Spain Is Selling Off Its M60 Tanks To The Highest Bidder

The Spanish tanks are the M60A3 Tank Thermal Sight models that have been fully retired from service in recent years.

byJoseph Trevithick, Oliver Parken|
Spain selling off its M60s
A Spanish Marine Infantry M60A3 TTS MBT comes ashore at El Omayed, Egypt as U.S., Spanish, and Egyptian Forces conduct amphibious operations during Exercise Bright Star, October 20, 2001. U.S. Department of Defense


If you've ever fancied owning a tank, or are in the market to add to your own private armor collection, now's your chance. As it turns out, Spain has put a number of its M60 tanks up for auction, with the base price for the lot starting at just over $50,000. The sale of the tanks, the condition of which remains very much unclear, has prompted speculation about potential buyers, and whether they could end up in Ukraine or the scrap yard.

The Spanish Ministry of Defense recently announced its decision to auction off an unspecified number of ex-Spanish Navy M60s. The Delegated Board of Disposals and Material Liquidator of the Arsenal of Cádiz is handling the sale of the tanks. The Arsenal of Cádiz in San Fernando, southern Spain, has a long history as a naval base and ammunition storage site dating back to the mid-1750s.

The entire lot of tanks has a stated “base price” of €46,924.93, according to the official notice, which also includes details on another auction of anchor chains. Although the specific M60 variant is not detailed in the notice, the Spanish defense outlet InfoDefensa reports that the tanks in question are the M60A3 TTS (Tank Thermal Sight) variant.

Spanish Marine Infantry M60A3 TTSs. Spanish Defense Ministry

Figures vary between sources, but Spain reportedly received somewhere between 260 to 300 M60s of multiple variants, the majority of which were M60A3 TTS, between 1992 and 1993. A total of 16 M60A3 TTSs were still in active Spanish Marine service as of 2016, according to that year’s edition of The Military Balance from the  International Institute for Strategic Studies think tank. These were all assigned to Spain’s Marine Infantry Brigade, also known as the Tercio de Armada (TEAR), according to Infodefensa.

A Spanish Marine Infantry M60A3 TTS MBT conducts an amphibious landing, March 23, 2010. G36 via Wikimedia Commons

According to InfoDefensa, TEAR's M60A3 TTSs were progressively withdrawn from service between 2010-2020 and placed in storage. In 2022, the Spanish Navy transferred the last operational TEAR M60A3 TTS to the General Albacete and Foster Marine Infantry School, located in Cartagena, southeastern Spain, where it is displayed as a permanent exhibit. 

General Albacete and Foster Marine Infantry School's M60A3 TTS on display. Spanish Navy

The M60A3 TTS was the last standardized variant of the M60 Patton tank in U.S. military service. The U.S. Army first began fielding the original M60, an evolution of earlier M47 and M48 Pattons, in 1959. The M60 notably featured a 105mm main gun in place of the 90mm ones found on early M47/M48 types. A series of other M60 variants followed with successive improvements to their performance and other capabilities. M60s also served with the U.S. Marine Corps and variants of this design were exported to many different countries.

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The baseline M60A3 variant, which began entering service in 1978, featured significant additional improvements to its fire control system, including a new ballistic computer and laser ranger finder, compared to its predecessors. The TTS subvariant came the following year and added the AN/VSG-2 Tank Thermal Sight, offering improved night-fighting capabilities. Some older M60A1 variants were also brought up to the A3 TTS standard in the 1980s.

Spain originally acquired its fleet of M60s to help replace existing U.S.-made M47/M48 and French-built AMX-30EM tanks. All of Spain’s M60s have since been supplanted by variants of the German-made Leopard 2, which the country first started acquiring in the mid-1990s.

Who will end up buying Spain's unwanted M60s remains unclear. There has been speculation that the tanks could be put to use in Ukraine, which has sustained heavy armor losses since Russia's all-out invasion of the country began in early 2022. At least on paper, the M60A3 TTS configuration could be useful to Ukrainian operators beyond the simple need for more armor, particularly given its thermal sight, although its survivability does not come close to newer. On the other hand, these tanks are relatively basic and can be maintained in the field. They are also smaller and lighter many of their contemporaries.

A Spanish Marines M60A3 TTS Main Battle Tank (MBT) travels along the beach at El Omayed, Egypt as US, Spanish and Egyptian Forces conduct amphibious operations, during Exercise BRIGHT STAR 01/02. U.S. Department of Defense U.S. Department of Defense

However, questions regarding the overall condition of the tanks remain — given that the official notice does not specify what sort of state they are in, and what kind of work would be needed to get them into action.

The fact that the tanks are being sold via a public auction suggests that they likely offer next to no military value. They are also being sold, as previously mentioned, with various unwanted anchor chains, which have a stated “base price” of roughly $5,500, by current conversion rates. It is certainly possible that, in the eyes of the Spanish Ministry of Defense, the entire lot of tanks and anchor chains represent little more than scrap metal.

How useful the surplus Spanish tanks might be for Ukraine, given concerns over their storage conditions, has been debated for some time. While portions of the country's existing stock of Leopard 2A4 tanks, obtained after it received its M60s, have made their way to Ukraine — with more set to follow — Spanish officials have decried the "absolutely deplorable state" of a large number of them in the past, with major maintenance work needed to get them into an operational state.

On the other hand, if there are decent M60s that Ukraine could actually use still out there, maybe these could be used for spare parts.

If you are interested in the lot, you have until 1:00 P.M. Spanish time on April 22 to submit your best offer. Make sure to do your due diligence on any potential export-import regulations!

So with that in mind, now's the time to go ahead and grab your very own tank fleet — if it isn't scrap metal up for sale.

A Spanish Marine Infantry M60A3 TTS Main Battle Tank (MBT). G36 via Wikimedia Commons

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