English Electric Lightning

Aircraft Profile
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.

Gloster Gladiator

Aircraft Profile
Gladiator Mk I K6132, from the first batch of
23 aircraft. (photo, 1000aircraftphotos.com)


The Gloster Gladiator was the RAF’s last biplane fighter. It appeared at a time when monoplanes were already eclipsing biplanes and yet achieved wartime fame in the hands of skilled pilots, fighting some of the most dramatic battles of the early war years.

Air Ministry specification F.7/30 was formally issued to industry in late 1931. It called for a day and night interceptor with a maximum speed in excess of 250 mph (402 km/h), and a four-gun armament. A preference for the use of the Rolls-Royce Goshawk steam-cooled V-12 engine was expressed. The call for a maximum speed some 40 mph faster than the latest RAF fighter (the Hawker Fury), but with double it’s armament, was clearly intended to steer fighter designers away from the traditional engine and armament formula that had been on offer since the Great War. With orders hard to come by, seven designs were offered for consideration. Maiden flights of the contenders took place between February and September 1934. Unfortunately, every Goshawk-engined type suffered severe cooling problems and the selection competition had to be delayed until mid-1935.

During this time, the Chief Designer of Gloster Aircraft Company, H.P. Folland was pre-occupied with developing the S.S.19 fighter to meet Air Ministry requirements, and so did not immediately participate in the F.7/30 competition. However, in September 1933 the S.S.19 was selected for production for the RAF as the Gloster Gauntlet. Folland’s team therefore began to examine possible further refinements to the Gauntlet design. The new features included an uprated Mercury engine, a single bay wing with landing flaps on the upper and lower wings, a single-leg cantilever landing gear and Lewis machine guns mounted in the lower wings. In May 1934 Gloster Aircraft was brought by Hawker Aircraft Limited, and this introduced substantial financial capital and aircraft structures know-how into the company. Calculations showed that the proposed Gauntlet derivative would have a performance very close to the F.7/30 requirement. Accordingly, the company authorised the construction of a private venture prototype – designated the S.S.37 – using a Gauntlet fuselage. The maiden flight took place on 12 September 1934.

The Air Ministry was by now aware of the poor performance of the various F.7/30 contenders. It also saw the urgent need to find a stopgap fighter head of the forthcoming Hurricane and Spitfire projects then being designed. Company testing of the S.S.37 showed that it had realised the expected performance gains of the design, and so when the type was offered to the Air Ministry it aroused considerable interest. On 3 April 1935 the S.S.37 was transferred to RAF ownership with the serial K5200, and official flight testing at Martlesham Heath commenced immediately. In parallel, Glosters proposed that a production version would feature Hawker-syle construction with a redesigned tail unit, Mercury X engine and an enclosed cockpit. In June the private venture Gloster fighter was declared the winner of F.7/30, and a new specification, F.14/35, was rapidly written to cover the production version. On 1 July 1935 the allocation of the name Gladiator was officially announced and an initial contract for 23 aircraft placed. In September 1935 a second order for 180 aircraft was agreed.

The first production Gladiator Mk I flew in January 1937, and No. 72 Squadron at Tangmere took delivery of it’s first aircraft on 23rd February 1937. The last Mk I for the RAF was delivered at the end of 1937. Mk I aircraft were delivered with the Watts two-bladed wooden propeller. Production continued to satisfy a number of export customers. The first export contract being agreed with Latvia on 27 May 1937.

In-service experience with RAF squadrons had meanwhile highlighted the unsuitability of the Mercury IX/Watts propeller combination. In its place Glosters offered the Mercury VIII and three-bladed Fairey Reed metal propeller. The new version was called the Gladiator Mk II, and an initial order was placed in early 1938. By March 1938 sufficient metal propellers were available to launch a programme to retrofit all the Gladiator Mk Is with this propeller. From 1938 existing Gladiator units began to re-equip with the Spitfire or Hurricane. Units converting from the Gladiator experienced a much lower accident rate than other fighter squadrons.

At the end of 1937 the Royal Navy had begun to show interest in a shipboard version of the Gladiator II as a replacement for the Hawker Nimrod. As a stopgap measure, 38 RAF Gladiators were transferred to the Admiralty and designated Sea Gladiator (Interim). Although they carried hooks, they were not intended for operational use aboard carriers. A further 60 full-standard Sea Gladiators were also obtained. These differed from the RAFs Gladiator IIs in being equipped with catapult spools, arrestor hook and dinghy stowage (between the landing gear legs). Sea Gladiators first embarked in HMS Courageous with 801 Squadron in March 1939.

When World War 2 started in September 1939, only four home-based fighter squadrons (Nos.603, 605, 607 and 615) were still equipped with Gladiators – although 141, 151 and 263 Squadrons were subsequently reformed with Gladiators as temporary equipment. 607 and 615 Squadrons formed part of the Air Component of the BEF, sent to France in November 1939. These two units were just beginning to re-equip with Hurricanes when the Germans attacked on 10 May 1940. The Gladiators suffered heavy losses to the Luftwaffe’s modern aircraft and had to be withdrawn to southern England to complete the conversion to Hurricanes.

In April 1940, No. 263 Squadron was sent to Norway to assist British forces against a German invasion. Operations from the frozen Lake Lesjaskag ended when Luftwaffe bombers destroyed the aircraft on the ground. Replacement Gladiators accompanied the Squadron when it deployed to Narvik in the far north. They fought continuously until 7 June, claiming 26 confirmed victories, before the survivors landed on HMS Glorious for the voyage home. The carrier was subsequently attacked by the German battle-cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau and sunk.

Only 247 Squadron at Roborough officially flew Gladiators during the Battle of Britain, although a number of other units had them on second-line strength. 247 Sqn flew many patrols but never saw any combat during the Battle.

When Italy entered the war in June 1940, Gladiators were serving with No.33 and 80 Sqns in Egypt, and with No.94 Sqn in Aden. The Gladiator proved a fairly even match for the Fiat CR.42 and was successful in helping repel the Italian invasion of Egypt and defeat Italian forces in East Africa.

In Malta the Royal Navy had stored a number of Sea Gladiators in crates to re-supply carrier squadrons as required. In May 1940 four Sea Gladiators were assembled by the RAF and test flown. For 10 days (11 to 21 June) the Sea Gladiators represented the Island’s sole air defence, before some Hurricanes were impressed into service. The Italians staged only three air raids on the island during this period. Due to a shortage of ammunition, the Sea Gladiators were used to break up the bomber formations, rather than pick off individual targets. Some months later, a Maltese newspaper published a report on the Sea Gladiators which ensured that the names Faith, Hope and Charity (never actually applied to the aircraft) entered aviation mythology.

The Gladiators of Nos. 80 and 112 Squadrons participated in the Greek campaign, achieving good results against the Regia Aeronautica but were outclassed once the Luftwaffe joined the battle. In 1941 Gladiators from No.94 Sqn participated in the ‘Battle of Habbaniyah’ against Iraqi rebels besieging the RAF training base.

Gladiators continued to serve in the Western Desert throughout 1941, but finally disappeared from front line service in January 1942. In second-line duties the type continued to fly with No.521 (Meteorological) Squadron and numerous Meteorological Flights until Janaury 1945.

The first export aircraft to see combat were those of the Chinese Government, which had acquired 36 Gladiator Mk Is for use against the invading Japanese. Despite numerous accidents by inexperienced pilots, the survivors flew with some success in the defence of Siuchow during 1938.

In Swedish service the Gladiator I was designated J 8, and the Gladiator II designated J 8A. Some of these served with Flygflottilj 19, the volunteer unit which served alongside the Finnish Air Force in the Winter War of 1939-40. The Swedish unit was in action for 62 days, destroying 6 Russian bombers and 6 fighters for the loss of 3 Gladiators – one due to an accident. The Gladiator IIs sold to Finland itself served principally with HLeLv 26, and while it’s handling qualities were praised, the lack of armour protection and self-sealing fuel tanks did not make it popular.

Many RAF Gladiators were supplied to Allied air forces, including Greece, South Africa and Egypt. The Royal Egyptian Air Force aircraft remained airworthy until shortly after the end of the war, while Portugal retained it’s Gladiators for advanced pilot training until 1953 before scrapping them. The sole surviving airworthy Gladiator is now maintained and preserved by the Shuttleworth Trust at Old Warden, Bedfordshire.

Gloster’s private venture development of the already highly-refined Gauntlet brought the biplane fighter concept to the peak of technical perfection. In many air arms it smoothed the transition to advanced monoplane fighters, and in confronting aircraft of its own era it performed well, but when called upon to engage modern combat aircraft its obsolescent design was cruelly exposed. The skill and determination of its pilots however, has allowed the Gladiator to acquire a wartime reputation which might otherwise have been tainted with tragedy.

Shuttleworth’s L8032 – as it appeared during
the 1970s. (photo, Keith McKenzie)


Requirement Specification: F.7/30 (S.S.37), F.14/35 (Mk I), F.36/37 (Mk II)
Manufacturers Designation:

Development History:
S.S.37 First prototype with Mercury IV (later Mercury VIS) engine. Updated Gauntlet with single bay wings, 4 guns, wing flaps, cantilever landing gear. Spatted tailwheel.
Gladiator Mk I Initial production version, with Mercury IXS engine. New fuselage structure, enclosed cockpit, long chord engine cowling, revised undercarriage. 2-blade propeller, later retrofitted with 3-blade propeller.
Gladiator Mk II Upgraded Mk I with Mercury VIIIA or VIIIAS engine, desert filter, auto mixture control, electric starter from internal battery. 3-blade propeller.
Sea Gladiator (Interim) Conversion of production Gladiator Mk II with arrestor hook, naval instruments and radio. 38 aircraft.
Sea Gladiator Production carrier-borne fighter version, based on Mk II. Arrestor hook, catapult points, belly fairing for dinghy, naval instruments and radio, increased fuel capacity. Provision for machine gun in each upper wing.
J 8 Swedish designation for Mk I with UK-built Mercury IXS engine.
J 8A Swedish designation for Mk II with Swedish-built Nohab Mercury VIIIS.3 engine.
The Shuttleworth Gladiator at Mildenhall
Air Fete ’90. (photo, Paul Clouting)
Gladiator Mk. I K6131 before delivery
(photo, Jacques Trempe, 1000aircraftphotos.com)


Key Dates:
1 Oct 1931    Specification F.7/30 issued by Air Ministry
1933    Design of Gauntlet development started
Spring 1934    Construction of S.S.37 started
12 Sept 1934    Maiden flight of S.S.37 first prototype
3 April 1935    S.S.37 transferred to RAF ownership
June 1935    Specification F.14/35 issued for production version of S.S.37
1 July 1935    Gladiator name officially announced
July 1935    First production order for 23 aircraft
Sept 1935    Second production order for 180 aircraft
Jan 1937    First flight of first production Mk I
22 Feb 1937    First production delivery to 72 Sqn RAF
27 May 1937    First export order placed by Latvia
late 1937    Specification F.36/37 issued for Gladiator Mk II
end 1937    Last Mk I delivered to RAF
early 1938    Initial order for 50 Gladiator Mk IIs placed by Air Ministry
March 1938    Retrofit of 3-bladed propeller in progress
March 1938    Admiralty order for 38 Sea Gladiator (Interim)
June 1938    Combined order for 300 Gladiator II & Sea Gladiator
Dec 1938    First Sea Gladiator (Interim) delivered to FAA
Feb 1939    Last Sea Gladiator II delivered
March 1939    Sea trials for Sea Gladiator on HMS Courageous
30 August 1939    Final Gladiator delivery to the RAF
1 May 1941    Sea Gladiator withdrawn from frontline service
January 1942    No.6 Sqn in Egypt withdraws Gladiator from service
1943    Last Sea Gladiator withdrawn from second line service
26 Sept 1941    Last operational sortie by RAF Gladiator
7 Jan 1945    Last RAF weather observation flight made
Feb 1948    Gloster buys last 2 surviving Gladiators from Air Ministry – L8032 & N5903
1953    Portuguese Air Force retires last Gladiator from advanced training duties
7 Nov 1960    ‘K8032’ (L8032) handed over to Shuttleworth Trust
L8032 appeared as ‘N2308’ HP-B for a time
(photo, Dave Key Military Airshows in the UK)


Military Operators

Australia – RAAF (39 ex-RAF Mk I/II a/c with 3 (RAAF) Sqn)
Belgium – Air Force (22 new build Mk I aircraft)
China – CNAF (36 new build Mk I aircraft)
Egypt – REAF (18 ex-RAF Mk I mod to Mk II standard, 27 ex-RAF Mk II aircraft)
Finland – Air Force (30 ex-RAF Mk II aircraft)
France – Free French AF (6 ex-RAF aircraft with Group de Chasse ‘Alsace’)
Germany – Luftwaffe (15 Mk I captured in Russia)
Greece – Air Force (2 new build Mk I + 25 Mk I & 10 Mk II ex-RAF)
Iraq – RIAF (15 new build Mk I aircraft + 29 Mk I/II ex-RAF aircraft)
Ireland – IAC (4 new build Mk I aircraft)
Latvia – Air Force (26 new build Mk I aircraft)
Lithuania – RAAF (14 new build Mk I aircraft)
Norway – Army Air Force (6 new build Mk I + 6 new build Mk II aircraft)
Portugal – Air Force (15 new build Mk I aircraft + 15 ex-RAF Mk II aircraft)
South Africa – SAAF (1 Mk I + 11 Mk II ex-RAF aircraft)
Sweden – Air Force (37 new build Mk I + 18 new build Mk II aircraft)
UK – Royal Air Force (24 RAF Sqns; 5 RAuxAF Sqns; 12 Met. Flights)
UK – Fleet Air Arm (7 first-line Sqns, 8 second-line Sqns)
USSR – Air Force (captured 5 Mk I ex-Lat/12 Mk I ex-Lith)

Government Agencies


Civilian Operators

UK – Shuttleworth Collection (1 airworthy aircraft)

Note: Some new-build export aircraft fitted with customer specified armament.


Gloster S.S.37
Role: Single-seat fighter
Crew: One
Dimensions: Length 27 ft 5 in (8.36 m); Height 11 ft 9 in (3.58 m) tail down over propeller arc; Wing Span 32 ft 3 in (9.83 m); Wing Area 323.0 sq ft (30.01 sq m)
Engine(s): One air-cooled, 9 cylinder radial, Bristol Mercury IV of 530 hp (395 kW) – later fitted with Mercury VIS2 of 648 hp (483 kW).
Weights: Empty Equipped 3,062 lb (1,398 kg); Loaded 4,339 lb (1,967 kg)
Performance: Maximum level speed 236 mph (380 kph) at 10,000 ft (3,048 m), or 242 mph (390 kph) at 13,800 ft (4,206 m) with Mercury VIS; Time to 10,000 ft (3,048 m) 5 min 15 sec; Service ceiling 27,000 ft (8,229 m)
Armament: Two .303 in (7.7 mm) Vickers Mk.V machine-guns in fuselage sides with 600 rounds per gun; two 0.303 Lewis guns under lower wing with 97 rounds per gun.
Gloster Gladiator Mk I
Role: Single-seat fighter
Crew: One
Dimensions: Length 27 ft 5 in (8.36 m); Height 11 ft 9 in (3.58 m) tail down over propeller arc*; Wing Span 32 ft 3 in (9.83 m); Wing Area 323.0 sq ft (30.01 sq m)
Engine(s): One air cooled, 9 cylinder radial, Bristol Mercury IX of 830 hp (619 kW) driving a Watts 2-bladed propeller of 10 ft 9 in (3.28 m) diameter.
Weights: Empty Equipped 3,217 lb (1,458 kg); Loaded 4,594 lb (2,082 kg)
Performance: Maximum level speed 210 mph (338 kph) at sea level, 253 mph (407 kph) at 14,500 ft (4,420 m); Initial rate of climb 2,300 ft/min (700 m/min); Time to 10,000 ft (3,048 m) 4 min 40 sec; Service ceiling 32,800 ft (9,997 m); Range 428 mls (689 km); Endurance 1 hr 54 min.
Armament: First 71 aircraft: Two .303 in (7.7 mm) Vickers Mk. V machine-guns in fuselage sides, with 600 rounds per gun; one 0.303 Lewis machine gun under each lower wing with 97 rounds per gun. Subsequently: Two .303 in (7.7 mm) Browning machine-guns in fuselage sides, with 600 rounds per gun; one 0.303 Browning machine gun under each lower wing with 400 rounds per gun.

* The height of 10 ft 4 in (3.15 m) quoted in many sources is the minimum height when the propeller blades and fuselage are horizontal.

Gloster Gladiator Mk II
As above, except for the following:-
Dimensions: Height 11 ft 7 in (3.53 m) tail down over propeller arc*
Engine(s): One air cooled, 9 cylinder radial, Bristol Mercury VIIIA or VIIIAS of 840 hp (636 kW) with manual boost override driving a Fairey Reed 3-bladed propeller of 10 ft 6 in (3.20 m) diameter.
Weights: Empty Equipped 3,444 lb (1,562 kg); Loaded 4,864 lb (2,206 kg)
Performance: Maximum level speed 215 mph (346 kph) at sea level, 257 mph (414 kph) at 14,600 ft (4,449 m); Time to 10,000 ft (3,048 m) 4 min 30 sec; Service ceiling 33,500 ft (11,570 m); Range 444 mls (714 km); Endurance 2 hrs 6 min.

* The height of 10 ft 4 in (3.15 m) quoted in many sources is the minimum height when the fuselage is horizontal and the propeller has been rotated to have two blades at the top and one vertical blade at the bottom.

Gloster Sea Gladiator
As Mk II above, except for the following:-
Role: Single-seat carrier-borne Fighter
Weights: Empty Equipped 3,554 lb (1,612 kg); Loaded 5,020 lb (2,272 kg)
Performance: Maximum level speed 210 mph (338 kph) at sea level, 253 mph (407 kph) at 14,600 ft (4,449 m); Cruising speed 212 mph (341 kph); Time to 10,000 ft (3,048 m) 4 min 42 sec; Service ceiling 32,300 ft (9,844 m); Range 415 mls (667 km) at 259 mph (416 kph); Endurance 1 hr 58 min.
Armament: As for Mk II, plus provision for two extra 0.303 Browning machine guns in the top wing.
A nice view of the upper surfaces
(photo, Dave Key Military Airshows in the UK)


Design Centre

Head of Design Team: Harold P Folland
Design Office: Gloster Aircraft Company Ltd, Hucclecote, Gloucester.


Gloster Aircraft Co Ltd
(Hucclecote, Gloucestershire, UK.)
Version Quantity Assembly Location Time Period
S.S.37 1 Hucclecote early Spring 1934-Sept 1934
Gladiator Mk I 23 Hucclecote late 1936-4 March 1937
Gladiator Mk I 180 Hucclecote Spring 1937-late 1937
Gladiator Mk I 28 Hucclecote late 1937
Gladiator Mk I export 147 Hucclecote May 1937-mid 1938
Sea Gladiator (Interim) 38 Hucclecote March 1938-Dec 1938
Sea Gladiator 60 Hucclecote June 1938-mid Feb 1939*
Gladiator Mk II 252** Hucclecote 1938-30 Aug 1939
J 8A Gladiator (Mk II) 18 Hucclecote 1938
Total: 747    

* some sources state 24 May 1939.
** Includes 31 aircraft for export.

Total Produced: 747 a/c: 1 S.S.37, 378 Mk I, 38 Sea Gladiator (Interim), 60 Sea Gladiator, 270 Mk II.

Production List

To be added.

This view shows the half-pale blue/half-black
underside colours worn by this aircraft
(photo, Allan Barley)

More Information


‘Gloster Gladiator (Mushroom Magazine Special No.6104)’ [Order this book from Amazon UK]
by Alex Crawford
Published by Mushroom Model Publications, Mar 2002 ISBN: 83 916327 0 9
* Complete operational history, covering all the air forces using the Gladiator – from Finland to China. The book includes the true story of the legendary defence of Malta. 160 pages with 64 in colour.

‘Gloster Gladiator Aces (Osprey Aircraft of the Aces – 44)’ [Order this book from Amazon UK]
by Andrew Thomas
Published by Osprey, Feb 2002 ISBN: 1 84176 289X
* Covers all the pilots who became aces on the Gladiator. 90 pages with 10 in colour.

‘Gloster Aircraft Since 1917’ [Order this book from Amazon UK]
by Derek N James
Published by Putnam Aeronautical Books, June 1987 ISBN: 0 85177 807 0
* Detailed company history with a chapter on the Gladiator.

‘The Gloster Gladiator (Macdonald Aircraft Monographs)’
by Francis K. Mason
Published by Macdonald & Co (Publishers) Ltd, 1964 ISBN: –
* The classic in-depth reference to the Gladiator. 136 pages.

‘The Gloster Gladiator: Profile No.98’
by Francis K. Mason
Published by Profile Publications Ltd, 1966 ISBN: n/a
* Concise well illustrated history of the Gladiator.

‘Gladiator in Action: Aircraft Number 187’
by W A Harrison
Published by Squadron/Signal Publications Ltd, 2003 ISBN: 0-89747-450-3
* Landscape format history of the Gladiator. Well illustrated.

‘Gloster Gladiator (Warpaint Series No.37)’
by Tom Spencer
Published by Hall Park Books Ltd, 2002 ISBN: X 9999 00373
* Concise production and service history of the Gladiator. 52 pages with scale plans.

‘Gloster Gladiator (Monografie Lotnicze No. 24)’
by Bartlomiej Belcarz & Robert Peczkowski
Published by A J Press, Poland, 1996 ISBN: ?
* Polish text history but very well illustrated.


To be added.


ADF Aircraft Serial Numbers
(Individual aircraft details for RAAF Gladiators)

Camouflage & Markings of Gloster Gladiator
(Colour profile drawings of the Gladiator in various markings)

F19 in Finland
(Swedish Gladiator unit in the Finnish Winter War)

Gloster Aircraft
(Gladiators tested by the Luftwaffe)

Gloster Gladiator aircraft profile
(Details of Gladiator in Fleet Air Arm service and preserved examples)

Gloster Gladiator Homepage
(Homepage of Alex Crawford – Gladiator book author and researcher)

Gloster Gladiator
(Multi-page profile of the Gladiator, including all known operators)

J8 – Gloster Gladiator
(Good photos of Swedish Gladiators – in service and in a museum)


Flight Simulator Models:
To be added.

Scale Models:
To be added.

Scale Drawings:
Scale Aviation Modeller January 2001 (see also the Warpaint title above).

Roy Tassell has a nice 1/36 scale drawing of the Gladiator.


To be added.

Battle of Britain Fighter Pilots

“RAF Battle of Britain fighter pilots were mostly upper-class former public schoolboys.” – In fact, of the 2900 fighter pilots who fought in the Battle of Britain, (“The Few”), only 200 went to public (i.e. private) school. The bulk came from humble or grammar school backgrounds and 20 per cent were of foreign nationality – including Czechs, Poles, Americans and Canadians.
[The origins of this myth go back to the early days of the RAF. In the 1920s and 1930s it was widely believed that only public schoolboys provided the right material for military officers and the RAF recruited accordingly. When the Auxiliary Air Force was established in 1924 for reservist pilots, the only people who could afford to join where wealthy young men who didn’t need to spend six days every week at work. Thus the Aux AF became a social club for a certain class of people. With the rapid expansion of the RAF in the 1930s, the formation of the Volunteer Reserve introduced a new social class of pilots – the non-commissioned officer, (NCO). The VR strongly attracted young working men who wanted to learn how to fly – for free. With the coming of war, the initial strength of the RAF was built around a core of experienced regular officers, supplemented by the members of the Auxiliary Air Force and large numbers of Volunteer Reserve ‘Seargent Pilots’. The popular British wartime propaganda film ‘The First of the Few’, about the origins of the Spitfire and its role in the Battle of Britain, made with the help of Auxiliary and Regular Air Force pilots, was one of the first vehicles for the public schoolboy heroes myth.]

South Korean’s Stealth Fighter Takes Shape

As the year 2008 comes to a close, the South Korean government will be faced with a major decision. This decision could alter the balance of power in the Korean peninsula for the next three decades. At the heart of the “cross road” is to continued the developmental stage of the country’s first independent and indigenous produced stealth fighter. In late 2000, President Kim Dea-Jung’s government concluded that after years of an intense lobbying campaign in the United States Congress for the opportunity to acquire first generation F-22 Raptor stealth fighters from the United States, an effort that proved unsuccessful; South Korean would need to develop its own program if they were to have an operational stealth aircraft by the middle of the century. On may 2001 he proceeded to order a Feasibility Study regarding the ability of the country to produce its own stealth platform. The Korean Aerospace Industry (KF) immediately began research into the platform’s characteristics and profile. This study eventually concluded that such aircraft could in fact be designed and developed in-country. The first phase of the program, the Definition Study began in the spring of 2006 and concluded in December 2006. The second part, the Feasibility Study commenced in January 2007. The task was a join effort between KF, the Korean Development Institute, the Teal Group of aerospace consultants and a government-ran think tank. The study phase was finished in February of this year. During the feasibility phase, KF and its partners visited all the major US aircraft manufactures as well as its European counterparts. The visits were intended to gather support for a transoceanic venture involving one or more of the world’s biggest aircraft design and development companies. As of today, only SAAB has demonstrated profound interest in KF effort.

The KFX concept, as outlined by the Definition Study, would be a twin engine fighter with an all internal weapons carriage mechanism similar to the one on board the F-22. The internal carriage limited the aircraft’s cross radar signature. The KFX would have a performance envelop in the vicinity of the Boeing’s F-15K and the Lockheed Martin F-16C-D Block 52 air superiority fighters. The plane’s profile would also mimic that of the two mentioned US fighters.

As a technology “bridge” between South Korea’s Air Force current air inventory of F-15K and F-16C-D Block 52 and the new KFX, KF in partnership with Lockheed Martin, developed the FA-50 Light Attack aircraft. The FA-50 is a de facto upgraded version of the KF-Lockheed Martin join ventured TA-50 advance training airplane. The TA-50 is a light weigh and extremely maneuverable aircraft weight in at just above 6.5 metric tons (without its full weapons and fuel complement). The T-50 version took to the air for the first time on August 20th 2002 and became operational in February 2005. Over one hundred units of the T-50 had been delivered to the South Korean AF.

But South Korean “bridge” is getting closer to cross. The Korean government estimated that the $ 12 billion program should produce a workable air vehicle by 2017 with the first units entering frontal service four years later. So, if the decision to move forward is made, South Korea could very well field the forth stealth tactical squadron (Russia, Great Britain and France are working on their own stealth platforms) in the world. A truly remarkable achievement by any standards.

– Raul Colon