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View Full Version : Another Great British 'What Might have been...'



XyZspineZyX
10-12-2003, 08:33 PM
This project was a new one to me...think it makes an interesting counterpoint to the Luftwaffe '46 stuff /i/smilies/16x16_smiley-wink.gif



'THE BOMBER THAT DID NOT GET THROUGH

The contribution made by R.J. Mitchell to the British war effort between 1940 and 1945 cannot be

over-estimated. Although he never lived to see his masterpiece, the Supermarine Spitfire in action - he

died in 1937 - he must have known that there was no plane in the world that would prove its master.

Yet if the Spitfire was to save his country during the darkest days of 1940, another of Mitchell's

designs might have won the war a year early had it ever been built. For the Type 317 Mitchell bomber

was as much a masterpiece as the Spitfire and even further ahead of all other of its world rivals than its

more famous stable-companion. The fact that Britain never built this potentially great plane is one of

the tragedies of the British war effort, which - it has been suggested - cost Bomber Command many

thousands of lives lost in four-engined bombers like the Stirling whose specifications were so far inferior

to the Mitchell design. More darkly, perhaps, the use of the Mitchell bomber would probably have cost

the Germans heavier casualties during the area bombing campaigns. The projected speed of the Type

317 - as high as 370 m.p.h. which was at least a hundred m.p.h. faster than the Lancaster, Britain's

best bomber of the war - might have overwhelmed Germany's night-fighters and even proved too much

for the Me-109 day-fighters. This would have allowed Bomber Command to bomb during daylight,

with a conequent increase in bombing accuracy. The advantages of the high-speed bomber were

demonstrated by the later Mosquito, though this was merely a light-bomber. To have that much speed,

as well as a capacity to carry an average 14-17,000 pounds of bombs, would have provided Britain

with the finest bomber of the whole war.

The story of the Mitchell bomber is, like so many such stories in British aviation history, one of lost

opportunities. It began with the Air Ministry specification of December 1936, for a four-engined heavy

bomber. Vickers, Short Brothers and Supermarine all entered designs and the latter two were awarded

contracts to build prototypes. The design submitted by R.J. Mitchell was such an improvement on the

specifications that had they even approached them, rather than met them, the bomber would still have

been a super-plane. With a maximum speed of 370 m.p.h. it would have been faster than the Spitfire -

as well as the fastest of German fighters - and it would have been able to go into production in 1941, a

year before the Lancaster. Its maximum bomb carrying capacity might have reached 21,000 pounds

and its maximum range would have been 3000 miles carrying 8000 pounds. It would have carried

three turrets, the central one retractable, but, above all, at such high speed its need for protection

would have been far less than other four-engined bombers. The great Lancaster - beloved of almost

everyone at Bomber Command - would have been left for dead by a plane that flew 100 m.p.h. faster.

While Supermarine worked on the prototype of the Mitchell design, Short Brothers produced the very

disappointing Stirling bomber. It is perhaps unfair to compare the Type 317 with the Lancaster. The

true comparison should be between Mitchell's design and the Stirling, which was the design that the

Military chose to adopt. The Stirling began badly. As a result of RAF hangers being a mere hundred

feet wide, the Stirling had its wings reduced to just 99 feet 10 inches. This had a disastrous effect on

the bomber's ceiling, which was kept at 17,000 feet, well within range of German anti-aircraft guns.

Because the Air Ministry had not moved with the times, the new bomber would be unecessarily

exposed to danger with consequent effect on flight operations and increased loss of life. The

compartmentalization of the bomb bay in the Stirling also meant that it was unable to carry bombs

larger than 1000 pounds once they became widely available. Again, its designers had not looked ahead.
The Stirling was very much the poor relation when compared with Mitchell's design.

However, during the latter stages of the Battle of Britain, fortune smiled on the Luftwaffe in a way

that it was never to understand. In September 1940 a raid on the Supermarine factory at Woolston,

near Southampton, gutted the building and destroyed the two fuselages of the Mitchell prototypes. It

was a loss, but it hardly had to be permanent. The German aircraft industry was to withstand three

years of saturation bombing compared to which the raid on Woolston was a mere pinprick. Yet it

continued to produce prototypes for new aircraft, including high performance rocket and jet craft.

However, the Air Minisry took the soft option and went ahead with the Short Stirling, consigning

Mitchell's potentially war-winning design to the dustbin of history's 'might have beens'. It was a crass

decision. Conceivably today we might remember Mitchell's Type 317 bomber as the greater of his two

masterpieces, the one that not only saved Britain from defeat but the one that hastened victory in

Europe with a saving of countless lives.'


Taken from 'Air Force Blunders' by Geoffrey Regan 2002 Carlton Books ISBN 1 84222 902 8



And from this site http://freespace.virgin.net/john.dell/spitmich.htm :-

' It is also interesting to look at one design that never got into the air; the Supermarine bomber. In

designing the Spitfire Mitchell had pioneered a unique method of wing construction, the single spar

with a thick metal leading edge. If this leading edge section could be filled with fuel it promised an

aircraft with a very thin wing and slim aerodynamic fuselage while still having large fuel capacity. The

Supermarine Bomber (project B12/36) would have carried a bomb-load almost as great as the

Lancaster at greater heights and at a speed close to that of the Spitfire! In short the B12/36 could

have given the RAF a bomber superior to every other W.W.II type except the B29 Superfortress. As it

was, Supermarine just did not have the workforce or factory capacity to push forward the project and

when the prototype was destroyed on it's jigs, during the Luftwaffe attack on the Woolston

Supermarine factory in September 1940, the bomber project was cancelled.'


http://www.uploadit.org/files/121003-super.jpg

Anyone got any more info on this 'forgotten masterpiece?'





<center>http://www.uploadit.org/files/150903-Screensig.jpg

Whirlwind Whiner - First Of The Few

XyZspineZyX
10-12-2003, 08:33 PM
This project was a new one to me...think it makes an interesting counterpoint to the Luftwaffe '46 stuff /i/smilies/16x16_smiley-wink.gif



'THE BOMBER THAT DID NOT GET THROUGH

The contribution made by R.J. Mitchell to the British war effort between 1940 and 1945 cannot be

over-estimated. Although he never lived to see his masterpiece, the Supermarine Spitfire in action - he

died in 1937 - he must have known that there was no plane in the world that would prove its master.

Yet if the Spitfire was to save his country during the darkest days of 1940, another of Mitchell's

designs might have won the war a year early had it ever been built. For the Type 317 Mitchell bomber

was as much a masterpiece as the Spitfire and even further ahead of all other of its world rivals than its

more famous stable-companion. The fact that Britain never built this potentially great plane is one of

the tragedies of the British war effort, which - it has been suggested - cost Bomber Command many

thousands of lives lost in four-engined bombers like the Stirling whose specifications were so far inferior

to the Mitchell design. More darkly, perhaps, the use of the Mitchell bomber would probably have cost

the Germans heavier casualties during the area bombing campaigns. The projected speed of the Type

317 - as high as 370 m.p.h. which was at least a hundred m.p.h. faster than the Lancaster, Britain's

best bomber of the war - might have overwhelmed Germany's night-fighters and even proved too much

for the Me-109 day-fighters. This would have allowed Bomber Command to bomb during daylight,

with a conequent increase in bombing accuracy. The advantages of the high-speed bomber were

demonstrated by the later Mosquito, though this was merely a light-bomber. To have that much speed,

as well as a capacity to carry an average 14-17,000 pounds of bombs, would have provided Britain

with the finest bomber of the whole war.

The story of the Mitchell bomber is, like so many such stories in British aviation history, one of lost

opportunities. It began with the Air Ministry specification of December 1936, for a four-engined heavy

bomber. Vickers, Short Brothers and Supermarine all entered designs and the latter two were awarded

contracts to build prototypes. The design submitted by R.J. Mitchell was such an improvement on the

specifications that had they even approached them, rather than met them, the bomber would still have

been a super-plane. With a maximum speed of 370 m.p.h. it would have been faster than the Spitfire -

as well as the fastest of German fighters - and it would have been able to go into production in 1941, a

year before the Lancaster. Its maximum bomb carrying capacity might have reached 21,000 pounds

and its maximum range would have been 3000 miles carrying 8000 pounds. It would have carried

three turrets, the central one retractable, but, above all, at such high speed its need for protection

would have been far less than other four-engined bombers. The great Lancaster - beloved of almost

everyone at Bomber Command - would have been left for dead by a plane that flew 100 m.p.h. faster.

While Supermarine worked on the prototype of the Mitchell design, Short Brothers produced the very

disappointing Stirling bomber. It is perhaps unfair to compare the Type 317 with the Lancaster. The

true comparison should be between Mitchell's design and the Stirling, which was the design that the

Military chose to adopt. The Stirling began badly. As a result of RAF hangers being a mere hundred

feet wide, the Stirling had its wings reduced to just 99 feet 10 inches. This had a disastrous effect on

the bomber's ceiling, which was kept at 17,000 feet, well within range of German anti-aircraft guns.

Because the Air Ministry had not moved with the times, the new bomber would be unecessarily

exposed to danger with consequent effect on flight operations and increased loss of life. The

compartmentalization of the bomb bay in the Stirling also meant that it was unable to carry bombs

larger than 1000 pounds once they became widely available. Again, its designers had not looked ahead.
The Stirling was very much the poor relation when compared with Mitchell's design.

However, during the latter stages of the Battle of Britain, fortune smiled on the Luftwaffe in a way

that it was never to understand. In September 1940 a raid on the Supermarine factory at Woolston,

near Southampton, gutted the building and destroyed the two fuselages of the Mitchell prototypes. It

was a loss, but it hardly had to be permanent. The German aircraft industry was to withstand three

years of saturation bombing compared to which the raid on Woolston was a mere pinprick. Yet it

continued to produce prototypes for new aircraft, including high performance rocket and jet craft.

However, the Air Minisry took the soft option and went ahead with the Short Stirling, consigning

Mitchell's potentially war-winning design to the dustbin of history's 'might have beens'. It was a crass

decision. Conceivably today we might remember Mitchell's Type 317 bomber as the greater of his two

masterpieces, the one that not only saved Britain from defeat but the one that hastened victory in

Europe with a saving of countless lives.'


Taken from 'Air Force Blunders' by Geoffrey Regan 2002 Carlton Books ISBN 1 84222 902 8



And from this site http://freespace.virgin.net/john.dell/spitmich.htm :-

' It is also interesting to look at one design that never got into the air; the Supermarine bomber. In

designing the Spitfire Mitchell had pioneered a unique method of wing construction, the single spar

with a thick metal leading edge. If this leading edge section could be filled with fuel it promised an

aircraft with a very thin wing and slim aerodynamic fuselage while still having large fuel capacity. The

Supermarine Bomber (project B12/36) would have carried a bomb-load almost as great as the

Lancaster at greater heights and at a speed close to that of the Spitfire! In short the B12/36 could

have given the RAF a bomber superior to every other W.W.II type except the B29 Superfortress. As it

was, Supermarine just did not have the workforce or factory capacity to push forward the project and

when the prototype was destroyed on it's jigs, during the Luftwaffe attack on the Woolston

Supermarine factory in September 1940, the bomber project was cancelled.'


http://www.uploadit.org/files/121003-super.jpg

Anyone got any more info on this 'forgotten masterpiece?'





<center>http://www.uploadit.org/files/150903-Screensig.jpg

Whirlwind Whiner - First Of The Few

XyZspineZyX
10-12-2003, 09:24 PM
I'm sorry but, it looks like typical internet-crap. Until some convincing drawings/pics are produced, I don't think this was for real.

1 Judge not, that ye be not judged.
2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye
shall be judged: and with what
measure ye mete, it shall be
measured to you again.

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XyZspineZyX
10-12-2003, 09:31 PM
Bit of an abrupt, not to mention harsh, dismissal there. Who's to say Mitchell didn't come up with a bomber proposal? I'd sooner go looking for confirmation than dismiss it out of hand as "internet crap". Checking the ISBN number would be a good place to start - that's not an internet thing.

XyZspineZyX
10-12-2003, 09:40 PM
Nice Delta Wing there. /i/smilies/16x16_smiley-wink.gif

XyZspineZyX
10-12-2003, 09:41 PM
shame /i/smilies/16x16_smiley-sad.gif
that painting of it doesnt look that nice tho :\
maybe oleg can model/get someone to and work out the performance?

XyZspineZyX
10-12-2003, 09:59 PM
pretty cool...

makes you wonder how many other hidden treasures there are out there...

Lost due to politics, bad luck or imcompetence...

http://www.dilbert.com/comics/dilbert/the_characters/images/icon_catbert.gif


World's most evil creature

XyZspineZyX
10-12-2003, 11:20 PM
Platypus_1.JaVA wrote:
- I'm sorry but, it looks like typical internet-crap.
- Until some convincing drawings/pics are produced, I
- don't think this was for real.

There's a picture in the book mentioned of the same plane,(must invest in a scanner one day!) but I would like to see something more concrete. Strange that with Mitchell's status as a great designer, this plane is not as well known as it could be - even if the project never really got off the ground (no pun intended, for once). Anybody out there seen anything approaching a verifiable source?








<center>http://www.uploadit.org/files/150903-Screensig.jpg

Whirlwind Whiner - First Of The Few

XyZspineZyX
10-12-2003, 11:35 PM
anyone speak Polish? This link appears to be about this Supermarine bomber:

http://www.samoloty.ow.pl/str008.htm


Also found this brief description:


Supermarine 317

Design for a four-engined bomber, 1936. The 317 looked very promising: A top speed 160km/h faster than the Lancaster was claimed for the design. But the destruction of the two uncompleted prototypes during a German air raid, and Supermarine's already heavy work load, caused the project to be abandoned.

XyZspineZyX
10-13-2003, 12:00 AM
Thanks Zyzbot -

Bedtime bump for any Polish speakers out there. Goodnight all.

<center>http://www.uploadit.org/files/150903-Screensig.jpg

Whirlwind Whiner - First Of The Few

XyZspineZyX
10-13-2003, 06:41 PM
Another bump in the hope a passing Pole might spot this thread /i/smilies/16x16_smiley-happy.gif

<center>http://www.uploadit.org/files/150903-Screensig.jpg

Whirlwind Whiner - First Of The Few

XyZspineZyX
10-13-2003, 06:56 PM
That is nice and all but who's to say what the German's would have countered with? Hitler may have dumped all of his resources into the 262 program, rolled it out in 42-43 and the rest of the world's airforces would have been shut down until they could have caught up. Causing a much higher allied Airforce loses.

Instead of rewriting history, let's just be glad it worked out the way it did.

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<center>We are recruiting: www.92ndfg.com</center> (http://www.92ndfg.com</center>)

XyZspineZyX
10-13-2003, 07:24 PM
Cardinal25 wrote:
- That is nice and all but who's to say what the
- German's would have countered with? Hitler may have
- dumped all of his resources into the 262 program,
- rolled it out in 42-43 and the rest of the world's
- airforces would have been shut down until they could
- have caught up. Causing a much higher allied
- Airforce loses.
-
- Instead of rewriting history, let's just be glad it
- worked out the way it did.


Don't worry mate - I'm not canvassing for Mitchell Bomber Whiners! I am however, genuinely interested in the specs for this plane (albeit projected). As for rewriting history, surely that's one of the main attractions of any historical sim/wargame? I refer you again to the Luftwaffe '46 project. Personally, I like to stick to as much historical accuracy as possible, but will concede that it's nice when my actions have a bearing on historical events - a luxury the guys who did it for real certainly never had. And yes, I'm glad that the 262 and other jet programmes turned out the way they did.

S!





<center>http://www.uploadit.org/files/150903-Screensig.jpg

Whirlwind Whiner - First Of The Few