M60: The Tank Built to Fight Russia in a World War That Could Instead Fight China

November 29, 2023 Topic: military Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: M60TanksM60 TankCold WarChinaTaiwan

M60: The Tank Built to Fight Russia in a World War That Could Instead Fight China

It isn't entirely surprising that the M60 remains in service around the world, as more than 15,000 were produced in all variants.

The M60 Tank Still in Service in Taiwan - The self-ruling island of Taiwan is waiting to receive the 108 M1 Abrams that it purchased from the United States nearly five years ago, and Taiwanese Army personnel have been training on the platforms in America. And while Taipei has been patient, it isn't sitting idle, however.

The Taiwanese Army is planning to outfit its aging fleet of around 460 M60A3 tanks with new engines to further extend the service lives of the Cold War-era platform.

Even when the U.S.-supplied M1 Abrams arrives, it is likely that the M60s will remain in use – at least for training – as Taipei knows it could need every tank it can get should Beijing actually good on its promise to bring Taiwan under mainland control by force if necessary.

Taipei is also getting some help from Washington, as the U.S. has offered to replace the tanks' current AVDS-1790-2C engines, which are facing supply issues and incompatible with future armor upgrades, with newer AVDS-1790-8CR engines, the Taiwanese Liberty Times first reported. It cited military officials who confirmed that the AVDS-1790-8CR has a similar shape and size to the current engine and provides 1050 horsepower, in comparison to the current 750.

In total, the Taiwanese military currently fields around 1,200 tanks.

These include the M60s, but also some four hundred and fifty CM-11 Brave Tigers and two hundred and fifty CM-12s. The CM-11 pairs a modified M-48 Patton turret with an M-60 chassis. The CM-12 is an M-48 with the same modified turret as the CM-11.

The M60 Just Keeps Going

Though it has been retired from U.S. military service, Taiwan is hardly the only operator of the M60. Israel continues to operate some 1,350 of the vehicles, while it is also in service with a total of seventeen nations including Brazil, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Spain, and Turkey. A small number of M60s have been also supplied to Ukraine in the spring of 2023.

In addition, Iran maintains a fleet of around 150 that were transferred to the Middle Eastern nation before its 1979 revolution. Known as the Samsam (Sword), the Islamic Republic's M60s have been equipped with explosive reactive armor along with other undisclosed updates.

M60 Tank

It isn't entirely surprising that the M60 remains in service around the world, as more than 15,000 were produced in all variants. The United States military retired the M60 from front-line combat after 1991's Operation Desert Storm and the last tanks were retired from National Guard service in 1997 – although it remained a training platform until 2005.

A Battle-Tested Tank (MBT)

Since entering service in 1959 during the Cold War, the U.S. M60 main battle tank (MBT) served longer and fought on more battlefields than any other. Designed to counter the threat posed by the Soviet T-54 and T-55 medium tanks, the U.S. MBT played a critical role in defending key American allies and provided the U.S. Army in Europe with a solid, dependable tank to fend off the armored hordes of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact.

A descendant of Korean War era "Patton" tanks, the M60 was an example of how incremental advances in military technology could progressively result in better fighting machines. As there are design similarities between the original version of the M60 and the M48A2, the former has been sometimes informally grouped as a member of the Patton tank family.

However, the M60 featured significantly improved armored protection, and more powerful armament and engine – though the initial model did feature the M48 turret. The M60 was fitted with a more powerful M68 105 mm rifled gun, a license-produced version of the British L7 tank gun made in the United States. The improved M60A1 was fitted with a new turret, which offered better protection, while the ammunition load was increased by 3 rounds to 63 rounds.

Steadily Improved

Though production cased in 1987, given how many M60s now remain in service, it isn't surprising that there remains a large international market for M60 upgrades. Defense industry giants UK-based Raytheon and Italian-based Leonardo have begun to market M60 upgrades in recent years that could extend the useful life of the MBT. Among the upgrades is a 120mm smoothbore main gun, which is capable of firing NATO standard ammunition, as well as engine upgrades and improvements to the passive armor.

In 2016, Raytheon announced the release of its M60A3 Service Life Extension Program (SLEP), which added the 120-millimeter M256 gun of the M1A2 Abrams and a new, all-digital fire control system that was first developed for the U.S. Army.

Engine output has been increased from 200 horsepower to 950hp, while hydraulic gun and turret controls were replaced by electrical ones. Some models have also been equipped with cage armor on the turret sides.

With the latest improvements, some of those M60s could remain in use for decades to come.

Author Experience and Expertise

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.

All images are Creative Commons.