The iconic British designed Supermarine Spitfire short-range, high-performance interceptor aircraft was without doubt one of the most successful fighters used by the RAF and other Allied countries during and after World War II. Built in many variants and using several wing configurations, it was produced in greater numbers than any other British aircraft.
The Spitfire's airframe was complex: the streamlined, semi-monocoque duralumin fuselage featured a large number of compound curves built up from a skeleton of 19 formers, also known as frames, starting from frame number one, immediately behind the propeller unit. The skins of the fuselage, wings and tailplane were secured by rivets, and in critical areas such as the wing forward of the main spar where an uninterrupted airflow was required, with flush rivets; the fuselage used standard dome-headed riveting. The Spitfire featured a unique semi-elliptical wing shape designed to solve two conflicting requirements. The wing needed to be thin, to avoid creating too much drag, while still able to house a retractable undercarriage, plus armament and ammunition.
The Luftwaffe were so ill prepared to counter the extraordinary attack and turning qualities of the Supermarine Spitfire that concerted efforts were made to destroy the main spitfire manufacturing plants at Woolston and Itchen, near Southampton. The first bombing raid, which missed the factories, came on 23 August 1940. Over the next month, other raids were mounted until, on 26 September 1940, both factories were destroyed with 92 people killed and a large number injured. Fortunately for the future of the Spitfire, many of the production jigs and machine tools had already been relocated to smaller facilities across England to escape the German bombing campaign.
The early Mk Is were powered by the 1,030 hp (768 kW) Merlin Mk II engine driving an Aero-Products "Watts" 10 ft 8 in diameter two-blade wooden fixed-pitch propeller, weighing 83 lb. This was later upgraded to the more efficient 3 bladed alloy propeller and a 5 blade in later variants.
Following complaints from pilots of poor visibility, a new form of "blown" canopy was manufactured and started replacing the original "flat" version in early 1939. The ‘bubble’ canopy improved headroom and enabled better vision laterally, and to the rear. The MkIA featured the original A-type wing design with eight .303 calibre Browning machine guns. The basic structure of the wing was unchanged until the C type in 1942 when a heating system for the gun bays was also incorporated to prevent the guns from freezing up at higher altitudes.
In the Mediterranean the Spitfire blunted the heavy attacks on Malta by the Regia Aeronautica and Luftwaffe and, from early 1943, helped pave the way for the Allied invasions of Sicily and Italy. The Spitfire served on the Eastern Front where almost a thousand were supplied to the Soviet Air Force. as well as also serving in the Pacific Theatre where it struggled against the Japanese Mitsubishi A6M Zero, which could out-turn and out-climb the Spitfire and stay in the air for three times as long. Over the Northern Territory of Australia, RAAF and RAF Spitfires helped defend the port town of Darwin against air attack suffering heavy losses largely due to the type's limited fuel capacity.
All Supermarine Spitfire Instruments listed below come complete with detailed Scale Model, Mango Wood Stand & Plaque plus Printed Fact Sheet featuring photo of instrument in aircraft cockpit.
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