Bentwaters: Jet that travelled at twice the speed of sound makes slow journey to Suffolk

IT is the only British-built jet to fly at twice the speed of sound.

But it was a somewhat slower journey that took the Lightning ZF581 plane to its new home at Bentwaters Park, near Woodbridge. And it couldn’t make the trip in one piece.

The jet – which flew in the Royal Saudi Air Force – has been gifted to the Bentwaters Cold War Museum.

It was owned by global defence and security company BAE Systems and had been on display in Rochester, Kent.

But when a new owner was sought because of rising maintenance needs and costs, the museum leapt at the chance to own the iconic Cold War aircraft.


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Several sections of the plane, including the cockpit and tail fin, have been brought to Suffolk by low-loader and the remaining parts will arrive in the coming weeks. The transportation will cost about �2,000.

Graham Haynes, manager of the museum, said the aircraft would be restored and painted to be put on display alongside its Hunter Hawker.

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“We’re delighted to be taking on the jet – it’s an icon of the Cold War so it’s perfect for us,” he said.

“We were hoping to repaint it with Saudi Air Force markings but we will need the permission of the Saudi government for that so we may have to put it in RAF markings.

“There’s a lot of work to do but I hope we can get it on display before the museum closes for the winter.”

The jet was built in 1967 and flew with the Royal Saudi Air Force in the late 1960s through to 1986. It had a top speed of 686 metres per second, or 1,436mph.

The Lightning’s role was air defence and it was frequently scrambled to intercept Soviet aircraft sent to spy and probe the UK airspace during the Cold War period.

The jet is painted in 56(F) Squadron colours, typical of Lightnings that were based at Wattisham Airfield and were a familiar sight in East Anglian skies.

For more details about the museum – including opening dates and times –visit www.bcwm.org.uk.

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