Lenga

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Lenga
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An I210 Lenga seen during the Tanabayan War in 1979.
Type Main battle tank
Place of origin
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New Korongo
Service history
In service 1966-present
Used by Current:
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Royal Armed Forces
Former:
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Aglium Armed Forces
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Tanabayan Armed Forces
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Toka Islands Defence Force
Kuwani
Wars Vietnam War
Tanabayan War
Invasion of Oraru
Kanak Independence Crisis
Kuwani War
Aglium Civil War
Production history
Designer HKGI
Office of Army Ordnance Development and Supply
Designed 1961-1965
Manufacturer HKGI
Produced 1966-1978
Number built Over 4000
Variants see Variants
Specifications (I210 Lenga)
Weight 48 tonnes (53 short tons)
Length Overall: 10.14 m (33.27 ft)
Hull: 7.35 m (24.11 ft)
Width 3.65 m (11.98 ft)
Height 2.62 m (8.60 ft)
Crew 4 (Commander, gunner, loader, driver)

Armor Cast homogeneous steel
Main
armament
105 mm (4.13 in) rifled gun
Secondary
armament
7.62 mm (0.30 in) FN MAG coaxial machine gun
7.62 mm (0.30 in) FN MAG pintle-mount machine gun
12.7 mm (0.50 in) ranging gun
Engine HKGI V12(L)750-T water-cooled diesel
541 kW (725 hp)
Power/weight 11.27 kW/t (13.7 hp/ton)
Transmission FKM H95/5 Semi-Automatic Transmission (3 Forward and 1 Reverse Ranges)
Suspension Torsion bar
Operational
range
480 km (298.26 mi)
Speed 52 km/h (32.31 mph)on road
The Lenga (Korongolese:ᱝ᱕ᱟ᱗᱑, "Lion") is a second generation main battle tank manufactured in New Korongo by Helatan-Kal Ganganor Insiteer’ (HKGI). It was first introduced in 1966 as a replacement for the British-designed Centurion in Korongolese serive. It was the first tank designed entirely in New Korongo after the end of the Second World War and was widely used by the Royal Armed Forces from the late 1960s to the early 2000s. Since then, the Lenga has been replaced in frontline service by the Naga. However, improved variants of the basic design continue to serve in reserve Provincial Guard units of the Korongolese military. The 2014 National Defence Review indicated that the Lenga should be withdrawn from service entirely within the next two decades, though no formal date for retirement has been established.

In the 1980s HKGI made several attempts to export newly-manufactured Lenga tanks to foreign customers. These were largely unsuccessful and only two export customers, the armies of Tanabaya and the Toka Islands, opted to purchase the Lenga. In the 2000s and 2010s surplus Lenga tanks were supplied to the Kuwani National Defence Force and the Aglium Armed Forces by the Korongolese government as materiel aid. These four operators have since retired the Lenga from active service. In 2015 HKGI announced that it would restart production of several Lenga variants for international customers, promoting them as low-cost alternatives to modern designs. These new tanks will be marketed by the Korongolese Defence Manufacturing Alliance.

Development

Initial Development

The Lenga was developed as a replacement for the Centurion tank, seen here during a parade in Uras-Kal in 1959.

Prior to the introduction of the Lenga, the standard main battle tank of the Korongolese military was the Centurion Mk. V armed with a 20-pounder gun. The Centurion was a significant improvement over the Second World War-era medium and heavy tank designs that preceded it, but the tank was beginning to show its age by 1960. In 1958, during the Toka Islands War, the Korongolese Army had encountered IS-3 heavy tanks against which the 20-pounder proved to be ineffectual and it was believed that the next-generation of eastern main battle tanks would exhibit a similar invulnerability. This issue was confounded by British testing of the 20-pounder against a T-54A captured during the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 which found that the 20-pounder was inadequate. There were also widespread rumours that the Soviet Union was developing a new tank gun that could easily penetrate the frontal armour of the Centurion. Thus, in 1959, the Royal Armoured Corps issued a memorandum stating that a replacement for the Centurion should be sought at the earliest opportunity. The Office of Army Ordnance Development and Supply (OAODS), responsible for the development and acquisition of equipment for the Korongolese Army, began searching for a Centurion replacement later that year. In March 1960 the Royal Marine Corps (RMC), also concerned about the performance of the Centurion, declared that it would acquire whichever design the OAODS selected and sent representatives to participate in the replacement program.

Initially an up-armoured Centurion armed with a Royal Ordnance L7 gun was considered. It was a logical solution as the British Army had already begun upgrading its Centurion tanks to a similar standard. However, it was feared that this would only be a temporary measure and the OAODS examined other Western tanks as possible alternatives. These included the American M48 Patton, the German Leopard 1, the French AMX-30, and the British Chieftain. Of the four tank designs, only the Patton was in active service at the time. In May 1960 the Leopard I and the AMX-30 were excluded from consideration. The OAODS had deemed the armour protection of both tanks to be inadequate. This left the Chieftain and the Patton. The Chieftain, with its heavy armour and powerful 120 mm gun, was a promising design but the OAODS recognised that it would not enter service for several years. The Patton could be purchased immediately, but with a 90 mm gun it was regarded as only a minor improvement over the Centurion. The United States Army was also in the process of developing its replacement, which meant that it would soon be obsolescent.

Before either the Patton or the Chieftain could be selected as a replacement for the Centurion the Korongolese prime minister, Noldiran Etham, intervened. Hoping to rebuild New Korongo’s struggling domestic arms industry, Etham ordered the OAODS to work with Korongolese manufacturers to develop a suitable replacement. The chief of the OAODS, Brigadier General Arhan Olraqi, was strongly opposed to political intervention in the acquisition process and doubted New Korongo’s tank manufacturing capability. New Korongo had not produced its own tank design in nearly two decades. The matter briefly became a political issue until Olraqi was replaced in August and the OAODS conceded to Etham's demands. The hypothetical domestic design received the temporary designation G-I210.

In early 1961 the OAODS developed a set of specifications that defined several fundamental characteristics of the G-I210 design. It would have a four-man crew composed of a commander, a gunner, a loader, and a driver. The main gun would be a fully stabilised 105 mm rifled gun, the Royal Ordnance L7 being the preferred option, but the turret would be designed so that a larger gun could be accommodated later if the need arose. The G-I210 would be fitted with a coaxial 7.62 mm machine gun that could be used against light targets such as infantry which did not warrant use of the main gun. To aid the GI-210s night fighting capability, an active infrared night vision system would be integrated into the design. The crew would be protected by rolled homogenous steel armour capable of defeating all known 100 mm tank gun ammunition across the frontal arc. In order to accommodate the weight of this armour, a 522 kW (700 hp) engine would be fitted. A simple torsion bar system would be used for the vehicle’s suspension.

In July a joint committee composed of personnel from the Korongolese Army and the RMC, many of whom were veterans of past conflicts, reviewed the proposed design. This led to a number of new design requirements including the addition of a 7.62 mm machine gun for the commander, a smoke generator, and a kettle for boiling water. The commander’s machine gun had been ignored in the original specifications as the introduction of fast jet aircraft had rendered such weapons useless in their official role, short range anti-aircraft defence. However, the veterans on the committee pointed out that they worked perfectly well against people. The knowledge the OAODS had gained during its inquiries into the Chieftain also led to the inclusion of a 12.7 mm ranging gun in the design. A multi-fuel engine was briefly considered, but was later dropped in favour of a diesel engine after concerns were raised about the reliability of multi-fuel designs.

In February 1962 the OAODS released the specifications of the proposed G-I210 design to Korongolese defence manufacturers hoping to find a partner willing to produce a prototype. HKGI was the only company that voiced interest in developing the tank, so the following month the OAODS contracted HKGI to produce three prototypes. HKGI, based in the city of Helatan-Kal, had produced tanks prior to the outbreak of the Second World War but had lost much of its production capability during that conflict and the Second Korongolese Civil War. At the time HKGI only manufactured locomotives, farm machinery, and spare parts for the Centurion. However, the latter product meant that HKGI had more experience with heavy armoured fighting vehicles than most Korongolese manufacturers at the time and additional knowledge was provided by OAODS personnel who were attached to the company to supervise the development of the G-I210 prototypes.

The second G210 prototype seen here during field testing in 1964.
The first prototype was completed in October 1963 and delivered to the Korongolese Army for testing. The second was completed in April 1964.The main difference between the first two G-I210 prototypes was their armament. The first was equipped with a Royal Ordnance L7 while the second had a modified version of the M101 howitzer, the standard Korongolese light howitzer at the time. The M101 was produced under licence in New Korongo by the Royal Artillery Company and the modified weapon incorporated a redesigned breech and a long high-pressure barrel. There were a large number of other minor differences, most of which were related to manufacturing techniques. Both prototypes shared armour manufactured using cast steel rather than the rolled homogenous steel called for in the original specification. This was because HKGI was incapable of producing rolled homogeneous steel in the shapes required for the Lenga.

Testing in 1964 revealed that the modified M101 howitzer was significantly worse than the Royal Ordnance L7, perhaps even less capable than the 20 pounder fitted to the Centurion when used in the anti-tank role. It has since been speculated that the modified M101 was an attempt by the OAODS to avoid prime minister Etham intervening in the Centurion replacement program a second time. By showing that a domestic design offered inadequate performance, the OAODS could use the foreign-manufactured L7 without the fear of further political intervention. However, no official documentation from the time supports this theory.

The second prototype was withdrawn from further testing in July 1964 and HKGI began working on a third prototype. This incorporated thicker armour in an effort to compensate for the use of weaker cast steel instead of rolled homogenous steel in the G-I210. A more powerful 541 kW (725 hp) engine was installed and the suspension modified to account for the increase in weight. These changes proved promising and HKGI began building a fourth prototype in November. Sometime before the end of the year, the turret of the second G-I210 prototype was removed and the hull was used as a test bed for potential support vehicle variants of the G-I210 design. At the time the OAODS was investigating the possibility of developing a series of support vehicles developed around a common tracked chassis, including a self-propelled howitzer and a self-propelled anti-aircraft gun. Both the Centurion and the G-I210 were considered as possible platforms for this project, as was the M113 which had entered service with the Korongolese Army.

The first, third, and fourth prototypes were heavily tested in the months that followed and in October 1965 the Korongolese Army placed an initial order for 180 G-I210 tanks. The RMC followed in November, ordering another 120 examples. The first production model rolled off the assembly line in May 1966 and in July the G-I210 entered service with the 32nd Armoured Brigade as the I210 Lenga. 98 examples of the Lenga were produced during the first year of production and more than double that number in the second. Front line units of the Korongolese Army and the RMC gradually phased out the Centurion, transferring them to Provincial Guard units, and by 1974 the Centurion had been completely withdrawn from front line service.

Later Tank Variants

Combat experience during the Tanabayan War revealed that the armour protection of the original I210 Lenga was inadequate. It is estimated that between eight and twelve Lenga tanks were destroyed by Madabican Type 59 tanks, equipped with the latest Soviet-developed armour-piercing discarding sabot ammunition, in a single shot. Many more were damaged or destroyed during the conflict. This was extremely concerning for the Korongolese Army as the new ammunition meant that the Lenga was no longer protected against the extremely common 100 mm gun. The war also showed that the large fuel drums fitted to the rear of the I210 were vulnerable to enemy fire, an issue which led to the engine deck of the vehicle being covered in burning fuel on more than one occasion. In 1981 the Army Staff called for a program to upgrade the Lenga at the earliest opportunity. The Army Staff wanted to upgrade the I210 Lenga fleet, rather than acquire a new model of the Lenga, as the advanced G-I420 tank was being developed at the time. It was expected that this new tank would enter active service sometime between 1985 and 1986, which meant that only an interim solution to the Lenga’s armour protection was needed.

The I210 modified by the OAODS with its turret removed in early 1982.
Once again, the OAODS became responsible for the development of the Lenga. In August 1981 a team of OAODS engineers began modifying a surplus I210 to meet the needs of the Army Staff. The main modifications included the addition of cast steel armour panels on the front of the turret and rolled homogenous steel panels on the front of the hull, as well as the removal of the fuel drums at the rear of the vehicle and the systems associated with them. A number of minor changes were also made to bring the Lenga up to modern standards. These included the installation of new radios, an overpressure NBC system, an intercom system, and new periscopes for the commander. The escape hatch on the underside of the tank hull was also welded shut in an effort to reduce the threat of anti-tank mines.

In March 1982 HKGI was contracted to upgrade the I210 tanks in Korongolese service to the new standard and the I210 modified by the OAODS was delivered to the company’s factory in Heletan-Kal for examination. HKGI engineers quickly raised concerns regarding the weight of the modifications. They believed that the additional armour would push the total weight of the Lenga beyond the capacity of its suspension and drastically increase wear in the engine and transmission. HKGI asked the OAODS to modify its upgrade program to include a more powerful engine and a complete replacement of the suspension. Assuming that the G-I420 would enter service within five years, the OAODS declined this request believing that the current suspension and engine would be sufficient until the Lenga was replaced.

In July HKGI received 14 Lenga tanks from the 33rd Armoured Brigade and began upgrading them to the standard set by modified I210. As most of the changes were relatively minor, the most labour intensive being the production and application of the armour panels, the upgrades were completed in June. These tanks were returned to their unit in the same month with the designation I215 Lenga. The modifications were deemed satisfactory and HKGI began upgrading the rest of the I210 fleet to I215 standard in October. The Royal Marine Corps, also seeking an improved tank, also contracted HKGI to upgrade its Lenga tanks to the same standard in 1982. HKGI continued to upgrade I210 tanks until 1987 when the Korongolese Army and the RMC cancelled their orders in favour of the I216.

In 1984 HKGI began developing an improved version of the Lenga independently. The company had marketed to original I210 design to several nations prior to 1984, including New Holtland which selected the Leopard 1 as an interim replacement for the Centurion in the 1970s. These efforts were primarily driven by the fact that HKGI would lose most of its military contracts after the introduction of the G-I410, the planned successor to the Lenga. Unfortunately, HKGI’s efforts to sell the Lenga overseas ultimately failed. Countries which could afford expensive tank designs were preparing to adopt, or had already adopted, third generation tanks which made the Lenga obsolescent. Those countries which could not were able to acquire designs such as the M60 and the Leopard I at prices lower than what HKGI could realistically offer. The current Lenga was not marketable and in March 1984 HKGI began developing a design it called the ‘Super Lenga’. It was to be promoted on the international market as an economic main battle tank which incorporated many of the features of a third generation tank design, but had acquisition and operating costs closer to those a legacy second generation design.

The first Super Lenga prototype during HKGI testing in New Holtland in 1986.
In January 1985 the main aspects of the preliminary Super Lenga design were finalised and construction of a prototype based on the hull of an I210 began. The Super Lenga would incorporate rolled homogenous steel armour where possible, though components of the prototype would be constructed using cast steel, and the turret would be redesigned so that flat armour panels could be used. This new armour scheme was to be supplemented by an array of recently developed explosive reactive armour (ERA). HKGI documentation from the time indicates that the goal was to protect the Super Lenga from all known Soviet 125 mm tank gun ammunition across the frontal arc. The Royal Ordnance L7 would be retained as the main armament of the Super Lenga, but it would be controlled by a new digital fire control system incorporating a laser rangefinder which replaced the 12.7 mm ranging gun. The active infrared night vision system of the I210 and the I215 would be replaced with a modern passive design. The fuel drum system, eliminated in the I215, would be reintroduced to increase the range of the vehicle and the escape hatch on the underside of the hull would be removed from the design. The suspension would be completely redesigned to accommodate the increased weight of the Super Lenga, while both the transmission and the engine would be replaced with more suitable designs. Hundreds of other minor changes were made to original Lenga design.

Delays in the acquisition of the digital fire control system delayed the completion of the Super Lenga prototype until August 1986. Development of a second prototype, built from the ground up, was started in the same month and the first prototype was shipped to New Holtland for testing. New Holtland was selected for two reasons. Firstly, HKGI wanted to demonstrate the design to the people of New Holtland. It hoped to generate public support that could influence the New Holtland Army's selection of a Leopard I replacement, a decision which was expected to occur sometime in the near future. Secondly, land suitable for live fire testing could be hired in New Holtland for a price which was much lower than the equivalent cost in New Korongo.

In October 1986, after a series of delays and severe cost overruns, the Korongolese Army officially abandoned the G-I420 project. The OAODS had been disbanded in January in response to growing controversy surrounding the G-I420 project and the newly established Office of Military Development and Logistics (OMDL) deemed the design to be an abject failure. The Chief of the Army Staff at the time, Field Marshal Adaan Goren, had campaigned tirelessly to keep the project alive after the dissolution of the OAODS but was eventually forced to concede to the OMDL. However, the cancellation of the G-I420 did not eliminate the need for a new main battle tank and the Army Staff, with the support of the Royal Marine Corps, issued a memorandum calling for a Lenga replacement in November. It was stated in the memorandum that either the Challenger or the M1A1 Abrams would be a suitable replacement for the Lenga, though there was some doubt as to whether the United States would be willing to export the Abrams. The OMDL believed that both the Abrams and the Challenger exceeded the needs of the Korongolese military and instead began investigating less expensive alternatives including the Super Lenga, the AMX-40, and the EE-T1 Osório.

In July 1987 the OMDL selected the Super Lenga for further development and ordered four prototypes. By this time HKGI had completed its second Super Lenga prototype and had begun working on a third. The second prototype was immediately delivered to the OMDL and the first prototype, still in New Holtland, was returned to New Korongo for use as a test bed. The third Super Lenga prototype was completed October, by which time two more Super Lengas were under construction. In December the OMDL ordered HKGI to halt work on the fourth and fifth prototypes. These two incomplete vehicles, along with the second and third prototypes, were delivered to the 32nd Armoured Brigade for testing in the same month. The OMDL believed that the fourth and fifth prototypes were completed to a level that was sufficient for early trials and hoped to expedite the acquisition process by testing them before completion. Unsurprisingly, the two incomplete prototypes were plagued with a number of issues and were withdrawn from testing in February 1988. However, the performance of the two other prototypes proved to be satisfactory and in March the OMDL selected the Super Lenga to be the successor of the I215 in Korongolese service.

An initial order for 300 Super Lenga tanks, 200 for the Korongolese Army and 100 for the Royal Marine Corps, was placed by the OMDL in April 1988. The order did not include the ERA kit which had been designed as an integral component of the Super Lenga’s armour as the OMDL believed it to be surplus to requirements. The first production vehicle left the factory in June and the Super Lenga entered operational service in August as the I216 Lenga. By the end of the year, both the Tanabayan Armed Forces and the Toka Islands Defence Force had also placed orders for the I216. The former requested 44 and the latter ordered 14. Production of the I216 expanded rapidly in 1989 and 1990 as HKGI modified its infrastructure and the Royal Armed Forces began relegating its I215s to reserve units where they replaced the last of the Korongolese Centurions. The OMDL reduced the size of its orders after the end of the Cold War, but production of the I216 continued at a steady pace until 1996.

In 2002 both the Korongolese Army and the Royal Marine Corps installed additional armour on all I216 tanks involved in the invasion and occupation of Kuwani. This included the ERA kits which had originally been designed for the Super Lenga and were already found on I216s in Toka Islander and Tanabayan service, as well as cage armour designed to protect weaker areas of the Lenga against man-portable anti-tank weapons and armour on the underside of the hull for added protection against anti-tank mines. These modifications later became standard across all I216s in Korongolese service and were later applied to I215 Lengas in Kuwani service, though the increased weight pushed the already overloaded I215 beyond its limits and caused widespread mechanical issues.

Design

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The three tank variants of the Lenga. From top to bottom: I210, I215, I216.

Protection

Over the course of its life, the basic design of the Lenga has been modified to accommodate greater levels of armour protection. The armour array of the original I210 is composed entirely of cast steel and was designed to defeat all known Soviet and Chinese 100 mm tank gun ammunition across the frontal arc. It is estimated that the protection offered by the forward-facing armour of the I210’s turret and hull is equivalent to that of a vertical rolled homogenous armour (RHA) plate 350 mm thick, though the validity of such comparisons have been questioned by members of the academic community. The side of the turret and hull is believed to be equivalent to 150 mm and 70 mm of RHA respectively, while the rear of both the hull and turret is equivalent to 50 mm of RHA.

Armament

Mobility

Service History

Tanabayan Civil War

Great Minh War

Once in service, the largest issue with the I212 upgrade became apparent to the crews that operated it. The I212 weighed three tonnes more than an unmodified I210 but the suspension and propulsion system remained unchanged. As a result, I212 crews encountered a large number of mechanical issues and the tank received the nickname Aspah Lambin (Broken Spear).

Kuwani Insurgency

Aglium Civil War

Design

Variants

Support Vehicles

I211 Tuliaga Self-Propelled Anti-Aircraft Gun

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I211 Tuliaga prototype seen during trials in 1968. Note the M48 Patton hull.
The ARDI had considered using the Lenga as a platform for a series of support vehicles since before the first prototypes were completed, but no serious work was carried out until 1966 when the I210 entered service. In June of that year the ARDI identified several combat support roles which could be filled by hypothetical developments of the Lenga. Most of these roles were already covered by derivatives of the Centurion which were expected to serve alongside I210 tanks well into the future. The role of a self-propelled anti-aircraft gun (SPAAG), however, was empty and the Korongolese Army was extremely interested in developing a mobile air defence vehicle that could keep up with mobile formations. The ARDI developed a set of specifications for the new SPAAG which was given the temporary designation G211. The design would incorporate two 40 mm Bofors guns, a tracking radar, and a search radar in a new turret which could be fitted to existing I210 hulls with minimal modification.

In February 1967, LA began working on a prototype that followed the specifications outlined by the ARDI. Initial work on the project was slow as production of the Lenga was the company’s main priority. The design team faced severe difficulties in resources. The resources allocated to the design team were limited, but a prototype was eventually completed in 1970. The prototype was built on the hull of an M48 Patton tank and was armed with two obsolete L/60 Bofors guns. The Korongolese Army briefly tested the G211 prototype and ultimately rejected it, claiming that the design was too dissimilar from the planned production version for effective trials. LA began working on a second prototype in 1971 and, now that the Lenga was in full production, devoted a far more attention to the project. This second prototype was built using the chassis of an I210 and a turret which resembled the one fitted to the first prototype, though the L/60 guns were replaced by the improved L/70 version. Numerous smaller improvements to the design were also made and the second prototype was sent away for trials in 1973. This time the design was selected for adoption and the SPAAG entered service as the I211 Tuliaga in 1975.

I213 Ahlam Combat Engineering Vehicle

  • I210 Lenga - Initial production version. Withdrawn from front line service
  • I211 Tuliaga - Self-propelled anti-aircraft gun based on the hull of the I210. Armed with two Bofors 40 mm L/70 autocannons.
  • I212 Lenga - Upgrade applied to existing I210s in Korongolese service from 1978. Modifications included the addition cast armour panels and the Clansman radio system.
  • I213 Ahlam - Combat engineering vehicle based on the hull of the I212. Armed with a 165 mm demolition gun.

Operators