Production of the M60A2 began in 1974. It featured a 152mm Shillelagh gun/missile system (with 13 missiles and 33 rounds). This new tank with a smaller turret was developed in the 1960s, but was not contracted until 1971, when the Army agreed to purchase 526 rebuilt vehicles with the new turret. This became the M-60A2 (the "A-deuce"). Armed with a revolutionary 152mm gun-launcher system, the A2 was also equipped with one of the first laser rangefinders ever fielded.
The gun-launcher could fire conventional ammunition with a fully combustible charge, or the Shillelagh laser guided missile. Shillelagh was designed to be the main armament for armored combat vehicles. The Shillelagh was a direct fire missile which was launched from a combination gun-launcher and was effective against tanks and fortifications. Its 152mm gun-launcher could fire either missiles or conventional ammunition. The missile was about 45 inches long, about six inches in diameter, weighed 60 pounds. This surface-to-surface missile system was designed to be carried on tanks and light armored assault vehicles. After being fired the missile could be guided to the target by a command system mounted on the launch vehicle. The gunner has direct command over guiding the missile to the target.
The missile was equipped with an octal shaped charge. The "shaped charge" was introduced to warfare as an anti-tank device in World War II after its discovery in the late 1930s. The Ballistic Research Laboratory, an ARL predecessor organization, made several important contributions to the development of shaped-charge technology. BRL scientists delineated the penetration mechanics of the stretching, high-velocity jet of metal that is formed by the warhead, thus making it possible to design relatively light, inexpensive weapons to defend against tanks. Guided missiles, such as Shillelagh, TOW, Dragon, and Hellfire, exploited the high penetration capability of such warheads with accurate fire at long range. Further contributions included the demonstration of tandem shaped-charge warheads and the application of advanced liner material technology that increased jet velocity and ductility and provided enhanced lethality within existing weapon system envelopes.
Sarcastically referred to as the "Starship" by its crews due to its complexity, the M60A2 was an overall disappointment. During testing, numerous problems with the new turret arose, and production did not commence until 1973, and actually ceased in 1975. Eventually the new turrets were scrapped. Phase-out of the SHILLELAGH/M60A2 system from active Army units was completed in 1981. The "A-deuce" was essentially a failure, but provided valuable technical research in preparation for the M-1s.
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