Plane of the Week #4: Supermarine Spitfire

This week’s plane of the week is the British Supermarine Spitfire.

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The Supermarine Spitfire is a British single-seat fighter aircraft that was used by the Royal Air Force and many other Allied countries during and after World War Two. The Spitfire was produced in greater numbers than any other British aircraft. It was also the only British fighter to be in continuous production throughout the war. The Spitfire continues to be popular among enthusiasts, with 53 Spitfires still flying, while many more are static exhibits in aviation museums throughout the world.

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The Spitfire was designed as a short-range, high-performance interceptor aircraft by R. J. Mitchell, chief designer at Supermarine Aviation Works. Mitchell designed the Spitfire’s distinctive elliptical wing to have the thinnest possible cross-section, which enabled the Spitfire to have a higher top speed than many other fighters, including the Hawker Hurricane. Mitchell continued to refine the design until his death in 1937, whereupon his colleague Joseph Smith took over as chief designer, overseeing the development of the Spitfire through its many variants.

During the Battle of Britain, from July to October 1940, the Spitfire was perceived by the public to be the best RAF fighter, though the more common Hawker Hurricane shouldered a greater proportion of the burden against the Nazi German air force, the Luftwaffe. However, because of its higher performance, Spitfire units had a higher victory-to-loss ratio than those flying Hurricanes.

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After the Battle of Britain, the Spitfire overtook the Hurricane to become the backbone of RAF and saw action in the European, Mediterranean, Pacific and the South-East Asian theatres. Much loved by its pilots, the Spitfire served in several roles, including interceptor, reconnaissance, fighter-bomber and trainer, and it continued to serve in these roles until the 1950s. The Seafire was a carrier-based adaptation of the Spitfire which served in the Fleet Air Arm (I think that’s like the Marines or something) from 1942 through to the mid-1950s. Although the original airframe was designed to be powered by a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine producing 1,030 hp, it was strong enough and adaptable enough to use increasingly powerful Engines and, in later versions, Rolls-Royce Griffon engines producing up to 2,340 hp. We need one of those for tractor pulling.

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Next week: A plane built around a gun.

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Plane of the Week #4: Supermarine Spitfire

Plane of the Week #3: Lockheed-Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter

This week’s plane of the week is the Lockheed-Martin F-35.

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The F-35 is descended from the X-35, which was the winning design of the Joint Strike Fighter  program. It is being designed and built by a team led by Lockheed Martin. Other F-35 partners include Northrop Grumman, Pratt & Whitney and BAE Systems. The F-35 took its first flight on 15 December 2006. The United States plans to buy 2,457 aircraft. One variant of it can take off vertically, while another takes off like a normal plane, but far shorter.

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The F-35A is armed with a GAU-22/A, a four-barrel version of the 25 mm GAU-12 Equalizer cannon, which I assume are related to the GAU-8 Avenger used on the A-10. The cannon is mounted internally with 182 rounds for the F-35A or in an external pod with 220 rounds for the F-35B and F-35C; the gun pod has stealth features.The F-35 has two internal weapons bays, and external hardpoints for mounting up to four underwing pylons and two near wingtip pylons. http://forces.tv/91059643

And, if you’ve heard anything about it losing a mock dogfight to an F-16, that was because the F-35 in question was an early flight-test version without all the correct software. The media likes to overplay things like that.

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Next week: A blast from the past from across the pond…

Plane of the Week #3: Lockheed-Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter

Plane of the Week #2: Lockheed Super Constellation

This week’s plane of the week is the Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation.

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The L-1049 was Lockheed’s response to the Douglas DC-6 airliner, which first flew in 1950. The aircraft was also produced for both the United States Navy and Air Force as transport and AWACS aircraft. The first production L-1049 flew in July 1951 and received certification in November 1951. The L-1049 was used until 1983.

Since 1943 Lockheed had been planning a stretched variant of the Constellation family. The first was an L-049 with a fuselage lengthened by 13 feet. The next was an L-749 lengthened by 18 feet. Neither was actually built. The idea was relaunched after Douglas launched a stretched version of its DC-6 airliner as a cargo transport, designated DC-6A. Douglas was soon going to launch a passenger version (the DC-6B) of this new aircraft. The DC-6B could carry 23 more passengers than Lockheed’s current production L-749 Constellation.

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The Lockheed EC-121 Warning Star was a United States Navy and United States Air Force Airborne early warning and control radar surveillance aircraft. A military version of the Lockheed Constellation, it was designed to serve as an airborne early warning system to supplement the Distant Early Warning Line, using two large radomes, a vertical dome above and a horizontal one below the fuselage. EC-121s were also used for intelligence gathering. It was introduced in 1954 and retired from service in 1978, although a single specially modified EW aircraft remained in service with the U.S. Navy until 1982. Warning Stars of the U.S. Air Force served during the Vietnam War as both electronic sensor monitors and as a forerunner to the Boeing E-3 Sentry AWACS.

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Next week: A brand-new fighter that has a revolutionary trick…

Plane of the Week #2: Lockheed Super Constellation

Plane of the Week #1: F-82

If you’re reading this, you most likely know that there are 50 weeks until the air show, or you do now, at any rate. You probably also know what air show I’m talking about. So, for 50 weeks, I will be doing a Plane of the Week countdown. I may continue after the air show too, who knows? But this week’s plane is what matters now. I thought I’d start off with something unusual. This week’s plane is the North American F-82 Twin Mustang.

Twin Mustang
Twin Mustang

The North American F-82 Twin Mustang was the last American piston-engine fighter ordered into production by the United States Air Force. Based on the P-51 Mustang, the F-82 was originally designed as a long-range escort fighter in World War II; however, the war ended well before the first production units were operational, which is quite unfortunate.

In the postwar era, Strategic Air Command used the planes as a long-range escort fighter. Radar-equipped F-82s were used extensively by the Air Defense Command as replacements for the Northrop P-61 Black Widow as all-weather day/night interceptors. During the Korean War, Japan-based F-82s were among the first USAF aircraft to operate over Korea.

The F-82 was basically, design-wise, two P-51 Mustangs attached to one another by a center wing. It doesn’t look like something that should fly well, and at first it didn’t, but it could fly at 482 miles per hour and was a reasonably good fighter. The first few kills of the Korean War were made by F-82s. Out of 272 planes produced, only 5 F-82s are known to still exist.

Foreground: F-82 Twin Mustang. Background: P-51D Mustang
Foreground: F-82 Twin Mustang. Background: P-51D Mustang

I would normally have some more information, but this was not a very common airplane, so there isn’t a lot of interesting information out there.

Next week: Lockheed’s answer to the Douglas DC-6.

Plane of the Week #1: F-82