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Weapons of World War Two

Supermarine Spitfire

Supermarine Spitfire

In the summer of 1940 Germany continued the war in the skies of its great enemy; it was the "Adlertag", the operation that should ensure to the Luftwaffe three days of air supremacy. It was the indispensable condition for the success of the operation "Seelowe", the disembarkment in England. Those were days of fierce fighting, which concluded with the unequivocal victory of the RAF, favored without doubt by the clumsy mistakes committed by the Germans. Anyway, it is irrefutable that, if the British were not in possession of a fighter like the Spitfire, the events would have been probably different.

Now let us see closely the "Spit", as its pilots familiarly called it. The prototype of this prestigious fighter effectuated the first flight the 5th March 1936, and the serial production started in March 1937. At the outbreak of the war, nine squadrons were equipped with it; they could seem many as a starting point for the modernization of the Royal Air Force. Actually, the events rushed in such a way that, when the Battle of Britain started, the number of these fighters barely ensured a minimal air defense of the national territory.

It was a monoplane of low wing of characteristic elliptical shape, with the two parts of the body made of a light alloy. The engine rested in a structure of steel tubes in the fore part of the fuselage; the central part was coated with aluminum sheets of one millimeter in thickness, whereas the movable steering surfaces were coated in fabric. The pilot was protected by 33 kilograms of armored plates and a bulletproof windshield. The engine of the series I, depicted in the illustration, was a Rolls Royce with cylinders in V and start up by cartridge.

The armament (type A) consisted of eight Browning 7.7-millimeter machine guns, four of which were replaced later by two Hispano Suiza 20 millimeters cannons (type B). Later there would be a type C (four cannons plus underwing supports for bombs) and a type E (two cannons plus two 12.7-millimeter machine guns). It had, besides, a novelty: IFF, a device able to distinguish, by means of an automatic exchange of encrypted signals, if an aircraft was friend or enemy, when, for any reason, the doubt arose.

In the end, the Spitfire, which started to be used in 1939 in France, resulted rather long-lived, for the production, started in 1937, would not be interrupted until 1947. It would be used, for the last time, in the Korean War, in 1953.

Supermarine Spitfire
Designer: Engineer R. J. Mitchell; after 1937, Joseph Smith

First flight/Entry into service: 5 March 1936 (Mark 1 A); 1942 (Mark IX and Mark XII)

Wingspan: 11.127 meters (Mark 1 A); 12.243 meters (Mark IX); 9.931 (Mark XII)

Wing area: 22.483 square meters (Mark 1 A and Mark IX); 21.461 square meters (Mark XII)

Length: 9.119 meters (Mark 1 A); 9.563 meters (Mark IX); 9.703 meters (Mark XII)

Height: 3.854 meters (Mark 1 A and Mark IX); 3.353 meters (Mark XII)

Full load/Empty weight: 2624/2182 kilograms (Mark 1 A); 3402/2545 kilograms (Mark IX); 3302/2294 kilograms (Mark XII)

Payload/Crew: 442 kilograms/1 (Mark 1 A); 857 kilograms/1 (Mark IX); 1108 kilograms/1 (Mark XII)

Engine: Rolls Royce Merlin III of 1054 horsepower (Mark 1 A); Rolls Royce Merlin 66 of 1744 horsepower (Mark IX); Rolls Royce Griffon III of 1759 horsepower (Mark XII)

Time to reach 6000 meters of altitude: 9 minutes 24 seconds (Mark 1 A); 5 minutes 42 seconds (Mark IX); 6 minutes 42 seconds (Mark XII)

Maximum rate of climb: 12.08 meters/second (Mark 1 A); 20.83 meters/second (Mark IX); 24.13 meters/second (Mark XII)

Maximum speed: 587 kilometers/hour at 5791 meters (Mark 1 A); 657 kilometers/hour at 7620 meters (Mark IX); 632 kilometers/hour at 5486 meters (Mark XII)

Service ceiling: 10636 meters (Mark 1 A); 13106 meters (Mark IX); 12192 meters (Mark XII)

Defensive armament: Eight 7.7-millimeter machine guns (Mark 1 A); four 7.7-millimeter machine guns and two 20-millimeter cannons (Mark IX and Mark XII)

Drop armament: 454 kilograms of bombs (Mark IX); 227 kilograms of bombs (Mark XII)

Normal/Maximum operational range: 654/941 kilometers (Mark 1 A); 698/1177 kilometers (Mark IX); 529/793 kilometers (Mark XII)

Also in Weapons of World War Two:

Torpednijkater G5Lockheed P-38 LightningMAS 522 torpedo boat