Sabra (M60T) History

The Israeli-developed "Sabra" is a major modification of the American M60 "Patton" tank with an improved turret, more powerful weapons, improved armor protection, a reinforced chassis and improved battlefield capabilities. More precisely, the Sabra is based on the M60A3 production model, but retains little of the form of the original American design, modified by the concerned Israeli Military Industries (IMI). The Sabra was supplied to the Turkish army to upgrade its tank fleet and entered service in 2007.

Overall, the Sabra makes a very responsive contribution with a strong power-to-weight ratio, making it an agile battlefield system. Its various upgrades add to the lifespan of the humble M60, making it an even more powerful killing machine.

Israel has long-standing military ties with the United States, purchasing many M48 and M60 Patton tanks during its decades of existence. Eventually, through experience on the battlefield, the Army modified its tanks to better fit Israeli tank doctrine, and these developments began to take their own forms that were highly Israeli in nature.

One such program produced the Magach series of main battle tanks, which were upgraded and greatly improved versions of the existing M48 and M60 tanks. Over time, IMI began supplying then-ally Turkey with an improved form of the M60A3 as the Sabra to upgrade their current tank crop.

Visually, the Sabra is not necessarily quite as tall as the American M60, its turret looks more like a Merkava series main battle tank, with tapered edges and clean lines. Its highly sloping surface provides significantly improved point ballistic protection. Like the original American M60, the Sabra consisted of four specialists, including a driver, a tank commander, a gunner and a loader. The latter three share turret space, while the driver sits in the middle of the front fuselage.

On one side of the track are five rubber tire wheels, with the drive sprocket at the rear and the track idler at the front. The running gear has been significantly upgraded to accommodate the type's added weight and expected off-road capability. The engine is located in a compartment in the rear of the fuselage.

The engine consists of a General Dynamics/Continental AVDS-1790-5A V12 turbo diesel engine that delivers up to 900 hp at 2,400 rpm. This gives the breed a top speed of 30 mph and a range of 280 miles. Suspension is achieved by separate accessories with trailing arms.

The key to the upgrade of the Sabra series is to install the 120mm smoothbore main gun designed and developed by IMI on the MG253 series, which is the same main gun used by the Merkava Mk III series main battle tanks. The smoke exhaust is clearly visible along the central part of the barrel The mouth and thermowell can be used to protect the gun from field wear while reducing deflection of the barrel with each successive shot. The 120mm system is a huge improvement over the original 105mm M60 armature and presents a more formidable anti-tank opponent. The main gun fires standard NATO 120mm shells and is adapted to the Elbit system and the digital "Knight" Binding Fire Control System (FCS) developed by El-Op Industries.

About 42 projectiles of 120mm ammunition are loaded on the tank and managed by a dedicated loader. It is armed with 60mm field mortars for indirect fire support, according to Israeli battlefield doctrine.

Air and anti-infantry defenses are provided by light 7.62mm machine guns. One is mounted on the commander's hatch (cupola on Mk I, turret with 12.7mm heavy machine gun on Mk II, cupola on Mk III) and the other on the cargo hatch. The third is a coaxial mount next to the main gun in the turret, managed by the gunner.

Two rows of four smoke grenade launchers on either side of the turret's main battery provided additional defense. These somewhat masked the movement of the tanks, providing a temporary smokescreen for offensive and defensive operations. An integrated fire suppression system and active threat warning indicators enhance crew survivability.

The original Sabra features a modular passive armor design that can be upgraded to the Explosive Reactive Armor (ERA) level (Sabra Mk II) for enhanced system and crew protection.

The original production form of the Sabra series became the Sabra Mk I, based on an improved version of the previous Israeli tank Magach 7C. The Magach series is nothing more than a massively modified and upgraded M48 and M60 Patton tanks in service in Israel. The Mk Is' low profile Commander's cupola is clearly recognizable and features an Allison CD850-6BX drivetrain mated to a Continental AVDS-1790-5A diesel engine. The next major variant was the Sabra Mk II, which featured explosive reactive armor and a tank-style M60 machine gun turret (M85 12.7mm heavy machine gun) on the commander's cupola. In addition, the Mk II production model is equipped with a 1,000 hp MTU 881 series turbo diesel engine designed in Germany and manufactured in Turkey.

This engine is combined with a Renk drivetrain. The last variant of the Sabra series was the Sabra Mk III, which introduced the commander's remote-controlled machine gun location, as well as an armor configuration and track system more similar to the Merkava Mk 4 series main battle tanks.

It also retains the Sabra Mk II's German MTU engine mounts and includes a Radar Warning Receiver (RWR) and Infrared Warning System (IR) as standard.

Turkey has about 170 Sabras, these have been upgraded to Sabra Mk II standard, known locally as "M60T". The first agreement between the two countries was signed in 2002 and the first M60T will be delivered in 2005.

The upgrade program (to the Mk II standard) ran from 2007 to 2009 and was managed by the Turks using kits provided by Israel. Another modified form of the M60 - "M60-2000" - was supplied to Turkey by General Dynamics Land Systems.

While Turkey has not made any such purchases, Egypt has committed to upgrading its legacy M60 fleet, scheduled to begin in 2011.

Sabra (M60T) Specification


Israel Military Industries (IMI) - Israel
170 units


- Tank vs Tank

- Main Battle Tank (MBT)

- Front



22.80 ft (6.95 m)


11.91 ft (3.63 m)


10.73 ft (3.27 m)


67 tons (60,610 kg; 133,622 lb)


1 x Continental AVDS-1790-5A V12 turbo diesel 908 hp (Mk I); ??1 x 1,000hp MTU 881 V12 turbo diesel (Mk II; Mk III) driving conventional sprocket arrangement.


Maximum Speed:

48 km/h

Maximum range:

280 miles (450 km)


1 x 120mm MG253 main gun in the turret.

1 x 7.62mm M240 coaxial machine gun in the turret.

1 x 12.7mm M85 Anti-Aircraft (AA) machine gun (Mk II) on top of turret.

1 x 7.62mm machine gun on the turret top Commander's Cupola (Mk I and Mk III).

1 x 7.62mm MG3A1 machine gun (loader cupola) on top of turret.

1 x 60mm Field Mortar.

The turret has 8 smoke grenade launchers in two rows with four launchers.


42 x 120 mm projectile.

1,000 x 12.7mm ammo.

3,000 x 7.62mm ammo.

8 x Smoke Grenade.


Sabra - base series name

Sabra Mk I - Initial Production Mark; Continental Diesel Engine; Flat Dome; Allison Transmission.

Sabra Mk II (M60T) - Provides explosive reactive armor; MTU diesel; Renk gear system; M85 12.7mm machine gun with turret at commander's position.

Sabra Mk III - Commander's low profile RC machine gun emplacement; Armor configuration and track system of Merkava Mk 4 series; MTU engine; RWR/IR warning system.

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