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  • Supermarine Seafire Carrier-Borne Fighter / Fighter-Bomber / Reconnaissance Aircraft

    The carrierborne Supermarine Seafire was a derivative of the highly successful Supermarine land-based Spitfire.

     Updated: 5/17/2017; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©www.MilitaryFactory.com

    When the land-based Hawker Hurricane was successfully converted into the carrier-based "Sea Hurricane", thought was given to repeating the process for the ubiquitous Supermarine Spitfire fighter series that had carved a name for itself in the Battle of Britain. The original fighter emerged from the small Supermarine concern as a true legendary performer and debuted in Royal Air Force service in 1938. From there the type was evolved into a myriad of variants and subvariants - the notable marks numbering some 20 versions - and covered sorties from interception and reconnaissance to fighter and ground attack. Thought to converting Spitfires for the carrier role was given as early as May of 1938 but little work was done on the concept at that time. It must be stated that, despite the advanced nature of the Royal Air Force (fielding modern Hurricanes and Spitfires) and the inherent ocean-going surface firepower of the Royal Navy itself, the Fleet Air Arm (FAA) - the aerial arm of the Royal Navy - lacked largely behind in terms of modern quality - it still utilizing biplane designs of a seemingly bygone era of flight.

    After the Battle of Britain, which required all of the land-based Spitfires available, interest once again arose for converting the Spitfires for carrier service. For years prior, the Fleet Air Arm relied on the American Grumman Wildcat (as the Grumman "Martlet" in FAA service) and the Fairey Fulmar carrier-based aircraft series. The introduction of a navalized Spitfire was actually delayed by Churchill himself who pushed production of other aircraft including that of the Fulmar. A modified Spitfire (converted from an existing Spitfire Mk VB model) was successfully trialed from the deck of the HMS Illustrious with a "V" frame arrestor gear and reinforced undercarriage. Upon passing additional evaluations during 1941, the type was accepted for Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm service as the "Supermarine Seafire". Some 48 Mk VB airframes were converted for the naval role and the type proved promising enough to net a further 118 examples to the total.

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    Supermarine Seafire F.Mk III Technical Specifications

    Service Year: 1942
    Type: Carrier-Borne Fighter / Fighter-Bomber / Reconnaissance Aircraft
    National Origin: United Kingdom
    Manufacturer(s): Supermarine / Westland / Cunliffe-Owen - UK
    Production Total: 2,334

    Structural (Crew Space, Dimensions and Weights)

    Operating Crew: 1
    Length: 29.92 feet (9.12 meters)
    Width: 36.84 feet (11.23 meters)
    Height: 11.42 feet (3.48 meters)

    Weight (Empty): 5,399 lb (2,449 kg)
    Weight (MTOW): 7,000 lb (3,175 kg)

    Installed Power and Standard Day Performance

    Engine(s): 1 x Rolls-Royce Merlin 45, 50, or 55/55M V-12 liquid-cooled inline piston engine developing 1,600 horsepower.

    Maximum Speed: 348 mph (560 kph; 302 knots)
    Maximum Range: 553 miles (890 km)
    Service Ceiling: 23,999 feet (7,315 meters; 4.55 miles)
    Rate-of-Climb: 4,800 feet-per-minute (1,463 m/min)

    Armament / Mission Payload

    2 x 20mm Hispano cannons and 4 x 7.7mm Browning machine guns in wings OR 4 x 20mm Hispano cannons in wings.

    2 x 500lb bombs underwing
    1 x 500lb bomb underfuselage centerline
    8 x 60lb high-explosive air-to-surface rockets
    1 x fuel tank underfuselage centerline
    2 x fuel tanks underwing

    Global Operators / Customers

    Canada; France; Ireland; United Kingdom

    Model Variants (Including Prototypes)

    F.Mk IB - Initial Conversion Operational Models based on Spitfire VB; 166 examples produced.

    F.Mk IIC - Low-to-Medium Altitude Fighter / Reconnaissance Variant; 372 examples produced; 4 x 20mm cannons; strengthened fuselage; provision for rocket assisted take-off; catapult spool gear for catapult launching.

    L.Mk IIC - Low-Altitude Variant of the F.Mk IIC model.

    LR.Mk IIC - Reconnaissance Variant based on the L.Mk IIC; specialized camera equipment.

    F.Mk III - Fixed Wing / Manually-Operated Folding Wing Variant; 30 and 1,220 respective examples produced.

    L.Mk III - Low-Altitude Variant of the F.Mk III model.

    LR.Mk III - Reconnaissance Variant based on the L.Mk III.

    F.Mk XV - Fitted with Griffon powerplants; redesigned arrestor hook.

    F.Mk XVII - Fitted with Griffon powerplants; "bubble" type hood introduced; increased fuel capacity and operational range.

    FR.Mk XVII - Reconnaissance Variant of the F.Mk XVII model; fitted with specialized camera equipment.

    F.Mk 45 - Fitted with Griffon powerplants; based on the Spitfire F.Mk 21 model series; seenw ith either twin three-blade contra-rotating or a five blade propeller system.

    F.Mk 46 - Fitted with Griffon powerplants; improvements of Seafire F.Mk XVII model implemented.

    FR.Mk 46 - Reconnaissance Variant of the F.Mk 46 model.

    F.Mk 47 - Fitted with Griffon powerplants; powered-folding wing assemblies instead of manually-operated; final production models of Seafire series.

    FR.Mk 47 - Reconnaissance Variant of the F.Mk 47 model series.