Israel to Replace Tank Being Returned by Russia

One of captured Israeli M48 tanks by Egyptian army during the Yom Kippur War in 1973 Wrightbus / CC-BY-3.0
One of captured Israeli M48 tanks by Egyptian army during the Yom Kippur War in 1973 Wrightbus / CC-BY-3.0

In 1982, Syrian forces seized a tank from the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) during the First Lebanon War. The Magach tank, based on the US tank M48 Patton, has been on exhibition in  Kubinka Tank Museum near Moscow. Russian President Vladimir Putin has decided to return the tank to Israel.

“I thank Russian President Vladimir Putin for acceding to my request to return to Israel the tank from the Battle of Sultan Yacoub,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement published on the website of his office.

Netanyahu points out how important this is to the families of three IDF servicemen who went missing during the war. The press secretary of the prime minister said that Israel will provide a tank of the same model to Russia for display in the exhibition.

“To the families of MIAs Zechariah Baumel, Zvi Feldman and Yehuda Katz, there has been nothing to remember the boys by and no grave to visit for 34 years now. The tank is the only evidence of the battle and now it is coming back to Israel thanks to President Putin’s response to my request,” Netanyahu stated.

Netanyahu was visiting Moscow to honor the 25th anniversary of the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and Russia.

The Magach tanks are based on the American M48 and M60 Patton tanks. Magach 1, 2, 3 and 5 are based upon M48 tanks; Magach 6 and 7 are based upon M60 tanks. They were sold to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) by West Germany and later the United States, during the 1960s and 1970s.

Several dozen Jordanian M48 tanks, captured intact during the 1967 Six Day War, were also commissioned into service, adding to Israel’s 150 already in service at that time.

Following the 1967 war, several modifications were made to improve the tank to M48A3 level, resulting with the Magach 3. These modifications included replacement of the original 90 mm gun with the British 105 mm L7, lowering the command turret’s profile, upgraded communication suite, and replacement of the flammable and weak gasoline engine with a 750 hp diesel one.

Since the 1980s and 1990s, the Magachs have gradually been replaced with Merkava tanks as Israel’s front-line main battle tank. However, the large majority of the IDF’s armored corps continued to consist of Magach variants until the 1990s, and the tank was continuously upgraded during this time. By 2006, all Magachs in regular units had been replaced with Merkavas.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE