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#2546087 - 07/06/08 11:40 PM The curious tale of the Lightning and the U-2  
Joined: Jun 2006
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PNT Offline
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The curious tale of the Lightning and the U-2
I thought that Id share with you some interesting experiences I've had carrying out ultra high-level interceptions with the English Electric Lightning F.6 and the Lockheed U2-A. From my observations, using Wings Over Vietnam as a base game engine, the behaviour of both aircraft seems very close to what was experienced in real life a testament perhaps to the quality of the Thirdwire platform and the flight models of the test aircraft.

Historical Background
In 1962 the RAF, with the help of the USAF, carried out a series of ultra-high-level interceptions to prove the capability of such a task, given the performance of the English Electric Lightning. At that time the Lightning had been operational with the RAF for over two years, but it was the arrival of Lockheed U-2 reconnaissance aircraft at Upper Heyford that made the tests possible. The RAF requested and received permission to carry out practice interceptions as the U-2s flew overhead at the start of their missions.

For the tests two Lightning F.1As from RAF Wattisham were made available. The F.1As were stationed at Middleton St George for the duration of the tests and were tasked with intercepting the U-2s on their outward track over the Pennines and Scottish highlands. As the tests progressed interceptions changed to intercept the U-2s as they returned from their missions. Permission was also then given for supersonic flight over land, provided it did not occur within 25 miles of any major built-up area.

Rules of engagement were very strict, given the altitudes involved and the relative speed of each aircraft - and the possibility of turbulence and shockwaves incurred on the U-2s, if the Lightnings got too close. Interceptions were limited to vis-ident passes on the U-2s. If visual contact had not been made within 5 nm range, then the attack was to be broken off. A minimum distance of 5,000ft astern was also decreed and at no time could the Lightnings pass in front of the U-2s.

Three phases of the trial were carried out, with interceptions being made at 60,000ft, 65,000ft and heights in excess of 65,000ft. To maximise the experience for pilots, using a limited number of runs, two Lightnings at a time were used on each trail.

The Technique
Typically interceptions were carried out above the lightning's thrust boundary, so a technique using the principle of the energy climb was adopted, where speed was traded for height. The objective was to place the fighter behind the target close enough to use its weapons, before minimum control speed was reached. One of the biggest problems is Indicated Air Speed (IAS) which decreases with height to a point where it coincides with stall speed, which is constant. At 60,000ft the Lightning F.1As minimum practical control speed was ~190 kts IAS, which corresponded to a Mach number of 1.0. Another factor was the relatively slow speed of the target U-2, which cruised at around 135 kts IAS, or 0.7 M, again at 60,000ft.

After some initial trials, carried out over the North Sea without a target U-2, the technique found to be most successful was to cold power climb to 36,000ft, and then turn onto a crossing vector with the target aircraft and initiate a maximum reheat acceleration up to 1.5 M, at which point a constant climb up to 50,000ft was set up. This coincided with a final turn onto an intercept course with the target. Using a ground controller for guidance a final snap-up was ordered and this was held until the final altitude of 60,000ft was achieved. The Lightning pilot had approximately 1 minute 20 seconds at this altitude before airspeed decreased to the minimum positive control speed, after which time control of the Lightning became difficult.

The techniques for targets at 65,000ft and in excess of 65,000ft differed slightly to that detailed above. For the purposes of this article I do not go into detail about these other intercept profiles here.

For each technique very accurate flying was required, particularly during the constant-Mach climb and entry into the final position. Any harsh control movements severely affected performance and the expected maximum heights were unlikely to be achieved. During the constant-Mach climb from 36,000ft the required Mach number had to be maintained, regardless of the manoeuvring requirements fed into the control surfaces. For the zoom climb (i.e. snap-up) the pilot had to watch carefully his Machmeter and altimeter. Testing showed that it was best to relax gently back-pressure on the control column within approximately 5,000ft of the intercept height.

AI-assisted Interception
Usually ground control assistance was used during all phases of the interception. But tests showed that at times during the flight the pilot was able to use the on-board Ferranti AI-23 radar to acquire and track the target. Initial pick-up occurred at 15-18 miles, with missile acquisition at 2-3 miles, at the same altitude as the target.

A Humorous Anecdote
On October 24th, 1962 a loud boom was heard over the city of Edinburgh at 08.41 hours. Several theories as to the cause of the sound were put forward, from an explosion at the missile research establishment at Spadeadam, to an accident at a nearby Army bomb disposal unit. In response to the accusation, the Army quickly denied all allegations, saying it could not have been them, they would not have been up at such an hour! In the end the RAF had to admit the nature of the noise, which had been heard in Edinburgh so loudly because the target U-2 was 15 miles East of its normal track.

The Thirdwire Experience

In this section I illustrate my experiences of flying the Lightning F.6 to intercept a U-2A at 60,000ft, using the profile described in detail in the previous section. At the time of writing only the Lightning F.6 is available for the Thirdwire engine (I'm hoping that Russ will release the other Lightning models soon, so that I can re-run these tests). Also, from the article I have referenced on these historical tests, see References section, the model of the U-2 is unknown. At the time if writing only the U-2A is available for the Thirdwire engine. I have also chosen to run these tests using Wings Over Vietnam. The reader may wonder why, but my reasons for choosing this scenario over Strike Fighter Project 1/Strike Fighter Gold, Wings Over Europe, or Wings Over Israel will become clear. My choice is simple, the shape of the coastline in Wings Over Vietnam maps neatly onto the shape of the East coast of the UK, with airfields placed along the coastline.

Detailed Flight Profile
From my reference source I have modelled a mission that mimics many of the aspects of the flight profile used for an interception at 60,000ft. First, consider the detailed flight profile used for the real tests:



This detailed profile can be reproduced in WOV using the mission provided in the References section below. In-game the mission map looks like the following:



The departure and return airfield is Da Nang, which has a similar position in relation to the coastline of Vietnam as RAF Wattisham has to the East coast of the UK. The target U-2 aircraft also returns to Da Nang.

To start with, we need a Lightning...



In fact, for this test we copy reality and have two Lightnings follow the same intercept profile. The player is the lead aircraft.

Take off and initial climb out are straightforward and follow simply the waypoints defined in the mission file (see References section below). Just prior to reaching point 'A', the furthest distance from home base, the target aircraft will not be within radar range, although it will be clearly visible on the mission map:



Note that I have revised slightly the location of the waypoint for the final turn-in onto the target aircraft's track. This is because of the slow turn speed to the aircraft under the game's AI control (not the AI-23 radar). The original location of this waypoint caused the F.6 to overshoot the target's track too much to the South, so by moving the waypoint North-West, the roll out onto the target's track is lined up perfectly.

At 35,000ft - 36,000ft, for the turn to point 'A' and also at the later turn onto the target's track, the F.6 responds well under manual control to any control movements. After the second turn onto the target's track a constant-Mach climb to 50,000ft is initiated. Care is needed here not to move the control surfaces too much as air speed can drop-off quickly. At this point in the mission the F.6 should be behind the U-2 but a long way below it's 60,000ft altitude.





The trick now is not to overtake the U-2 whilst climbing up to it's altitude. At the last moment the snap-up is made and if all has gone well the F.6 comes up behind the target close enough and for a duration that is long enough for missile acquisition. During the final moments of the snap-up the flight model of the F.6 is very sluggish and if any course corrections are required extreme care is needed not to loose too much speed and drop away from the target's altitude. I use a CH Products FighterStick and ProThrottle and fine adjustments to the control surfaces can be achieved quite well, however the aircraft's responses were very sluggish and unresponsive and it felt as if it was constantly about to stall. Despite the problems encountered, here are a couple of shots of the interception:



It was quite hard to keep the Lightning's speed down to that of the U-2, similar to the real trials where the cruise speed of the U-2 is similar to the Lightning's stall speed at this altitude. On several tests I overshot the target and had to ease the F.6 around for another approach from the rear. In the time it took to turn the U-2 had gain over 10 miles, so making up the difference in separation cost me a lot of fuel - which is typically modelled in Thirdwire aircraft as only 1% of the real fuel usage!, so in reality I would have really been drinking up the fuel to get back on track and I doubt if I would have anywhere near enough fuel for a second attempt.



From the screen shot above you can clearly see the increased pitch of the F.6 as I'm trying to trade speed for height and not overshoot the U-2. It's quite a balancing act at this altitude. Eventually, having got my vis-ident I decided to break off and follow the U-2 home from a safe distance. You can see that by this time we're well into the descent.





I then acted as a shepherd, tailing the U-2 back to Da Nang. It was nice to get back down into the thicker air by this stage in the mission.



Almost home. Here he is on short finals...



I then overshot the airfield and came around for a touchdown. As you can see from my fuel lbs remaining, like all seasoned Lightning pilots, I cut it so close on the fuel that I didn't have enough left to taxi back to the ramp, and had to be towed home. How embarrassing.



Summary
I've carried out a series of tests that seem to mimic many of the aspects of the original Lightning/U-2 tests from 1962. I'm impressed with the way that the game engine and the flight models of the aircraft I've used also seem to mimic many of the characteristics shown in reality all those years ago. The behaviour of the F.6 model at 60,000ft made me very aware what a tightrope those pilots must have felt they were walking if they lost aerodynamic control in the thin air. This exercise got me thinking of other real test profiles I might investigate in this simulation environment. I think that these type of tests and their results enrich what really is a great game.

Regards, comrpnt.

(Southampton, July 2008.)

References

Reading Material
Lightning from the cockpit flying the supersonic legend, by Peter Caygill, pp43-51, published by Pen & Sword Aviation, ISBN 1 84415 082 8

Thirdwire Models Used
English Electric Lightning F.6, courtesy of Russ, available here http://forum.combatace.com/index.php?autocom=downloads&showfile=736

Lightning Skin Pack, courtesy of Sundowner, available here http://forum.combatace.com/index.php?autocom=downloads&showfile=985

Lockheed U-2A, courtesy of Pasko and Column5, available here http://forum.combatace.com/index.php?autocom=downloads&showfile=488

Sample Mission (for WOV) of Lightning/U-2 60,000ft Interception
 Code:
// Fmk6 U2@60k IC.msn
// Lightning F6 training intercept flight - high altitude U2 aircraft (~60,000ft)
//
[MissionHeader]
AircraftType=Fmk6
MissionMap=VietnamSEA
MissionType=ESCORT
StartDate=10/12/1962
StartTime=07:30

[Weather]
WeatherType=BROKEN
WeatherAlt=1100
WeatherThickness=1000.0
HasHighLayer=FALSE
HighLayerAlt=12000
FogAmount=0.6
ContrailAlt=12000
//                                     Change this to get AI (flights>2 AC) 
//                                     to start from other end of runway
StartWindDirection=180.0
StartWindSpeed=0.0

[MissionData]
FriendlyAirActivity=0
FriendlyAirDefenseActivity=0
//                                     Training mission so we don't want the Reds involved
EnemyAirActivity=0
EnemyAirDefenseActivity=0
//                                     Player is the lead
PlayerPositionID=1
PlayerMissionID=1
MissionNumber=1
AdjustStartPosition=FALSE
AdjustBaseWaypoint=FALSE

//*****************************************************************************
//                                     *** Player's Aircraft ***
[AircraftMission001]
AircraftType=Fmk6
Name=Tiger
FormationType=USFighter
Texture=74
Squadron=-1
AircraftNumber=1
//                                     Typically a pair were used for this exercise
Size=2
StartTime=0
RandomChance=100
MissionType=ESCORT
TargetArea=Da Nang Airfield
ObjectiveID=2
RatingForSuccess=50
StartOnGround=TRUE
Position=636000,490705,0
Heading=0
Speed=0
Alignment=FRIENDLY
AmmoPercent=100
FuelPercent=100
Loadout=FAC
TracerMixRatio=50
PilotTrainingStandard=EXCELLENT
Nation=RAF
//
Waypoint[01].Command=TAKEOFF
Waypoint[01].Position=636000,492000,0
Waypoint[01].Speed=90
Waypoint[01].Size=50
//
Waypoint[02].Command=DEPARTURE
Waypoint[02].Position=636000,500000,800
Waypoint[02].Speed=180
Waypoint[02].Size=50
//                                      ~25nm from base @35,000ft
//                                      Heading North-North-East
Waypoint[03].Command=WAYPOINT
Waypoint[03].Position=650000,540000,10606
Waypoint[03].Speed=180
Waypoint[03].Size=50
//                                      ~80nm from base @35,000ft
//                                      Heading North-North-East
Waypoint[04].Command=WAYPOINT
Waypoint[04].Position=680000,620000,10606
Waypoint[04].Speed=180
Waypoint[04].Size=50
//                                      ~120nm from base @36,000ft
//                                      Turn to starboard
//                                      Heading South-South-East towards intercept track
Waypoint[05].Command=WAYPOINT
Waypoint[05].Position=730000,700000,10909
Waypoint[05].Speed=180
Waypoint[05].Size=50
//                                      @36,000ft
//                                      Turn to starboard
//                                      Heading South-South-West on intercept track
Waypoint[06].Command=WAYPOINT
Waypoint[06].Position=775000,685000,10909
Waypoint[06].Speed=180
Waypoint[06].Size=50
//                                      ~150nm from base @50,000ft
//                                      Snap up to intercept
//                                      Heading South-South-West
Waypoint[07].Command=WAYPOINT
Waypoint[07].Position=770000,640000,15151
Waypoint[07].Speed=180
Waypoint[07].Size=50
//                                      ~115nm from base @60,000ft
//                                      Heading South-South-West
//                                      *** Intercept point ***
//                                      Target will descend immediately it reaches here!
Waypoint[08].Command=WAYPOINT
Waypoint[08].Position=750000,600000,18181
Waypoint[08].Speed=180
Waypoint[08].Size=150
//                                      ~75nm from base @36,000ft
//                                      Descending to cruise altitude
//                                      Heading South-South-West
//                                      Mission complete. RTB.
Waypoint[09].Command=WAYPOINT
Waypoint[09].Position=710000,550000,10909
Waypoint[09].Speed=180
Waypoint[09].Size=50
Waypoint[09].Objective=TRUE
//                                      Overshoot airfield and drop down to approach altitude
Waypoint[10].Command=WAYPOINT
Waypoint[10].Position=620000,440000,4000
Waypoint[10].Speed=180
Waypoint[10].Size=50
//                                     On approach, heading North
Waypoint[11].Command=APPROACH
Waypoint[11].Position=636000,460000,2500
Waypoint[11].Speed=180
Waypoint[11].Size=50
//                                     On finals, runway 36
Waypoint[12].Command=LAND_LINEUP
Waypoint[12].Position=636000,480000,1500
Waypoint[12].Speed=180
Waypoint[12].Size=50
//                                     Welcome home
Waypoint[13].Command=LAND_TOUCHDOWN
Waypoint[13].Position=636000,491000,0
Waypoint[13].Speed=10
Waypoint[13].Size=1

//*****************************************************************************
//                   *** High altitude U-2A training intercept aircraft     ***
//                   *** On intercept course to Da Nang. Landing at Da Nang ***
[AircraftMission002]
AircraftType=U-2A
Name=Viper
FormationType=Single
Texture=USAF
AircraftNumber=1
Squadron=-1
Size=1
RandomChance=100
StartTime=0
MissionType=TRANSPORT
TargetArea=Da Nang Air Base
ObjectiveID=1
RatingForSuccess=50
StartOnGround=FALSE
//                                     ~60,000ft heading South-South-West
Position=880000,870000,18181
Heading=190
Speed=180
AmmoPercent=100
FuelPercent=100
Loadout=
TracerMixRatio=50
PilotTrainingStandard=EXCELLENT
Alignment=FRIENDLY
Nation=USAF
//                                      ~115nm from base @60,000ft
//                                      Heading South-South-West
//                                      *** Intercept point ***
Waypoint[01].Command=WAYPOINT
Waypoint[01].Position=750020,600020,18181
Waypoint[01].Speed=180
Waypoint[01].Size=50
//                                      ~75nm from base @36,000ft
//                                      Descending to cruise altitude
//                                      Heading South-South-West
Waypoint[02].Command=WAYPOINT
Waypoint[02].Position=710020,550020,10909
Waypoint[02].Speed=180
Waypoint[02].Size=50
Waypoint[02].Objective=TRUE
//                                      Overshoot airfield and drop down to approach altitude
Waypoint[03].Command=WAYPOINT
Waypoint[03].Position=620020,440020,4000
Waypoint[03].Speed=180
Waypoint[03].Size=50
//                                     On approach, heading North
Waypoint[04].Command=APPROACH
Waypoint[04].Position=636020,460020,2500
Waypoint[04].Speed=180
Waypoint[04].Size=50
//                                     On finals, runway 36
Waypoint[05].Command=LAND_LINEUP
Waypoint[05].Position=636000,480000,1500
Waypoint[05].Speed=180
Waypoint[05].Size=50
//                                     Welcome home
Waypoint[06].Command=LAND_TOUCHDOWN
Waypoint[06].Position=636000,491000,0
Waypoint[06].Speed=10
Waypoint[06].Size=1

Last edited by PNT; 08/10/08 09:21 PM. Reason: Update links to point at CA instead of closed Column5 site

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#2546101 - 07/07/08 12:23 AM Re: The curious tale of the Lightning and the U-2 [Re: PNT]  
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Dang that is cool. Any Mig-25's intercept? \:D

#2546104 - 07/07/08 12:33 AM Re: The curious tale of the Lightning and the U-2 [Re: Stormtrooper]  
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Cool indeed! Thanks! Again!


Originally Posted by Abraham Lincoln
America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.


#2546119 - 07/07/08 01:08 AM Re: The curious tale of the Lightning and the U-2 [Re: 531 Ghost]  
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That is exceedingly awesome!

Thanks for posting, PNT


"I like to find out that I died, and that I'm currently in a ballet in China, and all the other very accurate and important things that the Wikipedia site brings us all."

-Stephen Fry
#2546406 - 07/07/08 02:29 PM Re: The curious tale of the Lightning and the U-2 [Re: Torquatus]  
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cambion Offline
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Wales, UK
Very interesting articlce/AAR. May try this myself sometime.

#2558576 - 07/28/08 02:58 PM Re: The curious tale of the Lightning and the U-2 [Re: PNT]  
Joined: Jul 2008
Posts: 2
retiredfighterpilot Offline
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retiredfighterpilot  Offline
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Posts: 2
London
This post has given much pleasure to many former Lightning pilots.

For me, the pleasure is doubled as I flew Lightnings in 1960 on the very first RAF Lightning Squadron - 74(F) as depicted so well with 'tiger teeth' markings in your post pictures. Later for 5 years I flew the Lockheed U-2 starting on the U-2A but most of the time on the U-2C & G models.

I would just like to add a comment in defence of the U-2 which I sent to ...

Tim Robinson
Deputy Editor
Aerospace International
Royal Aeronautical Society
4 Hamilton Place
London
W1J 7BQ

and also to several former Lightning pilots ....

Tim,


Many thanks for your fascinating email.
Sorry for the delay in replying but my HomeChoice ISP has been bought by the Italian Tiscali group. The migration of broadband, 80 channel TV and phone (which all come down the same 2 BT copper 'phone wires installed when my house was built 40 years ago) has been a shambles! But we now seem to be back on line, most of the time.


The computer simulation below (url in blue) is fantastic and very realistic albeit at a modest 60,000'. We need to push the U-2 up to a more normal 70,000'+ zone where the U-2 cruise IAS falls below 100 knots in level flight. The low IAS will be tricky for any modern fighter.


I happen to be a Mac addict so unless I install Windows on my Mac (now easy to do, but why?) I cannot run the exciting aviation games that are mentioned. However, the Mac does have X-Plane available which covers all sorts of aircraft from the space shuttle to the X-15 to a Cessna150 to a 747 & 777 - but as yet no Lightning or U-2.


But X-Plane does let you build your own aircraft though it takes a lot of time putting in all the characteristics.


I have taken the liberty of including some aviation chums in this reply. I look forward to your G550 report and hope the crew did not pick up an ATC violation this time!




As ever, M

#2559360 - 07/29/08 08:17 PM Re: The curious tale of the Lightning and the U-2 [Re: retiredfighterpilot]  
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speedbump Offline
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Edgewood TX
Pretty cool. I watched a program on TV the other day where they said they were flying one of the highest flying aircraft in the world. It looked like a two seat Lightning.

#2559369 - 07/29/08 08:45 PM Re: The curious tale of the Lightning and the U-2 [Re: speedbump]  
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People's Republic of Sweden
Good stuff!


"I prefer to fly alone ... when alone, I perform those little coups of audacity which amuse me" - Ren Fonck
#2559419 - 07/29/08 11:17 PM Re: The curious tale of the Lightning and the U-2 [Re: Guderian]  
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lep Offline
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San Diego
Attn: retiredfighterpilot

You may have seen the interview with Jug at CombatAce here:

http://combatace.com/index.php?categoryid=10&p2_articleid=65

He is also a U-2 pilot and shares some of the flavor of his experience.

#2560174 - 07/31/08 08:41 AM Re: The curious tale of the Lightning and the U-2 [Re: lep]  
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London
Many thanks!

#2565861 - 08/10/08 09:30 PM Re: The curious tale of the Lightning and the U-2 [Re: retiredfighterpilot]  
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PNT Offline
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Southampton, UK
Many thanks for your kind words RFP, much appreciated. It's nice to hear from people who were actually there. "Chapeau". My father was on 'Tiger' Sqn during '68 - '71 at Tengha (avionics) http://www.f4phantoms.co.uk/trevor.html.

Incidentlally, I have updated the links to the models referenced in the original article to source everything from a single site (i.e. the CombatAce (CA) site).

Kind regards, comrpnt.


Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem
#2566653 - 08/12/08 04:09 AM Re: The curious tale of the Lightning and the U-2 [Re: PNT]  
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Legsie is such a
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Zutphen, NL / ShangHai, China
This was a very interesting piece of history. Thanks, PNT!


There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the universe is for it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more inexplicable.
There is another theory which states that this has already happened.

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