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The numbers behind the Lightning jet

The Lightning is one of Britain's most loved jets but what makes this plane so special?

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A Lightning in the air (Credit: Crown Copyright). 

The Lightning is one of Britain's most loved jets but what makes this plane so special?

The History

On the 4th April 1957, the English Electric Chief Test Pilot made the first flight of P1B prototype XA847 which later became the Lightning.

But like many great things, it took many years for the Lightning as we know it, to come to the front of RAF defence.

RAF Lightning Jet

The P1B was born as a variant to the P1 (P1A) which was first flown on 4th August 1954.  

In May 1956, the P1B were officially renamed as the English Electric Lightning which over the years become more commonly known as just the 'Lightning'.

The first Lightning model was the F1, of which only 19 were built. This was followed by an additional 28 F1A variants. 

The Lightning was first used operationally as an interceptor, defending the V-Force airfields during the cold war, whilst the range of the first variants proved to be restrictive in other roles. 

The F.6 variant was seen as the finest of all to serve in the RAF, capable of carrying two 260 gallon 'ferry' or 'drop-tanks' on pylons fitted above the wings. 

Lightning in garden
The Lightning has become one of the most renowned RAF jets.

The Numbers

The Lightning posses a remarkable climb rate of 20,000 feet per minute and although the official ceiling of the fighter jet has been kept a secret, it's rumoured to be of 60,000 feet. 

Throughout its service, 337 jets were built (including all variants and prototypes). 

In the F.6, the jet was powered by two Rolls-Royce Avon 301R afterburning turbojets.

It had a wingspan of 34 foot 10 inches (10.6 metres) and when taking off, it weighed 45,750lb which is 20,752kg. 

Being a fighter jet, the F.6 variant was armed with two 30mm Aden cannons with hard point mountings for Air to Air missiles. 

At 36,000 feet, the Lightning could reach speeds of 1,300 miles per hour (2,100 kilometres per hour)

Despite being a fighter jet, the Lightning never recorded an official kill in its 34 years of service. 

However, the Lightning did shoot down a Harrier which unintentionally headed to the East Germany border after the pilot had ejected due to an apparent engine failure.

The Lightning, as its name suggests, was very, very quick.

It could travel at Mach 2.0 - the measurement used to record the speed of sound. At 36,000 feet, the Lightning could reach speeds of 1,300 miles per hour (2,100 kilometres per hour).

Whilst possessing extreme speed, the plane could also cover a maximum range of 850 miles (1,370 kilometres).

RAF Lightning Jet at Farnborough

End Of An Era

In 1988, the Lightning's service in the RAF was discontinued after 34 years - although, it went off to other military operators including the Kuwait Air Force and the Royal Saudi Air Force.

The Sea Lightning FAW1 was designed but never built.

(Statistics from BAE Systems)