The 105 mm Gun Full Tracked Combat Tank, M60, also known unofficially as the M60 Patton, is a first-generation main battle tank (MBT) introduced in December 1960.
About this creation
The M60 was widely used by the U.S. and its Cold War allies, especially those in NATO, and remains in service throughout the world today despite being superseded by the M1 Abrams in the U.S. military.
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 until the projected replacement by the MBT-70. The M60A2, nicknamed the "Starship" due to its Space Age 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 (6.0 in) 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.
M60A2 proved a disappointment, though technical advancements would pave the way for future tanks; the MBT-70, which relied on much of this technology as it was used in the M60A2, never advanced beyond prototype stage though. The Shillelagh/M60A2 system was phased out from active units by 1981, and the turrets scrapped
In 1978, work began on the M60A3 variant. It featured a number of technological enhancements, including smoke dischargers, a new flash-lamp pumped ruby-laser based rangefinder (AN/VVG-2) that could be used by both commander and gunner, and an M21 ballistic computer, and a turret stabilization system. All active American M60s eventually underwent the conversion to the A3 model.
While overall a considerably less effective tank than the M1 Abrams, the M60A3 did have some limited advantages over some M1 models:
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. The diesel had lower performance, but also had lower cost, maintenance and better fuel efficiency.
4. The exhaust temperature of an M1's turbine is very high, which makes it dangerous for infantry to take cover behind it. This is not the case with the diesel engine on an M60A3.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. The M60 series includes instrumentation enabling indirect fire as ad-hoc artillery if needed.