The M60 is an American second-generation main battle tank (MBT). It was officially standardized as the Tank, Combat, Full Tracked: 105-mm Gun, M60 in March 1959.
Although developed from the M48 Patton, the M60 tank series was never officially christened as a Patton tank. The US Army considered it a “product-improved descendant” of the Patton tank’s design. The design similarities are evident comparing the original version of the M60 and the M48A2. It has been sometimes informally grouped as a member of the Patton tank family. The United States fully committed to the MBT doctrine in 1963, when the Marine Corps retired the last (M103) heavy tank battalion. The M60 tank series became America’s primary main battle tank during the Cold War, reaching a production total of 15,000 M60s. Hull production ended in 1983, but 5,400 older models were converted to the M60A3 variant ending in 1990.
The M60 reached operational capability upon fielding to US Army European units beginning in December 1960. The first combat use of the M60 was by Israel during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, where it saw service under the “Magach 6” designation, performing well in combat against comparable tanks such as the T-62. In 1982, the Israelis again used the M60 during the 1982 Lebanon War, equipped with upgrades such as explosive reactive armor to defend against guided missiles that proved very effective at destroying tanks. The M60 also saw use in 1983 during Operation Urgent Fury, supporting US Marines in an amphibious assault on Grenada. M60s delivered to Iran also served in the Iran–Iraq War.
The United States’ largest deployment of M60s was in the 1991 Gulf War, where the US Marines equipped with M60A1s effectively defeated Iraqi armored forces, including T-72 tanks. The United States retired the M60 from front-line combat after Operation Desert Storm, with the last tanks being retired from National Guard service in 1997. M60-series vehicles continue in front-line service with a number of countries’ militaries, though most of these have been highly modified and had their firepower, mobility, and protection upgraded to increase their combat effectiveness on the modern battlefield.
The M60 underwent many updates over its service life. The interior layout, based on the design of the M48, provided ample room for updates and improvements, extending the vehicle’s service life for over four decades. It was widely used by the US and its Cold War allies, especially those in NATO, and remains in service throughout the world, despite having been superseded by the M1 Abrams in the US military. The tank’s hull was the basis for a wide variety of prototype, utility, and support vehicles such as armored recovery vehicles, bridge layers and combat engineering vehicles. As of 2015, Egypt is the largest operator with 1,716 upgraded M60A3s, Turkey is second with 866 upgraded units in service, and Saudi Arabia is third with over 650 units.
Manufacturers: Chrysler Corporation Delaware Defense Plant 1959 (initial low-rate production), Detroit Arsenal Tank Plant 1960–1983.