The Supermarine Spitfire 

Great Britain
Great Britain

side view front view under view

Do I really have to introduce one of the legendary aircraft of World War 2? Probably not, but good stories are worth telling them often, and the Spitfire's story could be told endlessly in my opinion .
Together with the Hawker Hurricane the Spitfire fought the Battle of Britain (summer, autumn of 1940), the worlds first air-only battle, against the German Luftwaffe. The persistence of the British pilots, the capabilities of their fighters, and the tactical errors made by the german Luftwaffe upper command ensured Britain a victory in this battle. Always outnumbered, but aided by radar, the British pilots where in the air exactly when and where they were needed, in just the right numbers. But the story of the Spitfire dates further back in time.

Supermarine originally specialized in the design and construction of marine aircraft, mostly in the forms of flying boats and amphibian flying boats. R.J. Mitchell had been involved in several of these types, but came to the fore as the chief designer of the S.5, S.6 and S.6B racing floatplanes with which the UK finally secured outright victory in the prestigious Schneider Trophy racing series before the S.6B secured a world air speed record of 307.5 mph (655.8 km/h) in September 1931.
These experiences with the Schneider Trophy racers made Mitchell and his design team one of world’s most effective/efficient teams in designing high-speed aircraft. Supermarine was consequently convinced that it should consider designing fighter aircraft as well. The last incentive for this change was the issue of the Air Ministry’s F.7/30 requirement for a fighter with an armament of 4 × 0.303 inch (7,7 mm) machine guns.
Supermarines entry to the contest, the Type 224, was one of eight prototypes produced to this requirement. The type 224 was a low-wing monoplane with an inverted-gull wing with ‘trousered’ main units of the fixed tailskid landing gear extending downward from the wing ‘knuckles’, with four machine guns disposed as two weapon in the sides of the forward fuselage and the other two in the main landing gear unit ‘trousers’, and an open cockpit in the narrow fuselage. It was powered by a Rolls-Royce Goshawk Vee engine using an evaporative cooling system based on the installation of condensers in the wing leading edges: the cooling system was weighty, complex, vulnerable and never wholly successful. Despite its monoplane layout, the Type 224 was slower in level flight and the climb than the Gloster S.S.37 biplane prototype that secured the production order and entered service as the Gladiator Mk I.
Even though Supermarine wasn't rewarded with a contract in it's first entry for a military type, they weres determined to continue with the design of fighters, and next evolved the Type 300 design. This was offered to the Air Ministry in the middle of 1934 as a development of the Type 224 with an enclosed cockpit and retractable landing gear. The adoption of this later meant that they was no need for the wing to be ‘knuckled’, and the wing was now a straight-tapered dihedraled unit carrying two machine guns in its leading edges. Supermarine proposed that it should be contracted to revise the Type 224 prototype to this improved standard with a maximum level speed estimated at 270 mph (377 km/h), which was some 30 mph (48 km/h) faster than the Type 224, but the Air Ministry did not like the concept and refused to provide funding.
Supermarine decided to continue with refining the Type 300, and by November 1934 this had reached a definitive state with a more refined fuselage somewhat like the one of the eventual Spitfire, the straight-tapered wing of the original Type 300 but with all four machine guns in its leading edges, and after initial consideration of the Napier Dagger, a powerplant of one Rolls-Royce P.V.12 Vee engine that was eventually to mature as the Merlin and offered almost twice the power of the Goshawk. In this form the Type 300 clearly possessed far greater potential than in its original form, and in November 1934 the board of Vickers authorized Mitchell to proceed to the detail design stage with an eventual view to the construction of a private-venture prototype. The Air Ministry had been kept informed of developments, and in December 1934 agreed to cover the costs of prototype construction. The F.37/34 requirement was written round the definitive Type 300 design, and differed from the F.7/30 requirement in only two significant details, namely the powerplant and the location of all four machine guns in the wing leading edges outboard of the disc swept by the propeller.

This last factor reflects the increasing importance now attached by the Air Ministry to heavy firepower. Up to the time of the F.7/30 requirement this had been standardized as 2 × 0.303 inch (7,7 mm) Vickers machine guns, which were somewhat unreliable weapons and had therefore to be installed with their breeches within reach of the pilot so that jammed rounds could be cleared. By the late 1920s it was becoming clear that an armament of two medium-caliber machine guns was inadequate for the destruction of the type of increasingly large and sturdily-constructed bomber that was then appearing, and the Air Ministry therefore opted for an armament of four medium-caliber machine guns of which two were still to be within reach of the pilot. This led to the F.7/30 requirement and the evolution of plans for a series of prototypes for the evaluation of different armament calibers, numbers and configurations: this series included one- and two-man fighters with fixed and/or trainable machine gun and/or cannon armament.
In order to be able to destroy modern bombers, the Air Ministry decided that the short term ideal solution would be eight medium-caliber machine guns allowed to fire at the highest possible rate by being installed in the wing leading edges outboard of the disc swept by the propeller. The highest possible rate of fire was made possible by the removal of synchronization equipment, and the eight-gun battery ensured a hail of fire that must inevitably, it was thought, inflict decisive damage on the crew, airframe or powerplant. One of the first requirements calling for an eight-gun armament was Requirement F.5/34, and this was revised in the following year to the F.10/35 requirement calling for six or preferably eight machine guns with 400 or 300 rounds per gun respectively in a single-seat interceptor optimized for the destruction of bombers. The details of this requirement reached Supermarine in April 1935, just as it was completing the mock-up of the Type 300. As an Air Ministry team was completing its inspection of the mock-up, it was agreed by both parties that the Type 300 could readily be adapted to carry eight machine guns and thereby meet the F.10/35 requirement, which by comparison with the F.7/30 also demanded less internal fuel capacity and no provision for light bombs. Thus this would be more of an interceptor. Mitchell soon proved that two additional guns could be installed in each wing, and the additional weight of these weapons and their ammunition was offset by the reduction in internal fuel capacity from 94 to 75 Imp gal (113 to 90 US gal; 427 to 341 liters) to ensure that performance was unaffected except in range, which was not a primary requirement in a type optimized for the interceptor role.
Between the Air Ministry’s order and the initial prototype a period of intense design development was carried out. The most important of the changes was that effected to the wing, which was revised to an elliptical planform that became one of the trademarks of the Spitfire and offered a better combination of aerodynamic and structural factors than the straight-tapered wing originally envisaged. The head-on view of the aeroplane was given a distinctive asymmetric aspect by the installation of the engine coolant radiator in a semi-submerged ducted position under the starboard wing, and the somewhat smaller oil cooler under the port wing. Considerable efforts were also made to improve performance as much as possibly be the elimination or, at worst, refinement of all drag-producing features, and these efforts were not in vain resulting in improved performance. The one major factor of the requirement that Supermarine virtually ignored was ease of production, which turned out to be a drawback later when World War 2 was a fact

The Type 300 was conceived as a basically all-metal aircraft with an oval-section fuselage of semi-monocoque construction, a cantilever tail unit with metal-covered fixed surfaces of highly curvaceous shape and fabric-covered control surfaces. the wing was low-set and dihedraled, of stressed-skin construction with outboard fabric-covered ailerons and inboard metal-covered split flaps that were pneumatically operated. The landing gear was a tailskid landing gear including outward-retracting main landing gear units whose narrow track was selected to simplify the structural design of the wing and its attachments to the fuselage. The length of the main landing gear legs, designed to provide the propeller with adequate ground clearance, combined with the long nose that reduced the pilot’s forward fields on vision on the ground (resulting in a serpentine taxiing process so that the pilot could see past one side of the nose and then the other), and the narrow track of the main landing gear units also made the Type 300 less stable on the ground that would have been the case with inward-retracting units of wider track, as had been adopted for the Hurricane. The airframe was completed by the cockpit, which was a smallish and somewhat cramped installation in line with the wing root trailing edges and covered by a low rearward-sliding canopy.

The Type 300 prototype, completed to the F.37/34 standard as revised to accord with the F.10/35 specification, made its maiden flight in March 1936 with a powerplant of one Rolls-Royce Merlin ‘C’ Vee engine, rated at 990 hp (738 kW) for take-off and driving a two-blade de Havilland wooden propeller of the fixed-pitch type.
Sadly, R.J.Mitchell died shortly after this in 1937, and design leadership for the fighter was assumed by Joseph ‘Joe’ Smith. The manufacturer and service trials revealed no major problems, and the Type 300 emerged from this stage of its development with the assessment that it could be handled without difficulty by the average service pilot, who would have the benefit of well-harmonized controls that provided excellent maneuverability without interfering with the Type 300’s steadiness as a gun platform. The only two changes recommended at this stage were larger flaps capable of a greater deflection angle to overcome the Type 300’s tendency to ‘float’ while landing, and a cockpit canopy that was easier to open at speeds over 300 mph (483 km/h) to increase the pilot’s chances of baling out successfully. Other changes during development flying were:

The Type 300 prototype was lost in a landing accident during September 1939, but by this time the new fighter had entered production and service as the Spitfire Mk I.

Version list:

Further pictures:

Supermarine Spitfire Mk I during take-off or landing
Supermarine Spitfire Mk I during take-off or landing

Supermarine Spitfire Mk IA's in formation in full flight
Supermarine Spitfire Mk IA's in formation in full flight

Supermarine Spitfire Mk VC on a desert landing strip. Note the Vokes air filter under the nose
Supermarine Spitfire Mk VC on a desert landing strip. Note the Vokes air filter under the nose

Supermarine Spitfire Mk VC's in full flight. Note the Vokes air filter under the nose
Supermarine Spitfire Mk VC's in full flight. Note the Vokes air filter under the nose

 

Technical data on the Supermarine Spitfire Mk IA
Powerplant 1 × Rolls Royce Merlin III Vee, rated at 1030 hp (767.85 kW) Role during war
  • Air superiority Fighter
  • Fighter
  • Fighter-bomber
  • Night-Fighter
  • Reconnaissance Aircraft
Length 29 ft 11 inch Height 12 ft 7.75 inch
Empty weight 4517 lb Operational weight 5844 lb typical,
6200 lb max
Wing Span 36 ft 10 inch Wing Aspect ratio 5.61
Wing Area 242 sq ft Service ceiling 30500 ft
Maximum speed 365 mph at 19000 ft Cruising speed 304 mph at 15000 ft
Initial climb rate 2,500 ft per min,
Climb to 15,000 ft in 6 min 51 sec
Range 425 miles typical,
610 miles max
Fuel capacity internal 84 Imp gal (101 US gal) Fuel capacity external -
Machine guns
  • 8 × 0.303 inch Browning Mk II fixed forward-firing in the wing leading edges, 300 rounds each
Cannons -
Bomb load - Torpedoes/rockets -
Crew 1 Naval or ground based Ground
First flight (prototype) 5 March 1936 Operational Service July 1938 - late 1950's
Manufacturer Supermarine Division of Vickers-Armstrongs Ltd. Number produced 20.351 total, 1.583 this version
Metric system
Length 9.12 m Height 3.85 m
Empty weight 2049 kg Operational weight 2651 kg typical,
2812 kg max
Wing Span 11.23 m Wing Aspect ratio 5.61
Wing Area 22.48 m² Service ceiling 9296 m
Maximum speed 587 km/h at 5791 m Cruising speed 489 km/h at 4572 m
Initial climb rate 762 m per min,
Climb to 4.570 m in 6 min 51 sec
Range 684 km typical,
982 km max
Fuel capacity internal 382 liters Fuel capacity external -
Machine guns
  • 8 × 7,7 mm Browning Mk II fixed forward-firing in the wing leading edges, 300 rounds each
Cannons -
Bomb load - Torpedoes/rockets -

Technical data on the Supermarine Spitfire Mk VC
Powerplant 1 × Rolls Royce Merlin 45 Vee, rated at 1470 hp (1095.87 kW) Role during war
  • Air superiority Fighter
  • Fighter
  • Fighter-bomber
  • Night-Fighter
  • Reconnaissance Aircraft
Length 29 ft 11 inch Height 11 ft 4.75 inch
Empty weight 5050 lb Operational weight 6650 lb max
Wing Span 36 ft 10 inch Wing Aspect ratio 5.61
Wing Area 242 sq ft Service ceiling 37000 ft
Maximum speed 374 mph at 13000 ft Cruising speed 322 mph at 20000 ft
Initial climb rate Climb to 20,000 ft in 7 min 30 sec Range 470 miles typical,
1135 miles max
Fuel capacity internal 84 Imp gal (101 US gal), plus provision for 29 Imp gal (35 US gal) of auxiliary fuel Fuel capacity external Up to 180 Imp gal (216 US gal) in one 170 Imp gal (142 US gal) ventral tank or two 90 or 45 Imp gal (108 or 54 US gal) drop tanks under the wings.
Machine guns
  • 4 × 0.303 inch Browning Mk II* fixed forward-firing in the wing leading edge, 350 rounds each
Cannons
  • 2 × 20 mm Hispano Mk II fixed forward-firing in the wing leading edge, 120 rounds each, or
  • 4 × 20 mm Hispano Mk II fixed forward-firing in the wing leading edge in stead of the 0.303 inch guns and 20 mm cannons from above. 120 Rounds each.
Bomb load Up to 500 lb of disposable stores carried on three hardpoints, one under the fuselage rated at 500 lb, two under the wing rated at 250 lb each. General disposables load consisted of:
  • 1 × 500 lb bomb, or
  • 2 × 250 lb bombs
Torpedoes/rockets -
Crew 1 Naval or ground based Ground
First flight (prototype) 5 March 1936 Operational Service July 1938 - late 1950's
Manufacturer Supermarine Division of Vickers-Armstrongs Ltd. Number produced 20.351 total, 2.447 this version
Metric system
Length 9.12 m Height 3.47 m
Empty weight 2291 kg Operational weight 3016 kg max
Wing Span 11.23 m Wing Aspect ratio 5.61
Wing Area 22.48 m² Service ceiling 11278 m
Maximum speed 602 km/h at 3962 m Cruising speed 518 km/h at 6096 m
Initial climb rate Climb to 6.095 m in 7 min 30 sec Range 756 km typical,
1827 km max
Fuel capacity internal 459 liters, plus provision for 132 liters of auxiliary fuel Fuel capacity external Up to 818 liters in one 773 liters ventral tank or two 491 or 246 liters drop tanks under the wings.
Machine guns
  • 4 × 7,7 mm Browning Mk II* fixed forward-firing in the wing leading edge, 350 rounds each
Cannons
  • 2 × 20 mm Hispano Mk II fixed forward-firing in the wing leading edge, 120 rounds each, or
  • 4 × 20 mm Hispano Mk II fixed forward-firing in the wing leading edge in stead of the 7,7 mm guns and 20 mm cannons from above. 120 Rounds each.
Bomb load Up to 227 kg of disposable stores carried on three hardpoints, one under the fuselage rated at 227 kg, two under the wing rated at 113 kg each. General disposables load consisted of:
  • 1 × 227 kg bomb, or
  • 2 × 113 kg bombs
Torpedoes/rockets -

Technical data on the Supermarine Spitfire F.Mk IX
Powerplant 1 × Rolls Royce Merlin 61 Vee, rated at 1565 hp (1166.69 kW) Role during war
  • Air superiority Fighter
  • Fighter
  • Fighter-bomber
  • Night-Fighter
  • Reconnaissance Aircraft
Length 31 ft 1 inch Height 12 ft 7.75 inch
Empty weight 5610 lb Operational weight 9500 lb max
Wing Span 36 ft 10 inch Wing Aspect ratio 5.61
Wing Area 242 sq ft Service ceiling 43000 ft
Maximum speed 408 mph at 25000 ft Cruising speed 324 mph at 20000 ft
Initial climb rate 3,950 ft per min,
Climb to 20,000 ft in 6 min 24 sec
Range 434 miles minimum,
980 miles max
Fuel capacity internal 84 Imp gal (101 US gal) Fuel capacity external Up to 90 Imp gal (108 US gal) in one drop tank
Machine guns
  • 4 × 0.303 inch Browning Mk II* fixed forward-firing in the wing leading edge, 300 rounds each
Cannons
  • 2 × 20 mm Hispano Mk II fixed forward-firing in the wing leading edge, 120 rounds each, or
  • 4 × 20 mm Hispano Mk II fixed forward-firing in the wing leading edge in stead of the 0.303 inch guns and 20 mm cannons from above. 120 Rounds each.
Bomb load Up to 1,000 lb of disposable stores carried on three hardpoints, one under the fuselage rated at 500 lb, two under the wing rated at 250 lb each. General disposables load consisted of:
  • 1 × 500 lb bomb, and/or
  • 2 × 250 lb bombs
Torpedoes/rockets -
Crew 1 Naval or ground based Ground
First flight (prototype) 5 March 1936 Operational Service July 1938 - late 1950's
Manufacturer Supermarine Division of Vickers-Armstrongs Ltd. Number produced 20.351 total, 5.665 F., L.F., or H.F.Mk IX versions
Metric system
Length 9.47 m Height 3.85 m
Empty weight 2545 kg Operational weight 4309 kg max
Wing Span 11.23 m Wing Aspect ratio 5.61
Wing Area 22.48 m² Service ceiling 13106 m
Maximum speed 657 km/h at 7620 m Cruising speed 521 km/h at 6096 m
Initial climb rate 1.204 m per min,
Climb to 6.095 in 6 min 24 sec
Range 698 km minimum,
1577 km max
Fuel capacity internal 382 liters Fuel capacity external Up to 409 liters in one drop tank
Machine guns
  • 4 × 7,7 mm Browning Mk II* fixed forward-firing in the wing leading edge, 300 rounds each
Cannons
  • 2 × 20 mm Hispano Mk II fixed forward-firing in the wing leading edge, 120 rounds each, or
  • 4 × 20 mm Hispano Mk II fixed forward-firing in the wing leading edge in stead of the 7,7 mm guns and 20 mm cannons from above. 120 Rounds each.
Bomb load Up to 454 kg of disposable stores carried on three hardpoints, one under the fuselage rated at 227 kg, two under the wing rated at 113 kg each. General disposables load consisted of:
  • 1 × 227 kg bomb, and/or
  • 2 × 113 kg bombs
Torpedoes/rockets -

Technical data on the Supermarine Spitfire F.Mk XIV
Powerplant 1 × Rolls Royce Griffon 65 Vee, rated at 2050 hp (1528.25 kW) Role during war
  • Air superiority Fighter
  • Fighter
  • Fighter-bomber
  • Night-Fighter
  • Reconnaissance Aircraft
Length 32 ft 8 inch Height 12 ft 7.75 inch
Empty weight unknown Operational weight 9000 lb typical,
10280 lb max
Wing Span 36 ft 10 inch Wing Aspect ratio 5.61
Wing Area 242 sq ft Service ceiling 44500 ft
Maximum speed 448 mph at 26000 ft Cruising speed 362 mph at 20000 ft
Initial climb rate Climb to 20,000 ft in 7 min 0 sec Range 460 miles typical,
850 miles max
Fuel capacity internal 110 Imp gal (132 US gal) Fuel capacity external Up to 45 Imp gal (54 US gal) in one 45 or 30 Imp gal (54 or 36 US gal) drop tank
Machine guns
  • 4 × 0.303 inch Browning Mk II* fixed forward-firing in the wing leading edge, 300 rounds each, or alternatively
  • 2 × 0.50 inch Browning M2; fixed forward-firing in the wing leading edges, 250 rounds each
Cannons
  • 2 × 20 mm Hispano Mk II fixed forward-firing in the wing leading edge, 120 rounds each
Bomb load Up to 1,000 lb of disposable stores carried on three hardpoints, one under the fuselage rated at 500 lb, two under the wing rated at 250 lb each. General disposables load consisted of:
  • 1 × 500 lb bomb, and/or
  • 2 × 250 lb bombs
Torpedoes/rockets -
Crew 1 Naval or ground based Ground
First flight (prototype) 5 March 1936 Operational Service July 1938 - late 1950's
Manufacturer Supermarine Division of Vickers-Armstrongs Ltd. Number produced 20.351 total, 527 this version
Metric system
Length 9.96 m Height 3.85 m
Empty weight unknown Operational weight 4082 kg typical,
4663 kg max
Wing Span 11.23 m Wing Aspect ratio 5.61
Wing Area 22.48 m² Service ceiling 13564 m
Maximum speed 721 km/h at 7925 m Cruising speed 583 km/h at 6096 m
Initial climb rate Climb to 6.095 m in 7 min 0 sec Range 740 km typical,
1368 km max
Fuel capacity internal 498 liters Fuel capacity external Up to 204 liters in one 204 or 136 liters drop tank
Machine guns
  • 4 × 7,7 mm Browning Mk II* fixed forward-firing in the wing leading edge, 300 rounds each, or alternatively
  • 2 × 12,7 mm Browning M2; fixed forward-firing in the wing leading edges, 250 rounds each
Cannons
  • 2 × 20 mm Hispano Mk II fixed forward-firing in the wing leading edge, 120 rounds each
Bomb load Up to 454 kg of disposable stores carried on three hardpoints, one under the fuselage rated at 227 kg, two under the wing rated at 113 kg each. General disposables load consisted of:
  • 1 × 227 kg bomb, and/or
  • 2 × 113 kg bombs
Torpedoes/rockets -

Here is a quick overview of all different versions, without the full technical specifications:

Different versions of the Supermarine Spitfire 
Supermarine Type 300, and others This designation was the type number of Supermarine for the initial Spitfire prototype. This version had several Rolls-Royce Merlins installed, and was later converted to a Mk IA standard.
Actually, the Type 300 was a private venture of Supermarine, and the British Air Ministry at first did not like it (middle 1934) and refused funding. Nevertheless Supermarine continued. In November 1934 the Type 300 was so much refined that the board of Vickers, the company that owned Supermarine, authorized Mitchell to proceed to the detail design stage, and finally the prototype stage. In December 1934 the Air Ministry changed it's mind, and decided it would fund the prototype. The F.37/34 requirement that followed was written around the design, but differed not much from the original F.7/30 requirement: the powerplant issues and the location of the guns.
The prototype was eventually written off after a landing accident in September 1939.
  • Type 300 was the Supermarine designation for the Spitfire prototype
  • Type 329 was the Supermarine designation for the Spitfire Mk IIA.
  • Type 330 was the Supermarine designation for the Spitfire Mk III.
  • Type 331 was the Supermarine designation for the Spitfire Mk V.
  • The Type 332 was the Supermarine designation for the Mk I Spitfires of Estonia.
  • The Type 335 was the Supermarine designation for the Mk I Spitfires of Greece.
  • The Type 336 was the Supermarine designation for the Mk I Spitfires of Portugal.
  • Type 337 was the Supermarine designation for the Spitfire Mk XII.
  • The Type 341 was the Supermarine designation for the Mk I Spitfires of Turkey.
  • Type 348 was the Supermarine designation for the Spitfire Mk IV.
  • Type 350 was the Supermarine designation for the Spitfire HF.Mk VI.
  • Type 351 was the Supermarine designation for the Spitfire HF.Mk VII.
  • Type 356 was the Supermarine designation for the Spitfire Mk 21.
  • Type 359 was the Supermarine designation for the Spitfire Mk VC.
  • Type 360 was the Supermarine designation for the Spitfire Mk VIII.
  • Type 361 was the Supermarine designation for the Spitfire Mk IX and Mk XVI
  • Type 366 was the Supermarine designation for the Spitfire Mk XII
  • Type 372 was the Supermarine designation for the Spitfire F.Mk XIV (?).
  • Type 375 was the Supermarine designation for the Spitfire Mk IIC.
  • Type 379 was the Supermarine designation for the Spitfire Mk XIV.
  • Type 394 was the Supermarine designation for the Spitfire Mk XVIII.

Number built: 1 (Type 300, for the rest see respective entries down in this table)
Supermarine Spitfire Mk I This version was the first production model, very similar to the Type 300 prototype. During production, a number of changes were incorporated to deal with operational issues that arose from battles in France, over the Channel, and during the Battle of Britain:
  • Initially, the propeller was a wooden two-blade Airscrew Company model. The first 73 aircraft were delivered with thses propellers whose installation required the addition of 135 lb (61 kg) of ballast in the nose to keep the center of gravity in the correct position, but from the 74th machine the aircraft were delivered with the three-blade de Havilland metal propeller of the two-position type, which was replaced from June 1940 by a three-blade de Havilland metal propeller of the constant-speed type.
  • From the 175th aircraft onward the Rolls Royce Merlin II engine was replaced by the Rolls Royce Merlin III unit whose propeller shaft was able to accept either the de Havilland or Rotol propellers, each of them a three-blade two-position or constant-speed unit respectively.
  • operational aircraft were retrofitted with a bulletproof external windscreen that was added to the production standard somewhere along the line.
Supermarine enjoyed a lot of foreign interest in the Spitfire, and several types were prepared for export. The Types 332, 335, 336 and 341 were to meet the requirements of Estonia, Greece, Portugal, and Turkey respectively. Estonia's order was cancelled when the Soviet Union anexated the country. The Greek and Portuguese orders were refused by the Foreign Office for some unknown (to me) reason. So only the 59 aircraft for Turkey were approved, bu in the end after delivering 2 aircraft the Foreign Office put a halt to that too in May 1940.
Number built: 1.567
Supermarine Spitfire Mk IA Redesignation after the Battle of Britain of the Supermarine Spitfire Mk I. The 'A' suffix was used on all other aircraft with an armament of 8 × 0.303 inch (7,7 mm) guns.
Redesignated aircraft
Supermarine Spitfire Mk IB This version was essentially a Supermarine Spitfire Mk I, with revised armament. In this version, the aircraft could fire with 4 × 0.303 inch (7,7 mm) Browning guns, and 2 × 20 mm Hispano Suiza cannon firing explosive shells.
The two initla Mk IB's had cannons which were drum-fed, and capacity was thus reduced to 60 rounds each. Also, the cannon were vulnerable for jams, reducing the effectiveness even further.The meaning of this all was to establish a longer effective guns range, and a higher firepower. up to that time the German aircraft were well protected against the 0.303 inch (7,7 mm) guns, making it pretty hard for an Allied pilot to score a victory against his adversaries.
Even though the cannon were not reliable enough, the type was ordered into production. besides the two purposely built examples, 30 Mk I's were converted to the Mk IB standard. In practice these aircraft had in stead of a good firepower only half the firepower, and generally pilots were quite unhappy about it.
Number built: 2, Number converted: 30
Supermarine Spitfire Mk I (PR) Since the Spitfire was a fast aircraft, which possessed a good ceiling, it was suggested to use it for photo-reconnaissance duties. A number of Mk I's were converted to fit this role, with different sub versions:

Spitfire Mk I (PR) Type A Two aircraft adapted with an F.24 oblique camera in each wing
Spitfire Mk I (PR) Type B Unknown number of aircraft adapted with an F.24 oblique camera in each wing. Besides this, the MK I (PR) Type B was fitted with a 30 Imp gal (35 US gal, 134 liters) additional fuel tank to increase the range.
Spitfire Mk I (PR) Type C 15 conversions of a Mk I, fitted with one camera in the fuselage and two cameras under the port wing. This weight was offset by an additional fuel tank under the starboard wing. Like the Type B, this Type also had the additional internal fuel tank.
Spitfire Mk I (PR) Type D Two conversion, fitted with 2 × F.8 or F.24 cameras in the fuselag. To increase range additional tanks were fitted: two 67 Imp gal (80 US gal, 302 liters) in the wings. Additional oil was supplied, and the cockpit and cameras were heated.


Number converted: unknown
Supermarine Spitfire Mk IIA Based on the Mk I, this version was powered by 1 × Rolls-Royce Merlin XII Vee, rated at 1,175 hp (876 kW) at take-off. This engine was fitted with a Coffman Type L.4 cartridge starter so the Spitfire could fire up it's engine without the need of ground facilities. The accompanying propeller was a three-blade Rotol Jablo of the constant speed type. The combined effects of these changes enabled the Spitfire to climb faster, and reach a higher ceiling, although level speed slightly decreased.
Also, this version was the first Spitfire version to be fitted standard with armor protection, in this case weighing a total of 73 lb (33 kg). The pilot thus received a back plate, and the forward upper fuel tank and glycol engine coolant header tank were fitted with forward protection.
The Spitfire Mk II differed from the Mk I with respect to: armament of 8 × 0.303 inch (7,7 mm) Browning Mk II* fixed forward-firing guns in the wing leading edges with 350 rounds per gun, empty weight of 4,900 lb (2.223 kg), normal take-off weight of 5,900 lb (2.676 kg), max take-off weight of 6,317 lb (2.865 kg), max level speed of 357 mph (575 km/h) at 17,000 ft (5.180 m), max cruising speed of 310 mph (499 km/h) at 20,000 ft (6.095 m), economical cruising speed of 195 mph (314 km/h) at optimum altitude, max range of 500 miles (805 km) with internal fuel, initial climb rate of 2,600 ft (792.5 m) per minute, climb to 20,000 ft (6.095 m) in 7 minutes, and a service ceiling of 37,200 ft (11.340 m).
The Spitfire Mk IIA just entered service when the Battle of britain was in it's closing stages, and was the first Spitfire version to be used for offensive sweeps over France and the Low Countries during an aerial campaign to wrest air-supremacy and initiative back from the Germans.
Number built: 750
Supermarine Spitfire Mk IIA (LR) When the Spitfire Mk II entered service the Battle of Britain was almost concluded, and won by the British. Fighter Command then started to 'lean' towards France in an attempt to regain Air Supremacy and Initiative. However, the Spitfire was designed and built as an interceptor, used to meet bombers and fighters inbound and repulse their respective attacks. As a consequence, the Spitfire had only a marginal range and endurance, and thus could not patrol far over the continent. Until then the Spitfire had only needed to take-off, climb, cruise for 1 hour and 40 min, combat for 15 minutes, descent and land again. In order to increase the needed range and endurance several solutions were provided. In order not to have drag added, additional fuel tanks were placed in the wings, which almost doubled the internal fuel. Another option was the use of two flush-fitting 'slipper' tanks under the wings, outboard of the main landing gear. This idea was not used operationally, however. The last option was a 'slipper' tank that was fitted under the starboard wing, with a capacity of 30 Imp gal (36 US gal, 136 liters). This was used for the first time during a raid on Brest in order to attack the German battle-cruisers KMS Sharnhorst and Gneisenau, and the heavy cruiser KMS Prinz Eugen in July 1941. Later tanks also had a capacity of 30, 45 and 90 Imp gal (36, 54 and 106 US gal, 136, 205 and 409 liters), which were fitted under the center section of the fuselage.
Number converted: unknown
Supermarine Spitfire Mk IIB Like the Spitfire Mk IB, this version of the Mk II was armed differently from the Mk IIA. Armament consisted of 4 × 0.303 inch (7,7 mm) guns, and 2 × 20 mm cannon. The cannon, however, were placed differently inside the wing, on their sides. This required a small blister fairing on the upper side of the wings over the breeches. Although this was a small speed penalty, the good news was that the cannon jammed much less frequently. Also, the cannon were belt-fed, as opposed to drum-fed, and consequently had a greater amount of rounds.
Number built: 170
Supermarine Spitfire Mk IIC During 1943 a number of Spitfire Mk IIA's were converteed to this standard. The Mk IIC was used as an interim air-sea rescue aircraft. In this version the powerplant was replaced by 1 × Rolls-Royce Merlin XX, rated at 1,480 hp (1.104 kW) at 12,250 ft (3.735 m). Under the port wing a couple of marker flares were fitted, and the flare launcher was modified to carry and release a rescue pack consisting an inflatable dinghy and emergency rations.
Number converted: 50
Supermarine Spitfire ASR.II Redesignation of the Spitfire Mk IIC, in order to avoid confusion in the designation system. Up until the Mk IIC the 'A' and 'B' had denoted an armament type.
Redesignated aircraft
Supermarine Spitfire Mk III This version was experimental only, and consisted of converted aircraft. In this 'series' a host of engines were tried out, for example: Rolls-Royce Merlin XX, 60 and 61. The Merlin XX (originally known as the Merlin RM.3SM) was rated at 1,390 hp (1.036 kW). Other changes made to the original Mk I aircraft were: aerodynamic refinement, some structural strenghtening of the airframe, strengthening of the main landing gear, a retractable tail wheel, an internal bulletproof windscreen (as opposed to external), 88 lb (40 kg) of additional armor plate, and clipped wings that reduced span to 30 ft 6 in (9,30 m) with an aspect ration of 4,23. The area of the wings were 220 sq ft (20,44 m²) to improve low level performance and maneuverability. Later the experimental Mk III was fitted with 'C' type or universal wings able to cary an armament of either 8 × 0.303 inch (7,7 mm) guns, 2 × 20 mm cannon plus 4 × 0.303 inch (7,7 mm) guns, or 4 × 20 mm cannon.
An order for 1.120 Mk III aircraft was placed, but in the end 1.000 aircraft were completed to the Mks V and IX standards, and 120 were cancelled.
Number converted: at least 1
Supermarine Spitfire Mk IV This version was evolved parrallel with the Mk III version. It was, however, extensively redesigned, and fitted with the Rolls-Royce Griffon Mk IIB, armed with 6 × 20 mm cannon. However, before one aircraft could be produced as this version, another version was introduced, the Merlin-engined PR.Mk IV. Subsequently, this version was redesignated to F.Mk XX.
Number built: 0 (see Mk XX)
Supermarine Spitfire PR.Mk IV This version was a dedicated photo-reconnaissance aircraft. It was an unarmed version of the Mk V and the Mk I (PR) Type D. Reportedly, some were tropicalised. It could carry two F.8 cameras, or one F.24 or F.52 camera. Its fuel capacity was 218 Imp gal (262 US gal, 991 liters) for a max take-off weight of 7,200 lb (3.266 kg), a max level speed of 372 mph (599 km/h) at optimum altitude, and a range of more than 2,000 miles (3.219 km).
Number built: 229
Supermarine Spitfire Mk VA The Mk V was the next big step in the Spitfire evolution. With it came a host of subvariants, all more specialised in a certain role. The Mk VA was the initial fighter variant, powered (like most Mk V variants) by 1 × Rolls-Royce Merlin 45 Vee, rated at 1,470 hp (1.096 kW) at 9,250 ft (2.820 m). The Mk V also had strengthened longerons in order to carry the heavier and stronger Merlin version. The 'A' suffix denotes an armament of 8 × 0.303 inch (7,7 mm) Browning guns.
Number built: 94
Supermarine Spitfire LF.Mk VA The LF.Mk V was the a conversion of the Mk VA fighter, optimized for low altitudes. It had clipped wings, a reduced span of 32 ft 2 inch (9,80 m). This increased maneuverability and speed at low level.
Number converted: unknown
Supermarine Spitfire F.Mk VA At the end of 1942 the RAF started to add prefixes to designations to denote the role of the aircraft. The surviving original (unconverted) Mk VA's thus became F.Mk V's
Redesignated aircraft
Supermarine Spitfire Mk VB This version was basically similar to the Spitfire Mk VA apart from its 152 lb (69 kg) of armor plate and its 'B'-type armament of two 20 mm cannon and four 0.303 in (7.7 mm) machine guns. The ‘B’ type armament became standard from June 1941, and aircraft destined for service in hot and dusty theaters, such as that in North Africa, had a Vokes filter installed in a deep fairing under the forward fuselage.
Toward the end of 1942 the RAF started to add role prefixes to the designation, and the Spitfire Mk VB then received the revised designation Spitfire F.Mk VB
Number built: 3.923 of all Mk VB types
Supermarine Spitfire LF.Mk VB This version is similar to the LF.Mk VA, except for it's armament and powerplant. The 'B' version was armed with 2 × 20 mm Hispano cannon, plus 4 × 0.303 inch (7,7 mm) Browning guns. Also, for the LF variants power was delivered from 1 × Rolls-Royce Merlin 45M, rated at 1,585 hp (1.182 kW). These engines, like the Merlin 50M and 55M as well) were fitted with a supercharger possessing cropped impeller blades. Again, the wings were clipped to a span of 32 ft 2 in (9,80 m). Additionally also 152 lb (69 kg) of armor was fitted, in order to be less vulnerable in the ground attack role.
Number built: unknown out of 3.923
Supermarine Spitfire F.Mk VB Redesignation of the Mk VB (see above)
Redesignated aircraft
Supermarine Spitfire Mk VC The 'C' version first introduced the Universal wing, which was able to carry either one the following guns armament options:
  • 8 × 0.303 inch (7,7 mm) guns
  • 4 × 0.303 inch (7,7 mm) guns plus 2 × 20 mm cannon
  • 4 × 20 mm cannon
Most of the times the armament consisted of the combination option: 4 × 0.303 inch (7,7 mm) guns plus 4 × 20 mm cannon.
Besides the new wing the Mk VC had 193 lb (87 kg) of armor plate, a strengthened landing gear, increased area of the elevator horn balances, and metal skinning for the ailerons in late production aircraft (as opposed to fabric skinned).
Number built: 2.477 of all Mk VC versions
Supermarine Spitfire LF.Mk VC The LF.Mk VC was the low-altitude version of the Mk VC with the clipped wings. Technical details of the LF.Mk VC are: span of 32 ft 2 in (9,80 m), aspect ratio of 4.48, wing area of 231.00 sq ft (21,46 m²), length of 29 ft 11 in (9,12 m), height of 11 ft 4.75 in (3,47 m), empty weight of 5,050 lb (2.291 kg), normal take-off weight of 6,650 lb (3.016 kg), max level speed of 357 mph (575 km/h) at 6,000 ft (1.830 m), max cruising speed of 272 mph (438 km/h) at 5,000 ft (1.525 m), economical cruising speed of 195 mph (314 km/h) at optimum altitude, max range of 990 miles (1.593 km) with drop tank, typical range of 475 miles (764 km) on internal fuel, climb to 5,000 ft (1.525 m) in 1 minute 36 seconds, and a service ceiling of 36,500 ft (11.125 m)
Number built: 2.477 of all Mk VC versions
Supermarine Spitfire F.Mk VC At the end of 1942 a change in the designation scheme of the RAF prompted this new designation for the standard Mk VC
Redesignated aircraft
Supermarine Spitfire HF.Mk VC This version of the Mk VC was the high altitude interceptor version. I have no further information on this type yet
Number built: 2.477 of all Mk VC versions
Supermarine Spitfire PR.Mk V This was the original designation for 15 photo-reconnaissance aircraft with the 'C' type installation. this installation consisted of one camera in the fuselage, and two cameras under the port wing. Power was generated by a Rolls-Royce Merlin 45. Later these aircraft were redesignated PR.Mk IV
Redesignated aircraft
Supermarine Spitfire Mk V (PR) This was the original designation used for various Mk V reconnaissance subversions.
Redesignated aircraft
Supermarine Spitfire HF.Mk VI This version was specifically built for a high-altitude role. it was based on the Mk V, and additionally fitted with a pressurised cabin. Power was delivered by 1 × Rolls-Royce Merlin 47 Vee engine, rated at 1,415 hp (1.055 kW)at optimum altitude. This engine drove a four-blade Rotol propeller of the constant-speed type. The wings were of the 'B' type, with extended span and area.
The HF.Mk VI was armed with 2 × 20 mm Hispano fixed forward-firing cannon in the wing, 60 rounds each, and 4 × 0.303 inch (7,7 mm) Browning fixed forward-firing guns in the wing, 350 rounds each. Other technical details are: span of 40 ft 2 in (12,24 m), aspect ratio of 6.49, wing area of 248.50 sq ft (23,09 m²), length of 30 ft 2.5 in (9,21 m), height of 11 ft 4.75 in (3,47 m), empty weight of 5,300 lb (2.404 kg), max take-off weight of 7,178 lb (3.256 kg), max level speed of 364 mph (586 km/h) at 22,000 ft (6.705 m), max cruising speed of 325 mph (523 km/h) at 20,000 ft (6.095 m), economical cruising speed of 239 mph (395 km/h) at optimum altitude, max range of 1,170 miles (1883 km) with drop tank, typical range of 510 miles (821 km) with internal fuel, climb to 20,000 ft (6.095 m) in 8 minutes 0 seconds, and a service ceiling of 40,000 ft (12.190 m).
Number built: 100
Supermarine Spitfire F.Mk VII This version was the redesignation of the HF.Mk VII versions that were powered by Rolls-Royce Merlin 61 or 64 engines.
Redesignated aircraft
Supermarine Spitfire HF.Mk VII Whereas the HF.Mk VI was an interim high altitude interceptor to stop high level bombers and reconnaissance aircraft, the HF.Mk VII was moer extensively redesigned, and optimised for the high-altitude role. The main reason for improved high-altitude performance lay in the engine. The HF.Mk VII was powered by the Rolls-Royce Merlin 60 series, which was fitted with a two-speed two-stage supercharger. This added an intercooler between the supercharger and the engine, which in turn necessitated a dedicated radiator system. This led to a new intercooler radiator, incorporating the oil cooler, which was installed under the port wing. Thus the HF.Mk VII was the first version with symetrical head-on profile.
besides these changes other modifications were made as well. Internal fuel capacity was enlarged to 97 Imp gal (117 US gal, 441 liters), and additional tanks with a fuel capacity of 28 Imp gal (34 US gal, 127 liters) were placed in the wing leading tanks. The Ailerons were reduced in span, and the elevator horn balances were enlarged. The tailwheel could now be retracted, and later aircraft had their vertical tail surfaces revised with a rudder that was taller and also of broader chord.
Like mentioned above, the powerplant could consist of one of the folowing:
  • 1 × Rolls-Royce Merlin 61 Vee, rated at 1,565 hp (1.167 kW) (early aircraft),
  • 1 × Rolls-Royce Merlin 64 Vee, rated at 1,710 hp (1.275 kW) (middle batch of aircraft), or
  • 1 × Rolls-Royce Merlin 71 Vee, rated at 1,475 hp (1.100 kW) (late aircraft)
  • 1 × Rolls-Royce Merlin 71S Vee, unknown rating (late aircraft)
Although it might seem strange that the late aircraft of this version had a reduction in power, the Merlin 71 was optimised for very high altitude. All these engines drove four-blade Rotol propellers of the constant-speed type. When the Merlin 71 was introduced for the very high altitude, the earlier aircraft were redesignated F.Mk VII
Further technical details of the Merlin 64-engined F.Mk VII are: armament consisting of 2 × 20 mm Hispano cannon with 120 rounds each, 4 × 0.303 inch (7,7 mm) Browning guns with 350 rounds each, span of 40 ft 2 in (12,24 m), an aspect ratio of 6,49, a wing area of 248.50 sq ft (23,09 m²), length of 31 ft 3.5 in (9,54 m), height of 12 ft 7.25 inch (3,84 m), empty weight of 6,000 lb (2.722 kg), max take-off weight of 7,875 lb (3.572 kg), max level speed of 408 mph (656.5 km/h) at 25,000 ft (7.620 m) declining to 382 mph (615 km/h) at 12,500 ft (3.810 m), max cruising speed of 324 mph (521 km/h) at 20,000 ft (6.095 m), economical cruising speed of 220 mph (354 km/h) at optimum altitude, max range of 1,180 miles (1.899 km) with drop tank, typical range of 660 miles (1.062 km) with internal fuel, climb to 20,000 ft (6.095 m) in 7 minutes 6 seconds, and a service ceiling of 43,000 ft (13105 m).
Number built: 140
Supermarine Spitfire PR.Mk VII Originally this version was designated 'Spitfire Mk V (PR) Type G'. it was a conversion of the F.Mk VA standard, and was meant to be an armed counterpart to the unarmed PR.Mk IV. As such, it had an 'A' type armament, consisting of 8 × 0.303 inch (7,7 mm) Browning guns. Camera installation consisted of one vertical F.24 camera, and one oblique F.24 camera
Number converted: 7+
Supermarine Spitfire LF.Mk VIII The Mk VIII series (Supermarine designation Type 360) was based on the Mk VII series with the Rolls-Royce Merlin 60 series of engines. Basically, it was an unpressurised version of the HF.Mk VI.
This particular version was powered by 1 × Rolls-Royce Merlin 66 Vee, rated at 1,705 hp (1.271 kW) at low altitude. Most of these aircraft had their wings clipped for better low altitude performance in service.
Number built: 273
Supermarine Spitfire F.Mk VIII This version was the medium altitude fighter of the Mk VIII series. This version also had the standard wing, and could either be powered by the Rolls-Royce Merlin 61 Vee, or the Rolls-Royce Merlin 63 Vee engine. The Rolls-Royce Merlin 61 was rated at 1,565 hp (1.167 kW) at 12,250 ft (3.735 m), and 1,390 hp (1.036 kW) at 23,500 ft (7.165 m). The Rolls-Royce Merlin 63 Vee was rated at 1,710 hp (1.275 kW) at optimum altitude.
Further technical details of the F.Mk VIII are: fitted with a 'C' type wing (2 × 20 mm + 4 × 0.303 inch (7,7 mm) guns, or 4 × 20 mm), disposable armament of 1 × 500 lb (227 kg) plus 2 × 250 lb (113 kg) bombs, span of 36 ft 10 in (11,23 m), an aspect ratio of 5,61, a wing area of 242.00 sq ft (22,48 m²), length of 31 ft 3.5 in (9,54 m), height of 12 ft 7.25 in (3,84 m), empty weight of 5,800 lb (2.631 kg), max take-off weight of 7,767 lb (3.523 kg), max level speed of 408 mph (657 km/h) at 25,000 ft (7.620 m) declining to 382 mph (615 km/h) at 12,500 ft (3.810 m), max cruising speed of 324 mph (521 km/h) at 20,000 ft (6.095 m), max range of 1,180 miles (1.899 km) with drop tank, typical range of 660 miles (1.062 km) with internal fuel, climb to 20,000 ft (6.095 m) in 7 minutes 0 seconds, and service ceiling of 43,000 ft (13.105 m).
Number built: 1.225
Supermarine Spitfire HF.Mk VIII This version was the high-altitude version of the Mk VIII series. It had extended wings (span/area/aspect ratio unknown to me), and was powered by 1 × Rolls-Royce Merlin 70 Vee, rated at 1,655 hp (1.234 kW) at high altitude.
Number built: 160
Supermarine Spitfire PR.Mk XIII This version was the last version to be based upon the Spitfire Mk V. It was a conversion from the Mk V, intended for low-level photo-reconnaissance, and powered by 1 × Rolls-Royce Merlin 32 Vee. Armament consisted of 4 × 0.303 inch (7,7 mm) Browning guns, and camera installation consisted of three F.24 cameras, 2 vertical and one oblique.
Number converted: 18
Supermarine Spitfire Mk VIII trainer After World War 2 a number of Mk VIII aircraft were converted to a two-seat trainer version. Armament of this version was optional.
Number converted: unknown.
Supermarine Spitfire LF.Mk IX When in the spring of 1942 the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 first was encountered over the European Theatre of Operations, it was a nasty surprise for the Allied pilots. It was clearly superior over the Mk V Spitfires, and since the Mk VII and Mk VIII were not ready there was a desperate need for a stopgap.
The initiative for this version originated from Rolls-Royce. which had asked the Air Ministry for permission to evaluate the Merlin 60 series. The sole Mk III Spitfire prototype was converted to the Mk IX prototype by installing the Merlin 60 with a two-speed two-stage supercharger and a four-blade Rotol propeller of the constant speed type. This aircraft first flew in August 1941, while a Mk IA Spifaire based second prototype first flew in January 1942. The tests of these aircraft had such good results that Rolls-Royce received two Mk VC Spitfires. These two aircraft proved that the new version was at least 'on par' with the Fw 190, and it was decided that production of it should start as soon as sufficient supplies of the Merlin 61 engine could be assured. before full production of the new version could start Rolls-Royce was asked to convert 282 Mk VC Spitfires to the new version, four of them for service trials, the rest (278) for operational use. The first of these were delivered in June 1942.
The Low-altitude version of the Mk IX series was powered by 1 × Rolls-Royce Merlin 66 Vee, rated at 1,580 hp (1.178 kW) at low altitude. Soon after production had started, the aircraft had their tail revised. The vertical part of the tail had a larger rudder of broader chord with a more pointed top.
Number built: 4.010 plus an unknown number out of 282 Mk V conversions
Supermarine Spitfire F.Mk IX The medium-altitude version of the Mk IX series was powered by 1 × Rolls-Royce Merlin 61 Vee, rated at 1,565 hp (1.167 kW) at 12,150 ft (3.725 m) and 1,390 hp (1.036 kW) at 23,500 ft (7.165 m). Soon after production had started, the aircraft had their tail revised. The vertical part of the tail had a larger rudder of broader chord with a more pointed top.
Number built: 1.255 plus an unknown number out of 282 Mk VC conversions
Supermarine Spitfire HF.Mk IX The high-altitude version of the Mk IX series was powered by 1 × Rolls-Royce Merlin 70 Vee, rated at 1,655 hp (1.234 kW) at high altitude. Soon after production had started, the aircraft had their tail revised. The vertical part of the tail had a larger rudder of broader chord with a more pointed top.
Number built: 400 plus an unknown number out of 282 Mk VC conversions
Supermarine Spitfire LF.Mk IXE All the early Mk IX's had the 'C' type wing/armament with 2 × 20 mm cannon inboard and 4 × 0.303 inch (7,7 mm) guns outboard in the wing. At a certain moment the Air Ministry recognised the fact that 0.303 inch (7,7 mm) calibre guns became more and more useless against the increasingly more armored enemy aircraft. This resulted in the 'E' type armament. The 'E' type wing therefor accomodated 2 × 20 mm cannon and 2 × 0.50 inch (12,7 mm) guns.
late aircraft also received three hardpoints on which they could carry bombs. The single centerline hardpoint could carry up to 500 lb (227 kg), the two underwing hardpoints could carry up to 250 lb (113 kg). All three could carry bombs, but the centerline could carry a drop tank as well to extend the Spitfire's range. Even later aircraft had their vertical tail surfaces even further revised, and had an additional 26 Imp gal (31 US gal, 118 liters) internal fuel tank installed in the fuselage behind the rear of the cockpit.
The LF.Mk IXE was the 'E'-armed version of the LF.Mk IX.
Number built: numbers included in those for the LF.Mk IX
Supermarine Spitfire F.Mk IXE This was the 'E'-armed version of the F.Mk IX, with all additional changes like those of the LF.Mk IXE
Number built: numbers included in those for the F.Mk IX
Supermarine Spitfire HF.Mk IXE This was the 'E'-armed version of the HF.Mk IX, with all additional changes like those of the LF.Mk IXE
Number built: numbers included in those for the HF.Mk IX
Supermarine Spitfire Mk IX trainer This version was a post-war conversion of the Mk IX for training purposes. It was a two-seater, with optional armament.
Number converted: unknown
Supermarine Spitfire PR.Mk IX The Mk IX fighters performed above expectations, and this success led to an unarmed, in the field converted, reconnaissance version.
Number converted: unknown
Supermarine Spitfire PR.Mk X This version of the Spitfire was, although numerically preceding the Mk XI, based on the Mk XI. It was built in very modest numbers, only 16, and was used in operations only during a short period. It entered service in May 1944, and was withdrwan already in september 1944. Power was delivered by 1 × Rolls-Royce Merlin Vee 77, and was fitted with a pressurised cockpit.
Number built: 16
Supermarine Spitfire PR.Mk XI This version preceded the PR.Mk X by almost two years. It was the follow up on the conversions for photo-reconnaissance that were taking place in the field. The 'armament' fot this version consisted of two F.8 or F.52 vertical cameras, or one oblique and two vertical F.24 cameras. Other features included the deeper nose to accomodate the larger oil tank that was required for long-distance flights.
Number built: 471, of which 309 were tropicalised
Supermarine Spitfire PR.Mk 11 After the War the Spitfire PR.Mk XI was redesignated the PR.Mk 11. A small number of aircraft were delivered to airforces of friendly nations, for eaxmple Denmark (3), Greece (1), the Netherlands (4) and Norway (1).
Redesignated aircraft
Supermarine Spitfire PR.Mk XIII This photo-reconnaissance version was a conversion of the Mk V, and were powered by 1 × Rolls-Royce Merlin 32. Further details unknown to me at this moment
Number converted: 18
Supermarine Spitfire LF.Mk XVI This version was the last Spitfire version to be built with the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine. All subsequent versions were fitted with the Rolls-Royce Griffon engine.
This specific version was built in Great Britain, Castle Bromwich, and powered with the American built version of the Rolls-Royce Merlin, namely 1× Packard (Rolls-Royce) Merlin 266 (Merlin 66) Vee, rated at 1,720 hp (1.282 kW) at low altitude. Originally it was issued with the 'C' type armament, but later this was revised to the 'E' type armament, resulting in the designation directly below.
Number built: 1.054
Supermarine Spitfire LF.Mk XVIE The LF.Mk XVI was at a certain moment during production fitted with the 'E' type armament. At the same time, the cockpit was fitted with a 'bubble', all-round view, canopy, and a cut-down rear fuselage. Additionally the vertical tail surfaces were enlarged.
Number built: unknown out of 1.054 LF.Mk XVI's
Supermarine Spitfire LF.Mk 16E After the War the LF.Mk XVIE was redesignated LF.Mk 16E
Redesignated aircraft
Supermarine Spitfire F.Mk XII In order to extend the life of the Spitfire, the only option available at a certain moment was to use much more powerful engines. the Rolls-Royce Merlin slowly came to it's developmental end, and the need for a new design arose. This was found in the way of the new Rolls-Royce Griffon Vee engine. Although the frontal area was only slightly larger, the swept volume was almost a third greater, and thus the Griffon offered even in the early stages something like 1,700 hp (1.267 kW)

The first Griffon-engined prototypes were powered by a Griffon IIB Vee, rated at 1,735 hp (1.294 kW), driving a four-blade propeller of the constant-speed type. Initially designated Mk IV, these were quickly redesignated to Mk XX in order to not be confused with the Merlin-engined versions (see later on)

the first Rolls-Royce Griffon-engined production Spitfire was the Mk XII. 100 of these aircraft were built, of which 50 were based on the Mk VC airframe, and 50 on the Mk VIII. All these aircraft had a measure of local strenghtening in order to cope with the stronger forces of the new engine. The nose grew a little longer in order to accomodate either the Rolls-Royce Griffon II or IV, rated at 1,735 hp (1.294 kW) driving a foru-blade Rotol Jablo propeller of the constant-speed type. The vertical tail surface was revised with a rudder of greater chord and height to offset the increase in forward keel area. Most of these had clipped wing tips, and soon after production started the aircraft were fitted with a retractable tailwheel as well. Further technical details are: 2 × 20 mm Hispano Mk II cannon with 120 rounds each, 4 × 0.303 inch (7,7 mm) Browning Mk II* guns with 350 rounds each, disposable armament of 1 × 500 lb (227 kg) bomb, span of 32 ft 7 in (9,93 m), aspect ratio of 4,60, wing area of 231.00 sq ft (21,46 m²), length of 31 ft 10 in (9,70 m), height of 11 ft 0 in (3,35 m), empty weight of 5,600 lb (2.540 kg), max take-off weight of 7,400 lb (3.357 kg), max level speed of 393 mph (632 km/h) at 18,000 ft (5.485 m) declining to 372 mph (599 km/h) at 5,500 ft (1.675 m), max cruising speed of 364 mph (586 km/h) at 20,000 ft (6.095 m), economical cruising speed of 263 mph (423 km/h) at optimum altitude, max range of 493 miles (793 km) with auxiliary fuel, typical range 329 miles (529.5 km) with internal fuel, climb to 20,000 ft (6.095 m) in 6 minutes 42 seconds, and a service ceiling of 40,000 ft (12.190 m).
Number built: 100
Supermarine Spitfire F.Mk XIV This version was based on the Spitfire F.Mk VIII, with additional local strengthening and a still larger rudder. The first aircraft were fitted with the 'C' type armament.
Number built: 527
Supermarine Spitfire F.Mk XIVE This was the same as the Supermarine Spitfire F.Mk XIV, but with the 'E' type armament. This version also introduced the 'bubble' canopy, with the cut-down rear fuselage.
Number built: unknown out of 527 F.Mk XIV's
Supermarine Spitfire FR.Mk XIV This version was based on the Supermarine Spitfire F.Mk XIV, and was specifically built for the Fighter/Reconnaissance role. For reconnaissance duties the Spitfire was fitted with an F.24 oblique camera in the rear fuselage, and an additional fuel tank with a capacity of 33 Imp gal (40 US gal, 150 liters). This version also had the 'bubble' canopy with the cut-down rear fuselage.
Number built: 430
Supermarine Spitfire FR.Mk XIVE Like the Supermarine Spitfire F.Mk XIVE, this version was fitted with the 'E' type armament of 2 × 20 mm cannon, 120 rounds each, and 2 × 0.50 inch (12,7 mm) guns, 250 rounds each. This version also had the bubble canopy and cut-down rear fuselage.
Number built: unknown out of 430
Supermarine Spitfire F.Mk XVIII The Mk XIV versions were highly successful, and prompted further development in the way of this version. In order to extend the range, two additional fuel tanks, in stead of the one of the Mk XIV, were fitted in the rear fuselage. Capacity of each of these tanks was 33 Imp gal (40 US gal, 150 liters). In order to carry the extra weight, local strengthening was applied, and the main landing gear received some attention in that direction as well.
Number built: 100
Supermarine Spitfire FR.Mk XVIII This Fighter/Reconnaissance derivative of the Mk XVIII was fitted analogous tot the FR.Mk XIV counterpart of the F.Mk XIV.
Number built: 200
Supermarine Spitfire PR.Mk XIX This version was the only true Photo-reconnaissance version of the Rolls-Royce Griffon engined Spitfires.It was based on the Spitfire F.Mk XIV with the armament replaced by one oblique F.24 camera plus two F.52, F.24 or F.8 vertical cameras.
The first 20 aircraft were powered by the Rolls-Royce Griffon 65 Vee, the last 205 aircraft were powered by the Rolls-Royce Griffon 66 Vee and had a pressurised cockpit.
Number built: 225
Supermarine Spitfire F.21 Post-war development of the Spitfire. No further information available.
Number built: unknown out of 454 F.21, F.22 and F.24
Supermarine Spitfire F.22 Post-war development of the Spitfire. No further information available.
Number built: unknown out of 454 F.21, F.22 and F.24
Supermarine Spitfire F.24 Post-war development of the Spitfire. No further information available.
Number built: unknown out of 454 F.21, F.22 and F.24

Operational remarks:

Do I have to introduce the Spitfire to anyone? Well, maybe one or two . The Spitfire was the fighter that was (together with the Hawker Hurricane) the longest in service with the British RAF during the War. The first Spitfires flew just before the war, while development continued until after the War. It has reached legendary status, especially after winning the Battle of Britain, world's first air-only battle. This was done together with the Hawker Hurricane, and ever since people are locked in a friendly dispute about which fighter was the best (also see the Hawker Hurricane entry). I think both aircraft won, for a reasoning behind this I kindly refer to the numbers shown with the comments on the Hawker Hurricane.

However, one cannot deny the fact that the Spitfire was much further developed than the Hurricane, notwithstanding the latter's excellent results in the ground attack role in the Far East.

During the Phoney War and Battle of France the Spitfire only sporadically came into action. Until the Battle for Dunkirk was fought, then the Spitfire was used more and more. After the defeat of the Low Countries and France, there was a brief period of calm, calm before the storm it turned out.

The Luftwaffe as well as the RAF took their time to reorganise themselves for the battle that was inevitably to come, the Battle of Britain. Gradually the Luftwaffe built up pressure on shipping in the Channel and North Sea, while the RAF started to attack German Navy targets. At August 15, 1940, Adlerstag came. This was the first day of massive attacks by the German Luftwaffe on British (military) targets, and the official beginning of the Battle of Britain.

During this Battle, the Spitfire would cooperate with the Hurricanes in order to intercept the German bombers and protecting fighters. If possible, the Hurricanes would attack the bombers, the main targets, while the Spitfires would keep their back clear of the German fighter cover. In this Battle the Spitfire was purely used for the role it was intended for: interceptor. After the Battle was won by the British, the balance was made up. Kills and losses of the Hurricane and Spitfire are as follows:

 Squadrons (Sqn)KillsLossesKill/LossDays engaged
Spitfires19529,53171,67379
Hurricanes30655,84971,3479

and

 Bf 109EBf 110BombersBf 109 kills / SqnBf 110 kills / Sqn
Spitfires2828016714,84,21
Hurricanes2221283067,44,26


It must be said that the fact that the german Luftwaffe uppercommand ordered the escorting fighters to stay close and slow with the bombers was quite a big mistake. because of this decision, the escorting fighters gave up any advantages they possibly had as far as concerned with speed and height, forcing the Luftwaffe pilots to fight a turning fight in which the Spitfire excelled.

The Spitfire's main adversaries were the Messerschmitt Bf 109 and Focke-Wulf Fw 190. throughout the War the Bf 109 was developed further and further as well, and the Fw 190 was added to the list in the spring of 1941. During the end of 1940 and the beginning of 1941 the RAF started to 'lean' more and more into France, in order to achieve air superiority. Especially the introduction of the Fw 190 came as an unpleasant surprise, and as fast as possible the RAF wanted a more powerful Spitfire. This was to be the Spitfire Mk IX, which once again turned the table of air-superiority more in favour of the British forces. Of course, it helped as well that by then a large chunk of the Luftwaffe was moved to the Russian borders for Operation Barbarossa, and became locked into battle with the Soviet Air Force (VVS).

In between development of the Spitfire continued in order to keep Air superiority over the ETO. One major drawback however was the range of the Spitfire. As it was intended as a short-range interceptor, this is no design fault, but merely an oversight of the Air Ministry to secure a place for a long range fighter. However, when during the last half of the 1930's the RAF was souped up in response to the expansion programme of the Luftwaffe the British military uppercommand (and indeed al Allied uppercommands) envisaged a kind of trench war that was seen during the First World War, or Great War. Since the Allied forces had won that war, there was no reason to investigate why their tactics had failed. Germany, on the other hand, had much to ponder about, and came up with the Blitzkrieg. Therefor when the Germans finally made their move, and occupied the European continent Britain was left alone, without any forward airfield to attack Germany from. Eventually the lonag-range escort role was filled in by the Lockheed P-38 Lightning, Republic P-47 Thunderbolt, and finally the North American P-51 Mustang. So there was no need for a long range Spitfire anymore.
Together with the growth in engine power in order to go faster and higher, armament grew as well. Luckily for the RAF pilots, it was soon understood that the 0.303 inch (7,7 mm) calibre machineguns were only effective against relatively unprotected aircraft. Germany on the other hand had always more depended on engine power in stead of maneuverability, and hence could afford more armor to be built into their (fighter-)aircraft. The adoption of the 20 mm cannon in the Spitfire was a necessary step, and an effective one. Late in the War the additional 0.303 inch (7,7 mm) guns were dispensed with in favor of 0.50 inch (12,7 mm) guns, because by then they had become wholy ineffectual.

After the War the Spitfire was still furhter developed, and served in many Air Forces.
Besides all the achievements made by the Spitfire, it was also the first Allied aircraft to score a kill against a Messerschmitt Me 262. This was achieved on 4 October 1944, by a Spitfire Mk XIV of No. 401 Squadron.

Strengths:

Weaknesses:

 

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© by Frans Bonné, 2000
Last revision: 5/27/02