Thursday, December 8, 2011


Spitfire Mk




The bubble canopy seen here was introduced near the end of 1942 with the Spitfire Mk VIII.  The 20 mm wing-mounted cannon had been added earlier to counter the increased use of protective armor used in fighters such as the Focke-Wulf 190.  Cannon use was attempted on the Spitfire Mk I but the natural flex of its thin wing in g force maneuver caused the cannon to often misfeed and jam.   

Crew:                    1

Power:                   Rolls Royce 1478 hp Merlin 45 liquid cooled V-12 engine

Max. Speed:          594 kph / 369 mph
Ceiling:                 11,125 m / 36,500 ft
Range:                  1827 km / 1135 miles
Climb:                    6100 m / 20,000 ft in 7 minutes, 30 seconds

Weight -
Empty:                  2267 kg / 4998 lb
Max. Take Off:     2911 kg / 6417 lb

Size -
Wingspan:            11.23 m / 36 ft 10 in
Wing Area:           22.48 sq m / 242 sq ft
Length:                 9.12 m / 29 ft 11 in
Height:                  3.02 m / 9 ft 11 in

                            8 - 7.7 mm / 0.303 in machine-guns


Elliptical wings optimize lift

20 mm cannon became available with the Mk V in 1941 but it wasn't until the introduction of the Mk IX in June, 1942 that the Spitfire gained parity with Germany's FW 190.  The Spitfire became more powerful but the cost was less agility.  

Battle of Britain Map

Not appreciating the significance of radar the Luftwaffe erred early on in not taking out these early warning stations situated along the English coast.  This enabled the RAF to better coordinate their air defense and helped compensate for their 4 to 1 numerical disadvantage in aircraft.  


By September, 1940 the Luftwaffe's focus on targeting RAF airfields was close to attaining Germany's goal of establishing air superiority over the English Channel, enabling Hitler's planned invasion of Britain.  Fate stepped in, though, when a German bomber accidentally bombed London.  Churchill responded with an RAF night raid on Berlin.  Hitler, incensed, redirected Luftwaffe resources to daily targeting of the English capitol.  The tragic attack on the civilian population allowed the RAF the time it needed to regroup and recover.  Hitler's terror tactic was a strategic failure and, with winter setting in, the planned invasion was indefinitely postponed.  

Legendary Aircraft

Spitfires began their epic engagement with Luftwaffe aircraft just over a year following their introduction to the RAF.  They were one of the factors, along with radar and the shrewd decision-making of RAF Air Marshall Dowding, that enabled Britain to end Hitler's string of victories at the shore of the English Channel.  


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