March 5th 2016 marks an incredible 80 years since the first flight of the Supermarine Spitfire. The first prototype, K5054, designed by Reginald J. Mitchell, took off from Eastleigh Aerodrome on March 5th 1936 and while it may have looked a little rough around the edges it was unmistakably a Spit’ with its beautiful wing shape and smooth lines.
During World War II it was these stunning looks coupled with the throaty sound of its Rolls-Royce Merlin engines that helped raise the spirits of the British people as they found themselves facing a seemingly unstoppable Nazi war machine. It’s use as a propaganda machine was every bit as important as its use as a weapon of war. As well as serving the Royal Air Force, a carrier capable variant known as the Seafire was developed for the Royal Navy who continued to fly them on operations in the Korean War.
A number of events are taking place around the UK to celebrate the anniversary including a flypast of the site of the former Supermarine factory in Woolston where the aircraft were assembled by one of the numerous aircraft still flying today.
More articles about the Spitfire on Defence of the Realm
Maximum Speed: 640 kn (736 mph, 1,185 km/h) at sea level
Range: 1,237 nmi (1,422 mi, 2,289 km
Service ceiling: 46,000 ft (14,000 m)
Armament Guns: 4 × 30 mm guns. Hardpoints: 4 underwing pylons for bombs, rockets and external tanks.
When it entered service in 1957 the Supermarine Scimitar was the heaviest fighter ever built for the Royal Navy. It was a powerful aircraft with high subsonic speed and was well liked by its pilots – a fact that hides an unenviable safety record. Although predominantly a fighter the aircraft entered service at a time when fighter aircraft being fitted with radar was becoming the norm rather than being confined to so-called “all-weather” fighters. Therefore by the 1960s it was almost an obsolete aircraft although it would have given a good account of itself against Soviet aircraft like the MiG-19 and early MiG-21s. Efforts to arm the aircraft with AIM-9 Sidewinders came to little as the Scimitar was slowly phased out in favor of the even bigger DeHavilland Sea Vixen with its integrated weapon system of radar and missiles.
This fact saw the aircraft relegated to the strike role until replaced by Blackburn Buccaneer S.1s. In this capacity they even became armed with free-fall nuclear weapons. Most Scimitars spent their last days as tankers for the thirsty Buccaneer S.1, orbiting the carrier to refuel the Buccs straight after take off. The aircraft last flew in 1970 as part of the Fleet Requirements Unit providing targeting training to the crews of frigates and destroyers.