The Battle of Asal Uttar was one of the biggest tank engagements of the Second Indo-Pakistani War of 1965. In September 1965, the Pakistanis had invaded India in large numbers, reaching a depth of 5 km beyond the border and occupying the small town of Khem Karan in Punjab.
The Pakistanis invaded Indian soil with the 1st Armored Division (ATD) and the 11th Infantry Division (IP). Facing them was the Indian 4th Mountain Division (MOD) which retreated under pressure but without breaking and organized a new defensive location in the shape of a semi-circle.
The Pakistanis had managed to create an enclave on Indian soil but their position was precarious. To be effective they had to break through the Indian defense and advance with the bulk of their tanks.
The Indian 4th OM it had six battalions, an artillery squadron with British 25pdr field guns, one with 3.7in guns, a heavy with 5.5in guns and a 120mm mortar squadron. It also had two islands of World War II M4 Sherman tanks in direct support. Its commander was Major General Gurbas Singh. The 4th OM was reinforced with the 2nd Independent TTHT (ATTHT) of Brigadier Teogai which had a squadron of Centurion tanks, a squadron of AMX-13 light tanks and an artillery squadron.
The Pakistani 1st TCM under Major General Nasir Ahmed Khan it had a reconnaissance brigade with old M24 Chaffee light tanks, the 3rd Armored Brigade (ATB) with one brigade (M47 Patton tanks) and a motorized infantry battalion, the 4th AT with two M47 tank divisions and a motorized battalion, the 5th AT with its own composition with the 4th, four artillery squadrons, an anti-aircraft squadron and an engineer battalion. The motorized infantry had M113 Armored Personnel Carriers. The 11th MP had a Sherman tank brigade in direct support, a reconnaissance brigade, five artillery squadrons, a relay battalion, an engineer battalion, and seven infantry battalions.
On September 8 the Pakistanis attacked. Proceded by four tanks (two with M24, two with M47) and under the cover of their artillery, the Pakistanis reached a distance of 900m. from Indian posts. The Indians, however, had deployed the M4 islands of the 4th OM in trunk cover, which opened fire on the opponents. The old Shermans destroyed 11 enemy tanks with the loss of four. After this the Pakistanis retreated.
The Pakistanis attempted a new attack with a vanguard and a detachment with M47s. But there they were confronted with the Indian Centurions which still carried the 20pdr cannon. (84mm) . Indian tanks destroyed five M47s and one M24 without loss.
The same fate had the Pakistani attacks in other places. The Pakistanis attacked again in the early hours of 9 September but without notable results as the Indians had flooded the sugar fields. At first light the Pakistani artillery and air force began pounding the Indian positions. However, as the Indians were deployed in organized positions the results were again mediocre.
Despite this the Pakistanis persisted but were again repulsed while several tanks were lost to Indian Recoilless Guns (RCGs) as they got stuck in the muddy fields. The commander of the Indian 2nd ATTHT expected a massive attack by the Pakistanis and took his measures, deploying AMX-13 tanks on the wings of the Indian defense formation so that they could hit the entire range of the location. At the same time, he deployed the Centurions in two semi-circle formations so that they could attack the Pakistani tanks in a concentrated manner.
The Pakistanis, ignoring the trap, attacked on 10 September but soon their tanks were on fire. In a few minutes 13 Pakistani M47s were burning . The commander of the Pakistani 1st Infantry Division moved to the front line to cheer on his men but his vehicle was hit and he himself was injured. After this the Pakistani attack lost all direction and coherence.
The next day the Indians counterattacked by spearing the Centurions. The Pakistanis fled in panic, abandoning tanks and armored vehicles. In addition to the tanks, the Indians captured the commander and a large part of the staff of a Pakistani command.
In total the Pakistanis lost 97 tanks, 75 of which were M47s, theoretically superior to anything the Indians could field. Of the Indian tanks only 10 were damaged. The defeat of the Pakistanis seems improbable but it was rather logical. The Pakistanis used their tanks without serious infantry support in rough terrain against the waiting Indians.