Nearly 12,000 M48s were built from 1952 to 1959. The early designs were powered by gasoline engines which gave the tank a short operating range and were prone to catching fire when hit. This version was considered unreliable but numerous examples saw combat use in various Arab-Israeli conflicts. In 1959, American M48s were upgraded to the M48A3 model which featured a diesel power plant.

In the mid-1970s, the M48A5 upgrade was developed to allow the vehicle to carry the heavier 105 mm gun. This was designed to bring the M48s up to speed with the M60 tanks then in regular use. Most of the M48s were placed into reserve service by this time.

By the mid-1990s, the M48s were phased out of U.S. service. However, many foreign countries continue to use the M48 models.

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