The Supermarine Spitfire was a British Fighter aircraft that was famous for its contribution to the defence of Britain during the summer of 1940 in World War Two.
Spitfire Mk Vb
1 Rolls-Royce Merlin 45 supercharged V12 engine rated at 1,470 hp
11.23m (36ft 10in)
9.12m (29ft 11in)
3.86m (11ft 5 in)
Empty - 2,3095kg (5,090 lb) - loaded - 3,000kg (6,622 lb)
605kph (378 mph)
11,300m (35,000 ft)
550km at 5,500m (342 miles at 18,045 ft)
2 x 20mm Hispano canon and 4 x 0.303in Browning machine guns
Brainchild of the designer of the Schneider Trophy winning seaplanes, R.J.Mitchell, the Supermarine Spitfire was conceived in 1935 in response to an Air Ministry requirement for a fighter that mounted six to eight guns. The design, known as the Type 300, was built around the new Rolls Royce PV-12 engine. The Type 300 was accepted by the Air Ministry and in March 1935 work was started on the prototype, identified as K5054. Twelve months later on March 5th 1936 the prototype took off from Eastleigh airport in Hampshire on its maiden flight under the control of test pilot Joseph Mutt Summers.
Type 300 - K5054 The Air Ministry was so impressed with the new fighter that an order for 310 was placed in July 1936 before the test flight programme had been completed. These were designated Spitfire Mk Is. R. J. Mitchell died of cancer on June 11th 1936 and wasnt to see the first production aircraft, but he died certain that he had produced a first rate aircraft that would be as good if not better than any other of its day. The first operational unit to receive Spitfires during August 1938 was 19 Squadron based at Duxford in Cambridgeshire. By September 1939 the RAF had 10 Squadrons equipped with Spitfires: Nos 19, 41, 54, 65, 66, 72, 602, 611, 603 and 609. Changes to the production aircraft included: a re-designed canopy, a 3 blade propeller instead of the earlier 2 blade screw, the Merlin I was replaced by the Merlin II and Merlin III, additional armour plating added to the rear engine bulkhead, a re-designed rudder balance, rear facing exhaust pipes added and an engine driven undercarriage pump replaced the hand operated pump.
Spitfire Mk I/II
Spitfires first saw action over Scotland on October 16th 1939 against Junkers Ju 88s that were attacking shipping in the Firth of Fourth. By July 1940 there were a total of 19 Spitfire squadrons with around 290 aircraft serving with Fighter Command: eight with 11 Group covering the south east, six with 10 Group covering the Midlands and 5 with 12 Group covering the north east. The Spitfire Mk II was externally identical to the earlier Mk Is. The engine was the Merlin XII producing 1150 hp and was rated to use 100-octane fuel rather than 87-octane fuel of previous engines. A bulletproof windshield was fitted (and retro-fitted to Mk Is). Of the 920 Mk IIs produced the first 750 aircraft were armed with eight 0.303 browning machine guns (Mk IIa), the remaining being armed with two 20mm Hispano cannon (Mk IIb). The addition of the cannon resulted in a small blister on each wing to accommodate the drum magazine. The Mk II arrived in time to see action during the Battle of Britain. The Spitfire III was represented by a single aircraft. It had some significant differences to the earlier Mk I and II: clipped wings; a retractable tail wheel; a strengthened fuselage and thicker armour. It was used as a test bed for more powerful engines.
By the end of the daylight phase of the Battle of Britain Spitfires were progressively replacing the Hurricane in service.
The RAF started to prepare to take the offensive and start patrols across the channel over France. At this time the Mk V was introduced to maintain parity with the newly arriving bf109F. Essentially it was a MkI/II with some structural strengthening to suit the new Merlin 45 engine rated at 1470 hp. The early version, the Mk Va, had the A type wing, and mounted eight .303 machine guns. This was superseded by the Mk Vb, having the B type wing, mounting four .303 machine guns and two 20mm Hispano cannon. Later versions of the Vb had the wings clipped to improve roll rate at low altitude.
Late in 1941 the new fw190 made an appearance over the Channel. The fw190 was superior to the contemporary Spitfire Mk V in virtually every aspect. The response was the Spitfire Mk IX, essentially a MkVb fitted with a Merlin 61 rated at 1565 hp and a four bladed propeller. The Mk IX was the first to use the new e or universal wing that mounting four 20 mm Hispano cannon or two 20 mm Hispano cannon and four 0.303 machine guns. The type had 6 ejectors on the exhaust manifold and had the cylindrical oil cooler under the port wing replaced with a square type scoop of the same shape as the starboard supercharger scoop.
Supermarine Spitfire Mk XXII of 610 Squadron shortly after the end of World War Two
The Mk XIV was the first powered by the Griffon engine to enter large-scale production and used a new five bladed propeller. Later examples were fitted with a new teardrop canopy that considerably enhanced the pilots all round field of view.
The last type to be developed from the original K5054 was the Griffon engined Mk XVIII. Three hundred were built and were used mainly overseas during the post war years.
The last types: Mk 21,22 and 24 were considered to be Super Spitfires, weighing 3.2 tons compared to the 2.15 tons of the Mk I, with new wings, fully enclosed undercarriage and either a 5 blade propeller or two 3 blade contra-rotating propellers.
A fighter squadron consisted of 12 aircraft organised as two flights each of two sections of three aircraft. A section would normally fly in a 'Vic' formation with the section leader at the front and two wingmen, one either side behind the leader.
Early War Spitfire Squadron Organisation