Supermarine Spitfire

The Aircraft On Display

 

The Museum is home to an original Spitfire, as well as a replica. The original, a Mark 22, PK481, is to be found in our North Wing. It entered service with the RAF on September 3rd, 1945, and served with several squadrons including 611 before being withdrawn from service in 1953. In 1955 the Brighton & Hove branch of the RAF Association in England bought the aircraft and put it on display. It was purchased by the RAAFA in 1959, brought to Australia and mounted on a pylon outside then RAAFA headquarters in Adelaide Terrace, Perth, as a memorial to fallen airmen (See the final photo in the set above).

1970 saw the aircraft moved into storage until 1971 when it was re-mounted at the new site of the RAAFA's headquarters in Bullcreek. It was painted in camouflage colors in 1985 and subsequently moved into the North Wing for display as part of the Museum collection. The replica Mark 16 was mounted in its place and is the first aircraft seen when visiting both the Museum and the Estate.

Type / History

 

Type Single seat fighter
Manufacturer Vickers Armstrong
Designer RJ Mitchell
Maiden flight 5th March, 1936
Introduced RAF - 1938
Retired RAF - 1952
Primary users RAF,
Number built 20,351
Variants Seafire, Spiteful, griffon engine variants


The origins of the Spitfire can be traced to Supermarine's "Type 224", a response to UK Air Ministry Specification F7/30. The 224 was not successful, that need being filled by the biplane Gloster Gladiator. R.J. Mitchell, Supermarine's chief designer, submitted an improved design, the "Type 300", ultimately gaining the Air Ministry's interest with a complete rework based around a smaller, thinner wing and the new Rolls Royce PV-12 engine (which would become the Merlin).

The Air Ministry created specification F10/35 for the new fighter, and on 5th March 1936 the prototype, K5054, flew for the first time. The aircraft showed excellent performance for its time, and acceptance trials for the Spitfire proceeded very quickly; on 3rd June 1936, an initial order for 310 was placed.

A major feature of the new aircraft, which was given the name "Spitfire", was its elliptical-planform wing. Such a wing was known to minimise induced drag, and had previously been used for some German Junkers designs. However, there may have been more a pragmatic reason behind the choice, namely the length of the new wing-mounted machine guns: it is reputed that at one stage Mitchell said, "I dont care what shape the wing is, as long as it covers the guns!".

The construction of the Spitfire, all-metal with a complex wing spar structure, was novel, so that it was some time before the first production models appeared. It was not until June 1938 that they began to flow to the RAF, when 19 Squadron received their first deliveries. Wartime Development While the Hawker Hurricane was more numerous in the RAF at the start of World War II, the Spitfire was better placed to take on the German fighters flying "top cover" for their bombers during the Battle of Britain.

The story of the progress of the Spitfire, from the initial Mark I with an early version of the Merlin engine, a two-bladed fixed-pitch propellor and an armament of eight 0.303 inch Browning machine guns, to its final Mark 24 with a Griffon engine and four 20 mm cannon as its main armament, reflects the technological battle between British and German aircraft designers through the war. The superiority of the later Spitfire II over the Messerschmidt 109E in dogfights led to the introduction of the 109F with many improvements, which in turn required the British to respond with the Mark V. Then the arrival of the Focke-Wulf 190 tipped the balance back towards the Luftwaffe, which was not rectified until the Spitfire Mark IX (basically a Mark V with a more powerful Merlin) came on the scene.

German designers responded with later marks of both the Messerschmidt 109 and the Focke-Wulf 190. Significantly, many German pilots felt the 109 reached its limit with the F version, later marks being faster but less pleasant to fly, but the 190 continued the technological battle to the end of the war.

Apart from the increased power of more highly-rated Merlin engines, the important changes that this competition led to were:

  • Variable-pitch, "constant speed propellor": introduced part-way through the Mark I stage.
  • Floatless carburettor: a response to the ability of the fuel-injected Messerschmidt 109s to enter a dive directly and escape; if early Spitfires tried this, their fuel flow would cut off.
  • Cannon armament: initially tried with limited success in the Mark II, both in two-cannon-plus-four-machine gun combination (the "B" wing) and with four cannon (the "C" wing). Not common until the Mark V.
  • Clipped-wing versions: to improve the roll rate, initially as a hurried response to the Focke-Wulf 190, later for the ground attack role.
  • Griffon engine: first used in some low-altitude versions of the Mark V, numbered "Mark XII", but with the first major use in the 1944 Mark XIV.
  • "Teardrop" canopy: initially on some Mark IX aircraft, later to become standard.

Naval Operations, Africa, the European Offensive and the Middle East From 1941 onwards, Spitfires were increasingly used for purposes beyond the defence of Britain. Particularly with the advent of the Mark IX, earlier marks were adapted for other uses.

The Seafire was the Royal Navy's version, the first versions being basically a Spitfire with a tail hook; the wings were initially not foldable, so the early Seafires remained on deck in all weathers. This was corrected in the Seafire Mark III of 1943, over 1,200 of these being built.

For service in the African and Asian theatres, Spitfires needed additional oil cooling, so "tropicalised" versions can be identified in photographs by a projecting "chin" holding the oil cooler. Postwar Service With the advent of the RAF's new jet fighters, the Spitfire (even in its final 450 mph Mark 24 form) became obsolete. However, it saw post-war service with many other air arms, being progressively retired through the 1950s.

Spitfires last saw combat during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, when, in a strange twist, Israeli Air Force Spitfires fought against Egyptian and Royal Air Force Spitfires.

General Characteristics

Mark I V IX XIV 24

General characteristics

Length: 29 ft 9 in (9.10 m) 29 ft 11 in (9.12 m) 30 ft 0 in (9.14 m) 32 ft 8 in (9.96 m) 32 ft 11 in (10.04 m)
Height: 8 ft 10 in (2.69 m) 11 ft 5 in (3.50 m)   12 ft 8 in (3.86 m) 13 ft 6 in (4.11 m)
Wingspan: 36 ft 10 in (11.23 m) 36 ft 10 in (11.23 m) 36 ft 10 in (11.23 m) 36 ft 10 in (11.23 m) 36 ft 11 in (11.25 m)
Powerplant: Rolls-Royce MerlinII, 1,224 hp at 12,250 ft ( kW at m) Rolls-Royce Merlin 45, 1,470 hp at 9,250 ft (1,096 kW at 2,820 m) Rolls-Royce Merlin 70, 1,655 hp at 10,000 ft (1,096 kW at 2,820 m) Rolls-Royce Griffon 65, 2,035 HP at 7,000 ft Rolls-Royce Griffon 61, 2,375 HP at 1,250 ft
Weight: empty 4,482 lb ( kg), loaded 5,819 lb ( kg) empty 5,033 lb ( kg), loaded 6,954 lb ( kg) emoty 5,749 lb ( kg), loaded 7,480 lb ( kg) empty 6,510 lb ( kg), loaded 8,600 lb ( kg) empty 7,160 lb ( kg), loaded 9,900 lb (4,500 kg)


Performance

Maximum speed: 361 mph (581 km/h) 374 mph (602 km/h) 415 mph (668 km/h) 439 mph (707 km/h) 450 mph (724 km/h)
Range: 395 mi (635 km) 470 mi (760 km) 434 mi (700 km) 525 mi (860 km) 580 mi (930 km)
Service ceiling: 31,900 ft (9,700 m) 36,400 ft (11,100 m) 41,000 ft (12,500 m) 43,000 ft (13,100 m) 43,000 ft (13,100 m)
Rate of climb: 2,530 ft/min (12.8 m/s) 2,900 ft/min (13.5 m/s) 4,530 ft/min (23 m/s) 4,700 ft/min (23.9 m/s) 4,900 ft/min (24.9 m/s)


Armament

Guns: 8, 0.303 in Browning machine guns 2, 20 mm Hispano cannon, and 4, 0.303 inch Browning machine guns ("B wing") 2, 20 mm Hispano cannon and 4, 0.303 inch Browning machine guns 2, 20 mm Hispano cannon and 2, 0.5 inch Browning machine guns 4, 20 mm Hispano cannon