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English Electric Lightning

Supersonic interceptor / jet fighter capable of unrivalled performance and capability during the Cold War era.
Lightning P1A (WG760) taking off at Warton during the Press Day 1955 Lightning P1A (WG760) taking off at Warton during the Press Day 1955

The English Electric supersonic interceptor (WG760), piloted by Roland Beamont, first flew at Warton, Lancashire as the P1 on 4th August 1954.

Initial designs were led by WEW ‘Teddy’ Petter although the aircraft is mostly credited to his successor Freddie Page (later Sir Frederick Page and Chairman of the Aircraft Group of BAC).

The Lightning’s highly swept wing (60 degrees) combined with 2 x Rolls-Royce Avon engines (initial flights of the P1 utilised un-reheated Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire engines), configured in a unique stack-staggered arrangement within the fuselage, provided the aircraft with a speed of Mach 2 and an unrivalled rate of climb which was often described as being 'a pilot sitting on two rockets'.

Only 3 P1 aircraft were completed (2 flying aircraft and 1 static test aircraft) and with the introduction of the variously modified successor aircraft, they were retrospectively designated as P1A’s.  

The later ‘P1B’ variants were officially renamed as the English Electric Lightning in May 1956.  The first production variant was the F1, of which 19 were built. These were then followed by a further 28 F1A variants.

The first operational Lightning's saw service as an interceptor to defend the V-Force airfields during the Cold war although the range of early variants proved to be restrictive in other roles.  The ultimate Lightning in RAF service was the F.6 which could carry two 260 gallon 'ferry' or 'drop-tanks' on pylons fitted above the wings.

The official ceiling of the Lightning was a closely guarded secret although it is said to be in excess of 60,000 ft and it is well reknowned for its exceptional rate of climb at 20,000 ft per minute.

English Electric Lightning P1B RAF XA847 English Electric Lightning P1B RAF XA847

Although never credited with an official 'kill' the Lightning did shoot down one aircraft when it was called upon to deal with a Harrier which unintentionally continued to head for the East German border after the pilot had ejected following apparent engine failure.

The English Electric Lightning continued in service with the RAF until 1988 and some 337 aircraft were built in its 34 year history.  Other military operators included the Kuwait Air Force and the Royal Saudi Air Force

Although proposed, the Sea Lightning FAW1 was never built.

Variants

English Electric P.1A
3 built
Single-seat supersonic research aircraft.
English Electric P.1B
3 built
Single-seat operational prototypes to meet Specification F23/49, 20 development aircraft ordered in February 1954 - Type was officially named 'Lightning' in October 1958.
Lightning F.1
20 built
Development batch aircraft, single-seat fighters delivered from 1959.  Nose-mounted twin 30 mm ADEN cannon, two Firestreak missiles, VHF Radio and Ferranti AI-23 "AIRPASS" radar.
Lightning F.1A
28 built
Single-seat fighter, delivered in 1961. Featured Avon 210R engines, an inflight refuelling probe and UHF Radio.
Lightning F.2
44 built
Single-seat fighter (an improved variant of the F.1), delivered in 1962 - 31 later modified to F.2A standard, five later modified to F.52 for export to Saudi Arabia.
Lightning F.2A
31 conversions
Single-seat fighter (F.2s upgraded to near F.6 standard); featuring Avon 211R engines, retained ADEN cannon and Firestreak (replaceable Firestreak pack swappable with ADEN Cannon Pack for a total of four ADEN Cannon), arrestor hook and enlarged Ventral Tank for two hours flight endurance.
Lightning F.3
70 built
Single-seat fighter with upgraded AI-23B radar, Avon 301R engines, new Red Top missiles, enlarged and clipped tailfin due to aerodynamics of carriage of Red Top, and deletion of ADEN cannon.
Lightning F.3A
16 built
Single-seat fighter with extended range of 800 miles due to large ventral tank and new cambered wings.
Lightning T.4
22 built
Two-seat side-by-side training version, based on the F.1A with two aircraft converted to T.5 prototypes and two aircraft later converted to T.54.
Lightning T.5
22 built
Two-seat side-by-side training version, based on the F.3.  One former RAF aircraft later converted to T.55 for Saudi Arabia.
Lightning F.6
39 built
Featured new wings with better efficiency and subsonic performance, overwing fuel tanks and a larger ventral fuel tank, reintroduction of 30 mm cannon (initially no cannon but later in the forward part of the ventral pack rather than in the nose), use of Red Top missiles. Nine aircraft were converted from F.3 and 15 from F.3A.
Lightning F.7 Proposed single-seat interceptor featuring variable geometry wings, extended fuselage, relocated undercarriage, underwing hardpoints, cheek-mounted intakes, new radar and use of the Sparrow/Skyflash AAMs. Never built.
Lightning F.52
5 conversions
Slightly modified ex-RAF F.2 single-seat fighters for export to Saudi Arabia.
Lightning F.53
46 built / 1 conversion
Export version of F.6 with pylons for underwing bombs or rocket pods.
Lightning T.54
2 conversions
Ex-RAF T.4 two-seat trainers supplied to Saudi Arabia (two converted).
Lightning T.55
8 built / 1 conversion
Two-seat side-by-side training aircraft (export version of the T.5), 6 for the Royal Saudi Arabian Air Force, two T.55Ks for the Kuwaiti Air Force and one converted from T.5 that crashed before delivery).
Sea Lightning FAW.1 Proposed two-seat Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm carrier capable variant with variable-geometry wing; not built.

Specifications

  Lightning F6
Powerplant 2 x Rolls-Royce Avon 301R afterburning turbojets (16,000lb with AB)
 Span  34 ft 10 in (10.6m)
 Maximum Weight  45,750lb 20,752kg) take-off weight
 Capacity  1 Pilot (1 student & 1 instructor in training variants)
 Armament  2 x 30mm Aden cannons with hard point mountings for Air to Air missiles.
 Maximum Speed  Mach 2.0 (1,300mph / 2,100 kph) at 36,000 ft
 Maximum range  850 miles (1,370km)

Number built

337 All variants and prototype

Survivors

Lightning F.6
(XS929)
RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus
www.rafakrotiri.co.uk
Lightning F.1A
(XM178)
Savigny-les-Beaune, France
http://www.aviationmuseum.eu
Lightning F.2A
(XN730)
Luftwaffe Museum, Gatow, Germany
www.kommando.streitkraeftebasis.de
Lightning F.2A
(XN782)
Flugausstellung Hermeskeil, Germany
www.flugausstellung.de
Lightning F.53
(53-418)
Kuwait Science and Natural History Museum, Kuwait City
www.ksnhm.weebly.com
Lightning F.53
(? )
Abdullah Al-Mubarak Air Base, Kuwait
Lightning F.2A
(XN784)
PS Aero Museum, Baarlo, Netherlands
www.psaero.com
Lightning F.52
(XN770)
Royal Saudi Air Force Museum, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
www.sauditourism.sa/en/Explore/Museums/Pages/Riyadhmuseum.aspx
Lightning T.54
(XN989)
Main entrance to King Abdul-Aziz Air Base, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia
Lightning T.55
(55-716)
Royal Saudi Air Force Museum, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
www.sauditourism.sa
Lightning P.1A
(WG760 1st Prototype)
RAF Museum Cosford, England
www.rafmuseum.org.uk/cosford
Lighning P.1A
(WG763 2nd Prototype) 
Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester, UK
www.msimanchester.org.uk
XG329 P1B/Lightning F.1 (XG329) Norfolk & Suffolk Aviation Museum, Flixton, UK
www.aviationmuseum.net
Lightning P1B / F.1 (XG337) RAF Museum Cosford, England
www.rafmuseum.org.uk/cosford
Lightning F.1A
(XM135)
Imperial War Museum Duxford, UK
www.iwm.org.uk
 Lightning F.1A
(XM192)
Thorpe Camp Museum,Tattershall Thorpe, Lincolnshire, UK
www.thorpecamp.wix.com
Lightning F.2A
(XN776)
National Museum of Flight, East Fortune, UK
www.nms.ac.uk
Lightning F.3
(XP706)
AeroVenture, Doncaster, UK
www.southyorkshireaircraftmuseum.org.uk
Lightning F.3
(XR713)
Bruntingthorpe Aerodrome, Leicestershire, UK
www.bruntingthorpeaviation.com
Lightning F.6
(XR728)
Bruntingthorpe Aerodrome, Leicestershire, UK
www.bruntingthorpeaviation.com
Lightning F.3
(XR749)
Score Group Integrated Valve and Gas Turbine Plant, Peterhead, UK
www.score-group.com
Lightning F.3
(XR753)
RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire, UK
www.raf.mod.uk/rafconingsby
Lightning F.6
(XR770)
RAF Manston History Museum, Manston, Kent, UK
www.rafmanston.co.uk
 Lightning F.6
(XR771)
Midland Air Museum, Coventry, UK
www.midlandairmuseum.co.uk
Lightning T.5
(XS417)
Newark Air Museum, Newark, UK
www.newarkairmuseum.org
Lightning T.5
(XS420)
Farnborough Air Sciences Trust, Farnborough, UK
www.airsciences.org.uk
Lightning T.5
(XS456)
Skegness Water Leisure Park, Lincolnshire, UK
www.skegnesswaterleisurepark.co.uk
Lightning T.5
(XS458)
Cranfield Airport, Bedfordshire, UK
www.cranfieldairport.com
Lightning T.5
(XS459)
Fenland and West Norfolk Aviation Museum, Wisbech, UK
www.museumsnorfolk.org.uk
Lightning F.6
(XS897 / XP765)
RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire, UK
www.raf.mod.uk/rafconingsby
Lightning F.6
(XS903)
Yorkshire Air Museum, Elvington, UK
www.yorkshireairmuseum.org
Lightning F.6
(XS904)
Bruntingthorpe Aerodrome, Leicestershire, UK
www.bruntingthorpeaviation.com
Lightning F.6
(XS925)
Castle Motors, Liskeard, Cornwall, UK
www.castlemotors.com
Lightning F.6
(XS928)
BAE Systems, Warton Aerodrome, Lancashire
http://www.baesystems.com
Lightning F.6
(XS936)
RAF Museum, London, UK
www.rafmuseum.org.uk/london
Lightning F.53
(ZF578 / XR753)
Tangmere Military Aviation Museum, Tangmere, UK
www.tangmere-museum.org.uk
Lightning F.53
(ZF579)
Gatwick Aviation Museum, Charlwood, UK
www.gatwick-aviation-museum.co.uk
Lightning F.53
(ZF580)
BAE Systems, Samlesbury, UK
www.aerospace.co.uk
Lightning F.53
(ZF581)
Bentwaters Cold War Museum, Suffolk, UK
www.bcwm.org.uk
Lightning F.53
(ZF583)
Solway Aviation Museum, Carlisle Airport Cumbria, UK
www.solway-aviation-museum.co.uk
Lightning F.53
(ZF584)
Dumfries and Galloway Aviation Museum, Dumfries, UK
www.dumfriesaviationmuseum.com
Lightning F.53
(ZF588)
East Midlands Airport Aeropark, Castle Donington, UK
www.eastmidlandsaeropark.org
ZF592 Lightning F.53
(as 53-686)
City of Norwich Aviation Museum, Norwich, UK
Lightning F.53 (ZF594 / XS733) North East Aircraft Museum, Sunderland, UK
www.nelsam.org.uk
Lightning T.55
(ZF598 / 55-713)
Midland Air Museum, Coventry, UK
www.midlandairmuseum.co.uk
Lightning T.4
(XL629)
MoD Boscombe Down, Wiltshire, UK
http://www.raf.mod.uk
Airworthy aircraft
The following aircraft were listed for sale in 2014 and their current location  is unknown.
Ligtning T.5
(ZU-BBD / XS452) 
Thunder City, Cape Town, South Africa
www.thundercity.com
Ligtning T.5
(ZU-BEW / XR773) 
Thunder City, Cape Town, South Africa
www.thundercity.com
Ligtning T.5
(ZU-BEY / XR693) 
Thunder City, Cape Town, South Africa
www.thundercity.com

More information

email: BAE Systems Heritage (Warton) - Heritage@baesystems.com