The M60 Patton is an American second-generation main battle tank (MBT) introduced in March of 1959. With the United States Army’s deactivation of their last (M103) heavy tank battalion in 1963, the M60 became the Army’s primary main battle tank during the Cold War. Although developed from the M48 Patton, the M60 series was never officially classified as a Patton tank, but as a “product-improved descendant” of the Patton series. In March 1959, the tank was officially standardized as the Tank, Combat, Full-Tracked: 105-mm Gun, M60. Over 15,000 M60s were built by Chrysler. Hull production ended in 1983, but 5,400 older models were converted to the M60A3 variant ending in 1990.
The first combat usage of the M60 was with 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 once 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 with Operation Urgent Fury, supporting US Marines in an amphibious assault into Grenada. M60s delivered to Iran also served in the Iran–Iraq War. The US’s largest deployment of M60s was in the 1991 Gulf War, where the US Marines equipped with M60A1s effectively defeated Iraqi armored forces, including more advanced T-72 tanks. The United States readily retired the M60 after Operation Desert Storm, with the last units being retired from active 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its Cold War allies, especially those in NATO, and remains in service throughout the world today, despite having been superseded by the M1 Abrams in the US military. The tank’s hull also developed a wide variety of prototypical, 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.
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