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The M60 traces its roots to the late WWII-era M26 Pershing heavy tank from which the M48 was developed. In 1957, plans were laid in the US for a tank with a 105 mm main gun and a redesigned hull offering better armor protection.
The resulting M60 series largely resembles the M48 it was based on, but has significant differences. The M60 mounted a bore evacuated 105 mm main gun, compared with the M48's 90 mm, had a hull with a straight front slope where as the M48's hull was rounded, had three support rollers per side to the M48's five, and had road wheels constructed from aluminum rather than steel.
The improved design incorporated a Continental V-12 750 hp air-cooled, twin-turbocharged diesel engine, extending operational range to over 300 miles (480 km) while reducing both refueling and servicing. Power was transmitted to a final drive through a cross drive transmission, a combined transmission, differential, steering, and braking unit.
The hull of the M60 was a single piece steel casting divided into three compartments, with the driver in front, fighting compartment in the middle and engine at the rear. The driver looked through three M27 day periscopes, one of which could be replaced by a night vision periscope. Initially, the M60 had essentially the same turret shape as the M48, but this was subsequently replaced with a distinctive 'needlenose' design that minimized frontal cross-section to enemy fire.
The M60 was the last U.S. main battle tank to utilize homogeneous steel armor for protection. It was also the last to feature either the M60 machine gun or an escape hatch under the hull.
Originally designated the M68, the new vehicle was put into production in 1959, reclassified as the M60, and entered service in 1960. Over 15,000 M60s (all variants) were constructed.
n 1978, work began on the M60A3 variant. It featured a number of technological enhancements, including smoke dischargers, a new rangefinder, and M21 ballistic computer, and a turret stabilization system. All active American M60s eventually underwent the conversion to the A3 model.
The M60A3 was phased out of US service in 1997, but it remained a front-line MBT into the 21st century for a number of other countries.
While overall a considerably less effective tank than the M1 Abrams, the M60A3 did have some limited advantages over some M1 models:
* The M60A3 had a notably better thermal imaging system than that of the M1 up into the 21st Century, when many M1s had newer ones installed. It was, however, considerably noisier, emitting a loud clicking sound audible several meters outside the vehicle.
* The M60A3 had an exterior phone for infantry to talk directly to the crew inside. This feature was also installed on some USMC M1A1s in Iraq and is now being incorporated into all active Abrams.
* The diesel had lower performance, but also had lower cost, maintenance and better fuel efficiency.
* The exhaust temperature of an M1's turbine is very high, which makes it dangerous for infantry to take cover behind it, rather than the diesel engine on an M60A3.
* The escape hatch located under