Supermarine Spitfire.jpg
Supermarine Spitfire (GB)
Fighter Aircraft
aka Type 300
Production 1938–1948
Combat Experience (With RAF) World War II (in general)
Battle of Britain

V-1 'Doodlebug' Interception
1948 Arab-Israeli War
Greek Civil War
Malayan Emergency

Number of passengers 1
Length 29ft 11in (9.12 metres) (Mk1-6)
31ft (9.90 metres) (Mk8-12)

32ft 8-11in (9.96-10.03 metres) (Mk14-24)

Wingspan 32ft 6in (9.9 metres) (Mk9 + 12)

36ft 10in (11.23 metres) (Mk1-5, 8 + 14)
36ft 11in (11.25 metres) (Mk24) 40ft 2in (12.29 metres) (Mk6)

Height 9ft 10in (3.02 metres) (Mk1 + 2)
11ft 5in (3.48 metres) (Mk5 +6)

12ft 8in (3.86 metres) (Mk8-12)
12ft 9in (3.89 metres) (Mk14)
13ft 6in (4.11 metres) (Mk24)

Empty Weight Mk1-8: 1953-2354 kg
Mk9-24: 2309-3247 kg
Loaded Weight Mk1-8: 2692-3624 kg
Mk9-24: 3354-4490 kg
Max Takeoff Weight (Mk5) 2911 kg
Engine Rolls-Royce Merlin (Mk1-9)
Rolls-Royce Griffon (Mk12-24)
Power/Thrust 2000 hp (Merlin 66)
2035 hp (Griffon 65)

Combat Range:
Mk1-8: 405-470 mi
Mk9-24: 390-493 mi
Ferry Range:
Mk5: 1135 mi
Mk9-24: 791-980 mi

Service Ceiling 43,000 ft (13,560 m)
Rate of Climb Mk1-8: 1350-4660 ft/min
Mk9-24: 3760-4745 ft/min
Armament Carried (Major weapons throughout production)

Guns: 8/4/2x 0.303" Browning machine guns or/with
4/2x 20mm Hispano II cannon
Bombs: 2x 250 lb bombs or
1x 500 lb bomb

Comparable Aircraft Bell P-39 Airacobra
Curtiss P-40

Dewoitine D.520
Focke-Wulf Fw 190
Hawker Hurricane
Hawker Tempest
Kawasaki Ki-61
Messerschmitt Bf 109
N.A. P-51 Mustang
Supermarine Seafire
Yakovlev Yak-9

Designer R. J. Mitchell

The Supermarine Spitfire is a British World War II fighter aircraft, which saw worldwide service during the war and the years afterward. The Spitfire was first introduced in 1938 and continued in operational service until the 23rd November 1954.[1] During its sixteen year service, the Spitfire saw action in the Battle of Britain, the Mediterranean, mainland Europe, Africa, the Pacific, Israel and many other places worldwide, making it one of the most globally active fighter aircraft ever built. Today several remain in operational condition, mainly with British enthusiast clubs such as the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. [2]

Origins[edit | edit source]

As tensions between Britain and Nazi Germany heated up, the Air Ministry decided that a new fast, sleek fighter aircraft was necessary to complement the Hawker Hurricane, as a large proportion of British air power at the time still consisted of ageing biplanes like the Bristol Bulldog and Gloster Gladiator. R.J.Mitchell saw this as an opportunity, and, learning from his previous designs, came up with a new design based on the Supermarine Type 224. Mitchell, eager to see this aircraft enter service, was dissappointed as the Air Ministry declined his design.

Mitchell, however, did not give up. Making several changes, such as an enclosed cockpit and sleeker wings, he submitted a design featuring the new Rolls-Royce Merlin engine. The owner of Supermarine, Vickers-Armstrongs, saw potential in his design, and helped Mitchell into the late design stage of the aircraft. It wasn't long before the Air Ministry took notice, and on the 1st December 1934, contract AM 361140/34 was issued, which gave Mitchell £10,000 to see the aircraft through to the production stage. This was to become specification F10/35, which was the groundwork of the Spitfire.[3]

The first prototype, K5054, first flew on the 5th March 1936. Captain Joseph Summers, who piloted the aircraft, described it (along with several other test pilots) as a competent machine, but perhaps not as good as it could be. Several fallacies included a fairly slow speed (just 330 mph), which was little more than the Hurricane was capable of, and its controls were prone to exaggerating slight movements, making the aircraft unstable.[3] However, its climb rate of 2500 ft per minute was good for the time, and with a more streamlined propeller fitted, the Spitfire reached speeds of nearly 350 mph.

The Spitfire was first shown to the public on the 27th June 1936, but because of delays the first production variant was not made until 1938.[5]

Operational History in the RAF[edit | edit source]

Pre War[edit | edit source]

The first Spitfires were delivered to No.19 Squadron at Duxford on the 4th August 1938.[6] This was only a few months after the first Hawker Hurricanes had been delivered, and they were a welcomed replacement for the aged Gloster Gauntlet, which the squadron had previously been operating. K9789 was the first aircraft delivered [4], and it wasn't long before No.66 Squadron, which also operated from Duxford, too received their first aircraft, K9802.

At the end of 1938, the RAF still only had two fully-equipped Spitfire squadrons, prompting a boost in production in anticipation of war with Germany, and although the Castle Bromwich factory was supposed to soon start its Spitfire production, delays meant it would not do so until June 1940.[8] However, by the declaration of war on the 3rd September 1939, nine squadrons had been equipped with Spitfires, including those at Hornchurch and Church Fenton. By this stage, 306 Mk1 Spitfires had been produced, the first of many.

Pilots soon noted a few flaws with the first Spitfires - the two-blade propellers could not be adjusted for takeoff and cruising, and the shape of the cockpit did not allow for much headroom. These were soon rectified on future aircraft, and the pre existing examples were modified to suit. Upgrades like bullet resistant windscreens and thicker armour were also soon fitted in the aim of improving the aircrafts battle hardiness. Originally, the guns consisted of 8 .303 Browning machine guns, but later the first Hispano cannons were fitted to L1007.

The Air Ministry, unimpressed with delay after delay, was considering cancelling the aircraft in favour of using the would-be vacant production space to produce aircraft like the Hurricane and Beaufighter. However, the Air Ministry were convinced to stay with the type, and approximately 2000 orders were placed to Supermarine for the aircraft.[5]

1939: The Phoney War[edit | edit source]

On the outbreak of war, it wasn't long before the Spitfire saw its first action. On the 16th October, British warships came under attack in the Firth of Forth, Scotland by 9 Junkers Ju-88 bombers of 1/KG 30 squadron.[6] 6 Spitfires intercepted the bombers, shooting down 2 and badly damaging one. Soon English Spitfires managed to shoot down a Heinkel He-111 near Whitby.

Flying Officer 'Shorty' Longbotham soon suggested that the Spitfire also be employed in the reconnaissance role, and in October 1939 two Mk1 Spitfires were converted for the role, with changes including 2 5-inch camera fixtures, the removal of armament and the addition of a glossy paint finish for camouflague purposes. As 1939 wore on, the Spitfire saw more and more combat experience over Britain, with only one example being sent to France before the German takeover.[7]

During 1940, it became obvious that it would be necessary to conduct patrols over the English Channel, and on the 10th May it was officially authorised. On the 23rd May, Spitfires and Bf 109s clashed for the first time resulting in three Spitfires and four enemy aircraft being shot down. In the evacuation of Dunkirk and the Battle of France a further 67 Spitfires were lost, highlighting to the RAF the need for revised formation tactics when fighting the Bf 109s.

1941: The Battle of Britain[edit | edit source]

As France fell, Britain responded with reconnaissance. Dozens of Spitfires, painted in pink for low altitudes, light blue for mid altitudes and deep blue for high altitudes took up this work, trawling the French coastline to pick out German positions. However, their work was to be disrupted by the Battle of Britain which started on the 10th July 1940, and caused a rush in Spitfire production to keep up with demand to intercept German bomber aircraft. Fighting alongside the Hurricane, the Spitfire soon overshadowed its more common cousin and became idolised as the saviour of Britain. In the early stages, issues with the Spitfires thinner wings meant that the guns were much less effective, making the Hurricane a much more suitable aircraft in this respect, however Spitfires were employed more extensively against fighter escorts where this was not so much of an issue, whilst the less agile Hurricanes dealt with the bombers.[12]

A Spitfire MkII

The sheer number of Hurricanes meant that statistically Hurricanes shot down many more aircraft than the Spitfires, although Spitfires had a higher kill/kill ratio. The early Spitfires, fitted with Merlin engines, were capable of 1030 hp but as 100 octane fuel became available emergency power, which boosted the output by 280 hp for 5 minutes, became an option for the Spitfire pilots. Between 1st August and 31st October, 208 Spitfires were shot down in combat.[13]

Against the Bf 109, the Spitfire was more maneuverable, although the 109 was more stable when close to a stall. This meant that in dives the 109 could rapidly change its airspeed and cause the Spitfire to overshoot. The 109 also carried 300 rounds for each of its 8 machine guns, giving it the ability to fire for much longer, 16 seconds of sustained fire in total. However, the Spitfire, unlike the 109, carried fuel drop tanks which dramatically increased its range, and whilst the 109 could only remain in the air for an hour or so, the Spitfire could stay up for much longer.

1940-1942: Battle over France & Europe[edit | edit source]

As the war progressed, the RAF began sending sorties into French airspace for the first time since the fall of France, consisting of a few Spitfires or Hurricanes, but soon, in an attempt to draw out German aircraft, heavily defended bomber squadrons were sent out. This was costly, and few German aircraft were actually shot down in the process, however the RAF were now staking their claim to France once more.

By June, MkII Spitfires replaced all the MkIs, with the obsolete aircraft being used for training purposes. However, MkIIs were also soon phased out with the newly developed MkV, which performed better at high altitude in an aim to combat the new Bf 109s which the Germans had developed. The Germans were now unwilling to fight air battles in the west unless the conditions were balanced well in their favour, with the majority of German air forces being directed at the Russian front. Due to this, the need for the replacement MkVI was less urgent, and the MkV stayed in production for a long time, producing the most examples of any one type of Spitfire.

September saw the launch of the Focke-Wulf Fw-190, a new German fighter which was far superior to the Mk5s which currently constituted the majority of the RAF Spitfires. The RAF was now in urgent need of the MkVI, whose improved performance had a chance to counter the Fw-190. A long standing issue with the Spitfire had been its tendency to cut out when a negative g dive took place, limiting its dogfighting capacity. However, at the end of the year, a new carburettor for the Merlin engine completely eradicated this problem, helping the Spitfire to compete with the Fw-190.[8]

With the mounting losses (almost 200 pilots in June, July and August), Winston Churchill ordered that fighter sweeps over France be suspended during November.[9] At the start of 1942, several Spitfires intercepted two German battlecruisers with a heavy fighter escort in the form of Fw-190s. Whilst neither ship was sunk, several Fw-190s engaged in combat with the Spitfires, giving the RAF a chance to gauge their opponents aircraft.

Over the next few months, many MkV Spitfire pilots were put to the test against the Fw-190, and it soon became clear that the Fw-190s powerful engine and good roll rate gave it the edge in combat, as 59 MkV Spitfires were lost in April 1942 alone. The MkVI soon came into operation, phasing out the MkVs and helping to bridge the gap between the MkV and the Fw-190, being specialised in high altitude operations.[10] Furthermore, the MkIX was also debuted, as a stop-gap defence against the Fw-190 until a purpose-built variant, titled the VIII, could be designed. However, the MkIX turned out to be a great success, and 5665 were built.

Sheer luck meant that in June a German Fw-190 landed at Pembrey by mistake. The RAF leaped on this opportunity, and after extensive testing found it to be far superior to the MkV Spitfire in all but tight turns. Awaiting the MkIX, many MkVs still in service subsequently had their wings 'clipped' by 4ft 4 inches, which improved their maneuverability substantially. The supercharger was also updated to compete with that in the Fw-190.

A MkIX Spitfire

No.64 Squadron recieved the first MkIXs in July, and against the Fw-190 it was shown to be as good, if not better. Soon more and more MkIXs were put into service, countering the Luftwaffe's new strategy of mounting hit and run attacks on RAF formations. The seaborne invasion of Dieppe also gave RAF crews valuable lessons in landing operations, as 88 out of the 106 allied fighters pressed into action in the invasion were fighters, mostly Spitfires.

1942: North Africa[edit | edit source]

After spending years woefully under supplied, the North Africa campaign saw its first Spitfires in the form of 15 modified MkVs which left HMS Eagle bound for Malta. More and more aircraft arrived, and by August all air support on Malta was Spitfire-based. MkVs at Gibraltar were modified further, being lightened and having extra fuel tanks fitted to make the 1100 mile trip from Gibraltar to Malta, and October saw the first of many of these flights, resupplying the Malta air defence force. In operations over Sicily, Malta's Spitfires were fitted with 250kg bombs, unheard of beforehand, and they operated successfully in the fighter bomber role.

No.145 Squadron was the first desert squadron to recieve Spitfires, and it did so in April. Many of these aircraft were also modified, with the standard guns being replaced with two 0.5mm machine guns and having engine tweaks for better performance at high altitude. These aircraft were then used, among other roles, to shoot down reconaissance aircraft at around 50,000 ft.

The Seafire, the naval variant of the Spitfire, also saw service in North Africa, shooting down aircraft over Morocco and Algeria. However, the Fw-190s also arrived in North Africa by November, so to counter these the RAF supplied Spitfires to supplement No.145 Squadron.

1943: Encroaching on the Fatherland[edit | edit source]

By 1943, the majority of Spitfires in Europe had been upgraded to MkIXs, which were now utilised in the escort bomber role and in fighter sweeps. In aid of the United States bombing efforts over Germany, Spitfires were provided as escort aircraft at the beginning and end of the missions, helping to protect the vulnerable bombers from enemy Me 109s and Fw-190s. Early 1943 also saw the introduction of the Griffon-engined Spitfire - for years now the Merlin engine had been the mainstay of the aircraft but advances in technology called for a more powerful, better performing engine and the Griffon provided this. Just 100 MkXII were built, but their Griffon engine proved effective against German Fw-190s in almost all circumstances.

Almost anticipating the MkXII's success at low altitudes, very few German fighters were willing to be drawn into combat, so the plane itself had little combat success, however, it paved the way for later variants.[11] The now obsolete Spitfire MkIIs were employed in Air Sea Rescue missions, equipped with a drop pack including a dinghy and various supplies. The idea was that the Spitfire would provide cover and defend itself until a larger Walrus rescue aircraft could land on the water and pick up the stranded air crew.

Many Spitfires were used by other countries, notably the Soviet Union

May saw many Spitfires being sent to Russia - 143 MkVs were sent to the country, and later in the war 1200 MkIXs would follow. Portugal and Turkey also recieved MkVs, and the US continued to operate many of the aircraft.

By May the MkVII finally started coming into service, however its performance proved no better than current MkIXs and MkXIIs, and so few squadrons were equipped with it.[12] Spitfires over the English Channel now engaged in strafing runs of enemy airfields over France, however this proved costly and unsuccessful, so it did not last for long. Japan's entry into the war in 1942 prompted the fitting of floats to Spitfires to make them into seaplane fighters. Four of these were sent to Egypt but the German occupation of Dodecanese halted their possible success.

The invasion of Sicily saw both Spitfires and Seafires being pressed into service, and the operation was a success. In North Africa, as the campaign entered its closing stages, Spitfires were used to inflict damage on the Luftwaffe's transport fleet with great success. Spitfires here engaged and destroyed enemy Me 109s and Ju-52s. Landings on Italy were also helped by Spitfire support, most notably in the fighter bomber role.

The 'Noball' operations in Europe against V-1 launch sites were a chance for the Spitfire to escort Hurricanes in an attempt to neutralise the enemy V-1 threat, resulting in the destruction of several launch sites. In addition, No.607 Squadron, No.615 Squadron and No.136 Squadron were all based in Darwin, Australia with Spitfire MkVs to counter Japanese air raids in or around the surrounding area.[13] When compared to the Zero, the Spitfire was faster but the lighter Zero had the edge in maneuverability, so tight turning dogfights were not advised.

September 1943 saw an influx of Spitfires into the Far East as more became available, providing RAF air power in the area with a major boost in the fight against the Japanese. These planes had a good success rate against Japanese bomber and reconnaissance aircraft.

1944: Retaliation in France[edit | edit source]

At the beginning of the year, the latest Spitfire variant, the MkXIV, entered service with No.610 Squadron in preparation for the landings at Normandy. Considered superior to the Me 109 and Fw-190, the MkXIV enjoyed astounding success in the year to come. D-Day was another oppurtunity for the MkXIV and previous marks to perform in battle - 55 squadrons of Spitfire fighters took part in the event. Several more were used for aerial reconnaissance and general spotting duties, and everything from the now ageing MkV to the MkXIV was used.

In fact, a large proportion of this air power was wasted as very few German aircraft intercepted the landing operations, and the operation went unhitched, resulting in the capturing of Normandy and the placing of several Spitfire squadrons in the area, the first of which, No.222 Squadron, flew Spitfire MkIXs and landed on the 10th June. The retreating German army, who now occupied the Falaise gap, were bombarded with Hawker Typhoon and Spitfire squadrons who fired bombs, rockets and bullets at the soldiers and artillery.

A Spitfire duelling with a V-1 flying bomb

The 12th June saw the start of the V-1 rocket attacks on England. In total, 11 squadrons were called up, consisting of mainly Spitfires, but also Tempest Vs who were fast enough to catch the V-1s in level flight, whereas the Spitfires relied on intercepting them. MkXIIs and XIVs were lightened and polished to improve their speed, and soon made great bounds in destroying incoming V-1s.[14]

In the drive to Rhine, many Spitfires occupied the role of fighter bomber, taking out specific targets. Spitfires of No.401 Squadron were credited with killing the first Me 262 jet fighter. At the end of the year, on the 23rd December, Spitfires escorted medium bombers in an effort to qualm the German offensive through the Ardennes.

1945: Road to Berlin[edit | edit source]

The year got off to a bad start, with the Luftwaffe employing roughly 800 aircraft against Allied airfields in a final attempt to halt their success. No.302 Squadron, No.308 Squadron and No.317 Squadron suffered heavy aircraft losses, losing about 20 Spitfires, most of whom were lost from forced landings, but several were lost in combat. Canadian squadrons also suffered losses, including the loss of six pilots in combat.[15]

Spitfires managed to down 56 aircraft, mainly Bf 109s and Fw-190s, but in total 200 Allied aircraft were lost, mostly on the ground. Mk21s were now entering service, with No.91 Squadron recieving several in January, however the end of the war would mean only 120 would be built. These aircraft claimed several early kills, including a midget submarine which they strafed as it surfaced. Many Spitfires were now employed in escort roles to Lancaster and Halifax bombers in daylight raids on German towns, cities, and military sites. Other Spitfires were employed in the dive bomber role with up to 500lb bombs, or as fighter bombers armed with rockets against ground installations.

The war in the East also raged on, with 21 Spitfire squadrons participating, nine of whom were part of the Indian Air Force. These aircraft were mostly MkVIIIs, and several Seafires aboard HMS Indefatigable performed successful attacks on Japanese forces. The end of the war soon came, and Spitfires were dramatically cut back, however they would continue to serve for several more years.

Post War[edit | edit source]

The final Spitfire variant, the Mk24

After World War II, Spitfires continued to operate as part of the RAF and other air forces worldwide, and Spitfires continued to be produced on a much cut back production schedule. The end of 1946 saw only two home front-line squadrons operating Spitfires, mainly Mk21s and MkXVIs. The Auxiliary Air Force continued to operate many Spitfires, and at its peak 13 of its squadrons were equipped with Spitfires.

1947 saw six Spitfires fly to Hong Kong with the intention of reinforcing the colony. No.28 Squadron and No.80 Squadron both moved to Hong Kong to protect against the Chinese, but by 1951 these squadrons had given up their Spitfires for more modern jet fighters. The Malayan Emergency in May 1948 promted No.28 Squadron and No.60 Squadron to both enter action with a mixture of Mk18s and Mk19s. They participated by destroying several terrorist camps and in February 1949 Spitfires, equipped with 20lb fragmentation bombs, worked in conjunction with Beaufighters to kill approx. 9 terrorists. Further attacks also resulted in terrorist deaths, proving the Spitfires effectiveness.

Air reconnaissance missions continued to be operated by Spitfires, mostly Mk18s and Mk19s. Later on in 1951, the last ever offensive sorties flown by Spitfires occured on the 1st January, and the last reconnaissance mission was flown on 1st April 1954. Spitfires did not participate in the Korean war, and the last RAF use of a Spitfire was in 1957 when they were used with the Temperature and Humidity Flight before being replaced.

The Spitfires operational career spanned 10 years, and it continued to operate for long after that.

Flight Characteristics[edit | edit source]

Due to the Spitfires relative success, there are many accounts of its flight characteristics, many of which contradict each other. Generally, comments were positive, however the main criticisms were of the aircrafts poor visibility on the ground.

Douglas Bader, a member of No.222 Squadron, commented on the Spitfires handling in 1940: "The Spitfire looked good and was good. But my first reaction was that it was bad for handling on the ground..." He went on to say: "The view at take-off was restricted in the same way until you were travelling fast enough to lift the tail; only then could you see over the nose." Indeed, it was not until later marks that the issue of visibility from the ground was addressed.

However, once in the air, Bader enjoyed the aircraft's characteristics: "The controls were light, positive and synchronized; in fact, the aeroplane of one's dreams. It was stable; it flew hands and feet off; yet you could move it quickly and effortlessly into any attitude. You brought it in to land at 75 mph and touched down at 60-65 mph. Its maximum speed was 367 mph. You thus had a wide speed range which has not been equalled before or since."[16]

Richard Hillary, a member of No.603 Squadron, also commented on the Spitfire, mainly on its handling: "With one or two very sharp movements on the stick I blacked myself out for a few seconds, but the machine was sweeter to handle than any other that I had flown. I put it through every manoeuvre that I knew of and it responded beautifully. I ended with two flick rolls and turned back for home. I was filled with a sudden exhilarating confidence. I could fly a Spitfire; in any position I was its master. It remained to be seen whether I could fight in one."

Alan Deere, a member of both No.602 Squadron and No.403 Squadron (later in the war), commented on the Spitfire's merits when compared with the Me 109 and Hurricane: " In fact, the Hurricane, though vastly more manoeuvrable than either the Spitfire or the Me 109, was so sadly lacking in speed and rate of climb, that its too-short combat experience against the 109 was not a valid yardstick for comparison. The Spitfire, however, possessed these two attributes to such a degree that, coupled with a better rate of turn than the Me 109, it had the edge overall in combat."

Variants[edit | edit source]

There were many variants of the Spitfire over the years, below is the majority, if not all, of the variants produced.


The 9th production Spitfire ever made, K9795

  • K5054 (Type 300) - The first prototype of the Spitfire. First flying on the 5th March 1936,[22] construction of K5054 started in December 1934. Being used for initial testing, K5054 flew many times with various test pilots and paved the way for the MkI. The plane was to fly in various paint schemes until the 4th September 1939, when a misjudged landing resulted in a crash which eventually led to the death of the pilot due to neck injuries. Parts of the prototype were then used to test camera mountings for early reconnaissance Spitfires.[23]
  • Speed Spitfire (Type 323) - A Spitfire designed to beat the world landplane speed record. Funded by the Air Ministry, this design was stripped of all armament and generally lightened and streamlined. The Merlin II engine was specially fuelled to give extra power, allowing it to generate 2100 hp for small amounts of time. The propeller was also changed, and the wingspan was reduced whilst the wingtips were rounded. Its first flight was on 11th November 1938, and by February 1939 it managed 408 mph. When German aircraft again upped the speed record, the project was scrapped as the prototype would need even more modifications to reach the required speed. The aircraft was scrapped in June 1946.[24]
  • N3297 (Type 348) - A modified MkIII Spitfire fitted with a prototype Merlin 60 engine, basically the startings of the MkIX.

Production variants for the RAF:

  • MkI (Type 300) (1567 built in total) - As the first production variant, the first MkI was delivered in July 1938, after numerous delays relating to the production of the aircraft. Powered by the Merlin MkII engine producing 1030 hp, it continued to fly well into the early war.
    • MkIa - A type of MkI fitted with 8 Browning machine guns.
    • MkIB - A type of MkI fitted with 2 Hispano cannons.
    • MkI PR Type A - The first reconnaissance Spitfires, the PR Type As carried two F.24 cameras and heating equipment was fitted to stop the cameras freezing over. They were capable of 390 mph.[25]
    • MkI PR Type B (Medium Range (MR)) - A reconnaissance variant with upgraded 8 inch cameras and an extra fuel tank. Most were fitted with the Merlin XII engine.
    • MkI PR Type C/PR MkIII (Long Range (LR)) - A reconnaissance variant with 655 litres of fuel, able to reach as far as Kiel. An extra fuel tank and larger oil tank were both fitted.
    • MkI PR Type D/PR MkIV (Extra Super Long Range) - A totally redesigned reconnaissance variant, carrying extra fuel in its wings. It also carried two 8 inch F.24 cameras., or two 20 inch F.8 cameras.
    • MkI PR Type E/PR MkV - Just a single example of this reconnaissance variant was ever built, specialising in oblique close up photography. Its cameras were positioned accordingly, facing forwards, being splayed out slightly and angled down slightly.
    • MkI PR Type F/PR MkVI - Whilst waiting for the Type D, the Type F served as a stop gap, carrying several external fuel tanks and a 29 gal tank in the rear fuselage. Many Type Bs and Cs were converted to this variant, and it was often used to photograph Berlin.
    • MkI PR Type G/PR MkVII - Similar in role to the Type E, the Type G could not only photograph oblique close ups, but also standard aerial photographs with two vertically mounted cameras, and many operated with Merlin 45 engines.

A prototype MkIII, N3297, fitted with a Merlin 60 engine

  • MkII (Type 329) (921 built in total) - Fitted with a 1175 hp Merlin XII engine, the MkII had an increased top speed (by 7 mph) over the late MkI, and had a better climb rate. It entered service in late 1939/early 1940.[26]
    • MkIIA - A type of MkII fitted with 8 Browning machine guns.
    • MkIIB - A type of MkII fitted with 2 Hispano cannons.
    • MkIIC (Type 375)/A.S.R. MkII - Many old MkIIs were converted into MkIICs or A.S.R. MkIIs, specialised Air Sea Rescue variants which used the Merlin XX engine and several modifications were made, including the fitting of a rescue pack in the flare chute and smoke marker bombs.
    • MkII 'Long Range' - Specialised MkIIs fitted with a 40gal fuel tank and used for bomber escort duties.
  • MkIII (Type 330) - An improvement on the basic Spitfire design, the MkIII was powered by the Merlin XX engine, developing 1390 hp. The wingspan and wing area was reduced, and ground stability was improved. The MkIII first flew on the 16th March 1940, and was fitted with a fully retractable tailwheel. Capable of 400 mph, the MkIII soon fell out of favour with the development of the new MkV.[27]
  • MkV (Type 331, 349 & 352) (6,479 built in total) - Acting as a stop gap until the MkVI could be made, the MkV found success and was the most produced variant of the Spitfire. Based heavily on the MkI, it was fitted with the Merlin 45 engine, producing 1440 hp.
    • MkVA - A type of MkV fitted with 8 Browning machine guns. 94 were built.
    • MkVB - Much more successful than the MkVA, the B was fitted with Hispano cannons and different exhaust stacks. A bigger oil cooler was also fitted.
    • MkVB Trop (Type 352) - A variant of the MkVB with a Vokes air filter, reducing performance substantially, but necessitated by desert conditions. A desert survival pack and camouflage paint scheme were also applied.
    • MkVC (Type 349) - This updated MkV variant featured a strengthened fuselage and new windscreen design. A new undercarriage and wing design also featured, and a larger oil cooler became standard issue. To improve the variants survivability, more armour plating was applied.
    • MkVC Trop (Type 352/6) - Similarly modified to the VB Trop, the VC Trop also had a Vokes air filter and featured many other features which specialised it for desert operations.
    • PR MkXIII (Type 367) - An improvement over the PR Type G reconnaissance aircraft, the MkXIII featured the Merlin 32 engine, which was specialised for low altitude flying. Carrying 4 Browning machine guns, it was also capable of defending itself during operations.
  • MkVI (Type 350) (100 built in total) - Built to replace the MkV, the MkVI was specialised in high altitude warfare against enemy bombers, and featured improved cabin pressurisation, and the Merlin 47 engine, making the aircraft capable of 356 mph. However, the high altitude enemy threat never really appeared, meaning that only 100 were ever built.
  • MkVII (Type 351) (140 built in total) - As with the MkVI, the MkVII was a high altitude variant, but was powered instead by a Merlin 64 or 71 engine, with two speed superchargers.
  • MkVIII (Type 360) (1,658 built in total) - Similar to the MkVII, the MkVIII lacked the pressurised cabin, and at first was supposed to become the main variant of the Spitfire. However, the MkIX proved exceptional and as such production of the MkVIII was cut back. However, it still remains one of the most numerous Spitfire marks built, and served heavily overseas and with the USAAF.
  • MkIX (Type 361) (5,656 built in total) - Built to rival the Fw-190, the MkIX featured the two-stage Merlin 61 engine, and many early models were modified MkVCs. Lacking aerodynamic improvements, the MkIX still did well against the Fw-190 until a more specialised variant could come into play.
    • MkIXB - A version of the MkIX with a Merlin 66 engine, producing 1720 hp.
    • H.F IX - A MkIX variant which utilised the high altitude Merlin 70 engine, which entered service in early 1944.

Legacy[edit | edit source]

Detail information on surviving examples, recognition by RAF pilots, etc.


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