Country of origin
Dimensions and weight
Length (gun forward)
Height (over cupola periscope)
105 mm rifled
1 x 12.7 mm, 1 x 7.62 mm
- 10 to + 20 degrees
900 x 12.7 mm, 5 950 x 7.62 mm
Continental AVDS-1790-2C diesel
Maximum road speed
Fording (with preparation)
The General Dynamics M60A3 Patton is the last tank in the
Patton series produced in the United States, and is also the last main battle
tank in this series to see use with the United States military. Originally a
Chrysler product, it was inherited by General Dynamics when Chrysler
sold-off their defense division in the early 1980s.
The M60A3 was not a tank the US Army had actually planned
for, but rather served as a placeholder until a more capable tank
than the M60A1 could be developed. This was originally to be the
MBT-70, a main battle tank program initiated in the early 1960s, but
that project ended in disaster due to the excessive complexity of
the design. An attempt to revive the MBT-70 as the XM803 had also
failed to meet the Army's requirements, and the following XM815
(later re-branded the XM1) tank program had also proved very long
These delays had impacted two other programs as well; the
"Starship" (which was armed with a similar 152 mm gun-launcher
to that used on the MBT-70 and XM803, and was meant to complement
them in service), and the M48A4 (which were to be upgraded M48A1/2/3
hulls re-fitted with upgraded
and M60A1 turrets, as those were converted into M60A2s). As the
M60A2 had proven a failure (also considering light tanks such as the
abortive T92, the disappointing
Sheridan, and the hopeless HIMAG, this era seemed to be one long
string of US tank development debacles), none of the advanced
new-build M60A1 turrets meant for the M48A4 would be applied to that
vehicle --- meaning, there would be no M48A4 at all. There were also
still many M60 hulls authorized for the now-canceled M60A2, the
Army's next course of action was self-evident; outfit the turrets
without hulls to the hulls without turrets.
what became the M60A3 was the sum of the leftovers of other
programs. It could almost be said that it developed itself.
Meanwhile, many of the existing M48s were upgraded to a new M48A5
standard, by simply rebuilding their regular turrets to carry a 105
mm gun, but that is another story entirely.
The M60A3's appearance is almost indistinguishable from the
M60A1. Two key indicators are a crosswind
sensor (a small mast mounted atop the turret bustle), a cluster of
smoke mortars on either side of the glacis plate, and a thermal
sleeve (a pipe-like structure wrapped around the gun tube in front
of the fume extractor). Some M60A1s have these as well, but no
M60A3s are ever without them.
powertrain of the M60A3 is the same as that on the M60A1 RISE. The
engine is a Continental AVDS-1790-2C, a 90° four-stroke diesel V12
engine generating 750 hp at 2 400 rpm. The M60A3 uses a General
Motors CD-850-6A automatic transmission, with 2 forward speeds and 1
reverse speed. As this is a differential transmission, the M60A3 can
be pivot-steered, allowing it to rotate on its central axis rather
than turning. A total of 1 412 liters of diesel fuel is carried,
allowing for a road range of 480 km. Diesel fuel can also be sprayed
into the exhaust, creating a thick trail of billowing white smoke
for use as a smokescreen. No auxiliary power unit is fitted, so the
engine's alternator is required to power the vehicle's systems or
charge the batteries.
The ease of maintenance and unflinching reliability of the
M60A3's engine are substantial, and has proven advantageous in
several conflicts. For example, US M60A1 RISEs and M60A3s deployed
to the Persian Gulf in 1990-91 only required 15 minutes of
preventative maintenance each day, which were performed with the
engine running. They also suffered no sand ingestion problems and
required no air filter changes in the entire campaign, owing not
only to the sand tolerance of their engines, but also that air fed
into the engine was drawn through the fighting compartment. Engine
of the M60A3 can be replaced in
field conditions within 4 hours. Newer
tanks were an entirely different matter; halts for maintenance
occurred over either 30 miles traveled or 3-5 hours of constant
operation, and were each over an hour long. Heat from the M1/M1A1's
turbine also required a cooldown period (the operating temperature
of an M1's engine compartment is in excess of 926°C) longer than the entire daily maintenance regimen of the
M60A3, and even then all personnel handling parts in and from the
tank were required to wear special heat-resistant gloves. The M1
could also only draw air from the outside, due to the suction force
of its AGT1500 gas turbine engine (gas turbines are basically
helicopter engines). Special (and very expensive) air cleaning filters
eventually had to be installed in all of the M1 Abrams variants in
later years, to reduce their reliance on constant filter changes in
dusty environments, but the M60A3 with its diesel engine never needed them.
The torsion bar suspension and running gear are also
unchanged from the M60A1, but the tracks have been replaced by the
T142. This new track has detachable rubber pads, allowing the
worn-out pads to be replaced long before the metal components of the
track wear out, giving the T142 a much longer track life than the
T97E2 used on previous M60s. Some M60A1s were also back-fitted to
use the T142. Aluminum road wheels were initially used on the M60A3,
but these proved inadequate to withstand their weight, speed, and
rough handling; they were gradually replaced by steel roadwheels
starting in May of 1980.
The M60A3 Patton has average overall mobility, although it is
not particularly fast; it is rated to make 48 km/h on road surfaces,
and only 16k m/h off-road. It can tackle a 60% gradient or 30% side
slope, surmount a 0.91 m vertical obstacle, ford 1.22 m of water
without preparation (2.4 m with preparation), and cross a 2.59 m
At 52 metric tons, the M60A3 Patton is much heavier than the
preceding M60A1 RISE, but it is also substantially lighter and
smaller than the M1 Abrams series of tanks. This made the M60s more
deployable than the M1s, with the most vivid example being US Air
Galaxies airlifting loads of 4 M60A1s each to Israel during the Yom
Kippur War, while the improved C-5B could carry at least 3 M60A3s, but
only 1 or 2 M1A1 or
tanks. The difference is even starker when comparing sealift
The M60A3 is armed with the same M68 105 mm/L52 rifled gun as
the M60 and M60A1. It was a British L7 tank gun, produced under
license in the united states. It fires all the same ammunition, and differs
from the M68s on previous M60s only by the addition of a thermal
sleeve to prolong accuracy and tube life (thermal sleeves were
back-fitted to some M60A1s as well). The gun is loaded manually by
The machine gun armament is the same as well, with a 7.62 mm
coaxial gun, and a 12.7 mm anti-aircraft gun mounted in the
cupola. A second 7.62 mm machine gun is sometimes carried as well for
use by the loader, and alternatively as a replacement weapon if a
problem with the coaxial gun arises, which can't be fixed in the
field. The 12.7 mm heavy machine gun is the same M85 used in the
M60A1 and M60A2, while the unreliable M219 coaxial machine gun (and auxiliary machine gun,
if fitted) were replaced by the much newer
M240C. The ammunition stowage of the
M60A3 is also the same as that of the M60A1. It carries a total of
63 rounds of five types for the main gun.
The turret also has improved motors, allowing it to slew a
full 360 degrees in only 9 seconds (the previous M60s only managed
12 seconds), while the gun trunnion motors allow the main gun and
coaxial gun to elevate and depress at 4 degrees/second. These
weapons can be elevated to +20 degrees or depressed to -10 degrees,
both of which have often proven advantageous when attacking against
or defending from elevated terrain.
A mechanical fire control computer also allows the M60A3
Patton to perform accurate indirect fire, and bombard distant
targets that are normally out of reach of tank fire, or behind low
cover. This also enables M60A3 to perform its own indirect fire
missions. This allows the tank company to cause casualties and
disruption to enemy formations immediately before attacking them,
without overtaxing already very busy field artillery assets (which
have to perform counter-battery missions, pre-planned fires, and
emergency fire support, to name a few).
The M60A3 was also the first US M60 variant to standardize a
cluster of smoke mortars on either side of the turret.
While the M1 Abrams is often credited for being the first US
tank in service with a digital ballistics computer, a laser
rangefinder, a passive thermal imaging system, and the ability to
fire on the move at high speeds with great accuracy, the M60A3
actually had all of these capabilities before the M1 even entered
production. All of these features were present on the initial
production models (except the passive Tank Thermal Sight (TTS), which was added
in 1979 to the M60A3 TTS variant), and they also possessed fire
control another asset that no M1 variant has ever been fitted with;
a crosswind sensor. It is also notable that the M60A1 AOS variant introduced
gun stabilization to the series (AOS stand for Add-On Stabilization), and the M60A2 had a laser
rangefinder as well.
control system of the M60A3 resulted in significantly improved
firing accuracy. At a range of 2 000 m it has a 70% first round hip
probability against a stationary target. The previous M60A1 at
identical conditions had a first round hit probability of only 23%.
The TTS allowed to pick out enemy vehicles in the dark.
The armor of the M60A3 is unchanged from the M60A1. It is a
conventional, single-layer rolled homogenous steel alloy armor, rather than the
composite armor that most current MBTs use. However, the M60A3 is
fitted with spall liners, designed to eliminate or reduce back-spalling
(armor fragmentation) when the armor is penetrated or seriously
damaged crew by enemy fire. None of the US Army's M60A3s have ever
carried track skirts in an operational capacity, though some foreign
users have back-fitted their tanks with track skirts.
In addition to a short range radio, a platoon commander's
vehicle also carries a longer-range radio for communications with
the company commanding officer' tank, or a field headquarters. All M60s carry a
tank-infantry telephone box on the aft sponsons, allowing the crew
to communicate with adjacent infantry without exposing either to
possible enemy fire. Also fitted to the M60A3 is a landline cable
jack, allowing for secure communications (i.e., no transmissions
that can be jammed or intercepted are used) between field
headquarters and other friendly units located at other prepared
A collective NBC system is standard on the M60A3, and some
radiation shielding is incorporated into the hull.
The M60A3 will accept a variety of combat engineering
equipment, including mine rollers, mine plows, and dozer blades,
which were also used on the preceding M60s. These allow the M60A3 to
proof, breach, or clear minefields while in contact with the enemy
(which would be vastly more dangerous for dedicated engineering
vehicles to attempt). Dozer blades also allow for many other
capabilities, such as clearing debris, cutting roads in contested
terrain, digging entrenchments and other earthworks, and so on. High Explosive
and High Explosive Squash Head (HESH) rounds fired from the main gun can also be used to reduce
or eliminate obstacles and enemy fieldworks.
The M60A3 first saw combat in the 1982 Lebanon War, in the
form of the Magach 6 (the Israeli version of the M60A3). They
proved devastating to Syrian armor, destroying the tanks like
T-55, and elderly T-34s with little effort. Most impressively, the Magach 6 also destroyed a number of
tanks, all without any losses
to tank fire. This was thanks in no small part to the acquisition of
a new generation of ammunition, including the 105 mm M111 Hetz APFSDS
round, and the M456A2 HEAT round. Before 1982, it had been gospel among
armies and intelligence services on both sides of the "Iron Curtain"
that only a 120 mm round stood any chance of penetrating the frontal
armor of a T-72 at a combat range; the Israelis proved them wrong.
The Lebanon War wasn't an easy victory for the Magach 6,
however. Several were knocked-out by RPG series anti-tank rockets, recoilless
rifles, and anti-tank guided missiles, including
HOT missiles fired by Syrian Gazelle helicopters.
One of these tanks was captured largely intact, with all of its
ammunition, which proved to be an intelligence windfall for Syria
--- and the Soviet Union, who tested captured M111 rounds on the Kubinka Proving Grounds.
The next combat operation involving the M60A3 was the 1991
Persian Gulf War. The US military deployed a number of these tanks
to Saudi Arabia, but the only M60s in US livery to join the fight
were Marine Corps' M60A1s and Army
M728 CEVs. However, Saudi M60A3s
contributed extensively to combat operations, notably destroying a
large force of Iraqi T-55s and Type 59s during the Battle of Khafji,
without a single loss to themselves.
The last large-scale combat operation involving the M60A3 was
the Battle of San'aa during the 1994 Yemeni Civil War. This
engagement involved several-hundred M60A3s fighting a comparable
number of T-72M1s, but as with the Saudi experiences with the M60A3,
it has received almost no media attention. As such, the details and
outcome of this battle are largely unknown to the public.
M60A3 Pattons have also been employed in recent
conflicts as well, notably the still ongoing Yemeni Civil War (the
one in 1994 was a separate conflict, though it had common roots),
and the Afghan War. M60A3s on guard were also a common sight on the
streets of Egyptian cities during the Arab Spring.
Funding for initial batch of M60A3 Patton tanks was allocated
in FY1976. Production was initiated in February of
1978, with 296 initial vehicles being produced; by the end
that year the M60A3 was being produced at an average of 115 vehicles
per-month. These first vehicles achieved initial operational
capacity with the US Army during 1978. Several improvements
were incorporated into the M60A3 beginning in 1980, including the
TTS sight and steel roadwheels, which were gradually back-fitted
into most of the preceding M60A3s, along with many M60A1s as well.
Production of the M60A3 finally ended in 1987, by which time
7 948 had been produced for the US Army (additional new-built M60A3s
were also built for foreign customers). An additional 5 400 earlier
M60s were also rebuilt to M60A3 standard during this time, and
almost all of the 540 M60A2s were converted as well. Thus, of some
15 000 M60s built, more than 13 848 of these were at one point
The first customer of the M60A3 was the US Army, who were the
largest-ever user at one point with over 7 000 operational examples.
The US Marines never operated M60A3s, although some of its systems
(notably the RISE powerpack and TTS sights) were back-fitted into
US Marine Corps M60A1s.
Perhaps the most surprising operator of the M60A3 was the US
Air Force, who operated the M60A3 TTS primarily for explosive
ordnance disposal purposes.
Notably, two of these were assigned to the 401st TFW and deployed to
Camp Doha in Qatar during the Persian Gulf War, where they were
expected to use their weapons and M9 dozer blades to clear
unexploded Iraqi ordnance after air raids and missile attacks.
In the early
1990s the M60A3 tanks were phased out of frontline service and
replaced by the
Abrams series tanks. Until 1997 these tanks were used by
National Guard and as training vehicles until 2005.
The last M60A3s in US service were used for Opposing Force (OPFOR) training at
the Combat Maneuver Training Center in Germany. By 2005, only
the Delta Company 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment still
operated them, and only 18 M60A3s, which were finally withdrawn from
service later that year.
The M60 series is no longer available for production, and the
required equipment and documentation needed to produce them were
destroyed decades ago, as per US government policy.
Over 5 000
M60 variants still used throughout the world, it is inevitable that
the M60A3 will remain in service for many years to come. They are
thus still widely available, and due to their perceived obsolescence
regularly sold to other nations at no more than their scrap value,
or even donated.
Despite its age the M60A3 is still in service with a number
of countries worldwide. By 2016, the largest users of the M60A3 were Egypt (1
016, plus 700 older M60A1 tanks),
Turkey (658, plus 104 M60A1 RISE and 170 M60T), Taiwan (450), Saudi Arabia (450), Morocco (427),
Bahrain (180) and Thailand (125). Some of the users applied local
upgrades to these tanks in order to improve their protection and
In 1993, the M60A3 was valued at a unit cost of $1 291 865.
Improved M60A1 RISE, fitted with an M48A4 turret (which itself is an
improved M60A1 turret).
M60A3 TTS: M60A3 fitted with the AN/VSG-2 passive Tank
Thermal Sight. The TTS
was also back-fitted to some M60A1s. In 1993, the M60A3 was valued at a unit cost of $1 291 865,
with about $232 000 of this cost being its TTS sight.
Super M60: Developed in the early 1980s by Teledyne, the Super
M60 was a major upgrade for the M60A1 and A3. It added a more
powerful powerpack, extensive appliqué composite armor on both the
turret and hull, and track skirts, just to name a few of the
improvements. However, the Super M60 never found a buyer.
(previously known as the M60-2000): This version was marketed by Teledyne (which later merged with General Dynamics).
It consists of a dramatically modified M60A3 hull, topped
with a complete
Abrams turret. Though like the Super M60, it failed to attract
Magach 6C: This version of the Magach 6 (Israeli-built M60s)
emulates the M60A3, and all subsequent Magach 6s were built or
reconstructed to this standard or higher.
Major upgrade package for the Magach 6 series tanks, with totally new
armor, propulsion, fire controls, and many other improvements. It is
broadly similar to the
Similar upgrade to the Magach 7, but equipped with an MG 153 120
mm/L44 smoothbore gun, a new fire control system, and an improved
suspension. The Sabra never found any buyers, though Turkey operates
a variant of it known as the M60T.
Turkish upgrade of the M60A3 tanks to the Sabra Mk.2 standard. A
contract to upgrade 170 Turkish M60 main battle tanks was awarded to
Israel Military Industries in 2002. The first prototype was
to the Turkish armed forces for trials and evaluation in 2005. Eventually all 170
tanks were delivered.
Phoenix: Developed by KADDB in Jordan, the M60 Phoenix is a very
similar design to the aforementioned Sabra. First offered in 2004 it
is still advertised and offered for export. Some sources report that
a total of 182 Jordanian M60A3 tanks were upbraded to the M60
Phoenix standard. This model is most notable for being armed with
the RUAG CTG, a smoothbore 120 mm/L50 gun (all other upgunned M60s
have 120 mm/L44 guns), as well as extensive arrays of explosive
M60A3 SLEP (Service Life Extension Program): First unveiled by Raytheon in 2016, the M60A3
SLEP is another proposed upgrade for
the M60 Patton tanks. The original 105 mm gun was replaced by a 120 mm gun,
greatly increasing lethality and range. The tank was fitted with new
fire control computer. The tank is powered by a 950
hp engine. Hydraulic gun and turret controls were replaced by
electrical ones. Cage armor was added to the turret sides.
Samsam (Sword): This recently revealed Iranian tank is an upgraded
M60A1, with sweeping improvements. An explosive reactive armor
package is fitted to the Samsam, but since its armament, propulsion,
and much of its exterior is unchanged, it is unclear what other
improvements this tank has.
1A5: A German upgrade of the
1 MBT, developed in the early 1990s.
It was fitted with modern fire control
system and improved night vision equipment. A total of 1 300 Leopard
1A1 and 1A2 MBTs were upgraded to this standard.
C2: It is a Canadian upgrade of the German Leopard 1. It is
broadly similar to the German Leopard 1A5.
Canada purchased a total of 127 Leopard 1A3 MBTs in the late 1970s. These were
locally designated as the Leopard C1. In 2000 a total of 114 C1
tanks were upgraded to the C2 standard in order to extend their service
M48A5 Patton: A contemporary of the M60A3, the M48A5 was the
solution ultimately sought for modernizing the M48 fleet. It
included a RISE powerpack, faster turret motors, and similar
electronics and fire controls to those used in the M60A3, as well as
the same M68 105 mm gun.
A South African main battle tank. It is a refurbished and heavily
upgrader version of the British Centurion tank.
It entered service with South African National Defense Forces in
It is an upgraded
version of the French
tank with improved armor protection, new fire control system and
more powerdul engine. The AMX-30B2 entered service in 1982. A total
of 700 AMX-30 MBTs were upgraded to this standard.
T-55AMV: The AMV variant of the T-55 had numerous
improvements over the previous model, including a more powerful
engine, explosive reactive and appliqué armor, a laser rangefinder
and digital fire control computer, thermal imaging sights, faster
turret motors, the ability to gun-launch the 9K116-2 Sheksna
(Western reporting name AT-10 or Stabber) anti-tank guided missiles,
and other improvements. Combined with the latest 100 mm ammunition,
the T-55AMV is vastly more lethal and survivable than any preceding
T-62M1: An extensively upgraded version of the
was one of the last Soviet upgrades for this series of tanks. The
fitted with add-on armor and rubber side skirts. The turret was
fitted with anti-radiation liner. The tank was equippd with improved
fire control system and could fire anti-tank guided missiles in the
same manner as ordinary projectiles. The gun was fitted with a
thermal sleeve. There was also a more powerful
690 hp diesel engine.
Upgrades were carried between 1983 and 1985.
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