Supermarine Spitfire facts for kids
The Supermarine Spitfire is a British single-seat fighter aircraft. It was used by the Royal Air Force and many other Allied countries throughout the Second World War. The Spitfire was designed by R. J. Mitchell as a short-range, high-performance interceptor aircraft. There were more Spitfires made than any other British aircraft and it was the only British fighter that was being made throughout the war.
The Spitfire’s elliptical wing had a thin cross-section. This allowed a higher top speed than other fighters of the time, including the Hawker Hurricane. The elliptic shaped wing gives the aircraft a very low amount of induced drag. Speed was seen as essential to carry out the mission of home defence against enemy bombers. The original airframe was designed to be powered by a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine producing 1,030 hp (768 kW).
Because of its higher performance, Spitfire units had a higher victory-to-loss ratio than units flying Hurricanes.
A tribute to the people who built the spitfires can be found next to the site of the factory where they were made. It is in Castle Bromwich in Birmingham. It is a sculpture called Sentinel.
Specifications (Spitfire MK VB)
Data from Spitfire: The History and Jane’s Fighting Aircraft of World War II
- Crew: one pilot
- Length: 29 ft 11 in (9.12 m)
- Wingspan: 36 ft 10 in (11.23 m)
- Height: 11 ft 5 in (3.86 m)
- Wing area: 242.1 ft2 (22.48 m2)
- Airfoil: NACA 2213 (root)
- Empty weight: 5,065 lb (2,297 kg)
- Loaded weight: 6,622 lb (3,000 kg)
- Max. takeoff weight: 6,700 lb (3,039 kg)
- powerplant: 1 × Rolls-Royce Merlin 45[nb 16] supercharged V12 engine, 1,470 hp (1,096 kW) at 9,250 ft (2,819 m)
- Maximum speed: 370 mph (322 kn, 595 km/h)
- Combat radius: 410 nmi (470 mi (756 km))
- Ferry range: 991 nmi (1,135 mi (1,827 km))
- Service ceiling: 36,500 ft (11,125 m)
- Rate of climb: 2,600 ft/min (13.2 m/s)
- Wing loading: 27.35 lb/ft2 (133.5 kg/m2)
- Power/mass: 0.22 hp/lb (0.36 kW/kg)
- A wing
- 8 × .303 in Browning Mk II* machine guns (350 rounds per gun)
- 2 × 20 mm Hispano Mk II (60 rounds per gun)
- 4 × .303 in Browning Mk II* machine guns (350 rounds per gun)
- 4 × 20 mm Hispano Mk II cannon (120 rounds per gun)
- 2 × 20 mm Hispano Mk II (120 rounds per gun)
- 4 × .303 in Browning Mk II* machine guns (350 rounds per gun)
- 2 × 20 mm Hispano Mk II cannon (120 rounds per gun)
- 2 × .50 in M2 Browning machine guns (250 rounds per gun)
Images for kids
Spitfire Mk IIA, P7666, EB-Z, “Observer Corps”, was built at Castle Bromwich, and delivered to 41 Squadron on 23 November 1940.
This Spitfire PR Mk XI (PL965) was built at RAF Aldermaston in southern England.
Spitfire Mk IIa P7350 of the BBMF is the only existing airworthy Spitfire that fought in the Battle of Britain.
The elliptical planform of a Spitfire PR.Mk.XIX displayed at an air show in 2008: The black and white invasion stripes are visible.
Spitfire HF Mk VII: The shape of the ellipse was altered by the extended “pointed” wing tips used by the high-altitude Mk VIs, VIIs, and early Mk VIIIs.
Spitfire at the National Museum of the United States Air Force
K9795, the 9th production Mk I, with 19 Squadron in 1938
Supermarine Spitfire Mk.VC, BR114, of the No 103 MU, Aboukir, 1942
The Spitfire Mk XI flown by Sqn. Ldr. Martindale, seen here after its flight on 27 April 1944 during which it was damaged achieving a true airspeed of 620 mph (998 km/h or Mach 0.92)
Supermarine Spitfire LF Mk XIIs of 41 Squadron in April 1944
Spitfires Mk Vc (Trop) of 352 (Yugoslav) Squadron RAF (Balkan Air Force) before first mission on 18 August 1944, from Canne airfield, Italy
Lynn Garrison Spitfire AR614 now in Paul Allen Collection
Spitfire XIVe NH749 of the Commemorative Air Force, based at Camarillo airport, Southern California, seen with period-dressed crew members in 2011.
10 Facts About the Supermarine Spitfire
Is there a more iconic fighter plane in military history than Britain’s beloved Supermarine Spitfire? Speedy, agile and equipped with plenty of firepower, the aircraft played a crucial role in the Battle of Britain, duking it out with the Luftwaffe and earning its status as a symbol of the country’s spirited airborne resistance.
Here are 10 facts about the Spitfire.
1. It was a short-range, high-performance plane
He is a German Luftwaffe ace with 81 confirmed victories on the Eastern front. Now a 95-year-old veteran, Hugo Broch will soar into the skies in a Spitfire.
Designed by R. J. Mitchell, chief designer at Supermarine Aviation Works in Southampton, the Spitfire’s specifications lent themselves to its initial role as an interceptor aircraft.
2. It was named after the daughter of the manufacturer’s chairman
The Spitfire’s name is often assumed to derive from its ferocious firing capabilities. But it likely owes just as much to Sir Robert McLean’s pet name for his young daughter, Ann, who he called “the little spitfire”.
After the chairman of Vickers Aviation is thought to have proposed the name with Ann in mind, a clearly unimpressed R. J. Mitchell is quoted as saying it was “the sort of bloody silly name they would give it”. Mitchell’s preferred names apparently included “The Shrew” or “The Scarab”.
Dan Snow’s lifelong dream has been to fly a Spitfire. Now he gets the chance to go up in a two-seater version. Join him as he experiences the awe of seeing the coast from the air, learns how dog-fights would really have played out, and even attempts some daring and stomach-flipping aerobatics.
3. The Spitfire’s maiden flight was on 5 March 1936
It entered service two years later and remained in service with the RAF until 1955.
4. 20,351 Spitfires were built in total
A World War Two pilot breaks for a haircut in front of a Spitfire between sweeps.
Of these, 238 survive today across the globe, with 111 in the UK. Fifty-four of the surviving Spitfires are said to be airworthy, including 30 of those in the UK.
5. The Spitfire featured innovative semi-elliptical wings
This aerodynamically efficient Beverley Shenstone design was perhaps the Spitfire’s most distinctive feature. Not only did it deliver induced drag, but it was also thin enough to avoid excessive drag, while still able to accommodate the retractable undercarriage, armament and ammunition.
Learn who is considered the true father of the RAF, why a flag must be evacuated in the event of a fire and why there are two portraits of World War One German flying aces in the college library.
6. Its wings evolved to take on more firepower…
As the war progressed, the firepower housed in the Spitfire’s wings increased. The Spitfire I was equipped with the so-called “A” wing, which accommodated eight .303in Browning machine guns – each with 300 rounds. The “C” wing, which was introduced in October 1941, could take eight .303in machine guns, four 20mm cannon or two 20mm cannon and four machine guns.
7. …and even beer kegs
Eager to help thirsty D-Day troops, resourceful Spitfire MK IX pilots modified the plane’s bomb-carrying wings in order that they could carry beer kegs. These “beer bombs” ensured a welcome supply of altitude chilled beer to the Allied troops in Normandy.
8. It was one of the first planes to feature retractable landing gear
This novel design feature initially caught several pilots out, however. Used to ever-present landing gear, some forgot to put it down and ended up crash landing.
The D-Day landings of June 6 1944 were the largest amphibious landing in the history of warfare, and are famed as a major turning point towards Allied victory. But they weren’t without planning and practice. In late April 1944, the Allies launched one of their trial runs, Exercise Tiger, off Slapton Sands in Devon. The aim was a closely choreographed landing, the result was a disaster. Hear Dr Harry Bennett from the University of Plymouth discussing the players in this trial run, and how it became the Battle of Lyme Bay.
9. Each Spitfire cost £12,604 to build in 1939
That’s around £681,000 in today’s money. Compared to the astronomical cost of modern fighter aircraft, this seems like a snip. The cost of a British-produced F-35 fighter jet is said to be more than £100million!
10. It didn’t actually shoot down the most German planes in the Battle of Britain
Hawker Hurricanes shot down more enemy planes during the Battle of Britain.
Despite the Spitfire’s strong association with the 1940 air battle, the Hawker Hurricane actually shot down more enemy planes over the course of the campaign.
- A wing