Cold War Quick Reaction Alert Hangar and English Electric Lightning Interceptors
1960 - 1988
As soon as the Second World War finished, the period known as the Cold War began. The fear and threat of nuclear war dominated the world for 40 years. Britain had developed its own nuclear deterrent which in the event of war would be delivered by RAF V bombers, the Valiant, Vulcan and Victor.
In the early 1950s it became apparent that RAF Fighter Command’s first generation jet fighters, the Meteor, Vampires, Venoms and Hunters did not possess the capability to counter the powerful Soviet jet bombers. A programme was put in place to build jet fighter that could fly at twice the speed of sound (Mach 2) and climb to over 70,000 feet. The original concept for such an aircraft dates as far back as 1948.
The English Electric company were awarded the contract for 3 prototypes, known as the P1 which first flew on the 4th August 1954. These were very successful and a massive programme was put in place to develop the P1 into the Lightning which entered RAF squadron service in June 1960. It was so successful that it stayed in service until 1988.
As the Lightning's had to counter any threat to the UK, night and day, special hangars known as Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) hangars were built at three airfields near to the east coast. The hangars with self contained crew accommodation were positioned next to the end of the runway so the Lightning's could be airborne in minimum time, usually 3 to 5 minutes from the alert.
The Lightning Preservation Group have preserved 2 Lightning's in fully functional conditional in one of the original QRA hangars.
Bruntingthorpe Airfield, nr Lutterworth, Leics LE15 5QS
By appointment only
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Page Last Updated: 13 May 2013