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Supermarine Spitfire Fighter / Fighter-Bomber / Reconnaissance Aircraft (1938)

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 9/30/2013

The Supermarine Spitfire was the undisputed champion of the British cause in World War Two.

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The Supermarine Spitfire the legendary British fighter aircraft developed prior to World War 2. The type earned its status as one of the finest fighter aircraft ever made thanks to its involvement in the Battle of Britain and forged its legacy through the dark years of World War 2. The type survived the war in a plethora of variants - the notable marks numbering 20 - and was developed into a navalized form as the "Seafire". Tens of thousands were ultimately produced and rivaled the qualities of the competing German Messerschmitt Bf 109 and Focke-Wulf 190 types. The aircraft also claimed several of the German jet fighters and was used in interception of high-speed German rockets headed to English soil. Highly regarded by friend and foe alike- and rightly so - the Spitfire went on to see extended service in the post-war years which further solidified its stature in the annals of military aviation history.

NOTE 1: While the Spitfire production line relied on roman numeral "marks" to identify each type, these did not necessarily appear in chronological order as one might suspect. After 1942, the Royal Air Force moved away from Roman numeral designation marks.

NOTE 2: The Spitfire was primarily produced with four various wing types which directly dictated available armament options. The Type A wing fitted 8 x 7.7mm Browning machine guns while the Type B wing allowed 2 x 20mm Hispano cannons along with 4 x 7.7mm machine guns. The Type C proved the "universal win" fit intended to speed production and allow for flexible armament options: 8 x 7.7mm machine guns, 2 x 20mm cannons with 4 x 7.7mm machine guns or 4 x 20mm cannons. Additionally provision for 250lb bombs was added. The final wing - the D Type - was generally fitted to reconnaissance models which lost their wing armament and gained additional internal fuel stores for increased ranges.

Supermarine Spitfire Development

Headed by engineer Reginald J. Mitchell, the small Supermarine concern developed several award-winning racing seaplanes during the interwar years prior to its development of the excellent Spitfire fighter aircraft series. When the chance came to produce a new modern fighter aircraft for the Royal Air Force, qualities of these racers were implemented into the new fighter to create an instant classic including the identifiable elliptical wings which assisted in maximizing lift. Design work began in 1935 and the single prototype, known as the K5054 (company Type 300), went airborne for the first time on March 5th, 1936 with a Rolls-Royce Merlin II/C engine of 900 horsepower under the hood driving a two-bladed propeller. The aircraft exhibited vary clean lines with its long nose assembly housing the engine and the cockpit just aft at center. Aft of the fuselage was a raised spine which allowed for more internal volume at the expense of obstructed rear views. The wings were low-set monoplane assemblies with their distinct elliptical shape that was so pronounced in the design. The empennage was conventional with a curved vertical tail fin and applicable curved horizontal planes. The undercarriage utilized a narrow-track design in which the weight of the aircraft was displaced through the fuselage into the landing gear legs as opposed to mounting these under the wings as in other aircraft. Both main landing gears were full retractable with a tail wheel at the rear. Armament would be concentrated across several bays held each wing and primarily consisting of machine gun armament though this would change over time. The type proved so promising early on that it was immediately placed on order for 370 examples as the Spitfire Mk I, adopted for service on August 4th, 1938. Ultimately, the Spitfire series would comprise a total of 20 major production marks - a stunning achievement for a single aircraft, though undoubtedly helped by the prospect of world war.


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Specifications for the
Supermarine Spitfire
Fighter / Fighter-Bomber / Reconnaissance Aircraft


Focus Model: Supermarine Spitfire Mk.Va
Country of Origin: United Kingdom
Manufacturer: Supermarine / Westland / Castle Bromwich - UK
Initial Year of Service: 1938
Production: 20,351


Crew: 1


Length: 29.92ft (9.12m)
Width: 36.84ft (11.23m)
Height: 9.91ft (3.02m)
Weight (Empty): 4,998lbs (2,267kg)
Weight (MTOW): 6,418lbs (2,911kg)


Powerplant: 1 x Rolls-Royce Merlin 45 liquid-cooled V-12 piston engine generating 1,478 horsepower.


Maximum Speed: 369mph (594kmh; 321kts)
Maximum Range: 1,135miles (1,827km)
Service Ceiling: 36,499ft (11,125m; 6.9miles)
Rate-of-Climb: 2,666 feet per minute (813m/min)


Hardpoints: 3 (1 centerline fuselage; 2 x underwing)
Armament Suite:
VARIABLE - dependent on production model:
(A) 8 x 7.7mm Browning machine guns in wings
(B) 2 x 20mm Hispano cannons and 4 x 7.7mm Browning machine guns in wings.
(C) 4 x 20mm Hispano cannons in wings
(E) 2 x 20mm Hispano cannons and 2 x 12.7mm Browning heavy machine guns OR 4 x 7.7mm Browning machine guns in wings.

Fighter-Bomber forms introduced provision for 1 x 500lb drop bomb under centerline fuselage and 2 x 250lb drop bombs under the wings (one to a wing). Support for high-explosive air-to-surface rockets was added later. Fuel drop tanks were also available on specific production marks.


Variants:
F.Mk I - Initial Production Model; Merlin II 1,030hp engine and 8 x .303 (7.7mm) machine guns.


F.Mk IB - 4 x 7.7mm machine guns and 2 x 20mm cannons.

F.Mk II - Fitted with the Merlin XII at 1,175hp.

F.Mk VA - 8 x 7.7mm machine guns; Merlin 45 (1,440 hp) and Merlin 50 (1,470hp) powerplants; medium-altitude variant.

LF.Mk VA - 8 x 7.7mm machine guns; Merlin 45 (1,440 hp) and Merlin 50 (1,470hp) powerplants; low-altitude variant.

F.Mk VB - 4 x 7.7mm machine guns and 2 x 20mm cannons; Merlin 45 (1,440 hp) and Merlin 50 (1,470hp) powerplants; medium-altitude variant.

LF.Mk VB - 4 x 7.7mm machine guns and 2 x 20mm cannons; Merlin 45 (1,440 hp) and Merlin 50 (1,470hp) powerplants; low-altitude variant.

F.Mk VC - 4 x 20mm cannons; Merlin 45 (1,440 hp) and Merlin 50 (1,470hp) powerplants; medium-altitude variant.

LF.Mk VC - 4 x 20mm cannons; Merlin 45 (1,440 hp) and Merlin 50 (1,470hp) powerplants; low-altitude variant.

HF.Mk VI - High-altitude interceptor variant with pressurized cockpit; Merlin 47 (1,415hp) engine.

HK.Mk VII - High-altitude interceptor variant with pressurized cockpit; Merlin 61, 64 or 71 two-stage engines.

LF.Mk VIII - Low-altitude variant; Merlin 61, 63, 66 or 70 two-stage engines without pressurized cockpit.

F.Mk VIII - Medium-altitude variant; Merlin 61, 63, 66 or 70 two-stage engines without pressurized cockpit.

HF.Mk VIII - High-altitude interceptor variant; Merlin 61, 63, 66 or 70 two-stage engines without pressurized cockpit.

LF.Mk IX - Low-altitude variant; Mk V model airframe with Merlin 61, 63 or 70 two-stage engines.

F.Mk IX - Medium-altitude variant; Mk V model airframe with Merlin 61,63 or 70 two-stage engines.

HF.Mk IX - High-altitude variant; Mk V model airframe with Merlin 61,63 or 70 two-stage engines.

LF.Mk XVI - Low-altitude variant; Mk IX airframe with reduced-length rear fuselage; bubble canopy; Packard-produced Merlin 226 engine.

F.Mk XVI - Medium-altitude variant; Mk IX airframe with reduced-length rear fuselage; bubble canopy; Packard-produced Merlin 226 engine.

LF.Mk XI - Low-altitude variant; Griffin II or IV (1,735hp) engines.

LF.Mk XIV - Low-altitude variant; Griffon 65 or 66 (2,050hp) engines; bubble canopy.

F.Mk XIV - Medium-altitude variant; Griffon 65 or 66 (2,050hp) engines; bubble canopy.

F.Mk XVIII - Griffon two-stage engine with bubble canopy.

F.Mk 21 - Griffon 61 or 64 engines.

F.Mk 22 - Griffon 85 (2,373hp) engine driving a counter-rotating propeller unit.

F.Mk 24 - Improved Mk 22.

PR Mk IV / Mk X / Mk XI / Mk XIII / Mk XIX - Unarmed Photo-Reconnaissance (PR) Models with Merlin 61, 63, 63A or 70 (high-altitude) engines.

"Seafire" - Naval version of the Spitfire.

Seafire Mk IB - Naval version of the Spitfire with the Merlin engines; 4 x 7.7mm machine guns and 2 x 20mm cannons.

Seafire Mk IIC - Naval version of the Spitfire with the Merlin engines; 4 x 20mm cannons.

Seafire Mk III - Naval version of the Spitfire with the Merlin engines.

Seafire Mk XV - Naval version of the Spitfire with the Griffon engines.

Seafire Mk XVII - Naval version of the Spitfire with the Griffon engines.

Seafire Mk 45 - Naval version of the Spitfire with the Griffon engines.

Seafire Mk 46 - Naval version of the Spitfire with the Griffon engines.

Seafire Mk 47 - Naval version of the Spitfire with the Griffon engines.


Operators:
Australia; Belgium; Burma; Canada; China; Czechoslovakia; Denmark; Egypt; France; Greece; Hong Kong; India; Ireland; Israel; Italy; Malaya; Netherlands; New Zealand; Norway; Poland; Portugal; Rhodesia; South Africa; Soviet Union; Sweden; Syria; Thailand; Turkey; United Kingdom; United States; Yugoslavia