The Vickers Supermarine Seafire was a naval development of the most famous of all British aircraft, the Spitfire. The Seafire is covered in a many books and reference sources as a Vickers Supermarine Spitfire development. Like the Vickers Supermarine Spitfire, it deserves more space and detail than can be afforded on this web page, so we urge further reference to the many books that describe its design and development.
The Vickers Supermarine Seafire was an urgent development of the Vickers Supermarine Spitfire to generate a high performance carrier-based fighter aircraft. Somewhat compromised in service by an undercarriage that was not designed from the outset to handle the the rigours of carrier landings, the Seafire nevertheless gave valuable service throughout its operational life.
The Vickers Supermarine Seafire Mk IB was a conversion of the land-based Vickers Supermarine Spitfire VB with the conversions being carried out by Air Service Training (AST) and by Vickers Supermarine with the main modifications being the introduction of a retractable arrester hook and local fuselage strengthening.
The Vickers Supermarine Seafire was produced in 8 marks, with total production of 14 prototypes, 538 Spitfire conversions and 2,094 new-build aircraft, giving a total of 2,646 aircraft (see the table below summarising production quantities from the various manufacturers involved).
The most important marks were (in numerical order):
- Mk I, and Mk II (total 542 aircraft converted from Spitfire VB and VC);
- Mk III with folding wings (Supermarine prototype and 1,263 new-build aircraft from Westland Aircraft and Cunliffe Owen)
- Mk XV Griffon-powered (6 prototypes and 434 production aircraft from Westland and Cunliffe Owen)
- Mk XVII with cut-down rear fuselage (prototype and 233 production aircraft, mainly from Westland).
The other production marks were the Griffon-powered F.45, F.46 and F.47.
The Vickers Supermarine Seafire F. Mk 47 was the final and most highly developed aircraft of the Spitfire / Seafire family and Test Pilot Jeffrey Quill is quoted as say that 'the overload weight of a Seafire F.47 was equivalent to a Spitfire I, carrying 32 airline passengers'.
Despite the operational limitations of a relatively short range and a somewhat fragile undercarriage, the Vickers Supermarine Seafire saw operational service through to the end of the Second World War, operating with the Pacific Fleet off Japan right up to VJ Day.
Variants and numbers built
|Seafire Mark||Quantity by Manufacturer|
|Vickers-Armstrong Ltd (Aircraft Section) (Supermarine Works)||AST Ltd||Cunliffe-Owen Aircraft Ltd||Westland Aircraft Ltd||Total|
|IB: conversions from Spitfire VB||Prototypes AB205, AD371, BL676 and 36 at South Marston||136||169|
|IIC: conversions from Spitfire VC||Prototype AD371 and 262 conversions||110||373|
|III: new build with folding wings||Prototype MA970||350||913||1,264|
|XV: Griffon powered||6 prototypes||184||250||440|
|XVII: cut down rear fuselage||Prototype NS493||20||213||234|
|F.45: naval version of Spitfire F.21||Prototype TM379, and 50 production||51|
|F.46: Contra-props||24 production||24|
|F.47: modified wing fold||Prototype TM383 and 90 production||91|
|Total||14 prototypes, 456 production = 470||136||554||1,486||2,646|
|Mk IIC||F.Mk 47|
|Powerplant||One 1,470 hp Rolls-Royce Merlin 45||One 2,350 hp Rolls-Royce Griffon 88|
|Span||36 ft 10 in||36 ft 11 in|
|Maximum Weight||6,665 lb||10,200 lb (12,500 overload)|
|Capacity and armament||Pilot only; two 20mm Hispano cannon and 4 machine guns, or 4 20 mm cannon. Up to 500 lb bombs or rockets||Pilot only, four 20 mm Hispano cannon. Up to 1,000 lb bomb load|
|Maximum Speed||365 mph at 16,000 ft||452 mph at 20,500 ft|
|Endurance/ range||493 miles at 188 mph||405 miles at 260 mph|
LF Mk IIIC
(G-BUAR / PP972)
|Based at Sywell, Northamptonshire|
F Mk XVII
(G-KASX / SX336)
|Based at North Weald, Essex|
Fleet Air Arm Museum at Yeovilton, Somerset
Military Museum at Alberta, Canada
(PR376 / UB409)
|Defence Services Museum at Naypyidaw, Myanmar.|