Situation of the ground forces in 1950The young state of Israel was surrounded by Arab nations that were poised to destroy it since the 1930s when the first exodus started. By an order from Defense Minister David Ben-Gurion on 26 May 1948, the Israeli defense forces were created, immediately embroiled in the 1948 War of Independence. The main supplier of weapons was then Czechoslovakia, and there were only improvised armoured cars, ex-British or captured Arab legion vehicles in service and a few jeeps in the inventory. After the war, the need for tanks was obvious and thanks to contacts in the USA, US army stocks M4 Shermans were delivered to Israel in 1950.
Shermans in service in the Israeli ArmySix former 105 mm M4 Shermans of the early type have been already salvaged from a scrapyard, left from the ww2 north African campaign. Since they were unarmed, they were rearmed by Krupp 75 mm field guns due to the shortage of 105 mm M4 howitzers ammunitions and demilitarization in Italy. When other tanks of the 1944 76 mm M1 gun type arrived in better conditions, they were all designated Sherman M-1 in Israeli service. The Super Sherman M-1 was the designation for the M4A1(76) fitted with HVSS suspension, while Sherman M-3s (Sherman degem Alef prior to 1956) was the IDF designation for the 75 mm gun M3. The Sherman M-4 (Sherman degem Bet prior to 1956) was the designation for the 105 mm howitzer M4 model.
There were also many variants, but the detail would be too long to expose there. These were the M-50 155 mm, Ro'em, L-39, and Makmat 160 mm SPGs, and the MAR-240, Episkopi (MAR-290) Kilshon rocket-launcher tanks, and other variants like the Sherman Morag (Crab), Trail Blazer (Gordon) ARV, the Sherman Medical Evacuation Tank or "Ambutank" or the Eyal Observation Post Vehicle. All these vehicles served in the Egyptian War of Attrition (1968–70) and the Yom Kippur War.
The M-51 ShermanBy 1961 the Israeli ordered the new and more powerful French 105 mm gun, a shortened version of the one used on the AMX-30. To fit inside a modified Sherman turret these were modified, the barrel being reduced from 56 calibers to 44 and equipped with a muzzle brake while ammunition was altered to use a smaller cartridge. The conversion, also based on Cummins M4A1s also included a modified M4(76) turret. By 1965 the new tank named officially M-51 Sherman was revealed to the public in an Independence Day ceremony in 1965. "Super Sherman" and "Isherman" (or Israeli Sherman) were also coined and are frequently seen, but never has been official. 180 Sherman tanks were so converted. By this time M-50/51 constituted the bulk of the Israeli tank force, prior to obtaining the British Centurion. Non converted Sherman were used for other duties (see above).
The Israeli Sherman in actionThe main test in large scale came with the Six-Day War in 1967. Virtually all M-50 and M-51 were thrown in action in Golan Heights and the West Bank and the Sinai peninsula, confronted with soviet WW2 era T-34/85s (Battle of Abu-Ageila) and SU-100 tanks. However, in 1973, these tanks were again committed in large numbers, despite their obsolescence and due to the desperate nature of the struggle. Losses were heavier since their opponents were better armed. however, it was shown that the 105 mm armed M51s were able to score kills on the T-54/55 and T-62s using HEAT ammunition. The M-50s of the first batch never participated in this war, being removed from service the previous year. The M-50 Mk.II were gradually phased out after the war in the late 1970s, and the early 1980s for the M-51. During the Lebanese civil war, 75 M-50s were given and distributed among the four Israeli-supported Christian militias in 1976. Some were captured and re-used by the PLO. Another batch was sold to Chile, rearmed with 60 mm HVMS guns. Argentina also rearmed some of their Sherman tanks with 105 mm guns form their own AMX-13s.
LinksThe Israeli M50/M51 Sherman on Wikipedia
M-51 Sherman specifications
|Dimensions (L-W-H)||6.15m x 2.42m x 2.24m (20'1" x 7'9" x 7'3" ft.in)|
|Total weight, battle ready:||35 Tons (26000 ibs)|
|Crew :||4 (2 Drivers/gunners, Commander, loader)|
|Propulsion:||Cummins V-8 460 horsepower diesel|
|Suspensions:||Horizontal Volute Springs Suspensions (HVSS)|
|Top Speed||40-45 kph (25-27 mph) M51/M50|
|Range (road)/Fuel consumption||400 km (250 mi) for 380L - 50L/100|
|Armament (see notes)||Main: 105 mm with 40 rounds (4 in) Sec: 1 x 12.7 mm (0.5 in) M2HB, 2 x 8 mm (0.3 in) LMGs, 4500 rounds|
|Armour||Hull nose and turret 70, sides 40, bottom 15, rooftop 15 mm|
|Total Converions (M51)||180|
M-51 Sherman in action during the Suez crisis in 1956.
M-51 Sherman at the Golan heights, 1967 war.