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M46 Patton

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M46 Patton

M46 Patton
An American M46 Patton tank of the United States Marine Corps, during the Korean War
Type Medium tank[1]
Place of origin United States
Service history
In service 1950s
Wars Korean War
Production history
Manufacturer Detroit Arsenal Tank Plant
Number built 800 + 360 M46A1
Variants M46A1
Weight 48.5 tons (44 metric tons)
Length 27.82 ft (8.48 m)
Width 11.52 ft (3.51 m)
Height 10.43 ft (3.18 m)
Crew 5 (commander, gunner, loader, driver, assistant driver)

Armor 102 mm/4 inches maximum
90 mm gun M3A1
70 rounds
.50 in (12.7 mm) M2 machine gun
2x .30 cal (7.62 mm) M1919A4 machine guns
Engine Continental AV-1790-5A V12, air-cooled Twin-turbo gasoline engine
810 hp (604 kW)
Power/weight 18.4 hp/t
Transmission General Motors CD-850-3 or -4, 2 ranges forward, 1 reverse
Suspension Torsion bar suspension
Ground clearance 18.82 in (478 mm)
Fuel capacity 878 liters 232 U.S. gallons
80 miles (130 km)
Speed 30 mph (48 km/h)

The M46 was an American tank designed to replace the M26 Pershing and M4 Sherman. It was one of the U.S Army's principal medium tanks of the early Cold War, with models in service from 1949 to the mid-1950s. It was not widely used by U.S. Cold War allies, being exported only to Belgium, and only in small numbers to train crews on the upcoming M47 Patton.

The M46 was the first tank to be named after General U.S. Third Army[2] during World War II and one of the earliest American advocates for the use of tanks in battle.[3][4]


An American M46 Patton tank of the United States Marine Corps, in July 1952, during the Korean War. Note the different rear plate and twin fender-mounted exhausts.

After World War II, most U.S. Army armored units were equipped with a mix of M4 Sherman and M26 Pershing tanks. Designed initially as a heavy tank, the M26 Pershing tank was reclassified as a medium tank postwar. The M26 was a significant improvement over the M4 Sherman in firepower and protection. Its mobility, however, was deemed unsatisfactory for a medium tank, as it used the same engine as the much lighter M4A3 and was plagued with an unreliable transmission.

Work began in January 1948 on replacing the original power plant with the Continental AV1790-3 engine and Allison CD-850-1 cross-drive transmission. This design was initially called M26E2, but modifications continued to accumulate; eventually the Bureau of Ordnance decided that the tank needed its own unique designation. When the rebuild began in November, 1949, the upgraded M26 received not only a new power plant and a main gun with bore evacuator, but a new designation M46. In total, 1,160 M26s were rebuilt: 800 to the M46 standard, 360 to the M46A1.

A Belgian M46A1 Patton tank; one out of eight vehicles leased to Belgium in 1952, this particular tank was donated by the United States to the Royal Army Museum of Brussels in 1984.

Combat service

The only American combat use of the M46 Patton was during the Korean War. On 8 August 1950 the first M46 Patton tanks belonging to the 6th Tank Battalion landed in South Korea. The tank proved superior to the much lighter North Korean T-34-85, which were encountered in relatively small numbers. By the end of 1950, 200 M46 Pattons had been fielded, forming about 15% of US tank strength in Korea; the balance of 1,326 tanks shipped to Korea during 1950 were 679 M4A3 Shermans (including the M4A3E8 variant), 309 M26 Pershings, and 138 M24 Chaffee light tanks.[5] Subsequent shipments of M46 and M46A1 Pattons allowed all remaining M26 Pershings to be withdrawn during 1951, and most Sherman equipped units were also reequipped.[6]

Known M46 series operators include: 1st Marine Tank Battalion and regimental Antitank Platoons of the 1st Marine Division by 1952, 72nd Tank Battalion of the 2nd Infantry Division by January 1952, 64th Tank Battalion of the 3rd Infantry Division, 73rd Tank Battalion of the 7th Infantry Division by January 1951, 6th Tank Battalion of the 24th Infantry Division, 140th Tank Battalion (took over the tanks of the 6th Tank Battalion) and regimental tank companies of the 40th Infantry Division (CA ARNG) by October 1951,[7] and the 245th Tank Battalion of the 45th Infantry Division (OK ARNG) by 1952.[8] Several other regimental tank companies gained M46/M46A1s by the end of the war, including the 7th and 65th Infantry Regiments of the 3rd Infantry Division.[9] A surviving example of the M46 Patton tank can be seen on display at the War Memorial of Korea in Seoul, South Korea.

In the 1950s, small numbers of M46s were leased for training purposes at no cost to some European countries, including Belgium, France and Italy, in preparation for the introduction of the M47. American instruction teams used the vehicles to train European tank crews and maintenance personnel.


  • M26E2/M46 – M26/A1 Pershing upgraded with Continental V-12 engine and cross-drive transmission. Used the same M3A1 90 mm gun as the M26A1 Pershing, and differed mainly in the position of the exhausts.
  • M46A1 – Product improved variant with improved braking, cooling and fire suppression systems, as well as, improved electrical equipment, AV-1790-5B engine and CD-850-4 transmission.
  • M46 equipped with M3 dozer kit.[10]


See also


  1. ^ Hunnicutt, p. 35
  2. ^ Hunnicutt
  3. ^ although the Ordnance Committee Minutes/OCM #33476 ceased utilizing the heavy, medium, and light tank designations on 7 November 1950; going to the "...Gun Tank designation")
  4. ^ Hunnicutt, p. 14
  5. ^ Steven J. Zaloga "M26/M46 Pershing Tank 1943-1953" ISBN 1-84176-202-4 pp.39-40
  6. ^ Donald W Boose Jr."US Army Forces in the Korean War 1950-53" ISBN 1-84176-621-6 pp.52,75-86
  7. ^ all Donald W Boose Jr. ibid
  8. ^ Simon Dunstan "Armour of the Korean War 1950-53" ISBN 0-85045-428-X pp.29-32
  9. ^ Troy D. Thiel "The M26 Pershing and Variants" ISBN 0-7643-1544-7 pp.64-84
  10. ^ "JED The Military Equipment Directory"


  • Steven J Zaloga, Tony Bryan, Jim Laurier - M26–M46 Pershing Tank 1943–1953, 2000 Osprey Publishing (New Vanguard 35), ISBN 1-84176-202-4
  • Abraham Rabinovich - The Battle for Jerusalem June 5–7, 1967, 2004 Sefer Ve Sefer Publishing, Jerusalem, ISBN 965-7287-07-3
  • Nolan, Keith W. "Into Lao's, Operation Lam Son 719 and Dewey Canyon II." 1986. Presidio Press. Account of the US Army's final offensive of the Vietnam War
  • Hunnicutt, R. P. "Patton: A History of the American Main Battle Tank." 1984. Presidio Press. ISBN 0-89141-230-1

External links

  • AFV Database: M46 Patton
  • Patton-Mania
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