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    The Evolution of the M-60 Tank: From Cold War Deterrent to Modern Reserve Mainstay

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    Born out of necessity in the heat of the Cold War, the M-60 main battle tank entered service in 1960 as a formidable response to the Soviet T-55. A true workhorse for the U.S. and NATO allies, the M-60 was a mainstay on the front lines, as a symbol of military might.

    The M-60 replaced the M48 Patton, boasting an upgraded 105mm main gun capable of piercing well-protected Soviet armor. Its service life was notably extended through a series of upgrades. Initially, its primary deployment was in Western Europe and South Korea, where its presence served as a stalwart against potential aggression. The rugged terrain and guerrilla warfare tactics of Vietnam were less suitable for the M-60.

    Yet, it was not until Operation Desert Storm in 1991 that the M-60 saw large-scale U.S. combat action. The U.S. Marines deployed the seasoned tanks against T-72s. “The now slightly aged veteran tanks acquitted themselves quite well,” reflects the extensive coverage of the M-60 in Schiffer Publishing’s Legends of Warfare series, which also includes “300+ wartime black and white images, contemporary full color images” showcasing the versatility of the M-60 variants.

    In the face of evolving military technology, the M-60 was phased out from National Guard use in 1997. However, its journey did not end there. The venerable tank, even after nearly four decades of service, continued to serve in various capacities across the globe. Over 22 countries have continued to operate the M-60 in various forms, incorporating them into their military inventories.

    The M-60 also excelled in non-combat roles. Its M728 combat engineer variant, equipped with dozer blades and A-frames, and the AVLB with its scissors bridges, supported military engineers in the field. The Legends of Warfare volume provides a “terrific page of drawings which show at a glance the evolution of the M-60 tank from its predecessor the M48, through the M60A3 and the engineering type variants,” underscoring the continuous adaptation of the M-60 to meet diverse operational needs.

    For the combat soldier, the cry “Tanks are coming!” signified the approach of this steel colossus, a harbinger of a shifting battle dynamic. The M-60’s specifications, including its Continental AVDS-1790-2C diesel engine and formidable 105mm main gun, made it “one of the main assault vehicles of an Armor/Mechanized Infantry/Infantry Division.”

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