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Picture of Supermarine Spitfire MkIa WW2 Fighter

On the 11th of August 1938 the first production Spitfires entered RAF squadron service flying into RAF Duxford to equip No. 19 Squadron, these Spitfires were all MkIa's fitted with four machine guns in each wing and a fixed pitch twin bladed propeller, this was soon replaced with a more efficient 2-pitch 3-bladed design. The Supermarine Spitfire MkI was armed with either with eight 0.303 Browning machine guns as a MkIa or with four 0.303 Browning machine guns and twin 20mm cannon as the MkIb.

Supermarine Spitfire MkIa Fighter Plane

 

In total 1566 Mk I Spitfires were produced, but at the outbreak of WW2 only 182 Spitfires were in RAF service and the main task of wining the Battle of Britain fell to the more numerous Hawker Hurricane.

The Supermarine Spitfire MkIa and the newer MkII Spitfires were the British fighters that fought alongside the less glamorous Hawker Huricane in the Battle of Britain, the Hurricanes engaged the German bombers while the more agile but less numerous Spitfires engaged their Messerschmitt Bf 109 E fighter escorts. Few MkI Spitfires survive today, this is partially due to high losses in the early part of WW2, and the fact that most survivors were converted in to Spitfire MkV's. The Supermarine Spitfire MkIa aircraft pictured above is displayed in London's Imperial War Museum and is a Battle of Britain veteran having shot down two German fighters during the conflict.

It is of interest to note that the Supermarine Spitfire's 300 round ammunition belts were nine yards in length, often a young pilot returning from an operational sortie would enthusiastically describe an aerial combat by saying "I gave him the whole nine yards", hence the popular phrase "The Whole Nine Yards".

 

The name 'Spitfire' was applied to this famous fighter aircraft by Sir Robert MacLean, director of Vickers (the owners of Supermarine), on hearing this, the aircrafts designer R.J. Mitchell, is reported to have said - "sort of bloody silly name they would give it!" When on the 5th of March 1936 the Spitfire prototype K5054 was first flown by Vickers chief test pilot Captain Joseph "Mutt" Summers he thought the aircraft was so good he was widely reported as having told Vickers design team "Don't touch anything" as soon as he landed. The production aircraft, the Supermarine Spitfire MkI was basically the same airframe design as RJ Mitchell's K5054 Spitfire prototype powered by either a Rolls Royce Merlin II or III engine giving a top speed of 362mph.

Supermarine Spitfire Mk1 Armament:

  • Eight wing mounted .303 Browning machine guns
 
 

Prototype spitfire K5054

The Prototype spitfire K5054 was destroyed in a fatal crash on the 4th of September 1939 at the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough but former Supermarine Chief test pilot, Jeffery Quill,  led a small team of ex-Supermarine employees to build this exact replica of  Reginald J Mitchell's prototype Spitfire in 1984.

 
Replica of Reginald J Mitchell's prototype Spitfire
 

Supermarine Spitfire Mk1 Specifications:

  • Crew: Pilot only
  • Wingspan: 36ft 11 in (11.25m)
  • Length: 29ft. 11 in (9.12m)
  • Height: 11 feet 5 inches (3.48m)
  • Engine: Single 1,030 hp Rolls-Royce Merlin III twelve-cylinder liquid-cooled V12
  • Maximum Speed: 362 mph (584km/h) at 19,000 ft (5,790m)
  • Range: 395 miles
  • Service Ceiling: 34,556ft (10,532m)
 
 
 
Spitfire MkIa
 

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