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The English Electric Lightning, also known as BAC Lightning was a twin engine British Interceptor aircraft, developed by English Electric. The aircraft was used from the end of the 1950s until the 1970s by the Royal Air Force and by some Arabian Air Forces.

800px-Ee lightning t4 xm974 arp


The first prototype, called P.1A, had its first flight on 4th August 1954. Unlike that the NATO preferred Multirole aircraft, the Lightning was designed to act only as an Interceptor and was also only used as one. Because of its slender fuselage, in combination with the swept wings, it had excellent flight performance, when looking on its speed, rate of climb and service ceiling.

It was the first British fighter aircraft being able to reach a speed of Mach 2, with the use of afterburner and it was also able to reach a speed of over Mach 1 without use of afterburner, making it the really first aircraft with the ability to Supercruise. However the Lightning had some disadvantages like the too small combat radius and it had not enough armament. Interesting is that the engines are not placed side by side; in the Lightning they are mounted one above the other.


Development of what would become the lighting began in late 1947 when it was decided, at a committee meeting of the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE), that construction should be initiated of a research aircraft which could, in time, be developed into Britain's first supersonic fighter. This led to Specification ER103,

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designed to meet requirement F.23/49, which resulted in the issuing of contracts to English Electric (P.1A) and Fairey (FD.2) on April 1st 1950. Each company were to produce two prototypes, with the addition of a static test airframe for the P.1A. Heated debate about the positioning of the P.1As tails led to the development of the Short SB.5, which in the event did not fly before the low tailplane position was finalised.

The P1 made it's first flight from Boscombe Down on 4th August 1954. The success of this flight prompted the decision to order three prototypes of a fighter version designated P.1B, with the basic research aircraft being redesignated P.1A. The three P.1Bs were to be equipped with Ai.23 radar, a pair of 30 mm ADEN cannon, 48 rockets and two Blue Jay IR homing AAMs. The first of these, XA847, achieved a speed of Mach 1.2 during the course of it's first flight on4th April 1957. The three P.1B prototypes would be followed by 20 development aircraft.[1]


  1. World Aircraft Information Files Aviation Partwork. Midsummer Books Ltd. File 101 Sheet 2 (World Military Aircraft:English Electric Lighting - P.1 evolution)