Thumbnail Filmstrip of Corgi BAC Lightning F.6 RAF No.56 Squadron Firebirds XP770 Images
English Electric Lightning F.Mk 6 Diecast Model
RAF No.56 Sqn Firebirds, XP770, RAF Wattisham, England, 1975
As the only British built Mach 2 capable fighter, the BAC Lightning spent the Cold War years being scrambled to challenge Soviet Tu-95 "Bear" bombers, which regularly encroached into British airspace. A highly capable interceptor aircraft, the Lightning possessed both blistering speed and spectacular acceleration and is regarded as perhaps the most enigmatic jet aircraft to ever serve with the Royal Air Force. XR770 first flew in 1966 and famously appeared at that years Farnborough Airshow, wearing Royal Saudi Air Force colours, where it flew ten demonstration flights. In the years to follow, this famous aircraft went on to serve with No.74 "Tigers" and No.56 "Firebirds" Squadrons, before ending its service life with the last Lightning fighters at No.5 Squadron at RAF Binbrook. Lightning XR770 is now preserved at RAF Waddington, wearing distinctive RAF No.5 Squadron red spine and tail colours and was the subject of a previous Aviation Archive release (AA32311).
If you were to ask aviation enthusiasts of a certain age "What was the most exciting aircraft that you ever saw display?" many would undoubtedly reply the English Electric/BAC Lightning. Built purely for speed, the Lightning was designed to protect UK airspace from encroaching Soviet bombers, which dictated that the aircraft had a phenomenal rate of climb. Lightning pilots described flying the aircraft as being strapped onto a rocket and having the Lightning in your logbook was certainly something to boast about. The lack of range was always something that plagued Lightning operations, and successive upgrades were always attempting to cram more fuel into the aircraft. It was fast though and anyone who saw a Lightning put through its paces will never forget this spectacular aviation experience.