Weapons and Vehicles of the Arab-Israeli Wars

Here’s a brief description of the various weapons/vehicles used in the Arab-Israel Wars.

Scout Cars

Armed jeep

Israelis made extensive use of armed jeeps during the 1948-49 war. Typically they had two MG 34 machine guns acquired from Czechoslovakia.

White M3A1 Scout Car

Armoured Cars

AML-90 Panhard armoured car

Israel purchased 14 in the 1960s and they were used on the Jordanian front in 1967. They weren’t popular and Israel hasn’t used such armoured cars since.

Automitrailleuses Dodge of the Bich type

Syrian armoured cars improvised from Dodge trucks used in the 1948-49 war. The base trucks had armour added and a SA.18 37 mm gun mounted in a small turret.

Daimler armoured car

The Israelis acquired a few from the departing British police force in 1948.

Humber Mk III Reconnaissance Armoured Car

Had a Boys .5 anti-tank rifle and a light machinegun.

Used by Egyptians in 1948-49.

Humber Mk IV Armoured Car

Had a 37 mm gun

Used by Egyptians in 1948-49, although the Israelis captured a few.

Improvised Armoured Car/Truck

Improvised armoured cars and trucks were used extensively up to and during the 1948-49 war.

Varied in construction being based on a wide range of vehicle chassis with armor added. Armour was either boiler-plate or laminate armoued made with plywood, concrete, rubber or even glass sandwiched between thin metal sheets. Their engines were usually over-taxed due to the weight of the added armour. As face-hardened armour became available later models did not need the sandwich amour.

Most early Israeli models had provision for firing ports or hatches but few had turrets or permanent weapons (limitations imposed by British restrictions). Arab models, and later Israeli models, had turrets. The models with turrets typically had a machinegun, e.g. early Arab Legion home-made cars had a Vickers .303 water-cooled machinegun in the turret as well as firing ports for small-arms in the body of the vehicle. Israeli turreted versions typically had a MG 34 machine gun in the turret and another in the hull.

Some Israeli models had large triangular rams attached at the front to allow the vehicle to smash through road blocks.

Marmon-Herrington IVF Armoured Car

The South African built Marmon-Herrington IVF was the most widely used commercially built armoured vehicle in 1948-49. Used by the Trans-Jordanian Arab Legion, Syrians and Egyptians, and occasionally when captured by the Israelis.

British supplied vehicles with a 2-pounder main gun and a Browning machine gun.

Individual Israelis say they feared the fire from the 2-pounders of the Marmon-Herringtons more than the other Legion artillery ’cause the red hot shot broke up as it traveled thus forming a fire ball that came at them slowly and with a frightening roar’ (Shamir, 2001).

Some of the material the Israelis captured was damaged, so on at least one occasion a captured Marmon-Herrington IVF had it’s 2-pounder replaced by a French Sa.38 37mm gun from a Syrian R-39 tank.

Staghound Armoured Car

Transjordan and Egypt had some.

Israel acquired about a dozen, although I’m not sure when. They were in use in 1954 but were later sold to Nicaragua, where they were used in the civil war of 1979.

White M3A1 Scout Car [modified]

The Israeli’s improvised armoured cars out of White Scout Cars during the 1948-49 war. The Israeli’s added an armoured roof and a turret with a MG 34 (in addition to the hull mounted machine gun).

APCs

BTR-152

The Soviet made BTR-152 was the standard Egyptian APC in 1956 and 1967.

Bren Carriers

The Egyptians had over 100 Bren Carriers in Palestine in 1948-49. The heavy weapons platoon of each infantry brigade usually had 25. Some were captured by the Israelis. The Syrians also had some.

Lloyd Towing Carriers

Used by the Egyptians in their 6-pounder batteries in 1948-49. Many were captured by the Israelis, had M34s added, and were used as troop carriers.

IHC M14 half-track

Israelis removed the anti-aircraft machine gun turret and used them for troop carriers in the 1948-49 war.

M3 and M5 half-track

Israelis used them extensively from 1948 to 1978. About 450 were in use in the 1956 war.

The Israeli’s modified some M5s by adding a open topped turret with a 20 mm cannon, and often with two MG 34s in the rear corners of the hull. These were intended for close infantry support and to provide limited anti-aircraft cover. Variations on this these saw action in 1948-49 and 1956.

As they were phased out as troop transports, many half-tracks were converted to command and communications vehicles.

M113A1 Zelda

In the 1970 Israel started to replace their half-tracks with the better armoured M113A1, which, with minor modifications became known as the ‘Zelda’ in Israeli service. Normally it had a M2 HB .50 calibre machine gun, and two Belgium MAG 7.62mm machine guns on either side of the upper crew compartment door. By 1982 war almost all the Israeli infantry rode in Zeldas.

In an email on the RFCM discussion forum Peter Allen described some of the M113 variations …

“Zelda” is an old nickname used in the ’70s not in use now, Bardehlass means Cheetah and refers to any M113,Nagmash is also used and means Armoured Personal Carrier as in Nagmashot – Sho’t personal carrier

( !7-104) zelda m113/toga

M113 with perforated metal armour to help against RPGs known to the IDF as YAYZATA.

(113 )m113 zelda

M113 with Israeli mods redirected exhaust and stowage racks. Known as to IDF as BARDEHLASS

(114) M113 zelda cmnd

As above but more aerials and stowage

(115) m577 M113 cmnd

The big boxy command version used at battalion and up HQs

(116) M163 M113 w/gatling gun

As the US version but with IDF mods as above.

Tanks

AMX-13 light Tank

France first produced these in 1953 and Israel purchased about 60 in time the 1956 war. Last used in any numbers in the 1967 war. Originally had the VO1000 75 mm high-velocity gun; later had a 90 mm main gun, although I’m not sure if the Israeli’s ever had this version. 2 x 7.62mm machine guns.

Centurion Mk5

British built Centurion Mk5s were first purchased by Israel in 1959. They were equipped with 20-pounder guns but from 1963 the 20-pounders were replaced by the L7 105mm gun. Although originally unpopular they were the most successful and popular Israeli tanks during the 1967 war.

Centurion [upgraded] – Upgraded Centurion

After the 1967 war the Israelis upgraded their Centurion with a different engine and transmission. They were called ‘Shot’ (‘Whip’) by their crews and were the most popular tanks in the 1973 war, although outnumbered by Pattons.

Some Centurions of the headquarters company of tank battalions had Soviet BTU tank dozer blades fitted (they were taken from captured T-55 tanks). These were used for clearing obstructions and entrenching tanks.

Charioteer

The British made Charioteer was a Cromwell up gunned with the Centurions 20-pounder. Although it had a big gun, its thin armour made it unsuitable for tank killing. Its other main defect was that it could not go hull down, as the big gun had to be fitted high in the turret, which didn’t allow much depression.

The British supplied enough for two Jordanian squadrons in 1954 (24 tanks) of the 3rd Tank Regiment. Jordon, when it received Centurions, subsequently sold some or all to Lebanon. The PLO in turn picked up some of these when the Lebanese army disintegrated during the civil war and used these against the Israelis in Southern Lebanon in 1976.

Cromwell

The Israelis acquired some Cromwells from the British in 1948.

FT-17

The Lebanese Army had a company of older French tanks, probably FT-17s in 1948-49.

Hotchkiss H-39 tank

Israel purchased a few from France in 1948; they formed the bulk of the Israeli tank force of the time.

Light Tank Mk VI

British tanks used by the Egyptians in 1948-49.

M22 Locust airbourne tank

British tanks used by the Egyptians in 1948-49.

M60A1

Israel used M60A1s in 1973. Applique armour was added for the 1982 war.

Matildas

The Egyptians had a few companies of British Matildas in 1948-49.

Merkava

An Israeli made heavy tank. It is slower than the contemporary Centurion or M60A1, but has better armour with a view to minimising crew casualities. It is equipped with an M68 105mm gun. A large rear ammunition compartment makes it possible for the Merkava to act as a short distance APC. It first saw action in the 1982 war. Now up to Mark IV.

Patton M48A2

Saw service with the Israelis in 1967.

Patton M48 Improved (M48A4)

The Israelis up gunned their M48A2Cs with the M68 105mm gun, and fitted a diesel engine. The US designate this as the M48A4 however, the Israelis do not. A handful had been up armed by the 1967 war and nearly all by the 1973 war.

Renault R35 Tank

The Syrian tank force in 1948 was made up of old worn out French R35s.

Renault R39 Tank

The Syrians also used R39s in 1948.

Sherman M1

The Israeli’s called all their early Shermans M1 whether based on the M4A1 (cast hulls) or M4A2 (welded hulls and diesels) and whether armed with a 75 mm (American or French) or 76 mm gun, or 105 mm howitzer.

The de-militarised Shermans located by Israel in Italian scrap yards during 1948 had a hole drilled in the gun. These were repaired in time for the 1948-49 war, although after the war some had their suspect weapon replaced by an old 1914-18 vintage Krupp 77mm field gun. Zaloga (1983) says these dodgy Shermans were originally equipped with a 105 mm howitzer, although another source says they had French 75 mm guns. .

The Egyptians fielded about a company of Shermans in 1948-49; mostly scavenged from battlefields.

France provided Israel with 60 M4A1 Shermans (76mm) just before the 1956 war.

By the 1956 war the Israeli’s had Shermans with Flail Scorpion mineclearing sweeps and bulldozer tanks fitted with M1 bulldozer blades.

By 1967 most M1 Shermans had been phased out, although small numbers where used on the Jordanian front for infantry support, and the bulldozer versions were still active.

Sherman M4A4 with FL-10 Turret

A Sherman M4A4 modified with M4A2 engine and AMX-13 turret for Egyptian Army.

Sherman M50 ‘Super Sherman’

Israeli-French modification of rolled plate hull M4 Sherman tanks. Most were based on the M4A4, but a few were based on the M4A1 cast hull. They had the normal gun replaced by the 75 mm high-velocity gun used in the AMX-13 (I’ve alternative designations of this gun as a VO1000 or a CN 75-50). The M50 Super Shermans first saw action during the 1956 war, and were still being used in small numbers in 1973.

Sherman M50 [APC]

Israeli M50 tank modified into an APC

Sherman M50 [Modified]

Israeli M50 turret fitted to M51 cast hull

Sherman M51HV ‘Isherman’

Israeli-French modification of M1 Shermans of various marks. They had the normal gun replaced with the French VO980 105 mm gun used in the AMX-30 (actually a shorter (L/44) version of that used in the AMX-30; Glen Hallick emailed to say “It’s a shorter version with a muzzle brake added. The Mk.51′s couldn’t handle the recoil of the French 105 so it was shortened.”). The gun fired HE and HEAT, no APDS (too low a velocity). Ishermans served in 1967 and 1973.

Sherman III

British Shermans (M4A2 w/75mm) provided to the Egyptians

T-34/85

The most common Egyptian tank in the 1956 war was the Czech built Soviet T-34/85. They also saw service in 1967 with both the Egyptians and Syrians.

Although Israel captured many, few, if any, of the captured specimens saw combat duty.

T-54 and T-55

Ti-67

The Israelis captured many T-54s and T-55s and converted them to Ti-67s with minor stowage changes, plus American M68 105mm main gun, radios and machine guns. They were used in the 1973 war.

Valentines

The Egyptians had a few companies of British Valentines in 1948-49.

Self-propelled artillery

15cm sIG33 auf Pz II

The Egyptians scavenged 3 from battlefields for use in 1948-49.

25 mm anti-tank guns on Bren carriers

Improvised self-propelled guns used by Syrians in 1948-49.

65 mm mountain gun on Chenillette Lorraine 38L

Improvised self-propelled guns used by Syrians in 1948-49.

2P26 ‘Baby Carriage’ tank destroyers

Soviet tank destroyers used by the Arabs in 1967. They were a small truck with equipped with 3M6 Shmel wire-guided anti-tank missiles. Many were captured by the Israelis, but were not pressed into service.

Archer – Valentine 17-pdr Self-propelled gun


The
British created the Archer – a 17-pounder anti-tank gun on a Valentine chassis – toward the end of
WWII. It had no overhead armour, and unusually its gun faced out over the back of the vehicle. It
was typically used in defensive positions. The Arabs who purchased it seemed very happy with it. Jordan acquired enough for a regiment in 1953 (36 guns).

Egyptian Archers caused some grief to the Israelis near Abu Ageila in 1956.

BM-24 Katyusha

A Soviet area saturation weapon used by the Arabs in 1967 and since. Israel captured many from the Egyptians in 1967 and subsequently pressed them into service.

L33 155mm Soltam Self-propelled gun

Israel put a fully armoured superstructure on an old Sherman chassis and added a Soltam 155mm gun. The L33 saw action in 1973. It had a very limited traverse, and for any but the smallest adjustments the entire vehicle had to be moved.

M3 Half-track with SS11

In the 1960s Israel modified M3 half-tracks to take SS11 wire-guided anti-tank missiles. They were used in 1967 but were not seen as a success and were dropped.

M3 Half-track with 90mm anti-tank gun

The Israelis converted some M3 half-tracks into tank destroyers by adding a French 90mm DEFA F1 gun. (Ian Clarke emailed me to say the halftracks with the defa 90 mm gun were used on the Golan heights in 1967)

M7 Priest motor carriage with 105mm howitzer

Israeli purchased some 1943 vintage M7 Priests in the 1960s. They were used in 1967, but were subsequently up gunned.

M9 Half-track with 6-pounder anti-tank gun

A successful Israeli half-track modification used in 1948.

M9 Half-track with Soltam 120mm mortar

A successful Israeli modification of the half-track used in the 1967 and 1973 wars. Attached to the headquarters of tank battalions they provided fire support and night illumination. They are credited with a number of kills against Jordanian Pattons in 1967.

M50 105mm Self-propelled howitzers on AMX-13 chassis

Obusier automoteur de 105 Modele 50 self-propelled 105 mm howitzer on an AMX-13 chassis. France sold Israel about 60 of these in time for the 1956 war. About 40 were still in service during the 1967 war – at least some fought in the Sinai.

M50 155mm Self-propelled howitzers on Sherman chassis

Israel mounted French Obusier de 155mm Modele 50 gun on a modified Sherman chassis; the superstructure was open on top. Several batteries were used in 1967. After the 1967 war most had their suspension modernised.

Some M50s were converted into unarmed hospital tanks for battlefield recovery of wounded tank crews.

M107 175mm Self-propelled gun

An American vehicle acquired by Israel after the 1967 war. It first saw action during the War of Attrition in 1970 and again in 1973. It was very popular with its Israeli crews due to its maximum range of 33 km.

M109 155mm Self-propelled howitzer

An American self-propelled howitzer with a fully armoured turret.

M109A1 Self-propelled howitzer

A more recent version of the M109 with a longer gun tube and hence longer range. These saw service with the Israelis in Lebanon.

M110 203mm Self-propelled howitzer

The American made M110 could lob a 92kg round some 17 km. The Israelis used them in 1973.

Soltam 160mm Self-propelled mortar

The Israeli’s put a Soltam 160mm mortar on a Sherman chassis. The vehicle is open topped and the front and sides dropped down when it is in action.

SU-100 Self-propelled guns

Egypt fielded Czech built Soviet SU-100s in anti-tank battalions in 1956.

Syrian 122mm self propelled howitzer

A home-made Syrian self-propelled howitzer using the 122mm gun of the Soviet D-30 on a T-34 chassis. Used in the 1973 war.

Anti-tank guns, mortars, and artillery

2 inch British mortars

Used by Israeli infantry in 1948-49.

2-pounder anti-tank gun

Used by the Egyptians in 1948-49, and many captured by the Israelis.

6-pounder anti-tank gun

Used by the Egyptians in 1948-49; towed by Lloyd tracked carriers.

65 mm French Howitzers “Napoleonchiks”

The Israelis used some French Model 1909 65 mountain guns in 1948-49. Apparently they had wooden wheels!

120 mm French mortars

Used by Israelis in 1948-49.

Davidka artillery pieces

Fairly unsuccessful homemade Israeli artillery from 1948-49.

Piat anti-tank grenade launchers

British made man portable anti-tank weapons used by Israelis in 1948-49.

Anti-Aircraft

TCM-20

In 1973 the Israeli ground defence weapon that downed the most Arab aircraft was the TCM-20. The TCM-20 was consisted of an old American Maxson turret armed with dual Hispano-Suiza HS-404 20mm cannons. There were both towed and M3 half-track mounted versions.

M3 or M5 half track with 20mm cannon

In 1948-49 the Israeli’s modified some M5s by adding a open topped turret with a 20 mm cannon. In 1956 this was an 20mm auto-cannon. In 1973 Israel was using an converted M3 half-track with a TCM-20 mounted – see above.

M163 VADS

An M113 variation for air defence. It was equipped with a 20mm Vulcan Gatling auto-cannon with ranging radar.

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