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Bjorn

Best and worst Spitfire?

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2 hours ago, JohnT said:

I am sure similar "wrinkles" intrude into this discussion on Mk versus Mk of Spitfire.  Good chat though.

I agree with those last few words.

 

I'm a regular visitor to several forums across a range of subjects and disciplines, both hobbies and professional interests. I can confidently state that a thread as subjective as this, would have quickly resorted to a slogging match along with all the associated name-calling and personal attacks by the time we reached the end of page three...on every one of those forums. Not so here it seems, I'm very pleased to see people can disagree and still behave like gentlemen.

 

On ‎1‎/‎24‎/‎2019 at 9:21 AM, Bedders said:

Absolute favourite?  With its speed, range, curves, altitude performance, longevity and generally lovely colour schemes, the XIX must be one of the most beautiful machines ever to take to the air.

Nobody could possibly disagree with that statement though, surely?! :clap:

Edited by AeroNautique
typo

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On 1/24/2019 at 8:21 AM, Bedders said:

Asking what's the worst Spitfire is a bit like asking what's the worst piece by Monet. They're all wonderful in their own way.  But if one has to be critical, one is drawn inevitably to the Seafires, because that is where Mitchell's wonderful design was burdened with the most compromises. The Seafires' debacle at Salerno is notable, though the causes for it were many. The III was better. The XV was something of a deathtrap, with an engine which wanted to steer you into the island. That was when it was working properly - unreliability pushed it off the carriers altogether. The XVII was more sorted, but by then not really a fighter aircraft. And the 45 and 46 were something of a waste of time, being without folding wings.

 

Of the 'true' Spitfires, I can't agree that the V was the 'worst' - it was so ubiquitous and long-serving.  The VI is perhaps one of my least favourites, for reasons that others have described. But it's an interesting and rather experimental variant and I'm still looking forward to building one in 1/72. Some authors have said that the PR X was not very successful, but I haven't seen detailed reasoning and I like the fact that it was pressurised. Maybe some of the early PR variants were less than stellar, though that may have been due to poor camera technology than the aeroplane.

 

What about the best: the XIV, surely, with its quantum leap in performance. A German pilot once said that the one thing he liked about the XIV was that there were so few of them. The IX is also a strong contender, but the VIII was slightly superior in many departments, though it never got the 'e' wing and so loses out on firepower.

 

The question of US use is an interesting one. From what I've read, many US pilots would have given their eye teeth to fly a Spitfire, and those that did get to were reluctant to give them up: the 4th FG didn't want the new Thunderbolts; the 31st weren't that keen to change to Mustangs. And the PR pilots loved the XI.

 

Absolute favourite?  With its speed, range, curves, altitude performance, longevity and generally lovely colour schemes, the XIX must be one of the most beautiful machines ever to take to the air.

 

Justin

None other than General der Jagdflieger himself, one Adolf Galland. High praise indeed.

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1 hour ago, AeroNautique said:

I agree with those last few words.

 

I'm a regular visitor to several forums across a range of subjects and disciplines, both hobbies and professional interests. I can confidently state that a thread as subjective as this, would have quickly resorted to a slogging match along with all the associated name-calling and personal attacks by the time we reached the end of page three...on every one of those forums. Not so here it seems, I'm very pleased to see people can disagree and still behave like gentlemen.

 

Nobody could possibly disagree with that statement though, surely?! :clap:

I've always thought that if money were no object I would buy myself a Spitfire XIX.  Or maybe an VIII.... or a XIV.  In fact if money really was no object I'd have one of each. 1/1 scale, obviously.

Edited by Meatbox8

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On 1/22/2019 at 6:41 PM, Stealthman said:

I'm not sure about that. I don't know where to obtain the correct figures, but I was advised at Hendon that production of the Mk IX exceeded All other variants and the museum has ( or had) a large wall mounted gold coloured model/mock up of a Mk IX to commerate that fact.

I was always  impression that it was the V which was the most produced.

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The best Spitfires are 1/72nd scale, the worst are in any scale other than 1/72nd

Edited by Beard
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13 hours ago, Meatbox8 said:

I was always  impression that it was the V which was the most produced.

 

I pulled up the numbers from Wiki, the V was more produced but someone else said that if you count the IX and XVI together then the "IX" does outnumber the V.

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Yes.  I nearly posted the numbers earlier, but decided not to bother.  Going simply by Mark number is questionable.  There's much more difference between a Spitfire Va and a Vc than there is between a IXe and a XVI.  Remember, too, that Vs used several different engines, of quite different altitude/power curves.  Anyway, total production is not a direct correlation to quality.

 

I thought that the original question was pretty well (and clearly) stated.

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2 minutes ago, gingerbob said:

Anyway, total production is not a direct correlation to quality.

 

Well said. If we look at when V production began and the vast bulk of the number were produced as well, it is clearly apparent why it was produced in such large numbers.

 

This was prior to the US entering the war and RAF Fighter Command was undergoing a strenuous expansion (there were many new units coming on board through Article XV and squadrons established from allied air forces, and also the increase in the number traditional British manned RAF squadrons) to prosecute the offensive campaign it had switched to.

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1 hour ago, Smithy said:

 

Well said. If we look at when V production began and the vast bulk of the number were produced as well, it is clearly apparent why it was produced in such large numbers.

 

This was prior to the US entering the war and RAF Fighter Command was undergoing a strenuous expansion (there were many new units coming on board through Article XV and squadrons established from allied air forces, and also the increase in the number traditional British manned RAF squadrons) to prosecute the offensive campaign it had switched to.

Indeed.  I believe the Mk V, in its various guises, was good enough to compete with the Me109F and as good as or better than the most advanced Reggia Aeronautica types in what was becoming an increasingly important theatre.  The siege of Malta might have gone very differently had the Mk VB and VC not been available, Vokes filter and all.  It also wrestled air supremacy from the Japanese in Burma, being superior in most aspects to the Ki-43 and able, just, to intercept Ki-46 reconnaissance aircraft which had hitherto operated with impunity.  Once the Mk VIII arrived the Japanese had had it, of course.  The Fw190 changed everything but that's not really the fault of the Spitfire V.  Plus it didn't really appear in numbers in North Africa and the Med until much later.  It reminds me of the seesaw of ascendancy from air fighting on the Western Front circa 1916/17.  Fokker EIII - DH2/Nieuport - Albatros DII - SPAD VII and so on.  It should also be remembered that the RAF still considered the LFVB good enough to operate during the Normandy landings, even though it was fielding the MkIX, MkXIV, Mustang III and Tempest by then.  Taking some of the factors in to account it could be argued that the MkV was the most important mark after the Mk1.  

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3 hours ago, Beard said:

The best Spitfires are 1/72nd scale, the worst are in any scale other than 1/72nd

Ahmen to that.

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OK, simple and stupid

 

1940 Mk.I best

1941 Mk.II best

1942 Mk.V best

1943 Mk.IX best

1944 Mk.XIV best

 

ultimate Spitfire F.24

 

Best recce: Mk.XI or XIX. Probably XIX

 

Worst Mk.VI

 

 

 

 

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56 minutes ago, NPL said:

OK, simple and stupid

 

1940 Mk.I best

1941 Mk.II best

1942 Mk.V best

1943 Mk.IX best

1944 Mk.XIV best

 

ultimate Spitfire F.24

 

Best recce: Mk.XI or XIX. Probably XIX

 

Worst Mk.VI

 

 

 

 

Totally agree. As time wore on differing Marks improved on the prior version, but each was the best it could be at the time of it's incarnation 

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2 hours ago, Stealthman said:

Totally agree. As time wore on differing Marks improved on the prior version, but each was the best it could be at the time of it's incarnation 

And the F24 was the ultimate for the simple reason that there were no more to come.

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On 1/25/2019 at 5:22 PM, Grey Beema said:

This reminds me of Douglas Adams and the ultimate question....

Spitfire Mk.42

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2 hours ago, NPL said:

And the F24 was the ultimate for the simple reason that there were no more to come.

By the time the F24 came along, air warfare was rapidly advancing into the fast Jet era. Having said that, years after the demise of the F24, a PRXIX (PS853) was flown against An English Electric Lightening in mock Combat and surprised a few people!!

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8 hours ago, Stealthman said:

By the time the F24 came along, air warfare was rapidly advancing into the fast Jet era. Having said that, years after the demise of the F24, a PRXIX (PS853) was flown against An English Electric Lightening in mock Combat and surprised a few people!!

Of course, but I also said earlier that when the Me 262 arrived, we are talking a different language. Still the original question was not about jets but spits. And ultimate means the last and not necessarily the best.

 

And by the way: The ultimate FW was the Ta 152, maybe in the same class as the Mk.XIV, but so few in numbers that it hardly counts.

Edited by NPL

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1 hour ago, NPL said:

Of course, but I also said earlier that when the Me 262 arrived, we are talking a different language. Still the original question was not about jets but spits. And ultimate means the last and not necessarily the best.

 

And by the way: The ultimate FW was the Ta 152, maybe in the same class as the Mk.XIV, but so few in numbers that it hardly 

The point I was making is that when you are talking about the best, you have to look at the ultimate version and say why did it stop here? Was the F24 a bad design to the point that there was no longer any faith in the iconic aircraft? Or was it simply overtaken by events? 

I don't honestly think you can really even ask the question which was best and worst? All the variants had a major impact, and with everything - you learn lessons and make improvements as you go. Differing pilots had personal preferences with the emphasis on 'personal. From the Mk1 in the BoB, to the MkXIXs of the THUM Flight, every variant fulfilled the role it served in admirably. 

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16 minutes ago, Stealthman said:

The point I was making is that when you are talking about the best, you have to look at the ultimate version and say why did it stop here? Was the F24 a bad design to the point that there was no longer any faith in the iconic aircraft? Or was it simply overtaken by events? 

I don't honestly think you can really even ask the question which was best and worst? All the variants had a major impact, and with everything - you learn lessons and make improvements as you go. Differing pilots had personal preferences with the emphasis on 'personal. From the Mk1 in the BoB, to the MkXIXs of the THUM Flight, every variant fulfilled the role it served in admirably. 

I believe that my little 'catalogue' above answered that question. And ultimate still means 'the end of the line'. There were no more developments, if you disregard the Seafire 47.

 

And again, the PRs were not fighters (normally unarmed) but RECCE planes. They had to stand up to similar planes on the other side, such as at the end of the war the Arado 234.

 

Therefore you can ask the question as has been explained by other: Which one was the best when it was issued and compared to what? 

 

Superior pilots can make it look differently as when John McElroy shot down a couple of Mk.XVIIIs and a Tempest. He was flying an Israeli IX. The RAF pilots were rookies.

 

And it has been made clear by others that the Mk.VI never fulfilled its intended role, and was soon withdrawn. 

 

 

 

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13 minutes ago, Stealthman said:

I don't honestly think you can really even ask the question which was best and worst? All the variants had a major impact... every variant fulfilled the role it served in admirably. 

 

Apparently you can:

On 1/21/2019 at 8:30 AM, Bjorn said:

- Which Spitfire version was the ultimate Spitfire? And I mean compared to contemporary fighters in service, not compared to other Spitfire versions.

- And, which one was the worst? Still compared to contemporary aircraft.

 

"Ultimate" in this application is pretty clear to me, whatever Mr Webster has to say.  Here's a quick internet second definition: "the best achievable or imaginable of its kind."  It is human nature that this "best" changes with time. 

 

Of course there is some room for qualification, such as "not counting jets".  And I chose to go with types that actually saw action "when it mattered" (though if you are in the aircraft, it ALWAYS matters!  After all, if nobody is (potentially) shooting at you, the only criteria that really matters is how likely the aircraft is to allow you to survive the sortie.)

 

As for "All the variants... every variant...", nonsense.  As NPL said (sneaking in while I'm composing), the Mk.VI did not admirably fulfill the role.  It was a temporary expedient to begin with, on the way to the (quite good) Mk.VII, but it had worse performance than a Mk.V with Merlin 46, and had some serious shortcomings from the "health & safety" point of view.  In fact yesterday I saw a memo from just a few months after it had entered service suggesting that they should all have normal hoods fitted (and thus the pressurisation disabled).  This wasn't done because there weren't that many available anyway, and a handful were still desired for very specific uses.

 

While other people's observations have been interesting, it was pretty clear that this wasn't a beauty contest or poll of "what's your favourite?"

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I have seen it written that some pilots considered the F XVIII the ultimate Spitfire , Whilst the 20 series Spitfires were more powerful aircraft they lost a certain something, and the F XVIII had a better overall balance .

 

Andrew

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On 1/25/2019 at 8:34 PM, Smithy said:

 

Good points but the thing with comparative analysis by the same pilot(s) of opposing aircraft is that it works because it removes any need to take into account all those other factors which I mentioned above. It was also the reason why the first thing a government did when it captured an enemy aircraft intact was to put it into testing against their own aircraft. As I mentioned above it's also the best to determine an enemy aircraft's weaknesses and to develop measures and procedures when the enemy is met it battle. All the major air forces in the war performed extensive comparative testing of enemy fighter aircraft when they could because it's the best and purest way of comparing your aircraft against the enemy's and ultimately determining which aircraft is better. There's no difference in factors of aircrew or tactical situation, etc, you have the same fellows flying the same aircraft and therefore it comes purely down to the aircraft.

 

Certainly there's points in the war where it is easy to look at certain opposing aircraft and make a judgement, the Spitfire Vb versus the 190A probably being the best example because things such as the opposing fighter forces were meeting on a relatively equal level of strength and personnel were at a similar experience level overall between the two air forces. At this stage both the RAF and Luftwaffe were also using a similar tactical doctrine (both were using loose formations based around several elements of a leader and wingman - finger four formations). However in a case such as I used earlier of the Spit XIV and the 190D it's not so easy to make a judgement about which aircraft was better from the point of view of just the aircraft and just from paperwork, combat claims, performance figures, etc because there are so many mitigating factors about the strategic and tactical situations, and others such as quality of aircrew and even down to quality of fuel. Much, much easier to make a far more accurate assessment with comparative aircraft testing between the two aircraft.

 

At the end of the day getting back to the Spitfire, it was a remarkable and incredibly successful aircraft and it's evolution is testament to the solidity of the design from its basic foundations. But if it suffered one fault, it actually came from this initial design - as a primarily defensive interceptor fighter. Because of this it lacked the legs even with drop tanks to have the range to take the fight to the enemy's heartland when the war switched completely from a defensive role to a wholly offensive one for the RAF. But that's probably for another discussion!

 

Agree on these points, and the approach still survives today as in the development of tactics the pilots community is heafily involved.

Of course it's not always possible to lay the hands on all enemy types, and in this case other ways are needed to know as much as possible about the opposition.

Have to say that there have been a few cases in the past when even the opinions of test pilots were skewed by their "education", but this could be a topit for another day..

 

Can't disagree on the success of the Spitfire, it is afterall my all time favourite WW2 type !

As an engineer I could point a few more faults, that were the result more of the "tradition" behind the design than of any wrong decision by R.J. Mitchell and his successors, but we should also keep well in mind that the Spitfire was a 1935 design ! When the war ended in 1945 it was a 10 year old design, that had sure been developed magnificently  but those 10 years had seen a lot of advancements in aeronautics. That the Spitfire was still relevant in 1945 and for a few more years is a testament of its greatness.

 

On 1/26/2019 at 2:33 PM, Meatbox8 said:

Indeed.  I believe the Mk V, in its various guises, was good enough to compete with the Me109F and as good as or better than the most advanced Reggia Aeronautica types in what was becoming an increasingly important theatre.  The siege of Malta might have gone very differently had the Mk VB and VC not been available, Vokes filter and all.  It also wrestled air supremacy from the Japanese in Burma, being superior in most aspects to the Ki-43 and able, just, to intercept Ki-46 reconnaissance aircraft which had hitherto operated with impunity.  Once the Mk VIII arrived the Japanese had had it, of course.  The Fw190 changed everything but that's not really the fault of the Spitfire V.  Plus it didn't really appear in numbers in North Africa and the Med until much later.  It reminds me of the seesaw of ascendancy from air fighting on the Western Front circa 1916/17.  Fokker EIII - DH2/Nieuport - Albatros DII - SPAD VII and so on.  It should also be remembered that the RAF still considered the LFVB good enough to operate during the Normandy landings, even though it was fielding the MkIX, MkXIV, Mustang III and Tempest by then.  Taking some of the factors in to account it could be argued that the MkV was the most important mark after the Mk1.  

 

The Italians didn't consider the V trop as a type of superior performance when compared to the MC.202, that is roughly the equivalent of that variant. The only aspect of the Spit that they found really superior was the armament.

The Italians had a lot of other problems that prevented them from operating succesfully in many situations but types like the MC.202 and later the 205 and the G.55 had the performance to take on every contemporary Spitfire variant. We've discussing here on how many Mk,.V or IX were produced, had the Italians been able to produce as many MC.202s as any of these variants of the Spitfire, things in the northern desert would have been more problematic for the RAF.

 

15 hours ago, Andrew Jones said:

I have seen it written that some pilots considered the F XVIII the ultimate Spitfire , Whilst the 20 series Spitfires were more powerful aircraft they lost a certain something, and the F XVIII had a better overall balance .

 

Andrew

 

Overall the "Mk.20" wing doesn't seem to have been such a success as hoped, or better didn't have quite the edge that Supermarine and the RAF hoped for.

 

 

On 1/25/2019 at 1:34 PM, NPL said:

 

 

I also like this joke:

 

An instructor of German pilots going to fly the FW190 told his students: If you aside as see a Mustang. Keep calm. You are in good company. If it is a Spitfire, get the hell of of here.

Laird in his books on American Spitfires quote the American pilots for saying:

 

Maybe the Mustang is the best American fighter, but the spitfire is simply just the best you can find (after memory)

Because N. American contributors may be upset for us not mentioning the Mustang, which was also in its role the best.

 

On some internet discussion forums this would cause a holy war between US and British members !😁

More seriously, the problem with anecdotal evidence is that for every source mentioning pilot x saying that he hated going from the Spitfire to the Mustang there's another source mentioning how pilot Y hated the Spitfire and much preferred the P-47 and so on.

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28 minutes ago, Giorgio N said:

 

...

On some internet discussion forums this would cause a holy war between US and British members !😁

More seriously, the problem with anecdotal evidence is that for every source mentioning pilot x saying that he hated going from the Spitfire to the Mustang there's another source mentioning how pilot Y hated the Spitfire and much preferred the P-47 and so on.

And then conservatism: They knew what they had but not what they would get. As it is also remarked i relation to my earlier quote: It changed their mind when they realized that the Mustang could take them to where the action was -- over Germany. 

 

As to the design, you say most of it, but is quite astonishing what kind of possibilities lay in the design when compared to the contemporary Bf109, which probably reached its peak with the Bf109F, although the Gustavs and Karls flew on to the end of the war. The later marks from FW took it far further from the initial FM190A, into the fine fighters FW190D and Ta152. 

 

As to the Mk.XVIII and the F.24, both had a relatively short career. And as I wrote, the better pilots in a Mk.IX had the upper hand over inexperience pilots in the Mk.XVIII. 

 

But perhaps time to switch to another discussion about the best early jet fighters, including also the postwar Vampire. Winkle Brown wrote about the He 162 that fully developed, it would have flown circles around the Meteor.

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3 hours ago, NPL said:

And then conservatism: They knew what they had but not what they would get. As it is also remarked i relation to my earlier quote: It changed their mind when they realized that the Mustang could take them to where the action was -- over Germany. 

 

As to the design, you say most of it, but is quite astonishing what kind of possibilities lay in the design when compared to the contemporary Bf109, which probably reached its peak with the Bf109F, although the Gustavs and Karls flew on to the end of the war. The later marks from FW took it far further from the initial FM190A, into the fine fighters FW190D and Ta152. 

 

As to the Mk.XVIII and the F.24, both had a relatively short career. And as I wrote, the better pilots in a Mk.IX had the upper hand over inexperience pilots in the Mk.XVIII. 

 

But perhaps time to switch to another discussion about the best early jet fighters, including also the postwar Vampire. Winkle Brown wrote about the He 162 that fully developed, it would have flown circles around the Meteor.

And then the point of flying the enemies airplanes. Here we should forget how the Germans modified a Mk.V with an engine of their own, tgo see what it was worth with a better motor. I believe that it paid off when they were confronted with the Mk.IX.

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I think that we are being a bit harsh on the Mk.VI; admittedly it wasn't hugely successful, but that was partly because the role for which it was developed (high flying Ju.86 reconnaissance aircraft) had pretty much gone by the time it came into service; the same could apply to the Mosquito XV;  and as for the Westland Welkin - better not go there!

 

The limitations of both the Mk.V and Mk.VI were partly due to the end of development of the single-stage Merlin engine; it needed the jump to the two-stage 60-series to carry forward the development of the aircraft. The Mk.VI did prove useful in the development of pressurisation, which would have helped with the much more successful Mk.VII, as the PR.X did for the later versions of the PR.XIX. I think that the HF.VI may have been the first example of a production single-engined fighter aircraft fitted with cabin pressurisation as standard (although I am open to correction on this!) - another 'first' for the Spitfire?

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6 hours ago, NPL said:

As to the design, you say most of it, but is quite astonishing what kind of possibilities lay in the design when compared to the contemporary Bf109, which probably reached its peak with the Bf109F, although the Gustavs and Karls flew on to the end of the war.

 

I think the assessment that the Spitfire airframe had far more development potential than the 109 is unfair. The F is only considered a high point from a handling point of view, the later types continuously improved speed and rate of climb and were never really behind allied fighters.

 

Can you really compare the development path of the Spitfire, allowed to fulfil a pure fighter role in a time of increasing resources and ever better quality fuel, with 109s increasingly lumbered for bomber hunting and starved of good fuel and construction quality? I imagine a more lightweight 109K derivative with an engine using 150 octane fuel would give a Mk.XIV a real run for its money.

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