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Spitfire Marks

TYPE 224 Mk X Seafire I
Prototype Mk XI Seafire II
Mk I Mk XII Seafire III
Speed Spitfire Mk XIII Seafire XV
Mk II Mk XIV Seafire XVII
Mk PR III Mk XVIII Seafire 45
Mk IV Mk XIX Seafire 46
Mk PR IV Mk XX Seafire 47
Mk V Mk 21 Seafang
Mk V Floatplane Mk 22
Mk VI Mk 23
Mk VII Mk 24
Mk PR VII Spiteful

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Graph of Spitfire production figures - Note the huge numbers of Mk V and IX produced



Supermarine Type 224

Built to Air Ministry Spec F7/30, this was the first aircraft to carry the name Spitfire. A gull winged monoplane with a fixed landing gear in "trouser" fairings, it was powered by a Rolls Royce Goshawk engine of some 600 horsepower and carried 4 machine guns. The Air Ministry contract went to the Gladiator from the Gloster Aircraft Company (The RAF's last biplane fighter). Supermarine's designer decided to develop a much more advanced design.


K5054 first flown in March 1936, using one of the very first Rolls Royce Merlin engines, the Spitfire prototype had a top speed of 342 mph. Air Ministry Spec F37/34 had been written around the new type, even so, the new aircraft exceeded all expectations.


Spitfire I

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The first production Spitfire, the mark I was powered by a Merlin III giving 1,030 hp and a maximum speed of 367 mph, although in squadron service, with armour plate for pilot protection added, the top speed was more likely to be 345 mph. The first batch had a straight topped cockpit canopy, later changed for the bulged type. This is the mark that mostly fought in the Battle of Britain, (although some mark II machines were in service by September 1940). Originally fitted only with wooden two blade fixed pitch propellers, they were later equipped with de Havilland three bladed variable pitch airscrews. Armament was either eight Browning .303 calibre machine guns (mk IA) or two 20 mm cannons and four machine guns (mk 1B). The cannon version was not produced in great quantity, the early cannon installations were not very satisfactory and prone to the mechanism jamming. The Spitfire I entered service in 1938 with 19 and 66 Squadrons. In all some 1,566 Mk I Spitfires were produced.



In an attempt to gain the world speed record two Mk I airframes on the production line were strengthened, one of these (K9834) was then fitted with a special "sprint" version of the Merlin engine, shorter span wings and a long streamlined cockpit canopy. The Heinkel 100 and Messerschmitt 209 put the record out of reach of the Speed Spitfire and it was fitted with a standard Merlin XII engine and used as a high speed reconaissance aircraft. It survived until 1946



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Produced at the Castle Bromwich "shadow" factory rather than at the Supermarine works at Southampton, production of the mark II had just got into full swing when the Supermarine works were badly damaged by bombing. The mark II was powered by the more powerful Merlin XII giving 1,175 hp increasing speed by some 10 mph. This may seem only a modest gain - but the Merlin XII used a Glycol/water mixture under pressure for cooling rather than the unpressurised pure Glycol system used on earlier Merlins. The new system removed heat from the engine more efficiently and made possible the later jumps in engine power of later Merlins. Armament was the same as the Mk I with different IIA and IIB versions with machine guns and cannons respectively. Production was 750 mk IIA and 170 mk IIB.


Experimental prototype with 1,280 Merlin XX engine and a retractable tail-wheel, clipped wings, a redesigned front windscreen and a slightly longer fuselage. The Mk III also had extra panels which fully covered the undercarriage when retracted (as per the Spitfire prototype). The Mk III was to be a new better breed of Spitfire. In the event the easiest way to keep volume production of the Spitfire going without the difficulties of making major changes on the production line was to produce the Mk V instead. In any event production of the Merlin XX engine had to be used for the Hurricane, the powerful engine being the only way to keep the slower, but more easily produced Hawker fighter battle-worthy. The sole Mk III was used as a test aircraft and pioneered the use of the Merlin 61 engine.


Spitfire IA with armament removed, extra fuel tank and Camera fitted for photographic reconnaissance. All modified from existing IA machines. A larger oil tank under the nose gave it a less streamlined profile, but extended the range.


Single prototype with the new Rolls Royce Griffon engine, later rebuilt as the mk XX.


Another PR version, this time with the Merlin 45 engine in a IA airframe with armament removed, extra fuel, oil and oxygen and up to three cameras in the fuselage. Speed 372 mph max. Range 1,460. 229 built.


Mark V

The most numerous mark of Spitfire, the V had the fuselage strengthened and Merlin 45, 46, 50, 55 or 56 engine (1,440 hp, Merlin 45). The V came with three different armament fittings : VA had eight Browning machine guns, VB had two cannons and four machine guns , VC introduced four 20mm cannons. Some mark Vs had "clipped" wings and modified engines for better low altitude performance. The V was the first Spitfire able to take a drop tank to increase its range and many were equipped to take bombs, usually either 250 or 500 lb types. Until the mk V all Spitfires were used for defence of the U.K. Sent overseas the Spitfire often had to have an unsightly dust filter modification that spoilt performance but saved the engine from damage. Introduced in 1941 the mk V outclassed the Messerschmitt 109E and held its own against the later 109F but was itself outperformed by the Focke-Wulf 190, which began to appear in 1941. Mk V max speed : 369 mph. Range : 480 miles. Ceiling : 37,000 ft. Production: VA = 94, VB = 3,923 , VC =2,447.

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At the time of the invasion of Norway work was started on converting Mk I Spitfires to use floats designed for use with Blackburn Shark torpedo bombers and Blackburn Roc fighters. This work was stopped after the fall of France. However when war with Japan started a new set of Floats was designed to be fitted to the Spitfire MkV with a view to using them in the Pacific and Indian Ocean. Three Floatplanes were built and they had modified tails and tropical filters (the first of the floatplanes flew for a time with the large tropical "beard" type filter but this was replaced by the much smaller type). All three floatplanes went to Egypt and it was planned for them to operate in the Eastern Mediterranean. In the event they only operated from the Great Bitter Lake in Egypt. Max speed 324mph at 19,500 ft. Service ceiling 33,400 ft. See also Mk XI



Developed to intercept high flying German reconnaissance aircraft, the Spitfire VI was developed for combat at extreme altitude. The cockpit was pressurised and the wings extended to end in pointed wing-tips, giving greater lift in the thin air. A Merlin 47 engine of 1,415 hp was fitted, driving a four bladed propeller. The mk VI was produced with the "B" armament of two cannons and four machine guns. The VI had a ceiling of 40,000 feet. 100 mark VIs were produced.



Another high altitude fighter version. It was thought that the Germans would use high altitude bombers to strike at Britain, unhindered by Fighter Command`s current equipment. The development of the Mk VI and then the VII was very much an insurance policy against such a development. The VII had the Merlin 61, 64 or 71 engine, with two stage supercharger giving 1,660 hp (Merlin 61). The two stage supercharger revolutionised the performance of the Spitfire at altitude. Previous Merlin`s performance had died away above 20,000 feet. The new Merlins astounded pilots by their ability to keep on going up and up! The VII kept the extended wing-tips and pressurized cabin of the VI but added a retractable tail-wheel. Many had a pointed tail-fin. Small leading-edge fuel tanks increased range. Armament was of the "B" type; two cannons and four machine guns. The new Merlin introduced two equal sized radiators, one under each wing. Previous Spitfires had an asymmetrical arrangement with radiators of unequal size. The VII could reach 44,000 feet. 140 MK VII Spitfires were produced.



Another reconnaissance version. The P.R. VII used a IA airframe with a Merlin 45. Three cameras were fitted. Extra fuel was carried in the rear of the fuselage in the area where the radio would normally have been fitted. No radio was fitted on this Mark. The P.R.VII had no fuel tanks in the wings, meaning the armament of eight machine guns could be retained. A large oil tank was fitted under the nose as per the Mk P.R. III and IV.



The VIII was very much like the VII. It was a properly engineered airframe to mount the new Merlin engines in. It had a retractable tail-wheel, pointed rudder and a neat tropical filter, which did not impede performance. The VIII came in three versions:- The FVIII was the normal fighter version. The LFVIII was a low altitude version with a Merlin 66 engine and the HFVIII was optimised for high altitude with extended wing- tips and a Merlin 70 engine, but no cabin pressurisation. The VIII was perhaps the nicest version of the Spit to fly. However production was slow to start and most went to the Middle or Far East. The need to get Spitfires with the new engines into production and out to the squadrons as fast as possible to counter the "Focke-Wulf" scourge meant that priority was given to the easier-to-produce Mk IX. The VIII had armament of two cannons and four machine guns. Production of the VIII was 1,658 airframes.



Mark IX

Britain`s answer to the Focke-Wulf 190 the IX was a stop-gap project to put the new Merlin two-stage supercharged engine into a Mk V airframe. The IX was kept in production far longer than anyone imagined and formed the bulk of Fighter Command`s equipment during the middle war years. The IX came in versions for low altitude combat with clipped wings and for high altitude with extended wing-tips as well as the mass-produced normal fighter version. Normal armament was two cannons and four .303 calibre machine-guns, although the "E" wing was introduced on the MK IX giving an armament of two cannons and two heavy calibre .50 machine-guns that gave much better range and penetrating power than the earlier rifle calibre machine-guns. At medium and high altitude the IX was superior to the FW190 although the Focke-Wulf excelled at low altitude. Later "long-nosed" versions of the FW190 regained the edge over the Mark IX but by then still improved Spitfires were waiting in the wings to regain mastery of the air. It was the Mark IX that began the process of establishing air superiority for the Allies over Europe, an air superiority extended and maintained by the long range American Thunderbolt, Mustang and Lightning fighters. One Mk IX was fitted with floats as used on the Mk V floatplanes and had the same modifications to the tail. It was reconverted to a landplane after trials during 1944. In all 5,665 Mark IX Spitfires were produced.

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A high altitude photographic reconnaissance version with the pressurized cabin, retracting tail-wheel and pointed tail of the MKVII, a Merlin 64 or 71 engine, but with a normal span wing fitted with leading edge tanks and a larger oil tank in a less pointed nose gave the MK X Spitfire extra range. No armament fitted. Various camera installations installed. 16 Mark X Spitfires were produced. One was fitted with extended wing-tips.



Another reconnaissance version the XI was very similar to the X except it did not have cabin pressurization. Merlin 61,63 or 70 fitted. Tropical equipment was fitted as standard. 471 were produced.



The Spitfire XII was a dedicated low-level interceptor and introduced the Griffon engine with 1,735 hp. The Griffon made the Spitfire 3 foot longer and the nose had to have two large bulges above the exhaust ports to accommodate the cylinder blocks of the new engine. The XII gave the R.A.F. something that could catch the FW 190 at low level, being capable of 350 m.p.h. at sea-level. All the Mark XIIs had clipped wings to give increased low-level performance. They all had pointed tail-fins and an armament of two cannons and four .303 machine-guns. Later ones in the production run had retracting tail-wheels. 100 were produced.



A Photographic reconnaissance aircraft, the XIII was very similar to a Mark V except it had a Merlin 32 engine that drove the usual Mk V three-bladed propeller. The XIII was only fitted with 4 machine guns. Three cameras were carried and there was provision for drop-tanks.18 were produced.



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Just as the performance of the Merlin had been transformed by a two-stage supercharger, so the already impressive power of the Griffon engine was boosted to a staggering 2,050 hp. A five bladed propeller had to be used to absorb this new power. The MK XIV fuselage was based on the VIII but with a fin and rudder of larger area to improve directional stability with the new engine power. Later XIVs were fitted with "teardrop" cockpit canopies to improve vision to the rear. Like the XII the XIV had the Griffon "bulges" on the nose but had symmetrical radiators under the wings, whereas the XII had asymmetrical radiators like the single-stage Merlin engined Spits. The XIV was fitted with armament of either two cannons and four .303 machine-guns or two cannon and two .50 machine-guns. The MK XIV was the next Spitfire to be produced in quantity and took the fight to the enemy, being introduced in 1944 in time for the liberation of Europe. The XIV had the measure of the long-nosed FW190 D that appeared some time later. However by this time air superiority had been largely won, so the Spitfires were often free to engage ground targets. The MK XIV could carry a 250 or 500 lb bomb under the fuselage and two 250 lb bombs under the wings. (Even so it would take a whole squadron of Spitfires to carry the bombload of a single Lancaster bomber-and over much less range!) The MK XIV was also one of the few aircraft able to catch and destroy the V1 flying bomb. The Spitfires could sometimes "tip-up" the wing of a V1 by flying alongside and putting their wing under that of the flying-bomb, causing it to tumble out of control. 957 Spitfire Mk XIV aircraft were produced.



Very much like the IX but with the American built Packard version of the Merlin known as the Merlin 266. Armed with two cannon and two .50 machine guns, some could carry four cannon instead. Many had Teardrop cockpit canopies or extended wings. A four bladed airscrew was fitted. 1,054 were produced.



A redesigned airframe to take the two stage Griffon was the main feature of this type. (The Mk XIV being a quick exercise using the earlier Mk VIII airframe) The XVIIIs all had teardrop canopys and extra fuel in the wings. Many were used for photographic recconnaissance. 300 were produced.



A P.R. version of the Mk XIV with a teardrop hood, extra fuel in the wings. Many were fitted with cabin pressurisation. No armament was fitted. It was a XIX that flew the last Spitfire sortie with the R.A.F. in 1954. 225 of this mark were produced.



The single Spitfire IV was renamed the XX when it was rebuilt with parts from the prototype XII.



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With the 21 the classification of Spitfire marks swapped from Roman to Arabic numerals. The wing of the Spitfire had changed very little during the aircraft`s development. However, with the Mk 21 the elliptical wing gave way to a new one with blunted tips and changes to the flaps and ailerons. The wing was made even stronger and carried four 20mm cannon. The fuselage was redesigned and the whole airframe was heavier than previous Spitfires, meaning the undercarriage had to be made more robust. The wheels were now fully covered by undercarriage doors in flight (this had been a feature of Mitchell`s first prototype Spitfire and the prototype Mk III but was not adopted on any production Spitfire before the 21). The usual engine was a Griffon 61 or 64 with a five bladed prop, although a few were fitted with the Griffon 85 with six blades in two sets of three rotating in different directions (known as a contra-rotating propeller) to use fully the 2,375 hp of the Griffon. The Mk 21 kept the normal bulged cockpit. When first introduced the Mk 21 had bad control characteristics, these were cured by modifications to rudder and elevators. 122 were produced.



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The 22 was the 21 but with a teardrop hood and cut back rear fuselage. Late Mk 22s had the huge tail fin developed by Supermarine for the Spiteful interceptor; planned as the Spitfire`s successor. The 22 had an armament of four 20mm cannon. 272 MK 22 Spitfires were produced.



Mark number assigned to a project to produce a Spitfire with a laminar flow wing. Such a wing was fitted to a single Mk VIII but produced no worthwhile advantage over the normal Spitfire wing, so the Mk 23 was never produced.



The last production Spitfire the 24 had the big "Spiteful" tail as standard and was armed with four short barrelled cannon that did not protrude forward of the wing. 54 Mk 24 Spitfires were produced.



Supermarine's replacement for the Spitfire was very similar in lines to the later Spitfires. It had an all-new wing with straight leading and trailing edges and a wide-track inward retracting undercarriage. An armament of four cannon was carried. The Spiteful showed no large improvement in performance over the later Spitfires and the new jet technologies promised to make it obsolete so only 17 were produced. In trials a top speed in level flight of 494 mph was reached. The wing design of the Spiteful was later used in the Supermarine Attacker naval jet fighter.



A naval conversion of the Spitfire V B. Eight machine-guns. The first 48 were intended to be used as trainers and lacked the homing beacon and slinging points of the second batch of 166 intended for combat use. All the Seafire IBs were conversions of existing Spitfire VBs.



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Another conversion of the Spitfire Mk V, this time the Spitfire VB with the universal wing able to take either the usual 2 cannon and 4 m-guns or four cannon ( the latter option never fitted) and provision for a bomb under each wing. All the Seafire IIs were produced as new and were not conversions of existing aircraft.  A more powerful Merlin 32 engine driving a four bladed propeller started to be fitted from November 1942 , the designation for a Seafire so equipped being L Mk IIC in due couse all Mk IICs were converted to this configuration. It was Seafire Mk IICs which provided the air cover for the "Torch" landings in West Africa. In all 372  Mk IICs were produced.



Another aircraft broadly similar to the Mk V Spitfire, but with Merlin 55 engine driving a four bladed propeller and folding wings. The wing folded upwards just inboard of the cannon and the tips folded down giving a "Z" configuration. When fitted with the Merlin 55M engine the designation became L Mk III, this mark being distinguished by the six individual exhaust stacks on each side of the nose rather than the groups of three collector pipes. The Mk III was the most numerous Seafire with 1,220 produced.

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This had the single stage Griffon engine in a basically Seafire L Mk III airframe but with wing root fuel tanks, retracting tailwheel and larger tail of the Spitfire VIII. It had folding wings and the two cannon, four m-gun armament. The arrester hook was often of the "sting" type, whereas previous marks had used a "v" frame hook. The XV could carry a 500lb bomb and the last 50 had the teardrop hood. 390 produced.

Seafire Mk XV courtesy of "WiskeySour100" - Cheers!

Royal Canadian Navy Seafire XV photographed by WhiskeySour100



The XVII was very similar to the XV except that the engine was modified to give extra power for take-off. The sting tail hook and teardrop hood were made standard. The preferred armament was now four 20mm cannon. Some were completed as reconnaissance aircraft, in which guise they were called FR MK17. Late XVII models featured a long-stroke undercarriage which greatly assisted carrier landings and an increased range due to a fuel tank behind the pilot and "plumbing" for wing mounted "slipper" fuel tanks. 232 produced.



The designation given to some XVIIs fitted with Griffon 36 engines.



All previous Seafires had single stage engines, fine for low altitude work and the defence of the fleet from all but high altitude bombers, which would have found moving warships an impossible target anyway. These Seafires were also well suited to supporting seaborne landings with low altitude bombing and strafing runs. However now it was time to take the war to the Japanese home islands and to fight a battle for air supremacy over those islands. In many ways the Battle of Britain in reverse. Now there was a need to get a really high performance, high altitude fighter to the British task forces. The Seafire 45 was the Spitfire 21 in naval guise with the two-stage Griffon engine. The new type 21 wing was kept and did not fold, and the type 45 had the normal bulged canopy. Armament was four cannon. Production 50.



The same as the 45 except it now had the teardrop cockpit canopy. Some were fitted with the big "Spiteful" tail. Fitted with cameras it was known as the FR 46. production 24.



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After the rush to get the 45 and 46 to the Fleet the 47 was the proper solution to the needs of an invasion of Japan. The Seafire 47 had folding wings operated by hydraulics and the Big Griffon 87 or 88 (2,375 hp) was fitted with contra-rotating propellers. Again there was a camera equipped FR 47 version. Armament was four 20mm cannon. Production 140.



The Seafang was the Supermarine Spiteful in naval form. An order for 150 Seafangs was placed but only 10 production aircraft had been delivered when the programme was cancelled. The powerplant was a Griffon 89 engine driving a contra-prop although the initial batch used the Griffon 69 and a normal five-bladed airscrew. Armament was four 20mm cannon. Production 10.

Spitfire Recognition Points

Spitfire with 3 stack exhaust.
The 3 stack engine exhaust seen on the early Spitfire Mks I , II and V

Spitfire with 6 stack exhaust.
The 6 stack engine exhausts of the later Merlin engines Spitfire Mks VII, VIII, IX, X, XI or XVI.

Spitfire nose with Griffon engine.
The "Griffon bulges" above the 6 exhaust stacks of an aircraft with a Griffon engine such as the MK XII, XIV, XVIII, XIX, 21, 22 or 24.

Spitfire with deep nose for larger oil tank.
The deep chin to accomodate a big oil tank for the long range photo reconnaissance Spitfires such as the Mk X and XI.

Spitfire rudder early version.
The rounded tail used on the early Spitfires, Mk 1, II, V, VI and most Mk IXs

Spitfire rudder later version.
The more pounted tail of the later Spitfires first used on the Mk VII 

Spitfire rudder very late version.
The big fin used on the Mk24 and some late Mk 22s.

Spitfire asymetric radiator layout.
The asymetric layout of the radiator and oil cooler under the wings shows it has a single-stage Merlin engine. It could therefore be a  Mk I, II, V or VI.
If it also had the "Griffon bulges" it would be a single stage Griffon engined MK XII.

Spitfire symetric radiator layout.
The symetrical radiators under the wings shows this to be a two-stage Merlin engined Spitfire, a Mk VII, VIII, IX, X, XI,XIII or XVI.
If it had "Griffon bulges" it would be a two-stage Griffon engined XIV, XVIII, XIX, 21, 22 or 24.

Spitfire wings evolution

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The classic elliptical wing of the Spitfire.

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Low alltitude Spitfires had clipped wings to attain higher speeds.

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High altitude spitfires had extended wing tips.

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Late model Spitfires ( Mk 21 onwards) had a redesigned wing shape.


Cockpit Evolution

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The early MkI cockpit with no bullet proof glass in the front windcreen, many photo recce spitfires also had unarmoured windscreens, but with a curved, streamlined front.


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The standard spitfire canopy with armoured glass in the front windscreen, bulged sliding hood and rear view mirror.


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The teardrop cockpit used on later spitfires


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