TYPE: Carrier-borne fighter, fighter-bomber
ACCOMMODATION: Pilot only
POWER PLANT: One Rolls-Royce “Merlin” 55 liquid-cooled engine, rated at 1,470 hp
PERFORMANCE: 352 mph at 12,250 ft
COMMENT: The Supermarine “Seafire” was a naval version of the Supermarine “Spitfire” adapted for operation from aircraft carriers. The name “Seafire” was arrived at by abbreviating the longer name “Sea Spitfire”.
In late 1941 and early 1942, the Admiralty assessed the “Spitfire” for possible conversion. In late 1941, a total of 48 “Spitfire” Mk Vb were converted to become “hooked Spitfires”. This was the “Seafire” Mk Ib and would be the first of several “Seafire” variants to reach the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm. The second semi-naval variant of the “Seafire” and the first to be built as such, was the “Seafire F Mk IIc which was based on the “Spitfire” Mk Vc. The IIc was the first of the “Seafires” to be deployed operationally in large numbers. Although developed for aircraft carrier use, this version still lacked the folding wings needed to allow them to be used on board some Royal Navy carriers, some of which had small aircraft elevators unable to accommodate the full wingspan of the “Seafires”. The “Seafire” F Mk III was the first true carrier adaptation of the Spitfire design. It was developed from the “Seafire” Mk IIC, but incorporated manually folding wings allowing more of these aircraft to be spotted on deck or in the hangars below. Supermarine devised a system of two straight chordwise folds; a break was introduced immediately outboard of the wheel-wells from which the wing hinged upwards and slightly angled towards the fuselage. A second hinge at each wingtip join allowed the tips to fold down (when the wings were folded the wingtips were folded outwards). This version used the more powerful Merlin or Merlin 55M, driving the same four-bladed propeller unit used by the IIC series; the Merlin 55M was another version of the Merlin for maximum performance at low altitude. This Mark was built in larger numbers than any other “Seafire” variant; of the 1,220 manufactured Westland built 870 and Cunliffe Owen 350 aircraft. (Ref.: 24).