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  • English Electric / BAC Lightning Single-Seat Jet-Powered Interceptor Aircraft

    The English Electric Lightning remains the only Mach 2-capable jet-powered fighter to emerge solely from Britain.

     Updated: 6/18/2017; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©www.MilitaryFactory.com

    The English Electric Lightning was an impressive engineering feat for the British people. She was the first (and only) Mach 2-capable platform ever developed for the island nation and itself the fastest British fighter of all time, the last aircraft to be designed solely by a British aviation firm, the first aircraft to be designed with direct pilot input, the first aircraft to utilize "supercruise" (reaching supersonic flight without the use of afterburner) and the first Royal Air Force platform to feature an integrated weapons system for automated missile delivery. At the time of her inception, the Lightning formed a potent deterrent to Soviet bomber incursions in the region and gave the RAF a potent intercepting arm. One of the most high-performance fighters of the Cold War, the English Electric Lightning went on to find a special place in the hearts of those who flew her and in the admirers of the type all over the world.

    In post-war Europe, the victors were quite surprised to find the advanced levels of German turbojet and wind tunnel technology and were quick to recover such data whenever possible. The British were already on the cutting edge of jet technology and began fielding the Gloster Meteor by war's end. This straight-winged, twin-engine platform undoubtedly would have faced off against the German Messerschmitt swept-wing, twin-engine system should the war had progressed beyond 1945. As it was, the air-to-air match would never occur but forays into jet development would continue nonetheless. The Americans and the Soviets each took to evaluating, re-engineering and attempting similar designs following the German research trail. The British, on the other hand, already held sound concepts into high-speed flight but only had one successful design to show for their efforts. German research was advanced enough to be looking into more powerful engines mated to swept-wing designs.

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    English Electric / BAC Lightning F.Mk 6 Technical Specifications

    Service Year: 1960
    Type: Single-Seat Jet-Powered Interceptor Aircraft
    National Origin: United Kingdom
    Manufacturer(s): English Electric Company / British Aircraft Corporation - UK
    Production Total: 337

    Structural (Crew Space, Dimensions and Weights)

    Operating Crew: 1
    Length: 55.25 feet (16.84 meters)
    Width: 34.84 feet (10.62 meters)
    Height: 19.59 feet (5.97 meters)

    Weight (Empty): 28,036 lb (12,717 kg)
    Weight (MTOW): 41,991 lb (19,047 kg)

    Installed Power and Standard Day Performance

    Engine(s): 2 x Rolls-Royce Avon 301 engines generating 16,360lbs of thrust with afterburn.

    Maximum Speed: 1,312 mph (2,112 kph; 1,140 knots)
    Maximum Range: 802 miles (1,290 km)
    Service Ceiling: 55,020 feet (16,770 meters; 10.42 miles)
    Rate-of-Climb: 50,000 feet-per-minute (15,240 m/min)

    Armament / Mission Payload

    2 x 30mm ADEN cannons in nose

    2 x de Havilland Firestreak infrared air-to-air missiles OR 2 x Hawker Siddeley Red Top infrared air-to-air missiles
    8 x Matra rocket pods (18 x SNEB 68mm rockets) OR 4 x Matra JL-100 rocket pods (19 x SNEB 68mm rockets)
    Conventional Drop Bombs
    Conventional Drop Tanks
    "Overwing" Fuel Tanks
    5 x Vinteen 360 70mm cameras

    Up to 6,000lbs of external ordnance.

    Global Operators / Customers

    Kuwait; Saudi Arabia; United Kingdom; South Africa (civilian); United States (civilian)

    Model Variants (Including Prototypes)

    SB.5 - Short Brothers smaller scale developmental airframe for testing various wing sweep and tailplane designs.

    P.1 - Full-Scale Prototype; Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire engines 8,100lb thrust engines; three prototypes produced including a static test airframe.

    P.1B - Revised Operational Prototype; three examples produced leading to 20 pre-production aircraft and an order for 30 production F.Mk 1 fighters.

    F.Mk 1 - Initial Production Model Designation; 19 examples produced plus one static test airframe; fitted with 2 x Rolls-Royce Avon 200R engines; Ferranti AI-23 AIRPASS radar system; VHF radio system; provision for 2 x Firestreak missiles; 2 x 30mm ADEN cannons; appearing in 1960.

    F.Mk 1A - Fitted with 2 x Avon 210R series engines; in-flight refueling probe; UHF radio system; 28 examples produced; appearing in 1961 under BAC label.

    F.Mk 2 - Based on the F.MK 1 model; fitted with improved electronic systems; variable afterburner control; steerable nose wheel; liquid-oxygen breathing system; improved avionics; autopilot; 44 examples produced with 5 more later as the F52 for Saudi Arabia.

    F.Mk 2A - Improved standard; fitted with 2 x Avon 211R series engines; up to 4 x 30mm ADEN cannons; increased ventral fuel tank; arrestor hook; improved endurance; 31 examples converted from F.Mk 2models.

    F.Mk 3 - Fitted with Avon 301R-series MK 300 turbojet engines of 16,360lb; sans cannons with improved AI-23Bradar system; revised tailfin with increased surface area; cleared for Red Top missile use; 70 examples produced; sans ADEN cannon systems.

    F.Mk 3A - Improved range; cambered wings; 16 examples produced; later production models became F.Mk 6 models.

    F.Mk 6 - Revised wing with cambered leading edge; increased ventral fuel tank; 2 x 30mm ADEN cannons; improved range; new AI-23S radar system

    T.Mk 4 - Two-Seat Side-by-Side Trainer Model; based on F.Mk 1A production models; appeared as two prototypes leading up to 20 production examples; two examples eventually becoming T54 Saudi Arabian exports.

    T.Mk 5 - Two Seat Side-by-Side Trainer Model; based on F.Mk 3 production models; 22 examples produced.

    T.Mk 6 - Improved range; revised wings and increased fuel storage; "overwing" fuel tanks; increased ventral fuel tank; 30mm cannon armament brought back; 2 x Red Top missiles; 39 examples produced; final production variant.

    F52 - Saudi Arabian Export Conversion Model of F.Mk 2 fighter.

    F53 - Export Model based on the F.Mk 6 production model; provision for unguided rocket pods and bombs; 46 examples produced; 34 delivered to Saudi Arabia.

    F53K - Kuwaiti Designation of F53 export model; 12 delivered.

    T54 - Saudi Arabian Export Model; Two-Seat Trainers based on the T.Mk 4 production model.

    T55 - Two-Seat Trainer Export Model based on the T.Mk 5 production model; 6 delivered to Saudi Arabia.

    T55K - Kuwaiti designation of T55 export trainer model.