The little-remembered Spiteful was the final iteration of the well-known and long-lived line of Supermarine Spitfires. It was additionally noteworthy because the quickest British piston-engine fighter to enter manufacturing, though few had been constructed earlier than the challenge was cancelled. The Spiteful had taken too lengthy to develop and didn’t attain manufacturing till World Battle II was over and jet-powered fighters had been coming into use. Nonetheless, its protracted growth did enable it to play a transitionary function within the Jet Age.
In September 1942 Britain’s Air Ministry requested Supermarine to enhance the Spitfire’s flying qualities at excessive speeds. The most recent variations had been approaching the pace of sound in energy dives, and the consequences of compressibility—the shock waves and instability created by the air flowing over the wing or tail at such excessive speeds—had been turning into an issue. That phenomenon quickly grew to become generally known as the “sound barrier,” which might not be damaged till the arrival of high-performance rocket and jet-powered plane within the late Nineteen Forties.
Within the case of the Spitfire, the engineers decided that the very best resolution to the compressibility challenge was to cut back drag by changing the well-known elliptical wing with a smaller certainly one of a wholly new design. The brand new wing would have a shorter span and a straight-tapered planform, with the wing space lowered from 242 to 210 sq. ft. As well as, it had a thinner, laminar-flow part. The thickest a part of the laminar-flow part was farther again on the wing’s floor than it was on a standard wing and that moved the purpose of boundary layer separation—the place the easily flowing air lifts off the wing floor—farther again as properly. The end result was to cut back skin-friction drag and improve management at greater speeds. The shorter span was additionally anticipated to extend the fighter’s price of roll. Different departures from the standard Spitfire design included the introduction of a wide-track, inward-retracting touchdown gear to enhance floor dealing with and an elevated armament of 4 20mm cannons. The brand new model of the Spitfire was deemed sufficiently completely different to be given a complete new title, the Spiteful.
The drawback of laminar-flow wings was that they required much more exact manufacturing tolerances than standard wings. Even small imperfections of form or end may have a detrimental impact on efficiency. The Spiteful’s new wing took such a very long time to design and construct that the Air Ministry criticized the corporate for its sluggish progress. As well as, the Supermarine design and growth workers was deeply concerned with growing different improved variations of the Spitfire. In consequence, the primary Spiteful prototype, a Spitfire XIV fitted with the brand new laminar-flow Spiteful wings, didn’t make its first flight till June 30, 1944. The primary true Spiteful prototype, which additionally included a brand new fuselage with a barely raised cockpit to enhance visibility over the lengthy nostril, didn’t fly till January 1945.
Just like the Spitfire, the brand new fighter was supposed to return in two variations, one with the Rolls-Royce Merlin and the opposite with the Griffin engine. Nevertheless, the Merlin model was cancelled by the point the wing was prepared, leaving solely the extra highly effective Griffin-engine Spiteful. The brand new fighter was 32 ft 11 inches lengthy, had a wingspan of 35 ft and a gross weight of 9,950 kilos. Its 2,375-hp Griffin gave it a service ceiling of 42,000 ft and most pace of a blistering 483 mph. The Spiteful carried out properly and was typically nice to fly at excessive speeds, however the story was completely different at decrease speeds, the place the Spitfire proved noticeably superior. One downside was that the Spiteful would drop one wing with out warning when it approached stall. Investigation revealed that when the Spiteful’s wing stalled, it started from the tip inward, whereas the Spitfire’s wing started to stall from the foundation outward, producing a gentler and extra controllable stall. Supermarine launched quite a few design tweaks to resolve the Spiteful’s dealing with issues, together with bigger tail surfaces. The tweaks finally made the Spiteful an appropriate fighter, however the modifications elevated drag a lot that the brand new plane didn’t markedly outperform current manufacturing Spitfires. Moreover, with the warfare quickly coming to an finish and jet fighters within the offing, the RAF regarded the Spiteful as redundant. In consequence, on September 23, 1945, the Air Ministry cancelled its order. Supermarine delivered solely 17 manufacturing Spitefuls and none ever reached operational squadrons.
In parallel with the Spiteful, Supermarine developed a carrier-based naval model of the brand new fighter. Known as the Seafang, it differed from the Spiteful principally in having folding wings, a “sting” kind tail hook, two contra-rotating propellers to cut back torque throughout take-off and room for reconnaissance cameras contained in the fuselage. The Seafang’s growth was even slower than the Spiteful’s and it was first flown in January 1946. The Royal Navy quickly deserted it in favor of the Hawker Sea Fury and the de Havilland Sea Hornet. The navy did order 89 examples of the Supermarine Seafire FR 47, which was just like the Seafang and finally noticed fight through the Korean Battle.
The Spiteful represented absolutely the apex of piston-engine fighter growth. Its story might need ended in another way had it entered manufacturing a 12 months earlier, nevertheless it arrived too late. The Spitfire grew to become legend as a result of it was the appropriate airplane in the appropriate place on the proper time, however the Spiteful was misplaced to obscurity. Nonetheless, its heritage did stay on. The laminar-flow wings developed for the Spiteful had been subsequently fitted to Supermarine’s first manufacturing jet fighter, the Attacker, of which 185 had been manufactured.