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Supermarine Seafire: Development and Service Record

Supermarine Seafire: Development and Service Record



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Supermarine Seafire: Development and Service Record

Introduction
The False Start

The Sea Spitfire Revived
Variants
Service Record

Introduction

The Supermarine Seafire was the naval version of the Spitfire, but never shared that aircraft's impressive reputation, instead becoming known as a fragile aircraft not well suited to carrier operations. Despite its flaws Seafire squadrons served with distinction in the Mediterranean, on D-Day and against the Japanese in the Pacific.

The Seafire was never an ideal naval fighter. It was not really robust enough for prolonged operations on aircraft carriers, and suffered from more accidents than its more robust American contemporaries. Its narrow-track undercarriage and long nose didn't help, making landings particularly dangerous. Its range wasn't really good enough for naval service, limiting its use as an escort fighter at sea just as it did on land. Low range also meant low endurance, which limited the time the Seafire could stay in the air when on Combat Air Patrol duty.

The Seafire's big advantage was that it was a genuinely high performance fighter, well able to hold its own against its German and Italian opponents.

The False Start

The first attempts to produce a naval Spitfire began in 1938. The Admiralty was worried about delays to the new Blackburn Roc and Skua, and the Fairey Fulmer, and so approached Fairey to see if they would produce a naval version of the Spitfire under licence. Fairey were uninterested, and so the Navy asked for increased production of the Sea Gladiator.

This too was refused, and so the navy turned its attention back to the Spitfire. Supermarine installed an A-frame arrestor hook on an existing Spitfire, and Joseph Smith produced a design for a Griffon powered Spitfire with folding wings, the Supermarine Type No.338. Work on folding wing began in February 1940, and a contract to produce 50 folding-wing Spitfires was agreed. However the project ran into opposition from Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty, and on 16 March 1940 the contract was cancelled.

The Sea Spitfire Revived

By May 1940 the Fulmar was six months behind schedule. The Admiralty made another unsuccessful attempt to get Spitfires, and also looked at the Hawker Typhoon and Blackburn Firebrand as alternatives. An order was placed for 181 Grumman F4Fs (81 Martlet Is taken over from a French order and 100 Martlet IIs ordered after the fall of France), which entered service as the Martlet, and performed well. The problem with the Martlet was that it wasn't available in sufficient numbers in 1940 - large scale deliveries didn't begin until 1942, when 220 Martlet IVs were produced under Lend Lease.

This meant that in 1941 the Admiralty still needed to find a source for a large number of naval fighters. Once again it looked to the Spitfire, and this time the Air Ministry agreed to provide a number of Mk.Is and 48 Mk Vbs immediately and 200 Mk Vcs later.

The first two Mk Vbs went to Worthy Down for naval modifications and familiarization during 1941. Catapult and deck trails began early in 1942, and in the spring of 1942 contracts were placed to convert 116 Spitfire Vbs into Seafire Ibs. The Ib was followed by the Seafire IIc, a similar design but newly built for naval use (both entered service at the same time). The final version to see wartime service was the Mk.III, which was also the first to use folding wings.

Work on a Griffon powered Seafire began during the war, but the Mk.XV didn't arrive in time to take part in the fighting. It was followed by a series of Griffon powered Seafires which filled the gap before the arrival of the Hawker Sea Fury.

Eventually over 2,000 Seafires were produced, 1,200 Merlin powered and 800 Griffon powered.

Variants

The Merlin powered Seafires were given their own sequence of mark numbers, running from Mk.I to Mk.III. The Griffon powered Seafires were placed in the same sequence as the Spitfire, thus the leap from the Mk III to the Mk XV. The system was modified again for the last three versions, which were given much higher mark numbers - the Mk XVII was originally going to be the Mk.41, and was followed by the Mk.45, Mk.46 and Mk.47. Part of this gap would have been filled by the Seafang, the naval version of the Spiteful (an attempt to produce a replacement for the Spitfire), which used mark numbers in the 30s.

Seafire Ib

The Seafire Ib was produced by converting 166 existing Spitfire Vbs to naval standards. All were given arrestor hooks, and the 118 aircraft produced by Cunliffe-Owen had catapult spools. None had folding wings. The first aircraft were delivered in June 1942, and the type saw some limited front line service.

Seafire IIc

The Seafire IIc was the first purpose-built version of the Seafire, and was produced alongside the Ib. Like the Ib it had fixed wings.

Seafire III

The Seafire III was the first version to be given folding wings, and was produced in larger numbers than any other version, with 1,218 being built. The Seafire III was the main service version of the aircraft.

Seafire XV

The Seafire XV was the first Griffon powered version of the aircraft, and entered service just too late to be used during the Second World War.

Seafire XVII

The Seafire XVII was an improved version of the XV, with a bubble canopy as standard, and an improved undercarriage, which made for much safer carrier landings.

Seafire Mk.45

The Seafire Mk.45 was the first version to be powered by a Griffon 60 series engine, in this case the Griffon 61. It had fixed wings and suffered from directional instability caused in part by the powerful engine. It was used for training and trials, and was soon replaced by the Mk.46

Seafire Mk.46

The Seafire Mk.46 solved some of problems with the Mk.45 by introducing contra-rotating propellers. These cancelled out most of the torque from the engine. However the Mk.46 still lacked folding wings, and so didn't see front line service.

Seafire Mk.47

The final version of the Seafire was also the best. It retained the contra-rotating propellers of the Mk.46, but added folding wings, making it suitable for carrier operations. The Seafire Mk.47 saw combat in Malaya and in the first campaigns of the Korean War.

Service Record

The first squadron to receive the Seafire was No.807, which began to replace its Fairey Fulmars on 23 June 1942. It was soon joined by a small contingent from No.801 Squadron, and in July the two squadrons embarked on HMS Furious, taking part in two supplies trips to Malta during August. No.801 Squadron officially converted to the Seafire in September, and the two squadrons then embarked on the Furious, and sailed for North Africa to take part in Operation Torch.

Eventually the Seafire would be used by 28 regular and reserve squadrons, and serve on more than twenty British carriers. It would see service in the North Sea, the Mediterranean, the India Ocean and the Pacific during the Second World War, and in Malaya and Korea after the war. The peak came in the summer of 1942 when eighteen squadrons were equipped with the Seafire.

Combat

Operation Torch - North Africa

The Seafire made its debut during Operation Torch, the Allied invasion of North Africa. Nos.801 and 807 Squadrons on HMS Furious and No.885 on HMS Formidable helped support the landings. The Seafire scored its first victory on 8 November 1942, although sources differ on the exact incident. Some give the credit to Sub Lt. A.S.Long of No.885 Squadron, who shot down a Vichy Martin 167 light bomber (No.885 Squadron saw most action during the invasion). Other sources credit Sub Lt. G.C. Baldwin, who shot down a Dewotine D.520 near Oran.

Operation Torch also saw the Seafire begin to require its unenviable reputation as a fragile aircraft, suffering 40% losses during the campaign. Many of these losses were caused by poor visibility, but there was always an element of truth to this reputation, and the Merlin powered Seafires were not easy to land on carrier flight decks.

Sicily

Four Seafire squadrons were used to support Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily. No.885 operated from HMS Formidable, serving alongside two Martlet-equipped squadrons, while all three of Indomitable's fighter squadrons (807, 880 and 899) were equipped with the Seafire.

Salerno

The big test came at Salerno, which saw the largest deployment yet of the Seafire, and the largest ever deployment in the Mediterranean. Two fleet carriers, Illustrious and Formidable, the aircraft support ship Unicorn and the escort carriers Attacker, Battler, Hunter and Stalker provided fighter cover for the invasions from 9 to 12 September 1943. The carriers stayed in place for much longer than expected after the land operations failed to capture the expected airfields. This battle also saw the introduction of the Seafire III.

The Seafire squadrons lost seventy aircraft in landing accidents, with most lost either when they hit the barrier after missing all of the arrestor wires, when the undercarriage failed, or when over-braking caused the Seafire to tip onto its nose. These accidents came over the course of a very large number of sorties. On 9 September the Seafires flew 265 sorties, losing 35 aircraft, but deterring around 40 German attacks. By the third day of the campaign there were only 39 of the original 100 Seafires left (many of the other aircraft were under repair). Even so on 11 September the Seafire pilots flew 160 sorties.

Although the overall figure for Seafire accidents was very high, with 42 written off, 32 of them in landing accidents, this figure was distorted by the difficult conditions on HMS Unicorn, which caused 21 of the landing accidents.

Tirpitz

The Seafires of Nos.801 and 880 Squadron, on HMS Furious were used to support the Fleet Air Arm attack on Tirpitz on 3 April 1944. By this time the Seafire had been joined in service by large numbers of American Wildcats, Hellcats and Corsairs, each of which had longer ranger than the Seafire. For the attack on the Tirpitz this meant that the Seafires were limited to providing a combat air patrol while the American fighters escorted the Barracudas that made the actual attack. The Furious was then joined by the new carrier Indefatigable, which arred No.894 Squadron's Seafires. More attacks on the Tirpitz followed in July and August, but the great German battleship would eventually be sunk by the RAF>

D-Day

The Seafire made a minor contribution on D-Day, when some American pilots of the Air Spotting Pool used the type to direct naval gun fire.

Operation Dragoon

During Operation Dragoon, the invasion of the south of France, four of the seven British escort carriers of Task Force 88 operated the Seafire. The force was made up of No.899 Squadron on HMS Khedive, and No.4 Fighter Wing, on Attacker, Hunter and Stalker.

The attack began on 15 August, and was almost unopposed by the Luftwaffe. The carrier force was soon free to withdraw, and after a visit to Alexandria undertook a series of raids in the Aegean between 25 August and 22 October.

Far East

The Tirpitz was finally sunk by RAF bombers, freeing the Royal Navy to send strong forces to the Far East. The fleet carriers HMS Indefatigable (Nos.887 and 894 Squadrons) and Implacable (Nos.801 and 880 Squadrons) and four escort carriers operated the Seafire in the Far East.

The escort carriers began with strikes on Japanese targets along the Burmese coastline. HMS Indefatigable took part in attacks on the crucial Japanese oil facilities on Sumatra in January 1945, and then joined Task Force 57 off Okinawa. The Indefatigable was only one of four British fleet carriers in the force, operating alongside the Indomitable, Illustrious and Victorious, but she was the only one to operate the Seafire.

As part of Task Force 57 the Indefatigable and her Seafires took part in the attack on Okinawa, taking up a position around the Sakishima Gunto Islands, to prevent reinforcements reaching the area from Japan or Formosa. The Seafires were used to provide the combat air patrol, while the longer-ranged American fighters supported the attacks on the islands.

In June 1945 the British Pacific Fleet returned to Australia to refit. The Indomitable was withdrawn and in July was replaced by the Implacable with 48 Seafires. The next stage of the advance towards Japan saw the American fleet redesignated as the Third Fleet, and so Task Force 57 became Task Force 37. In late July the British began to attack targets around Tokyo, flying 1,000 sorties in eight days. Operations stopped on 3 August, in preparation for the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima. The fleet returned to action on 9 August, although by the time the Japanese surrendered a lack of supplies meant that the Indefatigable was the only British carrier involved. Her last combat mission came on 15 August, and saw a dozen Zeroes clash with a mixed force of Avengers and Seafires. The next day the Seafires fired their last shots of the war in anger, shooting down a Japanese aircraft that had attacked the Indefatigable despite the Japanese cease-fire.

The Implacable arrived in July, and together the two British carriers formed Task Force 37, operating alongside the American carriers of Task Force 38 as part of the 3rd Fleet.

Malaya

By the time the Seafire was used in action again the wartime Mk.III had been replaced by the Griffon powered FR.47.

By 1949 No.800 Squadron on a new HMS Triumph was the only Seafire squadron still at sea, serving with the Far East Fleet. The squadron was part of the 13th Carrier Air Group, serving in the Far East Fleet, but its first combat experience came as a land-based unit. On 3 October the Triumph's aircraft were disembarked at Sembawang, to take part on the fighting against Communist guerrillas in Malaya. The first stroke came on 21 October when 10 Seafires and 12 Fireflies made rocket attacks on a guerrilla position. A second raid followed on 24 October, and the squadron remained onshore until 1 November, when it re-embarked on the Triumph to return to Hong Kong. A second spell of operations followed, this time from Singapore, and lasting from 19 December to 24 January.

After this short ground-based interlude the Seafires returned to the Triumph for a trip to the Philippines. The Triumph then spent two weeks in Singapore, before setting off for a cruise to Australia and Japan.

Korea

On 24 June the trip to Japan ended, and the Triumph set sail for Hong Kong. On the following day North Korean forces invaded the south. The Triumph was immediately ordered to return to Japan. Within a few days the UN had voted to support South Korea, and the Triumph along with the rest of the British Far East Fleet was put at the disposal of the UN Forces. On 1 July the Triumph reached Okinawa, where she joined the US Seventh Fleet, forming part of Task Force 77.5.

The task force reached its position off the Korean coast early on 3 July, and almost immediately launched its first attack, which saw 12 Seafire FR.47s and nine Firefly FR.1s make a rocket attack on Haeju airfield. No aircraft were seen, but the hangers and buildings were attacked. One Seafire suffered engine damage, but was able to return to the carrier. On 4 July the Seafires were used to attack targets of opportunity, before on 5 July the British task force departed for Sasebo and Okinawa to refuel and replenish supplies. While at Okinawa the Seafires and Fireflies were given black and white recognition stripes, as the Americans believed that the British aircraft resembled the Soviet Yak 9 then being used by the North Koreans.

On 16 July the Triumph, with Task Force 77, set sail to support the landings at Pohang on 18 July. Aircraft from the USS Valley Forge supported the actual landings, while the Seafires were used to provide a CAP over the fleet on 18-19 July. A typhoon then disrupted flying, before on 21 July the Triumph was forced to return to Sasebo for repairs. While there she received seven fresh Seafires from HMS Unicorn. A lack of replacement aircraft would soon become a serious problem. The Seafire FR.47 had not been built in large numbers, and not all of those aircraft were actually available in the Far East.

On 24 July the Triumph left Sasebo to rejoin the task force to the north of Gelpart Island. Two days of CAP duty followed, before on 26 July the Triumph was moved to the east coast. While here the Seafires were sent up to investigate a radar trace which turned out to be a formation of Boeing B-29 Superfortresses. One of the B-29s opened fire on the Seafires after they had identified the formation as friendly, shooting down one aircraft, although the pilot escaped safely. On 29 July the Triumph returned to Sasebo, where two damaged Seafires were offloaded.

On 12 August the Triumph returned to the west coast to blockade a number of small inlets. This period saw them attack a number of North Korean ships, and the naval base at Chinnampo. A second spell on the west coast followed on 19-21 August. This was followed by a period flying combat air patrols that saw a freak accident kill No.800 Squadron's commanding officer. Lt.Cdr MacLachlan was in the operations room of the Triumph on 29 August when a Firefly hit the barrier while landing. One of the propeller blades shattered, and part of the blade flew into the operations room, fatally wounding MacLachlan.

On the next day the Triumph returned to Sasebo, where she collected the last six Seafires available in the Far East. Another round of CAP and reconnaissance missions followed from 3-5 September, before the Triumph sailed to the east coast to relieve some American carriers. While off the east coast the Seafires were used to make rocket attacks on the port of Wonsan and other targets.

On 9 September the Triumph was withdrawn to Sasebo to prepare for the landings at Inchon. She returned to sea on 12 September, and the Seafires flew their first sorties on 13 September, attacking Haeju and Chinnampo. A series of armed reconnaissance missions were flown over the next few days, while the main landings at Inchon achieved total success. By 20 September the Triumph only had eleven serviceable aircraft, of which four were Seafires. Only one of these was cleared for combat. The Triumph's replacement, HMS Theseus, was by then close to Korea, so on 21 September the Triumph sailed for Sasebo, ending the front line service career of the Supermarine Seafire. No.800 Squadron itself was disbanded on 10 November 1950, leaving the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve as the only operator of the type.


Supermarine

Supermarine was a British aircraft manufacturer that is most famous for producing the Spitfire fighter plane during World War II as well as a range of seaplanes and flying boats, and a series of jet-powered fighter aircraft after World War II. The company had successes in the Schneider Trophy for seaplanes, with three wins in a row of 1927, 1929 and 1931.

The company was founded in 1913 as Pemberton-Billing Ltd on the River Itchen close to Woolston, Southampton, on ground previously purchased by Noel Pemberton Billing to construct motor launches. [1] It produced a couple of prototypes using quadruplane designs to shoot down zeppelins, the Supermarine P.B.29 and the Supermarine Nighthawk. The aircraft were fitted with the recoilless Davis gun and the Nighthawk had a separate powerplant to power a searchlight. [2] Upon election as a Member of Parliament (MP) in 1916, Pemberton-Billing sold the company to his factory manager and longtime associate Hubert Scott-Paine who renamed the company Supermarine Aviation Works Ltd. The company became famous for its successes in the Schneider Trophy for seaplanes, especially the three wins in a row of 1927, 1929 and 1931.

In 1928 Vickers-Armstrongs took over Supermarine as Supermarine Aviation Works (Vickers) Ltd and in 1938 all Vickers-Armstrongs aviation interests were reorganised to become Vickers-Armstrongs (Aircraft) Ltd, although Supermarine continued to design, build and trade under its own name. The phrase Vickers Supermarine was applied to the aircraft. The first Supermarine landplane design to go into production was the famous and successful Spitfire. The earlier Hawker Hurricane and the Spitfire were the mainstay of RAF Fighter Command fighter aircraft which fought off the Luftwaffe bombing raids with fighter escorts during the Battle of Britain in the summer of 1940. While the Hurricane was available in larger numbers and consequently played a larger role, the new Spitfire caught the popular imagination and became the aircraft associated with the battle. It went on to play a major part in the remainder of the war, in a number of variants and marks, and it was the only allied fighter aircraft to be in production through the entirety of the Second World War. Other planes from the period include the Seafire (a naval version of the Spitfire). Supermarine also developed the Spiteful and Seafang, the successors of the Spitfire and Seafire, respectively, and the Walrus flying boat. The Supermarine main works was heavily bombed in 1940. This curtailed work on their first heavy bomber design, the Supermarine B.12/36 which was replaced by the Short Stirling.

After the end of the war, the Supermarine division built the Royal Navy's first jet fighter, the Attacker, developed from the final Spitfire type. It served front line squadrons aboard aircraft carriers and RNVR squadrons at shore bases. The Attacker was followed by the more advanced Swift which served in the fighter and photo-reconnaissance roles. The last of the Supermarine aircraft was the Scimitar. In the shakeup of British aircraft manufacturing, Vickers-Armstrongs (Aircraft) became a part of the British Aircraft Corporation and the individual manufacturing heritage names were lost.


Contents



  • 1 Development


  • 1.1 Origins


  • 1.2 Further development


  • 1.3 Assessment



    • 2.1 Wartime service


    • 2.2 Post war service



    • 6.1 Notes


    • 6.2 Citations


    • 6.3 Bibliography


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    ORIGINS

    The Royal Navy’s desire for two-seat aircraft which combined reconnaissance and interceptor roles emerged in the 1920s.

    War games had revealed a glaring problem.

    Fighters launched from carriers would regularly become lost once they had passed beyond 20 nautical miles of the fleet.

    This presented a dual problem.

    First, it often resulted in the loss of the machine and pilot.

    But, also, it meant any sighting report they issued was almost wildly inaccurate.

    Pairing an Observer with a Pilot allowed one to concentrate on keeping the aircraft in the air, with the other keeping track of where they were.

    The Hawker Osprey emerged in the early 1930s to test this concept. In the absence of radar and radio-direction finding, it proved to be a significant improvement.

    Such was its success that it was followed-up by a design requirement that produced the Blackburn Skua (dive-bomber fighter) and Roc (turret fighter). But it quickly became apparent that these low-wing monoplanes simply attempted to do too much with their limited airframes. They were underpowered, over-weight and had poor aerodynamics.

    The emergency fleet fight program was initiated which produced the Fairey Fulmar. But the Fleet Air Arm knew this project was a stop-gap measure.

    So, the Admiralty also issued another set of requirements calling for a two-seat multi-role fleet fighter to be designed and built for the role from the ground up.

    This was designated Specification N8/39. It was issued March 1939. It was to be a medium-range two-seat front-gunned naval fighter to replace the Sea Gladiator, Skua and Fulmar.

    Later that year, the Admiralty issued a requirement for a dorsal turret multi-role fighter: N9/39. But a few short months later, the failure of the RAF’s turret fighter – the Boulton-Paul Defiant – in action prompted the Admiralty to dump the turret-fighter concept.

    This resulted in Specification N5/40, which was built around the characteristics of a new design Fairey had already begun work on the previous year. But this quick gestation would not lead to a fast development.


    WI: Seafires on deck

    We would need to model out a lot of stuff. Assuming a seafire is good here are some thoughts.

    Going through things operation by operation to see if there would be a big win.

    Improved fighters aren't going to save Courageous Glorious or Ark Royal. In fact I don't see a single incident in the Atlantic where improved fighters would be likely to change things in 1840 or 1941. The loss of the Fulmars might hurt the hunt for Bismarck slightly (what if the swordfish that landed the torpedo was acting as a scout instead) but thats unlikely.

    Looking at the Mediterranean. Very little change in 1940 from having better carrier fighter aircraft.

    Ineffective Italian Air attacks during Calabria might result in more planes being shot down.

    I don't see a substantial change in operation excess. The British would inflict higher losses on the Italians and Fliegerkorps X but Illustrious is probably still going to be badly damaged. I might be hit by 4 or 5 bombs instead of 7 (6 and one later while in port) but she is still going to go to America to be repaired. What might change is the losses inflicted on the heavily trained fliegercorps x.

    At matapan fighters didn't really get a chance to make an impact. In the morning the British withdrew out of fear of Italian airstrikes but all they were doing was rescuing Italian sailors from the water. They weren't going to chase the Italian fleet down.

    In the battle of Crete a better carrier fighter would make a massive difference. The Royal Navy came out of Crete with something like 40 ships sunk or heavily damaged mostly by air attack. I could see Formidable not taking the damage she took historically but I can't see her serving through the battle of Crete without taking damage. She will of course be a priority target for the Germans. More German aircraft losses and probably a few cruisers and destroyers protected from German Air attack but the carrier situation would probably remain the same.

    There's a few Malta convoys escorted by Ark Royal where seafires could inflict additional losses on German and Italian planes and save a destroyer or a cruiser or a transport or two. The loss to anti shipping airforce would have a cumulative effect too.

    At a guess the effect of Seafires instead of Fulmars on British carriers in 1940 and 1941 is 3 or 4 cruisers and a half dozen destroyers not sunk. Another 3 or 4 cruisers and another half dozen destroyers not needing major repairs and an extra 40-80 Italian or German anti shipping planes shot down.

    Its a noticeable difference but it doesn't free up a fleet or change things substantially between 1940 and 1941.

    Its worth noting that additional battles could happen with a more secure royal navy but unless they decide Fligerkorps X is broken so let's put a force across the route of Italian convoys I doubt there would be substantial differences. Its much easier for me to review historical engagements.


    WI: Seafires on deck

    You can probably reduce the damage by aircraft on the Malta convoys and the battle of Crete by between a fifth and a third. The extra available resources may snowball.

    I don't see much change in the Pacific unless the extra available resources from reduces losses really snowballs.

    HMS Audacious

    You can probably reduce the damage by aircraft on the Malta convoys and the battle of Crete by between a fifth and a third. The extra available resources may snowball.

    I don't see much change in the Pacific unless the extra available resources from reduces losses really snowballs.

    Peg Leg Pom

    Cryhavoc101

    You can probably reduce the damage by aircraft on the Malta convoys and the battle of Crete by between a fifth and a third. The extra available resources may snowball.

    I don't see much change in the Pacific unless the extra available resources from reduces losses really snowballs.

    With the Seafire an established fighter forming the backbone of the fleets defence no need for the Fulmar (or certainly much reduced need for it) and no need for the Sea Hurricane (meaning that more could be carried - the Sea Hurricane did not fold).

    And as the Late great Just Leo used to say 'Performance is not the most important thing in a fighter plane - its the only thing' and the Spitfire (upon which any TTL Seafire is based) in 1942 out performed any other Allied interceptor fighter (particularly those suited for carrier service) then in service by any metric you could choose with perhaps the exception of range.

    It also remained competitive with the Axis machines throughout the war as it was improved.

    And with production undertaken in the UK greater control over spares and airframe numbers could be better controlled

    One of the issues with the Wildcat/Martlet - particularly in 1942 was the speed at which they were being provided and able to be brought into service - resulting in a mixed bag of aircraft types.

    With no requirement for Fulmar and Sea Hurricane for that matter - the result is far more airframes available from the UK to serve the FAAs needs.


    2 Replies to &ldquoA Story of Fighter Development&rdquo

    Great film but very disappointing that the key design team, responsible for the redesign of the Spitfire wing which had a significant impact on the result of the war, were not commented on/shown until the end of the film.

    For me it’s a miracle that they are shown and mentioned at all!

    Very little footage exists of the Design Office and even less of the Research, Test or Technical Office.

    Although senior designers like Joe Smith, Alf Faddy and Eric Lovell-Cooper are mentioned many are not. The film includes Harry ‘Griff’ Griffiths and his colleague (who I think is called Margaret, from a different photo, but I don’t know her surname) as well as Alan Clifton and Ernest Mansbridge (both senior and long standing members of the Technical Office) .. but not named.


    Supermarine Seafire: Development and Service Record - History

    Air to air view of Vickers Supermarine Seafire Ib BL676 'Bondowso'

    Vickers Supermarine Seafire III MA970 showing wing fold arrangements
    • Mk I, and Mk II (total 542 aircraft converted from Spitfire VB and VC)
    • Mk III with folding wings (Supermarine prototype and 1,263 new-build aircraft from Westland Aircraft and Cunliffe Owen)
    • Mk XV Griffon-powered (6 prototypes and 434 production aircraft from Westland and Cunliffe Owen)
    • Mk XVII with cut-down rear fuselage (prototype and 233 production aircraft, mainly from Westland).

    Westland-built Vickers Supermarine Seafire XVII SX336 celebrates its manufacturer's centenary in 2015.

    In-flight photograph of Seafire FR47 VP463 showing its contra-rotating propeller

    Supermarine Seafang

    Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 05/06/2021 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site.

    In the course of the storied career of the fabulous Supermarine Spitfire of the British Royal Air Force (RAF), there came about an appropriate number of developments related to the classic fighter first seen during the "Battle of Britain" in the summer of 1940. Beyond the late-war speedy variants and steady gun platforms arose a branch of related fighters intended to ultimately succeed the war workhorse. This was first seen with the Supermarine "Spiteful", which failed as a potential successor with just nineteen examples completed, and the later Supermarine "Seafang", a navalized version of the Spiteful to follow in the steps of the wartime Supermarine Seafire, itself a navalized version of the land-based Spitfire.

    The original Spiteful was born from a 1942 initiative to bring about increased performance from the Spitfire airframe which peaked in diving tests in the 600 mile-per-hour range. It was decided to design an all-new wing to replace the original's iconic elliptical set and a straight, tapered laminar-flow approach was approved. The new wings were attached to existing Spitfire bodies for testing and this combination ultimately produced the altogether different "Spiteful".

    It was a Spiteful F.Mk 15 model, pulled from the F.Mk 14 stock, that was to serve as the basis for the Seafang carrier-based fighter. This aircraft was fitted with a Rolls-Royce Griffon 89 engine of 2,350 horsepower and given power-assisted folding wings to better serve in storage aboard the space-strapped British carriers of the day. An arrestor hook was added under the tail to snag deck wires upon landing. A pair of three-bladed contra-rotating propeller units were driven by the Rolls-Royce powerplant to provide the necessary speeds.

    A pair of Seafang prototypes were ordered in March of 1945. A simplified version of the Seafang was born as the Seafang F.Mk XXXI (Type 382) in which the Spiteful aircraft was given arrestor gear and power was from a Rolls-Royce Griffon 61 engine of 2,375 horsepower driving a five-bladed propeller - the goal to provide an immediate solution as World War 2 still raged on. As this fighter came online, engineers would focus their efforts on a more polished version - the Seafang F.Mk XXXII (Type 396). This aircraft would showcase a Rolls-Royce Griffon 89 engine of 2,350 horsepower driving contra-rotating propellers.

    A production order for some 150 of the interim Mk XXXI fighters was given in May - though the war in Europe had wound down to a close and just nine of this mark were completed before the order cancelled. Development on the Mk XXXII continued for a short time longer, however, and a first flight of a prototype was recorded during June of 1946. A deck landing was accomplished in May of 1947 aboard HMS Illustrious.

    Two prototypes were all that would realized of the Seafang project for its wartime need was no longer there. Military aviation had also embraced the concept of jet-powered fighters as well which essentially marked the last days of prop-driven fighter types in frontline service. The Royal Navy eventually settled on such jets as the de Havilland "Vampire" and adopted the powerful Hawker "Sea Fury" as its last prop-driven carrier-based mount - leaving little in the way of a promising future for the Seafang and its related Spiteful development.


    Supermarine Seafire

    The Seafire was the naval version of the Spitfire and entered service with the Fleet Air Arm during June 1942, where it would serve as a front-line aircraft until 1951. During the Second World War the type would take part in 'Operation Torch'. The Korean War saw No. 800 Naval Air Squadron use the Supermarine Seafire operating from HMS Triumph. Other users of the type included the French Aeronavale and Royal Canadian Navy.

    The idea for a naval version of the Supermarine Spitfire originated during 1938, but it wouldn't be until November the following year when a Sptifre was tested to asses whether the type could be used aboard an aircraft carrier. However the need for Spitfires within the Royal Air Force lead to the Fleet Air Arm ordering the Fairey Fulmar as their new fighter to compliment the Blackburn Roc and Gloster Sea Gladiator which were already in service.

    The Fleet Air Arm were desperate for a more modern aircraft as the ones currently in service were no match against the Japanese Mitsubishi A6M Zero and German Messerschmitt Bf 109, and after the Spitfire excelled during the Battle of Britain the Admiralty would again show interest in the aircraft for use aboard its carriers, and again it would have to wait. However they were able to secure the use of a navalised Hawker Hurricane known as the Sea Hurricane.

    Eventually in September 1941 permission for a Sea Spitfire was granted and two months later during December a Spitfire Mk VB fitted with an arrestor hook was sent to HMS Illustrious (87) for trials. With the first prototype, the aircraft now known as the Seafire, flying on the 7th January 1942. Although the modified Spitfire made a number of deck landings, take-offs and catapult launches these were done under favourable conditions, therefore, providing little warning of the problems the Seafire would encounter in operational conditions. As a result forty eight Spitfire Mk Vs would be converted to Seafire Mk IBs with the first one flying on the 23rd March 1942 and entering service on the 15th June 1942.

    Converting the Spitfire required an arrestor hook, catapult spools and slinging lugs, which were reinforced, on both sides of the fuselage, as well as naval avionics to be added. It would be Air Service Training at Hamble who would convert a number of Spitfires whilst Supermarine modified a number on the production line and brand new Seafires were built by Cunliffe-Owen Aircraft. Featuring either a fixed or clip wing, which was dependant on the Spitfire Mk converted, and two 20-mm cannons and four 0.303-in machine-guns, although a small number would have four 20-mm cannons. But the major hindrance for the Seafire was the fact that during its development the Spitfire was never considered to be used aboard an aircraft carrier. Two of the major issues with the type were its poor forward view and inability to carry more fuel internally.

    Whilst the Seafire Mk IB had simply been converted Spitfires, the Seafire Mk IIC was built as a naval aircraft from the very start. These were available in two different variants, the Mk F.IIC for medium and high altitude operations and a low altitude Mk L.IIC, and one would be sent to the United States for tests at the Naval Airtest Centre. The first Mk IICs started to enter service when twelve joined No. 807 Naval Air Squadron during June 1942 and these along with Seafires which No. 801 Naval Air Squadron received in September 1942 would serve aboard HMS Furious (47) until February 1943. During this time they participated in the Allied invasion of North Africa, known as 'Operation Torch', which began on the 8th November 1942. A total of five Seafire squadrons would be used, destroying a total of nine Vichy France aircraft, five in the air and four on the ground.

    Seafire operations continued and the following September 1943 they were tasked with protecting the fleet during the Allied invasion of Italy at Salerno. Although forty four were lost, just two were a result of combat. Most had suffered accidents, so many in fact that they had exhausted the spare propellers stock aboard HMS Hunter (D80), the only action available was to cut six inches off each blade of the damaged propeller. This was to become standard practice as it proved an effective remedy. Despite its problems the Seafire would be the fastest fighter afloat during a ten month period from October 1942 until August 1943 when the A6M5 Zero and F6F-3 Hellcat started to enter service.

    The Seafire Mk III was next and the Fleet Air Arm received their first example on the 8th June 1943 and when they entered service during November of that year they would be the first Seafires to have manually folding wings with two folds, one before the armament and the other allowing the wing tip to fold downwards, the Mk III made handling of the plane much easier and it could be transported using carrier lifts. The Mk III was involved in the invasion of Southern France during August 1944 and eight Seafire Mk IIIs would take part, on the 15th August 1945, in one of the last dogfights of the Second World War (1939 – 1945) when twelve Japanese aircraft, four Mitsubishi J2M Raidens and eight A6M Zeros came up against Nos. 887 and 894 Naval Air Squadrons who lost a single Seafire but shot down seven Zeros in the battle above Tokyo Bay, Japan.

    The next Mk of Seafire was the XV which was the first to be powered by a Rolls-Royce Griffon engine, this was a natural change to match the engine change with the Spitfire. The Mk XV also had an increased fuel capacity and a new 'sting' type arrestor hook. These entered service during May 1945 with No. 802 Naval Air Squadron at RNAS Arbroath. Development of the type continued and the Seafire Mk XVII featured a clear-view bubble canopy and an increase in fuel capacity, however this would not see service during the Second World War. Three more Seafires followed, the Mk 45 based on the Spitfire Mk 21 and Mks 46 and 47 being based on the Spitfire Mk 22 and 24.

    The Seafire F. Mk 47 would see action during the Korean War (1950 – 1953) with No. 800 Naval Air Squadron who operated from HMS Triumph (R16). They were involved in their first action on the 3rd July 1950 and would spend nearly three months on operations. When the squadron returned to Britain they received the Supermarine Attacker to replace their F. Mk 47s in 1951, the Seafires front line service was over. The Seafire was eventually retired from Fleet Air Arm service when No. 764 Naval Air Squadron was disbanded on the 23rd November 1954 as when the squadron was recommissioned during February 1955 it was equipped with Hawker Sea Hawks and de Havilland Sea Vampires.

    The type would also serve with the Royal Canadian Navy and French Aeronavale and a total of 2,580 would be built by the time the last Seafire rolled of the production line, a Mk 47, on the 28th January 1949.


    Watch the video: Supermarine Seafire - A Short History (August 2022).