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The American M60 Main Battle Tank Oozes with Power

The M60 was clearly one of the best tanks of the Cold War, as this expert explains.

M60 Tank
An M60A1 tank from the Royal Jordanian Armed Forces fires a round at a range in Wadi Shadiyah during a massive military demonstration in front of dignitaries and media, May 18. HRH Prince Feisal, the Supreme Commander of the JAF, Chairman of the Joint Chief-of-Staff Gen. Mashal Al Zaben and Gen. Lloyd Austin III, head of the U.S. Central Command, were among those who attended the culminating event of the two-week, multinational Exercise Eager Lion 2015. In addition to the U.S. and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, participating nations included Australia, Bahrain, Belgium, Canada, Egypt, France, Iraq, Italy, Kuwait, Lebanon, Pakistan, Poland, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the U.K. and representatives from NATO.

Military Expert Peter Suciu Gives Us His Analysis on the M60: The United States Army continues to operate the M1 Abrams main battle tank, which first entered service back in the early 1980s. This third-generation main battle tank is arguably one of the best tanks ever fielded. It has a long and storied career, in part because it has been steadily upgraded and improved.

Yet, before the M1 Abrams, there was the M60 – a second-generation MBT that was introduced more than 20 years earlier, and which remained in service for more than three decades with the U.S. military. The M60 still populates the arsenals of nearly two dozen nations around the world. Hundreds of the tanks remain operational despite the platform’s age, highlighting the M60’s capabilities.

M60 Tank

Image Credit: Creative Commons.

It is a timeless classic.

Egypt maintains one of the largest fleets of M60s, with some 300 M60A1 and 850 M60A3 variants still in service; Saudi Arabia operates nearly 400. Hundreds more are in storage in both countries, and some of those tanks could one day be used against the 150-odd models still reportedly employed by Iran.

Quick Facts

Officially designated the “Tank, Combat, Full Tracked: 105-mm Gun, M60,” the second-generation MBT has been considered as a descendant of the Patton family of tanks that emerged during the early stages of the Cold War. The original M60 bears a close resemblance to the M48A2 “Patton,” and it is often informally grouped into that line of tanks.

That perception is incorrect, however. The M60 was actually a new design that featured numerous improvements, including a more powerful engine, increased armor, a more powerful main gun, a newly developed turret, and a vastly improved hull. The M60 was an evolutionary leap forward, and it became the go-to tank of the U.S. military in the 1960s and 1970s. The M60 was meant to address threats from new Soviet tank designs, notably the T-54/55 line of MBTs.

It was initially armed with the M68 105mm rifled main tank gun. This was based on the British-designed L7 rifled gun tube and cartridges, but it featured an American-designed mount, breech assembly, and recoil mechanism, while it offered up to six inches of homogenous steel armor on the hull. Powered by twin diesel engines that produced 760 horsepower, the M60 had a top speed of 30 miles per hour on roads, with a range of approximately 300 miles.

The M60 was not the speediest tank of the late Cold War, nor was it the most heavily armed. But it was a solid design that was more than able to stand up to Soviet armor of the era – which is why it remains a workhorse around the world even today.

A Safe Bet to Win

“The M60’s long service in the U.S. Military is a testament to the durability of the tank,” said John Adams-Graf, military vehicle historian and editor of History In Motion, the official newsletter of the Military Vehicle Preservation Association.

China-Taiwan Invasion

ROC M60 tank. Image: Creative Commons.


Image: Creative Commons.

“Fielded in 1959, it remained in service until after seeing combat in Operation Desert Storm in 1991 — 32 years of service is pretty impressive for a main battle tank,” Adams-Graf told 1945. “Furthermore, while many criticized its tall profile, it proved itself time and time again on the battlefield, including the 1973 Yom Kippur War, 1982 Lebanon War, and even Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada in 1983.”

Given the poor showing of the Soviet-designed T-72 in the Gulf War in 1992, and more recently in Ukraine, it is easy to see that the M60 would have been the tank to bet on in a head-to-head showdown and shoot-out.

Expert Biography: A Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.

Written By

Expert Biography: A Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.



  1. David Crocker

    August 23, 2022 at 7:11 pm

    Didn’t have twin engines. Typical power pack was a single Continental V12 rated for 750HP. It did have twin turbos, however.

  2. Gilbert Cuzdey

    August 23, 2022 at 9:07 pm

    The M60 was also the first MBT in the gulf region for the Gulf War. I know because I had a role in sending them. Surprised? They were part of the USMC propositioning fleet and we had them on shore in under 3 weeks. So while the US had mostly switched to the M1, these M60s were stored on board ships in the Indian Ocean.

  3. Steve Tuggle

    August 24, 2022 at 3:44 pm

    Yes it was, and I supervised one of several teams who unloaded our MPS at the Port of Jubail,Saudi Arabia in August 1990. I was also a 2145 (Tank Mech) on the M60’s and later a 2146 M1A1 mech. At that time, elements from 1st and 3rd Tanks we’re taking the M60’s and 2nd tanks came around November with M1’s. Aaah, good times!

  4. patrick m mahoney

    August 25, 2022 at 8:07 am

    David is correct m60 has an aircooled continental v12 diesel

  5. Jim Brisco

    August 25, 2022 at 11:40 am

    It’s aperant that you never crewed on an m60 tank . At the time it was the most expensive tank the U S MADE . IT WAS AN OK SHOOTER , NOTHING COMPAIRED TO THE M1 Tank . But it for the shit cross country any hole 18 inches deep would stop the tank real sudden . And everyone was going to eat some steel unless you braced for the impact .

  6. Jim Brisco

    August 25, 2022 at 11:44 am

    The m85 .50 cal was also a peace of shit it went into the cradle up side down and was a bitch to mount and charge it was nurturious for jaming . This was the TCs weapon station.

  7. Eric

    August 25, 2022 at 2:52 pm

    In all of the years on the M60A1, A1 RISE and A3TTS, I never remembered the M85 Machine Gun being mounted upside down. While yes it was hard to load, it wasn’t impossible. As for the cross country ability, I took that tank in places no one else would and made it just fine. As far as it’s ditching ability, it’s a tank. It crossed with a bump but most knowledgeable crews were warned by the TC or the driver to hold on. Having traversed Germany, Korea and the Texas/New Mexico my crew’s and I never had an issue. While the A1 was accurate in most cases out to 2500 meters, I find it funny that the Israelis were able to plant HEP (High Explosive Plastic) rounds on target out to the MER of 4400 meters. Now when the A3 came out Accuracy improved 100%. hits on moving target improved considerably. Now the M1 is a better tank for survivability. We all knew that. But in both cases, knock out the track and it’s a pillbox.

    About the “Power Pack” the AVDS – 1790 was a beast but under powered for the tank which until the advent of the M1 was the norm for US tanks. The 1790 was a “Air Cooled V-Block Diesel Supercharged 1790 cubic in motor produced by Continental and the same motor was used by Sweden, Israel and the UK for some of their MBTs.

    All said, knowing what we know about Soviet tanks today. I’ll take an M60A3 TTS without hesitation.

  8. Tom Currie

    August 25, 2022 at 4:10 pm

    Sorry, Jim Brisco, but if you ever crewed an M60-series tank that had a problem cross-country you must have hand an incompetent twit for a driver (and a TC who wasn’t much better).

  9. Tom Currie

    August 25, 2022 at 4:16 pm

    Sorry again, Jim Brisco, but the M85 was never upside-down on the M60, M60A1, or M60A3, which are the tanks this article talked about.

    The only machine gun ever used upside-down on a tank was the M85 on the M60A2.

  10. Demian

    August 26, 2022 at 10:50 am

    I operated and maintained the CEV which was a Combat Engineer version of the MBT. Very capable, powerful track but plagued with problems. We pulled pack on it multiple times, final drive issues, electrical issues, torsion bars broke constantly, hubs exploded on every deployment and broken tracks broke our backs. Our crew was tight group and we worked harder at maintaining often left behind by the unit while waiting for parts. Finding a mechanic that would come help was impossible. End of the day though when she ran good we all had a blast putting her through a variety of obstacle breaching, hoisting, gun range and vehicle recovery operations. I did river crossings, tree toppling, live fire, all with a smile on our faces. Cold as hell to sleep on, hot as hell in the turret. Heaters never worked right but hey it’s an experience I’ll never forget

  11. Mike Shepherd

    August 26, 2022 at 2:34 pm

    I had the honor of being the NOIC of the Headquarters tank section of 2nd Tank Ben. 2nd Mardiv from June 1982 through the end of the year. This included. NATO deployment, operation Northern Wedding-Bold Guard. We trained with the Danish army in Denmark and then made an amphibious landing on the north coast of then West Germany which included several days of operations with the West German army. We knew that if the Soviets ever decided to punch through the Fulda Gap we would be heavily outnumbered. But in addition to having faith in our M-60A1 Rise Passive tanks, I had faith in the level of our tank crews training.

  12. Mike Hajek

    August 26, 2022 at 5:25 pm

    I served on the A1 with 3/7 Cav in Schweinfurt 79 to 81. We never had any problems going cross country. At gunnery in Graf a good crew could get off 3 main gun rounds in 10 seconds and they were usually on target. The only problem with the tank was fixing it when it would throw a track and it didn’t happen much.

  13. Max

    August 27, 2022 at 1:42 am

    Good article. But two descrepencies. One is t72 in Iraq was export version with unskilled crew and no air and infantry support that why performance was bad.
    In Ukraine they equipped with reactive armor and performing quiet well again Kiev regime

  14. Mike Grinager

    August 31, 2022 at 9:05 am

    Mike Hajek, I was in Schweinfurt at Conn barracks 3/64 ’79-82. The A1 was an amazing piece of equipment. I was lucky enough as a platoon leader to have a driver who went to heater repair school. All my tanks were toasty warm in the winter. M85 was a good weapon. Keep it lubed and there was no problem. It could really rock n roll on high rate. My crew did three rounds in 7 seconds on the Soviet tank platoon engagement at Graf. Accurate too. In 1982 we transitioned to the Abrams. That was as close as I got to the M1. I was an advisor to the Saudis (M60A1s) and then got out, went Michigan National Guard, and was a tank company commander, B 1-246 a mixed M48A5 M60 Company. In my 20 years with the M60 family, I was never let down.

  15. jim gilliam

    August 31, 2022 at 6:52 pm

    Driving an M48 back from the tank range at Fort Irwin 1966 my vision was totally obstructed by dust cloud from the 4 tanks in front in a hurry to get the beer in the NCO club. I must have hit a large boulder on the tank trail knocking off a road wheel. The spring loaded arm fell onto the inside of the track and scored it, had to be replaced. With aviation engine, it was notorious for throwing fuel on the back deck at start up and causing a fire. What scared the driver about fires was the viewing prisms were often stuck and the driver’s hatch couldn’t open; if the turret was rotated exit through the interior was blocked. That left the hatch under the seat which could be blocked by uneven ground so we left the hatch off. Also hard turns driving would spin the gunner’s crank and smash wrists. All fun but hot as hell.

  16. Mike Hajek

    September 1, 2022 at 7:40 pm

    Mike Grinager, We never had to fix heaters. We borrowed them from the 1/10 FA. By the time they were looking for them we would be up on border duty. “Scouts Out” !

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