The M60 Patton main battle tank was introduced in 1960. It has been used extensively in a number of Middle Eastern conflicts, including the Yom Kippur War, the Persian Gulf War, and the current civil conflict in Yemen.
While the Pentagon largely relies on the M60’s successor, the M1 Abrams, the Patton is still used by Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Oman, Egypt, Morocco, Lebanon, Israel, Bahrain, Thailand and Taiwan. While shrinking military budgets make it unlikely that many of these countries will purchase newer models any time soon, Raytheon still hopes to profit from a new series of upgrades.
"The thing that is most interesting to me when you look at the current state from a readiness standpoint and what we need to do, all the things the administration wants to do, focus on the war on terror, the shift to the Pacific, deal with emerging cyber threats, it’s something that is a fairly significant challenge given the budget environment that we are in," Todd Probert of Raytheon told Defense News.
"I think the recipe, modernization through sustainment, is going to be a key mechanism for the US to move through this period."
The upgrades will includes a new 120mm cannon that will replace the current 105mm version. A state-of-the-art digital fire control system will improve the tank’s accuracy and range. The new software also allows the tank to digitally coordinate automatic firing.
A new 950 horsepower engine will replace the 750 horsepower version currently installed. New hydraulics and electrical systems mean that the upgraded M60s will weigh significantly less.
The upgrade package was developed in conjunction with the US Army, and is projected to allow, according to Probert, aging vehicles "to be more relevant in the current fight."
"It comes down to systems engineering first and foremost, coming in and appreciating what is needed marry that up with the customer’s desires and with what the threat and challenges that they are facing, and system engineering a solution that makes sense for that platform or that particular IT or intelligence command and control system," he told Defense News.
"We have a lot of stuff in play."
The new fire control system has recently been installed on a number of Jordanian tanks. If other countries in the region follow suit, the M60 could see action in the Middle East for decades to come.