The English Electric Lightning was the first (and subsequently only) all-British supersonic fighter aircraft. It was very much the Spitfire of the Cold War, the only aircraft every would-be pilot wanted to fly. The same role applied to both aircraft – they were designed to be home defence aircraft.
The Lightning was designed to a demanding specification - specification F23/49, which called for a supersonic fighter/interceptor aircraft . The team at English Electric (who started making aircraft in World War 2, producing Halifax’s) set to work, and made sketches of a heavily swept wing aircraft. Initially, the the Royal Aircraft Establishment took exception to some parts of the design disputing that the wing angle was incorrect. They even went as far as to commision an aircraft from Shorts, the SB.5 to prove the fact. However, The research confirmed that the English Electric configuration was right all along.
For a more detailed history of the Lightning, I can’t hesitate in recommending the following sites:
I received the review copy by download. As a 301mb file, I downloaded it in a few minutes, and installation was quick and easy, after authenticating the product via the installer. The manual is well worth a detailled read as it contains various little bits of interesting information, like a Lightning ‘bouncing’ a U-2 at 85,000ft!
The Lightning is also available on a DVD for those who prefer it.
What you get
I’ve seen 4 Lightning’s (ZF588, a F.53, XS417, a T.5, XG337, an F.1and XM135, an F.1A) and taken a few photos of them. From the looks of it, comparing it to photos, Just Flight and Aeroplane Heaven have done an excellent job with the external texturess. The nose cone houses the simplified radar (more on that later) and the tail has the correct fairing offered.
The animations of the various covers, ground cart etc. are very good. There are two options – a complete cover up (canopy cover, engine intake covers, exhaust covers, pilot covers and crew ladder) and a ‘prepare for flight’ set up (ground power unit (GPU) and crew ladder).
The main external difference between the F.53 and the F.6 is that the F.53 didn’t carry the Red Top missiles, but carried SNEB rockets under the wings. A neat animation (Shift+E+4) enables the internal unguided rockets to be shown. There is a part in the manual that states, “Additional information for F.53 RSAF version…… To deploy the rocket packs, use Shift+4.” I tried doing this, but it seems it would be Shift+E+4.
The gun flashes from the twin 30mm Aden cannon are quite nice. It’s a simple effect that was introduced with the Spitfire (I think) way back in 2005 that has been updated through FSX. A nice rumble sound of the recoil/reloading is included.
The Red Top missiles are well rendered, complete with the infra-red tracker in the nose. The covers seem accurate when on ‘ground service’. It is a real shame that you can’t at least fire the missiles, even with no effect on the virtual world.
The long refuelling probe seems like an afterthought. And it was, having been added to increase the aircraft’s range without too much aerodynamic impact. It looks right as it just seems to ‘float’ there.
The lights are well done, except that the cockpit lighting seems to be a bit too bright with too much light coming out of the canopy. A reasonable area is lit below the canopy frame onto the fuselage.
The additional fuel tanks are nicely modelled. But the manual states that they are toggled on/off on the annunciator panel, instead of the switch just to the left of them. This has no effect on aircraft performance and fuel capacity.
As is common nowadays, only a Virtual Cockpit is provided. The only instruments I used were the altitude indicator, the V/S, the speed tape and the two main displays. There are two 2D pop-up panels – one is a default radio stack and the other is the controller for the radar.
First impressions are good. Everything is where it should be. The colours are nicely done, with some fading and chipping around instruments. The tinted glass of the canopy and windscreens is good. Interestingly, some things don’t work in the aircraft (like arming the missiles and firing). I know FSX isn’t that kind of simulator, but if some other companies (Flying Stations and MilViz to name two) can do it, why can’t Aeroplane Heaven?
There is an interception radar included. This shows you the height of an aircraft, the speed, flight number, destination (ICAO) and type. North is always at the top. Airfields are also indicated. It is useful for simple navigation (there’s an airfield – my fuel is low – let’s land). I couldn’t find a way of displaying an active flight plan in the radar, which would have been handy.
The speed tape is really, really useful. It gives you Indicated Mach readout and an IAS in knots. One trouble I had with this was at low IAS/high Mach at really high altitudes, the tape stuck out from behind the instrument panel. (Now fixed in SP)
The gauges are fluent and easy to read. The navigation display is useful, displaying the ILS/VOR as a blue/orange line that you follow. The altimeter is to the left of the attitude indicator, with the speed gauge to the left of that.
Night lighting is a subtle, green hue that barely illuminates the panel, but illuminates the gauges. The barest minimum is lit, as it’s a fighter and you don’t want people seeing you before you can shoot!
Before I tell you about the sounds, let me say that Turbine Sound Studios have done them. This means that they are simply excellent. The sound of the AVPIN being injected into the engine is an exact copy of what I’ve heard on YouTube. The roar of the Avon’s on full throttle will blow your worries away – they are superb!
The cockpit sounds are good. You can’t really hear the AVPIN inside, but you hear the winding up of the Avon’s more clearly, albeit muffled. Switches make a nice click when operated, and the autopilot makes a rather annoying sound (default by the sounds of it) but works well.
Sadly, the Lightning’s were all withdrawn in the UK before I was born. I haven’t seen a Lightning in flight, but from what I can gather, she was quite spritely. Certainly, from the modelling, she will roll no problem and will fly far faster than you should. I did a quick test from 0/0 (0.0IM, 0feet) to 1.4/50,000ft in 2:03:4 seconds – and that included a nice slow-up in ascent!
At anywhere between 0 feet and about 55,000 feet, she is very agile. Once above that, power seems to drop off a bit. At 60,000+ feet, she starts to get a bit ‘mushy’. It becomes easy to do a high speed stall. The maximum height I attained was just over 80,000ft and at Mach 2.2 indicated.
I did experience a couple of unintentional, very high speed, stalls at high altitude. The nose dipped down quite a bit and she fell a fair way from about 75,000ft down before she recovered. Flying at that height and speed is a new experience for me but it wasn't intentional.
I suppose an average flight for a Lightning was a quick start, followed by a rapid climb, interception, followed by landing. Of course, the Saudi Lightning’s did things differently – keeping low for most of their days.
Take-off with full reheat is a sensation. The manual recommends full flaps for take-off. The first time I didn’t read the manual and couldn’t get off the ground! You really get a feeling of power. The airspeed rises very quickly and I rotated at around 150kts. Brakes on and gear up, flaps have to be up after 200kts. I always kept the power on and didn’t climb until I reached 450kts. Then I pulled back the stick to about 60 degrees and zoomed up. (The recommended climb attitude is 14 degrees)
The aircraft’s rate of climb is phenomenal, with full afterburner on you can accelerate whilst at a 60 degree angle!
Even at 60,000ft, the aircraft is responsive and agile. You can ‘super cruise’ if you really want, or just keep the afterburner on (with the fuel rate!) to go as fast as possible!
The autopilot is simple to use, being just an altitude hold, heading hold and speed hold. The heading can be changed via the heading knob. It takes a bit of time for everything to settle down, but after that everything is fine and it’ll stay there until you flick them off behind the yoke (which can be hidden).
I did a mock interception with a KLM 747-400. As I was at about 45,000ft and the 744 was at 30,000ft, some turning and diving was required and it also tested my formation skills. Interception was quite easy really – just remember that the radar top is north always.
Descending can be tricky as the airframe is very clean. You can only use the speed brakes at speeds below 1.2Mach, so decelerating is quite hard. A shallow dive does the trick.
Flap and gear down causes a little change in trim, easily corrected with the trim tabs. Arguably the hardest part is landing, due to the high speed. This in itself in no problem, but the rate of descent needs to be kept in check.
Touchdown is easy, with F2 activating the visual braking ‘chute. After roll out, the canopy pops open and fresh air circulates. Shutdown is simple as well – just pull the fuel from the engine and then toggling the service mode. Shift+E+2 removes the pilot, shut the canopy, do the full ground service and walk away pleased, having gone supersonic.
Flight sims have come a long way since Alphasim released their Lightning for FS9. This FSX model is great. It captures the look and feel of a Lightning, even without the missiles firing. The overall impression of this package is very good, very believable.
System Specs Required
● Internet connection (for download only)
● Microsoft Flight Simulator X (SP2 or Acceleration)
● 2.0 GHz or any Dual Core processor
● 2.0 GB of RAM
● 150 MB hard drive space
● 512 MB video card
On the ground (ORBX freeware Cunderdin) – VC 20fps
In Flight at 10000ft - VC 15-25fps
Outside 15-20 fps
In Flight at 60,000ft - VC – 20-30fps
Outside – 15-25fps
Note on Frame rates – Whilst 15-30fps may sound slow, on my system, as the specs aren't great for FSX, the default Cessna 172 barely tops 20fps outside, and about 20-30fps in the VC so this confirms the sim model is well designed.
Total flight time – 5.4 hours over 20+ flights
Since this review was finalised Just Flight have announce that there will be a service pack released which will address a couple of items here and a lot more. For an update look here
● Good looks
● Excellent performance
● Superb sounds
● Great fun!
● Missiles inactive
● Radar doesn’t show flight plan
Overall, I’d give Just Flight’s Lightning F.6 package a Mutley's Hangar Score of 9/10
Review machine Spec: Intel Core2 6400 @2.13GHz | 2GB RAM |ATI Radeon X1300 |Windows XP