Iran reveals local upgrade of US M60 tank, inspired by Israeli M60T

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On March 15th, footage surfaced on the web, revealing an upgraded version of the classic American M60 tank, allegedly the work of the Iranian defense industry. As a reminder from BulgarianMilitary.com, the Islamic Republic currently has approximately 150 American M60 tanks in its arsenal. This batch of tanks, originally totaling 460 units, is a legacy inherited by the Islamic Republic of Iran Armed Forces [IRIAF] since the Islamic Revolution of 1979. 

Video screenshot

The recent reveal of Iran’s modifications showcased in the video shows marked differences, making it difficult to draw parallels with the mid-Cold War era American tank, developed back in the late ’50s. However, the brevity of the video, initially reported in Iranian sources, somewhat constrains any comprehensive analysis of Iran’s localized upgrades. 

On a side note, it appears that the designers drew significant inspiration from futuristic concepts for this extensive redesign. As seen in the image, the tank is positioned at the start line, its turret extended towards the stern.

Possible upgrades

The Iranian M60 tank’s turret immediately catches your attention. This crucial element of the tank has undergone significant modifications, or possibly even been replaced entirely. Although it’s difficult to pinpoint the precise changes made, when compared to the original tank turret, the Iranian adaptation is noticeably different. The M60 also boasts dynamic base protection, enhancing its defense capabilities. 

A unique impression of robust modular shielding is generated, supplemented with a panoramic viewing provision. The turret also features a modern combat module with a machine gun that is characteristic of contemporary tanks. At the surface level, additional modifications like the casing and slanting screens on the sides appear to be design-driven, with no apparent functional purpose. 

Photo credit: Reddit

Furthermore, there’s room for speculation about potential changes to the tank’s gun. The original American M60, versions M60/M60A1 and M60A3, traditionally sport a 105mm gun. Unusually, the American M60A2 version comes with a 152mm gun, but this model was never obtained by Iran, which received the M60A1 variant. Therefore, it wouldn’t be outlandish to consider a possible conversion to a larger-sized 120mm or even a 125mm gun from the original 105mm. A comparison could be drawn with the Iranian Zulfiqar, which closely mirrors the Abrams, and utilizes the Soviet 2A46. This likelihood is further substantiated by the tight-knit relationship between Russia and Iran, as well as the prevalence of 125mm guns on Russian tanks.

Does it look like an M60T Sabra?

Interestingly, experts have noticed a striking resemblance between Iran’s modernized M60 and the M60T Sabra which was modernized years ago and is currently in service within the Israeli armed forces. It’s hard to overlook the remarkable similarity in the design of the tank turret, as well as the identical positioning of the panoramic view. 

Photo credit: AA

Even the modifications that Iran appears to have made to the gun seem strongly influenced by the Israeli upgrade. There’s a difference in the angled screens incorporated on board compared to the M60T, yet the redesign clearly appears to take cues from Israeli modernization efforts. It’s almost as though they meticulously adhered to the blueprint.

A slight digression

When considering the enhancement of armored vehicles such as the M60T Sabra, we observe notable advancements in three critical sectors – firepower capability, armor protection resilience, and mobility efficiency. The strength of the firepower was maximized through the integration of cutting-edge guidance systems, enlarging the main gun’s diameter, and enabling the adoption of new weapon systems.

Photo credit: TopWar

In terms of armor protection, the evolution manifested itself in the form of reactive and composite armor, thus providing superior defense against anti-tank machinery. Enhancements in mobility were achieved through powerful engines and advanced suspension systems, enhancing maneuverability across various terrains.

In conclusion, improvements made to the M60T Sabra have ensured its sustained relevance in modern-day warfare, suitably equipped to deal with the ever-evolving challenges of the battlefield. However, the rapid progress of technology in Israel paved the way for its proprietary Merkava tank, which is available in several versions and forms a crucial part of the Israeli army’s artillery. Even though the M60T tank has been superseded by the more advanced Merkava, the M60T still represents a significant milestone in Israeli tank development, symbolizing the advent of next-gen tanks. 

An ironic flashback

It’s fascinating to look back and see that Iran was the top beneficiary of American and British military weaponry in the 1970s, carving out its mark as a force to be reckoned with. During his reign, the final Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, had abundant financial resources resulting from the surge in oil prices following the 1973 Arab-Israeli conflict. With this wealth, he acquired some of the most cutting-edge weapons for the Iranian military. 

But the Shah didn’t stop at merely transforming Iran into one of the region’s best-equipped armies, both in terms of quality and quantity. Looking back at 1970s forecasts, it’s clear that his goal was to elevate Iran to be amongst the world’s most formidable conventional military forces.

Iranian M60 MBT

There are a few key distinctions when comparing the Iranian M60 with its original American version. Chief among these is that Iran has significantly upgraded the tank’s armor and firepower. This includes the innovative addition of reactive armor to both the tank’s hull and turret. Furthermore, the enhanced laser rangefinder and thermal imaging systems give this M60 a superior target acquisition. 

The specifics from the technical side are equally intriguing. Driving the Iranian M60 is the formidable Continental AVDS-1790-2 V12 air-cooled twin-turbo diesel engine, which generates a powerful 750 horsepower. On the road, this tank achieves a top speed of 48 km/h with an operational range of around 500 km. When it comes to weight, the tank tips the scales at approximately 52.6 tons, with dimensions of about 9.3 meters in length, 3.63 meters in width, and 3.27 meters in height. 

The M60 tank comes equipped with several systems designed to enhance its combat efficiency. Highlights include a ballistic computer for unerring firing accuracy, laser range-finding for precise distance estimates, and thermal imaging systems for improved visibility under challenging conditions. In terms of protective features, the tank carries a nuclear, biological, and chemical [NBC] defense system, as well as a smokescreen generator. 

Photo credit: Aselsan

Shifting our focus to the M60’s armament, it’s outfitted with a 105 mm M68 gun that can discharge a diverse range of munitions, including high-explosive anti-tank [HEAT] and fin-stabilized armor-piercing [APFSDS] rounds. Additionally, the M60 carries a 7.62 mm M240 machine gun and a .50 caliber M2 Browning machine gun, both of which are designed for anti-aircraft and anti-personnel engagements.

One of the last M60 upgrades

Playing a prominent role in the recent modifications of the American M60 tank carried out by Turkey is the integration of an automated loader. This addition not only reduces the tank’s overall height but also minimizes the size of the crew. Now fitted with a 105-mm gun, the tank’s welded turret weighs less than its predecessor — tipping the scales at 13 tons versus the original 14.5 tons. 

From the standpoint of safety, there’s added fortification, reinforced by dynamic protection and NERA components. The rear of the turret utilizes an ammunition store, ingeniously designed with ejector panels for increased safety. Adding to the features of the turret are TLUS laser radiation sensors and Yamgoz video inspection systems. 

Photo credit: Aselsan

It’s worth noting, however, that the enlarged turret complicates the driver’s task of exiting the tank through the hatch. To navigate this challenge, the turret must swivel to a 90-degree angle, enabling the driver to exit safely. Of course, this raises concerns about the optimum position for the turret when the tank is stationary. Nevertheless, the M60 tank boasts modern targeting systems, a top-tier digital fire control system, and a remotely controlled machine gun module, all smoothly integrated into the MZK turret.

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