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Was the Lightning really THAT good ?

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Was the Lightning really THAT good ?

Old 6th Sep 2014, 16:57
  #61 (permalink)  
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Originally Posted by JonnyT1978 View Post
Wasn't it in '63 that trials were performed - mock dogfights if you will - between a Lightning and a Spitfire (PR19 IIRC) to see how to shoot a piston-engined warbird down, as the Indonesians were using Mustangs against us?
Not 'were' but 'might'.

I am not sure about the Lightning though I could be wrong, but in 1964 air defence of Malaysia rested on Javelins, F86, Hunters, and whatever was available on the carriers, such as Sea Vixen. The Lightning did not deploy until later.
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Old 6th Sep 2014, 18:49
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Finningly, QRA flights were generally against elint aircraft or naval tracking flights – occasionally a flight to Cuba or return (and USA every 4 years - 20 Jan), thus the Northern stations would have made sense.
However, the war threat was a more direct routing to the V bases / Cities over the N Sea. In later years aspects changed, some managed by tankers.

Phil, the Station Commander at Valley was always upset – regular MPCs. I recall a detachment to Valley to defend the RN with QRA / CAP. The staff and studes loved the spectacle of a scramble – more than 60 AOB in the circuit; Staich complained, the RN said it was for real – (Staish wasn’t a fighter pilot).

Lightning vs Hunter; very good sport, but when played for beers, always supersonic below 40K.
Lightning vs Buccaneer (RN) at low level (outside of the regs, but Boss said we were not to lose); turning and a large vertical component (yo-yo), about evens, particularly if the Buccs had Winders. But they never learnt about smoke trails or jet wake over water which made CAP easy.
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Old 6th Sep 2014, 18:58
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"The Spitfire Story" by Alfred Price ISBN 1-85605-702X.
Page 221 has a photograph taken at CFE West Raynham in 1963 of Spitfire PR 19 PS 853 which was the last Spitfire to perform an operational flight when it was flown against an F3.
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Old 6th Sep 2014, 19:08
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I know that "beauty is in the eye of the beholder", but how can you put up a picture of those awful American "triumph of thrust over aerodynamics" lumps and say the Lightning will never look as good? Bolleaux!

Yes the Lightning had its limitations, both in the air and on the ground, but I have never met anyone who was involved with the aircraft - either operator or maintainer - who didn't have an immense affection for the beast.

And it was British - and it didn't have the unnecessary, expensive complication of a "Talking TACAN" (now, thankfully, a redundant occupation!).
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Old 6th Sep 2014, 20:45
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1.3Vs, “And it was British
We should not overlook the contributions of the many research establishments in the development of the Lightning - Farnborough, Malvern, Pyestock, Westcott, etc. How many of these exist today, with similar capabilities.
Modern approaches to technology devolve responsibility to the manufacturers who have to bear the cost and risks in developing new systems, with long lead times, changing requirements and world situations. Manufacturers are often chided that these variables have not been managed (foreseen) or that costs are disproportionate – but forget the research costs. The management of the Lightning programme could be a lesson for today’s planners.
Hunt through the archives for Lightning development proposals; even a swing-wing. Rejections or failures are more often assumed to have no cost – they are expensive, but excellent learning.
I recall the most impressive Polish chief designer at DH Propellers (Firestreak) – ‘He who makes no mistakes, makes nothing” over the office door.

#55 ‘… experienced its test by fire’ thankfully it did not have to in the primary role, but there was excellent work in the deterrent sense arround the world.
Some Middle East owners did use the guns air-ground mode with good effect, even though inferior ammunition tended to cook-off when it was fired!
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Old 7th Sep 2014, 00:34
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That has cleared up a long running mystery. Then again, I doubt that 70 miles distance would have made much difference as goes the recent debate over whether the Typhoons would be better based at Lossiemouth or Leuchars. For somewhat different reasons to a Soviet air attack on the V-Bomber Bases, I'd have thought that Leuchars still remained the most all round advantageous base for the Northern Q!?

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Old 7th Sep 2014, 00:38
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Was the Lightning really THAT good ?
One got Yamamoto didn't it!
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Old 7th Sep 2014, 06:59
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One got Yamamoto didn't it!
Just think how good that Lightning would have been, if it was fitted with a couple of Merlin's!

But that's been the subject of another thread
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Old 7th Sep 2014, 07:00
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phil9560 wrote:
Wasn't the Station Commander at Valley upset by something similar?
Ah yes.

I was a student on a Gnat course in 1975. The Stn Cdr, known for some reason as 'Tojo', could be somewhat irascible; the only time he ever spoke to me during my time at Valley was to chew me out for overstressing a Hunter - not unreasonably, I would have to say. The bollocking, that is.

Anyway, we would often have lectures from front-line crews who flew down to Valley for the purpose. One sunny day we were told to be in the ante-room at 16:00 for a brief on the Buccaneer. The WIWOLs, who made up most of the staff in those days, didn't think much of their students being told to attend a 'bomber' briefing, but Tojo had given his orders and we had to go.

The first part was fair enough, but then the navigator gave his spiel. Unusually for the Bucc force, this was dull in the extreme. He droned on about the various attack options and attempted to explain the difference between bunt retard and DSL attacks....the room was hot and stuffy....the chairs were comfy....and eyelids were definitely beginning to droop.

Suddenly there was an almighty 'whoomp' followed by 3 more which shook the mess and woke everyone. It was 4 x Lightning F2As 'saying good-bye' as they headed back to Germany after MPC. Tojo was up on his feet, purple-faced with anger as he stumped out of the room to find a phone - he got through to his oppo at Gutersloh and ensured that a suitable reception committee would be waiting for the Lightning mates.

I'm sure the beat-up was arranged by a phonecall to STCAAME by one of the QFI WIWOLs; we thought it was brilliant and it certainly livened up the dull brief we'd been enduring!

However, a couple of years later a similar Lightning stream departure had even more spectacular results when no.4 in the stream dropped a low-level boom on Caergolliwg...

Last edited by BEagle; 7th Sep 2014 at 11:49.
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Old 7th Sep 2014, 08:44
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Ah yes Beags, the FMk2A - the best Lightning by far!
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Old 7th Sep 2014, 10:47
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Just for once I fully agree!!
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Old 7th Sep 2014, 13:06
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All this prompted me to go back and look at old notes (not contemporary may I add) at the origins of the Lightning's unique shape.

Both the P.1 (F.23/49) and the Fairey FD.2 (ER.103) emerged from the 1948 Advanced Fighter Project Group at Farnborough, which was headed by Morien Morgan but influenced by the advanced aerodynamic technology found in Germany after WW2. As someone noted above, the goal was to achieve a near-certain kill against a Soviet V-bomber equivalent.

The loss of the second DH.108 had put tailless designs in bad odor, and the swept wing with separate tail, clear of the wing-wake, appeared lower-risk. However, at some point in the deliberations, it seems that the advantages of having unswept ailerons (like a delta) were appreciated.

The staggered engines (high fineness ratio, which resulted in the Lightning being easily supersonic in advance of the formulation of the Area Rule) were also apparently an RAE innovation.

The drawing on p.119 of the document linked below and the associated discussion is fascinating, because it links the P.1 to the sweetheart of all Luft1946 fans, the Focke-Wulf Ta183. The photo on p.122 of a 1951 wind-tunnel model is equally important. I am not aware of any contemporary design anywhere else in the world that was so close to a practical Mach 2+ aircraft that would also cope well with high altitudes and (with 1950s engine technology) even supercruise.

The document also suggests that the principal value of the Shorts SB.5 was to settle the RAE v.s EE catfight over the T-tail, indubitably in the right (EE) direction.

The author calls the Vulcan a similar "fusion of German theoretical work with British pragmatic technique". That observation truly makes the Typhoon the Lightning's heir.


Last edited by LowObservable; 7th Sep 2014 at 13:30.
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Old 7th Sep 2014, 13:18
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Wasn't the Station Commander at Valley upset by something similar?
BEagle's story predates mine somewhat, but, from his Woodvale timing, I sense that Phil9560 is talking about a different incident...

September 1987, the last Lightning MPC (Firestreak). Valley Stn Cdr is an ex-Red Arrow leader and Harrier mate. We're in the middle of an MPC with 50 missiles to get rid of and, because we're like that, we've brought a two-seater to fly passengers on the firings. Strangely, we have no student takers because the word has got out from on high that we're "cowboys" (I presume that means that the students were advised against fraternizing - in the bar or in the air) so the only pax we get are WIWOL QFIs and exchange officers who all think it's a real hoot shooting big fireworks at targets various, especially in the dark and two at a time.

Anyway, come one Friday and it's a 4FTS graduation day. As the local fighter sqn in residence, the Mighty Maples are asked for a flypast, which we are delighted to provide. I'm running the MPC and we've got a gap in the firing programme so I'm on the desk when the boys set off for a 2v2 OpEx before coming back to do the Box 4 for mums and dads. Memory fades, but my recollection is that there were 3 ex-Valley QFIs in the formation - so they knew what was required.

4-ship flies past uneventfully and comes back in for the break, lands. So far, so dull. Until we get a call from the other side of the airfield to place the formation members in open arrest for illegal low-level aerobatics! We're all struggling a bit to recall what might constitute such an offense when the number 4 (I think, might have been 3, but it's not relevant) admits to a lag-pursuit roll to switch sides on the rejoin for the break.

Now, 11 Group Air Staff Orders were very clear on this manoeuvre - specifically taught as part of the LIMOP phase - which was required to get upward-pointing missiles to acquire low-level targets. So 4's manoeuvre was safe, legal and correctly authorized. We inform Stn Cdr accordingly, but there's no pacifying him. So the said chaps spend the weekend in Rhosneigr in slightly bemused open arrest...

Come the Monday morning, some of us are in the Stn met brief when the Stn Cdr decides to stand up and declare to the assembled staff and students that "last Friday we were treated to an amateurish display by the Lightnings of 5 Sqn". Well, the assembled Valley throng were embarrassed, we were furious, and things only got more amusing from there.

I forget the precise timing of phone calls to bosses et al, but as we got back across the airfield to STCAAME a T5 was breaking into the circuit. As I went out to greet it, Binbrook's Stn Cdr was climbing out asking "where's my car?" followed shortly afterwards with a word to the offending ex-creamie QFI (he of the lag-pursuit roll) along the lines of "now then xxx, that'll teach you for being a fighter pilot". Said Stn Cdr then disappeared across the airfield in a squeal of burning rubber...

I wasn't there in the room, so have no idea what was actually said, but am reliably informed from those who overheard that it went along the lines of "Who the xxxx do you think you are? Don't you ever bad-mouth my boys in public like that again, especially when you don't know WTF you're talking about, etc".

Fast black then reappears at high speed. Stn Cdr asks if his jet has been turned (it had), notes that we "should have no more problems" and climbs up the ladder.

Within about 30 minutes from touchdown there is a pleasing roar as the Binbrook Stn Cdr rotates right alongside the Valley Stn Cdr's office and disappears upwards.

I learnt about command and leadership from that.
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Old 7th Sep 2014, 14:18
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LowObs, thanks for such an enlightening reference which adds context to many aspects of this thread and relates to personal experiences.
I was fortunate to meet some of the expertise identified in the report and to visit the Bedford wind tunnels, confirming that those large electric motors were there. The tunnel supervisor was required to notify the local power station before a test run!

The document explains why the Lightning was the best, best for the role, but it could not remain best as the world situation changed. Also, the document explains why there was a reluctance to export the design in its early form; the aircraft and the technologies were too good.
IIRC the later export versions were not exactly the same as the RAF, either not buying the full range of equipment / missiles, or not being told of certain capabilities.

The Lighting was right, thus it looked right (the converse of normal assessment). Consider the lack of VGs (there was a wing notch), no bent tails or tips of the F4, fish fins of the F8-3, or wing strakes F102.

It looked right for the task and it sounded right, which together with the mystique of overall capability afforded great respect from potential adversaries, (int reports from Warsaw Pack), who did not relish an encounter with a Lightning.
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Old 7th Sep 2014, 16:45
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Big Boys Toy For WIWOLs

I thought the WIWOLs, and those who would liked to have been one, might enjoy this. The model is even of the best version, Lightning F2A, and marked up like the best sqn !


Last edited by RAFEngO74to09; 7th Sep 2014 at 16:57.
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Old 7th Sep 2014, 17:06
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I'm not sure where I heard it but is it true that Lightnings were more maneuverable with missiles fitted than clean?

By my basic understanding of aerodynamics it sounds pretty implausible (more weight=more overall mass to haul about) but if I remember right the person who stated it said something about the missile winglets aiding maneuvering.
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Old 7th Sep 2014, 17:57
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Originally Posted by 1.3vstall
and it didn't have the unnecessary, expensive complication of a "Talking TACAN" (now, thankfully, a redundant occupation!)
Not nice, fella. Not necessary. Play nice.
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Old 7th Sep 2014, 18:16
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Lightning pilots playing nice!!!! I don't think so !
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Old 7th Sep 2014, 19:10
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THS, some truth in the ideas. F3/F6 era squadron aircraft were used for aeros, thus generally they would retain the missiles.
The older dedicated F1 areos aircraft (some with smoke mod) were reported easier to manoeuvre with missile pack pylon stubs (winglets), no missiles, particularly for inverted passes. There may also have been a cg effect without missiles, aft cg being more manoeuvrable, and less drag, but retaining lift from the pylons.
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Old 9th Sep 2014, 09:37
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LO #75: splendid find, many thanks. Nahum presents MoS' 1947 assignment of the supersonic research job to EE as due to their "more sound management" than was then common in UK Aero (and to EE's possession of WEW Petter). He also presents selection of (to be) Lightning in 1957 in preference to mixed-powerplant SR.177 as due to Avon's evolving grunt, which, he suggests, had no benefit from German aero-engine technology.

Others have traced the IR sensors of Firestreak/Red Top to German work. Ferranti AI23 AIRPASS evolved in reciprocal partnership with Westinghouse. Very little in 1950s was wholly British: we shared RAE technical papers with US (and France).

LO's link has rapid climb-to-height as the defining attribute from Day 1: knock down incoming (Sov. V-craft equivalents) head-on, first pass is the last. US had Arctic depth, so F-102/F-106+BOMARC. UK did not, so...was Lightning that good: certainly, for the Specified job. That is why the reviled Sandys retained it, 4/57, when deleting so much else.
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