English Electric Lightning T.5A, F.6A and F.8

Started by Pellson, February 22, 2021, 02:34:28 AM

Previous topic - Next topic


Being sorted on photo storage, I'm continuing my catch up on more or less completed projects. Enjoy!

English Electric Lightning T.5A, F.6A and F.8

In November 1966, the export Lightning F.53 for the Royal Saudi Air Force took off for its first test flight. The F.53 was in essence a Lightning F.6 but with added reconnaissance and ground attack capability in modified belly fuel packs, an extra that BAC earlier had tried to sell to RAF as well in the form of an F.3A. The RAF brass, however, in their infinite wisdom, failed to see the usefulness of anything but specialised single role aircraft and declined.
Seeing the arrival of the SARH capable Phantom over Vietnam, BAC soon proposed another, rather more extensive development of the Lightning, featuring an expansion of the Airpass radar allowing the use of AIM-7 Sparrow missile and swing-wings a la the F-111 to make it suitable for shorter and more cramped airfields. The intakes were now moved to make room for the bigger radar and relocated to the fuselage sides, ahead of the wing. This was the Lightning F.7, but such an ambitious redesign was from the start deemed to fail to attract interest from the ever cost cautious RAF. Instead, the F.6 soldiered on, despite an increasing awareness of the limitations imposed by the Lightning's small and IR-only missile armament.

Still however perceiving the need but getting the message on cost, BAC instead let a small team of engineers continue work on a cost optimised SARH capable Lightning, deleting the expensive and heavy swing-wing concept. Still, however, the big radar dish needed the space previously occupied by the circular intake, but this time, the team elected to extend the wing roots somewhat, placing triangular, Hunter-like intakes in what effectively formed LERX:es. Differing from the Hunter though, the Lighting intakes had proper supersonic splitter plates allowing for seamless control throughout the speed range. Through careful design, all this could be achieved by a relatively simple, if partly extensive, rebuild of the existing structure, effectively making it an upgrade kit as well as a new build proposal.
Armament was increased by adapting the wing to accept two pylons under each wing. The outer was directly nicked from the Saudi F.53 but a similar pylon could now also be attached directly under the overwing jettisonable fuel tank, ahead of the landing gear tray. Together with the original pylons on the nose, six missiles could now be carried, permitting any mix between Firestreak, Red Top, AIM-7 Sparrow and AIM-9 Sidewinder. To increase pilot threat awareness, a Marconi ARI81223 radar warning receiver was introduced, placed under the existing antennas at the fin top. Also retained from the F.53 was the ability to accommodate a quickly exchangeable alternative gun/fuel pack or reconnaissance/fuel pack under the belly, as was the ability to carry up to 6000lbs of air-to-ground munitions making the new Lightning a truly swingrole aircraft, long before the term was coined.

A side effect of the relocation of the intake air duct was a rearrangement of electronics allowing more fuel to be accommodated, and as Rolls-Royce in the meantime had refined the Avon further with the Mk 305, cutting consumption by approximately 15% in non-afterburner operations, the new Lightning F.8 could, when flown in 1969, easily fly for two hours on a normal intercept profile, nearly doubling the endurance of the F.6. Also, the external air to air refuelling probe was deleted and replaced by a smaller foldable fixture, more or less outright stolen from the Anglo-French Sepecat Jaguar then in final development, and like on the Jag, placed on the right hand side of the nose.
The new wing configuration also meant a slightly better sustained turn ratio, and when the Americans lent a captured MiG-21 for assymetric air combat manouvering trials, the F.8 was able to outfly the more nimble Russian fighter with relative ease at all altitudes. With the original Lightning's power and manouverability now in combination with a medium range SARH missile outfit, BAC could offer a truly formidable fighter-interceptor and RAF finally gave in, ordering 34 newbuilds and subsequently rebuilt another 47 from already delivered F.2s and F.3s. The first were delivered early in 1970 and all were in service by the end of 1972.
In addition to this, the already delivered 39 F.6 and a further 22 F.3 were upgraded with the wing pylons, and AIM-9 Sidewinder capability, as well as the fintop RWR. These were designated F.6A. During major maintenance in the following years, the opportunity was taken to replace the original engines in these F.6As with the improved Avon Mk 305, gaining better fuel economy and thereby some endurance. Finally, taking the cue from the Saudi T.55 trainers, RAF elected to also upgrade 32 T.4 and T.5 to F.6A standard, redesignating them T.5A.

The Lightnings carried on during the seventies, with several deployments overseas but mainly allocated to NATO air defense tasks. During these, the longer ranged radar was put to good use when intercepting Russian Bears and Badgers over the North Sea.
During the Falklands war in 1982, the Sea Harrier had proven its worth but also – again – the limitations of not being able to field a medium range AAM. In response, Ferranti developed its Blue Fox radar as fitted to the Sea Harrier FRS.1 into the much more capable Blue Vixen radar, later fielding it in the Sea Harrier FA.2. During the development, the radar was tested in a Lightning F.6A and as the Tornado F.2 still was unable to reach full operational capability, as an interim measure all remaining F.6As were refurbished and equipped with the Blue Vixen, introducing the AIM-120 AMRAAM missile in RAF service during 1986. As the Foxhunter radar of the Tornado subsequently matured, it was found that it, albeit in a somewhat simplified form, relatively easily could be integrated in the F.8, and starting in 1988, the 62 remaining machines were so refitted, allowing for the AMRAAM also on the more capable version of the Lightning. 
During the remainder of the eighties, Lightnings flew with the two RAF Germany squadrons plus another three at home, but the Tornado F3 was now slowly coming into service properly and in 1990, the two F.6A sqns disbanded. The F.8 however kept going as it still outflew the Tornado in all aspects but endurance and on repeated occasions even made life painful for USAFE F-15:s during practice.
The next sharp situation came during the first Gulf war when two squadrons were deployed for air defence over southern Iraq. The Iraqi air force proved to be a less than formidable opponent and in the fierce first days, three Iraqi MiGs and an Iraqi Mirage F1 fell victim to the Lightings.

In the late nineties, however, the Lightning began to show its age, but as its intended replacement, the Typhoon, took longer than expected to reach operational service, the Lightning lingered on, finally flying its last sortie in 2006. This coincided with no 11 Sqn receiving their first Typhoons, and the farewell display included a magnificent tandem display featuring both types. The common verdict was that while the Typhoon certainly could make tighter turns, the Lightning still displayed more power and noise, making it the favourite of the audience.

The kits are Matchbox's venerable F.6 but with all it's flaws it still looks like Lightnings to me and I like them even though there are more modern kits out there today. Pylons on both versions come from Airfix Javelins. On the F.8, I mercilessly butchered an old Airfix SAAB Draken to use the front inner wings as LERX/air intakes, cutting the original wings transversely towards the body and blending with putty, then building splitter plates from plasticard. The big radar nose comes from an ancient Monogram Tornado IDS and it fit basically "bolt on" with very minor sanding.
I painted and decorated the Lightnings in lieu with how the real F.6 looked at the very end of it's career, making a departure from my disruptive camo preference, but keeping to the principle that any aircraft should be painted to blend optimally in the environment you usually will find it, in the case of interceptors rather high above the clouds.

The Lightning is one of my absolute favourite aircraft, it's raw power and brutish looks really triggering me. However, I have always thought it lacked somewhat in armament and capabilities in comparison to it's closest rivals, the SAAB Draken, the MIrage IIIC and the F-104G/S. Taking that Tornado apart in order to scavenge other parts for another build, I came to just accidentally try on the nose on a Lightning I built some thirty years ago, and seeing the near perfect match, the project was born. Later, I bought a second Matchbox Lightning to make the F.6A, preferring that old kit to keep the models as similar as possible while still being able to show evolution.

All in all, this was a love project when building it a few years ago, but it took me until just a few weeks a go to load up with missiles due to laziness. But now it's out, in service and I like it a lot.

Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!


I like the wing root intakes a lot, even though the appear bit small to me for two engines? Looks very good, though!  :thumbsup:


Quote from: Dizzyfugu on February 22, 2021, 03:17:34 AM
I like the wing root intakes a lot, even though the appear bit small to me for two engines? Looks very good, though!  :thumbsup:

I actually had a look at that and measured/calculated the area, and the two triangles are actually slightly bigger than double the original circle.  ;)
Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!


I like those :wub:
The dogs philosophy on life.
If you cant eat it hump it or fight it,
Pee on it and walk away!!


A CLASS job there Pellson, there can never be too many Lightning variants, and yours are gems.  :thumbsup:
Kit's Rule 1 ) Any aircraft can be improved by fitting longer wings, and/or a longer fuselage
Kit's Rule 2) The backstory can always be changed to suit the model

...and I'm not a closeted 'Take That' fan, I'm a REAL fan! :)



So I got that going for me...which is nice....


I love the aesthetic surgery for the nose without air intake... :wub:
[the word "realistic" hurts my heart...]


How to reduce carbon emissions - Tip #1 - Walk to the Bar for drinks.


Decals my @r$e!


-Sprues McDuck-

Captain Canada

CANADA KICKS arse !!!!

Long Live the Commonwealth !!!
Vive les Canadiens !
Where's my beer ?

Glenn Gilbertson




- Can't be bothered to do the proper research and get it right.

Another ill conceived, lazily thought out, crudely executed and badly painted piece of half arsed what-if modelling muppetry from zenrat industries.

zenrat industries:  We're everywhere...for your convenience..


Great work!  You realize, right, I'm going to have to copy that F8? 
Thistle dew, Pig - thistle dew!

Where am I going?  And why am I in a handbasket?

It's dark in the dark when it's dark. Ancient Ogre Proverb

"All right, boyz - the plan iz 'Win.'  And if ya lose, it's yer own fault 'coz ya didn't follow the plan."