Burmese Spitfires to Fly?

Craig has an interesting (as usual) post on the crated Spitfires that are buried in Burma.

At the end of World War II, crated Spitfire MkXIVs had been sent to RAF squadrons in Burma. Fighting ended before they could be uncrated and made operational.  Rather than bother shipping them home, the Spits were simply buried as the RAF went home.

Spitfire warbirds are among the most popular airshow attractions. The Spit’s clean lines and the purr of the fantastic Merlin engine have serious devotees on both sides of the Atlantic.

But the MkXIV, while still a Spitfire, is a very much different bird than what we picture from the Battle of Britain and other popular culture.

By late 1941, the early Spitfires were becoming outclassed by later Bf109s, and the Fw190. There was a finite limit to how much power the Merlin engine could provide. So Supermarine and Rolls Royce turned to the much larger Griffon engine.  The larger engine, with greater torque, required a new, 5-bladed propeller, larger tail surfaces, and a larger fuselage to accommodate much greater fuel capacity. The Griffon sucked gas much faster than the Merlin, and just to maintain the Spitfire’s already modest range required stuffing gas tanks in all sorts of odd places.

Personally, I’m something of a fan of the Griffon powered birds. Some folks might call me a heretic for that. But the late model Spits show just how right the original Spitfire design was. Only a fundamentally sound original design would be so capable of such evolution.

5 thoughts on “Burmese Spitfires to Fly?”

  1. Because of the likelyhood of FW-190s over the beaches, the pilots of NEVADA, NEW YORK, and ARKANSAS traded their OS2U Kingfishers in n Spits for NGFS spotting at Normandy, aftet which they had to give them back. The USN also had a squadron of 9 photo recce F-5 Lightnings in the Med. Probably the two coolest planes used by NAVAIR during the War. Even if between the Spits and Lightnings, the total was less than 20.

    In the Pacific, the USN used a photo version of the JRM Marauder for high speed photo work, and PB4Ys for general photo work, due to the longer range of thse planes. I know there was a photo version of the FM-2 Wildcat, but I have no idea of photo Hellcats or Corsairs existed. Probably not, as Avengers came right from General Motors with a window for the radioman to take photos from, and you found Hellcats and Corsairs, Avengers were around somewhere nearby.

    Those urmese Spits, if they get them all flying will what, quadruple the Spitfire population?

    Were the Griffon Spits still nimble? Eric Brown’s two favorite fighters were the Seafire, and the Hellcat. He desribed the Seafire as a ballerina with a swtchblade, and the Hellcat as a heavyweight boxer with an ax.

    1. There were indeed photo versions of the Hellcat, the F6F-5P. I’m pretty sure there was a -3P variant as well, but I’m too lazy to check.

      There are still a few oddball planes in the NavAir fleet, mostly as NTPS. Where else would an intrepid Navy birdman get the chance to qual on the Beaver and the Otter?

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