I'm building a night mission and I want to position some simple lights to illuminate a town. The only bright lights I can find are searchlights, but they only switch on when enemy aircraft are near.
Are there any bright, permanent lights I can place?
Yep, look in Static Objects at the bottom, near fire and smoke. Plus, if you hold F4 and left or right click (forget which) you can elevate them. They come in different colours.
Right. how about placing a static aircraft of the opposite colour to your searchlights inside a house or something? Might work. That or set your lights to the opposite of the payer aircraft. That'll light things up,
Light 4 IIRC is extra bright but the lights don't illuminate. You can brighten lights by, once placed, pressing "Insert". A second light will appear very close to the original and, if already elevated, at the same height. Also by pressing "Insert" after placing any object will give you a duplicate.
About the only "light" that illuminates is the "Airfield Campfire". I have used that, placed close to a closed hanger door to simulate late night welding.
A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort.
Also be aware that many FMB lights may seem dim viewed close up but are visible from amazing distances in the game.