Role Interceptor (primary) general purpose fighter
National origin United Kingdom
English Electric / British Aircraft Corporation
4 August 1954 (P.1A) / 4 April 1957
Introduction 11 July 1960
Retired 1988 (RAF)
Primary users Royal Air Force / Kuwait Air Force
Royal Saudi Air Force
Number built 337 (including prototypes
The English Electric Lightning is a British fighter aircraft that served as an interceptor during the 1960s, the 1970s and into the late 1980s. It remains the only UK-designed-and-built fighter capable of Mach 2. The Lightning was designed, developed, and manufactured by English Electric, which was later absorbed by the newly-formed British Aircraft Corporation. Later the type was marketed as the BAC Lightning. It was operated by the Royal Air Force (RAF), the Kuwait Air Force (KAF), and the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF).
A unique feature of the Lightning’s design is the vertical, staggered configuration of its two Rolls-Royce Avon turbojet engines within the fuselage. The Lightning was initially designed and developed as an interceptor to defend the V bomber airfields from attack by anticipated future nuclear-armed supersonic Soviet bombers such as what emerged as the Tupolev Tu-22, but it was subsequently also required to intercept other bomber aircraft such as the Tupolev Tu-16 and the Tupolev Tu-95.
The Lightning had several distinctive design features, the primary being the twin-engine arrangement, notched delta wing, and low-mounted tailplane. The vertically stacked and longitudinally staggered engines were the solution devised by Petter to meet the conflicting requirements of minimising frontal area, providing undisturbed engine airflow across a wide speed range, and packaging two engines to provide sufficient thrust to meet performance goals. The unusual over/under configuration allowed for the thrust of two engines, with the drag equivalent to only 1.5 engines mounted side-by-side, a reduction in drag of 25% over more conventional twin-engine installations. The engines were fed by a single nose inlet (with inlet cone), with the flow split vertically aft of the cockpit, and the nozzles tightly stacked, effectively tucking one engine behind the cockpit. The result was a low frontal area, an efficient inlet, and excellent single-engine handling with no problems of asymmetrical thrust. Because the engines were close together, an uncontained failure of one engine was likely to damage the other. If desired, an engine could be shut down in flight and the remaining engine run at a more efficient power setting which increased range or endurance
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The Anglo-American Lightning Organisation, a group based at Stennis Airport, Kiln, Mississippi, is returning EE Lightning T.5, XS422 to airworthy status. As of March 2021, the aircraft was capable of fast taxiing down a runway. The aircraft was formerly with the Empire Test Pilots’ School (ETPS) at Boscombe Down in Wiltshire, UK
Maximum speed: Mach 2.27 (1,500 mph+ at 40,000 ft)
Range: 738 nmi (849 mi, 1,367 km)
Combat range: 135 nmi (155 mi, 250 km) supersonic radius
Ferry range: 800 nmi (920 mi, 1,500 km) internal fuel; 1,100 nmi (1,300 mi; 2,000 km) with external tanks
Service ceiling: 60,000 ft (18,000 m)
Zoom ceiling: 70,000 ft (21,000 m
Thrust/weight: 0.78 (1.03 empty)
Early Lightning models, the F.1, F.1A, and F.2, had a rated top speed of Mach 1.7 (1,815 km/h) at 36,000 feet (11,000 m) in an ICAO standard atmosphere, and 650 knots (1,200 km/h) IAS at lower altitudes. Later models, the F.2A, F.3, F.3A, F.6, and F.53, had a rated top speed of Mach 2.0 (2,136 km/h) at 36,000 feet (11,000 m), and speeds up to 700 knots (1,300 km/h) indicated air speed for "operational necessity only".