Get the Details on the Bridge-Laying Patton Tanks Headed for Ukraine

  • The M60 collection of tanks was a part of an evolution that started within the closing days of World Battle II.
  • The tanks steadily improved and soldiered on, of their last type, till the arrival of the M1 Abrams.
  • Bridge-laying variations of the M60 are being despatched to Ukraine to bridge rivers and trenches, and permit Ukrainian forces to advance and liberate their nation.

One of many first tanks the USA is sending to Ukraine is the bridge-laying model of the M60 Patton tank.

The Patton collection of tanks fashioned the spine of the U.S. Military tank corps from the top of World Battle II proper up till the top of the Chilly Battle, progressively including greater weapons, heavier armor, and higher fireplace management and electronics. Nonetheless in use at present, the Patton collection might conceivably serve for an additional century or longer, making them a number of the most profitable tanks of all time.

World Battle II Origins

the american m 26 pershing tank in 1945

Regardless of being named after one other common, the M-26 Pershing is arguably the primary Patton tank.

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The story of the Patton tank started throughout World Battle II. The U.S. Military, searching for an eventual alternative for the now-famous M4 Sherman medium tank, got here up with a brand new design, the M-26 Pershing. The M-26 was bigger, higher protected, and mounted a extra highly effective 90-millimeter essential gun, nevertheless it was underpowered and suffered from reliability points. The M-26 noticed solely restricted service over the last days of the battle, however went again into motion in 1950 with U.S. forces based mostly in Korea.


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It was the Korean Battle that prompted the U.S. authorities to restart tank improvement. A barely improved tank, the M-46 Patton was the primary to make use of the Patton identify, and was rushed into service. This was shortly adopted by the M-47 Patton II, which used the identical hull and essential gun, however a brand new, bigger turret, and an improved fire-control system. The M-47 additionally included an 18-inch Crouse-Hinds searchlight for night time preventing. The M-47 served with each the U.S. Military and Marine Corps, and was exported broadly, together with to NATO allies and even Iran, which nonetheless makes use of them to this present day.

The U.S. was locked in an arms race with the Soviet Union, and tank improvement couldn’t stay stagnant. The event of a brand new tank was licensed simply because the M-47 entered service. The brand new tank, M-48, used a brand new, bigger hemispherical turret, a redesigned hull, and a lighter essential gun with computerized elevation adjustment from the U.S. Military’s first tank ballistic pc. The M48 additionally included a brand new remote-controlled anti-aircraft machine gun mount on the tank commander’s station. The M-26, M-46, and M-48 all got here into being in a span of lower than 10 years.

The Patton Tank

an m60a1 main battle tank on manuevers during brave shield xx

An M60A1 tank at Fort Lewis, Washington, Train Courageous Defend, 1979.

US Military

Within the mid-Nineteen Fifties, NATO intelligence realized of the Soviet T-55 tank, with its 100-millimeter D-10T essential gun, bigger in diameter and theoretically outgunning even the M-48. A brand new tank with stronger armor was required, in addition to a brand new essential gun that confirmed a marked enchancment over the varied 90-millimeter weapons, all of which had roughly the identical efficiency. The outcome was the M60 Patton, the Patton tank’s last type, which culminated within the Nineteen Seventies with the M60A3.

The M60 collection included the identical hull, suspension, and Continental AVDS 1790 engine, however launched some essential new options. The dome-shaped turret was reshaped to incorporate 65-degree sloping angles, growing the efficient thickness of the armor to incoming projectiles, whereas additionally growing the chance of ricochets. A British-designed smoke-grenade launcher promised fast concealment from enemy gunners, whereas an air-filter system launched with the M60A1 supplied safety towards nuclear, chemical, and organic weapons.

The M60 additionally included a brand new gun—the 105-millimeter M68—that though U.S. officers solely suspected it on the time, was later confirmed to be able to defeating the armor of a T-55 (and its successor, the T-62). The M60A3 launched a solid-state ballistic pc and laser rangefinder, the primary deployed on American tanks. The ballistic information, together with wind velocity and path information from a sensor mounted on the highest of the turret, allowed the M60A3 to fireside with distinctive accuracy. A late addition was a thermal sight, permitting the gunner to determine and fireplace on targets at night time and thru smoke screens—significantly enemy smoke screens.

Later Years and Fight File

files israeli tanks besiege 21 july 19

Israeli M60 tanks fitted with reactive armor tiles look down on Beirut, 1982, throughout Operation Peace for Galilee.

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By 1990, the M60 had largely been faraway from frontline U.S. Military service, changed with the M1 and M1A1 Abrams collection of tanks. Apart from a handful of M60-derived assist autos despatched to Vietnam, like the remainder of the tank-oriented U.S. Military, it had lacked alternatives to see main fight. U.S. Marine Corps M60A1s participated in Operation Desert Storm, the liberation of Kuwait, partaking Iraqi forces, dropping solely two tanks broken by mines. In a single engagement, the first Marine Tank Battalion engaged Iraqi forces firing on an engineering unit. An official account of the first Marine Division exploits within the 1991 battle described what occurred subsequent:

Corporal Duchoa Pham, the tank commander, destroyed an armored personnel provider with two well-aimed pictures. Corporal Pham defined, ‘I meant to hit the goal with HE [high explosive] however was so excited that I forgot [and fired SABOT (an antitank round)]. The primary spherical went proper by means of the automobile with out damaging it. The second spherical should have hit one thing delicate as a result of the entire automobile exploded with a flash.’

Immediately, no M60 tanks stay in service with the U.S. Military or Marine Corps, lively or reserve.

Outdoors the U.S. army was a special story. The M60 noticed main fight within the 1973 Yom Kippur Battle, in addition to within the 1982 invasion of Lebanon. Iranian M60 tanks, which fought within the eight-year-long Iran-Iraq Battle, are nonetheless in service at present. In recent times, Saudi M60s have been deployed to Yemen to suppress Houthi guerrillas, whereas Turkish M60s had been despatched on incursions into Syria to battle the Islamic State.

The imminent deployment of M60 Armored Automobile Launched Bridges (AVLBs) as a part of a $400 million army assist bundle to Ukraine is one exception. The M60 AVLB combines the hull of an M60 tank with a foldable, 18-meter-long bridge that may be emplaced in just some minutes. The AVLB will enable advancing Ukrainian forces to shortly cross water obstacles, outmaneuvering Russian forces nonetheless working lots of the tanks and armored autos that had been in service in the course of the M60’s heyday.

Legacy and Impression

us marine corps usmc marines assigned to headquarter company, 1st tank battalion, deploy two m60a1 armored vehicle landing bridges avlb, over a dry wash at camp coyote, kuwait, during operation enduring freedom

Marines of the first Tank Battalion prolong an M60A1 AVLB bridge at Camp Coyote, Kuwait, February 2003. Such a automobile is headed to Ukraine.


The Patton collection of tanks had been an instance of an evolutionary development in tank design. The tank arms race with the Soviet Union demanded giant numbers of tanks, and essentially the most environment friendly technique to counter Soviet numerical superiority was to have as many tanks as doable, based mostly on a confirmed design with new options launched incrementally. The collection began with the M-26 Pershing, and step by step—over 5 totally different designations—improved nearly each side of the tank’s design, together with fireplace management, night time imaginative and prescient, armament, and safety.

In 1980, the U.S. Military launched a very new tank, the M1 Abrams. The Abrams was sooner, because of its 1,500-horsepower gas-turbine engine, higher protected with British-designed Chobham and later depleted uranium armor, and included a brand new, extremely efficient ballistic fire-control system and thermal night time imaginative and prescient. Initially, the principle gun was the identical 105-millimeter M68 gun used on the M60 collection, however within the late Eighties, the M1A1 Abrams turned the primary within the collection to make use of the bigger, extra highly effective German-designed 120-millimeter M256 essential gun.

Since its introduction, the M1 Abrams has arguably seen as many upgrades because the Patton collection. Over the past 40 years, the M1 has acquired such upgrades as progressively higher night time preventing functionality, a commander’s unbiased thermal viewer, battlefield networking, the flexibility to fireside pc programmable shells, an auxiliary energy unit, and extra. Whereas the M-26 Pershing and the M-60A3 bear a resemblance, however distinctly separate seems, the distinction between the M1 Abrams and the most recent model, the M1A2SepV3, is pretty minimal. This is because of lots of the upgrades largely being digital in nature and compact sufficient to suit contained in the tank’s (comparatively) roomy turret.

The Takeaway

lebanon military army war games

A U.S.-made M60 tank of the Lebanese Military Airborne Division takes half in an ambush on a tank convoy throughout a drill within the space of Ouyoun al-Siman within the Lebanese mountains on September 26, 2012.

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The M60 collection of tanks missed quite a lot of fight, significantly people who served within the U.S. Military. Nevertheless, had they really seen the fight they had been designed for—towards Soviet and Warsaw Pact tanks in Western Europe—the world would seemingly be a really totally different place at present. As a part of the U.S. Military in Europe, they fashioned a powerful deterrent to Soviet assault, and in that sense, its efficiency with the house crew was profitable.

The Patton collection of tanks debuted round 1950, that means they’ve been in steady service for 73 years. Their lack of costly and comparatively fragile electronics makes them simple to restore, particularly for smaller nations. It’s not inconceivable the M60 might roll on for an additional 27 years in a smaller military, like that of Lebanon, making it a century-old tank. In the meantime, M60 AVLBs appear destined to march towards their Chilly Battle counterparts in Ukraine.

Not dangerous for a tank that left U.S. Military service in 1997.

Headshot of Kyle Mizokami

Kyle Mizokami is a author on protection and safety points and has been at Widespread Mechanics since 2015. If it entails explosions or projectiles, he is typically in favor of it. Kyle’s articles have appeared at The Every day Beast, U.S. Naval Institute Information, The Diplomat, Overseas Coverage, Fight Plane Month-to-month, VICE Information, and others. He lives in San Francisco.