The Spitfire is easily the most famous British aircraft of World War II, and really one of the most iconic aircraft of the entire war.
After the jump, we’ll take brief look at the development of this type.
The Spitfire was one of the few types that served through the entire war. And it was on an even shorter list of aircraft that were still considered among the very best from beginning to end. But that means constant development of the design. A Spitfire Mk I from 1939 weighed less than 6000 lbs, had about 1000 horsepower, and had a maximum speed of 367 mph. While a late war Mk XIV weighed over 8500 lbs, had over 2000 hp and a maximum level speed of 449 mph. Supposedly, there was not a single common part between those two marks.
The Spitfire is always most closely associated with the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine. And the growth of that engine led to three major stages for the design. The Mk I and Mk II represented only minor growth. Supermarine started preparing for the next stage, which would involve a complete redesign of the airframe featuring numerous aerodynamic improvements and a new version of the Merlin with about 20% more power. But events overtook the plans; the Germans introduced the Bf 109F which outclassed the existing Spitfires. So the RAF insisted on the new engine being mounted on the current airframe with no drop in production. This resulted in the Mk V, which would be the most numerous mark.
Supermarine got right back to work on the improved airframe, with an even more advanced Merlin offering another 15% horsepower. In time, this would become the Mk VIII. But events intruded again when the Germans introduced the Fw 190A. The RAF again demanded the new engine on the existing airframe; leading the Mk IX, the second most produced mark. The Mk IX would remain in service until war’s end, with minor tweaks along the way, such that a late build Mk IX is almost indistinguishable from a Mk VIII. Adding to the fun, the British had begun importing the American made Packard Merlin which, apart from using US measures, was identical to the current Merlin on the Mk VIII and Mk IX. But those differences were enough that when mounted on the Spitfire it was called the Mk XVI.
Meanwhile, a new engine, the Rolls Royce Griffon had come available. This has been described by pilots as a fire breathing monster of an engine. With only slightly more frontal area than the Merlin, the Griffon displaced 35% more volume and delivered more power accordingly. This engine would be mounted on the Spitfire Mk XIV late in the war.
My point in all this is not to be boring (although I likely accomplished that anyway!), but just to illustrate the degree of modification and development that occurred. The Bf 109 may be the only aircraft with comparable growth. I’ll get to that later…
This subject is from the Tamiya kit. The aircraft has no particular history of interest, except that it was used for a series of professional publicity photos sometime in 1942. Its markings stand out for being perfectly typical for the period.
Awesome plane it was the one which won the Battle of Britain.
I’d point out the Hurricane actually brought down more German aircraft. But of course the Spitfire is what let the British take on the Bf 109 on equal terms. So no doubt it was a key weapon.
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