Northeast Atlanta Gaming

August 2, 2010

The evolution of the M60A1/3 tank

This isn’t a horribly tank specific article as much as it is a game specific article, focusing on the things that would change the M60 tank as a counter, and those issues that would make the tank available to Western European forces. It tends to more modern history, as I’m not worried currently about scenarios between 1960 and 1962, for example.

To explain the gaming context, for those unfamiliar with the history of the Panzerblitz series of games, the first two, Panzerblitz and Panzer Leader, focused on World War II combat. The third, Arab Israeli Wars, focused on the wars of the Middle East. They published a counter for the M60A1, which has to be regarded as canonical for any stock AIW situation, with stats similar to this unit:

Now, some 3 decades later, we have Alan Arvold’s articles on how the four numbers were derived. The attack factor (upper left hand number) should be the penetration of the standard shell (APCBC in the case of World War II tanks) at 500 meters in mm, divided by a factor we’ll call X. The number in upper right is the range, in 250 meter hexes. Therefore, the range corresponds to 3500 meters. The range should correspond to the maximum effective range of the weapon. The number in the lower left is the defense factor, the heaviest frontal armor in mm, divided by X. The number in lower right is the movement factor, which comes from maximum road speed divided by 3 in Panzer Blitz and Panzer Leader, and 5 in the case of AIW.

Ok, how do we get X? It depends on the country of origin of the weapon and the size of the unit:

  1. For German and Western 5 tank platoons, we divide by 10.
  2. For Russian companies (10 tanks), we divide by 10.
  3. For Russian platoons (5 tanks), we divide by 20.

Now to me, it only makes sense to play Russian companies against Western platoons. Then it becomes straightforward to compare actual numbers and the game has an inherent imbalance between the sides that makes it interesting to play.  AIW, however, decided to use Russian platoons. This, to me, is an actual weakness of the AIW gaming system, but it’s nothing I can fix in the canonical version. The advantage of knowing these rules is it gives us all a way to create our own units from actual numbers.

How realistic are the numbers? Offhand, the range of 14, 3500 meters, seems excessive. To quote Scales in the book “Certain Victory” (1):

A World War II tank required an average of 17 rounds to kill another tank at a maximum range of approximately 700 meters. By 1973 tanks required only two rounds to kill at 1,800 meters.

I don’t see a lot of shooting at 3000 meters until Desert Storm, and the indications are (2) that even with a 120mm M1, engagements were supposed to start at 3000 meters. Second, the Chieftain, a 120mm tank with a much more powerful weapon and a better shell in 1972, is quoted by George Forty as having a range of 3200 meters (3). Third, actual accounts of the biggest tank battle of Desert Storm, 73 Easting (4), suggest that 3000+ yard engagements are still pretty good shooting, enough to brag about it, and what little I can gather from Doug MacGregor’s book on 73 Easting (5), most of the longest range killing was being done by TOW rockets on Bradleys.

That said, if the 105mm Centurion is going to be quoted as having a range of 12, or 3000 meters, then people who have followed AIW with their own custom counters, such as Marco Valerio Bonelli’s Panzerleader ’70, have tended to fix any tank with a 105mm L7 gun with a range of 3000 yards, or 12. Corrections beyond that are in the realm of weapons “range” charts (WECs in the PB vernacular).

By convention, therefore, my units will give the M60 a range of 12.

The armor ranking seems a little light to me. For one, the M60A1 had 250mm of turret armor at its thickest; certainly not reflected in its armor rating of 16. If you believe the Wikipedia’s quoted armor thickness is the glacis (can’t be the turret), the glacis plate was on the order of 150mm, but it was sloped. Data from Jake Collin’s website places the glacis plate of the M60 at an equivalent of 170-250 mm, and a digital representation of the M60 Phoenix project shows the same 230-240mm RHA equivalent front armor (6,7).

I’ve tended to the value of 23 for the defense of the M60A1 and A3.

Max road speed was 30 mph, so the movement of 6 is appropriate.

Firepower depends on the ammo being used. In a PB style game in WW II, the type of armor piercing shell specified is the APCBC shell. After about 1965, I think that using a APCBC shell badly misstates the firepower of the underlying weapon; in any event, the 125mm guns of the Soviets only had APFSDS and HEAT shells. In the absence of a single good paper source, I’ve tended to use Jake Collin’s data (6). That gives us:

Shell Year Type Penetration equivalent RHA approx. AF
M-392 1961 tungsten cap APDS 260 mm at 1 km 26
M-392A2 early 1970s APDS 260 mm at 1 km, 250mm at 1.5km, 225mm at 2km 26
M-728 mid 1970s tungsten APFSDS 320mm at muzzle, 280mm at 1km, 240mm at 2km 30
M-735 1978 tungsten APFSDS 330mm at 1km, 300mm at 2km 33-35
M-735A1 never deployed DU APFSDS 370mm at 1km, 350mm at 2km 37-38
M-774 1981 DU APFSDS 375mm at 2km 37-40
M-833 1984 DU APFSDS 440mm at 2km 44-47
M-900 1991 DU APFSDS 520mm at 2km 52-55

In terms of when versions were introduced, I’m much more interested in the period around 1980 because of my interest in developing opponents to my counter sets of 1980 Soviet regiments. Two tanks were introduced in this period. The M60A3 was introduced in 1978, and was beginning to be supplied to Europe by the middle of 1979.The M1 was introduced in 1980, but only 15 were produced in 1980 and 156 in 1981, not enough to equip major units(8,9). Now, the 1984 US Army Historical Summary makes it clear that only 748 of the original M60A3s were ever produced. Then the comments in the 1980 summary make sense. Production stopped from May to August 1980 to retool for the M60A30(TTS) version (10).By 1981, 1561 new M60A3 tanks had been produced of which 1,260 were delivered to Europe(11). That means a minimum of 512 M60A3(TTS) tanks were in the hands of NATO forces by the end of FY 1981. So 1980 scenarios could have M60A3s without the thermal sight, but by 1981, scenarios with M60A3(TTS) tanks are certainly viable.

So what would Panzerblitz M60A1 or A3 units, set up as representative of the best front line versions of their time, look like? Perhaps something like this:

Evolution of the M60


1. Scales, Robert H. “Certain Victory”, Brassey’s Books, 1994, pp 9-10.
2. “Vehicle Recognition Friendly Armor (Part 2) Lesson 1: Tank Identification”, US Army Correspondence Course, Infantry School IN0535, url:, accessed August 1, 2010.
3. Forty, George “Chieftain”, 1979, Charles Scribner’s Sons, p. 58
4. Bohannen, Richard M. “Dragon’s Roar: 1-37 Armor in the Battle of ’73 Easting”, Armor, May-June 1992, p. 14
5. MacGregor, Douglas, “Warrior’s Rage”, Naval Institute Press, 2007.
6. Collins, Jake, “Tank Protection Levels”, url:, accessed August 1, 2010
7.  “Modern armor internal arrays & what defeated them or might”, Battle Front forum, p 9. url:, accessed August 1, 2010
8. “Tank production during the Cold War in non-WP countries”, Tanknet forum. url:, accessed August 1, 2010
9. US Army Historical Summary, Fiscal Year 1984, pp 144-147. url:, accessed August 1, 2010
10. US Army Historical Summary, Fiscal Year 1980, p 190. url:, accessed August 1, 2010
11. US Army Historical Summary, Fiscal Year 1981, pp 30-31. url:, accessed August 1, 2010
12. “Development and History of the M-60 Tank”, Patton Mania, url:, accessed August 1, 2010
13. “The US M60 Patton Series”, Tank Nut Dave, url:, accessed August 1, 2010
14. “M60 Series Tank (Patton Series) Federation of American Scientists website. url:, accessed August 1, 2010



  1. Any chance you are doing Bradley IFV and Warrior IFV or Apaches?

    Comment by Charles Lee — March 11, 2016 @ 12:58 am | Reply

  2. The Marines were still using M60A1’s in Desert Storm with the latest DU SABOT, So it would be nice to have a 1991 M60A1 counter. That round would go through the turret,the breach and out the other side of the turret. It went through the front slope,through the tank,engine, and out the back of the hull.

    Comment by Greg — March 22, 2016 @ 11:20 pm | Reply

  3. Your ammunition chart says the M735A1 APFSDS round was never issued. If memory serves me correctly, my tank in Germany (ca. 1985) was well-stocked with that particular ammunition until it was replaced with M774 (DU) in 1986.

    Comment by Robert McConnell — January 11, 2018 @ 2:58 pm | Reply

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