English Electric Lightning

Country of originUnited Kingdom
ManufacturerEnglish Electric
British Aircraft Corporation
First flight4 August 1954
IntroducedDecember 1959
Producedmid 1950s
Numbers built337 (including prototypes)
Unit costsData is not available
Max speedMaximum speed: Mach 2.0 (1,300 mph, 2,100 km/h) at 36,000 ft. 700 KIAS at lower altitude
Max rangeRange: 850 mi (1,370 km) Supersonic intercept radius: 155 mi (250 km)
Ferry range: 920 mi (800 NM, 1,660 km) 1,270 mi (1,100 NM, 2,040 km) with ferry tanks
Service ceiling: 54,000 ft (16,000 m) zoom ceiling >70,000 ft
DimensionsLength: 55 ft 3 in (16.8 m)
Wingspan: 34 ft 10 in (10.6 m)
Height: 19 ft 7 in (5.97 m)
Wing area: 474.5 ft² (44.08 m²)
WeightEmpty weight: 31,068 lb (14,092 kg)
Max takeoff weight: 45,750 lb (20,752 kg)
Powerplant2 × Rolls-Royce Avon 301R afterburning turbojets
Dry thrust: 12,530 lbf (55.74 kN) each
Thrust with afterburner: 16,000 lbf (71.17 kN) each
ArmamentGuns: 2× 30 mm (1.18 in) ADEN cannons
Hardpoints: 2× under-fuselage for mounting air-to-air missiles, 2x overwing pylon stations for 260 gal ferry tanks and provisions to carry combinations of missiles: 2 De Havilland Firestreak or 2× Hawker Siddeley Red Top
OperatorsFormer Operators: Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, United Kingdom
The English Electric Lightning was a remarkable British interceptor. This supersonic jet fighter aircraft was developed in the Cold War era, well-known for its fantastic speed and natural metal exterior as it was unpainted. The Lightning can reach the maximum speed of Mach 2 and the Royal Air Force pilots said that flying the aircraft was like riding a rocket. English Electric was later integrated into the British Aircraft Corporation (BAC), therefore the aircraft then know as the BAC Lightning. The Lightning was also the first aircraft which was able to perform supercruise.

The aircraft, during its service period, was an active performer at airshows. The Royal Air Force and Royal Saudi Air Force really liked operating this high performance jet fighter aircraft.

The Design and Development of Electric Lightning

The specification for the plane adhered to the cancellation of the Air Ministry’s 1942 E. 24/43 supersonic research aircraft specification which had leaded to the Miles M. 52 programme. It was shortly noticed that the aircraft should be considered as a prototype fighter to meet the British Air Ministry’s 1949 specification F23/49 instead of being research aircraft. The Lightning design embraced several innovations first thought out for the Miles M. 52 this includes the shock cone and all-moving tailplane or stabilator. The prototypes, called P. 1, were constructed to Ministry of Supply Operational Requirement ER.103 of 1947 for a transonic research aircraft. The first of prototype took the first flight on 4 August 1954.

The design was debatable, and the Short SB5 was developed to test wing sweep and tailplane combinations. The initial combination was turned out to be correct.

The fuselage was snugly stuffed, allowing no room for fuel tankage or main landing gear. The notched delta wing did not have the volume of a standard delta. Each wing comprised a fairly standard three-section main fuel tank and leading-edge tank, having 312 gal, but surprisingly, the wing flap also contained a 33 gal fuel tank.

To raise the versatility of the design, a conformal ventral store was included. This store got two forms: a rocket engine, and a fuel tank.

The F.1, the first operational Lightning, was intended to be a defensive interceptor protecting the mainland of Britain from hostile bombers. The designer emphasized its rate-of-climb, acceleration, and speed to achieve best intercept performance. The Lightning was armed with two 30 mm Aden Cannon in front of the cockpit windscreen, and two inch air-to-air rockets, or two de Havilland Firestreak air-to-air missiles. For target tracking, the aircraft used the Ferranti A.I.23 radar which supported autonomous search and auto target tracking.

The F.53, the designation for Exported Lightning, incorporated an extra pairs of hardpoints on the outer wing. Generally, the specifications of this export version were similar to the British Lightning.

There were also some variants of this aircraft such as English Electric P.1A (single-seat supersonic research aircraft), English Electric P.1B (single-seat operational prototypes to meet Specification F23/49), Lightning F.1A (single-seat fighter), Lightning F.3A (single-seat fighter with an extended range, 800 miles with large ventral tank), Lightning T.4 (two-seat side-by-side training version, based on the F.1A), Lightning T.5 (training version, based on the F.3) and Sea Lightning FAW.1 (proposed two-seat Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm carrier capable variant with variable-geometry wing; but this variant was not built)

English Electric Lightning videos

English Electric Lightning supersonic

English Electric Lightning – Part 1

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