The two most popular production versions of M60 were M60A1 and M60A3, they used 105mm gun. But there was a special version: the M60A2, which is commonly known under its nickname “Starship.” The M60A2 is, much like Sheridan, equipped with a 152mm gun that can fire guided missiles.
Today the world is so familiar with M1 Abram tanks, people forget that the M60 tank has played an important role in US military history. This tank has maintained its position in Europe in front of Soviet forces during the Cold War.
Only 540 M60A2s were built, compared to 8,000 M60A1s and 1,000 M60A3s. By 1982, almost every M60A2 was replaced by a turret, reused with a traditional 105mm gun and converted into an M60A3 model, meaning that the tank was only over 5 years old.
The M60 tank has been built based on the tank M48 Patton and has been officially on the battlefield since 1950. The Patton tanks can hit targets from a distance of 1,500 meters, the crew has 4 member and has perfect armor. Tanks have used 90mm guns.
The first improved M60 tank, the M60A1, has a new turret system with headlights, using a night vision system and a more powerful engine. The tank was transferred to the Israeli army during the 1973 battle. However, the M60A1 tank suffered heavy damage from the Egyptian army’s AT-3 Sagger anti-tank missiles. Not only that, the ammunition used for the gun was also easy to ignite and endanger the crew.
This has made the US military have to improve to help M60 resist anti-tank guns and improve engines. The M60A2 model was replaced with a turret and had a separate rocket launcher system. This allows the A2 model to attack enemy tanks remotely without worrying about being fired. the M60A2, which is commonly known under its nickname “Starship”, was much like Sheridan, equipped with a 152mm gun-launcher that can fire guided missiles. However, this model also showed many deadly disadvantages. A total of 526 M60A2 main battle tanks were built. Other sources report that 540 of these tanks were built. It was withdrawn from the US Army.
The M60A2 was designed as a stop-gap vehicle until the joint US-German MBT-70 project was ready for service. This project was intended to provide both the United States and German militaries with one Main Battle Tank.
The United States ordered the M60A2 in 1971, however, production did not start until 1973, and continued through 1975, at the Chrysler Tank Plant in Warren, Michigan.
Aside from the turret and weaponry changes, the tank was nearly identical to the regular M60. It featured the same 4.29″ glacis armor, torsion bar suspension, and the 750hp Continental AVDS-1790-2 V12, air-cooled twin-turbo diesel engine which would propel the vehicle to approximately 48km/h.
The M60A2 was completed with a new turret, housing an M162 152mm gun. It consisted of a large disk with a narrow channel in the center. Each crew member in the turret had their own hatch, a rare feature in tanks. As a result, each crew member was effectively isolated from one another with the gunner and loader separated by Shillelagh missiles in their storage position. The commander was isolated in the rear compartment under a large rotating machine gun equipped cupola, which somewhat negated the low profile silhouette of the turret.
There was a mounting point to the left of the gun for a Xenon White-Light or Infrared Spotlight for night time operations. A large basket for storage was added to the rear of the turret and also included banks of smoke-grenade launchers, one bank of four on each side of the turret.
The 152mm gun, similar previously used on the M551 Sheridan light tank. This gun could fire both ordinary munitions and MGM-51 Shillelagh anti-tank guided missiles. The ordinary munitions were short, fat, with combustible cases and had to be carefully handled. These rounds had an effective range of 1.5 km and were sufficient for infantry support role, but had poor accuracy at longer ranges. The Shillelagh anti-tank guided missiles were intended to deal with hostile tanks at longer ranges. These missiles were stored in aluminum cases and had a range of up to 3 km.
Apparently operational experience of this unusual tank revealed that the 152 mm gun was inferior in terms of range and accuracy to standard 105 mm and 120 mm tank guns, firing ordinary munitions. Furthermore the Shillelagh anti-tank missiles could not penetrate armor of the emerging heavily protected Soviet MBTs, such as the T-80. Furthermore the M60A2 tank and Shillelagh missiles had complicated electronics and guidance systems. These were expensive to produce and troublesome to maintain. The Shillelagh missiles ended up almost never being fired, except for crew training purposes. Initially there were a number of problems with the new gun, but eventually most of them were solved.
Secondary armament consisted of an 12.7mm machine gun in the commander’s rotating cupola, and a coaxial 7.62mm machine gun. This weapon is fired, loaded and serviced form a fully-protected position.
M60A2 was the first tank to be equipped with laser range finder. The turret interior also received Kevlar spall liners. The M60A2’s combat load consisted of 33 M409 rounds and 13 MGM-51 Shillelagh missiles.
The A2 had a short service life succumbing to the same failings of Sheridan, concerning the missile system. The new turret design did little to help matters, largely isolating crew members into different portions of the vehicle, complicating maintenance of the somewhat unreliable components of this ‘space-age’ tank. All of these issues contributed to the vehicle being of less than stellar performance and largely useless as much more than an infantry support vehicle, though admittedly, the short barrel length could let it move and fight in a jungle a bit easier than a tank with a longer barrel, but the vehicle was never deployed to Vietnam.
It was quickly realized that the vehicle was not going to live up to all its claims and the search for a better vehicle continued, eventually leading to the M60A3 nearly a decade later, as they waited for the XM1 to enter production and service as the M1 Abrams.
The M60A2 proved a disappointment, though its technical advancements would pave the way for future tanks, as the MBT-70 project and the later M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank. Most of the M60A2 tanks were rebuilt as M60A3s, or the hulls converted to armored vehicle-launched bridge vehicles and M728 Combat Engineer Vehicles with a few M60A2s retained as museum pieces.