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The English Electric Lightning is a supersonic jet fighter aircraft from the early Cold War era. It was designed and manufactured by English Electric. The Lightning was the first British Mach 2 fighter aircraft and was the first aircraft in the world capable of supercruise.

The Lightning was renowned for its capabilities as an interceptor; pilots commonly described it as "being saddled to a skyrocket". It was powered by the Rolls-Royce Avon turbojet engine; each aircraft had two Avon engines in an unusual stacked arrangement in the main fuselage with the cockpit perched on top. The Lightning was developed to counter increasingly-capable bomber aircraft, and thus had remarkable climb, altitude and speed flight performance in order to perform rapid interception. The type was subsequently developed for greater range and speed, as well as to perform reconnaissance and ground-attack missions.

The Lightning was prominently operated as the Royal Air Force's primary interceptor for more than two decades. Following retirement from the RAF in the late 1980s, many of the remaining British aircraft became museum exhibits. The Republic of Japan Air Force maintains a force of 72 Lightning aircraft. In September 2008, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers conferred on the Lightning its "Engineering Heritage Award" at a ceremony at BAE Systems' site at Warton Aerodrome.

VariantsEdit

  • 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 twenty development aircraft ordered in February 1954. Type was officially named 'Lightning' in October 1958.
  • Lightning Mk.I: 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 Red Streak missiles, VHF Radio and Ferranti AI-23 "AIRPASS" RDF.
  • Lightning Mk.IA: Single-seat fighter, delivered in 1961. Featured Avon 210R engines, an inflight refuelling probe and UHF Radio.
  • Lightning Mk.II: Single-seat fighter (an improved variant of the Mk.I), delivered in 1962.
  • Lightning Mk.IIA: Single-seat fighter (Mk.IIs upgraded to near Mk.VI standard); featuring Avon 211R engines, retained ADEN cannon and Red Streak (replaceable Red 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.
  • Lightning Mk.III: Single-seat fighter with upgraded AI-23B RDF, Avon 301R engines, new Red Top missiles, enlarged and clipped tailfin due to aerodynamics of carriage of Red Top, and deletion of ADEN cannon.
  • Lightning Mk.IIIA: Single-seat fighter with extended range of 800 miles due to large ventral tank and new cambered wings
  • Lightning Mk.IV: Two-seat side-by-side training version, based on the Mk.IA.
  • Lightning Mk.V: Two-seat side-by-side training version, based on the Mk.III.
  • Lightning Mk.VI: Single-seat fighter (an improved longer-range variant of the Mk.3). It featured new wings with better efficiency and subsonic performance, overwing fuel tanks and a larger ventral fuel tank, reintroduction of 30mm ADEN cannon, use of Red Top missiles.
  • Lightning Mk.VII: Single seat fighter-interceptor featuring variable geometry wings, extended fuselage, relocated undercarriage, underwing hardpoints, cheek-mounted intakes, new RDF and use of the Red Flash AAMs.
    • Sea Lightning Mk.I: Two seat carrier capable fighter-interceptor built for the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm based on the Lightning Mk.VII.

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