Gallery No 19 - English Electric Lightning

Aircraft - 4 Images

My thanks to Roger Dunn and the MOD for supplying these images.Wikipedia for text.

The English Electric Lightning was a supersonic British fighter aircraft of the Cold War era, particularly remembered for its natural metal exterior that was used throughout much of its service life with the Royal Air Force and the Royal Saudi Air Force. The aircraft was a stunning performer at airshows, former holder of the world air-speed record, the first aircraft capable of supercruise and one of the most powerful aircraft ever used in formation aerobatics.

The Lightning’s performance is excellent not just by 1950's or 1960's standards but compared with modern operational fighters. Its initial rate of climb is 50,000 ft per minute (15 km/min). The Mirage IIIE climbed initially at 30,000 ft/min (9 km/min); the F-4 Phantom managed 32,000 ft/min (10 km/min); the MiG-21 could only manage 36,090 ft/min (11 km/min); the initial rate of the F-16A is 40,000 ft/min (12 km/min), and the Tornado F-3 43,000 ft/min (13 km/min).

Lightning XM215 at Farnborough Air Show, England, in 1964, the official ceiling was a secret amongst the general public and low security RAF documents simply stated 60,000+ ft (18,000 m) referring to the altitude, although it was well known within the RAF to be capable of much greater heights. Recently the actual operating ceiling has been made public by Brian Carroll, a former RAF Lightning pilot and ex-Lightning Chief Examiner, who reports taking an F-53 Lightning up to 87,300 feet (26,600 m) at which level "Earth curvature was visible and the sky was quite dark". In 1984, during a major NATO exercise, Flt Lt Mike Hale intercepted an American U-2 at a height which they had previously considered safe from interception. Records show that Hale climbed to 88,000 ft (26,800 m) in his F3 Lightning. Hale also participated in time-to-height and acceleration trials against F-104 Starfighters from Aalborg. He reports that the Lightnings won all races easily, with the exception of the low level supersonic acceleration, which was a dead-heat.

Carroll reports in a side-by-side comparison that the F-15C Eagle is "almost as good, and climb speed was rapidly achieved. Take-off roll is between 2,000 & 3,000 feet [600 and 900 m], depending upon military or maximum afterburner-powered take-off. The Lightning was quicker off the ground, reaching 50 feet [15 m] height in a horizontal distance of 1,630 feet [500 m]".

In British Airways trials, Concorde was offered as a target to NATO fighters including F-15s, F-16s, F-14s, Mirages, F-104s - but only the Lightning managed to overtake Concorde on a stern intercept. During these trials Concorde was at 57,000 ft and travelling at Mach 2.2.

With thanks to : Wilkepedia.

Some aircraft may appear identical but there are differences which will not be discernible from the image.

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56 Squadron
111 Squadron
19 Squadron
Lightning XS897 of RAF 5 Squadron breaks over Lightning XR770 on one of the squadron's last sorties prior to disbandment'

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