Supermarine Spitfire Mk.IA

Spitfire_MKla01

“Flying the Spitfire was like driving a sports car. It was faster than the old Hurricane, much more delicate. You couldn’t roll it very fast, but you could make it go up and down much easier… The Hurricane would drop a wing if you stalled it coming in, but a Spitfire would come wafting down… If you shut the throttle in a Hurricane you’d come to a grinding halt; in a Spitfire, you just go whistling on.”

— Glen H Niven, Pilot Officer, No. 602 Squadron RAF

 

Strengths:

Maneuverability – With its low wing loading, the Spitfire Ia is one of the better turning planes in the game, though not quite in the class of the Zero or Rat.

Speed – A top speed of 365 mph at altitude is in the high range for planes of the 1939-1940 period.

Weaknesses:

Firepower – The eight .303 Brownings are simply not enough to bring down enemy planes on a consistent basis.

Ground Attack – Lacking the ability to carry ordnance of any kind and possessing only rifle caliber machine guns, the Spitfire Ia is useless against ground targets.

Unlike the Hurricane, whose pedigree was a long line of combat aircraft, the Supermarine Spitfire came from a long line of racing seaplanes. Similarly, it was the brainchild of a brilliant aerodynamics engineer, Reginald J. Mitchell, who worked himself literally to death to design the machine that would serve as the backbone of the RAF fighter force throughout World War II.

Built around the Rolls Royce PV-12, the progenitor of the famous Merlin, the Spitfire first flew on March 5, 1935. A little over a year later, the Air Ministry issued a production order for 310 machines, which was later increased to 510. By the beginning of the war, the RAF had accepted 306 Spitfires from Supermarine.

As with most first models, numerous improvements were made during production, including the addition of armor plating, the newer Merlin III and a three-bladed deHavilland propeller. The Spitfire Ia, with its eight .303 Browning machine guns, was the primary version used during the Battle of Britain. With its faster speed and superior turning radius, the Spitfire was sent after Luftwaffe fighters, leaving the slower Hurricanes to deal with the bombers.

 

 

Sources:

Green, William; Famous Fighters of the Second World War; Hannover House, Garden City, NY; 1960.
Scutts, Jerry; Spitfire In Action; Squadron/Signal Publications; Carrollton,  TX; 1980.

Leave a Reply