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Supermarine Seafire's Disastrous Campaign

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  • Supermarine Seafire's Disastrous Campaign

    The Supermarine Seafire was an aircraft that was fundamentally unsuitable for carrier operations which makes me wonder why the RN insisted on deploying it.

    Because of the enormous long nose, the pilot on final approach had to bank, turn and side-slip into the touchdown point in order to see the carrier at all under the nose. Only at the last second were the wings leveled off.

    Wikipedia claims that during Operation Avalanche, the invasion of Salerno in 1943, of the 106 Seafires starting the operation only 39 were serviceable 2 days later. The rest had been damaged in crash landings on decks.

    We've often discussed the Bf-109 and how dangerous it was to land due to the narrow gear legs but the Seafire probably has the worst record of all, unless somebody can find something even more dramatic.

    P.S. Yes, I know this photo shows a Griffon version that was not present at Salerno but I had to post it because it's too cool.

    Last edited by MonsterZero; 07 Apr 10, 10:53.

    "Artillery adds dignity to what would otherwise be a ugly brawl."
    --Frederick II, King of Prussia

  • #2
    The biggest problem with the Seafire was the weak undercarriage. They were prone to collapsing on landing on a carrier. The long forward view was not unusual for that time.
    Eagles may fly; but weasels aren't sucked into jet engines!

    "I'm not expendable; I'm not stupid and I'm not going." - Kerr Avon, Blake's 7

    What didn't kill us; didn't make us smarter.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by MonsterZero View Post
      The Supermarine Seafire was an aircraft that was fundamentally unsuitable for carrier operations which makes me wonder why the RN insisted on deploying it.
      ANYTHING was better than the Blackburn Roc. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackburn_Roc or Faiery Fulmar, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fairey_Fulmar which preceded the Seafire. The initial deliveries of the Martlet to the FAA were the result of receiving aircraft originally ordered by the French, but diverted to Britain after the French surrender. By then, development of the Seafire was underway.
      Last edited by At ease; 07 Apr 10, 12:50.
      "It's like shooting rats in a barrel."
      "You'll be in a barrel if you don't watch out for the fighters!"

      "Talking about airplanes is a very pleasant mental disease."
      Sergei(son of Igor) Sikorsky, 'AOPA Pilot' magazine February 2003.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by RichardS View Post
        The long forward view was not unusual for that time.
        Yeah no kidding look at the F4U Corsair's massive nose.

        The Brits probably insisted on the Seafire because they didnt have anything beyond US designs and the US probably had priority in shipments of planes so the Brits thought it best to have a home grown alternative if lend lease options dried up due to US losses. Probably also some national pride in there as well, Brits created the Aircraft Carrier, using US designs essentially shows they let other countries outpace them kinda like in the armor department.

        Seafires did have their place, during the 1945 campaigns in the Pacific the Seafires provided high alt CAP for the allied fleet. That said the numbers of aircraft shot down by Seafires were minuscule, especially in comparison to US designs like the F6F which has something like 10k victories.

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        • #5
          The problem was not confined to a carrier borne fighter, the whole of the Fleet Air Arm was hamstrung by inter-service politics during the inter-war years. The RAF had been created by combining the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service under one command to create a third, seperate, branch of the services.

          In a nutshell, it was not in the RAF's best interests to divert funds from the cause celebre of the time, i.e. a strategic bomber force. They had staked their continued existence on the promise that the "bomber would always get through" and would win wars all on its lonesome.

          In 1924 the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Air Force was created but it wasn't until 1939 that the Fleet Air Arm was transferred back to the Royal Navy, at the outbreak of the WWII its strength was an immense 20 squadrons of obsolete air frames.

          The Seafire wasn't entirely without merit though, its good rate of climb and handling while up in the air made it a good fleet defence fighter.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by wokelly View Post
            Yeah no kidding look at the F4U Corsair's massive nose.
            Yes and It took the Fleet Air Arm to show the USMC/US Navy how to use them in carrier operations.

            And as has already been stated, the undercarriage fragility and narrow track was the real Achilles heel of an Aircraft that was not originally designed for carrier service.

            Paul
            Last edited by Dibble201Bty; 07 Apr 10, 19:19.
            ‘Tis said his form is tiny, yet
            All human ills he can subdue,
            Or with a bauble or medal
            Can win mans heart for you;
            And many a blessing know to stew
            To make a megloamaniac bright;
            Give honour to the dainty Corse,
            The Pixie is a little shite.

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