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English Electric Lightning

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).


English Electric P.1A

Single-seat supersonic research aircraft, two prototypes built and one static test airframe.

English Electric P.1B

Single-seat operational prototypes to meet Specification F23/49, three prototypes built, further 20 development aircraft ordered in February 1954.

Type was officially named ‘Lightning’ in October 1958.

Lightning F.1

Development batch aircraft, single-seat fighters delivered from 1959, a total of 19 built (and one static test airframe).

Nose-mounted twin 30 mm ADEN cannon, two Fire-streak missiles, VHF Radio and Ferranti AI-23 “AIRPASS” radar.

Lightning F.1A

Single-seat fighter, delivered in 1961.

Featured Avon 210R engines, an in-flight refueling probe and UHF Radio; a total of 28 built.

Lightning F.2

Single-seat fighter (an improved variant of the F.1), delivered in 1962.

A total of 44 built with 31 later modified to F.2A standard, five later modified to F.52 for export to Saudi Arabia.

Lightning F.2A

Single-seat fighter (F.2s upgraded to near F.6 standard); featuring Avon 211R engines, retained ADEN cannon and Fire-streak (replaceable Fire-streak pack swappable with ADEN Cannon Pack for a total of four ADEN Cannon), arrestor hook and enlarged Ventral Tank for two hours flight endurance.

A total of 31 converted from F.2.

Lightning F.3

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.

A total of 70 built (at least nine were converted to F.6 standard).

Lightning F.3A

Single-seat fighter with extended range of 800 miles due to large ventral tank and new cambered wings.

A total of 16 built, known also as an F.3 Interim version or F.6 Interim Version, 15 later modified to F.6 standard.

Lightning T.4

Two-seat side-by-side training version, based on the F.1A; two prototypes and 20 production built, two aircraft later converted to T.5 prototypes, two aircraft later converted to T.54.

Lightning T.5

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

Single-seat fighter.

It featured new wings with better efficiency and subsonic performance, over wing fuel tanks and a larger ventral fuel tank, reintroduction of 30 mm cannon, use of Red Top missiles.

Lightning F.52

Slightly modified ex-RAF F.2 single-seat fighters for export to Saudi Arabia.

Lightning F.53

Export version of the F.6 with pylons for bombs or unguided rocket pods, 44 × 2 in (50 mm).

Lightning T.54

Ex-RAF T.4 two-seat trainers supplied to Saudi Arabia.

Lightning T.55

Two-seat side-by-side training aircraft (export version of the T.5)





55 ft 3 in (16.84 m)


34 ft 10 in (10.62 m)


19 ft 7 in (5.97 m)

Wing area

474.5 sq ft (44.08 m2)

Empty weight

31,068 lb (14,092 kg) with armament and no fuel

Gross weight

41,076 lb (18,632 kg) with two Red Top missiles, cannon, ammunition, and internal fuel

Max take-off weight

45,750 lb (20,752 kg)


2 × Rolls-Royce Avon 301R afterburning turbojet engines,

12,690 lbf (56.4 kN) thrust each dry, 16,360 lbf (72.8 kN) with afterburner


Maximum speed

Mach 2.27

(1,500 mph+ at 40,000 ft)


738 nmi (849 mi, 1,367 km)

Combat range

135 nmi (155 mi, 250 km) supersonic intercept 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)

Rate of climb

20,000 ft/min (100 m/s) sustained to 30,000 ft (9,100 m) Zoom climb 50,000 ft/min

Time to altitude

2.8 min to 36,000 ft (11,000 m)

Wing loading

76 lb/sq ft (370 kg/m2) F.6 with Red Top missiles and 1/2 fuel


0.78 (1.03 empty)



2× 30 mm (1.181 in) ADEN cannon


2 × forward fuselage, 2 × over-wing pylon stations with provisions to carry combinations of:


2× de Havilland Firestreak


2 × Red Top (missile) on fuselage


260 imp gal (310 US gal; 1,200 l) ferry tanks on wings.



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