English Electric Lightning


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Primary Function:
Weight Empty:
Max. Weight:
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Cruise Speed:
Max. Speed:
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Year Deployed:
RR Avon 301
16,360 lbs. ea.
28,000 lbs.
42,000 lbs.
2- air-to-air
55 ft. 3 in.
34 ft. 10 in.
595 mph
1,300 mph
20,000 fpm
54,000 feet
850 miles

English Electric Lightning

English Electric Lightning

The English Electric Lightning had over double the speed and climb rate of the aircraft that they replaced when joining front line squadrons in 1959. They gave the RAF a world class interceptor, capable of out performing all other aircraft at the time. They remain the fastest British fighter aircraft ever produced. During their intensive development and testing period, the English Electric Lightning became the first British engineered aircraft to go supersonic during level flight.

The aircraft design dates back to 1947. It was then that the English Electric company was commissioned by the British government to produce an aircraft to study supersonic flight.

As was the case with other jet manufacturers, English Electric carefully studied the data from German World War II designs of swept wing aircraft and their wind tunnel test results. This led to the development of the experimental predecessor to the English Electric Lightning designated the P.1A that first took to the sky in August of 1954. During testing, the aircraft was able to exceed the speed of sound. The aerodynamics of the aircraft were considered to be so complex that the first transonic wind tunnel of its type was construct in Great Britain, to aid with further testing and design. A smaller version of the P.1A was built by the Short Brothers for use as a flying test bed on which to experiment with different swept wing and tailplane configurations.

Based on the data gathered and analysis, a second test aircraft was produced, designated the P.1B. Its design incorporated a large air intake in the nose of the aircraft feeding a pair of Avon turbojet engines mounted vertically, one above the other, to minimize fuselage drag.

The Avon engines were equipped with afterburners. With full power, the P.1B was able to fly at Mach 2 for the first time on November 23, 1958. With few modifications, the aircraft became the English Electric Lightning. Additional testing found that the aircraft met or exceeded its design specifications. They were then approved for military service. The Lightning was first deployed to RAF unit No. 74 Squadron, based in Coltishall.

English Electric Lightning aircraft, thanks to an advanced radar system, could fly in all weather. The radar system also had the capability of automatically launching the aircraft's air to air missiles, once within range of its target.

Although at first the complexity of the English Electric Lightning was a challenge to its pilots and ground crews, it soon became a favorite. It enabled the RAF to have an all-weather fighter with performance equal to or better than other world class fighter aircraft of the time. Its radar, housed in a cone in the nose of the aircraft at the entrance to the air intake, had a relatively long range while searching from ground levels to high altitudes. It enabled the aircraft to hone in on its targets within firing range of its two Firestreak or two Red Top air-to-air missiles. The Lightning became the first RAF single seat fighter to use an integrated weapons system. Prior aircraft were basically gun platforms.

Through the years the fighter received upgrades to improve its performance in order to remain a viable air defense weapon until it was retired. These included improved avionics, an in-flight refueling system, and a wing that enabled the doubling of its original fuel capacity.

In 1962 a training version, the T. Mk 5, started being produced. Seating in the aircraft was side-by-side, with duplicate instruments and controls. Even with the changes necessitated to accomodate side by side seating, the Lightning's top speed was not negatively affected. It was still capable of speeds as high as Mach 2.3.

The English Electric Lightning stayed in service until 1988, when replaced by the Tornado.

Kuwait and Saudi Arabia both bought the English Electric Lightning. They were used for ground attack in addition to air superiority by those countries. Saudi Lightnings saw action when providing close air support in Yemen.

A total of 337 English Electric Lightning aircraft of all types were produced.

English Electric Lightning Airworld

English Electirc Lightning

The immaculately crafted English Electric Lightning from Airworld Modellbau comes as a kit. Wingspan is 69" and fuselage length is 112". A turbine engine with a minimum of 35 lbs. of thrust is required power. All up weight is around 42 lbs.

The English Electric Lightning from Mick Reeves Models wingspan is 60" and length is 85". The fuselage is made from epoxy. At least a 15 lb. thrust turbine is necessary power.

Mick Reeves Models English Electric Lightning pilots report many hours of flights and never any handling problems. The radio control airplane is easy to fly yet extremely maneuverable. With a 15 lb. thrust turbine the airplane can easily cruise at half throttle. It responds quickly to aileron inputs. Rolling maneuvers are very axial and performed quickly. It easily performs giant loops. It will go exactly where you point it, even in strong winds. Landing is simple because it can slow down without fear of tip stalls. The English Electric Lightning by Mick Reeves Models shows no tendency to bounce, even on less than perfect landings. About the only negative issue that some pilots report is that the short wings can be difficult to see in level flight.