DescriptionThe 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; although this was rarely done operationally because there would be no hydraulic power if the remaining engine failed .
For more details of the unusual features of this aircraft, together with performance, operational historyc and variants, click here.
Specifications below are for the F.6 variant.
- Crew: 1
- 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 sq m)
- Wing Loading:
- 76 lb/sq ft (370 kg/sq m) F.6 with Red Top missiles and 1/2 fuel
- Empty Weight:
- 31,068 lb (14,092 kg) with armament and no fuel
- 45,750 lb (20,752 kg). Gross weight: 41,076 lb (18,632 kg) with two Red Top missiles, cannon, ammunition, and internal fuel
- 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). 135 nmi (155 mi, 250 km) supersonic intercept radius.
- Rate of Climb:
- 20,000 ft/min (100 m/s) sustained to 30,000 ft (9,100 m). Time to altitude: 2.8 min to 36,000 ft (11,000 m)
- Service Ceiling:
- 60,000 ft (18,000 m). Zoom ceiling: 70,000 ft (21,000 m)