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Turkey Is Giving The M60 Patton Its Best Upgrade Yet

July 15, 2020

Via Turkish media.

Six decades (or 62 years, to be exact) after its production started the M60 Patton continues to evolve in service with one NATO ally. Turkey maintains huge inventories of M48 and M60A1/A3 tanks and keeps many operational alongside the army’s German-made Leopards. This week the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSB) publicized its efforts to enhance the M60T, a variant of the Patton tank with extensive upgrades. The highlight of the M60T is having the Pulat active protection system (APS) installed on six points around the hull giving 360 degree coverage against missiles and projectiles.

The Pulat manufactured by Aselsan is a hard kill system where each launcher is loaded with a cylinder that detonates incoming high velocity objects before they strike the tank’s surface. When installed on the M60T, whose armor protection is quite extensive, the Pulat is distributed on the front, back, and sides of the hull. The Pulat works in tandem with an early warning system mounted on the turret of the M60T. The Turkish army maintains a thousand M60 Patton tanks with several hundred being the M60A3 variant. Of the latter number just 167 were upgraded to the “T” variant with Israel’s help; the resulting tank features a 120mm main gun and an impressive armor suite with composite and reactive panels encasing the turret and covering the hull’s front and sides.

But Turkey’s SSB have pushed the envelope further with the help of local companies. This meant redesigning the turret to accommodate more functions. Rather than the familiar cupola over the commander’s turret hatch, the M60T eschews this in favor of a remote weapon station mounted at the back where a storage compartment has been added. Next to the remote weapon station, which is armed with an M2 Browning, is a thermal camera on a retractable mast for improved situational awareness and targeting data. These upgrades are deemed essential if the M60T is sent on missions where it must perform in varied conditions, whether open terrain or dense urban areas where anti-armor threats are plentiful.

Turkey isn’t alone in giving the M60A3 Patton a career boost. In recent years other companies have tailored upgrades for M60 tanks since these models are well-known for being durable and blessed with longevity. Since 1958 approximately 15,000 M60 Pattons were manufactured in the US and half this number was sold abroad. US allies that acquired M60 tanks almost always kept them in service even if these are rated as second-generation MBTs at best. Companies such as General Dynamics, Leonardo, and Raytheon once promoted upgrades that made M60A3’s on par with third-generation tanks. The aerospace manufacturer Leonardo’s own effort was impressive as it replaced the main gun and fire control system along with covering the entire tank in a new armor suite, including sideskirts.

As impressive as it appears, the M60T’s only represent a small fraction of the Turkish army’s tank fleet. The problematic Altay MBT is supposed to enter limited service this year but its broader adoption as a replacement for older models is undecided; replacing the army’s tank fleet entails staggering costs given its size.

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