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Supermarine Spiteful

Supermarine Spiteful

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The Supermarine Spiteful was a British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 Rolls-Royce Griffon
Rolls-Royce Griffon
The Rolls-Royce Griffon is a British 37-litre capacity, 60-degree V-12, liquid-cooled aero engine designed and built by Rolls-Royce Limited...

-engined fighter aircraft
Fighter aircraft
A fighter aircraft is a military aircraft designed primarily for air-to-air combat with other aircraft, as opposed to a bomber, which is designed primarily to attack ground targets...

 designed by Supermarine
Supermarine was a British aircraft manufacturer that became famous for producing a range of sea planes and the Supermarine Spitfire fighter. The name now belongs to an English motorboat manufacturer.-History:...

 to Air Ministry
Air Ministry
The Air Ministry was a department of the British Government with the responsibility of managing the affairs of the Royal Air Force, that existed from 1918 to 1964...

 specification F.1/43 during the Second World War
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 as a successor to the Spitfire
Supermarine Spitfire
The Supermarine Spitfire is a British single-seat fighter aircraft that was used by the Royal Air Force and many other Allied countries throughout the Second World War. The Spitfire continued to be used as a front line fighter and in secondary roles into the 1950s...


Design and development

By 1942, Supermarine designers had realised that the aerodynamics of the Spitfire's wing at high Mach
Mach number
Mach number is the speed of an object moving through air, or any other fluid substance, divided by the speed of sound as it is in that substance for its particular physical conditions, including those of temperature and pressure...

 numbers might become a limiting factor in increasing the aircraft's high-speed performance. The main problem was the aeroelasticity
Aeroelasticity is the science which studies the interactions among inertial, elastic, and aerodynamic forces. It was defined by Arthur Collar in 1947 as "the study of the mutual interaction that takes place within the triangle of the inertial, elastic, and aerodynamic forces acting on structural...

 of the Spitfire's wing; at high speeds the relatively light structure behind the strong leading edge torsion box would flex, changing the airflow and limiting the maximum safe diving speed to 480 mph (772 km/h) IAS
Indicated airspeed
Indicated airspeed is the airspeed read directly from the airspeed indicator on an aircraft, driven by the pitot-static system. IAS is directly related to calibrated airspeed , which is the IAS corrected for instrument and installation errors....

. If the Spitfire was to be able to fly higher and faster a radically new wing would be needed.

Joseph Smith and the design team were aware of a paper on compressibility, published by A D Young of the R.A.E
Royal Aircraft Establishment
The Royal Aircraft Establishment , was a British research establishment, known by several different names during its history, that eventually came under the aegis of the UK Ministry of Defence , before finally losing its identity in mergers with other institutions.The first site was at Farnborough...

, in which he described a new type of wing section; the maximum thickness and camber would be much nearer to the mid-chord than conventional airfoils and the nose section of this airfoil would be close to an ellipse. On November 1942 Supermarine issued Specification No 470 which (in part) stated;
Specification 470 described how the wing had been designed with a simple straight-tapered planform
In aviation, a planform is the shape and layout of a fixed-wing aircraft's fuselage and wing. Of all the myriad planforms used, they can typically be grouped into those used for low-speed flight, found on general aviation aircraft, and those used for high-speed flight, found on many military...

 to simplify production and to achieve a smooth and accurate contour. The wing skins were to be relatively thick, aiding torsional rigidity which was needed for good aileron control at high speeds. Although the prototype was to have a dihedral
Dihedral angle
In geometry, a dihedral or torsion angle is the angle between two planes.The dihedral angle of two planes can be seen by looking at the planes "edge on", i.e., along their line of intersection...

 of 3° it was intended that this would be increased in subsequent aircraft. Another change, to improve the ground-handling, was replacing the Spitfire's narrow-track, outward-retracting undercarriage
The undercarriage or landing gear in aviation, is the structure that supports an aircraft on the ground and allows it to taxi, takeoff and land...

 with a wider-track, inward-retracting system. The Air Ministry were impressed by the proposal and, in February 1943, issued Specification F.1/43 for a single seat fighter with a laminar flow wing; there was also to be provision made for a wing folding scheme to meet possible FAA
Fleet Air Arm
The Fleet Air Arm is the branch of the British Royal Navy responsible for the operation of naval aircraft. The Fleet Air Arm currently operates the AgustaWestland Merlin, Westland Sea King and Westland Lynx helicopters...

 requirements. The new fighter was to use a fuselage based on a Spitfire VIII.

The new wing was fitted to a modified Spitfire XIV
Supermarine Spitfire (Griffon powered variants)
The Rolls-Royce Griffon engine was designed in answer to Royal Naval specifications which required an engine capable of generating good power at low altitudes...

United Kingdom military aircraft serials
In the United Kingdom to identify individual aircraft, all military aircraft are allocated and display a unique serial number. A unified serial number system, maintained by the Air Ministry , and its successor the Ministry of Defence , is used for aircraft operated by the Royal Air Force , Fleet...

, in order to make a direct comparison with the earlier elliptical wing, and was first flown on 30 June 1944 by Jeffrey Quill
Jeffrey Quill
Jeffrey Kindersley Quill OBE AFC FRAeS was a British Royal Air Force officer, RNVR officer and Test pilot and the second man to fly the Supermarine Spitfire after Vickers' chief test pilot, Joseph "Mutt" Summers. After succeeding Summers as Vickers' chief test pilot, Quill test-flew every mark of...

. Although the new Spitfire's speed performance was comfortably in excess of an unmodified Spitfire XIV, the new wing displayed some undesirable behaviour at the stall which, although acceptable, did not come up to the high standards of Mitchell's
R. J. Mitchell
Reginald Joseph Mitchell CBE, FRAeS, was an aeronautical engineer, best known for his design of the Supermarine Spitfire.-Early years:...

 earlier elliptical wing. NN660 crashed 13 September 1944, killing pilot Frank Furlong. No reason for the loss was officially established.

In the meantime, the opportunity had been taken to redesign the Spitfire's fuselage, to improve the pilot's view over the nose and to eliminate a slight directional instability by using a larger fin and rudder. This instability had been apparent since the introduction of the more powerful Griffon engine. The instability was exacerbated by the increase in propeller
Propeller (aircraft)
Aircraft propellers or airscrews convert rotary motion from piston engines or turboprops to provide propulsive force. They may be fixed or variable pitch. Early aircraft propellers were carved by hand from solid or laminated wood with later propellers being constructed from metal...

 blade area due to the introduction of the four-bladed and subsequent five-bladed Rotol airscrews for the next aircraft, NN664 (for which Specification F.1/43 had been issued). The updated design incorporated the new fuselage (although lacking the enlarged fin/rudder) and, as it was now substantially different from a Spitfire, the aircraft was named "Spiteful" (although "Victor" had been originally proposed).

Operational history

The Spiteful was ordered into production as the Spiteful XIV (having no preceding marks of its own, the numerals were carried over from the original Spitfire XIV conversion), and 150 of the aircraft were ordered. With the advent of jet
Jet aircraft
A jet aircraft is an aircraft propelled by jet engines. Jet aircraft generally fly much faster than propeller-powered aircraft and at higher altitudes – as high as . At these altitudes, jet engines achieve maximum efficiency over long distances. The engines in propeller-powered aircraft...

 propulsion, however, the future of high-performance fighters was clearly with the jet fighter, and so the order was later cancelled with only a handful of Spitefuls built. At the time however, there was some uncertainty over whether jet aircraft would be able to operate from the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

's aircraft carriers so it was decided to develop a naval version of the Spiteful, to specification N.5/45, subsequently named Seafang
Supermarine Seafang
-References:NotesBibliography*Bingham, Victor. Supermarine Fighter Aircraft. Marlborough, UK: The Crowood Press, 2004. ISBN 1-86126-649-9.*Buttler, Tony. British Secret Projects: Fighters and Bombers 1935-1950. Hersham, Surrey, UK: Midland, 2004. ISBN 1-85780-179-2.* Humphreys, Robert. The...


The Seafang featured folding wingtips, a "sting"-type arrester hook and a Griffon 89 or 90 engine, fed from an extended carburettor air intake driving a new Rotol six-bladed contra-rotating
Contra-rotating, also referred to as coaxial contra-rotating, is a technique whereby parts of a mechanism rotate in opposite directions about a common axis, usually to minimise the effect of torque. Examples include some aircraft propellers, resulting in the maximum power of a single piston or...

 propeller. The first one produced was a converted Spiteful XV (RB520) but with the successful operation of the de Havilland Sea Vampire
De Havilland Vampire
The de Havilland DH.100 Vampire was a British jet-engine fighter commissioned by the Royal Air Force during the Second World War. Following the Gloster Meteor, it was the second jet fighter to enter service with the RAF. Although it arrived too late to see combat during the war, the Vampire served...

 from the carrier in 1945, the need for the Seafang disappeared.

With the end of the Second World War, Supermarine entered into discussions with Société Nationale de Constructions Aéronautiques du Nord
SNCAC, the , sometimes known as ', was a French aircraft manufacturer created by the nationalisation of the Farman Aviation Works and Hanriot firms in 1936. It was liquidated after World War II, with assets distributed between other nationalised firms SNCAN, SNCASO, and SNECMA in 1949....

(SNCAN) about licence production of the Spiteful in France, but again the introduction of jet fighters overshadowed the piston-engined fighter and the talks came to nothing.


  • Spiteful F Mk 14 - 19 built (two prototypes and 17 production)
Engine: Griffon 85 - 2,375 hp (1,771 kW)
Weight: 9,950 lb (4,513 kg)
Max Speed: 476 mph (766 km/h)

  • Spiteful F Mk 15 - one built - converted to Seafang prototype
Engine: Griffon 89 - 2,350 hp (1,752 kW)
Weight: 10,200 lb (4,627 kg)
Max Speed: 483 mph (777 km/h)

  • Spiteful F Mk 16 - two built - simple, three-speed Griffon conversions from F Mk 14s
Engine: Griffon 101 - 2,420 hp (1,805 kW)
Weight: 9,950 lb (4,513 kg)
Max Speed: 494 mph (795 km/h)

  • Seafang F.Mk 31 - eight built
Engine: Griffon 61

  • Seafang F.Mk 32 - 10 built
Engine: Griffon 89 - 2,350 hp (1,752 kW)

Jet Spiteful

In late 1943 or early 1944, Supermarine's chief designer Joe Smith
Joseph Smith (aircraft designer)
Joseph Smith CBE was an English aircraft designer who took over as Chief Designer for Supermarine's upon the death of R. J...

 suggested Supermarine develop a simple jet fighter based around the Spiteful's wing, and use a new jet engine being proposed by Rolls-Royce (later the Nene
Rolls-Royce Nene
|-See also:-References:NotesBibliography* Bridgman, L, Jane's fighting aircraft of World War II. Crescent. ISBN 0-517-67964-7-External links:* *...

). This proposal was accepted and a new specification, E.10/44, was issued by the Air Ministry for an experimental aircraft which was initially referred to as the Jet Spiteful; the prototype TS409 first flew on 27 July 1946. The E.10/44 was not ordered by the RAF
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...

, as its performance was not substantially better than the Gloster Meteor
Gloster Meteor
The Gloster Meteor was the first British jet fighter and the Allies' first operational jet. It first flew in 1943 and commenced operations on 27 July 1944 with 616 Squadron of the Royal Air Force...

 and de Havilland Vampire
De Havilland Vampire
The de Havilland DH.100 Vampire was a British jet-engine fighter commissioned by the Royal Air Force during the Second World War. Following the Gloster Meteor, it was the second jet fighter to enter service with the RAF. Although it arrived too late to see combat during the war, the Vampire served...

, but the Admiralty
The Admiralty was formerly the authority in the Kingdom of England, and later in the United Kingdom, responsible for the command of the Royal Navy...

 expressed an interest in the aircraft for use as a naval fighter and issued specification E.1/45 around it. The aircraft was subsequently named Attacker
Supermarine Attacker
The Supermarine Attacker was a British single-seat naval jet fighter built by Supermarine for the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm . It was the FAA's first jet fighter.-Design and development:...

and had a successful (if short) career with the Fleet Air Arm
Fleet Air Arm
The Fleet Air Arm is the branch of the British Royal Navy responsible for the operation of naval aircraft. The Fleet Air Arm currently operates the AgustaWestland Merlin, Westland Sea King and Westland Lynx helicopters...

 and the Pakistan Air Force
Pakistan Air Force
The Pakistan Air Force is the leading air arm of the Pakistan Armed Forces and is primarily tasked with the aerial defence of Pakistan with a secondary role of providing air support to the Pakistan Army and the Pakistan Navy. The PAF also has a tertiary role of providing strategic air transport...


Spiteful tail

The enlarged fin/rudder of the Spiteful was also used on the Spitfire Mark 22 and 24s and Seafire Mark 46 and 47
Supermarine Seafire
The Supermarine Seafire was a naval version of the Supermarine Spitfire specially adapted for operation from aircraft carriers. The name Seafire was arrived at by collapsing the longer name Sea Spitfire.-Origins of the Seafire:...

s and was usually referred to as the "Spiteful type" tail.

Specifications (Spiteful XIV)

See also

External links