4 February 2013

Lightning enlightenment

The Lightning has now been moved elsewhere.

For some months now, there has been a strange sight just off the A46 about 2 km north of J18 on the M4 (left) in SW England. At the edge of a disused lorry park sits an English Electric Lightning airframe with its fin and wing extremities removed (above left).

The Lightning was in RAF service from 1960 to 1988 when its primary role was the interception of Soviet aircraft like the Tupolev Tu-95 ‘Bear’ (above right) intruding into NATO airspace – (and probably still attempting to do so!).

Search results from simply Googling “A46 Lightning” reveal that the F1 A XM173 will probably not be at the side of the road for much longer. An application has been submitted to Wiltshire Council for its display at the Dyson premises in Malmesbury. The plan is for XM173 to be placed near a Harrier to provide a second exemplar of British engineering achievement. The Dyson Lightning will be mounted pointing to the sky, which seems appropriate given its mode of near-vertical climb, as experienced by Professor Brian Cox in his 2010 BBC series Wonders of the Solar System:

The limitations of the Lightning included its limited endurance without air-to-air refueling and its proneness to fuel fires because of the complex arrangement of the two engines, and the aircraft was never given a sensor and weapon fit to match its aerodynamics.

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