Although developed from the M48 Patton, another interim until replaced by the M60, the M60 series was never officially classified as a Patton tank, but as a "product improved descendant" of the Patton series of tanks. On 16 March 1959, the OTCM (Ordnance Technical Committee Minutes) #37002 standardized the vehicle as the 105 mm Gun Full Tracked Combat Tank M60. With the US Army's deactivation of their last (M103) heavy tank battalion, the M60 became the Army's first main battle tank during the Cold War.
|Type||Main battle tank|
|Place of origin||United States|
|In service||1961–1997 (USA)|
|Wars||Yom Kippur War |
Operation Desert Storm
Western Sahara War
|Manufacturer||Detroit Arsenal Tank Plant, Chrysler|
|Number built||Over 15,000 (all variants)|
|Weight||M60: 50.7 short tons (46.0 t; 45.3 long tons) |
M60A1: 52 to 54 short tons (47 to 49 t; 46 to 48 long tons) depending on turret design.
|Length||M60: 6.946 meters (22 ft 9.5 in) (hull), 9.309 meters (30 ft 6.5 in) (gun forward)|
|Width||M60: 3.631 meters (11 ft 11.0 in)|
|Height||M60: 3.213 meters (10 ft 6.5 in)|
|Armor||6.125 in (155.6 mm)|
|105 mm (4.1 in) M68 gun (M60/A1/A3) |
152 mm (6.0 in) M162 Gun/Launcher (M60A2)
|.50 cal (12.7 mm) M85 |
.30 cal (7.62 mm) M73 machine gun
|Engine||Continental AVDS-1790-2 V12, air-cooled Twin-turbo diesel engine |
750 bhp (560 kW)
|Transmission||General Motors, cross-drive, single-stage with 2 forward and 1 reverse ranges|
|Suspension||Torsion bar suspension|
|Ground clearance||0.463 meters (1 ft 6.2 in)|
|Fuel capacity||1,457 liters (320 imp gal; 385 U.S. gal)|
|300 miles (500 km)|
|Speed||30 miles per hour (48 km/h)|
The M60 traces its roots to the late WWII-era M26 Pershing heavy tank from which the M48 Patton was developed. In 1957, plans were laid in the US for a tank with a 105 mm main gun and a redesigned hull offering better armor protection.
The resulting M60 series largely resembles the M48 it was based on, but has significant differences. The M60 mounted a bore evacuated 105 mm main gun, compared with the M48's 90 mm, had a hull with a straight front slope where as the M48's hull was rounded, had three support rollers per side to the M48's five, and had road wheels constructed from aluminum rather than steel.
The improved design incorporated a Continental V-12 750 hp air-cooled, twin-turbocharged diesel engine, extending operational range to over 300 miles (480 km) while reducing both refueling and servicing. Power was transmitted to a final drive through a cross drive transmission a combined transmission, differential, steering, and braking unit.
The hull of the M60 was a single piece steel casting divided into three compartments, with the driver in front, fighting compartment in the middle and engine at the rear. The driver looked through three M27 day periscopes, one of which could be replaced by an infrared night vision periscope. Initially, the M60 had essentially the same turret shape as the M48, but this was subsequently replaced with a distinctive "needlenose" design that minimized frontal cross-section to enemy fire.
The M60 was the last U.S. main battle tank to utilize homogeneous steel armor for protection. It was also the last to feature an escape hatch under the hull.
Originally designated the M68, the new vehicle was put into production in 1959, reclassified as the M60, and entered service in 1960. Over 15,000 M60s (all variants) were constructed.
In 1963, the M60 was upgraded to the M60A1. This new variant, which stayed in production until 1980, featured a larger, better-shaped turret and improvements to the armor protection and shock absorbers. The M60A1 was also equipped with a stabilization system for the main gun. However, the M60A1 was still not able to fire on the move, as the system only kept the gun pointed in the same general direction while the tank was traveling cross country. It did however enable the coaxial machine gun to be brought to bear while moving.
The M60A2 was a stop-gap solution to the eventual replacement by the MBT-70. The M60A2, nicknamed the "Starship" due to its Space Age like technology, featured an entirely new low-profile turret with a commander's machine-gun cupola on top, giving the commander a good view and field of fire while under armor but spoiling the low profile. It featured a 152 mm main gun similar to that of the M551 Sheridan light tank, which fired conventional rounds as well as the Shillelagh anti-tank missile system. The fitting of a CBSS (closed breech scavenger system), which used pressurized air to clear the breech after each shot, solved the problem of unburnt propellant from the main gun rounds fouling the barrel and pre-detonating subsequent rounds. The M60A2 proved a disappointment, though technical advancements would pave the way for future tanks. The Shillelagh/M60A2 system was phased out from active units by 1981, and the turrets scrapped. Most of the M60A2 tanks were rebuilt as M60A3, or the hulls converted to armored vehicle-launched bridge (AVLB) vehicles.
In 1978, work began on the M60A3 variant. It featured a number of technological enhancements, including smoke dischargers, a new rangefinder, and M21 ballistic computer, and a turret stabilization system. All active American M60s eventually underwent the conversion to the A3 model.
The M60A3 was phased out of US service in 1997, but it remained a front-line MBT into the 21st century for a number of other countries.
While overall a considerably less effective tank than the M1 Abrams, the M60A3 did have some limited advantages over some M1 models:
- The M60A3 had a notably better thermal imaging system than that of the M1 up into the 21st Century, when many M1s had newer ones installed. It was, however, considerably noisier, emitting a loud clicking sound audible several meters outside the vehicle.
- The M60A3 had an exterior phone for infantry to talk directly to the crew inside. This feature was also installed on some USMC M1A1s in Iraq and is now being incorporated into all active Abrams.
- The diesel had lower performance, but also had lower cost, maintenance and better fuel efficiency.
- The exhaust temperature of an M1's turbine is very high, which makes it dangerous for infantry to take cover behind it, rather than the diesel engine on an M60A3.
- The escape hatch located under the hull of the M60A3 is not present in the M1 Abrams (due to the Abrams having lower clearance between the ground and the bottom of the hull), making it more difficult for the crew to bail out of a battle-damaged Abrams or evacuate casualties than an M60A3.
- The M60 series' L68A1 105 mm main gun fires a much wider variety of ammunition than the currently used 120 mm smoothbore on the M1 series, including a dedicated HE (High Explosive) round, and a White Phosphorus smoke round, among others.
- The M60 series includes instrumentation enabling indirect fire as ad-hoc artillery if needed.
An M60A3 TTS was involved in a civilian police chase in 1995, when one was stolen by Shawn Nelson from a California Army National Guard armory and taken on a rampage through San Diego, California. Nelson was killed by police when he refused to surrender after the tank became stuck on concrete freeway dividers. News footage of this incident has been shown numerous times on World's Wildest Police Videos and other similar programs.