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Great Britain's Supermarine Seafire naval fighter bomber

Photos

  • Supermarine Seafire fighter
  • Supermarine Seafire fighter
  • Supermarine Seafire fighter
  • Supermarine Seafire fighter
  • Supermarine Seafire fighter
  • Supermarine Seafire fighter
  • Supermarine Seafire fighter
  • Supermarine Seafire fighter
  • Supermarine Seafire fighter
  • Supermarine Seafire fighter
  • Supermarine Seafire fighter
  • Supermarine Seafire fighter
  • Supermarine Seafire fighter
  • Supermarine Seafire Mk IB fighter
  • Supermarine Seafire Mk IB fighter
  • Supermarine Seafire Mk IIC fighter
  • Supermarine Seafire Mk III fighter
  • Supermarine Seafire Mk XV fighter
  • Supermarine Seafire Mk XV fighter
  • Supermarine Seafire Mk XV fighter
  • Supermarine Seafire

Design

Starting in 1940 there was interest in a carrier based Spitfire aircraft to be used with the Fleet Air Arm.

A Spitfire Mk VB was modified in late 1941 by adding a tailhook. It was tested on the HMS Illustrious and concerns were expressed that the landing speed of the prototype was too great, however it was solved during the tests.

Undercarriage

There were problems with the Seafire's narrow undercarriage. An a-frame arrestor hook was installed.

Wings

The first model of Seafire to have folding wings was the Seafire F III. The wing tips were folder down, and then the wings folded up. This only added 125 lbs per plane. The fold was just inside the inner cannon and another fold on the wing tip. This allowed for easier storage in a carrier's hanger deck and made it easier for the plane to be moved around on deck.

Prototype

During December 1941 Lt. Commander H. P. Bramwell made seven take offs and four catapult launches from the fleet carrier HMS Illustrious.

The first prototype flew on January 7, 1942.

The Seafire IIC first flew on May 28, 1943.

Production

  • Seafire F.IB, Seafire IB:
    • Conversions: 166
      • Converted by: Air Service Training Limited (48), Cunliffe-Owen Aircraft Limited (118), RAF Maintenance Unites (45), Supermarine
    • Delivered between February 1942 and July 1943
  • Seafire II, Seafire IIC: 400
    • Conversions:
      • Converted by: Vickers-Supermarine on production line
    • Manufacturer: Wetland Aircraft Limited.
    • Delivery: June 1942, June 15, 1943
  • Seafire L IIC: 372
    • Manufacturer: Vickers-Supermarine (262), Westland Aircraft Limited (110)
  • Seafire LR IIC: ~30
    • Conversions: unknown number
  • Seafire III: >1,100
    • Production: April 1943 - July 1945, April 1943 - mid 1945
  • Seafire F III: 103
    • Manufacturer: Westland Aircraft Limited
  • Seafire L III, Seafire FR III: 1,060
    • Manufacturer: Westland Aircraft Limited, Cunliffe-Owen Aircraft Limited
  • Seafire Mk XV: 390
  • Seafire Mk XVII: 232
  • Seafire F.45: 50
  • Seafire F.46:
  • Seafire F.47: 90
  • Manufacturer: Supermarine Division of Vickers-Armstrong's Ltd.

Variants

  • Seafire BL676: Prototype. Converted Mk V. Had tail hook. Was Spitfire VB BL676. Was fitted with a tropical filter. A-frame arrestor hook.
  • Seafire Mk I: Conversion of a Spitfire Mk VA. Arrestor hook and catapult spool installed.
  • Seafire F.IB, Seafire IB: Converted Spitfire Mk Vs. Had vee frame arrestor hook. There was also a catapult spool. The fuselage was made stronger. Naval HF R/T, IFF, and Type 72 homing beacon was installed.
  • Seafire II, Seafire IIC: Based on the Spitfire Mk VC. Had catapult attachment points. Arrestor hook was added. Undercarriage was made stronger. Could use RATOG (rocket assisted take off gear). Some had clipped wings. Some had Vokes tropical filter.
  • Seafire F.IIC: Used Rolls-Royce Merlin 45 V 12 (1,470 HP) or Rolls-Royce Merlin 46 (1,415 HP) engine.
  • Seafire L.IIC: Photo reconnaissance. Used Rolls-Royce Merlin 32 (1,645 HP) or Rolls-Royce Merlin 55M (1,585 HP) engine. Four bladed Rotol propeller was installed.
  • Seafire LR.IIC: Photo reconnaissance. Used Rolls-Royce Merlin 32 (1,645 HP) or Rolls-Royce Merlin 55M (1,585 HP) engine. Had two F24 cameras. It kept its full armament.
  • Seafire F.III: Had folding wings.
  • Seafire FR.III: Used Rolls-Royce Merlin 32 (1,645 HP) or Rolls-Royce Merlin 55M (1,585 HP) engine. Had cameras.
  • Seafire LF.III, Seafire L III: Used Rolls-Royce Merlin 32 (1,645 HP) or Rolls-Royce Merlin 55M (1,585 HP) engine.
  • Seafire LR.III: Photo reconnaissance.
  • Seafire Mk XV: Larger fuel capacity due to rearrangement of fuel tanks. Folding wings. Deck arrestor gear added. New tail hook design. Went into service in May 1945.
  • Seafire Mk XVII: Landing gear made stronger. New canopy design. More fuel could be carried.
  • Seafire F.XVII: Four 20 mm guns.
  • Seafire FR.XVII: Photo reconnaissance. Two cameras.
  • Seafire F.45: Based on Spitfire F.21. Entered service in late 1946. Wings did not fold.
  • Seafire F.46: Based on Spitfire F.22 and F.24. Wings did not fold.
  • Seafire F.47: Wings could fold. More fuel carried.

Usage

Britain was the only user of the Seafire.

20 FAA squadrons were equipped with the Seafire.

First Use

The Seafire made its first operational debut in late 1942 during Operation Torch (invasion of North Africa). These were on the HMS Furious. Four squadrons were equipped with the Seafire Mk IICs. The 801 Naval Air Squadron (NAS) used the Seafire Mk IB. During 180 sorties the Seafires shot down three aircraft, damaged three in the air, and destroyed four on the ground. 21 Seafires were lost, three being shot down, and the others because of the thick haze.

Sicily

121 Seafires (15 Mk IICs, 106 L Mk IICs) were used in support of the invasion of Sicily. The were stationed on the escort carriers HMS Attacker, Battler, Hunter, and Stalker, and the fleet carriers HMS Formidable and Illustrious.

Salerno

There were eight Seafire squadrons on the carriers HMS Formidable and Illustrious, and the escort carriers HMS Attacker, Battler, Hunter, and Stalker.

During the covering operations, 42 Seafires were lost to accidents. Most of these were the inexperience of the pilots in taking off from Escort Carriers with a lack of wind.

Seafire LR IIC

The Seafire LR IICs were first used by the No 4 Naval Fighter Wing in late 1943.

British Pacific Fleet

Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser became commander in chief of the new British Pacific Fleet on November 22, 1944. The No 24 Naval Fighter Wing was equipped with Seafire F IIIs and Seafire L IIIs. The 887 and 894 Naval Air Squadron (NAS) performed most of the fleet defense with 40 Seafires. The fleet also had 12 Fireflies, 38 Hellcats, and 73 Corsairs.

Korea

The HMS Triumph had Seafire F.47s which took part in the last combat of Seafires.

Withdrawn from Service

In 1952 the Seafire was finally withdrawn from active duty.

Specifications

  Supermarine Seafire
Dimensions  
Span 36' 10"
11.23 m
Length 31' 10"
9.7 m
Wing area 242 sq ft
22.5 sq m
Weight  
Loaded 8,000 lb
3,632 kg
Performance  
Speed 400 mph
640 kph
Service ceiling 35,000'
10,675 m
  Supermarine Seafire F.I,
Supermarine Seafire IB
Type Naval fighter bomber
Crew 1
Engine (Type) Rolls-Royce Merlin 32
OR Rolls-Royce Merlin 45
OR Rolls-Royce Merlin 46
HP 1,415
Propeller blades 3
Dimensions  
Span 36' 10"
11.23 m
Length 30' 2.5"
9.21 m
Height 11' 5.5"
3.49 m
Armament  
Wings 2: 20 mm, 20 mm Hispano Mk 2
4: 0.303" MG
8: 0.303" MG
Rounds 20 mm: 120 each
0.303": 350 each
Bombs 1: 500 lb
1: 227 kg
OR 2: 250 lb
2: 113 kg
  Supermarine Seafire F.II
Supermarine Seafire IIC
Type Fighter, Naval fighter bomber
Crew 1
Engine (Type) Rolls-Royce Merlin 32 45
OR Rolls-Royce Merlin 45
OR Rolls-Royce Merlin 46
OR Rolls-Royce Merlin 48
OR Rolls-Royce Merlin 50
OR Rolls-Royce Merlin 55
Cylinders V 12
Cooling Liquid
HP 1,340
Propeller blades 3, Rotol constant speed
Dimensions  
Span 36' 10"
11.23 m
Length 30' 2.5"
9.21 m
Height 11' 2", 11' 5.5"
3.49 m
Weight  
Loaded 7,000 lb
Performance  
Speed @ 5,000' 333 mph
Service ceiling 32,000'
Range 755 miles
Armament  
Wings 2: 20 mm
4: MG, 0.303" MG
Bombs 1: 500 lb
1: 227 kg
OR 2: 250 lb
2: 113 kg
  Supermarine Seafire L IIC
Type Naval fighter
Crew 1
Engine (Type) Rolls-Royce 32
Propeller blades 4
Performance  
Speed @ sea level 316 mph
Speed @ 6,000' /
1,830 m
335 mph
  Supermarine Seafire F.III
Type Fighter, Naval fighter bomber
Crew 1
Engine (Type) Rolls-Royce Merlin 45
OR Rolls-Royce Merlin 46
OR Rolls-Royce Merlin 50
OR Rolls-Royce Merlin 55
OR Rolls-Royce Merlin 56
Cylinders V 12
HP 1,470
Propeller blades 4, Rotol constant speed
Dimensions  
Span 36' 10"
11.23 m
Length 29' 11", 30' 2.5"
9.12 m, 9.21 m
Height 11' 5", 11' 5.5"
3.48 m, 3.49 m
Height 11' 5"
3.48 m
Wing area 242 sq ft
22.48 sq m
Weight  
Empty 5,400 lb
2,449 kg
Loaded 7,000 lb
3,175 kg
Performance  
Speed at 12,250' /
3,734 m
352 mph
566 kph
Service ceiling 33,800'
10,302 m
Range 465 miles
748 km
Armament  
Wings 2: 20 mm
4: 0.303" / 7.7 mm MG
Bombs 1: 500 lb
1: 227 kg
OR 2: 250 lb
2: 113 kg
  Supermarine Seafire L III
Type Naval fighter
Crew 1
Engine (Type) Merlin 55M
HP 1,585
Dimensions  
Span 36' 10"
Length 30' 2.5"
Height - over cowling 8'
Wing area 242 ft2
Weight  
Empty 6,204 lb
Loaded 7,104 lb
Performance  
Speed @ 6,000' /
1,830 m
358 mph
Climb to 15,000' 5' 30"
Service ceiling 24,000'
Range with drop tank 400 miles
Armament  
Wings 2: 20 mm Hispano, late models Hispano Mk V
4: 0.303" Browning MG
  Supermarine Seafire LF.III
Type Naval fighter bomber
Crew 1
Dimensions  
Span 36' 10"
11.23 m
Length 30' 2.5"
9.21 m
Height 11' 5.5"
3.49 m
Weight  
Empty 6,204 lb
2,814 kg
Loaded 7,640 lb
3,465 kg
Performance  
Speed @ 6,000' /
1,830 m
348 mph
560 kph
Cruising speed 215 mph
346 kph
Climb 3,250'/minute
990 m/minute
Climb to 15,000'  
Service ceiling 32,000'
9,754 m
Range 465 miles
748 km
Range with drop tank 725 miles
1,167 km
Armament  
Wings 2: 20 mm
4: 0.303" MG
Bombs 1: 500 lb
1: 227 kg
OR 2: 250 lb
2: 113 kg
  Supermarine Seafire F.XV
Type Fighter
Crew 1
Engine (Type) Rolls-Royce Griffon VI
Cylinders V 12
Cooling Liquid
HP 1,850
Propeller blades 4 blade Rotol
Dimensions  
Span 36' 10"
Length 31' 10", 32' 3"
Height 10' 8", 10' 8.5"
Wing area 242 sq ft
Weight  
Loaded 8,000 lb
Performance  
Speed 391 mph
Speed @ 36,000' 392 mph
Climb 4,680' per minute
Service ceiling 37,000'
Range 903 miles
Armament  
Wings 2: 20 mm
4: MG, 0.303" MG
Fuselage - Bomb 1: 500 lb
  Supermarine Seafire FR.XVII
Type Fighter Reconnaissance
Engine (Type) Rolls-Royce Griffon VI
Dimensions  
Span 36' 11"
Length 32' 3"
Height 13' 6"
Wing area 242 sq ft
Weight  
Loaded 8,020 lb
Performance  
Speed 395 mph
Climb 4,680' per minute
  Supermarine Seafire F.XVIII
Type Firghter
Engine (Type) Rolls-Royce Griffon 36
Dimensions  
Span 36' 11"
Length 32' 3"
Height 13' 6"
Wing area 242 sq ft
Weight  
Loaded 8,370 lb
Performance  
Speed 411 mph
Climb 4,820' per minute
  Supermarine Seafire F.45
Type Fighter
Engine (Type) Rolls-Royce Griffon 61
Propeller blades 5 blade Rotol
Dimensions  
Span 36' 11"
Length 32' 4 "
Height 13' 6"
Wing area 243 sq ft
Weight  
Loaded 9,360 lb
Performance  
Speed 446 mph
Climb 5,270' per minute
  Supermarine Seafire F.46
Type Fighter
Engine (Type) Rolls-Royce Griffon 61
OR Rolls-Royce Griffon 64
OR Rolls-Royce Griffon 85
Propeller blades - 61, 64 5 blade Rotol
Propeller blades - 85 2: 3 blade contra-rotating
Dimensions  
Span 36' 11"
Length 32' 4 "
Height 13' 6"
Wing area 243 sq ft
Weight  
Loaded 9,730 lb
Performance  
Speed 449 mph
Climb 5,490' per minute
  Supermarine Seafire F.47
Type Fighter
Engine (Type) Rolls-Royce Griffon 85
Propeller blades 2: 3 blade contra-rotating
Dimensions  
Span 36' 11"
Length 32' 4 "
Height 13' 6"
Wing area 243 sq ft
Weight  
Loaded 10,000 lb
Performance  
Speed 453 mph
Climb 5,243' per minute
Armament 4: 20 mm

Sources:

  1. Aircraft of WWII, Stewart Wilson, 1998
  2. Seafire vs A6M Zero Pacific Theatre, Donald Nijboer, 2009
  3. World War II Airplanes Volume 1, Enzo Angelucci, Paolo Matricardi, 1976
  4. Jane's Fighting Aircraft of World War II, 1989
  5. The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II, Chris Bishop, 1998
20th Century American Military History Crucial Site