View Full Version : Fighter Command Orbat

01-15-2008, 06:01 AM
There's been some talk of RAF fighter types and when they came into service, and in particular, when ˜significant' numbers of certain types became available. One of the problems with these discussions has been the absence of a collated order of battle for Fighter Command over the period 1941-45. There are some sites on the net that have the information, but not in a form that allows easy analysis.

I therefore had a look at this site:


It has the individual squadrons of Fighter Command, and the types they used, and when they got them. I therefore went through this site, and recorded the type and month of receipt of each new type they used, from Jan 41 to May 45. I've done about half of the data entry that I want to, but the analyst in me I couldn't wait any longer. I had to have a taste of the data. This post is the result.


1. This site may or may not be exhaustive. It's just a first grab.

2. This analysis is concerned squadrons based in Britain with Fighter Command. It explicitly does not include squadrons sent overseas. Indeed, you can clearly see the effects of such deployments at certain points.

3. The absolute numbers of aircraft are an estimate only, based on average squadron strength of 16 aircraft. This may be high or low. However, I judge that the proportions should hold roughly true over the size of the force.

On with the story.

January 1941 to Dec 1942
There are several points of interest here, but first some clarifications:
a.) The series ˜Other*' includes Airacobra I, Gladiator II (!), Hurricane IId, Mustang I, Tomohawk I&II, and Whirlwind I.
b.) The Spit Vs include Va, Vb and Vc.
c.) I have bunched Spit I and II together because they're closer in performance to each other than to the Mk V. Most of these are Spit IIa. The proportion starts at about 50 / 50 and the IIa is in the majority by Feb 41, and the Spit I is eliminated from the strength by Oct 41.
d.) The Typhoon includes Ia and Ib types, but there were very few of the former in any event.


The first thing that strikes me about this is the way the quality of the force changed so dramatically in 1941. It went from being a Hurricane I equipped force, with some Spitfires, to being a Spitfire V force with some other types. The rapidity with which the Hurricane I disappeared would be indecent, were it not so outclassed.

The second is the size of the force. By the middle of 1942, there are about 1200 fighters, the vast bulk of them Spitfire Vbs. The only bump in the steady expansion is at the end of 1942, when a lot of squadrons disappear to North Africa to support the Torch landings. The dip is very clear.

January 43 to December 44

Some points of clarification first:

a.) Spit XIV includes both e and c types;
b.) Spit LFIX includes IXb, LFIXc, LFIXe, and LFXVIe types since they all shared very similar if not identical performance.
c.) Spit IX includes Spit VII, Spit VIII, Spit HFVII, Spit HFIX, Spit IXc, and Spit IXe types. Reason as above.
d.) Spit V includes Va, Vb, Vc and also includes the Spit VI, since it was really just a pressurised high alt Mk V.
e.) Spit LFVb are kept separate because they're a different kind of beast.


The thing that jumps out of this picture is the huge exodus in June and July 1944. One word: Overlord. From a peak of more than 1,300 single engine fighter types in May 44, it has dropped to less than 650 by September. Most of the squadrons that went were operating the Typhoon Ib (18 squadrons went to France), and Spit IXs (23 squadrons of F and LF types). It gives you some idea of what really killed the Jagdwaffe.

The second thing is that the Spitfire LFVb was very much a 1943 type. Its numbers were pretty steady at between 5 and 6 squadrons between September 43 and June 44. This is shown the image below, which is just the Spitfires alone. The light blue region near the top represents the LFVb squadrons.


The third point of note is the speed with which the Mk IX was built up over 1943.
It starts out with never fewer than 10 squadrons at the beginning of the year, and by June it comprises nearly half the Spitfires on hand in Britain. The percentages are illustrated below:


In June 43 there are 19 Squadrons of Spitfire IXs of all types, comprising 39% of the Spitfires on strength. By September there are 26 squadrons (54%). The number of Britain-based Spit IX squadron finally peaks over April to July 44, with 40 to 41 squadrons on strength.

What this lot doesn't show is WHERE in the British Isles these squadrons were deployed. I intend to go over this analysis again with particular emphasis on types and their location by Group. The most important aspects of this analysis will be the types populating 11 and 12 Groups.

But that will have to wait.


01-15-2008, 07:55 AM
Fantastic work Ratsack, many thanks.

I've seen that sight before and toyed witht he idea of doing something like that, but could not have even approached the excellent standard you've just shown there.

I take it you are aware of this site (http://www.rafweb.org/Index.htm)? Might it be possible to cross-reference some info contained int he squadron histories on there, if you need to.

01-15-2008, 07:55 AM
A few quickie comments

1. Bloody good work. http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/25.gif
2. It would be certainly more lucky to use just 'number of Squadrons' as a measure, rather than an estimated number of planes, or just note somewhere the figures are estimated. The actual number varied far too much.
3. There`s a statistical fellacy in assuming in that if the Sqn is listed as a given type

a, it had a 100% compliement of that and only that type of fighter. This wasn`t true in real life, many Squadrons operated with a mixed baggage of Spit Vs/IX/VIIIs for example (at least in the Med)
b, it had it happen in overnight. It didn`t, especially as some types delivery was painfully slow. For example the first XIV Squadrons converted to the XIV in January 1944 IIRC and you list them with a full compliment for three or so months. Actually, they didn`t have a full establishment of XIVs until March 1944 IIRC, and didn`t loose any until the end of April 1944 (going from memory). This just shows that sometimes, it takes a bit of time to convert the pilots, deliver the planes, declare the Sqn operationally ready.
c, 'In June 43 there are 19 Squadrons of Spitfire IXs of all types, comprising 39% of the Spitfires on strength.'[/i] There weren`t, simply because there were 10 Squadrons of IXs around at the date (June), and only two of these are IXB/IXLF given the literature on the RAF - FC (and possible others elsewhere, but this is FC only isn`t it..?) being very specific about this.

The possible reason of this error is that Sqns may have been counted twice when they converted (ie. Squadron having Spit Vs up to 14th June 1943, then getting the IXs on the next day. It may be counted as one Mk V and 'another' Mk IX Squadron in June. The other variation is when Squadrons were pulled from the first line (where they flew IXs), and withdrawn to the North to rest and refit; but in such cases only the pilots moved, the planes stayed and another Squadron sent as a replacement used them; this may again show TWO Squadrons using Nines, but those are the very same Spit IXs used at the same time, which is a physical impossibility of course.

Other curious stuff, your listings show something like 50 IXLFs in January, odd considering that none were produced until February-March, and IIRC (got to check my XLS at home for exact number) something like 80 were produced until the end of July 1943... Given the small numbers, and the completeness of individual aircraft records, it may be even possible to tell which aircraft and when exactly was delivered to what Squadron.

But, it`s a superb start. http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/25.gif

01-15-2008, 08:34 AM
Nice work!

How you deal with the 2nd TAF? The Squadrons of No. 83 Group and No. 84 Group were seperated from ADGB (the former Fighter Command) in June 1943, but your diagram shows a massiv reduction of fighters in June and July 1944. So I assume your collection includes the Squadrons of 2nd TAF until they moved to the contintent.

01-15-2008, 06:32 PM
Originally posted by No41Sqn_Banks:
Nice work!

Thanks! But it's not finished. Yet.

How you deal with the 2nd TAF? The Squadrons of No. 83 Group and No. 84 Group were seperated from ADGB (the former Fighter Command) in June 1943, but your diagram shows a massiv reduction of fighters in June and July 1944. So I assume your collection includes the Squadrons of 2nd TAF until they moved to the contintent.

They're all mixed in together, as you've guessed. These graphs only show the fighters based in Britain. That's why the next bit is going to be interesting.


01-15-2008, 08:03 PM
Great stuff, RS!

01-15-2008, 08:47 PM
January 1941 to Dec 1942


Looking at this graph again, the other feature that is striking is the drop in Hurribus II numbers over Oct-Nov 1941. These are probably the squadrons sent to North Africa and - more importantly - to South East Asia in anticipation of 'trouble'.


01-15-2008, 09:00 PM
Just a note about the mixed Spitfire squadrons. From my reading this didn't seem to be all that common, at least not for Spitfire squadrons based in the UK. They tended to stick within a giving version although mixed groups of Mark IX's were definitely the case as there wasn't much official distinction between the F.IX Merlin 61 and LF.IX Merlin 66 introduced later. So it was possible that a squadron had a mixed bag of IX's but it was rarer to find them mixed between groups. Never came across anything like that in the reading...I'll have a look around tho! In the Med certainly things were a bit different.

Ratsack, brilliant work on the graphs...those really put things into perspective. You can argue over a few points in the data like I did a bit above but you've got a fantastic baseline of data that really illustrates all these different types of aircraft in the RAF.

01-16-2008, 04:52 AM
Nice job!

01-16-2008, 05:00 AM
Found it.

Originally posted by Ratsack:
In June 43 there are 19 Squadrons of Spitfire IXs of all types, comprising 39% of the Spitfires on strength. By September there are 26 squadrons (54%). The number of Britain-based Spit IX squadron finally peaks over April to July 44, with 40 to 41 squadrons on strength.


From John Foremans Fighter Command War Diary, Vol 2.

OOB as of 1 July 1943


Production of Spit IX LF w. Merlin 66
(including conversions of older Mk Vs)

Month - Monthly production by end of the month - Cumulative production by end of the month

January 1943 0 0
February 1943 2 2
March 1943 20 22
April 1943 36 58
May 1943 20 78
June 1943 8 86
July 1943 2 88

Plus one prototype, BS 543, converted to Merlin 66 from Merlin 61 on 13 December 1942.

Given the Sqn establishment was 20 planes per squadron, there could not have been more than 4 Sqns around using the IXLF, and given losses, need for replacements, the fact that planes weren`t issued immidiately I`d reckon 2, maximum 3 Squadrons by operating the IXLF by July 1943, though Foreman reports a lot of 'IXBs' around, this must be some kind of misunderstanding or sloppy administration with the unoffical designation for the Merlin 66 versions, and probably puts the Merlin 61 and 66 versions into the same bunch.

But, with a bit of time, and given that there are only 88 Merlin 66 IXs built up to July 1943, it should be pretty dang easy to figure out which individual aircraft went to where.

01-16-2008, 05:50 AM
Not that easy Kurfurst because there was IXs delivered with Merlin 63 engines beside the ones delivered with M61s and M66s.

01-16-2008, 06:10 AM
Great work, Ratsack!