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07 Jul 06. The Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter was officially named Lightning II, in a ceremony held today in Fort Worth, Texas.

The name echoes those of two formidable fighters from the past: the World War II-era Lockheed P-38 Lightning and the mid-1950s Lightning supersonic jet, built by English Electric.

“The F-35 Lightning II will carry on the legacy of two of the greatest and most capable fighter aircraft of all time,” said Ralph D. Heath, president of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. “Just as the P-38 and the British Lightning were at the top of their class during their day, the F-35 will redefine multi- role fighter capability in the 21st century.”

Attendees at the event included U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England and U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley, who announced the F-35’s new name. Also in attendance were U.S. Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn of Texas, U.S. Congresswoman Kay Granger of Fort Worth, and representatives from the eight nations that are partnering with the U.S. in the F-35’s development: the United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, Canada, Australia, Denmark and Norway.

“The F-35 Lightning II will be the centerpiece of airpower in the 21st century for America and our allies,” Secretary England said. “Congratulations to the talented team of aerospace workers both in the United States and from our many international partners on reaching this important milestone.”

Gen. Moseley added, “This aircraft represents the fruits of lessons learned over a hundred years of flight and aerial combat. We’re excited about bringing it into our inventory, and warfighters around the globe are excited about flying it in defense of freedom.”

English Electric, maker of the Lightning jet, later became BAE Systems, a principal industrial partner on the JSF program.

As Farnborough approaches it is worth remembering the legacy of the English Electric Lightning which retained the record as the fastest climbing jet fighter for many years.

Like the Vulcan, the English Electric Lightning stemmed from a 1947 requirement, this time for a fighter. English Electric’s design was so radical at the time that the Royal Aircraft Establishment took exception to some parts of it. They went so far as to award Shorts with a contract to put together an aircraft to show EE just what parts of their design were wrong. So born was the SB.5, which could have its wing sweep and tailplane position varied between flights. This first flew on the 2nd of December 1952 and by early 1954, the trials had confirmed EE’s choice of low tailplane and mainplane sweep angle.

The first prototype, designated the P.1, took to the air on the 4th of August 1954, piloted by Roland Beamont, EE’s chief test pilot. Powered by Sapphire engines, on its third flight (on the 11th) it exceeded Mach 1 in level flight, the first British aircraft to do so. Reheat (afterburner) had not been used; supercruise was here a hell of a long time before the Americans and their ATF programme! The second prototype, the P.1A (a P.1. with twin 30mm cannon and later a bulged belly fuel tank), took to the air on the 18th of July 1955 and introduced the new aircraft to airshow-goers at that year’s Farnborough show. The P.1s, while recognisably Lightning ancestors, had a number of differences in appearance. Most obviously, they had yet to receive a radar, and the nose intake was egg-shaped rather than round; looking like a basking shark’s mouth. No ventral fuel tanks were fitted to start with and the vertical tail was substantially smaller.

English Electric were by now working on a possible production variant, the P.1B. This had a ventral fuel tank, Ferranti AI-23 radar, raised cockpit and Avon engines. Armament had improved with the inclusion of a ventral pack to take either two more cannon, two retractable rocket packs or two Firestreak infra-red homing missiles. The vertical t

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