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The M60 Tank's Success In the Gulf War Shows Success Comes From Leadership, Training and Tactics

Updated: Jan 26, 2023

M60A3 Patton as deployed in the 1991 Gulf War

In the 1991 Gulf War, the M60 tanks used by United States Marines racked up 100's of kills of Iraqi T-55. T62 and even T72 tanks. At one point the U.S. Marines in their M60's had taken out 100 Iraqi tanks without taking a single loss. On paper the M60A3 Patton overmatched the T-55, was comparable to a T-62 and was marginally overmatched by the T-72. But even the older T-55 tanks had guns capable of defeating the side and back armor of the M60A3. And both the T-62 and T-72 had guns capable of penetrating the M60's armor, including front armor, from most angles and at good range. In terms of armor, the taller M60 had thicker armor on average, but the Russian tanks had better armor sloping. So, M60's dominance was not because the M60 was some kind of supertank that overmatched the Iraqi's Russian tanks.

But, if not impenetrable armor and a super gun, what made the M60's so effective? The answer is the people. Yes, it was the superior leadership, training and tactics executed by the Marine leaders, tank commanders and their crews that resulted in the utter domination of Iraqi tank forcse by the M60 equipped Marines, In fact, despite being demonstrably inferior to the M1 Abrams in terms of firepower and armor, the M60 under Marine leadership and control were able to match the kill to loss ratios of their equally well-trained Army compatriots using M1 Abram tanks.

Indeed, it is highly likely if the same United States Marines had been trained at the Fort Knox Armored Warfare School (now located at Fort Benning) while using T-55, T-62, and T-72 tanks, and then had deployed against Iraqi's using M60 tanks they would have still dominated. Though their tactics would have likely have been different (see note below).

The point of the above, is that while the M60 Patton was a good tank, to be the dominant force it was on the Iraq battlefield, it required the unmatched training that Marine leaders and tanks crews received at Fort Knox's Armored Warfare School, and then put into practice with countless hours of drills and battlefield exercises.

The broader principle is that simply giving people front-line military equipment without the right kind and amount of training will often result in the waste of good equipment complemented by casualties and deaths.

Note: Marines using T-55, T-62 and T=72 tanks would trained to tactics designed to minimize the M60's advantage in fire control systems, while maximizing the advantages of the t-62's and T-72, 115mm and 125mm guns.

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