Aircraft Profile


 
Spitfire IIA P7350 of the Battle of Britain
Memorial Flight, wearing codes PR-D
(photo, www.danshistory.com)

Key Facts

Main Role: Single-seat interceptor fighter
Configuration: Low-winged monoplane
Country: United Kingdom
Current Status: Out of Service, Out of Production

Development

Enshrined in the popular imagination as the fighter that saved a nation during the Battle of Britain, the origins of the Supermarine Spitfire lie with a fighter which was much less successful.

In 1930, the Air Ministry began formulating the requirements for an advanced high-performance fighter to replace the Bristol Bulldog in RAF service. The requirements were spelt out in specification F.7/30, which was issued in Autumn 1931 to a number of aircraft manufacturers. To meet the specification, R. J. Mitchell, the chief designer of Supermarine Aviation, produced the Type 224. Supermarine specialised in seaplanes and flying boats, but was keen to broaden its product range by building a fighter. The Type 224 was a large angular looking monoplane design, with a cranked (inverted gull) wing, fixed undercarriage and open cockpit. It bore no resemblance to the famous family of Schneider Trophy racing seaplanes which had brought Supermarine such prestige in the years 1925-1931. The Air Ministry authorised the construction of one prototype Type 224, with the serial K2890, for evaluation. This aircraft first flew in February 1934 and proved to have a distinctly average performance. The Air Ministry production contract eventually went to the Gloster Gladiator.

The Type 224 was Mitchell’s first attempt at an all-metal unbraced cantilever monoplane, and he was unhappy with some of the compromises involved in the design. Accordingly, in July 1934 he set about designing a much improved version. The new fighter was given the designation Type 300 and was much better streamlined than the Type 224, with a shorter wing, retractable undercarriage and an enclosed cockpit. Mitchell continued to evolve the design, striving for the maximum performance he could get from the engine and airframe combination. A key design feature introduced in late 1934 was a broad elliptical wing, with curved leading and trailing edges meeting at the wingtips. Combined with an unusually thin section, the new wing shape helped the fighter achieve maximum theoretical aerodynamic efficiency with very little induced drag. Some accounts state that the wing shape came about mainly from the need to accommodate eight machine guns along the wingspan outboard of the propeller arc, but the wing shape was designed for four machine guns, long before the requirement was increased to eight.

In November 1934 the design was further revised to accommodate the promising new Rolls-Royce PV.XII (PV-12) engine, which later became the Merlin. The estimated performance of the new design was such that Supermarine authorised detailed design of a prototype to start as a private venture. Within a month of receiving initial data, the Air Ministry produced specification F.37/34 to cover the purchase of a prototype Type 300 fighter for evaluation. The Spitfire was thus a private venture for only a month. In April 1935 the Air Ministry issued revised requirements calling for increased fighter armament, and so the Type 300 wing was modified to accept eight machine guns.

Assembly of the hand-build first prototype, serial K5054, took place at Eastleigh, near Southampton. The Type 300 prototype flew for the first time on 5 March 1936. Test pilot ‘Mutt’ Summers commented ‘I don’t want anything touched’ – meaning the machine was a good basis for testing incremental improvements, not that it was already perfect. Flight testing revealed a number of problems with the control surfaces and with wing flutter at high speed. In May 1936, the Air Ministry agreed to the name ‘Spitfire’ for the Type 300. The name had already been applied to the mediocre Type 224 fighter, but this time it seemed more appropriate. In late May 1936 the Spitfire prototype was ferried to Martlesham Heath for official trials. On 3 June 1936, the Air Ministry placed an order with Supermarine for 310 Spitfire Mk Is, soon followed by additional large orders as the flight trials fulfilled expectations.

Putting the Spitfire into mass production proved to be much harder than Supermarine had anticipated. Supermarine had survived the lean years of the Great Depression producing small batches of virtually hand-built aircraft. Building hundreds of identical fighters required considerable re-organisation of the production process, which consumed a great deal of time, much to the dismay of the Air Ministry, who were pressing for early deliveries of the new fighter. To add to the difficulties, R. J. Mitchell succumed to terminal cancer and died on 11 June 1937. Responsibility for the Spitfire now fell to Joseph Smith, who in subsequent years skillfully managed the successful evolution of the Spitfire through 40 different variants, while retaining its essential fighting qualities.

Due to the production delays, the first RAF unit, 19 Squadron at Duxford, didn’t start receiving Spitfire Mk Is until 4 August 1938. Even then, production was slow to build-up, and only 49 Spitfires had reached the RAF by the start of 1939. By the middle of 1938, the production urgency was such that construction of a huge new ‘Shadow Factory’ at Castle Bromwich, near Birmingham, had commenced. The factory was intend solely for Spitfire production, and started with an order to 1000 Spitfire Mk IIs (equivalent to late series Mk Is).

In late 1938, a standard Mk I (K9834) was taken off the production line and modified for an attempt on the World Speed Record. The modified aircraft was known as the Speed Spitfire and first flew on 11 November 1938. Unfortunately, before an attempt on the record could be made, the Messerschmitt Me 209 raised the record beyond the reach of a modified Spitfire, and so the aircraft was used for photo reconnaissance duties instead. The Spitfire had by now gained a great deal of international attention, and in the first half of 1939, a number of countries had placed export orders with Supermarine. These included Estonia, Greece and Turkey. Only a handful of aircraft were actually delivered, before the outbreak of war put and end to all commercial export activity.

In the meantime, the Air Ministry had obtained a licence to produce 20 mm Hispano cannon and so ordered two Spitfire Mk Is to be modified to accommodate one of these guns in each wing. Tests had shown that the explosive shells from the slower firing cannon had a much greater destructive effect than the solid bullets fired from several machine guns. Flight trials showed the initial cannon installation was very unreliable and further development work was urgently undertaken. Wing structure and installation design changes eventually resulted in the production variants Spitfire Mk Ib and Mk IIb, which featured an armament of two 20mm cannon and 6 machine guns in a ‘Type B’ wing.

Soon after the outbreak of war, two Spitfire Mk Is were converted by Heston Aircraft Ltd for photo reconnaissance (PR) duties with the removal of all combat equipment and the addition of cameras. Operation of these unarmed PR Spitfires was so successful that soon a whole series of PR variants with increased fuel loads and a variety of camera installations were progressively converted from Mk I aircraft. Later PR Spitfires were based on the Mk V and subsequent variants.

A prototype for the planned Mk III variant (N3297) first flew on 16 March 1940 – featuring a Merlin XX engine and many structural changes including a ‘universal’ wing able to accommodate a variety of weapons. This model was intended to replace the Mk I and II in production, but the Merlin XX was needed for the Hurricane II and production was switched to the Spitfire Mk V instead. (This version of the Spitfire will be covered in a separate profile).

The Spitfire’s combat debut came on 16 October 1939, when two Junkers Ju 88s were shot down for no loss. (Older references identify these aircraft as He 111s). On 17 August 1940, during the Battle of Britain, RAF Fighter Command had 675 Hurricanes and 348 Spitfires available. This ratio reflected the faster production build-up of the structurally simpler Hurricane airframe compared to the Spitfire. Operating under Britain’s unique integrated air defence system, both fighters achieved considerable success, despite being heavily outnumbered in most actions. The Spitfire and Hurricane scored kills in almost direct proportion to their numbers in service, and thus the Hurricane scored considerably more kills than the Spitfire during the battle. However, because of their front-line location, the two highest scoring RAF fighter squadrons (Nos. 603 and 609 Squadrons) both flew the Spitfire.

British wartime propaganda – epitomised by the 1942 feature film ‘The First of the Few’ – purposely exaggerated the Spitfire’s contribution to the Battle of Britain. In the film, R. J. Mitchell is portrayed as a lone visionary doggedly pursuing his quest to build the fighter needed to protect Britain in the forthcoming war. The aesthetic appeal of the Spitfire, and its distinctive wing shape, ensured that it rapidly became a visual icon of Britain’s will to defend itself. So effective was this wartime propaganda that even today most people think of the Spitfire as the key to wining the battle. In fact, the Spitfire’s main contribution to the war came from 1941 onwards, over France, Malta and North Africa.

Soon after the Battle of Britain, most of the Mk Is were replaced by Mk IIs in RAF service, with the displaced aircraft going to Operational Training Units (OTUs) and other training schools. Such was the pace of wartime development however, that in March 1941 the Mk IIs themselves began to be replaced by Mk Vs, and then delivered to training units. During 1942 a number of Mk IIs were adapted for Air Sea Rescue duties as the Mk IIc, with rescue/survival packs carried in the fuselage and droppable smoke markers under the wings. The last Mk Is and IIs were withdrawn from RAF service by mid 1944.

Fast and manoeuvrable, pilot’s universally considered the early marks of Spitfire to be a delight to fly, but judged them slightly inferior to the Hurricane as a gun platform. The more ‘flighty’ Spitfire required more effort to keep the guns on target. While its aerodynamics gave it a performance to match or better any other fighter of the time, the early difficulties in getting it into mass production delayed its delivery to fighter squadrons, and so prevented it from paying a greater part in the Battle 0f Britain.

Spitfire prototype K5054 in 1936 Spitfire Mk IA X4474 taking-off
(both photos, Vic Flintham)

Variants

Requirement Specification: F.37/34 (prototype), F.16/36 (production)
Manufacturers Designation: see below

Development History:
Type 224 One aircraft to F.7/30 with Goshawk II engine (K2890). First Supermarine fighter to fly.
Spitfire prototype Supermarine Type 300. One aircraft (K5054) with Merlin C engine, flush exhausts and 2 bladed propeller. Later fitted with Merlin F engine and fishtail ejector exhausts and new propeller. Eight machine guns fitted during development.
Spitfire Mk IA Supermarine Type 300. Initial production version – designated Mk I at first. Strengthened wings. First few aircraft with only 4 machine guns installed due to supply shortage. Fixed tailwheel in place of tailskid. Triple ejector exhausts. Merlin II engine driving 2-blade fixed-pitch Watts wooden propeller initially, then (78th aircraft onwards) de Havilland 3-blade variable pitch metal propeller. Merlin III driving 3-blade constant speed propeller from 175th aircraft onwards. Additions during production run: self-sealing fuel tanks, improved radio and IFF with thicker radio mast, bulged cockpit canopy, armoured external windscreen and steel plate armour behind and in front of pilot.
Spitfire Mk IB Supermarine Type 300. Version of Mk I with two 20 mm Hispano cannon with 60 rpg. First batch (June 1940) with 2 cannon only. Second batch (November 1940) with 4 0.303 in (7.7 mm) Browning machine guns as well as 2 cannon in wings. Projecting gun barrels and blisters in top wing surface.
Speed Spitfire Supermarine Type 323. One conversion of Mk I for attempt on World Speed Record (K9834). New wing, 4 bladed propeller, streamlined cockpit, modified Merlin II engine using special fuel.
Spitfire Mk I floatplane Supermarine Type 342. One conversion of Mk I (R6722), fitted with Blackburn Roc floats. Not flown and soon converted back to standard.
Spitfire Mk IIA Supermarine Type 329. Version of Mk I for mass production at Castle Bromwich. Merlin XII engine with Coffman cartridge starter. Rotol contant-speed 3-blade propeller.
Spitfire Mk IIA(LR) Supermarine Type 343. Version of Mk IIA with prominent 40 gallon (182 l) fuel tank located asymmetrically under port wing. 60 conversions. Used as long range escort fighter.
Spitfire Mk IIB Supermarine Type 329. Cannon armed version of Mk II. 2 x 20 mm Hispano cannon + 4 x 0.303 in (7.7 mm) Browning machine guns in wings. Projecting gun barrels and blisters in top wing surface.
Spitfire Mk IIC Conversion of Mk IIB with 1,460 hp (1,089 kW) Merlin XX engine for Air Sea Rescue duties. Rescue pack dropped from 2 flare chutes in fuselage underside. Rack under port wing for smoke marker bombs. 52 conversions. Later redesignated ASR Mk II.
Spitfire Mk II One Mk II converted with flush fitting auxiliary fuel tank under each wing outboard of wheel wells, plus enlarged oil tank in deeper nose.
Spitfire Mk III Supermarine Type 330 & 348. Planned production version with Merlin XX engine, enlarged radiator and stronger wing spar, strengthened landing gear, retractable tailwheel, additional armour, new bullet proof windscreen. One new-build (N3297) and one Mk V converted (W3237). Further production cancelled.
Plastic Spitfire One Type 300 fuselage was constructed using Aerolite plastic material in August 1940, as an insurance against aluminium shortages. Not flown.
Spitfire PR Mk IA (Also known as PR Type A). Conversion of Mk I for photo reconnaissance role. Short range version. Armament removed. 1 x F.24 camera in each wing. 2 conversions (N3069 & N3071).
Spitfire PR Mk IB (Also known as PR Type B). Conversion of Mk I for photo recce. Medium range version. Armament removed. 1 x F.24 camera in each wing, 29 gallon (132 l) fuel tank behind pilot. 8+ conversions.
Spitfire PR Mk IC (Also known as PR Type C). Conversion of Mk I for photo recce. Long range version. Armament removed. 30 gallon (137 l) fixed blister tank under port wing, balanced by blister under starboard wing housing 2 x F.24 cameras. 29 gallon (132 l) fuel tank behind pilot. 15 conversions. Later designated PR Mk III.
Spitfire PR Mk ID (Also known as PR Type D). Conversion of Mk I for photo recce. Very long range version. Armament removed. 57 gallon (259 l) integral fuel tanks in wing leading edges, 2 x F.24 or F.8 camera in fuselage behind pilot, 29 gallon (132 l) fuel tank behind pilot. 14 gallons (64 l) extra oil in port wing former gun-bay. Rounded windscreen plus canopy with bulged canopy sides. 2 Mk I conversions (P9551 & P9552) plus ‘production’ version based on Mk V airframes as PR Mk IV.
Spitfire PR Mk IE (Also known as PR Type E). Conversion of Mk I for photo recce. Medium range version. Armament removed. 1 x F.24 camera under each wing in bulged mounting – sighted obliquely not vertically, 29 gallon fuel tank behind pilot. 1 conversion (N3317). Later designated PR Mk V.
Spitfire PR Mk IF (Also known as PR Type F). Conversion of Mk I for photo recce. Super long range version. Armament removed. 30 gallon (137 l) blister tank under each wing, 29 gallon (132 l) fuel tank behind pilot, total extra fuel 89 gals (269 l). Enlarged oil tank in deeper nose. 2 x F.24 cameras behind cockpit, later other camera installations. Nearly all existing Bs and Cs modified to F standard. Later designated PR Mk VI.
Spitfire PR Mk IG (Also known as PR Type G). Conversion of Mk I for photo recce. Armed recce version. 8 machine guns armament retained with bullet proof windscreen. 1 x F.24 camera mounted obliquely behind cockpit + 2 x F.24 looking vertically down, 29 gallon (132 l) fuel tank behind pilot. 5+ conversions. Later designated PR Mk VII.
Type 300 Supermarine designation for F.37/34 Spitfire prototype and Mk I production version.
Type 311 Supermarine designation for Spitfire F.37/34 with Merlin E engine. Project only
Type 312 Supermarine designation for Spitfire variant to meet F.37/35 with Merlin E engine and 4 x 20 mm cannon. Project only. Requirement met by Westland Whirlwind.
Type 323 Supermarine designation for Speed Spitfire
Type 329 Supermarine designation for Spitfire Mk II
Type 330 Supermarine designation for Spitfire Mk III
Type 332 Supermarine designation for Spitfire Mk I export for Estonia. FN guns.
Type 335 Supermarine designation for Spitfire Mk I export for Greece. Merlin XII.
Type 336 Supermarine designation for Spitfire Mk I export for Portugal. Merlin XII.
Type 337 Supermarine designation for Spitfire Mk IV
Type 338 Supermarine designation for Spitfire Mk I for Fleet Air Arm. Merlin XII.
Type 341 Supermarine designation for Spitfire Mk I export for Turkey. Merlin XII
Type 342 Supermarine designation for Spitfire Mk I with Roc floats.
Type 343 Supermarine designation for Spitfire Mk I long range version. Merlin XII. Project only
Type 344 Supermarine designation for Spitfire Mk III on Supermarine floats. Project only
Type 345 Supermarine designation for Spitfire Mk I with 13.2 mm guns. Project only
Type 346 Supermarine designation for Spitfire Mk IC universal wing.
Type 348 Supermarine designation for Spitfire Mk III 2nd prototype (W3237). Merlin XX.
Spitfire Mk IIA P7350, now coded BA-X
(photo, Gareth Horne)
Spitfire Mk IA K9795 of 19 Sqn at Duxford in 1938
(photo, Beehive Hockey Photo Museum)

History

Key Dates:
Autumn 1931    Specification F.7/30 issued for 4-machine gun fighter with high climb rate
19 February 1934    Type 224 maiden flight
July 1934    Initial redesign of Type 224 to produce Type 300
November 1934    Type 300 modified to take Rolls-Royce PV XII (PV.12) engine
6 November 1934    Vickers board approves construction of one Type 300 prototype
3 January 1935    Specification F.37/34 issued to cover Type 300 with PV.12 engine – no longer a private venture
29 April 1935    Specification F.10/35 issued accepted, calling for a fighter with 6-8 machine guns. Type 300 modified to accommodate 8 guns.
May 1935    Type 300 final mock-up conference
5 March 1936    Maiden flight of Type 300 prototype (K5054)
May 1936    Type 300 named ‘Spitfire’, at the suggestion of the Vickers parent company
26 May 1936    Prototype flown to Martlesham Heath for initial A&AEE evaluation
3 June 1936    Air Ministry places order for 310 Spitfire Mk I
28 July 1936    Specification F.16/36 covering production Spitfire Mk I reaches Supermarine
11 June 1937    R J Mitchell dies
12 April 1938    Order for 1000 Spitfire Mk IIs to be built at Castle Bromwich
14 May 1938    Maiden flight of first production Spitfire (K9787)
12 July 1938    Work starts on building Castle Bromwich factory
19 July 1938    First production Spitfire delivered to RAF for trials
4 August 1938    First RAF squadron (19 Sqn) starts to receive Spitfire Mk Is
11 November 1938    Maiden flight of Speed Spitfire
1 January 1939    Only 49 Spitfires in total delivered to the RAF so far
February 1939    First export order (Estonia) accepted
May 1939    First Spitfire Mk Is delivered to Auxiliary Air Force (602 Sqn)
July 1939    Flight testing of trial installation of two 20 mm Hispano cannon starts
3 September 1939    Total of 306 Spitfire Mk Is delivered to the RAF so far
24 September 1939    Maiden flight of first Spitfire Mk II
October 1939    First conversion to PR Mark 1A photo recce version
16 October 1939    First combat against the Luftwaffe – two Ju 88 claimed
18 November 1939    First operational flight by a Photo Recce Spitfire
16 March 1940    Maiden flight of Spitfire Mk III prototype
June 1940    First Castle Bromwich Spitfire Mk II completed
mid July 1940    Total of 19 RAF squadrons equipped with Spitfires
August 1940    First Spitfire Mk IIs delivered to the RAF (611 Sqn)
26 September 1940    Supermarine factory at Woolston bombed – dispersed production initiated
Winter 1940    Spitfire Mk IIs replace Mk Is in RAF service. Latter relegated to OTUs
February 1941    Spitfire Mk V starts to replace Mk II in service (92 Sqn)
March 1941    First Spitfire Mk IIbs delivered to the RAF
1 April 1941    Spitfire Mk II has replaced Mk I in frontline RAF service
1942    Conversions to Air-Sea Rescue Mk IIC
mid 1944    Spitfire Mk I/IIs withdrawn from RAF service
BoBMF Spitfire Mk IIA P7350 marked as RN-S P7350 makes a low pass in RN-S markings
(both photos, militaryairshows.co.uk)

Operators

Military Operators

Australia – RAAF (8 Mk IIA with 452 Sqn under RAF control August 1941)
Canada – RCAF (1 Mk I [L1090] on loan late 1939-mid 140 for trials)
Estonia – AF (12 Mk I ordered Feb 1939, delivery cancelled by UK Govt.)
France – AdlA (1 Mk I delivered 18 July 1939 for evaluation – to Luftwaffe?)
Germany – Luftwaffe (3+ Mk I, 1 PR Mk 1B, 1 PR Mk 1F captured, used for evaluation)
Greece – AF (12 Mk I ordered 1939, delivery cancelled by UK Govt.)
New Zealand – RNZAF (no information)
Poland – AF (1 Mk I packed for shipping July 1939, diverted to Turkey on Polish surrender)
Portugal – AF (15 Mk I ordered 1939, delivery cancelled by UK Govt. May 1940; 18 Mk Ia delivered 1942)
Turkey – THK (15 Mk I ordered 1940 – not delivered, 1 Mk I shipped Sept 1939, 2 Mk I delivered June 1940)
UK – Royal Air Force (Fighter: 40 sqns (Mk I), 56 sqns (Mk II); Air-Sea Rescue: 5 sqns (Mk IIC); Training 4+ OTUs; numerous misc. units)
UK – Fleet Air Arm (76 Mk IA* and 3 Mk IIA for advanced pilot training 1940-1943)

Government Agencies

UK – RAE Farnborough (several Mk I/II for test duties)

Civilian Operators

UK – Rolls-Royce, Hucknall (several Mk I/II/III seconded as engine testbeds)

* Only one with arrestor hook.

Underside view showing the distinctive wing planform, water radiator and oil cooler
(photo, Colin Body)
BoBMF Spitfire IIA P7350 marked as YT-F
(photo, Grizzly Adams)

Specifications

Supermarine Spitfire prototype
Role: Interceptor fighter
Crew: One
Dimensions: Length 29 ft 11 in (9.12 m); Height (to tip of prop) 12 ft 8 in (3.86 m); Wing Span 36 ft 10 in (11.23 m); Wing Area 242.0 sq ft (22.48 sq m)
Engine(s): One liquid cooled, 12 cylinder Vee, Rolls-Royce Merlin C of 990 hp (738 kW)*.
Weights: Empty (Tare) 4,082 lb (1854 kg); Fully Loaded 5,359 lb (2,434 kg)
Performance: Maximum level speed 349 mph (562 kph) at 16,800 ft (5,120 m); Initial rate of climb 2400 ft/min (731 m/min); Time to 15,000 ft (4,570 m) 5 min 52 sec; Service ceiling 35,400 ft (10,790 m); Normal range with internal fuel ? mls (? km); Endurance 1.78 hr.
Armament: None initially. Later eight 0.303 in (7.7 mm) Browning machine-guns in wings, with 300 rounds per gun.

* Later fitted with Merlin F of 1,035 hp (772 kW) and then Merlin II of 1,030 hp (768 kW).

Supermarine Spitfire Mk. IA (early production example**)
Role: Interceptor fighter
Crew: One
Dimensions: Length 29 ft 11 in (9.12 m); Height (to tip of prop) 11 ft 5 in (3.48 m); Wing Span 36 ft 10 in (11.23 m); Wing Area 242.0 sq ft (22.48 sq m)
Engine(s): One liquid cooled, 12 cylinder Vee, Rolls-Royce Merlin III of 1,030 hp (768 kW) at 16,250 ft (4953 m) and 880 hp (656 kW) at take-off*.
Weights: Empty (Tare) 4,810 lb (2,182 kg); Fully Loaded 5,819 lb (2,639 kg)
Performance: Maximum level speed 362 mph (583 kph) at 18,500 ft (5,639 m); Cruising speed 210 mph (338 kph); Initial rate of climb 2,530 ft/min (771 m/min); Time to 20,000 ft (6,096 m) 9 min 25 sec; Service ceiling 31,900 ft (9,723 m); Normal range with internal fuel 395 mls (637 km); Endurance 1.78 hr.
Armament: Eight 0.303 in (7.7 mm) Browning machine-guns in wings, with 300 rounds per gun.

* First 174 aircraft fitted with Merlin II of 1,030 hp (768 kW).
** Fully modified aircraft (mid 1940) had Fully Loaded weight of 6,150 lb (2,789 kg), Maximum level speed 353 mph (568 kph) at 20,000 ft (6,100 m).

Supermarine Spitfire Mk. IIA
Role: Interceptor fighter
Crew: One
Dimensions: Length 29 ft 11 in (9.12 m); Height (to tip of prop) 11 ft 5.5 in (3.49 m); Wing Span 36 ft 10 in (11.23 m); Wing Area 242.0 sq ft (22.48 sq m)
Engine(s): One liquid cooled, 12 cylinder Vee, Rolls-Royce Merlin XII of 1,175 hp (876 kW) for take-off and 1,140 hp (850 kW) at 14,750 ft (4495 m)*.
Weights: Empty (Tare) 4,783 lb (2,170 kg); Fully Loaded 6,172 lb (2,803 kg)
Performance: Maximum level speed 354 mph (570 kph) at 17,554 ft (5,349 m); Initial rate of climb 2,925 ft/min (891 m/min); Time to 20,000 ft (6,096 m) 7 min 0 sec; Service ceiling 37,600 ft (11,457 m); Normal range with internal fuel 395 mls (637 km).
Armament: Eight 0.303 in (7.7 mm) Browning machine-guns in wings, with 300 rounds per gun.

* Some aircraft fitted with Merlin 45 of 1,210 hp (897 kW).

Spitfire PR Mk 1C serial X4492 showing the
deeper nose shape (photo, Vic Flintham)
Castle Bromwich-built Spitfire Mk IIA P8348
coded NS-Y (photo, Vic Flintham)

Production

Design Centre

Head of Design Team: Reginald J. Mitchell (until 1937), Joseph Smith (1937+)
Design Office: Supermarine Aviation Works (Vickers) Ltd, Woolaston, Southampton

Manufacture

Spitfire I-III Production Summary
prototype  1     Total: 1
Mk IA 1536  Mk IB 30 Total: 1566 
Mk IIA 750 Mk IIB  170  Total: 920
Mk III 1     Total: 1
        Total: 2488 
Westland
(Westland Aircraft Ltd, Yeovil, Somerset)
Version Quantity Assembly Location Time Period
Spitfire IA 50 Yeovil June-August 1941
Total: 50    
Castle Bromwich (CBAF)
(Castle Bromwich Aircraft Factory, Castle Bromwich, Birmingham, West Midlands)**
Version Quantity Assembly Location Time Period
Spitfire IIA 750 Castle Bromwich 1939-March 1941
Spitfire IIB 170 Castle Bromwich January-March 1941
Total: 920    

** Initially managed by Nuffield Organisation (Morris cars etc), to Supermarine control in May 1940.
Some aircraft converted to Mk VA standard.

Supermarine
(Supermarine Aviation Works (Vickers) Ltd, Eastleigh Aerodrome, Southampton, Hampshire)
Version Quantity Assembly Location Time Period
Spitfire prototype 1 Eastleigh Dec 1934-March 1936
Spitfire Mk IA 1486* Eastleigh March 1937-March 1941
Spitfire Mk IB 30 Eastleigh June 1940-Aug 1940
Spitfire Mk III 1 Eastleigh ?-March 1940
Total: 1518    

* One converted to Mk II (K9788), one converted to Speed Spitfire, some converted to Mk VA, 15 delivered as PR Mk 1C, 2 delivered as PR Mk 1D, one converted to Griffon-engined Mk IV prototype.
Major sub-assemblies produced at Supermarine factories at Itchen (fuselages 1939+) and Woolston (fuselages initially, plus wings from April 1938) in Southampton, together with components from sub-contractors.

Sub-contractors:

Folland Aircraft Ltd, Hamble (tailplane and rudder)
General Aircraft Ltd, Feltham (wings)
Pobjoy Motors Ltd, Rochester (wings)
Westland Aircraft Ltd, Yeovil (wing ribs)
Aero-Engines Ltd, Kingsmead, Bristol (ailerons and elevators)
J. Samuel White and Co, Cowes (fuselage frames)
Singer Motors Ltd, Coventry (engine mountings)
General Electric Co, Preston (wing tips)
The Pressed Steel Co, Cowley (wing leading edge)
G.Beaton and Son Ltd, ? (wing ribs)

After 24th & 26th September 1940 Luftwaffe bombing raids on Woolston & Itchen, production ceased at these two locations and assembly was dispersed to 46 different factories in southern England, feeding four production centres:
Southampton (assembly at Eastleigh), Salisbury (assembly at High Post & Chattis Hill), Trowbridge (assembly at Keevil) and Reading (assembly ar Henley and Aldermaston).

Total Produced: 2488 a/c (prototype to Mk III)

Production List

See ‘Spitfire: The History’ listed above.

Spitfire Mk III Prototype N3297 with Merlin XX
engine (photo, Vic Flintham)
Spitfire PR Mk IV BP886 – a ‘productionised’
PR Mk 1D (photo, Vic Flintham)

More Information

Books

‘Birth of a Legend: The Spitfire’ [Order this book from Amazon UK]
by Jeffrey Quill & Sebastian Cox
Published by Quiller Press Ltd, UK, 1986 ISBN: 0 907621 64 3
* Gives the background to the design, initial production and early service years of the Spitfire.

‘Spitfire Odyssey: My Life At Supermarines 1936-1957′ [Order this book from Amazon UK]
by Cyril R. Russell
Published by Kingfisher Railway Productions, UK, Nov 1985 ISBN: 0 946184 186
* Personal story, from the viewpoint of the production line.

‘Spitfire Postscript’ [Order this book from Amazon UK]
by Cyril R. Russell
Published by Kingfisher Railway Productions, UK, Feb 1995 ISBN: 0 95248 580 X
* Additional anecdotes and details of dispersed production of the Spitfire.

‘Sigh For A Merlin: Testing The Spitfire’ [Order this book from Amazon UK]
by Alex Henshaw
Published by Crecy Publishing, UK, 1 Oct 1999 ISBN: 0 94755 483 1
* Personal story by the Chief Test Pilot at the Castle Bromwich factory.

‘Spitfire International’
by Helmut Terbeck, Harry van der Meer & Ray Sturtivant
Published by Air-Britain (Historians) Ltd, 2002 ISBN: 0 85130 250 5
* Covers all Spitfire exports in detail, including individual aircraft histories.

‘Supermarine Aircraft Since 1914′ [Order this book from Amazon UK]
by CF Andrews & E B Morgan
Published by Putnam Aeronautical Books, 1981 ISBN: 1 85177 800 3
* Detailed company history with a long chapter on the Spitfire and on production dispersal.

‘The Spitfire Story’ [Order this book from Amazon UK]
by Alfred Price
Published by Arms & Armour Press/Cassell Military, 1986 & reprints ISBN: 1 85409 514 5
* Detailed history of the evolution of the Spitfire design through successive versions.

‘Spitfire At War’ [Order this book from Amazon UK]
by Alfred Price
Published by Ian Allan Ltd, Dec 1974 & multiple reprints ISBN: 0 7110 0560 5
* The Spitfire on operations – including many first-hand accounts. All theatres of war.

‘Spitfire At War: 2′
by Alfred Price
Published by Ian Allan Ltd, 1985 & multiple reprints ISBN: 0 7110 1511 2
* More eyewitness accounts and new photos – including the first flight of the Spitfire.

‘Spitfire At War: 3′ [Order this book from Amazon UK]
by Alfred Price
Published by Ian Allan Ltd, 1990 & multiple reprints ISBN: 0 7110 1933 9
* More eyewitness accounts and new photos – little known aspects of the Spitfire’s combat career.

‘Spitfire: The History’ [Order this book from Amazon UK]
by Eric B. Morgan & Edward Shacklady
Published by Key Books Ltd, Jan 2001 ISBN: 0 946219 48 6
* Revised edition of ultra-detailed history of the Spitfire. Very well illustrated.

‘Spitfire IIA & IIB Pilot’s Notes (Merlin XII)’ [Order this book from Amazon UK]
Published by Air Data Pubns, 1972 & multiple reprints ISBN: 0 859790 43 6
* Facsimile reprint of the original Air Ministry Pilot’ Notes.

‘Spitfire Mark I/II Aces 1939-41 (Osprey Aircraft Of The Aces – 12)’ [Order this book from Amazon UK]
by Dr Alfred Price
Published by Osprey, Dec 1996 ISBN: 1 855326 27 2
* RAF fighter aces who flew the early marks of Spitfire.

‘Wings of Fame Volume 5′
Published by Aerospace Publishing, 1996 ISBN: 1 874023 90 5(PB)/1 874023 91 3(HB)
* Includes detailed article on Photo Recce Spitfires.

‘The Supermarine Spitfire Part 1: Merlin Powered (Modellers Datafile 3)’
by Robert Humphreys
Published by SAM Publications, 2000 ISBN: -
* Very detailed modellers guide to the Merlin-engined Spitfire.

Magazines

To be added.

Links

Spitfire Mk.I Walkaround
(Detailed pictorial of the RAF Hendon example)

Spitfire Society
(Society info, about the Spitfire)

Aircraft of the Fleet Air Arm – Supermarine Spitfire
(Concise summary of Spitfire history and FAA use)

Supermarine Aircraft
(Details of Spitfires captured by the Luftwaffe in WW2. Good photos and information)

Beehive Hockey Photo Museum
(Collection of photos of WW2 Allied aircraft + ice hockey info)

Shop

Flight Simulator Models:
To be added.

Scale Models:
To be added.

Scale Drawings:
See ‘Modellers Datafile’ listed above.

Videos:

To be added.

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9 Comments

  • By David Cochran, 15 August 2010 @ 1:51 pm

    I am hooked on Spitfire history since I discovered recently that my father’s cousin (a sgt pilot 222 sqn) was killed when his aircraft (P7847)dived into the ground – minus wings -. There was no enquiry but I reckon that as Fred was still in his seat when the plane hit the ground and as he had also lost his helmet, he probably lost consciousness at height (no oxygen ? It was not enemy action as he was with his leader (an experienced Flt Lt killed the following month when the Luftwaffe bombed the Ferry Inn)) on a top-cover mission over the airfield. It was their second mission of the day – was his oxygen replenished? or did he forget to switch it on ? I am really keen to get a picture of airframe P7847; now 222s old aifield has closed, where are the squadron albums ?

    Any help appreciated,
    DC

  • By James Fenimore Cooper, 27 March 2011 @ 6:52 pm

    I LOVE Spitfires. They have been my absolute favorite type of airplane since i was 3. This website gave me a almost perfect understanding of technical information of the Spitfire. This website also had a wonderful collection of images featuring the Spitfire.

    Thank you,
    Your friend,
    James

  • By James Fenimore Cooper, 27 March 2011 @ 6:55 pm

    Oh yeah,
    Sorry for your loss David

  • By paul wheble, 16 May 2011 @ 12:54 pm

    i have been looking at spitfire sites this week; my mother, who died last week aged 90, was an inspector at the salisbury dispersal factory where they made those beautiful wings. i could never look at a spitfire without thinking of her, and now of course it seems even more special

  • By Mark, 19 October 2011 @ 7:27 am

    Yeah, there is some thing about a spitfire,l to would give any thing to fly in one and if l one the lotto that would be the first thing that l would get and nothing als untill a spitfire.

  • By Gary Smith, 17 December 2011 @ 2:59 pm

    I have to echo James’ sentiment,sorry for your loss David,& wish I could help with info.This site and provided links gave me great resources for modelling the Spitfire in a diorama-cheers.I would love to see wallpapers added to this site though for us fans who want a British icon on our screens.Thanks again.

  • By David Holness, 13 October 2012 @ 2:17 pm

    pls note! ref the Mk IIa ,max speed quoted is for an a/c useing +9psi boost ,war emergency boost was +12 psi therefore max speed would be higher but @ a lower altitude. ref National archives @ Kew ,file avia 16/682 &
    SPITFIRE,The History by Eric B Morgan & Edward Shacklady

  • By Martin, 21 January 2013 @ 8:36 pm

    hi,

    Spitfire is my love since I was a boy (now I’m 40). My grandfather was a pilot during IIww (div. 303).
    Do anybody know where can I actually see this awasome aircraft? I’m based in Swindon.
    Thx

  • By Graham Summers, 12 May 2013 @ 8:28 pm

    Hi, message for David Cochran. First of all, I’m sorry for your loss and I’m sure you are really proud of your father’s cousin. I do know that there is a scoreboard, belonging to 222 Sqn at the Spitfire Memorial Building at RAF Manston. For more details see http://www.spitfiremuseum.org.uk/spitfire/other.htm#222%20Squadron%20Scoreboard.
    Also I found that the National Archives at Kew have copies of some of the wartime crash reports. I found a reference to the crash; P7847 Spitfire IIa 24/03/1941. I know that the date of the crash was the 10/03/1941, but I would guess this was the date of the inquiry, being two weeks afterwards. The reference number for the particular report is W991.

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