Initial production began in 1959, at the Chrysler Delaware Defense Plant. Production was moved to the Chrysler Detroit Tank Plant in Michigan and lasted until 1987, with over 15,000 units manufactured. The M60 is known for becoming the U.S. Army's first "Main Battle Tank”, as the Army began doing away with "Light", "Medium" and "Heavy" Tank classifications. The tank was retired from service in the U.S. in 1997 but is still used by many armies throughout the world. The M60 is an evolution to the M48 tank and is also the last American tank to feature a floor-mounted escape hatch. It is crewed by four personnel made up of the driver, tank commander, gunner, and loader.
The hull is revised with straighter contours and aluminum wheels that replace the M48's steel wheels. The engine compartment bulges the hull roof at the rear but is short enough to compensate for the turret overhang allowing for a full 360-degree navigation and engagement of enemy targets at any angle. The general turret shape of the M48 is more or less retained, though this changed in the M60A1 version to a unique shape to reduce the front and rear profiles. The turret is centrally-located atop the hull roof and sported thick, well-sloped sides for basic ballistics protection. On top of the commander's cupola, (which clearly identifies the M60 series from previous Patton’s) is an M85 12.7mm heavy machine gun designed to counter threats from low-flying aircraft. Primary armament revolves around the M68 (Ordnance L7) 105mm main gun. Additional armament comes in the form of a 7.62mm M73 series machine gun coaxially mounted in the turret next to the main gun and is operated by the gunner. This weapon allows for engagement of "soft" targets beyond the scope of the main gun. The M60 can provide maximum firepower and its own defense in one complete package. Smoke grenade dischargers were later added to the turret sides while the engine could also produce its own smoke for both offensive and defensive tactical actions, as needed.
The steel armor protection measures 155mm (approximately 6in). Power is supplied by a single Continental AVDS-1790-2 V12 air-cooled Twin-Turbo diesel engine of 750hp. This is mated to a General Motors cross-drive single-stage transmission with two forward and one reverse speed. The M60 weighs 50 short tons (100,000lbs / 45359.23kg) It is 30ft. long (9.1m), 12ft. wide (3.6m), 10ft. 6.5 in. (3.21m) in height, which is considerably tall for a combat tank and one of the key criticisms of the series for the life of the vehicle. It can travel up to 300 miles (482.8km) with a speed of approximately 30mph (48kph).
Over time, the M60s were gradually updated to keep up with new technology and threats on the battlefield. The first upgrade was produced in 1962, the M60A1. This upgrade includes a redesigned turret that was internally more spacious, an improved suspension system and better armor. In 1970, the M60A2 was produced but it was more experimental and did not last in service. This model gained the unofficial nickname “Starship” due to its look compared to other tanks at the time. The A2 has a much lower profile turret emplacement with a noticeable commander’s cupola, along with the implementation of the 152mm main gun, making the M60 compatible with the MGM-51 “Shillelagh” anti-tank missile. In 1980, the M60A3 was produced and has a considerable amount of changes, while for the most part keeping the turret and hull the same. It was given stabilization and a thermal sleeve for its M68 105mm main gun, a ballistics computer for accurate engagement, a thermal sight at the gunner's position, improved coaxial machine gun functionality, an air filtration system, revised searchlight function, an improved power plant, Raytheon laser rangefinder and external smoke dischargers along the turret sides as well as an internal smoke generation system supplied through the engine's operation. The A3s became the new M60 standard and many of the A2 were converted.