Arabs.