Who designed the Spitfire airplane

- British Air Force Aircraft Museum in central England -

One of the most famous and successful fighters of all time was the Spitfire, of which an unusually large number of copies were built for a good ten years, from 1938 to 1948. The Supermarine Spitfire was designed by the designer Reginald Mitchell with support from Supermarine parent company Vickers. The prototype was a highly innovative model at the time and already showed some characteristics that it had in common with its future big rival, the Messerschmitt Bf. 109.

The Spitfire was a 1-seat fighter. The aircraft, which is very elegant due to its clear lines, had a linear engine, a retractable landing gear with a narrow track and guns built into the new elliptical wings so as not to hit the engine propeller.

The wings, which were particularly large for a fighter the weight of the Spitfire, ensured a tight curve radius. In the high-speed range, the profile of small thickness chosen by Mitchell was particularly advantageous, which gave the Spitfire good properties at these speeds.

The name Spitfire literally means translated "Fire breathers". The Allied aviators simply called it “Spit” for short. The Spitfire was used as an interceptor, fighter-bomber, reconnaissance aircraft and also under the name Seafire (2556 copies) on aircraft carriers. Numerous copies were specially equipped for the reconnaissance and marked with the abbreviation PR.

During the Second World War, the Spitfire flew under Greek emblems over North Africa, the Mediterranean region and Italy. The Germans were also able to repair some emergency landed machines and then continue to use them on the German side. The Soviet Union received approximately 1330 Spitfires between 1942 and 1945. After the Second World War, the Spitfire remained in service in many air forces around the world until the early 1960s, including in Egypt, Ireland, Israel, Syria, Denmark and Turkey.

Many Spitfires and a few Seafires are still airworthy today, and many museums have exhibits of this elegant and deadly hunter. The R.A.F. officially retired them in 1954, but still owns some for flight demonstrations. In total, more than 20,300 Spitfires of all variants were built by “Supermarine” and other companies.

Speed ​​and altitude records:

In the spring of 1944, high-speed dive tests were conducted at Farnborough to test the handling of aircraft near the sound barrier. Since the Spitfire had the highest permitted maximum speed of all allied aircraft at the time, a Spitfire XI was also used for this purpose. During these attempts, a Spitfire reached 975 km / h (Mach 0.89) in a 45-degree nosedive. The plane could not withstand this speed; the propeller and the reduction gear broke off. The pilot managed to sail the 20 miles to the airfield and land safely.

On February 5, 1952, a weather reconnaissance Spitfire Mk.19 stationed in Hong Kong achieved what is probably the highest altitude ever reached by a Spitfire of 15,712 meters.

Technical specifications:

Spitfire Mk.Vc

taskDay hunter
crew1 pilot
First flightMarch 5, 1936
On duty fromAugust 1938
ManufacturerSuper marine
Length over all9.12 m
span11.23 m
Height above everything3.86 m
Empty weight2,313 kg
Maximum take-off weight3,078 kg
engine1 Rolls-Royce Merlin 45
power1,470 hp
Top speed602 km / h (4000 meters altitude)
Combat Range756 km
Service ceiling11,280 m (35,000 feet)
Guns2 x 20 mm cannons
.4 x 7.7 mm machine guns
Bombs1 x 230 kg bomb

Description of the Mk.V:

After the Battle of Britain in 1940, the Royal Air Force planned to replace the Spitfire Mk.I and Mk.II with the Spitfire Mk.III, which had been in development for 2 years. The Mk.III had significant improvements, such as an optimized wing design, retractable tail wheel and a new Rolls-Royce Merlin XX engine.

Before the Mk.III could go into production, however, the Germans surprised the Royal Air Force with the introduction of the improved Messerschmitt Bf 109 F, which was superior to the previous Spitfire aircraft at high altitudes. The Royal Air Force could not wait until the factories were converted for the Mk. III. They hastily developed the Spitfire Mk.V as an immediate solution (the designation MK.IV has already been assigned to another version).

Essentially, the Mk.V consisted of a modified cell from the Mk.II with a new Rolls-Royce Merlin 45 engine. At the beginning of production the wing remained unchanged, but subsequently 3 different types were created, depending on the armament and task, which were identified by the different suffixes a, b and c. The type of wing the

  • Mk.Va had 8 Browning 303 machine guns and the
  • Mk.Vb had two 20mm Hispano cannons and four machine guns. The Spitfire
  • Mk.Vc possessed the "universal" wing, this variant allowed various combinations of armament, including four 20 mm cannons and four Browning 303 machine guns.

Most Spitfire Mk.Vc were armed with the Mk.Vb in the outer cannon position, but the C-wing was designed for 120 rounds per cannon, compared to only 60 rounds for the B-wing. The Mk.Vc's universal wing also uses a reinforced landing gear, and the machine's center of gravity has been shifted forward to counter the Spitfire's tendency to tip over its nose. In addition, the Spitfire Mk.Vb and Mk. Vc could carry two 250 pound bombs or one 500 pound bomb.

In order to meet the demands of the Royal Air Force for fast delivery, more than 100 Spitfire Mk.I were converted to Mk.V versions. These converted aircraft began their service with the combat units in March 1941. In addition to these, a total of 6,464 Spitfire Mk.Vs were built between 1941 and 1943.

The Supermarine Spitfire Mk.V fought on all fronts, and during the war more than 140 Royal Air Force squadrons were equipped with the aircraft - including the “Eagle Squadrons”, consisting of American volunteers who flew for the British Royal Air Force . A total of 9 other allied nations, including the United States, used Spitfire Mk.Vs. Groups of the 31st and 52nd Fighter Groups of the U.S. Army Air Forces first flew them during Operation TORCH, the invasion of North Africa in November 1942. Some of the American pilots removed a machine gun from each wing to reduce weight and thereby improve maneuverability.

In order to make the Spitfire Mk.V suitable for the tropics and thus desert-proof, some machines were equipped with a dust filter, which was located under the tip of the fuselage and gave the Spitfire Mk.Vc “Trop” variant its characteristic appearance. In addition to the air filter, the cooler has been improved.

Originally the Spitfire was designed for short and medium-range defense, but in 1941 the Royal Air Force had started offensive operations over Germany-occupied Europe. To increase the range of the Mark V, drop-off fuel tanks were installed that fit flush under the fuselage. As the defense of the Germans weakened and fewer and fewer Luftwaffe interceptors appeared, the Spitfire pilots concentrated more and more on ground targets. In order to improve the flight characteristics at low altitudes, the wing tips of most Spitfire Mk.Vs have been removed. Aircraft that were optimized for low-level attacks were given the prefix "L.F." (Spitfire L.F. Mk. Vc).

In the public eye, the Spitfire was seen as the aircraft that won the Battle of Britain. This impression was mainly due to the domestic British propaganda campaigns that the Spitfire - e. B. in nationally published collection campaigns of aluminum objects that could be melted down as raw material for aircraft construction - used as a symbol for the modern air force.

In reality, the inferior Hawker Hurricane was used by the Royal Air Force in the Battle of England in far larger numbers than the Spitfire and carried the brunt of the dogfights.

At the beginning of the war, only a few units of the Royal Air Force were equipped with the Spitfire. While the hurricane was deployed over continental Europe, the more powerful Spitfires were held back for the impending defense of England. By the beginning of the Battle of Britain in July 1940, the supply situation had improved so much that 19 squadrons now had Spitfires and 27 Hurricanes.

Because the flight performance of the Spitfire was better than that of the Hurricane, the Royal Air Force proposed a division of tasks: the Spitfires should attack the escorts of the German bombers, the Hurricanes the bombers themselves In practice, however, German bombers were able to engage most of the Hurricane squadrons in aerial battles before the breakthrough to the bombers succeeded. In addition, since the Spitfire squadrons continued to attack bombers when the opportunity arose, this division of tasks was not implemented during the operation.

Compared to its opponent, the Messerschmitt Bf 109 of the German Air Force, the Spitfire had strengths and weaknesses. Her greatest strength was her superior maneuverability in cornering combat. Since the Royal Air Force, unlike the Luftwaffe, already had large quantities of 100-octane fuel at its disposal in mid-1940, the Spitfire's Merlin engine was also able to deliver more power at low altitudes than the Bf 109's DB 601A, which ran on 87-octane fuel As a result, the flight performance of the Spitfire was clearly superior to that of the Bf 109 below an altitude of 4,000 m. At the altitudes above 4,000 m typical for the Battle of Britain, however, the advantage was with the Bf 109.

By the time the Battle of Britain was fought in October, the Royal Air Force had lost 565 Hurricanes and 352 Spitfires.

Versions of the Spitfire:

(Source: Wikipedia.org)

In total there were 24 versions and many sub-variants, which are not listed here in their entirety. For the numbering of the versions, Roman numerals were initially used, later in the course of a Royal Air Force-wide conversion to Arabic.

Mk. IIt quickly became clear that the Spitfire was going to be the best British fighter at the time, and unlike its older competitor Hawker Hurricane, the Spitfire seemed to have enough advantages. Vickers - the parent company of “Supermarine” - soon realized that the first order of 310 aircraft from the Royal Air Force was only the beginning of a long series, and built a new factory near Castle Bromwich in addition to the existing production lines in Woolston to manufacture Spitfires there. In 1938, their thinking ahead paid off when the Aviation Ministry ordered 1,000 additional Spitfires. At the beginning of World War II, a total of 2,160 Spitfires had been ordered or had already been delivered. The Woolston factory began series production of the Spitfire Version 1 (Mk.I) in late 1937. From August 1938 the first squadrons of the Royal Air Force were operational. The Mk.I was originally powered by a Merlin Mk.II engine with 1,030 hp, which had a 2-bladed wooden propeller with a fixed angle of attack. However, only a few copies were delivered in this configuration. Then they switched to a 3-blade metal controllable pitch propeller, which could be switched between two different propeller pitches. The climbing performance has been improved. In total, of the 2,160 Mk.I. 1,583 units deliveredbefore production was switched to the new Mk.II version.
Mk. IIWith the end of the Battle of Britain, the Royal Air Force gained a respite over the winter of 1940/41. This pause in combat was used to integrate various improvements recognized as necessary during the fighting into the Spitfire. The result was the Spitfire Mk. II. The biggest change was the more powerful Merlin XII engine with 1,175 hp. The additional engine power increased the top speed by 28 km / h and improved the rate of climb somewhat. It would have been even better if the Spitfire Mk.II wasn't 32 kilograms additional armor plates to get the cockpit. The Mk. II was produced in the versions Mk. IIA (with eight machine guns) and IIB (two cannons / four machine guns). The delivery happened very quickly, and the Mk. II gradually replaced all Mk. I still in service, which from then on were used for pilot training. By April 1941, all Royal Air Force Spitfire squadrons had been converted to the new model. Overall were 920 pieces built.
Mk. IIIThe Mk. III represented an improvement in the airframe, and thought was given to using the new Merlin XX engine with a two-speed loader, which should enable the Spitfire to achieve greater horizontal speed at great heights. However, the Merlin XX was very complex and difficult to produce, mainly because of its loader. At the same time, the performance of the Hawker Hurricane had to be increased in order to maintain it as a viable front-line fighter. It was therefore given priority over the Merlin XX engine and became the Hurricane Mk. II. One Series production of the Spitfire Mk. III did not materialize.
Mk. IVThe change to the Mk. IV was far more radical than that of the MK. III. The airframe was similar to that of the Mk.III, but the machine contained the new Rolls Royce Griffon engine with over 1,500 hp. This extra power not only increased the top speed, but also allowed heavier armament with six cannons. The Mk. IV looked so promising that the Mk.III immediately disappeared into the drawer. The plans provided for the new aircraft to be used in squadrons from October 1941 and to make it the standard fighter of the Royal Air Force from early 1942. However, due to significant development problems, the introduction of the Griffon engine was delayed by two years, and the Mark IV became not built in series.
Mk. VAt the end of 1940 the Mk.II met a new German aircraft. It was an improved version of the Messerschmitt Bf 109. The new Bf 109 F model surpassed the Spitfire II in speed and climb rate, and above 5,500 meters in maneuverability. At this point the Mk. IV was not ready to face the new Bf 109F. The Griffon engine suffered from such severe production problems that it was unclear whether it could even go into series production. The Mk. V was therefore designed as an emergency solution. The Mk. V combined the airframe of the Mk. II with the newer Merlin 45 engine. This engine developed a little more starting power at 1,440 hp, but increased the available power at a slightly higher level thanks to its improved engine supercharging. The Mk. V was by far the most produced version, with 94 Mk.Va (8 MG), 3,923 Mk.VB (cannons) and 2,447 Mk.Vc.
Mk. VIDuring the time that the Mk. V was in production, fears grew that the German Air Force might be involved in the mass production of very high-flying bombers like the Junkers Ju 86, which were higher than most other fighters from this time can fly to begin. It was decided that a new Spitfire variant would be built with an improved service ceiling. The Mk. VI had two important improvements in this direction. For increased performance at higher altitudes, where the atmosphere is much thinner, she had one 4-bladed propeller