The Spitfire is perhaps the most famous British aircraft of all time. Though it played a minor role in the Battle of Britain compared with the less glamorous Hawker Hurricane, it was probably the most important single type of aircraft on the allied side in World War 2. It was built in larger numbers than any Allied type outside the Soviet Union, remained in production throughout the entire war and was developed to a greater extent than any other aircraft in history.
The prototype Spitfire (K5054) was flown unpainted by chief test pilot 'Mutt' Summers at Eastleigh airfield (now Southampton airport) on March 5th 1936. The Spitfire Mk.I reached No.19 Squadron at Duxford in July 1938. The Mk.1 Spitfire had a 1,030-hp Merlin II engine and eight Browning 0.303-in machine guns. In early 1940 the Mk.IB was delivered which had a superior armament of two 20-mm cannon and four 0.303-in machine guns. Subsequent variants improved engine power, firepower, and strengthened airframes. Variants included fighters, high altitude interceptors, low level interceptors, Photo Reconnaissance aircraft at high and low level, and even a navalized version called the Seafire.
The Mk.V Spitfire had a strengthened fuselage, a more powerful Merlin engine of 1,440-hp or 1,470-hp with drop tank and provisions for a 500 Ib bomb. The armament varied with either eight 0.303-in machine guns, two cannons and four machine guns, or four cannons. Spitfires designed to operate at low level had the tips of their wings removed to improve manoeuvrability and speed at low level. No fewer than 6,479 Spitfire Vs were built,
more than any other mark.
The Mk.IX Spitfire was also built in large numbers with a total of 5,665 aircraft produced. In fact the Mk.IX was simply a Mk.V Spitfire with a newer engine. The Spitfire Mk.VIII was a much better aircraft and in the opinion
of most pilots the nicest of all Spitfires to fly and yet far fewer were built.
The Mk.XIV was the most important Spitfire in the final year of World War 2. It had a two-stage Griffon engine delivering 2,050-hp and driving a five bladed propeller. The airframe was redesigned and strengthened with
symmetric deep radiators, broad tail and often a teardrop canopy. A total of 957 of these aircraft were built.
A list of Airworthy Spitfires.
A list of recently crashed Spitfires.