Magach (מגח; Ma-GAKH) designation refers to a series of tanks in Israeli service. The 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.
The tanks 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. During the war, the Israeli tanks served in their original (American) configuration.
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 cannon 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.
When the Yom Kippur War broke out, Israel had a total of 540 M48A3 (with 105mm gun) and M60A1 tanks. During the war, the tanks suffered heavy losses. The location of flammable hydraulic fluid at the front of the turret was discovered to be a severe vulnerability. After the war Israel had only about 200 M48A3 and M60A1 tanks, after a large number of Israeli tanks were destroyed or terminally hit during the war, mostly in the Sinai front in fighting against the Egyptian army. The war's losses were replaced with new M48A5 (Magach 5) and M60 (Magach 6) during the 1970s.
Prior to the 1982 invasion of Lebanon (1982 Lebanon War), Magach 6 tanks were fitted with explosive reactive armor (ERA). Further work has been done on the upgraded Magach 6 models, including new armor, Merkava-based tracks, new fire controls, a thermal sleeve for the gun and smoke dischargers, eventually resulting in the Magach 7 model which is still in use with the IDF.
Since the 1980s and 1990s, the Magachs are gradually 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 have been replaced with the Merkava. However, Merkava production to Israel has been halted so Magachs in reserve units will be in service for many years to come.
Contrary to a popular belief, "Magach" is not an abbreviation but a Hebrew word meaning "ramming hit". However, as the word is very rarely used and is not known to many Hebrew speakers, several popular explanation of the name exist:
Magach should not be confused with Sabra series of upgrade packages (which appear especially similar to Magach 7 versions) for the M60A1/A3 which were developed for export to Turkey. Sabra includes upgrades similar to those of Magach 7, but an essential difference is that it is armed with the MG251 120 mm smooth-bore gun (the same as the Merkava 3).
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