M60 Super/AX (Super M60)
Main Battle Tank (MBT) Prototype
The M60 Super AX was proposed to current owners of the M60 Main Battle Tank just prior to the end of the Cold War - which ended hopes for the new tank product.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited:
With over 15,000 units built of the Cold War-era (1947-1991) M60 Main Battle Tank (MBT), the American product became a global success as it claimed operators from Bosnia/Herzegovina and Bahrain to Turkey and Yemen. In time, however, its basic design was steadily being surpassed by enemy tank developments (primarily those originating from the Soviet Union) and new battlefield dangers (emerging Anti-Tank Guided Missile (ATGM) technologies). To bridge the gap between the 1960s-era M60 and newer types like the 1980s-era M1 Abrams (detailed elsewhere on this site), the "M60 Super/AX" upgrade package was offered to interested buyers and current owners of the M60 MBT.
A single pilot vehicle was built to the Super M60 standard with notable improvements seen in armor protection at the hull surfaces (applique), the turret facings (applique, angled surfaces), and the track/wheel sections (skirt armor). The suspension system was improved for better offroad capabilities while many of the features and qualities inherent in the M60A3 production model were instituted in the M60 Super development.
Drive power was from a single Teledyne Continental Motors CR-1790-1B V12 diesel-fueled engine of 1,180 horsepower giving the vehicle a road speed of 72 kmh with an operational range out to about 500 kilometers. Structural dimensions included an overall length of 9.5 meters, a width of 4.20 meters and a height to the turret top of 2.92 meters. Weight reached 56.3 tons.
The crew remained four (gunner, loader, commander, and driver) while laser rangefinding was handled by the AN/VVG-2 system. An AN/VVS-2 thermal imager provided low-light-level capabilities and aiming/firing was aided by an M21 ballistic computer system. NBC (Nuclear-Biological-Chemical) protection was standard and a fire suppression system was installed to help protect the crew from ammunition explosions and similar in-cabin threats.
Armament was the 105mm L52 M68A1 rifled main gun set into the frontal face of the 360-degree traversing turret (63 x 105mm rounds were carried aboard). The remote-controlled machine gun emplacement atop the turret of the original M60 was deleted and replaced by a manually-trained/operated 12.7mm heavy machine gun for local air defense (600 x 12.7mm rounds of ammunition carried). A coaxial 7.62mm machine gun was retained at the turret front facing as an anti-infantry measure (6,000 x 7.62mm rounds of ammunition were carried). Smoke grenade dischargers were to provide the vehicle with a self-screening measure.
Despite the promising nature of the M60 Super, the product never made it beyond the sole prototype offered. The Cold War between the West and the Soviet Union ended in 1991 with the dissolution of the latter so interest on the part of major European players in an M60 upgrade waned - leaving the M60 Super/AX with no stable of potential buyers. Globally, the M60 was superseded by the much more capable M1 Abrams MBT.