THE LIGHTNING’S LAST LAIR

When the air defence Tornado hit trouble, British Aerospace rather ironically called on a famed predecessor to help. BAe’s Warton factory airfield in Lancashire thus became the final home of flying English Electric Lightnings in the UK

On 16 December 1992, BAe’s three remaining Lightning F6s came together for an air-to-air shoot off the Great Orme. XP693 leads, with XR773 nearest the camera, and XS904 beyond.
IAN BLACK
XS928’s career with BAe — by which time the No 5 Squadron markings had been removed — came to an end after discovery of a major airframe crack during servicing.
IAN BLACK
Two of the first RAF Lightnings fitted with overwing tanks for Tornado trials support were XR770 and XS928, here flanking Binbrook station ‘flagship’ XR728.
IAN BLACK

The Lightning’s days were numbered when the new Panavia MRCA (Multi-Role Combat Aircraft) first flew on 14 August 1974, just over 20 years to the day since the English Electric P1A prototype took to the air on 4 August 1954. Within a few years, the prospect of an air defence Tornado saw the RAF reducing its Lightning force to just two squadrons in the UK, both located at Binbrook. However, a couple of airframes had escaped squadron service and alternated between Boscombe Down and Warton on trials. XP693, the original F3 and now a hybrid F6, took up permanent residence at Warton. A further hybrid airframe, XN795, had been rebuilt from its F2 origins to resemble an F2A. It was assigned to assist Tornado development flying, acting as a highspeed chase aircraft and conducting tests of the 27mm Mauser cannon.

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