The English Electric Lightning was designed to have a low frontal area with an efficient inlet for two stacked and staggered engines.
The fuselague was as small as possible and left no room for a fuel tank or main undercarriage, so each wing contained a three-section main fuel tank in the leading edge. the wing wing also contained a fuel tank and with a fuel recuperator the aircrafts internal fuel capacity was 700 gallon.
The main undercarriage was housed in the wings with the legs retracting towards the wing tip resulting in a thin main tyre at a high pressure of 23 - 24 bar.
To counteract the threat of a supersonic high altitude bomber, the Lightning was able to be fitted with a rocket engine which could be used to boost its performance. However this threat never materialised and the option was cancelled in 1958.
The ventral store which held the rocket engine could also be used to house an extra fuel tank which held 250 gallon.
The Lightning's maximum speed varied from Mach 1.7 at 36,000 ft for the earlier models F.1, F.1A, F.2 and up to Mach 2.0 at 36,000 ft for later models F.2A, F.3, F.3A, F.6 and F.53.
The Lightnings directional stability decreased as its speed increased which could lead to yaw which in turn could result in vertical fin failure if not corrected by the rudder.
To provide more stability at higher speeds the later models were fitted with a larger vertical fin.
A lightning that flew at its optimum climb angle could reach 36,000 ft in less than 3 minutes and had an official ceiling altitude of around 60,000 ft. However, there were reports that a Lightning F.3 had reached an altitude of 88,000 ft by ballistic climb.
The Lightning F.1 entered service with the RAF Air Fighting Development Squadron in May 1960 and front line service with No.74 Squadron in July 1960 which was appointed the RAF's fighter command aerobatic team for 1961.
Two more squadrons were converted to Lightnings, namely 54 and 111 both based at RAF Wattisham by 1961. The Lightning F.2 first flew on the 11th of July 1961 and entered service with No. 19 Squadron in 1962 and No. 92 Squadron in early 1963.
The further improved Lightning F.3 had more powerful engines and could be fitted with the Red-Top missile was first flown on the 16th June 1962 with the F.6 first flown on the 16th of June 1965.
As aircraft design progressed and the need for alternative fighter roles was recognised the Lightning was phased out betwenn 1974 and 1988 being replaced by the Panavia Tornado F.3, an interceptor variation.
|Length:||53ft 3in (16.25m)|
|Wingspan:||34ft 10in (10.60m)|
|Height:||19ft 7in (5.95m)|
|Empty Weight:||28,000lb (12700kg)|
|Max. Weight:||50,000lb (22680kg)|
|Engines (x2):||RR Avon 302s|
producing 31,360 lb st.
|Max. Speed:||1500 mph (2415 km/h)|
|Range:||800 miles (1290 km)|
|Cannon:||2 x 30mm ADEN|
|Missiles:||2 x Firestreak|
Development batch aircraft, single-seat fighter, 19 built.
Single-seat fighter, Avon 210R engines, 28 built.
Improved F.1 Single-seat fighter, 44 built.
Improved F.2 Single-seat fighter with Avon 211R engines, 31 converted.
Single-seat fighter with Avon 301R engines, 70 built.
Single-seat fighter with Avon 301R engines, 16 built.
Two-seat side-by-side training version, based on the F.1A, 20 built.
Two-seat side-by-side training version, based on the F.3, 22 built.
Single-seat fighter with Avon 301R engines, 39 built.
export versions not considered.
The English Electric Lightning is the only all-British supersonic Mach 2 fighter.
The Lightning was noted for its great speed and its role as an interceptor.
The Lightning was a regular at airshows but since its retirement in the 1980's many have become static exhibits at museums.