M60: America’s Cold War Tank Warrior – Armored Vehicle Launched Bridges (AVLB) derived from the Cold War-era M60 Patton tank will be part of a $400 million military assistance package for Ukraine, U.S. officials announced earlier in the month.
This vehicle is more formidable than the classic American tank designed to battle Soviet T-55 and T-62 tanks, since it can deploy a folding bridge for heavy armor, cross waterways and travel through trench lines. The AVLBs will join 227mm artillery rockets, 155mm and 105mm artillery shells, automatic cannon ammunition and other items in the Ukraine-bound shipment.
Both the U.S. Marine Corps and Army have been undergoing the replacement of M60 AVLBs with the more advanced M1 Abrams tank-based designs in recent years. While the Patton may be aging, it has served the militaries of 22 nations honorably since its introduction more than six decades ago.
A brief history of the M60 Patton
At the onset of the Korean War, U.S. officials quickly realized that its existing fleet of main battle tanks (MBT) was severely lagging behind the armored vehicles driven by the Soviet Union. Although the M47 Patton entered production in 1951, it never served in the Korean War due to production issues. The M48 Patton was ultimately introduced to service one year later, however, the U.S. Army was unimpressed with the tank’s initial design. At this point, the T95 program was conceptualized to produce a tank meant to supersede the problematic M48. Over time, the M60 series of tanks evolved and officially entered service in 1960. Equipped with a newer turret, more durable armor and a new ammunition stowage system, the M60 was considered a quality main battle tank.
Israel first used the M60 in combat
The M60 Patton first saw combat with Israel during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, where it was serviced under the “Magach 6” designation. During this conflict, Israeli forces took on roughly 1,400 Syrian tanks while over 600,000 Egyptian soldiers lined Israel’s northern and southern borders. On the first day of battle, Israel lost 100 tanks. The Patton’s tall turret made it a more easily detectable target for anti-tank missiles. U.S. officials closely scrutinized the role of the M60 MBT during this conflict and knew that advancements were necessary to make the Patton a formidable tank.
Over the years, defense giants including Raytheon and General Dynamics Land Systems have improved the Patton significantly. In fact, during Operation Desert Storm, the U.S. Marine Corps and Saudi Arabia’s armored corps used the Patton effectively.-despite the fact that the M1 Abrams was America’s primary main battle tank at the time. Overall, 100 enemy tanks were destroyed while only one Patton was lost.
Patton to Ukraine
Although the M60 Patton retired from the National Guard in the late 1990s, upgraded variants of the tank remain in service in 17 countries across the globe. Including Patton AVLB in a recent military assistance package to Ukraine could prove to be a significant contribution to the country’s defensive efforts. Eastern Ukraine, as described by The Drive, is full of waterways and trench lines – a challenge made for M60 AVLBs.
Additionally, large portions of the countryside in Ukraine have been heavily damaged during the last year of warfare. M60 AVLBs are well equipped to carry heavy armor and even tanks across large crates and soft, muddy ground.
The shipment of Pattons will also complement deliveries of the Abrams MBT and other more advanced Western tanks.
Maya Carlin is a Senior Editor with 19FortyFive. She is also an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel.