British Aircraft Corporation Lightning F6
Download history »
Download podcast »
The Lightning was the Royal Air Force's first truly supersonic aircraft and its introduction immediately doubled maximum speeds in Fighter Command.
Such a major advance called for a complex aircraft and much development flying was needed before production deliveries began in December 1959 to the Central Fighter Establishment. The first operational squadron received its aircraft six months later.
The Lightning was always identified with the air defence role during its entire twenty-eight years of front line service. Although always associated with the interception of unidentified aircraft entering United Kingdom air space it nevertheless saw extensive service overseas in the Middle and Far East as well as Germany.
Lightning units began to re-equip with McDonnell Douglas Phantoms during the early 1970s but two units (No.5 and No.11 Squadrons of the Binbrook Flying Wing) continued to operate the type into the 1980s. The last Lightning interceptor was officially retired from front line service on 30 April 1988, bringing to an end a memorable service life which lasted longer than any other fighter used by the Royal Air Force.