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View Full Version : Question about fighter range (Spitfire vs Everything)



Xiolablu3
05-24-2006, 02:02 PM
I understand that the Spitfire had less range than P47/P51/Tempest/Typhoon/P38, but I have just been reading that

: MkIX had a range of 450 miles no drop tanks
: Spitfire MkVIII 750 miles without drop tanks (note that most of these were sent to the Med, if there was a need for much more range why not keep them in the much more important Euro theatre?),
:Pr Spitfire IV (Recon Spit) has a range of 1460 miles according to a website I just read.

NOw my qustion is, seeing as the English channel is 10 miles across, why there should be any complaint about the Spitfires range apart from for real far reaching escort raids into Germany.

Surely when the Germans were occupying France, there were plenty of targets in France to hit once you make the journey of 10 miles (!) over the channel. And after D-Day surely bases were set up in France for fighters to range from?

I understand its nice to have a long range fighter like the P51 to go deep into Germany and shoot things up, but surely most of the fighting went on pretty close to the front? Isnt a high performance dogfighter like the 109/Spifire crucial to have for the majority of the fighting on and just behind the frontline?

Surely there wasn't a need for a long range, single engine fighter, at least until the 8th AF began large scale daylight bombing. The enemy in 1940-1944 was just across the channel...

horseback
05-24-2006, 02:59 PM
First of all, the Channel is usually listed as something like twenty miles at its most narrow point (Dover-Calais?).

Second, most of the airfields Spits operated from were sited some additional distance from the coast. Most of these were a good 50 to a hundred miles from the Channel coast (making it harder for Jerry to pop across and say howdy).

Third, it took time (& fuel) to get the whole flight or Squadron into the air & organized and then climb to a reasonable altitude (always a very bad idea to concede the height advantage to the FW-190s) before crossing over France.

Fourth, maximum range is achieved by flying somewhat slower than you would want to in "Indian country." Flying a mission from Britain across the Channel meant that as soon as you reached the mid-point of the Channel up until the latter half of 1943, or got over France proper thereafter, the LW reserved the right to jump ugly with you at any time during your excursion. Flying over occupied Europe at less than your high cruise speed was a fine way to end up spending the remainder of the war in a cemetary, a POW hospital or a Stalag Luft.

Fifth, as Allied fighter and attack strength increased and German fighter strength dropped in the West, the LW withdrew its striking power in order to limit its losses to what the bombers could deal out by themselves. While Typhoons and medium bombers could do serious damge to moving ground units or pre-war industrial sites, damaging dug-in ground units or 'hardened' targets was vstly more difficult and expensive than it is today. The Tactical Air Forces were not fully as skilled in 1943 as they were in late 1944, and even then, they were most effective against moving ground units, railheads and bridges.

Finally, combat range is calculated to include a minimum of ten to fifteen minutes of combat at full throttle, plus a significant reserve, in case the combat lasts longer or you have to run for your life at low level-in these cases, extra fuel will be needed.

Maximum range is achieved by flying in ideal conditions at lower settings than is safe when most of your trip is made under the threat of attack by a skilled opponent. Combat range is determined by a much more rigorous calculus.

Hope this helps clarify.

cheers

horseback

FoolTrottel
05-24-2006, 03:00 PM
The enemy in 1940-1944 was just across the channel..

And, there were lots of spits there too... http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/16x16_smiley-happy.gif

Sillius_Sodus
05-24-2006, 03:25 PM
Xiolablu3,

Range figures don't take into account combat, which burns up fuel at a prodigeous rate. Most targets of value were not located right on the coast so you needed more range. Other than the Calais area, you had to fly quite a ways to strike anywhere else on the Continent. The Spitfire was not designed as a long-range fighter but more of a point defence aircraft. Trouble was, until sufficient numbers of long-range fighters, were available they had to use the Spitfire, short legs and all. There was a war on after all, and the British wanted to keep pressure on the Germans any way they could.

The BF109 also suffered from mediocre range, which was a big handicap during the BOB, when they had to escort bombers all the way to London.

I hope this goes some way to answering your question.

Good Hunting,
Sillius_Sodus

ImpStarDuece
05-24-2006, 04:45 PM
The MK IX had a maximum range of about 440 miles at 'still air cruising' speed: about 200-220 ASI depending on altitude, with very low boost and RPM settings.

However, pratical combat radius, taking into account all sort of variables like power for the climb, 15 min high speed cruise around likely opposition and 5 min at full combat power, is only around 40% of cruising range.

So .40 x 440 = 175 miles. Which cuts the range down a little bit, doesn't it?

Over the course of the Spitfires combat life, the Merlin got thirstier and thirstier. While cruise settings had around the same consumption, as boost went up, so did fuel consumption.

So, when the Spitfire I first flew it had a range of arounf 575 miles. The Spitfire II, which had higher cleared climb and cruise settings, had a range of around 500 miles. The Mk V had a range of around 475 miles.

The obvious solution to this is to add more fuel. Initially, this was done with drop tanks. First the 30 gallon slipper tank, followed by the 45, 90 and eventually 170 gallon 'overload' tank.

Most Mk IXs flew with a 45 gallon slipper tank for operations over the continent. Range shot up by about 250 miles. So .40 x 690 = 275 miles

The other solution was more internal fuel. The first way was larger nose tanks. Some Mk V and Mk IXs had enlarged nose tanks of 95 gallons, instead of the standard 85 gallons. The prototype Spitfire Mk III, the "improved Spitfire" had 99 gallon nose tanks.

The second way to stuff more internal fuel into the Spitfire was wing tanks. Generally, these were 12-15 gallon tanks inboard of the cannon positions. The Mk VIIIs and VIIs got both the larger nose tanks and the wing tanks, pushing internal fuel tankage up to around 120-126 gallons.

The larger internal tankage meant that Mk VII/VIIIs regularly operated with 90 gallon exernal tanks, and that escort missions of up to 4 hours and 400 miles radius weren't uncommon. Spitfires VII Squadrons in Europe escorted Halifaxes and Lancasters on daylight raids into France and Holland.

The final method was to fit rear fuselage tanks. In delivery flights to Malta, Mk Vs were fitted with 29 gallon rear fuselage tanks and flew with little difficulty. It was always a puzzlement to me why the RAF didn't decide to keep them as a permanent fixture.

Geoffry Quill took a modified Mk V, with wing tanks as well as a rear fuselage tank, fitted it with a 45 gallon external tank, and flew it at low level for 5 1/2 hours across the length of England in 1942. He reported a little instability when the rear tank was full, but that was it and pushed quite hard for increases in Spitfire range.

By the middle of 1944, the RAF began to fit 75 gallon rear fuselage tanks into some Mk IX Spitfires. This had a dramatic increase in Spitfire range. It almost doubled internal tankage and allowed the 90 gallon drop tank to be used by Mk IXs. However, at the same time the RAF was absorbing the Mustang III into service, so the Spitfire wasn't called upon to make very many long range flights.

With increased tankage the Spitfire would of been capable of escort missions up to about 500-550 miles radius. The Spit probably wasn't as suited for endurance flights compared to the larger American fighters with their bigger cockpits, although it probably would of been better than those poor P-38 pilots with insufficient cockpit heating.

horseback
05-24-2006, 05:40 PM
There's also the issue of pilot comfort-the Spit's snug cabin would make a pilot's effectiveness past the middle of a long flight a real issue. Also, per Witold Lanowski's comments on the Spit's heating, it was not as much of an improvement on the P-38H and earlier models as one might think. Added to a cockpit with no 'stretching room' a long flight (over 4 hours at high alt), especially in winter, could lead to severe problems when bounced or having to attack.

Landing after a long flight would also be that much more hazardous. While recon pilots flew Spits to Berlin & back, they had a few more comforts afforded them and they were a small group of uniquely talented & dedicated men (and I suspect that a sizable minority of them were borderline masochists) http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/16x16_smiley-wink.gif. It was usually necessary for ground crew to bodily lift long-range recon pilots out of the cockpit after especially long flights.

cheers

horseback

p1ngu666
05-24-2006, 06:16 PM
the advantage of the spit over p38 was that the engine was in front, so u get alot of heat from that.

still, few planes where warm up really high. the heat loss must be tremendous due to the high speed, tempture difference and no/limited insolation

Xiolablu3
05-25-2006, 03:32 AM
SOme good info, thanks,

I was just looking through some range figures

Typhoon - 980 miles
Tempest - 820 miles
P51 - 1040 miles
Gloster Meteor Mk I - 1200 miles (!)

I am guessing that people thought the Typhoon and Tempest would be suitable for escort work, but it turned out to be poor at altitude and exceptional low down, not a very good escort fighter, meaning it was used for low alt strike missons.

The Gloster Meteor would have made a good escort bird with its range http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_smile.gif, shame the RAF wouldnt let them out of England http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_smile.gif

hop2002
05-25-2006, 04:48 AM
Surely when the Germans were occupying France, there were plenty of targets in France to hit once you make the journey of 10 miles (!) over the channel.
Not in 1941 and 1942, no. The Germans weren't really using occupied industry much, they had only a small garrison in France, and there was no prospect of an invasion.

That changed in 1943 with the work on V weapon launch sites, the Atlantic wall, the increase in the garrison to deal with the expected upcoming invasion etc.

Xiolablu3
05-25-2006, 04:57 AM
Originally posted by hop2002:
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">Surely when the Germans were occupying France, there were plenty of targets in France to hit once you make the journey of 10 miles (!) over the channel.
Not in 1941 and 1942, no. The Germans weren't really using occupied industry much, they had only a small garrison in France, and there was no prospect of an invasion.

That changed in 1943 with the work on V weapon launch sites, the Atlantic wall, the increase in the garrison to deal with the expected upcoming invasion etc. </div></BLOCKQUOTE>

Dieppe? The Germans must have had sizable forces in the area to repel this concentrated attack so easily. It was a big operation.

Have been reading about it recently, it was a big scrap, in the air and on the ground. Look at fighter kill tallies on both sides for that period.

http://www.luftwaffe.cz/muncheberg.html
http://www.luftwaffe.cz/priller.html
http://www.luftwaffe.cz/mayer.html
http://www.luftwaffe.cz/wurmheller.html
http://www.luftwaffe.cz/schnell.html

Just the top 5 fighters around 1941-2 above. Hard to find RAF tallies but the look at the kill rates in 1942, must have been some big scraps. Galland didnt fight much in 1942-43 so I left him out.

Most of the LW actions on the Western front look to be against Spitfires judging by the kill tallies, with by far most action around 1940-43. Most victories in 1944-45 are bomber kills, very few fighters.

Data from http://www.luftwaffe.cz/western.html

WOLFMondo
05-25-2006, 05:31 AM
The Spitfires lack of range wasn't a problem with the way the RAF used them. Placing them in airfields like Tangmere on the south coast meant they had a healthy range over northern France and when they were used in the 2nd TAF they were kept at the front line airfields.


Originally posted by Xiolablu3:

I am guessing that people thought the Typhoon and Tempest would be suitable for escort work, but it turned out to be poor at altitude and exceptional low down, not a very good escort fighter, meaning it was used for low alt strike missons.


The Tempest would have made a superb escort for British bombers, attacking at medium altitude. The Tempest peak power output on the second stage of the supercharger is around 18,000ft depending on engine version and boost setting. Only the Dora can compete on terms of speed with the Tempest at that altitude. Its performance doesn't really go bad until 20,000ft+.

When it came to daylight raids by bomber command or 2nd TAF bombers, Spitfires at the front line 2nd TAF airfields were just as suitable to do escort work from there.

The Tempest probably wasn't suitable to its very high cruise speeds where as the Spitfire had a cruise speed much more suited to sticking with the heavies.

Bo_Nidle
05-25-2006, 02:14 PM
The Spitfire was originally designed as a point-defence fighter to operate close to its home base/country and thus was intended, initially, to go to longer ranges. Its job was to get to the incoming enemy height as quickly as possible.

As the war progressed its range defiencies bcame more apparent and it steadily became heavier and its armament changed in response to the new demands put upon it.

However in general the RAF always prefered the Spitfire against the P-51 for a variety of reasons. According to "Report 107 on Tactical Trials conducted by the AFDU at RAF Wittering in March 1944" they compared the P-51B (Mustang III) to the Sptfire MkIX and MkXIV. They concluded that in comparison to the MkIX:

Endurance: The Mustang III was able to carry a maximum fuel load that gave it a range of between 1 1/2 and 1 3/4 that o the MkIX (279 gallons against 177 gallons).

Speed: The Mustang III was about 20-30mph faster in level flight.

Rate of climb: The Mustang III had a considerably lower rate of climb at full power at all heights.The Mustang had a better zoom climb in that it could dive 5000ft or more and regain its original altitude faster.

Dive: The Mustang could always out dive the Spitfire.

Turning Circle: The Spitfire could always out-turn the Mustang regardless of the latters use of flaps.(They also concluded that use of flaps did not appear to affect the Mustangs turning circle to any great degree).

Rate of Roll: Spitfire had a better roll rate at all speeds and altitudes.

With MkXIV the results were pretty much the same.

Their conclusion was interesting:" With the exception of endurance, no conclusions should be drawn, as the two aircraft should never be enemies.The choice is a matter of taste."

The results basically show the RAF's prefernces to remain with a more agile fighter with a sacrifice of shorter range. However as the RAF were not escorting in the same manner as the USAAF the lack of range was not seen as such a major drawback.

The P-51s increased fuel lead to the aircraft being heavier as reflected in its rate of climb deficiency and its dive advantage with the increased momentum adding to its zoom climb performance.

The two types appear to be so close in performance that there is virtually nothing to choose between them.

The Spitfire was the more capable dogfighter but the P-51 was the more capable escort fighter.

When compared against the Tempest V the conclusion was "The Mustang has endurance and general performance above 24,000ft.Conclusions should not be drawn below this height, but the Tempest has a better speed and rate of climb below 10,000ft"

Compare this to the results with the Spitfire and you can see how the 3 fighters stack up against each other.

Got to fight relatively close to home-take the Spit.Got to travel to the fight-take the P-51
Got to attack the enemy close to home then take a Tempest.

Horses for courses.

Xiolablu3
05-25-2006, 02:18 PM
Originally posted by Bo_Nidle:

Their conclusion was interesting:" With the exception of endurance, no conclusions should be drawn, as the two aircraft should never be enemies."



What a fantastic conclusion http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_smile.gif

Just one point, the Tempest had a range of 820miles which is very good. If both the P51 and Tempest took drop tanks then there would be even less % difference.

Did you mean 'Got to fight the enemy Mid to Low alt then take a Tempest'?