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Information and Facts on the Great War

British Spitfire

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The British Spitfire is a British fighter plane that was used by the RAF (British Royal Air Force) as well as other Allied countries during World War II. It was a single-seat aircraft which continued to see action even after WWII, well into the 1950s until it was retired for good in 1961. More Spitfires were produced than any other British aircraft. It was also the only British plane to be continually produced during World War II without being superseded by a new model or aircraft design. The aircraft is also commonly referred to as the “Submarine Spitfire” depending on the World War 2 information source one comes across.

British Spitfire Background

The British Spitfire was conceived as a short-range but high performance interceptor. Its designer, R. J. Mitchell worked on improving the Spitfire until he succumbed to cancer in 1937. After that Joseph Smith continue work on the Spitfire as chief designer. One of the most important for the Spitfire was speed, thanks to its elliptical wing it was able to achieve higher speeds than most other fighters of the time.

British Spitfire Information

Role:                   Fighter / Photo-reconnaissance aircraft
Manufacturer:  Supermarine

Spitfire LF Mk IX, MH434 being flown by Ray Hanna in 2005. This aircraft shot down an FW 190 in 1943 while serving with 222 Squadron RAF.

Spitfire LF Mk IX, MH434 being flown by Ray Hanna in 2005. This aircraft shot down an FW 190 in 1943 while serving with 222 Squadron RAF.

Designer:             R. J. Mitchell
First flight:          5 March 1936
Introduction:     4 August 1938
Retired:              1961 Irish Air Corps
Primary User:    Royal Air Force
Produced:          1938–1948
Total Aircraft Built: 20,351
Cost Per Aircraft: £12,604
Aircraft Variants:  Supermarine Seafire,Supermarine Spiteful

British Spitfire Characteristics

Crew:         one pilot
Length:       29 ft 11 in (9.12 m)
Wingspan: 36 ft 10 in (11.23 m)
Height:        11 ft 5 in (3.86 m)
Airfoil:          NACA 2209.4(tip)
Empty weight:   5,090 lb (2,309 kg)
Loaded weight:  6,622 lb (3,000 kg)
Max. takeoff weight: 6,770 lb (3,071 kg)
Powerplant: 1 × Rolls-Royce Merlin 45 supercharged V12 engine, 1,470 hp (1,096 kW) at 9,250 ft (2,820 m)
Aircraft Performance
Maximum speed: 378 mph, (330 kn, 605 km/h)
Combat radius: 410 nm (470 mi, 760 km)
Ferry range: 991 nm(1,140 mi, 1,840 km)

Squadron Leader D.O. Finlay, the Commanding Officer of No. 41 Squadron RAF and former British Olympic hurdler, standing by his Supermarine Spitfire Mark IIA (P7666, ‘EB-Z)’ “Observer Corps”, at Hornchurch, Essex (UK). January 1941.

Squadron Leader D.O. Finlay, the Commanding Officer of No. 41 Squadron RAF and former British Olympic hurdler, standing by his Supermarine Spitfire Mark IIA (P7666, ‘EB-Z)’ “Observer Corps”, at Hornchurch, Essex (UK). January 1941.

Service ceiling: 35,000 ft (11,300 m)
Rate of climb: 3,240 ft/min (16.5 m/s)
Wing loading: 27.35 lb/ft2 (133.5 kg/m2)
Power/mass: 0.22 hp/lb (0.36 kW/kg)
Armament
Guns: 2 x 20mm Hispano Mk II cannon, 4 x .303 in Browning machine guns.

British Spitfire’s Role in World War 2

During the Battle of Britain in the public’s eye the Spitfire was the RAF fighter, despite of the many Hawker Hurricane planes that fought against the German aircraft.
After the Battle of Britain the British Spitfire became the most important plane in the RAF’s Fighter Command and was used extensively in Europe, the Mediterranean, Pacific and other theaters of war. The Spitfire served several roles and was very popular among the pilots. It was used as an interceptor, for reconnaissance, as a fighter-bomber, as a training aircraft and as a carrier-capable fighter.
One of the aircraft’s biggest contributions to the war effort was that it was used for photo-reconnaissance. Because it performed so well at high altitudes interception was a much smaller problem. Because it was intended only as a short range interceptor the machine-guns and the ammunition bays had to be removed and gas tanks were fitted there instead. Thanks to these modifications it had a high enough range to make it to Western Germany from British bases.

British Spitfire Video

What were the Different Versions of British Spitfire Built?

Many versions of the British Spitfire were built, with different wing configurations. The original plane used a 768 kW (around 1,000HP) Rolls-Royce Merlin engine it was also possible to equip it with more powerful engines such as the 1,520 kW (2000HP) Rolls-Royce Griffon.

In 1943 the British Spitfire models with the Rolls-Royce Griffon engines could achieve a top speed of 440 mph (710 kph) and climb to altitudes of 40,000 feet (12km). The Spitfires were used to shoot down the German V-1s or “buzz bombs” as they were called, which were the predecessor to the V-2 missiles. During the Second World War Britain also exported a small number of Spitfires to other countries like the USSR, Turkey and Portugal. The U.S. forces also used them in Europe. By the time they stopped producing them, over 20,000 British Spitfires were produced total, of those 20,000, around 2000 were the Griffon versions.

The End of the Line for the Spitfire

The RAF stopped using Spitfires in the early 1950s, it was used as a photo-reconnaissance aircraft until 1954. The Spitfire was the only British plane to be in constant production before, during and after World War II.

British Spitfire References

Spitfire Performance Testing, Last Viewed: 16 January 2014.
Supermarine Spitfire – History of a legend (RAF Museum), last viewed: 17 January 2014.
The Spitfire Site – resource library about the Supermarine Spitfire, last viewed: 17 January 2014.

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