Supermarine Spitfire / Seafire

The origins of the Spitfire can be traced back to the S-series of racing seaplanes designed by Mitchell in the 1920's for the Schneider Cup races. On September 13, 1931 Mitchell won the coveted trophy hands down with the Supermarine S.6B with a speed of 339.82 mph.

The Spitfire was to the RAF what the Messerschmitt Bf 109 was to the Luftwaffe, becoming the very symbol of their nation's air power. Both were exceptional fighters with performance unmatched by any other aircraft of the time. In fact, it was the threat of one which spurred on the continued development of the other. The Spitfire's development mirrored that of the Bf 109 and Fw 190 so closely, it became a constant race to gain a margin of superiority over the other.

Without doubt the best known British aircraft of World War II, the Supermarine Spitfire originated from the Type 224 designed by R. J. Mitchell to meet the requirements of Specification F.7/30, A cantilever low-wing monoplane of all-metal construction, it had an inverted-gull wing and 'trousered' fixed main landing gear, and was powered by a 600 hp (447 kW) Rolls-Royce Goshawk II Vee engine. When the Type 224 was tested its performance proved disappointing, and it was no more successful than any of the other submissions to this specification; none of them gained an Air Ministry contract.

A Supermarine Spitfire Mk I of 160 Fighter Squadron (County of Chester) - Battle of Britain England 1941

Given a free hand to design a new single-seat fighter unfettered by official specifications, Mitchell outlined on his drawing board the delightful Type 300. Smaller, sleeker and with drag-reducing retractable landing gear, it was tailored around the new Rolls-Royce P.V.12 (Merlin) engine; the wings were not only of distinctive elliptical shape, but they housed eight machine guns, all of them firing outside the propeller disc. Air Ministry Specification F.36/34 was drawn up around the Type 300 and a prototype was ordered. This (K5054) was powered by a 900 hp (738 kW) Rolls-Royce Merlin 'C' and flew for the first time on 5 March 1936. Comparatively little flight testing was needed to confirm it as a winner, and its superb handling qualities and performance resulted in a first contract (for 310 Spitfire Mk I aircraft) being awarded on 3 June 1936. However, planned mass production was slow to gain momentum and it was not until July 1938 that the first Spitfire Mk 1 reached No. 19 Squadron at Duxford; only five had been delivered by the time of the Munich crisis in September of that year, but the trickle was eventually to become a flood that totalled 20,334 Spitfires and 2,556 related new build Seafire naval fighters. A degree of muiti-role capability was to result from the development of low-altitude clipped wings (prefix LF), and high-altitude increased-span wings (HF), the standard wing being identified as (F), and with variations of armament within these wings comprising eight machine guns (suffix A), two cannon and four machine guns (B), four cannon (C) and two cannon, two 12.7 mm (0.50 in) machine-guns and up to 1,000 lbs (454 kg) of bombs (E).

By the outbreak of war on 3 September 1939, the RAF had nine operational Spitfire squadrons, and on 16 October 1939 a Spitfire of No. 603 Squadron claimed the first German aircraft to be destroyed over the UK in World War II, a Heinkel He 111 . By August 1940, shortly before the Battle of Britain reached its climax, RAF Fighter Command could call upon 19 Spitfire Mk I squadrons. By December 1940 Spitfire Mk lIs were carrying out 'Rhubarb' sweeps over occupied Europe, and the first to serve overseas were Spitfire Mk VBs flown to Malta from HMS Eagle on 7 March 1942.

Soon after that date the same mark was operational in the Middle East, and by early 1943 the first Spitfire Mk Vs were arriving in the Pacific theatre. In growing numbers and with increasing capability the Spitfire served throughout World War II, not only with the RAF but with the nation's allies, including US and Soviet squadrons. It also had the distinction of remaining in production throughout the entire war and was operational post-war, the last mission flown by a photo-reconnaissance Spitfire PR.MK 19 of No. 81 Squadron in Malaya on 1 April 1954.

The success of the Hawker Sea Hurricane as operated by the Fleet Air Arm from Royal Navy aircraft-carriers resulted in development of the Supermarine Seafire, the first conversions from Spitfire Mk VBs being carried out by Air Service Training at Hamble, Hampshire. Initial deliveries of the resulting Seafire Mk IB began in January 1942, and the type was used in growing numbers of different marks throughout the war. Seafire Mk 47s of No. 800 Squadron served with distinction in the Korean War, and when Seafires were withdrawn from frontline service, the type remained operational with training squadrons and RNVR air squadrons until 1967.

While certainly not all-inclusive or comprehensive, this list of some of the most significant variants of the Spitfire/Seafire gives some idea of the complexity of the aircraft's history:
* Mk IB: Four 7.7-mm (0.303-inch) guns and two 20-mm cannon;
* Mk VA/B/C: More powerful Merlin engine, provisions for drop-tanks or bombs, wing and armament changes;
* Mk VII: High-altitude interceptor with pressurized cockpit and retractable tailwheel;
* Mk VIII: Pure fighter with unpressurized cockpit;
* Mk IX: Two-stage Merlin engine mated to Mk V airframe;
* Mk XIV: Griffon 65/66 engine with five-bladed propeller, strengthened fuselage, broad tail, late models had bubble canopy;
* Mk XVI: Packard Merlin engine, many had bubble canopy;
* Seafire Mk IIC: Catapult hooks and strengthened landing gear, Merlin engine, 4-blade propeller;
* Seafire Mk III: Double folding wings and 1,585-hp Merlin 55 engine.

The last operational mission of the Spitfire took place on 1 April 1954, when a Spitfire PR.Mk 19 flew a photo-reconnaissance mission over Malaya. The final mission of the Seafire was in 1967, after many years of faithful service with the Fleet Air Arm and various training squadrons.

The Spitfire, one of the most significant and revered fighter aircraft ever built, continues to steal the lion's share of attention at airshows and fly-ins. The remaining examples are flown with great care, and continued Spitfire restorations ensure that this beautiful aircraft will continue to delight pilots and spectators alike for the foreseeable future.

Nicknames: Spit; Spitter; Bomfire (Spitfires used as fighter-bombers)

The Pilots

Squadron Leader Joseph Berry (Buzz Bomb Buster Supreme) “Doodlebug Ace” he flew Tempest V1’s with the Fighter Interception Unit. And then flew Spitfires with 501 Squadron. He was one of the “Spitfire “pilots who remained in Britain throughout the war. And played a crucial role in the defense of London when the Germans attempted a final 80-day bombardment with the new Flying bombs in the summer of 1944. Squadron Leader Berry was credited with 591/2 V-1’s and one Ju-88. He also set a record of destroying seven V-1’s in one evening on July 23 1943.

Flying Officer R.F. Burgwal Another Buzz Bomb specialist a Dutch pilot who flew the “XIV Spitfire” powered by the Rolls –Royce Grifon engine. Flew with the all Dutch No. 322 Squadron based in the Southeast of England and was credited with destroying 22 V-1’s. A fellow squadron mate Flight Lieutenant J.L. Plesman accounted for 12.

Squadron Leader A.C.Deere DFC and Bar A New Zealander who joined the RAF in 1937. In just four months from May till August 1940 he destroyed 17 enemy aircraft. His life as a pilot took began to take a very unusual twist the adventures became somewhat bizarre. Some of the more unusual incidents were, he followed a Dornier from Dunkirk to Ousted, both himself and the Dornier crash – landed,”Deere” was knocked unconscious and his machine began to burn. He managed to escape half conscious when his plane exploded. He was involved in a mid air collision two days later with a ME-109.the two pilots thought each other would give way. The collision caused the propeller on his plane to snap off on impact, the engine partially tore itself from its mounts, blinded by smoke and flames he managed to glide over the English country side and crash landed onto a field but, collided with a concrete invasion post, ripping off a wing and finally burnt up. A few weeks later after shooting down a Heinkel he was jumped by numerous German fighters, a bullet ripped the watch from his wrist another grazed his eyebrow. His aircraft was now full of holes and beginning to fall apart, he baled out and his parachute opened precariously close to the ground, but he was back flying again the next day.

He had to bail out of his airplane three times, was shot down seven times, while flying with a pupil the pupil collided with “ Deere”and literally cut his plane in half. Waiting in his airplane to take off from his airfield, while the Germans were bombing it, a bomb exploded in front of him blowing the motor out of his airplane and sending his plane hurtling for 150 yds upside down with ”Deere” in it. After being helped from the wreckage he was put to bed, the next day the bombing began again, he rushed out of bed to his airplane and managed to get airborne and proceeded to shoot down another Dornier.

Maltas “Spifire “ ace the legendary Squadron Leader George “Screwball” Beurling an extraordinary Canadian whose skills were to earn him a record of 31 enemy aircraft destroyed

Specifications (Supermarine Spitfire Mk VA)

Type: Single Seat Fighter / Fighter Bomber (Seafire was a carrier based version)

Design: Reginald Joseph Mitchell

Manufacturer: (Spitfire) Supermarine Aviation Works (Vickers) Limited also built by Vickers-Armstrong, Castle Bromwich and Westland Aircraft. (Seafire) Cunliffe-Owen and Westland Aircraft.

Powerplant: (Mk I, III) 1,030 hp Rolls-Royce Merlin II liquid cooled V-12 (Mk II) 1,175 hp Merlin XII (Mk V) 1,440 hp (1074 kW) Rolls-Royce Merlin 45 (Mk VI) 1,415 hp Merlin 47 (Mk VII, VIII, IX) 1,660 hp Merlin 61 (Mk X) Merlin 77 (Mk XI) 1,760 hp Merlin 63A or 1,655 hp Merlin 70 (Mk XII) 1,735 hp Rolls-Royce Griffon III or IV (Mk XIII) 1,620 hp Merlin (Mk XIV, XVIII, XIX and type 21) 2,050 hp Griffon 65 with a two-stage supercharger (type 22) 2,375 hp Griffon 65. (Seafire 47) One 2,375 hp (1771 kW) Griffon 87 or 88 piston engine.

Performance: (Mk VA) Maximum speed 369 mph (594 km/h) at 19,500 ft (5945 m); service ceiling 36,500 ft (11125 m).

Range: (Mk I) 395 miles (637 km) on internal fuel. (Mk VA) 1,135 miles (1827 km) with drop tanks. (Mk IX) 434 miles (700 km) on internal fuel. (Mk XIV) 460 miles (740 km) on internal fuel. (Seafire 47) 405 miles (652 km) on internal fuel.

Weight: (Mk I) Empty 4,810 lbs (2182 kg) with a maximum take-off weight of 5,784 lbs (2624 kg). (Mk VA) Empty 4,998 lbs (2267 kg) with a maximum take-off weight of 6,417 lbs (2911 kg). (Mk IX) Empty 5,610 lbs (2545 kg) with a maximum take-off weight of 9,500 lbs (4310 kg). (Mk XIV) Empty 6,700 lbs (3040 kg) with a maximum take-off weight of 10,280 lbs (4663 kg). (Seafire 47) Empty 7,625 lbs (3458 kg) with a maximum take-off weight of 12,750 lbs (5784 kg).

Dimensions: (Mk VA) (L standard) Span 36 ft 10 in (11.23 m) (LF clipped) Span 32 ft 2 in or 32 ft 7 in (9.93 m) (HF extended) 40 ft 2 in (12.24 m); length 29 ft 11 in (9.12 m); height 9 ft 11 in (3.02 m); wing area 242 sq ft (22.48 sq m).

Armament: (Mk I) Four 7.70 mm Browning machine guns (Mk IA, IIA) eight 7.70 mm machine guns (Mk IB, IIB) two 20 mm Hispano-cannons and four 7.70 mm machine guns (Mk VA) eight 7.7 mm (0.303 in) Browning machine guns (Mk VB) two 20 mm cannons and four 7.70 mm machine guns (Mk VC) various combinations of cannons and machine gun plus two 113 kg bombs (all Mk V) underwing rack for a 227 kg bomb or a droppable tank (Mk IXE) two 20 mm cannons and two 12.7 mm cannons (Mk XIII) four 7.70 mm machine guns (Mk XIVE) two 20 mm cannons and two 12.7 mm machine guns (most others) two 20 mm cannons and four 7.7 mm machine guns.

Variants: Type 224, Type 300 (prototype), Mk I, Mk II, Mk III, Mk PR III (photographic reconnaissance), Mk IV, Mk PR IV (photographic reconnaissance), Mk V, Mk VI, Mk VII, Mk PR VII, Mk VIII, Mk IX, Mk X (high altitude photographic reconnaissance ), Mk XI, Mk XII, Mk XIII, Mk XIV, Mk XVI, Mk XVIII, Mk XIX, Mk XX, Mk 21, Mk 22, Mk 23, Mk 24, Spiteful (the intended replacement for the Spitfire, but the advent of jets rendered it obsolete after only 17 planes were produced).

Avionics: None.

History: First flight (prototype) 5 March 1936; (production Mk I) July 1938; final delivery (Mk 24) October 1947.

Operators: RAAF, RCAF, RAF, Czechoslovakia, Egypt, France, Yugoslavia, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, South Africa, Soviet Union, Turkey, USAAF.

Number Built: 20,334 Sptifires; 2,556 Seafires

Number Still Airworthy: ~50