Marines from Company D, 2nd Tank Battalion, drive their M60A1 main battle tank during a breach exercise in Operation Desert Storm in 1991. The tank is fitted with reactive armor and an M9 bulldozer kit.
The M60-based M60 AVLB (Armored Vehicle Launch Bridge) and the M728 Combat Engineer Vehicle were the only variants of the M60 deployed to South Vietnam. The AVLB, commonly referred to as the "bridge tank", was mounted on an M60 tank hull, and the M728 Combat Engineer Vehicle was an M60 tank mounting a short-tubed 165 mm (6.5 in) main gun that fired a shaped charge.
Late in the M60's U.S. Army service a number of prototype upgrades were evaluated. These were passed over in favor of simply producing more M1 Abrams. Due to the end of the Cold War, surplus US Army M1s were absorbed into the remaining USMC units, allowing the Marine Corps to become an all-M1 tank force at reduced cost. Except for a small number in active service, most M60s were placed in reserve, with a few being sold to US allies.
The M60A3 participated in close air support trials with the F-16 in the 1980s. M60A1s are still used by the USAF for testing of ground radar equipment on new aircraft and for ground force adversarial work at Red Flag at Nellis AFB Nevada.
USMC M60A1 tanks were used in Grenada and Beirut in 1983. In February 1991 USMC M60A1 ERA tanks rolled into Kuwait city after a two-day tank battle at the Kuwait airport.
During Operation Desert Storm in 1991 at least one US Air Force unit was equipped with M60s. The 401st TFW (P), deployed to Doha, Qatar had two M60s for use by explosives ordnance disposal personnel. It was planned that using the MBTs would allow the EOD crews to remove unexploded ordnance from tarmac runway and taxiway surfaces with increased safety.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) purchased its first M60A1 tanks from the US in 1971. M60s and M60A1s saw action with Israel during the 1973 Yom Kippur War in both the Sinai and the Golan Heights (although mainly in the Sinai). The United States sent additional M60s to Israel just before and during hostilities. Following the war, the IDF received many more M48s, M60s and M60A1s from the U.S. Israel further upgraded their inventory of M60s prior to their use in the invasion of Lebanon in the 1982 Lebanon War. The Israeli modifications included new tracks and explosive reactive armor (ERA). This variant was known as the Magach. Further work in Israel has been done on the upgraded Magach models, adding new armor, new fire control system, a thermal sleeve and smoke dischargers. The latest versions, the Magach 7 (with variants A through C), have been used by some IDF units. South of Beirut in 1982 some 400 Syrian tanks including T-72s were destroyed by Israeli M-60A1s and Merkava 1 tanks. This surprised western analysts who said M60s would be easily defeated by newer Soviet built T-72s in combat.
In July 2013, Israel began a program called Teuza (boldness) for the purpose of turning some military bases into sales lots for obsolete IDF equipment. Older models that are not suited for Israel's forces will be sold off, or sold for scrap if there are no buyers. M60A1/A3 and Magach tanks are among those being offered. Main buyers are expected from Latin American, Asian, and African countries.
With the disbanding of the last M60-equipped divisions in 2014, the tank is no longer in service with the Israel Defense Forces.
The M60A1 RISE Passive of the U.S. Marines saw action during Operation Desert Storm in the 1991 Persian Gulf War, opposing Iraqi armor which included the T-54, T-55, T-62, Type 69, and T-72. The M60A1s were fitted with add-on explosive reactive armor (ERA) packages and supported the drive into Kuwait City, where they were involved in a two-day tank battle at the Kuwait airport with ten tanks lost. They saw service with the United States Marine Corps and the Saudi Arabian Army.
As of 2005, M60 variants were in service with Bahrain, Bosnia, Brazil, Egypt, Greece, Israel, Jordan, Portugal, Spain, Tunisia, Turkey, Thailand, Taiwan, Iran, and some other nations to varying degrees. Royal Thai Army M60A3s were engaged in combat to recapture Border Post 9631 from Myanmar Army forces in 2001, and reportedly exchanged fire with Type 69 tanks.
The U.S. military continues to have significant stockpiles of M60s waiting to be scrapped, sold-off, converted, or used as targets in weapons testing, or used for radar objects for jet attack planes. Some vehicles that use the chassis are still in use, however. Most of the M60s still used are much upgraded models. Pattons formed the basis for many 'new' tank designs, some using the chassis but with all-new turrets, others using various upgrade packages. Jordan, for example, is modifying two battalions of M60A3 with the IFCS system.
Greece offered to donate 13 M60A3 tanks to Afghanistan in 2007.
A 401st TFW (P) M60 seen at Doha, Qatar during the Persian Gulf War
Yom Kippur War
During the Yom Kippur War Israel had about 150 M60A1 in service. Israeli M60 tanks fought effectively against Egyptian T-54/55 and T-62 tanks. However, many Israeli M60s were destroyed by Egyptian troops armed with AT-3 Sagger anti-tank missiles due to being misused in the Bar-Lev line. Most of these were in the first few days following the Egyptian crossing of the Suez Canal. Once they could operate in the open they became the most feared tank in the war. Their gun was better than that of the T-54/55 and T-62, and they were safer than other IDF tanks because of their diesel engine instead of gasoline. In Israeli service, the type is highly regarded and has been updated through the years; it has earned praise for its firepower and maneuverability. Throughout the war, Israel received airlifts of replacement tanks, which replaced all losses and increased the fleet to 300 M60A1. Jordan also operated M-60s, but did not enter the conflict.
Iran had 350 M60A1 in service before the revolution. These were still operational although they had lack of spares in 1980. They were able to destroy any Iraqi armored vehicle including the T-72. An unknown number are believed to still be in service today. Iraq managed to capture one Iranian M60 and M48 which were evaluated. Both tanks were found by US Army tank crews when Baghdad was captured in 2003.
1982 Lebanon War
In 1982, M60 Pattons (named Magach 6) formed the core of the Israeli Operation Peace in Galilee . They encountered Syrian T-54/55 and T-72s as well as PLO T-34s. Although very formidable against all Syrian tanks, some were destroyed by Syrian infantry hunter-killer teams with ATGMs and supplemented by RPG-7s and SA-7 Grail MANPADs. Several other M60s were damaged by HOT missiles fired from Syrian Gazelle helicopters. One was destroyed by a T-72 and another was abandoned by its crew after taking damage. An M60 was recovered and taken to Syria to be studied by Soviet technicians (this is possibly the same one that was destroyed by a T-72). The USSR had already had access to the M60s design but this captured tank had the latest ammunition types on board. This M60 is still on display in Damascus.
The M60A1/A3s performed well against opposing tanks such as T-55s, T-62s, Type 69s and T-72s in various conflicts including the Yom Kippur War, Lebanon and the battle for the Kuwait airport during the Gulf war. The US Marines exclusively used the M60 during the conflict. In early February 1991, two hundred USMC M60A1s of the 2nd Battalion drove north from Khafji, Saudi Arabia into Kuwait. In Kuwait they encountered an Iraqi force of T-54/55, Type 69, and T-72 tanks at Kuwait City International Airport. This was the largest tank battle for the Marines since World War II. The Marines won this battle, destroying almost nine dozen Iraqi tanks with only a single M60A1 lost. The defeat of the Iraqi force was not only humiliating to Iraq but also to the USSR’s arms export effort. This was in part due to the fact that some of the tanks destroyed were the newer T-72 which the Soviets claimed was superior to the M60. Despite the performance of the M60, the Marine Corps decided to replace it with the M1 Abrams in order to have the same tank as the US Army. The M60 was also fielded by Egypt but it is unknown if they saw any fighting.