M60 Patton Main Battle Tank (USA)

In 1956, British Intelligence had acquired detailed information about the Soviet T-54 MBT and the British had decided to develop a new tank gun that was better capable of defeating this opponent. The result was the L7 105mm rifled tank gun. The US tested the L7 tank gun and after deciding it was superior to any of the experimental weapons then in development, fitted a new breech to it and designated it the M68. At about the same time, the US had decided to upgrade the current in service tank, the M48. The new 105mm M68 gun was installed in an M48A2 turret and with diesel engine technology having come far since the end of the Second World War, it was decided to install an AVDS-1790-2 diesel engine.

This tank was designated the XM60 for trials purposes and three M48s were rebuilt to this standard and tested at the Yuma Test Station, Fort Churchill, Fort Knox and the Elgin Air Force Base climatic hanger. The production contract went out to tender in April 1959 and was placed with the Chrysler Corporation, Delaware Defense Plant, in June of that year for the production of 180 M60s. Of course the production M60 was more than just a rearmed and re-engined M48. There were many small improvements over the whole of the vehicle, the most notable being the use of new flat rolled-plate glacis armour, the fitting of the new, larger M19 cupola and a change in the appearance of the road wheels and mudguard line. In August 1959, an engineering bid package was released for the second production buy of M60s to be built at the Delaware Plant. Subsequent production buys, starting with the October 1960 batch were built at the Detroit Tank Plant. The tank entered service with the US Army in 1960 and from 1962 it was succeeded in production by the M60A1 (development designation M60E1). The M60A1 has essentially the same chassis as the M60, but had a redesigned 'needle nose' turret with greater ballistic protection and a number of internal modifications. It carried 63 rounds of main gun ammunition as opposed to 60 for the M60. Throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s, M60A1 production was carried out at a fairly low rate, just to keep the production line open. As a result of the 1973 Yom Kippur War a major effort was initiated to increase production so that the M60A1 tanks lost by Israel could be replaced and to increase the war reserve stock which had fallen very low. Production increased steadily throughout the mid-to-late 1970s (due to an initial shortage of hull and turret castings) from 48 per month in 1975 to a peak of 129 in October 1978. The M60A2 was developed in 1964-65 and consisted of an M60 chassis with a new turret mounting the 152mm gun / Shillelagh missile launcher. Only around 500 were built and it entered service in 1974 as there were many problems associated with the missile system, which was also used on the M551 Sheridan light tank. Production of the M60A1 continued until May 1980 when production fully switched to the M60A3. The M60A3 continued in production until 1987, the majority of which were destined for sales to foreign militaries, by which time some 15,000 vehicles had been made. The M60A1 has a hull made of cast-steel sections and forged floor plates that are welded together. It is divided into three compartments, the driver's (at the front), fighting (centre) and engine (rear). The driver has a single-piece hatch cover and three M27 day periscopes forward of this. An M24 infrared periscope can be installed for night driving, although it has now been replaced by the AN/VVS-2 night viewer, which is of a passive type. The turret is of all-cast-steel manufacture, in which the loader sits on the left, and the gunner and commander on the right. The loader is provided with a single-piece hatch cover and a single M37 day periscope that can be traversed through 360 degrees. The commander has a cupola that can rotate through 360 degrees, an M28C sight in the forward part and eight vision blocks. The M28C can be replaced by a M36 infrared periscope or an M36E1 passive periscope for night observation. The gunner is provided with an M31 day periscope with a magnification of x8 and an M105D day telescope with a magnification of x8 and a field of view of 7.5 degrees. The M31 can be replaced with an M32 infrared periscope or an M35E1 passive periscope for night engagements. The M17A1 or M17C rangefinder has a magnification of x10, 4 degree field of view and a range of between 500 and 4,400m. The M60A1 had a Continental AVDS-1790-2A diesel engine (750bhp), some of which have been replaced with the AVDS-1790-2C diesel engine. The suspension is of a torsion bar type, with six pairs of rubber-tyred road wheels with an idler at the front and drive sprocket at the rear. The tank is fitted with an NBC system of the central air filtration type. The tank can ford to a depth of 1.219m unprepared, 2.439m prepared. It can also be fitted with an M9 bulldozer blade kit. The main armament is the 105mm rifled M68 tank gun with a bore evacuator. An M85 0.5in machine gun is mounted on the commander's cupola and a 7.62mm M73 machine gun (replaced by the M240) is mounted co-axially with the main gun. The M60A3 featured a number of improvements over the A1. The M60A3 began production in February 1978 at the Detroit Arsenal Tank Plant as an initial batch of 296 M60A3s. Eventually, the US Army had some 5,600 M60A3 tanks, of which 1,686 were new production, 114 were field conversions and 3,600 were conversions carried out by the Mainz and Anniston Army Depots. The main improvements were the in the fire control system (a Raytheon laser rangefinder and solid-state computer), full main gun stabilisation, top-loading air cleaner, thermal gunner's sight, T142 tank tracks, AVDS-1790-2C RISE (Reliability Improved Selected Equipment) diesel engine, thermal sleeve for the main gun, a 650 A oil-cooled alternator, six-barrelled smoke grenade dischargers, engine smoke generator and an automatic Halon fire extinguishing system. The M60 has been exported to a large number of countries, including Austria, Bahrain, Bosnia, Brazil (leased), Egypt, Greece, Turkey, Israel, Jordan, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, and Spain. It continues in service today and the majority of vehicles have been upgraded to M60A3 status. The exception is the Israeli M60s which have undergone extensive modernisation, with a new Israeli designed thermal sleeve for the main gun, commander's cupola, two roof mounted 7.62mm machine guns, the CL-3030 smoke screen system and Blazer ERA. More modern upgrades have added passive armour protection (including side skirts), new tracks (as fitted to the Merkava) and a new engine, the Continental AVDS-1790-5A diesel (908hp), as well as the Matador computerised fire control system (probably being reserved for the M60 and M60A1 tanks). Israel has also produced a prototype upgraded M60 called the Sabra which is fitted with a 120mm smoothbore gun. Finally, General Dynamics Land Systems has offered a new version of the M60, the M60-2000, for export. The M60-2000 upgrade consists of an upgraded M60 chassis mounting an AVDS-1790-9 diesel engine (1,200hp) coupled to the Allison X1105-5 automatic transmission while the existing suspension is replaced by M1A1 components. The turret of the M1A1 Abrams armed with a 120mm M256 smoothbore gun replaces the M60 turret completely.

(M60A3) Hull length: 6.95m. Hull width: 3.63m. Height: 3.27m. Crew: 4. Ground Clearance: 0.45m. Weight: 52,600kg (combat). Ground pressure: 0.87kg/sq.cm. Max speed: 48km/h. Max range (internal fuel): up to 480km on road. Armament: 105mm rifled main gun, 1 x 7.62mm MG coaxial, 1 x 0.5in MG on commander's cupola.

Modern American Armour , Zaloga, Stephen & Loop, James, Arms and Armour Press, London, 1982.
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How to cite this article: Antill, P. (7 March 2001), M60 Patton Main Battle Tank (USA), http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/m60patton.html

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