Good point about the lethality of Red Top.
A rather more substantial weapon in size than the AIM-9.
It is a shame that no Red Top 2 was ever made, with aircraft interface requirements more in line with AIM-9 series, but we come back to applications.
A newer Red Top 2 could have been carried on the F-4 pylons that usually carried AIM-9's, but then you are into expensive mods for one customer.
We also have to remember that many low airframe hours Lightning F.3's were scrapped in the mid 70's, as the Jaguar replaced F-4M
's in the strike/attack role, making them available for air defence, where their highly effective radar/weapon system was a real boost for UK Air Defence, as well as much greater range and endurance.
The Lightning was essentially a straight up-stranight down interceptor with little loiter ability, granted the F.6 version with the bigger fuselage fuel tank improved this a bit, compared to the F.3.
By the late 60's, the new NATO focus on flexible response made air defence of the UK/Eastern Atlantic against conventional attack
In reality, this meant the transfer of F-4's to AD
, the move of Bloodhound 2 SAM's from Singapore, Cyprus and eventually Germany, to the UK.
By the end of the 70's though, there was a serious concern that due to the legacy of the 1957 review, the air defence of the UK was still very short of aircraft, with the optimized Tornado F.2/3 still some years from service. (The Prototype Tornado ADV first flew, less the weapon system, in 1979).
But had all those F.3's not been scrapped in the mid 70's, there could have been a way to boost this force rather substantially.
What if they-and the F.6's, had been upgraded to a new 'F.7' version?
By converting them with the F.6 bulged fuselage tank, the outer wing mods, the outer wing pylons, as fitted to the Saudi and Kuwaiti versions.
The F.6 also had over-wing pylons for fuel tanks, not for combat use (how could you 'drop' them - they were used for supporting overseas deployments).
Convert those pylons for missile carriage.
Remove the hurriedly retrofitted 30mm cannon from the forward part of the F.6 fuselage tank, restoring fuel capacity, all Lightnings could fit the cannon here as an option.
The early Lightnings of course had nose mounted cannon, but when fired they disrupted the avionics, were difficult to harmonize, could fill the cockpit with cordite! They were removed on the F.3 also in part due to the fitment of extra avionics, the Lightning was a very tightly packed machine!
With this common config, our upgraded former F.3's and F.6's could then carry the (4) AAM's on the outer and over-wing pylons, whilst retaining the cannon.
Then update the avionics/cockpit/weapon system.
You would be limited with the radar by fitment into the intake shock cone, in the early/mid 1970's the F-16's APG-66 was not yet developed, but an option might have been to resurrect the radar planned for the TSR.2 (which was tested on a Buccaneer).
It would have had basic air to air modes aside from the primary air to ground one, update and improve this ability, (perhaps with a moving target indicator).
Then add a HUD as part of the cockpit upgrade, as well as more modern nav systems. Adapting units from perhaps the Jaguar and/or Harrier.
BAC also did a mock up in the mid 60's with another two pylons mounted on the lower center fuselage, so space was available to perhaps further bulge out the fuselage tank some, conformal style, to improve fuel capacity further still.
These aircraft could then have boosted the RAF fighter fleet, even replacing the F.2A's in RAF Germany (allowing two further F-4 units for UK air defence).
The AAM's could have been a Red Top 2 for IR
, as well the once mooted, now resurrected and updated Radar Guided 'Blue Top', two of each per aircraft.
Thus the RAF could have added several extra squadrons of Lightnings for the UK AD
mission, to back up the F-4's, above and beyond the two that were retained post F-4 deployment, plus no need to deploy two F-4 units to Germany.
(And while we were doing this, upgrade the T.5 trainers to a similar 'T.8' version too).
In real life, several upgrades for the remaining Lightnings were mooted, including fitment of several AIM-9's, but, as so often, the money could not be justified for a type 'soon to retire from service', though in fact the Lightning remained with 5 and 11 squadrons at RAF Binbrook until 1988.
(Was it really 20 years ago they finally went? Seems almost like yesterday!)