The M60 Patton, officially the 105 mm Gun Full Tracked Combat Tank, M60, is a first-generation main battle tank (MBT) introduced in December 1960. It 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its Cold War allies, especially those in NATO, and remains in service throughout the world today despite having been superseded by the M1 Abrams in the U.S. military. Egypt is currently the largest operator with 1,716 upgraded M60A3s, Turkey is second with 866 upgraded units in service, and Israel is third with over 700 units of Israeli variants.
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.
M60A1 tank of the U.S. Army maneuvers through a narrow German village street while participating in the multi-national military training exercise, REFORGER
The M60 traces its roots to the late World War II-era M26 Pershing heavy tank from which the M48 was developed. In 1957, plans were laid in the US for a tank with a 105 mm (4.1 in) 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 (3.5 in), had a hull with a straight front slope whereas 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, although the M48 wheels were often used as spare parts.
The improved design incorporated a Continental V-12 750 hp (560 kW) 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 clamshell turret shape as the M48, but this was subsequently replaced with a distinctive "needlenose" design that minimized frontal cross-section to enemy fire and optimized the layout of the combat compartment.
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. (The escape hatch was provided for the driver, whose top-side hatch could easily be blocked by the main gun. Access between the driver's compartment and the turret fighting compartment was also restricted, requiring that the turret be traversed to the rear.)
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 accurately 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.