English Electric Lightning F1


The Lightning aircraft was the RAF’s first sustained supersonic aircraft, and it is the only British designed and built fighter capable of flying at Mach 2 (twice the speed of sound).

Built as an interim solution, the Lightning’s origins can be traced back to ideas submitted by the design team at English Electric Limited, in response to an Experimental Requirement (ER103) issued by the Ministry of Supply in 1947. This was for a research aircraft to explore transonic and supersonic speed and handling. An extensive programme of development flying and trials was undertaken, involving the SB.5, built by Shorts, to test aerodynamic theories. The prototype, P1 flew for the first time on 4 August 1954.

The Lightning F1 finally entered service with 74 Squadron in 1960, practically doubling the maximum speeds of Fighter Command. The aircraft’s acceleration coupled with its phenomenal rate of climb contributed greatly to its effectiveness as an all weather interceptor fighter and its air defence role. The Lightning went on to serve with the RAF for 28 years in a number of geographical areas officially leaving front line service on 30 April 1988.

Further Reading:

English Electric Aircraft and their Predecessors
Stephen Ransom & Robert Fairclough

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