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M60A3 Patton

Main battle tank

M60A3 Patton tank

The M60A3 was the final US evolution of the Patton tank family, and for almost two decades it was the workhorse of the US Army

 
 
Country of origin United States
Entered service 1978
Crew 4 men
Dimensions and weight
Weight 52 t
Length (gun forward) 9.3 m
Hull length 6.94 m
Width 3.63 m
Height (over cupola periscope) 3.21 m
Armament
Main gun 105 mm rifled
Machine guns 1 x 12.7 mm, 1 x 7.62 mm
Elevation range - 10 to + 20 degrees
Traverse range 360 degrees
Ammunition load
Main gun 63 rounds
Machine guns 900 x 12.7 mm, 5 950 x 7.62 mm
Mobility
Engine Continental AVDS-1790-2C diesel
Engine power 750 hp
Maximum road speed 48 km/h
Range 480 km
Maneuverability
Gradient 60%
Side slope 30%
Vertical step 0.91 m
Trench 2.59 m
Fording 1.22 m
Fording (with preparation) 2.4 m

 

   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 and expensive.

   These delays had impacted two other programs as well; the M60A2 "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 M60 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 M551 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.

   In short, 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.

   The 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 M1 and M1A1 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 trench.

   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 Force C-5A 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 M1A2 tanks. The difference is even starker when comparing sealift capabilities.

   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 loader.

   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 commander's 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.

   New fire 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 fighting positions.

   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 (HE) 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-62, T-55, and elderly T-34s with little effort. Most impressively, the Magach 6 also destroyed a number of newer T-72M1 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 M60A3s.

   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 M1A1 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 capabilities.

   In 1993, the M60A3 was valued at a unit cost of $1 291 865.

 

Variants

 

   M60A3: 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.

   120S (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 M1A1 Abrams turret. Though like the Super M60, it failed to attract any buyers.

   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.

   Magach 7: 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 Super M60.

   Sabra: 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.

   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 delivered to the Turkish armed forces for trials and evaluation in 2005. Eventually all 170 tanks were delivered.

   M60 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 reactive armor.

   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.

 

Similar vehicles

 

   Leopard 1A5: A German upgrade of the Leopard 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.

   Leopard 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 lives.

   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.

   Olifant Mk.1B: 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 1991.

   AMX-30B2: It is an upgraded version of the French AMX-30 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-55 variant.

   T-62M1: An extensively upgraded version of the T-62. It was one of the last Soviet upgrades for this series of tanks. The T-62M1 was 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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