English Electric Lightning

Aircraft Profile

Key Facts

Main Role:
Single-seat all-weather interceptor fighter
Swept-winged jet
United Kingdom
Current Status:
Out of Service, Out of Production

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BAe chase aircraft F. Mk 6 XP693 in 56 Sqn
colours at Wattisham in 1992.
(photo, Joop de Groot)


The only all-British supersonic aircraft to enter production, and the last all-British single-seat fighter, the English Electric Lightning defended United Kingdom air space for more than twenty-five years. It’s astounding performance and docile handling wowed airshow audiences and won the hearts of all the pilots that flew it. Almost cancelled at one point, it suffered from chronic underdevelopment throughout much of it’s career and this adversely affected it’s export potential.

Following the cancellation of the Miles M.52 supersonic programme in 1946 and the record breaking flight by the Bell X-1 in October 1947, design studies for a manned supersonic research aircraft began at English Electric in July 1948 under Chief Designer W.E.W. Petter (designer of the Westland Whirlwind fighter of World War 2 and of the Canberra bomber). On 12 May 1949 English Electric was awarded a contract by the Ministry of Supply to proceed with detail design work on it’s proposal, designated P.1 (Project 1) by the company.

The P.1 configuration featured a highly swept-back untapered wing and a long parallel-sided fuselage. The two engines were housed inside the fuselage in a staggered arrangement, one above the other. The lower engine sat beneath the centre wing box structure, while the upper engine was positioned behind the wing. This arrangement conferred high thrust for low drag and small frontal area. A disadvantage was that most of the fuselage volume was taken up with intake ducting and jet pipes, leaving little room for fuel. As a result, the wing was designed as a complete integral tank, without any separate bag tanks. Wind tunnel testing confirmed that the design held a lot of promise.

Controversy over the low-set tailplane position, and concern over the possible adverse handling characteristics of the swept wing led to the construction of the Short SB.5 (WG768), a research aircraft designed to explore the low-speed handling characteristics of the Lightning configuration. During it’s eighteen month test programme it generally confirmed the accuracy of English Electric’s predictions.

Two P.1s (WG760 and WG763) were ordered on 1 April 1950, with a third airframe constructed for static testing. The design team now turned its attention to a supersonic fighter derivative of the P.1. Back in September 1949 the Ministry had circulated a draft specification, F.23/49, based on this idea, and it was formally issued in April 1950. (Specification ER103 is associated with the P.1 in some sources, but that document was for the Fairey Delta 2). The fighter variant required a redesigned fuselage, with the cockpit raised to provide a better all-round view for the pilot. A long spine fairing from the redesigned canopy to the base of the fin provided additional equipment space. The Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire engines used in the P.1 were replaced by more powerful Rolls-Royce Avons, which promised speeds above Mach 2 with reheat. A suitable air intake was required to manage the shock waves which appear at such high speeds. The answer was to mount a central conical ‘bullet’ in a circular air intake. The central cone was also used to mount the Ferranti AIRPASS radar scanner. While it was expected that air-to-air missiles would eventually be the main armament of interceptor fighters, their reliability was not yet high enough to guarantee a kill, and so guns and air-to-air unguided rockets were recommended as effective alternatives. The new fighter therefore had provision for all three types of armament.

In 1952 the original two research aircraft were redesignated P.1A and the fighter version designated P.1B. A contract for three P.1B prototypes was agreed in August 1953. To speed-up development, a pre-production batch of 20 aircraft was ordered in February the following year.

On 4 August 1954, the first P.1A prototype (WG760) made it’s maiden flight at Boscombe Down in Wiltshire. The new aircraft handled extremely well, and exceeded Mach 1.0 in level flight on 11 August 1954. The second P.1A prototype (WG763) joined the flight test programme on 18 July 1955. This aircraft featured two Aden guns in the upper nose and a bulged ventral fairing to accommodate an additional fuel tank. WG760 was then fitted with a simple afterburner (reheat) and resumed flight testing on 31 January 1956. It eventually reached a top speed of Mach 1.53.

Th first P.1B (XA847) fighter version took to the air from Warton on 4 April 1957, and went supersonic on the same flight. On the same day Defence Minister Duncan Sandys announced that all fighters then in development for the RAF would be cancelled and replaced by anti-aircraft missiles – except for the English Electric P.1 which had advanced too far to cancel. Mach 2 was first reached by XA847 on 25 November 1958. The first of 20 pre-production aircraft (XG307) made it’s maiden flight on 3 April 1958. The large number of test aircraft allowed development to progress rapidly and without major problems. In August 1958 it was announced that the name ‘Lightning’ had been chose for the type, and this was officially conferred in October.
XM134 was the first full production Lightning F. Mk 1, making its first flight on 29 October 1959. Controller (Aircraft) release, certifying the aircraft fit for service, was achieved in December of that year, with a handful of aircraft going to the AFDS (Air Fighting Development Squadron) of the Central Fighter Establishment. No.74 at Coltishall received it’s first Lightning F. Mk 1s on 29 June 1960. The slightly improved F. Mk 1A version served with Nos.51 and 111 Sqns.

The Lightning F. Mk 2 introduced improvements such as a steerable nose wheel, liquid oxygen breathing system and better avonics. In addition, the Avon 210 engines were fitted with a fully variable reheat system. Deliveries to Nos. 19 and 92 Squadrons in Germany commenced on 17 December 1962. These aircraft were later upgraded to F.2A standard, as outlined below. More advanced changes came with the F. Mk 3, which introduced a new larger square-topped fin, Red Top collision-course missiles, improved radar and uprated Avon 301 engines. These modifications were first trialled on P.1B Development aircraft XG310, before being introduced onto production aircraft. The first true F. Mk 3 (XP693) took to the air on 16 June 1962 and deliveries to the RAF followed in April 1964, equipping 23, 29, 56, 74 and 111 Sqns.

Designation-wise, the next variant was the T. Mk 4. Work had started on a two-seat trainer version of the P.1B in October 1953. A widened forward fuselage allowed side-by-side seating while retaining full operational capability. Based on the F. Mk 2 airframe, two T. Mk 4 prototypes were produced, the first (XL628) flying on 6 May 1959. While twenty production examples were produced, design work started on a trainer version of the F. Mk 3 airframe. Designated T. Mk 5, twenty-two combat capable machines were built, plus two conversions of T. Mk 4s.

The last version of the Lightning for RAF service was the F. Mk 6. Initially designated F. Mk 3A, this variant embodied a whole series of improvements aimed at improving operational effectiveness. The outboard wing leading edge was kinked and cambered to increase wing area and the wing structure was strengthened to take underwing pylons, although these were never actually fitted to RAF aircraft. A new fuel system with a longer and deeper ventral tank of double the previous volume was installed. The front portion of the tank could house two 30 mm Aden cannon or more fuel. The prototype F. Mk 6 (XM697), a converted F. Mk 3, first flew on 17 April 1964. The first production Mk 6 flew on 16 June 1965, and entered RAF service in December 1965. The first 13 aircraft were F. Mk 3 aircraft converted on the production line to F. Mk 6(Interim) standard before the full version reached production. These early aircraft were later upgraded to full F. Mk 6 standard. The F. Mk 6 served with Nos.5, 11, 23 and 74 Sqns. In a parallel upgrade, 30 F. Mk 2s were upgraded to near F. Mk 6 standard during 1966-70 under the designation F. Mk 2A. The only external difference with the Mk 6 was the retention of the gun muzzle outlets in the nose.

The highly specialised air-defence role of the Lightning had somewhat limited it’s export potential, but the advent of the F. Mk 6 offered the possibility that a multi-role version could be developed – combining fighter, attack and reconnaissance missions in one airframe. The modifications proved straightforward and a marketing campaign was launched. In December 1965 it was announced that Saudi Arabia was to place an order for forty Lightnings. The aircraft were to be 34 single-seaters, based on the F. Mk 3 but with features from the F. Mk 6, designated F. Mk 53 and six 2-seaters based on the T. Mk 5 and designated T. Mk 55. To facilitate pilot training, two T. Mk 4s and four F. Mk 2s were supplied in 1966 under the designations T. Mk 54 and F. Mk 52 respectively.

In December 1966 a second export order was achieved, for fourteen aircraft for Kuwait. This order was to comprise 12 single-seat F. Mk 53K and two T. Mk 55K aircraft of very similar standard to the Saudi aircraft. The prototype F. Mk 53 first flew on 1 November 1966 (53-666) and was followed two days later by the T. Mk 55 prototype (55-710). Deliveries to Saudi Arabia started on 1 July 1968, when two F. Mk 53s flew from Warton to Jeddah. Deliveries to Kuwait began on 18 December 1968. Deliveries to Saudi and Kuwait were completed in September 1969 and December 1969 respectively. Despite an intensive sales campaign, no further orders were forthcoming. The last Lighting built was serial 53-700, an attrition replacement for Saudi Arabia which made its first flight on 29 June 1972.

From 1974 RAF Lightning squadrons began to re-equip with the Phantom FGR.2, and by the Spring of 1977 only No.5 and 11 Squadrons at Binbrook remained. Kuwait retired it’s aircraft in 1977. Saudi Arabia’s 1985 order for Tornados included the trade-in of it’s 22 surviving Lightnings. These aircraft were flown back to Warton in January 1986 and placed in storage. Although available for sale, no customers were found for them. In July 1988 the RAF finally withdrew the Lightning from service, and Binbrook was closed shortly afterwards. A few aircraft remained operational with British Aerospace (BAe) at Warton as chase and radar target aircraft for the Tornado programme until December 1992.

The surviving Lightnings were sold-off to museums and private individuals. Enthusiasts in the growing ‘warbird’ movement of the 1990s attempted to get a civilian-owned Lightning flying again, but the British Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) refused permission. In the military service the Lightning had a reputation for catching fire, and this is likely to be the main reason for the the refusal. The legal liabilities following an accident in a civil-owned example over the relatively densely populated British Isles would be quite considerable. Since a redesign of the Lightning was not feasible without the cooperation of BAe, UK-based aircraft are limited to fast taxi runs – the Lightning Preservation Group at Bruntingthorpe in Leicestershire still operates two aircraft in this manner. Meanwhile enthusiasts looked overseas for a more benign environment. At Cape Town, in South Africa, the Thunder City organisation was set up to operate ex-military fast jets for pleasure flights and other contracts. The fleet includes three Lightnings. In Mississippi, USA, the Anglo-American Lightning Organisation is also in the process of refurbishing a T. Mk 5 to flying condition. The Lighting still flies, albeit far from home.

By designing a twin-engined aircraft with the fuel volume of a single engined aircraft, English Electric produced a relatively light and extremely powerful fighter, but with the inevitable consequence of a lack of range. Subsequent versions began to tackle this problem with an increasingly bulged ventral tank, but fuel usage was always a worry for Lightning pilots. At the same time, penny-pinching development funding meant that it took until the Mk 6 before a wing stressed to carry weapons pylons and external fuel tanks was fitted. The Lightning was never fitted with a Radar Warning Receiver (RWR), or adapted to carry Sidewinder missiles, and in it’s final years was forced to rely on it’s gun armament to supplement it’s ancient Red Top missiles. The mechanical complexity of the Lightning was of a entirely different order to that of it’s predecessors and gave the RAF a major maintenance challenge upon it’s introduction into service. On the other hand, pilots converting to the Lightning found it to be a delight to fly – fast, agile and responsive.

Fifty years after it’s first flight, audiences at three different locations around the world can still enjoy the unique combination of speed and control that made the Lightning in it’s heyday a deadly threat to enemy aircraft.

T. Mk 5 XS420 seen at RIAT 2003 in 226
OCU colours. (photo, John Hayles)


Requirement Specification: F.23/49
Manufacturers Designation: P.1B (Lightning F.1 & F.1A), P.11 (Lightning T.4), P.25 (Lightning F.2), P.26 (Lightning F.3 & F.6), P.27 (Lightning T.5)

Development History:
P.1 Initial designation for supersonic research aircraft.
P.1A Retrospective designation for supersonic research aircraft. Two flying prototypes. Armstrong Siddeley AS Sa.5 engines. Elliptical pitot nose intake.
P.1B Redesign of P.1 for fighter role. Three flying prototypes. New fuselage, circular intake with shock cone housing radar scanner, no ventral tank, Rolls-Royce Avon 200 engines, modified wing, short fin, two Aden cannon.
P.1B Lightning Pre-production version of P.1B. Avon 201 engines, ventral fuel tank introduced, taller round-tip fin introduced 1958.
Lightning F. Mk 1 Initial production version. Avon 201 engines. Aden cannon and Firesteak missiles.
Lightning F. Mk 1A F. Mk 1 with provision for in-flight refuelling and improved radio equipment.
Lightning F. Mk 2 Improved production version with all-weather navigation avionics, fully variable afterburner, steerable nosewheel, liquid oxygen breathing system. Avon 210 engines. Some structural improvements. Aden cannon and Firestreak missiles.
Lightning F. Mk 2A F. Mk 2 conversion to F. Mk 6 standard with updated avionics, increased ventral tank fuel capacity for longer range.
Lightning F. Mk 2B Provisional designation for multi-role export version of F. Mk 2.
Lightning F. Mk 3 Improved avionics. Aden cannon deleted. Red Top missiles. Avon 301 engines. Small ventral fuel tank. Larger fin with square tip. Overwing fuel tank capability.
Lightning F. Mk 3A Initial designation for F. Mk 6
Lightning F. Mk 3B Provisional designation for multi-role export version of F. Mk 3.
Lightning T. Mk 4 Side-by-side dual trainer version of F. Mk 2. Avon 201 engines.
Lightning T. Mk 5 Side-by-side dual trainer version of F. Mk 3. Avon 301 engines.
Lightning T. Mk 5A Provisional designation for multi-role export version of T. Mk 5.
Lightning F. Mk 6 Improved F. Mk 3 with kinked and cambered outer wing, inset ailerons, larger ventral fuel tank/weapons pack, provision for arrestor hook, provision for overwing fuel tanks. Avon 301 engines. Red Top missiles.
Lightning F. Mk 52 Ex-RAF F. Mk 2 conversions for export to Saudi Arabia.
Lightning F. Mk 53 New-build export version of F. Mk 6 with additional ground attack capability. Avon 302C engines. Two over and two under wing pylons. Provision for ventral cannon pack with 2 x 30 mm Aden. Firestreak/Red Top missiles.
Lightning F. Mk 53K Minor change version of F. Mk 53 for Kuwait.
Lightning T. Mk 54 Ex-RAF T. Mk 4 conversions for export.
Lightning T. Mk 55 Ex-RAF T. Mk 5 conversions and new-build for export. Avon 301 engines.
Lightning T. Mk 55K Minor change version of T. Mk 55 for Kuwait.
P.3 Projected development of P.1 with side intakes, March 1951.
P.5 Projected development of P.1 with one Rolls-Royce Avon RA.12 with reheat, March 1952.
P.6 Projected development of Lightning to meet ER.134T, April-August 1953.
P.8 Projected development of Lightning – tandem 2-seat high altitude fighter to meet F.155T. Area-ruled fuselage, air-to-air missiles on wingtips. September 1955
P.15 Projected photo-reconnaissance version of Lightning, Feb 1956 .
P.18 Projected low-altitude bomber version of Lightning, Oct-Nov 1956.
P.19 Projected interceptor variant of Lightning.
P.23 Projected development of Lightning.
P.33 Projected 2-seat strike-fighter version for Australia.
P.34 Projected single-seat ground-attack version for RAF.
VG Lightning Projected version of Lightning T.5 with variable-geometry wing, enlarged ventral pack and folding fin for carrier-borne naval interceptor role, autumn 1963-April 1964.
F. Mk 6 XS899 of 11 Sqn seen during the
1988 Tactical Fighter Meet at Waddington.
F. Mk 6 XS921 of 74 Sqn during exercise
“Berstu Padu” in 1970.
(both photos, Keith McKenzie)


Key Dates:
July 1948    First proposals developed by English Electric for a supersonic research aircraft
3 August 1948    English Electric awarded contract for a detailed design study
1 November 1948    Initial design submitted to Ministry of Supply and studies continued
12 May 1949    Contract received to proceed with design work on project designated P.1
September 1949    Draft specification F.23/49 for a supersonic fighter circulated
February 1950    W.E. Petter replaced by F.W. Page as Chief Engineer
1 April 1950    Contract for construction of 3 P.1 airframes (2 flying + 1 static test) to specification F.23/49
June 1952    Research aircraft redesignated P.1A and dedicated fighter derivative designated P.1B
5 August 1953    Contract for 3 P.1B aircraft placed
October 1953    Work starts on design study for two-seat trainer version of P.1B
26 February 1954    Twenty ‘P.1B Lightning’ development aircraft ordered
4 August 1954    First P.1A maiden flight (WG760)
11 August 1954    P.1A exceeds Mach 1.0 in level flight
18 July 1955    Second P.1A first flight (WG763)
15 May 1956    Contract to build 2 trainer prototypes, designated T.4
November 1956    Order placed for 50 production F. Mk 1 aircraft
4 April 1957    First P.1B first flight (XA847)
4 April 1957    Defence White Paper declares manned fighters obsolete
5 September 1957    Second P.1B first flight (XA853)
3 January 1958    Third P.1B first flight (XA856)
3 April 1958    First flight of a ‘P.1B Lightning’ development aircraft (XG307)
August 1958    Announcement of the name Lightning for the P.1B
25 November 1958    XA847 exceeds Mach 2 in level flight for the first time
6 May 1959    T.4 prototype maiden flight (XL628)
29 October 1959    Maiden flight of first F. Mk 1 production aircraft (XM134)
December 1959    Air Fighting Development Squadron (AFDS) begins operational trials
12 January 1960    British Aircraft Corporation formed
29 June 1960    First deliveries to 74 Sqn at Coltishall
11 July 1961    First F Mk.2 maiden flight (XN723)
November 1961    XG310 flies as F.3 prototype
29 March 1962    T.5 prototype maiden flight (XM967)
16 June 1962    First F Mk.3 maiden flight (XP693)
April 1964    First deliveries of F. Mk 3 to RAF
17 April 1964    F.6 prototype maiden flight (XP697)
16 June 1965    First production F.6 maiden flight (?)
December 1965    First F.6 deliveries to RAF squadrons
21 December 1965    Saudi Arabia announces selection of Lightning for RSAF
1 November 1966    Maiden flight of F. Mk 53 (53-667)
3 November 1966    Maiden flight of T. Mk 55 (55-710)
18 December 1966    Export contract signed with Kuwait
December 1967    First deliveries to RSAF
December 1969    End of series production
June 1972    Last Lightning built (Saudi attrition one-off)
1977    Kuwait withdraws Lightning from service
January 1986    Saudi Arabia retires Lightning from service
30 July 1988    Lightning withdrawn from RAF service
December 1992    BAe retires Lightning test & chase aircraft
2001    Thunder City begins Lightning flights.
F. Mk 6 XS927 on 74 Sqn’s flight line at
RAF Tengah, Singapore, in 1970.
F. Mk 53K G-AXEE at the Paris Air Show in
June 69, later Kuwait AF K418.
(both photos, Keith McKenzie)


Military Operators

Kuwait – Air Force (12 F.53 + 2 T.55)
Saudi Arabia – Air Force (5 F.52 + 35 F.53 + 2 T.54 + 6 T.55)
UK – Royal Air Force (F.1, F.1A, F.2, F.2A, F.3, T.4, T.5, F.6, F.6A)

Government Agencies

UK – Empire Test Pilot’s School (ETPS) (1 x T. Mk 4, 1 x T. Mk 5 used for pilot training)
UK – A&AEE Boscombe Down (Several used for test duties)

Civilian Operators

British Aerospace (5 x F. Mk 6 used as Tornado chase aircraft)
Lightning Preservation Group (2 x F. Mk 6 – fast taxi runs only)
Anglo-American Lightning Organisation (1 x T. Mk 5)
Thunder City (2 x T. Mk 5, 1 x F. Mk 6)
Two F. Mk 3s of 74 Sqn scramble from
Leuchars in 1966.
Short SB.5 WG768 at Finningley in 1966.
(both photos, Keith McKenzie)


English Electric P.1A
Role: Single-seat research aircraft
Crew: 1
Dimensions: Length 56 ft 8 in (17.27 m); Height 17 ft 3 in (5.26 m); Wing Span 34 ft 10 in (10.62 m); Wing Area 458.5 sq ft (42.59 sq m)
Engine(s): Two Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire Sa.5 turbojets each of 8,100 lb (3674 kg) st – later fitted Sa.5R engines with reheat giving 5,500 lb (2,495 kg) st dry or 10,300 lb (4672 kg) st with reheat.
Weights: Empty 21,000 lb (9,525 kg); Maximum loaded 28,000 lb (12,700 kg)
Performance: Maximum level speed Mach 1.53 (1000 mph, 1609 kph) at 40,000 ft (12,190 m); Typical Endurance 50 mins.
Armament: None (Two 30 mm Aden cannon in upper nose on second aircraft).
English Electric Lightning F. Mk 1A
Role: Single-seat all-weather interceptor fighter
Crew: 1
Dimensions: Length 55 ft 3 in (16.84 m) over probe; Height 19 ft 7 in (5.97 m); Wing Span 34 ft 10 in (10.61 m); Wing Area 458.5 sq ft (42.59 sq m)*
Engine(s): Two Rolls-Royce Avon 210 (R.A.24R) turbojets each of 11,250 lb (5103 kg) st or 14,430 lb (6545 kg) st with reheat.
Weights: Empty 25,737 lb (11,674 kg); Maximum loaded 39,000 lb (17,690 kg)
Performance: Maximum level speed Mach 2.1 (1390 mph, 2237 kph) at 40,000 ft (12,190 m); Initial climb 50,000 ft/min (15240 m/min); Service ceiling 60,000 ft (18,920 m); Range 895 mls (1440 km).
Armament: Two 30 mm Aden cannon in upper nose, plus interchangable weapons packs for two de Havilland Firestreak air-to-air missiles on forward fuselage sides, or two retractable boxes each containing 22 spin-stabilised 2-in (51 mm) rockets, or two 30 mm Aden cannon.

* NOT 380.1 sq ft (35.31 sq m) quoted in some sources.

English Electric Lightning F. Mk 6
Role: Single-seat all-weather interceptor fighter
Crew: 1
Dimensions: Length 55 ft 3 in (16.84 m) including probe; Height 19 ft 7 in (5.97 m); Wing Span 34 ft 10 in (10.61 m); Wing Area 474.5 sq ft (44.08 sq m)
Engine(s): Two Rolls-Royce Avon 301 turbojets each of 12,690 lb (5756 kg) st or 16,360 lb (7420 kg) st with reheat.
Weights: Empty 28,040 lb (12,719 kg); Maximum loaded 41,700 lb (18,915 kg)
Performance: Maximum level speed Mach 2.27 (1500 mph, 2415 kph) at 40,000 ft (12,190 m); Maximum Cruising speed 595 mph, (957 kph) at 36,000-39,000 ft (11,000-12,000 m); Initial climb 50,000 ft/min (15240 m/min); Time to 40,000 ft (12,200 m) 2 min 30 sec; Service ceiling 60,000+ ft (18,300+ m); Range (with ventral tank) 800 miles (1287 km).

Armament: Interchangeable packs for two Hawker Siddeley Red Top or de Havilland Firestreak air-to-air missiles, or two retractable boxes each containing 22 spin-stabilised 2-in (51 mm) rockets. Twin 30 mm Aden cannon in optional ventral pack with 120 rpg.
F. Mk 6 XS904 seen at Boscombe Down in 1992 F. Mk 6 XS899 seen at Upper Heyford in 1986
(both photos, Anthony Noble)


Design Centre

Head of Design Team: W.E.W Petter (F.W. Page from February 1950)
Chief Designer: A.E. Ellison
Design Office: English Electric Aviation Ltd, Warton, Lancashire.


English Electric Aviation Ltd (From 1963? BAC – British Aircraft Corporation Ltd)
(Warton, Lancashire, UK)
Version Quantity Assembly Location Time Period
P.1/P.1A prototypes 2* Samlesbury Apr 1950-July 1955
P.1B prototypes 3 Strand Road, Preston Aug 1953-Jan 1958
‘P.1B Lightning’ 20 Samlesbury Feb 1954-Sept 1959
Lightning F. Mk 1 19* Samlesbury Nov 1956- 1959
Lightning F.1A 28$ Samlesbury 1959-July 1961
Lightning F. Mk 2 44 Samlesbury Dec 1959-Sept 1963
Lightning F. Mk 2A (30 F.2 conv) Warton 1966-Sept 1970
Lightning F. Mk 3 47+16 = 63 Samlesbury June 1960-early 1965
Lightning T. Mk 4 2 Samlesbury May 1956-Sept 1959
Lightning T. Mk 4 20 Samlesbury July 1958-May 1962
Lightning T. Mk 5 (2 T.4 conv) Filton early 1962-Dec 1962
Lightning T. Mk 5 20 Samlesbury Aug 1962-Feb 1966
Lightning T. Mk 5 2 Samlesbury early 1966-Dec 1966
Lightning F.3A
/F. Mk 6(Interim)
16** Samlesbury early 1965-late 1965
Lightning F. Mk 6 13+33 = 46
(+2 F.3 conv)
Samlesbury late 1965-June 1967
Lightning F. Mk 52 (4 F.2 conv) Warton Apr 1966-July 1966
Lightning F. Mk 52 (1 F.2 conv) Warton May 1967
Lightning F. Mk 53 33 (+1 F.3 conv) Samlesbury May 1966-Dec 1968
Lightning F. Mk 53 1 Samlesbury early 1972-Sept 1972
Lightning T. Mk 54 (2 T.4 conv) Warton March 1966-June 1966
Lightning T. Mk 55 6 (+1 T.5 conv) Samlesbury May 1966-July 1969
Lightning F. Mk 53K 12 Samlesbury Dec 1966-Sept 1969
Lightning T. Mk 55K 2 Samlesbury Dec 1966-Sept 1969

Total Produced: 339 a/c (All variants)

* Plus one static test airframe. $ Plus two aircraft not assembled – stored for spares.
** Updated to full F. Mk 6 standard 1967-1969 at Warton.

Production List

See The Crowood Aviation Series title listed below.

More Information


‘Lightning Force: RAF Units 1960-1988 – A Photographic Appreciation of the English Electric Lightning’ [Order this book from Amazon UK]
by Fred Martin
Published by Dalrymple and Verdun Publishing, June 2005 ISBN: 1905414005
* Pictorial coverage of all the RAF squadrons that operated the Lightning.

‘Lightning Strikes: English Electric’s Supersonic Fighter in Action’ [Order this book from Amazon UK]
by Martin W Bowman
Published by The Crowood Press, May 2001 ISBN: 1840372362
* Superb collection of action photos, with informative captions and amusing anecdotes.

‘English Electric Lightning: Vol.1 Birth of a Legend ‘
by Stewart Scott
Published by GMS Enterprises, Sept 2000 ISBN: 1870384784
* Very detailed comprehensive history of the formative years of the Lightning.

‘Lightning From The Cockpit: Flying the Supersonic Legend’ [Order this book from Amazon UK]
by Peter Caygill
Published by Leo Cooper Ltd, 30 July 2004 ISBN: 1844150828
* Sixteen personal accounts of what it was like to fly the Lightning.

‘The English Electric Lightning: A Comprehensive Guide for the Modeller’ [Order this book from Amazon UK]
by Richard J Caruana
Published by SAM Publications, 1 Jan 2003 ISBN: 0953346579
* Well illustrated guide for modellers with fold-out scale plans and close-up details.

‘The Last of the Lightnings’ [Order this book from Amazon UK]
by Ian Black
Published by Patrick Stephens Limited, Oct 1996 ISBN: 1852605413
* Recalls the operations of 5 and XI Squadrons from Binbrook, with excellent colour photos.

‘English Electric Lightning (Crowood Aviation Series)’ [Order this book from Amazon UK]
by Martin W Bowman
Published by The Crowood Press, 29 April 2005 ISBN: 1861267371
* A celebration of the British fighter, with appendices listing units, production totals and individual aircraft histories.

‘English Electric/BAC Lightning’ [Order this book from Amazon UK]
by Bruce Barrymore Halpenny
Published by Osprey Publications Ltd, Nov 1984 ISBN: 0850455626
* Very well written history of the Lightning, published before it’s retirement.

‘The English Electric Lightning (Images of Aviation series)’ [Order this book from Amazon UK]
by Martin W Bowman
Published by Tempus Publishing Ltd, Aug 1999 ISBN: 0752417061
* Collection of b+w Lightning photos.

‘Lightning: The Operational History’ [Order this book from Amazon UK]
by Kev Darling
Published by Airlife Publishing, July 1995 ISBN: 185310521X
* Development and service use of the Lightning by RAF, RSAF and KAF.

‘English Electric Lightning: Warbird Tech 28’
by Kev Darling
Published by Speciality Press, Jan 2001 ISBN: 1 58007 028 0
* Development history with b+w reprints from Lightning technical manuals.

‘English Electric Aircraft Since 1908’ [Order this book from Amazon UK]
by A J Jackson
Published by Putnam Aeronautical Books, 1990 ISBN: 0 85177 834 8
* Detailed company history with a chapter on the Lightning.

‘Wings Of Fame Volume 7’
Published by Aerospace Publishing, 1997 ISBN: 1 874023 97 2 (pb)/1 874023 98 0 (hb)
* Includes well written 66-page feature on the Lightning.


To be added.


Aviation Picture Hangar – English Electric (BAC) Lightning
* Collection of photos of Lightnings, sqn use & colour profiles, 3-views & specifications for main variants

Lightning Preservation Group
* Bruntingthorpe-based group which operates two Lightnings for fast taxi runs

* The Lightning Association – history, photos, units, aircraft histories etc

Thunder & Lightnings Lightning page
* Lightning history, complete survivors list and a lot of nice photos

Warbird Alley
* Brief history, Spec, photos, links

* 14 pages of excellent Lightning photos

English Electric Lightning (1960-1988)
* Development, specification, photos, further reading

* History, variants, operators, comparison, links

Wings Palette
* 57 colour profile drawings of Lightnings

Paul Nann
* Long page of good Lightning photos from the 1980s and of preserved examples

The English Electric (BAC) Lightning
* Well written comprehensive profile of the Lightning

British Aircraft Directory
* Production summary, specification, list of preserved Lightnings in the UK

Anglo-American Lightning Organisation
* Restoration to flight status of Lightning T.5 in Mississippi, USA

Thundercity – The English Electric Lightning
* Book your flight in a Cape Town-based Lightning + photos & video clips


Flight Simulator Models:
To be added.

Scale Models:
To be added.

Scale Drawings:
See the SAM Publications title listed above.


To be added.

8 thoughts on “English Electric Lightning

  1. THE finest interceptor in the world bar NONE. I had the privilege of serving with these fighters in the Royal Air Force at RAF Wattisham, 111sqn and 29sqn. No other aircraft has thrilled me as much since. The RAF is and always will be the finest Air Force in the world, pity this this beautiful aircraft is no longer with us though.

  2. Wow, my favourite aircraft, I remember seeing these at airshows with my father as a child, I remember the ear splitting, tummy rumbling noise as they touched on the runway before going vertical. To think that only a few years earlier that the Battle of Britain was won with propeller type aircracft then to go to this in such a short space of time really shows the ingenuity and skill of British engineering, I would pitch this against any modern day aircraft, I am sure they would give them a run for thier money, my ambition? would dearly love to see one fly again jus for the thrill of seeing one go vertical with full afterbrn…..mouthwatering thought.

  3. does anyone remember visiting the drawing office and mock up shop in the converted crown cinama in acton w3 lots of effort was put in by all staff but never a mention of ACTON

  4. In answer to Brad Portfleet’s wish to see a Lightning going vertical again. We can’t offer that, but for the past 24 years the Lightning Preservation Group have fast taxied their preserved F6 Lightnings in full reheat at Bruntingthorpe Airfield, Leics. Additionally we have moved and rebuilt the former RAF Wattisham Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) hangar which houses both aircraft. On the 15th July 2012 we carried out the first Q-scramble from the hangar since April 1988 and simulated the whole scenario minus the take off! Apart from that we offer a whole range of Lightning souvenirs , including T-shirts which should be useful for Peter Walters and A Dawson. If it’s a Lightning “fix” you need come and see us.See:www.lightnings.org.uk

  5. Hi Richard, many thanks for the offer, I will certainly pay you a visit soon, used to live in Groby Leics so maybe I can take a trip down memory lane, you and your team are obviously doing a superb job, perhaps all of us Lightning lovers should get behind you and partition somone to allow the beauty fly again….would dearly love to see it thats for sure. Thanks again, hope to see her soon.

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