M60 (Patton) History

The M60 "Patton" Main Battle Tank began development in 1957 to counter rumors that the Soviets were working on a new main battle tank of their own armed with a 115mm smoothbore main gun. With this armament, the Soviet offering was capable of outgunning the latest M48 Patton series, then the staple of the American armored corps. The Soviet design turned out to be the "T-62" tank which began formal service in 1961 and went on to see over 22,000 examples produced for the Red Army and allied states/friendly nations. A myriad of operators and variants soon emerged operating the type and the T-62 recorded combat actions from the 1969 Sino-Soviet Border War to the 2011 Libyan Civil War. While not a perfect combat tank, the M60 certainly was a stout and ready performer for the 50+ years it has been in operational service.

With expediency and cost in mind, it was decided to take the existing M48 systems and modify it to suit the ever-changing requirements of the then-modern battlefield. The basic M48 was upgraded with a new, more powerful engine mated to a cross-drive transmission system and a the excellent British L7 main gun was fitted to a new turret. The hull was revised with more straight contours and aluminum wheels replaced the M48's steel ones. The general turret shape of the M48 more or less remained, though this was progressively changed to a more defined, unique form to help reduce the front and rear profiles. The resulting design came to be known initially as the "M68" but this was later changed to the more well known "M60" designation. While not officially labeled "Patton" in its formal US Army listing ("105mm Gun Full Tracked Combat Tank (M60)"), it was widely accepted as part of the Patton family that began with the "M46" - and all Pattons (M46, M47 and M48) were more or less related to the late World War 2-era M26 Pershing Heavy Tank. Initial production of the M60 began in 1959 out of the Chrysler Delaware Defense Plant to which the first M60 units were formed and stocked in 1960. Production quickly switched to the Chrysler Detroit Tank Plant in Michigan thereafter and would last until 1987 to which some 15,000 units would be manufactured. The M60 is noteworthy for becoming the US Army's first "Main Battle Tank", the Army doing away with its World War 2-era "Light", "Medium" and "Heavy" Tank classifications.

First US deployment of the M60 occurred during the Vietnam War (1955-1975) though these were only specialist vehicles in the AVLB bridgelayer and M728 CEV (Combat Engineering Vehicle) forms. Both vehicles utilized the M60 chassis and hull which broadened the tactical value of the M60 combat system and made logistical and fiscal sense. Other than that, no combat M60 tanks were deployed to the region and used in the war effort.

Like the Soviet T-62, the American M60 went on to see extensive sales overseas to US-friendly nations - it proved a staple of some NATO forces across Europe for some time. It was not until the Israeli Yom Kippur War of 1973 that the tank actually saw combat service and this was in the hands of the Israelis during the 1973 "Yom Kippur War". The Israeli Army made use of both M60 and M60A1 production marks in the conflict in addition to their stable of M48 Pattons already in service. Upgraded forms - introducing Explosive Reactive Armor (ERA) blocks- were then used in the upcoming Lebanon War of 1982. ERAs served as additional point protection from incoming enemy projectiles, missiles and rocket grenades and extensively upgraded crew survivability. The Israelis designated their upgraded M48s and M60s as "Magach" with Magach 1, 2, 3 and 5 marks covering different variants of the M48 and Magach 6 and 7 marking the upgraded M60 tanks. By all accounts, the M60 performed admirably well in Israeli hands, even when facing off against the T-62 - the tank it was originally designed to counter all those years prior. Their biggest threat proved to be Soviet-made anti-tank missiles fired by AT teams waiting in ambush. At any rate, the Israeli military still retains a healthy supply of modified M60s along with their newer, more modern Merkava Main Battle Tanks serving as primary.

One-time American ally Iran was also a recipient of US military hardware for some years and took delivery of 150 total M60A1 production models. These were fielded during the bloody Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s - their current service levels remaining unknown.

The M60s next notable action placed her in the Persian Gulf region during the Gulf War of 1991 (Operation Desert Storm). Elements of the United States Marine Corps and Royal Saudi Army both made use of the type alongside its replacement - the M1 Abrams MBT. The actions showcased the M60 versus Iraqi T-62s to which the M60 shown itself to be the better tank - much of this success having more to do with the poor training and experience of Iraqi tanker crews when compared to the Americans. Additionally, the M60 was a much refined beast by 1991, upgraded with the changing battlefield whilst Iraqi T-62s were not. During the battle for Kuwait City, only a single M60 was lost with no casualties absorbed. Even the US Air Force operated one detachment of M60 tanks during the conflict and these as ordnance disposal vehicles.

The largest M60 operators to date remain the Egyptian Army, the Turkish Army and the Israeli Army, each capable of fielding several hundreds to over 1,000 units. Other notable operators include Saudi Arabia, Iran, Thailand and Portugal. Greece operated as many as 669 M60A1/A3s but has since retired these in favor of incoming German Leopard 1 and Leopard 2 MBTs.

The Turkish Army, currently owners of some 925 M60A1 and M60A3 models - has since enacted an extensive modernization program to a newer M60T "Sabra" standard. These feature an electrically-stabilized 120mm smoothbore main gun along with an improved armor protection scheme and fire control system. These may also be known under the Sabra Mk III designator.

For the United States military, the M60 series has been formally retired from operational service, replaced outright by the M1 Abrams series. Some M60s were placed in reserve status or storage for the time being while others have ended up as outdoor showpieces for various military-related facilities.

M60 (Patton) Specification

BASICS

Year:
1960
Crew:
4
Manufacturing:
General Dynamics Land Systems, MI, USA
Production:
15,000 Units

ROLES

- Tank vs Tank

- Main Battle Tank (MBT)

- Frontline

- Utility

- Support / Special Purpose

STRUCTURAL

Length:

30. 94 ft (9. 43 m)

Width/Span:

11. 91 ft (3. 63 m)

Height:

10. 73 ft (3. 27 m)

Weight:

54 tons (48,684 kg; 107,330 lb)

POWER

1 x Systems AVDS-1790-2C 12-cylinder air-cooled diesel-fueled engine developing 750 horsepower at 2,400rpm driving conventional track-and-wheel arrangement.

PERFORMANCE

Maximum Speed:

30 mph (48 kph)

Maximum Range:

298 miles (480 km)

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ARMAMENT

1 x 105mm M68 main gun in turret.

1 x 7. 62mm M73 co-axial machine gun in turret.

1 x 12. 7mm M85 Anti-Aircraft (AA) Heavy Machine Gun (HMG) on turret roof.

2 x 6 smoke grenade dischargers (M60A3) on turret.

Ammunition:

63 x 105mm projectiles.

900 x 12. 7mm ammunition.

5,950 x 7. 62mm ammunition.

12 x Smoke Grenades.

VARIANTS

M68 - Initial Designation.

XM60 - Developmental Designation.

M60 - Base Production Model with revised designation; Noticeable searchlight over main gun; M48-style turret and hull.

M60 AVLB - Bridgelayer conversion.

M60 AVLM - "Armored Vehicle Launched Mine-Clearing Line Charge"; based on AVLB bridgelayer for mine clearing work.

M60 "Panther" - Remote-controlled mine-clearing vehicle.

M9 - Dedicated bulldozer variant based on M60 hull.

M60A1 - Introduced new turret design; improved suspension and armor protection.

M60A1 AOS - "Add-On Stabilization".

M60A1 RISE - "Reliability Improvements for Selected Equipment".

M60A1 RISE Passive - Same as M60A1 RISE though with redesigned searchlight and passive night vision facilities; Exlosive Reactive Armor (ERA) compatible.

M60A1 AVLB - Bridgelayer based on the M60A1 production model.

M60A1E1 - Developmental Variant; 152mm main gun trial.

M60A1E2 - Developmental Variant; redesigned turret; leading up to M60A2 production mark.

M60A1E3 - Developmental Variant; M60A1E2 trial model with 105mm main gun.

M60A1E4 - Developmental Variant; turret fitting remote-controlled weapon station.

M60A2 - Lower-profile turret with new commander's cupola and fitting 152mm Shillelagh missile-compatible main gun.

M60A3 - Final production model for US military service; becoming standardized model for M60A1 and M60A2 production units; stabilized main gun; thermal sleeve introduced along barrel; ballistics computer; air filtration system; improved searchlight; improved engine; improved laser range-finder; external smoke grenade dischargers.

M60A3 TTS - "Tank Thermal Sight"; fitting AN/VSG-2 thermal sight.

M60 "Super" / M60AX - Sans optical rangefinder; improved armor protection.

M60-2000 - Proposed M60/M1 Abrams combination vehicle.

M60 120 - Upgraded export vehicle utilizing M1A1 Abrams turret with M60 chassis.

M728 CEV - Combat Engineering Vehicle (M60 chassis).

M728A1 CEV - Upgraded Combat Engineering Vehicle based on M60A1 chassis and hull.

"Magach" - Israeli-produced variant with more powerful engine, a passive armor package and Matador computerized fire control system; available in "Magach-6" and "Magach-7" configurations.

M60T / "Sabra" - IMI-offered upgrade; electrically-stabilized 120mm main gun; improved armor protection; improved fire control system.

E-60 - Export M60 Production Model.

E-60A - Export M60A1 Production Model.

E-60A "Dozer" - Export M9 bulldozer model.

E-60B - Export M60A3 Production Model.

M60VLPD 26 / M60VLPD 70E - Spanish Army bridgelayer; based on M60A1 production model.

M60CZ-10 / M60CZ25E "Alacran" - Spanish Army Combat Engineer Vehicle based on M60A1 production model.

M60 "Phoenix" - Jordanian Army model; increased performance and RUAG 120mm smoothbore main gun; improved armor protection.

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