(Above: ''Lift Off" 53-674 (ZF582)
With 32,600 pounds, over 16 Tons of thrust available, the lightning has blistering performance and a phenomenal climb rate. Capable of deploying to 50,000 feet a minute, a formidable interceptor, specifically designed and built to intercept its intended target as quickly as possible. The Lightning was and still is capable of breaking the speed of sound, reaching speeds in excess of Mach 2.2 in straight and level flight, a performance equaled only by the Russian Mig 25 of the day, more over, few fighters can match this performance today. The Lightning is also capable of breaking the speed of sound on dry power (no re-heat/afterburning), commonly coined by the Americans as ''SUPER CRUISE'', a feature still boasted about in modern aircraft such as the F22 Raptor, and yet the lightning was so advanced that it was capable of this over 35 years ago!
The lightning was famed for its responsiveness and nimble handling qualities , being particularly agile for a heavy single seat. It was this impressive performance that made it particularly useful even into the early nineties, after its MOD retirement in 1987. Ironically, the lightning was the only suitable supersonic platform to be used as a chase plane for testing of the radar in its successor, the Tornado F3, during Foxhunter radar trials. British Aerospace privately operated two F6 variants in their test program, finally retiring them in 1992, one of which is now owned by the Lightning Preservation Group. A fitting and appropriate final role for this impressive beast.
The lightning, in any guise, is still a modern day hot rod capable of out performing most serving fighters today, including its replacement the Royal Air Force interceptor, the Tornado IDS F3. Though the Lightning is surpassed by the latest technical marvels, such as the Euro fighter, for sheer bullish performance it is still almost unrivalled some 37 years on from the first F53 rolling off of the production line. An impressive credit to the designers and test pilots who developed the lightning.!
The below picture gives a brief idea of the sheer power contained within the Lightning Avon engines, with expelled hot gases still doing 30 knots 160 feet away from the aircraft!