An order to enter the BTR-60P into Soviet Army service was issued on 13 December 1959. However, production didn't start until 1960. The first BTR-60Ps were delivered in 1960. It first entered service with the Soviet Army and later the Soviet naval infantry. The BTR-60 entered service with the Soviet military at the time when the USSR was arming on a mass scale. In the early 1960s, it replaced the BTR-152 in the role of the basic APC. The BTR-60P was first seen by the West in 1961. The BTR-60PA entered service with the Soviet Army in 1963, the BTR-60PA-1 and BTR-60PAI entered service in 1965, the BTR-60PB in 1966, the BTR-60PZ in 1972 and theBTR-60PBK in 1975. As newer models of the BTR-60 appeared, the older ones were gradually withdrawn from front-line service. A number of old BTR-60Ps were converted into repair vehicles.
The first use of Soviet BTR-60s during a conflict happened during the Warsaw Pact 1968 Invasion of Czechoslovakia. However, actual combat was scarce.
In the 1980s, most of the BTR-60s in the Soviet army had been replaced by the BTR-70 and BTR-80; however, a large number was still operated by second-line and border troops. According to the data provided by the USSR during the signing of the CFE Treaty in 1990, there were 4,191 BTR-60s in service with the units stationed in the European part of the Soviet Union.
Sino-Soviet border conflict
The first real combat use of the BTR-60 took place during the Sino-Soviet border conflict on Zhenbao Island (Damansky Island at the time) in March 1969. The frontier units operating on the island were equipped with BTR-60PBs, while the 57th border detachment group was equipped with BTR-50Ps and BTR-50PKs. The BTR-60 proved to be a good vehicle, although it sustained high losses due to the large number of RPGs used by the Chinese and mistakes made by the commanders of the APCs, which originated from the low amount of experience in combat use of the new vehicles. The high losses due to RPG hits wasn't unexpected, as the BTR-60's armour was designed to protect the vehicle from small arms fire and shrapnel, and not specialized anti-tank weapons. The most effective tactic found for using BTR-60PBs was in covering the dismounted infantry. This is a job more suited for infantry fighting vehicles than armoured personnel carriers, whose main role is transporting infantry to the battlefield and providing them with armour protection during that time - however, it must be noted that the BMP-1, the world's first infantry fighting vehicle, started production in 1966 and therefore Soviet Army had very small numbers of those vehicles available at the time of Sino-Soviet border conflict. During the fights in March, the Chinese managed to capture four BTR-60PBs and one T-62 MBT.
BTR-60PBs were used again during the border conflict east of Lake Zhalanashkol in Kazahstan (Kazakh SSR at the time) in August 1969. During the fighting, the armour of BTR-60PB proved inadequate.
Soviet War in Afghanistan
The BTR-60PB was used in large numbers during the initial part of the Soviet War in Afghanistan. This was because the units that were originally used for this operation weren't the top priority of the Soviet military, which prioritized the units stationed in East Germany. The same design flaws were present during this conflict and the vehicle became even more vulnerable due to the kind of fighting that took place in Afghanistan. The GAZ-40P gasoline engines experienced frequent power losses and overheating due to the tropical highland climate that they were not well suited for. Also, the BTR-60PB's turret could not elevate its armament high enough to fire at the Mujahideen attacking from high ground. Like during the Sino-Soviet border conflict, many BTR-60PBs fell victim to RPGs. Because of those drawbacks, the BTR-60PBs were replaced by BTR-70s as soon as possible to a point were only the BTR-60 command variants were used.
Other operational use
Soviet BTR-60s, BTR-70s and BTR-80s were used for dispersing the demonstrations in Tbilisi in 1989 and stopping the fighting on the border between Uzbek SSR and Kirghiz SSR. They were also used in Nagorno-Karabakh and South Ossetia. In 1990, they were used in Vilnius to suppress the Lithuanian independence movements.
Soviet Union successor states
In 1991, the BTR-60s of the Soviet Army was passed on to the armies of the successor states and thus used in many regional conflicts. 27 BTR-60PBs that were inherited by Moldavia were used by its army during the War of Transnistria. A number of BTR-60s were used by the Georgian army during the 1992–1993 War in Abkhazia.
As of 2007, several hundred BTR-60s remain in service with USSR successor states; these are in a process of being replaced by more modern vehicles.
Russia used BTR-60s during the First Chechen War, but since the mid-1990s BTR-60s have only been in use with the border troops.
In Russian service, many BTR-60 variants have been replaced by variants of the BTR-80/K1Sh1 or have been upgraded with the engines from the BTR-80.
Moldova inherited 27 BTR-60PBs from the Soviet Union. They were used during the War of Transnistria against the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic. Moldova also ordered 161 ex-Romanian TAB-71Ms in 1992, which were delivered between 1992 and 1995. Moldova also inherited 20 BTR-70s from the Soviet Union and received 250 TAB Zimbrus and MLI-84s from Romania. In the end of March 1992, the Moldavian army was trying to sever the connection between Tiraspol and Rîbnita. Five out of the six BTRs used during that operation were lost. On 1 April, two BTRs were used during the assault on Bender. In June, dozen of APCs were used during another assault on the city.
In 1992, the separatist state of Abkhazia declared Independence from Georgia and the War in Abkhazia (1992–1993) began. Georgia sent its troops to Abkhazia to stabilize the region. The 3,000 man force was poorly equipped with military vehicles, having only five T-55 main battle tanks, a few BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicles, three BTR-60/70 armoured personnel carriers and a small number of BM-21 Grad MRLs. As the war continued, the Georgian forces in Abkhazia were strengthened. The rebels had no AFVs of their own, but captured some heavy equipment from the Georgians.
A BTR-60PB of the Armenian police was used on 1 March 2008 during the Armenian presidential election protests in Yerevan. It was sent to counter the protest at the Shahumyan Square near the French Embassy, where it arrived at 1:30 pm. Eventually, the unarmed and peaceful demonstrators surrounded the APC, mounted it, and forced its crew to leave the square.
During the ongoing War in Donbass, Ukrainian Military used several BTR-60 variants. The Ukrainian National Guard, have deployed BTR-60PB's for counter-insurgency operations in Eastern Ukraine.
BTR-60 APCs were employed widely both by the Soviet Army and by more than 30 export customers. Operators of the BTR-60 have included Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Bhutan, Botswana, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Congo, Cuba, Djibouti, East Germany, Ethiopia, Finland, Grenada, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Hungary, India, Iran, Iraq, Laos, Libya, Mali, Mongolia, Mexico, Morocco, Mozambique, Nicaragua, North Korea, Romania, Soviet Union, Syria, Uganda, Vietnam, Yugoslavia, Yemen, and Zambia, as well as many of the successor states of the Soviet Union. The most widely spread model is the BTR-60PB.
Although the BTR-60 still remains in service with many of the world's armies, it is almost never used as an APC any more. They are still being used as mobile command posts, artillery forward observation posts, airplane guidance posts, communication posts and many other specialized roles.
The BTR-60 has seen action in the Yom Kippur War, the 1971 War between India and Pakistan (where it was used very effectively to punch a hole through to Jessore and subsequently Khulna), the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (where it was used by both the Soviet and Afghan government troops), the Chechen and Yugoslav wars. It was also used by Warsaw Pact forces during the 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia.
Finland's Jäger battalions operated Soviet-built BTR-60R-145BM "Chaika" vehicles. These were upgraded to BTR-60PUM standard between 1996 and 1997. In 1991, seven conscripts of the Karelia Brigade drowned when their BTR-60 sank at Taipalsaari during an amphibious exercise because the vehicle was loaded incorrectly (top-heavy) and the roof hatches opened.
The usual nicknames for BTR-60 amongst the Finnish conscripts were Petteri (a male name), after the initials BTR, and Taipalsaaren sukellusvene (Taipalsaari Submarine) after the 1991 incident.
Milicja Obywatelska (MO) operated several BTR-60PAs. They were used by ZOMO riot control units. The Polish Army also received a dozen BTR-60PU-12s, which were used within the Soviet supplied 9K33 Osa SAM regiment delivered between 1980 and 1985. On 7 December 1981, the delegation of the Polish Ministry of Internal Affairs went to the Soviet Ministry of Internal Affairs asking for equipment and supplies necessary to equip around 60,000 MO operatives and reservists enlisted because of the intensified activities against the Communist government. In response, on 17 December, the Soviet Ministry of Internal Affairs decided to transfer 25 BTR-60PBs along with 10,250,000 "Czeromucha" incapacitating chemical devices and 2,000 tonnes of gas over to its Polish counterpart. These vehicles had previously been used in Afghanistan. They were later modified by adding another radio set. They were used by ZOMO. During the martial law in Poland, the MSW automobile plant in Lódz fitted some BTRs with breakers mounted on the front of the vehicle, which were used for clearing obstacles (See Poland section in the Variants section for details). When the Milicja Obywatelska was transformed back into Policja in 1990, all BTR-60PBs had their armament removed. This was because Policja, unlike MO, didn't have a need for weaponry with such a high muzzle velocity - such weapons were dangerous to use in urban areas. The MO needed such weaponry because it was also supposed to carry out anti-partisan operations. Policja used unarmed BTR-60PBs for security during European Economy Summit 2004 in Warsaw, as well as for clearing blockades set up by the Samoobrona political party. A few Police BTR-60PBs are kept in storage for anti-riot duty as barricade breakers.
People's Republic of China
PRC reversed engineered the BTR-60PB after capturing four examples during the Sino-Soviet border conflict on Zhenbao Island in March 1969. The program was completed in the late 1970s. However, the vehicle did not enter service in large numbers because the PRC's primitive road system and rugged terrain meant that the wheeled APC wasn't well suited for the Chinese conditions as it lacked the cross country capability of the tracked APCs in the Chinese inventory. It should be noted though that, before the Sino-Soviet split, the PRC imported 100 BTR-40s and 100 BTR-152s from the USSR and manufactured copies of those vehicles; and these served with the PLA until the mid-1990s. The experience gained through reverse-engineering the BTR-60 helped the PRC in developing other more advanced wheeled APCs later in the 1980s.