English Electric
Lightning

Supersonic interceptor and 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 Boscombe Down, Wiltshire as the English Electric 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 and eventually, British Aerospace).

The English Electric 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.

In the rationalisation and reorganisation of the aircraft industry in 1960 saw the amalgamation of English Electric into British Aircraft Corporation (BAC) and hence for the type became the BAC Lightning.

The first operational BAC 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 BAC 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 BAC Lightning was a closely guarded secret although it is said to be in excess of 60,000 ft and it is well renowned 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 BAC 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.


SPECIAL FEATURE:

Click here for the memories of Lightning Test Pilot Craig Penrice


EE Lightning Image Gallery

of

EE Lightning F.1 with Roland Beamont Flight Test Crew
EE Lightning F.1 with Roland Beamont Flight Test Crew

EE Lightning F.1 with Roland Beamont Flight Test Crew

The images on this site are the property of BAE Systems (Copyright © 2021 BAE Systems. All rights reserved)
EE Lightning F.1 RAF (XM145) ground engine runs at night
EE Lightning F.1 RAF (XM145) ground engine runs at night

EE Lightning F.1 RAF (XM145) ground engine runs at night

The images on this site are the property of BAE Systems (Copyright © 2021 BAE Systems. All rights reserved)
EE Lightning F.1 (XM149) landing with chute deployed
EE Lightning F.1 (XM149) landing with chute deployed

EE Lightning F.1 (XM149) landing with chute deployed

The images on this site are the property of BAE Systems (Copyright © 2021 BAE Systems. All rights reserved)
EE Lightning F.2 RAF (XN776 & x3 others) fuselage assembly.jpg
EE Lightning F.2 RAF (XN776 & x3 others) fuselage assembly

EE Lightning F.2 RAF (XN776 & x3 others) fuselage assembly

The images on this site are the property of BAE Systems (Copyright © 2021 BAE Systems. All rights reserved)
EE Lightning F.2
EE Lightning F.2 Formation
 

EE Lightning F.2a (XN783), F.3 (XP739), F.3 (XP746) & F.2 (XN779) in formation

The images on this site are the property of BAE Systems (Copyright © 2021 BAE Systems. All rights reserved)
EE Lightning F.2a RAF (XN793 & x1 other) in close formation
EE Lightning F.2a RAF (XN793 & x1 other) in close formation

EE Lightning F.2a RAF (XN793 & x1 other) in close formation

The images on this site are the property of BAE Systems (Copyright © 2021 BAE Systems. All rights reserved)
EE Lightning F.6 RAF (XP697) air to air
EE Lightning F.6 RAF (XP697) air to air

EE Lightning F.6 RAF (XP697) air to air

The images on this site are the property of BAE Systems (Copyright © 2021 BAE Systems. All rights reserved)
EE Lightning F.6 with Beamont at controls 1964
EE Lightning F.6 with Beamont at controls 1964

EE Lightning F.6 with Beamont at controls 1964

The images on this site are the property of BAE Systems (Copyright © 2021 BAE Systems. All rights reserved)
EE Lightning F.6 (XS919) air to air
EE Lightning F.6 (XS919) air to air

EE Lightning F.6 (XS919) air to air

The images on this site are the property of BAE Systems (Copyright © 2021 BAE Systems. All rights reserved)
EE Lightning F.63 Royal Saudi Air Force Dhahran
EE Lightning F.63 Royal Saudi Air Force (53-683 & 53-689) on approach to Dhahran

EE Lightning F.63 Royal Saudi Air Force (53-683 & 53-689) on approach to Dhahran

The images on this site are the property of BAE Systems (Copyright © 2021 BAE Systems. All rights reserved)

 

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.
English Electric 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.
BAC Lightning F.1A
28 built
Single-seat fighter, delivered in 1961. Featured Avon 210R engines, an inflight refuelling probe and UHF Radio.
BAC 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.
BAC 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.
BAC Lightning F.3
70 built
Single-seat fighter with upgraded AI-23B radar, Avon 301R engines, new Red Top missiles, enlarged and clipped tail fin due to aerodynamics of carriage of Red Top, and deletion of ADEN cannon.
BAC Lightning F.3A
16 built
Single-seat fighter with extended range of 800 miles due to large ventral tank and new cambered wings.
BAC 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.
BAC 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.
BAC 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.
BAC 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.
BAC Lightning F.52
5 conversions
Slightly modified ex-RAF F.2 single-seat fighters for export to Saudi Arabia.
BAC Lightning F.53
46 built / 1 conversion
Export version of F.6 with pylons for underwing bombs or rocket pods.
BAC Lightning T.54
2 conversions
Ex-RAF T.4 two-seat trainers supplied to Saudi Arabia (two converted).
BAC 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).
BAC Sea Lightning FAW.1 Proposed two-seat Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm carrier capable variant with variable-geometry wing; not built.

 

Specifications (F.6)


Powerplant                   2 x Rolls-Royce Avon 301R after-burning 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


BAC Lightning F.6
(S929)
RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus                                                                            
www.rafakrotiri.co.uk
BAC Lightning F.1A
(XM178)
Savigny-les-Beaune, France
www.aviationmuseum.eu
BAC Lightning F.2A
(XN730)
Luftwaffe Museum, Gatow, Germany
www.kommando.streitkraeftebasis.de
BAC Lightning F.2A
(XN782)
Flugausstellung Hermeskeil, Germany
www.flugausstellung.de
BAC Lightning F.53
(53-418)
Kuwait Science and Natural History Museum, Kuwait City
www.ksnhm.weebly.com
BAC Lightning F.53
(? )
Abdullah Al-Mubarak Air Base, Kuwait
BAC Lightning F.2A
(XN784)
PS Aero Museum, Baarlo, Netherlands
www.psaero.com
BAC Lightning F.52
(XN770)
Royal Saudi Air Force Museum, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
www.mod.gov.sa/Services/SaqrAlJazira/Pages/default.aspx
BAC Lightning T.54
(XN989)
Main entrance to King Abdul-Aziz Air Base, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia
BAC Lightning T.55
(55-716)
Royal Saudi Air Force Museum, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
www.mod.gov.sa/Services/SaqrAlJazira/Pages/default.aspx
BAC Lightning P.1A
(WG760)
1st Prototype)
RAF Museum Cosford, England
www.rafmuseum.org.uk/cosford
BAC Lightning P.1A
(WG763)
2nd Prototype) 
Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester, UK
www.msimanchester.org.uk
BAC Lightning P1B/F.1 (XG329) Norfolk & Suffolk Aviation Museum, Flixton, UK
www.aviationmuseum.net
BAC Lightning P1B / F.1 (XG337) RAF Museum Cosford, England
www.rafmuseum.org.uk/cosford
BAC Lightning F.1A
(XM135)
Imperial War Museum Duxford, UK
www.iwm.org.uk
BAC Lightning F.1A
(XM192)
Thorpe Camp Museum,Tattershall Thorpe, Lincolnshire,
BAC Lightning F.2A
(XN776)
National Museum of Flight, East Fortune, UK
www.nms.ac.uk
BAC Lightning F.3
(XP706)
AeroVenture, Doncaster, UK
www.southyorkshireaircraftmuseum.org.uk
BAC Lightning F.3
(XR713)
Bruntingthorpe Aerodrome, Leicestershire, UK
www.bruntingthorpeaviation.com
BAC Lightning F.6
(XR728)
Bruntingthorpe Aerodrome, Leicestershire, UK
www.bruntingthorpeaviation.com
BAC Lightning F.3
(XR749)
Score Group Integrated Valve and Gas Turbine Plant, Peterhead, UK
www.score-group.com
BAC Lightning F.3
(XR753)
RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire, UK
www.raf.mod.uk/rafconingsby
BAC Lightning F.6
(XR770)
RAF Manston History Museum, Manston, Kent, UK
www.rafmanston.co.uk
BAC Lightning F.6
(XR771)
Midland Air Museum, Coventry, UK
www.midlandairmuseum.co.uk
BAC Lightning T.5
(XS417)
Newark Air Museum, Newark, UK
www.newarkairmuseum.org
BAC Lightning T.5
(XS420)
Farnborough Air Sciences Trust, Farnborough, UK
www.airsciences.org.uk
BAC Lightning T.5
(XS456)
Skegness Water Leisure Park, Lincolnshire, UK
www.skegnesswaterleisurepark.co.uk
BAC Lightning T.5
(XS458)
Cranfield Airport, Bedfordshire, UK
www.cranfieldairport.com
BAC Lightning T.5
(XS459)
Fenland and West Norfolk Aviation Museum, Wisbech, UK
www.museumsnorfolk.org.uk
BAC Lightning F.6
(XS897 / XP765)
RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire, UK
www.raf.mod.uk/rafconingsby
BAC Lightning F.6
(XS903)
Yorkshire Air Museum, Elvington, UK
www.yorkshireairmuseum.org
BAC Lightning F.6
(XS904)
Bruntingthorpe Aerodrome, Leicestershire, UK
www.bruntingthorpeaviation.com
BAC Lightning F.6
(XS925)
Castle Motors, Liskeard, Cornwall, UK
www.castlemotors.com
BAC Lightning F.6
(XS928)
BAE Systems, Warton Aerodrome, Lancashire
www.baesystems.com
BAC Lightning F.6
(XS936)
RAF Museum, London, UK
www.rafmuseum.org.uk/london
BAC Lightning F.53
(ZF578 / XR753)
Tangmere Military Aviation Museum, Tangmere, UK
www.tangmere-museum.org.uk
BAC Lightning F.53
(ZF579)
Gatwick Aviation Museum, Charlwood, UK
www.gatwick-aviation-museum.co.uk
BAC Lightning F.53
(ZF580)
BAE Systems, Samlesbury, UK
www.baesystems.com
BAC Lightning F.53
(ZF581)
Bentwaters Cold War Museum, Suffolk, UK
www.bcwm.org.uk
BAC Lightning F.53
(ZF583)
Solway Aviation Museum, Carlisle Airport Cumbria, UK
www.solway-aviation-museum.co.uk
BAC Lightning F.53
(ZF584)
Dumfries and Galloway Aviation Museum, Dumfries, UK
www.dumfriesaviationmuseum.com
BAC Lightning F.53
(ZF588)
East Midlands Airport Aeropark, Castle Donington, UK
www.eastmidlandsaeropark.org
BAC Lightning F.53 
(ZF592 as 53-686)
City of Norwich Aviation Museum, Norwich, UK
BAC Lightning F.53 
(ZF594 / XS733)
North East Aircraft Museum, Sunderland, UK
www.nelsam.org.uk
BAC Lightning T.55
(ZF598 / 55-713)
Midland Air Museum, Coventry, UK
www.midlandairmuseum.co.uk
BAC Lightning T.4
(XL629)
MoD Boscombe Down, Wiltshire, UK

Airworthy aircraft

The following aircraft were listed for sale in 2020 and their current location  is unknown.

BAC Ligtning T.5
(ZU-BBD / XS452) 
Offered for Sale 2020
BAC Ligtning T.5
(ZU-BEW / XR773) 
Offered for Sale 2020
BAC Ligtning T.5
(ZU-BEY / XR693) 
Offered for Sale 2020