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M60 Patton: The U.S. Army’s Best Tank Ever?

M60 Patton Tank
Image: Creative Commons.

M60 Patton Still in Service Around the World Thanks To Lots of Upgrades – During the Korean War, the US recognized they were falling behind their Soviet competitors with respect to tank quality and quantity. The US raced to catch up. The result was the Patton, which first rolled off the production line 60 years ago. Designed in a frantic rush, the M60 circumvented typical design and testing protocols.

The result was an improperly tested and mildly flawed vehicle – a second-generation tank now entering its sixth decade of service. Despite these facts, the M60 did go on to serve in many wars and rack up some serious battlefield victories. 

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.

M60 Tank – A Short History

The M60 Patton first saw combat action with Israel, during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, and then the 1982 Lebanon War. The US first used their tank during Operation Urgent Fury, the invasion of Grenada, in which US forces overwhelmed the tiny island nation in days.

US forces’ first legitimate test of the M60 was Operation Desert Storm, which featured some of history’s biggest ever tank battles: The Battle of Medina Ridge and the Battle of Norfolk. The US Marine Corps operated the M60 during Desert Storm, destroying 100 enemy tanks while only losing one tank. Although, by Desert Storm, America’s primary tank was the M1 Abrams. After Saddam Hussein was routed from Kuwait, the US retired the M60 from front-line service. And in 1997, the M60 was retired from the National Guard, ending a four-decade run as a lynchpin of American cavalry. Yet, the M60 lives on. Twenty-five years after the US retired the make, upgraded versions remain in service with 17 countries around the world. 

The Upgrades 

Benefiting from a robust design, and high compatibility for upgrades, the M60 still holds value in the twenty-first century.

Two variants remain in service: the M60A1 and the M60A3. Egypt has the world’s largest fleet of active M60s, with over 1,000 remaining in service.

Turkey, with the world’s second largest fleet of M60s, operates a heavily modified version of the M60A1 (aka the Sabra Mk II), which is indicative of the changes modern militaries have made to their 1950s era Pattons.

Turkey’s Sabra Mk II, has an upgraded main gun – the IMI MG252 – which is an Israeli smoothbore 120 millimeter L44 gun fused onto the M60’s turret. The upgraded Sabra also includes composite and explosive reactive-armor modules on the turret and hull. Turkey plans to continue upgrading their M60s, adding laser-warning receivers, a retractable mast with optics for area surveillance, and a remote-weapon station. Clearly, Turkey views the M60 as a system with potential for future use, especially along their border with Syria. 

Jordan is also upgrading their M60s. Actually, Jordan is retiring their British-made Challenger I tanks – while keeping their M60s, which happen to be a quarter-century older than the Challenger

With 17 countries, including the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Taiwan, and Greece, still using the M60, the platform’s upgrade market has flourished. Both Raytheon and Leonardo have started to market M60 upgrades designed to extend service life further. Available upgrades include a 120-millimeter smoothbore main gun, engine upgrades, additional armor, and an updated digital fire-control system. Leonardo’s upgrade package also consists of a HITROLE remote-weapons station added to the turret roof. 


M60 Tank. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Cold War Yom Kippur War

US M60 tank. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

M60 Tank

Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Upgrading a sixty-year-old vehicle is, of course, only a stop-gap measure. The M60 won’t be viable forever. But for now, and for the near future, cash-strapped nations will continue to rely upon the M60, a product of the Eisenhower administration, to handle twenty-first-century conflicts. 

Bonus: M1 Abrams (The Tank that Came AFTER the M60) Photo Essay


U.S. Army Soldiers, assigned to 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, maneuver their M1A2 Abrams tank to avoid indirect fire during training at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., Oct. 7, 2016.


U.S. Army Sgt. Ryan Duginski, M1 Abrams Tank Master Gunner, assigned to Battle Group Poland, performs a tank remote-fire procedure to ensure firing capabilities function properly at Bemowo Piskie Training Area, Poland, Nov. 6. (Photos by U.S. Army 1LT Christina Shoptaw)

NATO M1 Abrams in Poland

U.S. Army M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank variation fires at a target at Bucierz Range at Drawsko Pomorskie Training Area, Poland, August 11, 2020. DEFENDER-Europe 20 was designed as a deployment exercise to build strategic readiness in support of the U.S. National Defense Strategy and NATO deterrence objectives. In response to COVID-19, DEFENDER-Europe 20 was modified in size and scope. Phase I of the modified DEFENDER-Europe 20 was linked to exercise Allied Spirit, which took place at Drawsko Pomorskie Training Area, Poland, June 5-19 with approximately 6,000 U.S. and Polish Soldiers. In phase II of the modified DEFENDER-Europe 20, a U.S.-based combined arms battalion will conduct an emergency Deployment Readiness Exercise to Europe July 14-Aug. 22.

M1 Abrams Military

M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

M1 Abrams

A M1 Abrams from 5th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, fires a round during a Combined Arms Live Fire Exercise (CALFEX) at Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, Mar 26, 2018. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Hubert D. Delany III / 22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

M1 Abrams Tank

M1 Abrams Tank. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

M1 Abrams

Aerial drone image of an M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank crew, from the 1st Armor Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, conducting Table VI Gunnery at Fort Stewart, Ga. December 6, 2016.

M1 Abrams

Since testing at U.S. Army Cold Regions Test Center, the Department of Defense’s lone extreme cold natural environment testing facility, began in January 2020, the M1A2 System Enhancement Package version 3 main battle tank was driven more than 2,000 miles in rugged conditions across three seasons of sub-Arctic weather, fired hundreds of rounds for accuracy in extreme cold, and underwent testing of its auxiliary power unit.
Though the platform was extensively tested at U.S. Army Yuma Test Center prior to being put through its paces in Alaska, the sub-zero temperatures brought forth glitches that would have been unimaginable in the desert.

Harrison Kass is a Senior Defense Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, he joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison has degrees from Lake Forest College, the University of Oregon School of Law, and New York University’s Graduate School of Arts & Science. He lives in Oregon and regularly listens to Dokken.

Written By

Harrison Kass is a Senior Defense Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, he joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison has degrees from Lake Forest College, the University of Oregon School of Law, and New York University’s Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. He lives in Oregon and regularly listens to Dokken.