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Late production Supermarine Spitfire IX
Picture of a late production Spitfire Mk IX. Distinquishing features include the bubble canopy, the four bladed propellor and the clipped wings.
Sorting Out the “E”
The mass-produced Spitfire Mk. XVIE incorporated two important items of American origin – the Packard-produced Merlin 266 engine and the .50″ calibre Browning wing armament. By early 1944, both became available in large quantities from the United States through the increasingly reliable Atlantic shipping routes. Their incorporation in the production of the most numerous British fighter was the logical consequence of this supply situation.
The Browning .50″ calibre machine gun had a long history. Even today it ranks as one of the most successful machine guns ever produced. It was used extensively as a vehicle weapon and for aircraft armament by the United States from the 1920s, through World War II to Korea and Vietnam. Surprisingly, it is still in use today as the primary heavy machine gun of the US military and NATO countries, with only a few modern improvements distinguishing it from its WW2-era predecessor.
The basic M2 was deployed in US service in a number of variants. The full designation of a variant dedicated for use as fixed or flexible aircraft gun was Browning Machine Gun, Aircraft, Cal. .50, AN/M2 (Fixed) or (Flexible).
The AN/M2 (fixed) had a cyclic rate of 750–850 rounds per minute, with the ability to be fired from a electrically-operated remote-mount solenoid trigger. Cooled by the aircraft’s slipstream, the air-cooled AN/M2 could be fitted with a substantially lighter barrel than its Army counterpart, which also increased the rate of fire.
It should be noted that compared with other aircraft weapons of the day, the performance of the Browning was rather undistinguished, especially in comparison with aircraft cannon widely used by other combating nations. The American gun was also very heavy. On the other hand, the USAAF had found it extremely reliable and simply “good enough” in air-to-air combat. This way the Browning became standard armament on American fighters – the P-51 Mustang, P-47 Thunderbolt or the F6F Hellcat, and more, with the same arrangement retained even for F-86 Sabre in post-war years.
When the same gun was being considered for the Spitfire, the Supermarine had at least two obvious choices, both of which would fit snugly within the universal structure of the C-wing then in production.
- Placing four .50″ Brownings in the C-wing cannon bays, at the same time removing the outer “.303 Brownings. This would give the Spitfire a complement of four .50-calibre guns, similar to P-51B Mustang.
- Placing a .50″ Browning in the unused cannon bay of each wing plus remove the outer “.303 guns. This would give the Spitfire a complement of two 20 mm Hispanos and two .50” machine guns.
As is known, the latter combination prevailed to became widespread standard on Merlin-powered Spitfires during late 1944 and 1945. The main reason is probably because the RAF doctrine considered cannon, with its vastly superior hitting power, to be a necessary ingredient of fighter armament both in the air and against ground targets (compared with the Spitfire Mk. IXC, the P-51B was lightly armed indeed its reputation in this area was probably saved by the fact that its opposition included mostly fighters).
On the other hand, replacing the rifle-calibre machine guns with a heavy machine gun brought back a degree of combat efficiency to machine gun fire. This was significant not least against the ground targets, which were to become important in operations of the 2nd Tactical Air Force in after the invasion of Europe.
Armourers inspect the M2 Brownings at the workbench
Because of the Browning’s weight, the new installation was heavier than the previous arrangement, increasing the armament weight on the Spitfire from 235 to 276 kg. Mounting the M2 in the wing proved to be a relatively straightforward modification – the gun fit by a margin into one of the cannon bays of the “universal” C-type wing, with its barrel completely hidden within the wing’s outline.
Thus the E wing was structurally identical to the Type C, differing only in armament installation. Castle Bromwich factory records do not even indicate “E” wing having entered production. Their wings, for the Merlin Spitfire, were all of the same universal type. It is therefore unclear how the “E” designation came about. It is possible that it was accepted later, when the introduction of low-back Mk. XVI led to placing the oxygen and compressed air bottles to be moved to vacant .303″ Browning compartments in the wings.
Diagram showing the layout of cannon and .5″ M2 Browning installation in a Spitfire
Published at this site before, this picture shows the arrangement of the armament bay of the Spitfire LF Mk. IXE, with Hispano Mk. II cannon to the left and the M2 Browning to the right. Note how the entire bay was designed to accommodate two Hispanos. The Browning fits easily in its oversized space. Its ammunition bay (the top one) was simply “downsized” from its initial dimensions through simple addition of a spacer along its forward edge.
The first Spitfire to receive the new armament was MK197, an LF Mk. IX from Castle Bromwich production line. It was delivered to AAEE at Boscombe Down for armament trials on 11 February 1944.
Deliveries of production Mk. IXEs started the same month it is believed that the initial production batch, completed until early April, comprised 60 machines, which went to No. 66 and 504 Squadrons.
Simultaneously, modification instruction was issued to convert existing in-service Spitfires Mk. IXC with the new armament. This could not be carried out at the unit level as the modification included changes to the wing “plumbing” – presumably gun heating and compressed-air installations. Instead, Vickers Supermarine issued working parties to convert the aircraft.
The M2 Browning was mounted in the inner cannon bay, with its barrel hidden completely within the bulk of the wing. The prominent collar is not coupled with this installation, but is a feature carried over from the “C” wing – it provided a reinforced forward mount for the second Hispano cannon.
The pace of the conversion work is very difficult to assess. Since the type designation of the converted aircraft remained unchanged in the records, it is rather impossible to establish how many Spitfires were converted by the time of D-Day. It is clear, however, that CBAF continued to roll out LF Mk. IXC aircraft with “old” armament during the same period.
An interesting curiosity is that No. 485 (New Zealand) Squadron converted several of their Spitfires LF Mk. IX of to carry the .50 Brownings without resorting to the Supermarine instructions.
The first Spitfire LF Mk. XVI, MJ556, flew in December 1943 and carried “C”-type armament. The squadrons did not start receiving the new mark until the beginning of October 1944, when mass production of this variant commenced at the Castle Bromwich factory. During winter 1944-1945, LF Mk. XVIE replaced the LF Mk. IX as the most common fighter type in the 2nd TAF on the Continent.
It is generally believed that all production examples of the Mk. XVI carried the “American” armament. This is, however, difficult to confirm with certainity. Confusingly, the designation “LF. XVIE” first appeared in CBAF records around May-June 1945. The first low-back Mk. XVI, SM410, left CBAF for trials on 30 March 1945, so it is possible that at the time of its introduction, the “E” suffix was intended to refer to the low-back Spitfire and/or the previously mentioned changes in wing plumbing incorporated in that variant. Perhaps we’ll never know.
Upper an lower armament bay covers were replaced during the conversion, due to the cannon being moved to the outer bay and the different arrangement of ejection chutes.
The company CEO is founder Mike O'Sullivan, who is also manager of Cisco Municipal Airport.  The Workshop Manager is Chad Faykus and Office Manager Kathy Redford-Walton.  
In 2012 the company employed eight people. 
Australian pilot and aviation engineer Mike O'Sullivan, who grew up on a cattle station in Queensland, had always wanted a Spitfire and in 1991 he built a replica for his own use. This was followed by an all-metal production prototype in 1994.    
In 1995 O'Sullivan joined with business partner John McCarron to form the Supermarine Aircraft company in Brisbane, Australia, with the idea of producing all-Australian homebuild aircraft kits. In the event, the constant-speed, four-blade propeller would be obtained from a specialist firm in New Zealand. 
The company has no direct connection with the original British Supermarine company which built the original Spitfire fighter, however it has been granted permission to use the name. Journalist Charles Laurence of The Telegraph explains: "So how did the hallowed name of Supermarine, the old Southampton-based aviation company (half of all Spitfires were built in West Bromwich after the Southampton factories were flattened by the Luftwaffe), end up on a tin hangar in Texas? O'Sullivan did not buy the name Supermarine: he was granted it by the descendants of the owners of the old West Midlands aircraft works, out of business since the early 1950s, in a kind of blessing." 
Around 2010 the company moved to Cisco Airport, Texas in the US and is now an American limited liability company.  
Aircraft are now approved and flying in many countries and over 92 have been sold. 
The Supermarine Aircraft Spitfire is the only all-aluminium replica Spitfire in production. Three models have been produced, all sub-scale:
Late production Supermarine Spitfire IX - History
Supermarine Spitfire / Seafire
(Variants/Other Names: See History below)
Supermarine Spitfire Mk IX G-CTIX (PT462), seen at Duxford, UK in 2003.
Photo contributed by Rob Boyes.
History: Undoubtedly the most famous British combat aircraft of World War II, the Spitfire is as deeply ingrained in the collective psyche of most Britons as the P-51 Mustang is in most Americans'. First flown on 5 March 1936, the Spitfire sprang from the design desk of R.J. Mitchell, who had previously submitted an unsuccessful design for a similar fighter, the Type 224. Once given the freedom to design an aircraft outside of the strict Air Ministry specifications, his Type 300 emerged as a clear winner so much so that a new Air Ministry specification was written to match the new design.
The Spitfire Mk I became operational at Duxford, Cambridgeshire, in July 1938, and as time went on, the Spitfire was to become one of the most versatile and most-modified aircraft in existence, with various wing designs, armament changes, and engine changes dictating its many identities.
By the time WWII began in September 1939, nine squadrons of Spits were operational with the RAF, and the Spitfire quickly lived up to its good reputation by downing a German He 111 over the UK the following month. Ten more Spitfire squadrons were on strength by the fall of 1940, when the Battle of Britain tested the nation's resolve and military resources. Spitfires soon began overseas operations, in Malta, the Middle East, and the Pacific.
The Spitfire served, and continued to be built, throughout WWII. It served in many theaters, and with many Allied nations, including the USA and the Soviet Union.
The Royal Navy, noting both the success of the Spitfire in land-based service, and also the success of their own Sea Hurricanes, ordered the production of the Seafire, a carrier-based version of the Spitfire. Deliveries began in January 1942, and the Seafire was used in growing numbers and variants throughout the remainder of the war.
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 un-pressurized 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)
Specifications (Mk VA):
Engine: One 1,478-hp Rolls-Royce Merlin 45 V-12 piston engine
Weight: Empty 4,998 lbs., Max Takeoff 6,417 lbs.
Wing Span: 36ft. 10in.
Length: 29ft. 11in.
Height: 9ft. 11in.
Maximum Speed: 369 mph
Ceiling: 36,500 ft.
Range: 1,135 miles
Armament: Eight 7.7-mm (0.303-inch) Browning machine guns. (Other variants carried either two cannon and four machine guns four cannon or two cannon, two 12.7-mm machine guns, and 1,000 pounds of bombs.)
Number Built: 20,334 Sptifires 2,556 Seafires
Number Still Airworthy:
[ Spitfire Pilot Report by James Feuilherade ]
Late production Supermarine Spitfire IX - History
The Supermarine Spitfire and Seafire
Supermarine Spitfire II. Photo courtesy of NASA.
The British Spitfire is probably the best known fighter plane ever produced. In a small, informal poll I found that even people with no interest in aviation or history have at least heard of the Spitfire. Often it is the only fighter plane whose name they recognize.
There can be no question that the Spitfire was one of the best and most enduring fighters of World War II. The Spitfire proved, like it arch enemy the Bf 109, to be a very adaptable airplane, and in various versions it served throughout the war.
Most of the famous British aces of WW II flew the Spitfire, including the top scoring British ace of the war Group Captain "Johnny" Johnson (38 victories), and the legless ace and hero of the Battle of Britain, Douglas Bader (he flew with two artificial legs), who scored 9 of his 20 kills from a Spitfire cockpit.
The German ace Gunther Rall (275 victories), who test flew captured versions of practically all of the top Allied fighters, stated that he prefered the Spitfire. This was a common sentiment among German fighter pilots, who commonly regarded the Spitfire as their most dangerous foe.
The Spitfire evolved from the Supermarine line of Schneider Trophy (seaplane) racers of the late 1920's and early 1930's, which culminated in the trophy winning S.6B of 1931. In September of that year, the S.6B captured the Trophy with a top speed of 340.8 m.p.h., and set a world speed record of 407 m.p.h.
The prototype Spitfire was built in 1936. Like the Bf 109, the Spitfire was an all metal stressed-skin monoplane. This was new technology at that time, and many production problems had to be solved, which resulted in considerable delays before the new fighter began reaching RAF squadrons.
The Spitfire was a low drag design that could be progressively improved to keep pace with foreign developments. And, by all accounts, it was a real pilot's airplane. She proved easy to fly and forgiving, a fighter without vices. Her cockpit was relatively roomy and offered a good field of view.
This was in stark contrast to her greatest rival, the ME 109, which was a tricky airplane to control both on the ground and in the air. This was an important consideration during the war, when pilot training was put into high gear and "stick time" reduced. And the 109's cockpit was cramped and had an inferior field of view.
The first production version was the Mk. I, which entered squadron service in mid-1938. When the war came in 1939, the RAF insisted in holding the bulk of their modern monoplane fighters in Britain, sending only a few of the modern Hurricanes, and no Spitfires, to France. This proved to be a good decision as, after the fall of France, RAF fighter command could deploy about 620 Hurricanes and Spitfires to meet the Luftwaffe's 800 Bf 109s. The Luftwaffe also had about 275 Bf 110 twin engine "Destroyer" fighters, but these proved to be no match for the single engine British fighters.
The main variant of the Spitfire Mk. IA was powered by the famous Rolls Royce V-12 Merlin II engine. This produced 1,230 h.p. and drove a two bladed wooden propeller, giving the early Spitfire a top level speed of about 360 m.p.h., and a best climb rate of 2,530 ft/min. By the time of the battle of Britain, a three-bladed constant speed propeller, which markedly improved climb and acceleration, had been fitted.
Typical armament of both Spitfires and Hurricanes of this period was 8-.303 cal Browning machine guns, four in each wing. Some Spitfires were fitted with 2-20mm cannon plus a couple of machine guns, and these were called Mk. IB's.
Either way, their performance was closely similar to that of the Bf 109E, with the Spitfire being easier to maneuver and slightly faster and the Messerschmitt being faster in the dive, and with a quicker roll rate.
In 1940 the Mk. II began to appear, and replaced the Mk. I in early 1941. The Mk. II was powered by a 1,240 h.p. Merlin XII, which gave it a top speed almost identical to the Mk. I (354 m.p.h. at 17,550 ft), but a higher rate of climb (3,025 ft./min).
It is worth mentioning that Spitfires had carburetors, not fuel injection, and the engines would quit for lack of fuel if the aircraft was flown upside down. This problem was not solved until an improved carb was adopted for the late production Mk. V and later models. Mk. II's were also armed with either eight machine guns, or a mix of machine guns and cannons. All Spitfires of this period had the signature elliptical plan wings, and were (in my opinion) among the most graceful of all fighter planes.
History records that these Spitfires (and Hurricanes) prevailed in the Battle of Britain. Their primary shortcoming, again like the Bf 109, was their short range. This was not a problem while they were serving in the interceptor role during the Battle of Britain, but it became a glaring fault when the RAF went over onto the offensive.
Following are the basic specifications for the Spitfire Mk. IIA of September 1940.
R.R. Merlin XII, 12 cyl. Vee, 1,236 h.p.
10,000 ft., 3.4 min 20,000 ft., 7 min.
The introduction of the Merlin 45 engine (1,185 hp 1,470 hp war emergency rating at 9,250 feet) resulted in the Spit V. when installed in the basic Mk. I airframe. The Mk. VA configuration was armed with 8-.303 Machine guns and retained the usual rounded wing tips. Only 94 Mk.VA's were produced bfore the Mk. VB went into production early in 1941. The VB for the first time introduced "clipped" wing tips to increase the roll rate. It also featured an improved armament of 2-20mm cannon and 4-.303 machine guns. Some 3,911 Mk. Vb's were produced before the armament was again changed to 4-20mm cannon, thus creating the Mk. VC. A further 2,467 Mk. VC's were produced. By that time Merlin 45, 46, 50, 50A, 55, and 56 engines were being installed in medium altitude versions and Merlin 45M, 50M, and 55M engines were installed in low altitude variants.
The Mk. VC had a top speed of up to 374 mph at 13,000 feet, a service ceiling of 37,000 feet, and a best rate of climb of 2,900 ft./min. But the Spitfire had begun to fall behind the Bf 109F in overall performance. The performance gap increased when the Germans introduced the FW 190A fighter. Never the less, the Mk. V was among the most numerous Spitfire models.
From about January 1940 the Royal Navy had been clamoring for a navalized version of the Spitfire for aircraft carrier use, but the needs of RAF Fighter Command were given priority. Finally, in early 1942, the Royal Navy began receiving the first of 166 Spitfire Mk. VB's modified by the addition of a tail hook and strengthened rear fuselage. These were designated Seafire Mk. IB. In June 1942 the improved Seafire Mk. IIC, based on the Spitfire Mk. VC, appeared. This incorporated catapult spools, a stronger landing gear, and a Merlin 45 or 46 engine. Seafire L Mk. IIC's came with a Merlin 32 engine and a 4-bladed propeller for improved low altitude performance.
In June 1943 the RN began receiving the Seafire Mk. III. This was powered by a Melin 55 engine and, at last, had folding wings. Basic specifications for the Seafire LF Mk. III included a top speed of 348 mph at 6,000 feet, climb to 5,000 feet in 1.9 minutes, service ceiling of 24,000 feet, and range of 513 miles with an external fuel tank.
The MK. VI was designed as a high altitude fighter and featured an increased wing span and a pressurized cockpit. It used the VB airframe. Deliveries started early in 1942 but only 100 were produced.
The next big production model was the Mk. IX, the most numerous of all Spitfire models. The Mk. IX was a Mk. V airframe mated with the new two-stage, two-speed, supercharged Merlin 70 engine, which developed 1,655 hp at 10,000 feet.
This new engine was really intended for the all new Spitfire Mk. VIII airframe, but the press of events forced its adoption in the older airframe. The result, however, was quite satisfactory. Top speed was raised to 415 mph at 27,800 ft. Best climb rate jumped to 4,530 ft./min. The Mk. IX started to enter service around the middle of 1942, and proved able to meet the German fighters on an essentially equal footing. The elliptical wing plan was standard in the Mk. IX, which was approximately contemporary to the Bf 109G. Like that fighter, the Mk. IX served for the rest of the war in a variety of roles.
The Mk VIII finally came along in September 1942, incorporating many detail improvements, including better streamlining and a fully retractable tail wheel. It was usually powered by a 1,710 hp Merlin 64 engine. Top speed was 408 mph at 25,000 ft., service ceiling was 43,000 ft., and best climb rate was 3,790 ft./min. This version was used mostly in the Far East, relatively late in the war. The special high altitude version was the Mk. VII, which like its predecessors featured longer span wings and a pressurized cockpit.
The Merlin engine was reaching its maximum potential by this time and Supermarine was experimenting with adapting the more powerful Rolls Royce Griffon engine to the Spitfire. Seafires with Griffon engines, designed to replace the Mk. III, were also under development.
To deal with the Griffon-engined Seafires first, the initial model was the Mk. XV. This was based on the Seafire Mk. III airframe with an enlarger rudder, powered by a Griffon VI engine developing 1,750 hp. Deliveries began in the fall of 1944. top speed was 383 mph at 13,500 feet, time to 20,000 feet was 7.0 minutes, and service ceiling was 35,500 feet.
The subsequent Seafire Mk. XVII had a teardrop canopy, racks for underwing ordinance, and an improved undercarriage. It used the low altitude version of the Griffon engine, a four-bladed propeller, enlarged rudder, and was armed with 4-20mm cannons.
The Spitfire Mk. XIV of 1944 was a Mk. VIII airframe with a lengthened nose powered by a Rolls Royce Griffon 65 engine. This developed 2,035 hp, good for a top speed at altitude of a sizzling 448 mph. The new engine drove a five bladed propeller and gave the Mk. XIV an improved service ceiling and enhanced high altitude performance. Best climb rate was over 5,000 ft./min. Later Mk. XIV's had a "teardrop" style canopy to improve all-around visibility. Mk. XIV production totaled 957, plus 300 similar Mk. XVIII's.
The last production Spitfires were the Mk. 21, 22, and 24. The Equivalent Navy models were the Seafire F Mk. 45, 46, and 47. The Seafire Mks. 46 and 47 came with a contra-rotating propeller to negate the tendency to swing on takeoff. None of these Spitfire and Seafire models were produced in large numbers. All came with a teardrop canopy, and for the first time the wing was redesigned. The new wing was similar in plan, but was stronger, carried more fuel, housed a longer landing gear (which allowed a larger diameter propeller), and carried four 20mm cannon. The Seafire Mks. 46 and 47 had improved folding wings, while the Mk. 45 had fixed wings. The Seafire 47 served in the Korean War. Top speed of the Spitfire Mk. 22 was 450 mph and best climb rate was 4,900 ft./min.
With these models the Spitfire had reached the end of its long career. The first Mk. 21's entered service in April 1945 the last Mk. 24's were delivered in March 1948. The war was over and the jet age had begun. A total of about 22,800 Spitfires and Seafires of all types had been produced.
A key factor which allowed the continued development of the Spitfire was the development of progressively more powerful and improved engines, starting with the Rolls-Royce Merlin and progressing to the bigger and more powerful Rolls-Royce Griffon. The evolution of high octane aviation fuels and improved supercharger designs enabled Rolls-Royce to extract increasing amounts of power from the same basic designs. For example, the Merlin II and III which powered the Spitfire I produced a maximum of 1,030 hp (770 kW) using the 87 octane aviation fuel which was generally available from 1938 through to 1941 from early 1940 increasing supplies of 100 octane fuel allowed the maximum power to be increased to 1,310 hp (977 kW) with an increased supercharger boost pressure, albeit for a maximum time limit of 5 minutes. ΐ] In 1944 100/150 grade fuels enabled the Merlin 66 to produce 1,860 hp (1,387 kW) at low altitudes in F.S gear.
Single stage superchargers [ edit | edit source ]
Depending on the supercharger fitted engines were rated as low altitude (e.g. Merlin 66, Griffon III), where the engine produced its maximum power below about 10,000 feet (3,000 m), medium altitude (Merlin 45), where the engine produced its maximum power up to about 20,000 feet (6,100 m), and high altitude (Merlin 70), where the engine produced its maximum power above about 25,000 feet (7,600 m). As a result the prefixes which were used on most later Spitfire variants, L.F. Mark. F. Mark.. and H.F Mark indicated whether the engines fitted were suited for low, medium or high altitude. The use of these prefixes did not change according to the wings, which could be fitted with "clipped" tips, reducing the wingspan to about 32 ft 6 in (9.9 m) (this could vary slightly), or the "pointed" tips which increased the wingspan to 40 ft 2 in (12.29 m).
Spitfire F Mk XIIs of 41 Sqn. The Griffon IIs or VIs used a single-stage supercharger generating maximum power at low altitudes.
The original Merlin and Griffon engine designs used single-stage superchargers. For engines equipped with a single-stage supercharger the air being forced through the supercharger air intake was compressed by the supercharger's impeller. In the case of the Merlin II/III, XII and 40 series as the air was being compressed it was mixed with fuel which was fed through an SU carburettor before being fed into the engine's cylinders. The Merlin III produced 1,030 hp (770 kW) at +6¼lb/in² (43 kPa) of "boost" (the "boost" is the pressure to which the air/fuel mixture is compressed before being fed to the cylinders). Α] The limitation of the single stage supercharger was that the maximum power dropped quickly as higher altitudes were reached because air pressure and air density decreases with altitude the efficiency of a piston engine drops because of the reduction in the weight of air [nb 1] that can be drawn into the engine for example the air density, at 30,000 feet (9,100 m) is 1/3 of that at sea level, thus only 1/3 of the amount of air can be drawn into the cylinder and only 1/3 of the fuel can be burnt.
A supercharger can be thought of either as artificially increasing the density of the air by compressing it - or as forcing more air than normal into the cylinder every time the piston moves down. Β]
Two-Stage, Two-Speed superchargers [ edit | edit source ]
The most fundamental change made to the later Merlin (60, 70, 80 and 100 series) and Griffon engines (60 and 80 series) was the incorporation of a two-stage, two-speed supercharger, which provided a considerable increase in power, especially at higher altitudes. Two-stage refers to the use of two impellers [nb 2] on a common driveshaft, constituting two superchargers in series as air was drawn through the air intake fuel was pumped into the airstream by the carburettor. Γ] The first-stage impellor compressed the air—fuel mixture and this was then fed to the smaller second-stage impellor which further compressed the mixture.
The impellors were driven by a hydraulically operated two-speed gearbox. Δ] At low to medium altitudes the supercharger was in Moderate Supercharger or M.S. gear (this referred to the gearing, and thus the speed, at which the impellers were operating). Once the aircraft reached and climbed through a set critical altitude (20,000 feet (6,100 m) for the Merlin 61 and 70 series Ε] ) the power would start to drop as the atmospheric pressure (the density of air) dropped. As the critical altitude was passed a pressure-operated aneroid capsule operated the gearbox which changed speed to Full Supercharger (F.S.) gear, which drove the impellers faster, thus compressing a greater volume of the air-fuel mixture. Ζ] [nb 3]
An intercooler, was required to stop the compressed mixture from becoming too hot and either igniting before reaching the cylinders (pre-ignition knocking) or creating a condition known as knocking or detonation. The intercooler, which was separate from the engine cooling system with its own supply of glycol and water coolant, was mounted in the induction system, between the outlet of the second-stage supercharger and behind the cylinder blocks. The hot air—fuel mixture from the supercharger was circulated though and around the coolant tubes and was then passed on to the main induction manifold through which it was fed into the cylinders. The intercooler also circulated coolant through passages in the supercharger casing and between the impellers. Η] Finally, an extra radiator (mounted in the starboard radiator duct under the wing of the Spitfire) was used to dissipate the intercooler's excess charge temperature. Η]
With the two-stage, two-speed supercharger two sets of power ratings can be quoted. As an example, the maximum power generated by the Merlin 61 was 1,565 hp (1,167 kW) at 12,250 feet (3,730 m) (critical altitude) at M.S. speed, using + 15 lb/in² "boost". Ε] The F.S. gear required approximately 200 hp (149 kW) to drive it. As a result the maximum power generated by the Merlin 61 in F.S. was 1,390 hp (1,036 kW) at 25,900 feet (7,900 m) using + 15 lb/in² of boost. Ε] ⎖]
Spitfire Mk VIII. Merlin 63, 66 or 70 engine with a two-stage, two—speed supercharger.
The Merlin 66 used in the L.F. Mk IX produced slightly more power but because of the use of slightly different gear ratios driving smaller impellors, the critical altitude ratings of the supercharger stages were lower, 7,000 feet (2,100 m) and 18,000 feet (5,500 m) respectively. By contrast the Merlin 70, which was optimised for high altitude flight, had critical altitudes of 14,000 feet (4,300 m) (M.S) and 25,400 feet (7,700 m) (F.S). ⎗]
Unlike the Merlin engines the Griffons used superchargers which were designed to achieve maximum performance over a wider altitude band as such there were no Griffon engined L.F. or H.F. Spitfire variants.
Carburettors [ edit | edit source ]
The original production variants of the Merlin used an SU manufactured carburettor in which the fuel flow was metered through a float. In most circumstances this proved to be sufficient but during the air battles over Dunkirk and during the Battle of Britain it was found that whenever the Merlin was subjected to negative "g" forces, such as a quick "bunt" into a dive, the engine would briefly lose power through petrol starvation. This was because the petrol in the float was being thrown away from the feed pipe to the supercharger. The fuel injected Daimler-Benz DB 601 engine gave the Bf 109 especially an advantage over the carburettor-equipped engine no Spitfire could simply "bunt" and dive away from an opponent as the 109 could. ⎘] The remedy, invented by Beatrice "Tilly" Shilling, was to fit a metal diaphragm with a hole in it, across the float chambers. It partly cured the problem of fuel starvation in a dive.
The full remedy was to use the Bendix-Stromberg pressure carburettor, which allowed more precise metering of the amount of fuel used by the engine and prevented the problem of fuel starvation. This new carburettor was used from the Merlin 66 series and on all Griffon engines. In these engines the carburettor injected fuel at 5 psi through a nozzle direct into the supercharger and the compressed air—fuel mixture was then directed to the cylinders. The final development was the SU injection carburettor which injected fuel into the supercharger using a fuel pump driven as a function of crankshaft speed and engine pressures although this was fitted to the 100 series Merlins, which were not used in production Spitfires, it was used in the Griffon 60 and 80 series.
Spitfire F.24 of 80 Squadron. This was the final mark of Spitfire powered by a Griffon 85 driving a five bladed Rotol propeller.
Boost pressure measurements [ edit | edit source ]
The British measured boost pressure as lbs./sq.inch (or psi). The normal atmospheric pressure at sea level is 14.6959 psi, although this can vary from day to day: a reading of +6 meant that the air/fuel mix was being compressed by a supercharger blower to 20.7 (rounded figure) psi before entering the engine +25 meant that the air/fuel mix was being compressed to 39.7 psi. However, there was a problem with the British system of measuring boost, in that in an aircraft the pressure gauges should measure absolute pressure within the engine's supercharger, rather than showing atmospheric pressure at sea level, plus the supercharger's pressure at sea level this was a reasonable measure but, in engines that were used through different altitudes this method becomes completely arbitrary. Because the Americans measured their boost ratings using inches of Mercury (" Hg), their boost gauges more accurately recorded the absolute pressures being generated by the superchargers at all altitudes. ⎙]
|Inches of Mercury (" Hg)||Pounds of Boost ⎙]|
|80.9" of mercury=||+25 lb boost|
|66.6" of mercury=||+18 lb boost|
|60.5" of mercury=||+15 lb boost|
|48.3" of mercury=||+9 lb boost|
|42.2" of mercury=||+6 lb boost|
Supermarine Spiteful and Seafang Fighters
In 1942, the British Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough and Supermarine Aviation were working on ways to improve the Spitfire fighter. One of the main limiting factors of the aircraft was with its wing encountering compressibility at high speed. The investigation led to interest in designing a laminar flow airfoil and adapting it to an existing Spitfire airframe. In late 1942, the British National Physics Laboratory joined the effort, and Supermarine issued Specification No 470 for the new Spitfire wing in November. As designed, the new wing was 200 lb (91 kg) lighter, would increase the aircraft’s roll rate, and was expected to increase the aircraft’s speed.
The first Supermarine Spiteful prototype (NN660) consisted of new laminar flow wings mounted to a Spitfire XIV fuselage. Note the wide and shallow radiator housings under the wings and the standard canopy
A proposal was submitted to the British Air Ministry and gathered enough interest for Specification F.1/43 to be issued in February 1943, calling for a single-seat fighter with a laminar flow wing for Air Force service and provisions for a folding wing to meet Fleet Air Arm (FAA) requirements. Supermarine proceeded with the design under the designation Type 371. Originally, the aircraft was to be named Victor or Valiant, names that were previously (but temporarily) applied to advanced Spitfire models. However, the Type 371 eventually had its name changed to Spiteful. Three prototypes were ordered, and a fourth was added later.
The design of the Supermarine Spiteful was overseen by Joseph Smith. The laminar flow wing was much thinner than the wing used on the Spitfire and necessitated a complete redesign. The all-metal wing had two spars and a straight taper on the leading and trailing edges, which simplified its manufacture. The skin used was relatively thick to add rigidity and improve aileron control. Unlike with the Spitfire, the landing gear retracted inward with the main wheels being housed in the comparatively thick wing roots. The landing gear struts compressed as the gear retracted to minimize the space needed within the wing. Wide and shallow radiators for engine cooling were housed behind the main gear wells. The oil cooler was positioned behind the coolant radiator in the left wing, and the intercooler radiator was positioned in front of the coolant radiator in the right wing. The radiator housings had adjustable inlets and exit flaps. Each wing had two 20 mm cannons with 167 rounds for each inner gun and 145 rounds for each outer gun. The underside of each wing could accommodate two 300 lb (136 kg) rockets or a hardpoint for a drop tank or a bomb up to 1,000 lb (454 kg).
The all-metal, monocoque fuselage of the Spiteful was similar to that of the Spitfire. The cockpit was raised to improve the pilot’s view over the aircraft’s nose. A new, sliding bubble canopy covered the cockpit. Four fuel tanks in the fuselage, forward of the cockpit, held a total of 120 gal (100 Imp gal / 455 L), and a tank in each wing root held 10 gal (8 Imp gal / 36 L). Starting with the third prototype, a 74 gal (62 Imp gal / 282 L) fuel tank was added behind the cockpit, bringing the total internal capacity to 214 gal (178 Imp gal / 809 L). Two 108 gal (90 Imp gal / 409 L) drop tanks could be carried under the wings, or a single 204 gal (170 Imp gal / 773 L) drop tank could be mounted to the aircraft’s centerline.
The Spiteful prototype (NN664) is considered the first true Spiteful because it incorporated the new fuselage. The aircraft was never painted. Note the standard, Spitfire F.21 tail.
The Spiteful’s Mark numbers were a continuation of those used on the Spitfire. The Spiteful F.XIV (F.14) was powered by a 2,375 hp (1,771 kW) Rolls-Royce Griffon 69 with a five-blade, single-rotation propeller. The Spiteful F.XV (F.15) was powered by the 2,350 hp (1,752 kW) Griffon 89 or 90 with a six-blade, contra-rotating propeller. Both Griffon engines had a two-stage, two-speed supercharger, and both the five- and six-blade propellers were 11 ft (3.35 m) in diameter and built by Rotol. Originally, a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine could be substituted for the Griffon if Griffon engine production was found to be lacking, but the Merlin option was dropped in mid-1944.
The Spiteful had a 35 ft (10.67 m) wingspan, was 32 ft 11 in (9.76 m) long, and was 13 ft 5 in (4.10 m) tall. The aircraft had a maximum speed of 409 mph (658 km/h) at sea level, 437 mph (703 km/h) at 5,500 ft (1,676 m), and 483 mph (777 km/h) at 21,000 ft (6,401 m). Cruising speed for maximum range was 250 mph (402 km/h) at 20,000 ft (6,096 m). The Spiteful’s stalling speed was 95 mph (153 km/h). The aircraft’s range was 564 mi (908 km) on internal fuel and 1,315 mi (2,116 km) with drop tanks. The Spiteful had an empty weight of 7,350 lb (3,334 kg), a normal weight of 9,950 lb (4,513 kg), and a maximum weight of 11,400 lb (5,171 kg). The aircraft had an initial rate of climb of 4,890 fpm (24.8 m/s) and a ceiling of 42,000 ft (12,802 m).
A comparison of the third Spiteful prototype (NN667) and the ninth F.XIV production aircraft (RB523). Both have the elongated intake scoop mounted under the engine and just behind the spinner. Note the larger tail compared to the first two Spiteful prototypes.
With other war work taking priority, it was some time before Supermarine had anything related to the Spiteful to test. A mockup was inspected in March 1944, and the aircraft’s name was changed to Spiteful around this time. A set of wings was fitted to a Spitfire XIV (serial number NN660), which became the first Spiteful prototype. The aircraft was first flown on 30 June 1944, with Jeffrey Quill as the pilot. The aircraft used the same 2,035 hp (1,518 kW) Griffon 61 engine as installed in a standard Spitfire XIV, but its performance was superior to that of a standard Spitfire XIV. However, the Spiteful also exhibited rather violent stalling characteristics compared to the fairly docile stall of the Spitfire. This was attributed to the outer wing with the aileron stalling first, which was the opposite of how the Spitfire’s elliptical wing stalled. With the Spitfire, the outer wing stalled last and enabled the ailerons to remain effective deep into the stall. On 13 September 1944, NN660 crashed while engaged in a dog-fight test with a standard Spitfire XIV. The pilot, Frank Furlong, was killed in the crash. A definitive cause was never determined, but it was believed that the aileron control rods became jammed during moderate G maneuvers.
On 8 January 1945, the second Spiteful prototype (NN664) took to the air, piloted by Quill. The aircraft incorporated updated aileron controls and the new Spiteful fuselage. However, NN664 had a tail similar to that used on the Spitfire F.21. Extensive handling tests were undertaken on NN664 that resulted in a few changes. The most significant change was a redesigned tail with its vertical stabilizer and rudder area increased by 28 percent and its horizontal stabilizer and elevator area increased by 27 percent. NN664 first flew with the new tail on 24 June 1945, and the aircraft was sent to the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment (A&AEE) at RAF Boscombe Down for flight trials.
The underside of Spiteful RB515, the first production aircraft, illustrates the wings’ straight leading and trailing edges. Note the standard, short intake scoop. Outlines of the radiator housing doors are visible.
Shortly after NN664’s first flight, the Air Ministry ordered 650 Spiteful aircraft. The order went through a number of reductions, including the cancellation of 150 Spitefuls around 5 May 1945 so that a comparable number of Seafangs (see below) could be ordered. The fourth prototype was included in these cancellations.
The third Spiteful prototype (NN667) was sent to the A&AEE for service evaluations on 1 February 1946. It was found that the aircraft exhibited several areas of poor build quality, and there were numerous concerns with its ease of serviceability. A multitude of fasteners needed to be undone in order to remove the engine cowling, and rearming the aircraft was a time-consuming process that involved disconnecting the controls to the ailerons. A number of modifications and improvements were suggested, but it is not clear just how many were implemented. For at least part of its existence, NN667 had an elongated air intake that would be featured on the Seafang (see below). Other Spitefuls also had the longer scoop (at least RB517, RB518, RB522 and RB523).
The first production Spiteful F.XIV (RB515) made its first flight on 2 April 1945, with Quill in the pilot’s seat. The aircraft originally had an F.21 tail, but a larger Spiteful tail was installed after RB515’s third flight, which ended in a forced landing. The aircraft’s first flight with the new tail was on 21 May 1945. On 27 September 1945, RB515 suffered an engine failure and made another forced landing at Farnborough. The damaged aircraft was subsequently written off.
Another view of RB515 illustrates the larger Spiteful tail that was later applied to the Spitfire F.22 and F.24. The tail improved the Spiteful’s handling, but the aircraft’s stall was still violent compared to the Spitfire’s.
Spiteful RB518 was fitted with a rounded Seafang (see below) windscreen and a 2,420 hp (1,805 kW) Griffon 101 engine to become the sole Spiteful F.XVI (F.16). The Griffon 101 had a two-stage, three-speed supercharger and turned a five-blade, single rotation propeller. In 1947, RB518 achieved 494 mph (795 km/h) at 27,800 ft (8,473 m), the highest level-flight speed recorded by a British piston-powered aircraft. Testing of this aircraft with not-fully-developed engines resulted in seven forced landings—the last was at Chilbolton in March 1949 and resulted in the landing gear being pushed through the wings. The aircraft was then dropped by the recovery crane, ending any hope of repair.
By February 1946, the Spiteful order had been reduced to 80 aircraft. This was again reduced on 22 May 1946 to 22 aircraft, and the Spiteful order finally dropped to 16 aircraft on 16 December 1946. The production order basically covered the aircraft that had been built, although some of the last aircraft may not have flown. A 17th Spiteful, RB520 (the sixth production aircraft), was handed over to the FAA for Seafang (see below) development on 22 September 1945. The aircraft was modified for carrier feasibility trials with a “stinger” arrestor hook incorporated into a special housing below the rudder. RB520 retained the standard, non-folding Spiteful wings.
Powered with a two-stage, three-speed Griffon 101 engine, Spiteful RB518 achieved a level-flight speed of 494 mph (795 km/h), the highest recorded by a British piston-powered aircraft. RB518 was the only F.XVI Spiteful and was subsequently written off after its seventh forced landing.
The production aircraft were serialed RB515 to RB525, RB527 to RB531, and RB535. The final Spiteful was delivered on 17 January 1947. Of the three Spiteful prototypes and 17 production aircraft, most were sold for scrap in July 1948. It appears RB518 was the last Spiteful to fly, and no examples of the type survive. The larger “Spiteful tail” was incorporated into the last Spitfires, the F.22 and F.24.
The Spiteful’s cancellation was based on a number of realities including the more impressive performance of jet aircraft, the end of World War II, and serviceability questions about the Spiteful. While the Spiteful’s speed was impressive, it was below the 504 mph (811 km/h) that was originally estimated. Furthermore, the performance of the aircraft’s laminar wing decreased substantially if there were imperfections, including smashed bugs, on the leading edge. It was unlikely that an in-service warplane would be free of all imperfections.
Spiteful RB520 was loaned out for Seafang development and is considered by some as a Seafang prototype. Note the tail hook housed below the rudder and the “Royal Navy” stenciling on the fuselage.
Back in October 1943, Supermarine designed the Type 382, which was basically a navalized Spiteful. The design had started with mounting a Spiteful-type, laminar flow wing on a Seafire XV. Little official interest was given to the project until 21 April 1945, when the Air Ministry issued Specification N.5/45 for a single-seat fighter for the FAA. Subsequently, Supermarine was awarded a contract for two prototype Type 382 fighters, which became the Seafang. An order for 150 Seafang aircraft was placed on 7 May 1945 this order was essentially a reallocation of Spiteful aircraft that had been cancelled around two days prior.
The production Seafang closely matched the Spiteful but incorporated wings designed so that the last four feet folded vertically. The folding mechanism was hydraulically-powered. The Seafang had an elongated carburetor intake scoop, with the opening just behind the propeller. The aircraft also had a rounded front windscreen rather than the flat plate used on the Spiteful. Under the rudder was a stinger tail hook for catching the arresting cables on the carrier deck. The Seafang’s landing gear was re-enforced to handle carrier operations. The fuel tank behind the cockpit was reduced to 54 gal (45 imp gal / 205 L), resulting in a total internal capacity of 193 gal (161 Imp gal / 732 L).
The first production Supermarine Seafang F.31 (VG471) was essentially a Spiteful with arrestor gear. All F.31 aircraft had standard, non-folding wings. Note what appears to be a wide-cord propeller.
Like the Spiteful, two Seafang variants were planned. The F.31 used the 2,375 hp (1,771 kW) Griffon 69 engine with a five-blade, single-rotation propeller, while the F.32 used the 2,350 hp (1,752 kW) Griffon 89 with a six-blade, contra-rotating propeller. The F.31 was basically a Spiteful with an arrestor hook and did not incorporate folding wings. The F.31s would serve as a test aircraft while the F.32 was being developed.
The Supermarine Seafang had a 35 ft (10.67 m) wingspan, was 34 ft 1 in (10.39 m) long, and was 12 ft 7 in (3.84 m) tall. With wings folded, the span was reduced to 27 ft (8.23 m). The aircraft had a maximum speed of 397 mph (639 km/h) at sea level, 428 mph (689 km/h) at 5,500 ft (1,676 m), and 475 mph (764 km/h) at 21,000 ft (6,401 m). Cruising speed for maximum range was 250 mph (402 km/h) at 20,000 ft (6,096 m). The aircraft’s range was 393 mi (632 km) on internal fuel. The Seafang weighed 8,000 lb (3,629 kg) empty, 10,450 lb (4,740 kg) with a normal load, and 11,900 lb (53,98 kg) maximum. The aircraft had an initial rate of climb of 4,630 fpm (23.5 m/s) and a ceiling of 42,000 ft (12,802 m).
The side view of Seafang VG471 illustrates many of the aircraft’s features: long intake scoop, straight wing edges, radiator scoop doors, rounded windscreen, bubble canopy, large tail, and arrestor hook.
As previously mentioned, some Spitefuls had the long intake carburetor scoop RB518 had a Seafang windscreen and RB520 was fitted with an arrestor hook (resulting in some sources classifying it as a Seafang prototype). This was all done to lead up to Seafang F.31 production aircraft, which were basically Spitefuls with arrestor hooks. The first Seafang F.31 was VG471, which followed the fifth Spiteful off the production line. All of the F.31s had the five-blade propeller, lacked folding wings, and would end up the only production Seafangs that were completed. VG471 was first flown in early January 1946 and used in arrestor hook trials. The original hook installation proved to be weak, and a redesigned system was installed in March 1946. The aircraft passed the trials on 1 May.
The prototype Seafang F.32s were serial numbers VB893 and VB895, and both had contra-rotating propellers and folding wings. VB895 was first flown in early 1946 and was delivered to the A&AEE on 30 June. In August 1946, VB895 was demonstrated separately to the Royal Netherlands Navy, French representatives, and United States representatives in an attempt to sell the Seafang to allies. However, no orders were placed. In May 1947, test pilot Mike Lithgow successfully performed deck trials in VB895 on the HMS Illustrious. The aircraft’s wide track landing gear drastically increased its stability while on the ground, and the contra-rotating propeller eliminated the torque effect. VB895 was also tested with a single, fuselage-mounted 204 gal (170 Imp gal / 773 L) drop tank, and the aircraft was used for armament trials. During a static test firing of the cannons on 18 May 1948, a build-up of gases in the left wing resulted in an explosion that damaged the wing. Extra vents were added, and no further issues occurred.
The Seafang F.32 prototype VB895 was the first fully-navalized aircraft of the series. The contra-rotating propellers eliminated the torque effect that led to the downfall of many aviators, especially when operating from the short deck of an aircraft carrier.
While praised for its handling and responsiveness, the Seafang did not offer any real advantage over the Seafire 47, and the Seafang’s stall was certainly a disadvantage. An order was subsequently placed for the Seafire. The original interest in the Seafang was based on doubts regarding the suitability of jet aircraft for carrier operations. As those doubts faded, so did interest in the Seafang, and the aircraft was cancelled. A few Seafangs were kept active for a brief time to continue evaluating the laminar flow wing, which was used on the Supermarine Type 392 Attacker. The Attacker was often referred to as a “Jet Spiteful,” although it had Seafang folding wings with the radiators removed and additional fuel tanks installed. The Attacker first flew on 27 July 1946, and it was the first jet fighter to enter operational service with the FAA.
Eighteen production Seafangs were built, carrying serial numbers VG471 to VG490. The first 10 aircraft were F.31s, and the remaining eight were F.32s. However, only the first eight or so aircraft were completed, with the remaining units delivered disassembled. Sadly, like the Spiteful, all of the Seafang examples were scrapped.
Note: The Royal Air Force and Fleet Air Arm used Roman numerals for mark numbers up thorough 1942. From 1943 through 1948, the Roman numerals were phased out for new aircraft, and Arabic numerals were applied. From 1948 onward, Arabic numerals were used exclusively. The Spitefuls were typically referred to using Roman numerals, but the slightly later Seafang used Arabic numerals. The use of both Roman and Arabic numerals in this article refers to the most common use applied for the particular aircraft type.
The folding wings on Seafang VB895 were hydraulically operated and decreased the aircraft’s wingspan by 8 ft (2.4 m). Although, the wide tack landing gear contributed to snaking at low speeds, it enhanced the stability at higher speeds and as the aircraft slammed down on a carrier deck.
Late production Supermarine Spitfire IX - History
Two 20 mm Hispano cannon with 120 rounds per gun four 7.69 mm (0.303 in) Browning machine guns with 350 rounds per gun one 227 kg (500 lb) and two 113 kg (250 lb) bombs
Probably the most famous piston-engined fighter aircraft, the Spitfire was conceived as the Supermarine Type 300 single-seat fighter and was designed by a team led by Reginald J Mitchell. The design produced the smallest, simplest fighter that could be built around the new Rolls Royce PV-12 engine, with an armament of eight machine guns. Of light alloy monocoque construction, with a single-spar stressed-skin wing and fabric-covered control surfaces, the prototype (K5054) was flown on 5 March 1936 powered by a 739 kw (990 hp) Rolls Royce Merlin C engine. It soon thereafter attained a maximum speed of 462 km/h (349 mph).
The Spitfire, as it was named soon after the prototype had been flown, was immediately placed in production for the RAF as the Mk I. Production continued until 1947 when the last models, the Seafang and Spiteful, were delivered. Progressive development led to the installation of the Rolls Royce Griffon engine in late production models. This engine had a greater capacity than the Merlin.
The total number of Spitfires built was 20,334, of which 2,053 were Griffon-engined variants. In addition, the type was ‘navalised’ in that it was fitted with an arrester hook and associated equipment and was known as the Seafire when embarked upon aircraft carriers. About 390 Seafires were built. As mentioned, the ultimate developments were the Seafang and Spiteful. In 1947 a Seafang 32 attained 795 km/h (494 mph) at 8,687 m (28,500 ft) with a Griffon 101 engine.
The Spitfire was mainly flown in combat in the European Theatre, where many Australians flew the type with the RAF. However, a considerable number were also operated in the Pacific Theatre with the RAF and RAAF. Following the commencement of Japanese attacks on Australia in February 1942, it was thought an invasion might be imminent and the RAAF was short of suitable fighter aircraft. Plans were put in train to develop the CAC Boomerang, but this did not fly until May 1942, and it was three months before production commenced. Appeals were made to the United Kingdom and the United States for fighter aircraft to defend Australia, the US diverting 25 Curtiss P-40Es, these arriving two weeks after Darwin was first bombed. Britain indicated it would assist and allocated three Spitfire squadrons, two of these being Nos 452 and 457, Australian Empire Training Squadrons which had been operating in Britain with the RAF. The third was No 54 Squadron RAF, which had flown Spitfires in the Battle of Britain.
The first Spitfires to be seen in Australia were the Mk Vs of No 54 Squadron, RAF, which operated in the defence of Darwin, NT from October 1943. A total of 245 Spitfire VCs was allotted to Australia, all being taken on charge by November 1943. All, with the exception of A58-163, which was a Mk VB, were Mk VCs and nearly all had the Mk 46 Merlin engine. They were sent by the British Government following a request by the Australian Government for fighters. A further 11 aircraft failed to reach Australia as the vessel on which they were being conveyed, the Silver Beech, was sunk in April 1943 whilst another Mk VC (EE731) arrived in Australia in March 1943 but was not allocated an RAAF serial, eventually being converted to instructional airframe status after it had an undercarriage collapse at Mildura, VIC in August 1943.
The Mk VC was fitted with a 1,097 kw (1,470 hp) Rolls Royce Merlin 45 engine giving a maximum speed of 602 km/h (374 mph) at 3,962 m (13,000 ft). The armament consisted of four 20 mm Hispano cannon and four 7.69 mm (0.303 in) Browning machine guns. The Mk V series was used widely in Australia and saw operational service in New Guinea and as far across the Pacific as Morotai, where General Macarthur decided Australian Squadrons would not be further involved in the invasion of the Philippines.
The next version to be seen in Australia was the Mk VIII, some 410 examples of this model being supplied to the RAAF. Powered by the 1,276 kw (1,710 hp) Rolls Royce Merlin 63 engine, the Mk VIII had a maximum speed of 657 km/h (408 mph) at 7,620 m (15,000 ft), and an armament of four 20 mm Hispano cannon, or two cannon and four 0.303 in Browning machine guns plus bombs. The first Mk VIII arrived in October 1943, most of the aircraft received arriving in 1944 and early 1946. About 120 went straight into storage on arrival, were scrapped in 1948 and 1949, and were not flown here. The last 159 were HF.VIIIs with the high altitude Merlin 70 engine, very few of these flying in Australia as they were surplus to requirements at that stage of the war.
Spitfires in Australia were flown by Nos 79, 85, 451, 452, 453 and 457 Squadrons, RAAF. In addition, several RAF squadrons served in Australia, including Nos 54, 548 and 549. RAAF Spitfires were serialled: Spitfire F.VC A58-1 to A58-185 and A58-200 to A58-259 Spitfire LF-VIII A58-300 to A58-550 and Spitfire HF-VIII A58-600 to A58-758. Serials A58-551 to A58-599 were not allocated. Once P-51 Mustangs started to be delivered for RAAF service the Spitfires were taken out of service and scrapped. In early 1946 some 339 Spitfires were in long-term storage. A total of 13 Mk VIIIs and one Mk VC was transferred to the Royal Australian Navy in October 1948 for ground training duties, being used to taxi around dummy aircraft carrier decks at HMAS Albatross at Nowra, NSW to give crews handling experience. All eventually had met their fate on the fire dump by 1952.
The Spitfire’s main service in this region was in the defence of the ‘Top End”, and to this end it was very successful. No 1 (Churchill) Wing comprised No 54 Squadron RAF and Nos 452 and 475 Squadrons RAAF. Notable operations included: on 15 March 1943 Spitfires intercepted 22 Mitsubishi G-3M bombers and 27 Mitsubishi A6M fighters over Darwin, accounting for six bombers and two fighters. On 20 June 1943 25 Japanese bombers escorted by fighters were intercepted, with 16 enemy aircraft being shot down. Japanese aircraft thereafter sporadically continued to attack Darwin and were met by defending Spitfires.
More than 150 Spitfires survive around the world, and some 50 are airworthy. In September 2000 at a display in the United Kingdom 22 Spitfires attended and flew in formation. In Australia considerable interest has been shown in the type and a number survive, although in recent years at least three have been exported. One (A58-758 – VH-HET – ex MV239) was restored to airworthiness at Scone, NSW and is now based in a museum at Temora, NSW being regularly flown at airshows on the eastern seaboard. This aircraft, along with A58-671 (ex MV154), was obtained in the early 1950s by Bankstown, NSW aviation identity, Sidney Marshall. MV239 eventually went to Colin Pay at Scone and was restored as VH-HET and MV154 was exported to the United Kingdom where it was restored as G-BKMI.
A Mk VB VH-FVB (ex BL628) is under restoration, and registration VH-XIV has been reserved for a Mk XIX (ex RM797), an ex Royal Thai Air Force aircraft. A Mk HF VIII (A58-615 – ex MT834) is under restoration at Yunta, SA. A Mk VC EE583, recovered from Goodenough Island, is with the South Australian Aviation Museum. Others are under restoration and there is a few fibreglass replicas in museums and on poles. Static display survivors include: Mk II P7973 in the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, ACT Mk VC A58-246 (ex MA863) at the RAAF Museum at Point Cook, VIC and a Mk 22 PK481 at the Air Force Association Museum in Perth, WA.
In December 2005 a Victorian collector obtained Spitfire XVIIIe from the United Kingdom. This aircraft (SM969) was originally delivered to the Indian Air Force as HS877 in July 1949, later becoming G-BRAF with Warbirds of Great Britain Ltd, making its post restoration flight on 12 October 1985.
In New Zealand Mk XVI TE288 is at the RNZAF Museum at Wigram Mk XVI TE456 is at the Domain War Memorial Museum in Auckland but painted as TE425 and Mk XVI ZK-XUI (ex TB863) was airworthy with the Alpine Fighter Collection in Wanaka but in March 2006 was exported to the Temora Aviation Museum in Australia where it became VH-XVI on 17 July 2006 Mk XIV ZK-XIV (ex NT799) is airworthy with the Aviation Trading Co of Cambridge and a further Spitfire was imported in early 2008, being a two-seat Mk IX, which became ZK-WDQ (c/n CBAF 5487 – ex N367MH) to Lasbrook Holdings of Auckland.
In May 2008 two Supermarine Spitfire Mk V projects were placed on the Australian Civil Aircraft Register as VH-CIP (c/n 3074) and VH-CIQ (c/n 5406) to an operator in South Australia. A Spitfire was to be exchanged with the RAAF Museum at Hendon as per an agreement in 2009 which would see a Douglas Havoc restored to display standard by Precision Aerospace of Wangaratta, VIC in exchange for the Spitfire. However, after some restoration on the Havoc, the exchange did not proceed, the Havoc being exported to the Pima Air Museum in the United States.
A Spitfire Mk IX MH603 arrived in Australia in April 2009 for Pays Air Service of Scone for restoration to airworthiness. This aircraft is to be painted in the colours of No 331 (Norwegian) Squadron when completed. A second Spitfire Mk IX BS548 is also undergoing restoration at Scone and is to be completed as a TR.IX, the fuselage being completed in the United Kingdom and the wings and other parts being manufactured in Scone. This aircraft was shot down on 17 April 1943 whilst flying with No 341 Alsace Squadron. It is known some 20 Spitfire projects are underway in Australia. Spitfire A58-246 was restored in USAAF markings and is on display at the USAF Museum at Dayton, Ohio.
At one stage Aviation Australia, a company owned by the Queensland Government and based at Brisbane Airport, obtained two Supermarine Spitfires as training aids but eventually decided they had no training value and the aircraft, a Mk V LZ844 and a Mk IX TE566 (ex ZU-SPT), were sold and shipped to the United Kingdom in May 2011. In July 2011 a Supermarine Spitfire VIII was registered to Mr A Wilson of Frome Downs Station, via Yunta, SA the registration VH-ZPS (c/n 446635 – A58-467, MD338) being allotted but the aircraft is not known to have been completed and flown. Another Spitfire with an Australian connection was Mk IXc RR232, an ex-South African aircraft which spent sometime at the Fleet Air Arm Museum at HMAS Albatross, Nowra and was partially restored for display. Restoration has now been completed and it is flying in the United Kingdom as G-BRSF. In early 2020 a Spitfie LF XVI beame ZK-NLJ (c/n TB252) registered to AVspecs Ltd Beechlands, Auckland.
A replica of a Mk I Spitfire (K9789), the fourth Spitfire built, the original of which was delivered to No 19 Squadron RAF in 1938, was built by Mr Victor Weston of Cooran, QLD. A non-flying replica, it was placed on display at the Queensland Air Museum at Caloundra but in 2014 was placed in storage to make way for the display of the General Dynamics F-111C A8-129.
Let’s clear up the armament question too
Before ending this piece, I want to take a little side detour in the history of armament on the Spitfire. There are four wing types that have been used by the different Spitfire versions. They are:
- A wing – Four .303 machine guns in each wing for a total of eight.
- B wing – Two .303 machine guns in the outer wing positions and a 60 round drum fed Hispano Mark II cannon in the inner wing position.
- C wing – Provisions for two 20mm cannons in each wing (with 120 rpg belt feed for each cannon) and two .303 machine guns in the outer wing positions. In use, the four cannon loadout was rare and all production Mark VIII, IX, XII, and XIV’s were fitted with just one 20mm cannon in each wing and the two .303’s as a backup.
- E wing – Functionally identical to the C wing but with the .303’s removed and a Browning .50 cal heavy machine gun mounted in one of the cannon bays.
Many ask about the four cannon loadout and if it was ever on the Mark XIV. I can report that it is was not – at least not in any production aircraft or part of regular use. After the brief production of four cannon Mark Vc, the next Spitfire to receive a four cannon loadout was the Spitfire XVIII. This aircraft had a wholly redesigned wing and saw limited production at the end of the war. The war was over before it had a chance to be used in air combat and one squadron saw limited use strafing German ships in a single operation. Post-war Spitfire’s had all cannon armament.