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Spitfire - What If's

Discussion in 'What If - European Theater - Western Front & Atlan' started by KnightMove, Dec 13, 2003.

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  1. KnightMove

    KnightMove Ace

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    Two What if's about the Spitfire...

    a) No Spitfire in the Battle of Britain
    Guess the Spitifre would not have been constructed by the Battle of Britain; the only fighter the English could have used would have been an equal number of Hurricans. Will they still win the Battle of Britain?

    b) Spitfire vs. Mustang
    Guess there would have been a war between the UK and the USA, or the Germans would have captured many Spitfires... if these 2 face each other in combat (in equal numbers), which will probably win?
     
  2. No.9

    No.9 Ace

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    Ahem.....the Hurricane did win the Battle of Britain. ;)

    No.9
     
  3. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    The Hurricane could not match the Bf109 at higher altitudes. However, the 109s would still have had to descend to lower altitude in order to defend the bombers which were being mauled by Hurricanes. RAF losses would have been higher, but as the Hurricane could absorb more damage than the Spitfire and was far easier to repair 'in the field', I think the overall result would have been the same - a defeat for the Luftwaffe.

    As for the second part - not so sure. I think the 'nod' would have gone to the P-51; to get the best from a Spitfire needed a high level of training and/or natural skill. P-51s were far more 'forgiving' to fly and were therefore a superior combat weapon.

    As to whether it was a better aircraft ..... ;)
     
  4. KnightMove

    KnightMove Ace

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    With the Spitfire helping a great deal... whether this was necessary to win the battle or not, is the point of discussion. [​IMG]
     
  5. Greenjacket

    Greenjacket Member

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    I agree with what Martin's said on this one.

    An interesting idea. In fact, this question of the Spitfire versus the Mustang occured to the RAF and so in June 1944 they tested a new Spitfire Mk XIV against one of their own Mustang III's (P-51C to the Americans). There conclusions are shown below:

    The Air Fighting Development Unit also tested the Spitfire XIV, Tempest V, FW-190 and BF-109G. This information can be found at:
    http://www.fourthfightergroup.com/eagles/spit14afdu.html

    And their homepage at:
    http://www.fourthfightergroup.com/eagles/spittest.html

    [ 13. December 2003, 08:29 AM: Message edited by: Greenjacket ]
     
  6. Greenjacket

    Greenjacket Member

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    One other detail I would add - the Spitfire's armament was superior, in my view, to that of the Mustang - 2x .50-inch MG's and 2x 20mm Hispano cannon being more destructive than the Mustang's 6x .50's.

    But as the report says, "The choice is a matter of taste".
     
  7. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    I would still think the British would prevail. Aside from the comments already made, the British would have come up with alternatives as well. One aircraft they almost certainly would have gone ahead with is the Miles M.20. This aircraft was designed with rapid production as its foremost quality. In testing it proved faster than a Hurricane, almost as fast as a Spitfire (despite its fixed landing grear) and about as maneuverable.
    Of course, there was always the Boulton-Paul Defiant too.... ;)

    As for the Spit versus a Mustang I concur with the comments already made. Except for range there it's a matter of taste.
     
  8. redcoat

    redcoat Ace

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    Yes. If there had been no Spitfires there probably would have been even more than an equal amount of Hurricanes, they were far easier and quicker to build. The Luftwaffe did not come as close to winning the battle as most people think, the lack of Spitfires wouldn't have made that much of a difference.
    The Spitfire :cool:
    The two marks to compare would be the Spitfire XIV and P-51D, which were the models both in service in mid-1944. The Spitfire XIV actually entered service in January 1944, five months before the P-51D.

    The Spitfire XIV was faster than the P-51D, more maneuverable, had a higher service ceiling, could climb better, and it even had a better rate of roll. It was better than the P-51D in EVERY combat category except initial dive speed and range.

    Some quotes:

    William Dunn (US fighter ace who flew Spitfires, P-51s, Hurricanes, and P-47s): "Now, if I had to make the choice of one fighter aircraft above all the others - one that I'd rather have tied to the seat of my pants in any tactical situation - it would be, without any doubt, the world's greatest propeller driven flying machine - the magnificent and immortal Spitfire."

    Eric Brown (RN test pilot and holder of the world record for number of types of aircraft flown): "I have flown both for many hours, and would choose the Spitfire [over the Mustang] if given a choice in a fight to the death."

    Writer Jerry Scutts, quoting German pilots in his book JG 54: "The Jagflieger had to keep a wary eye out for enemy fighters, particularly Spitfires, a type JG 54's pilots had developed a particular aversion to...Pilot reflections do not, surprisingly enough, reflect over-much respect for the Mustang or Lightning, both of which the Germans reckoned their Fockes were equal to - unless they were met in substantial numbers."

    Gordon Levitt, Israeli fighter pilot, comparing the Spitfire, Mustang, and Avia S-199 (Jumo-engined Bf 109), all of which the Israelis flew: "Despite the pros and cons, the Spitfire was everyone's first choice."

    Karl Stein, Luftwaffe Fw 190 pilot (who served mainly on the Eastern front): "English and American aircraft appeared on the scene in those closing days of the European war. Spitfires were the most feared, then Mustangs..."

    USAAF 31st FG War Diary (when transferring from Spitfires to P-51s): "Although pilots think that the P-51 is the best American fighter, they think the Spitfire VIII is the best fighter in the air."

    USAAF pilot Charles McCorkle (who flew both in combat), reporting on a mock combat between a Spitfire and Mustang in 1944: "Now we could see which was the better aircraft...a Mustang and a Spit took off for a scheduled 'combat', flown by two top young flight commanders. When the fighters returned, the pilots had to agree that the Spitfire had won the joust. The Spit could easily outclimb, outaccelerate, and outmaneuver its opponent..."

    Many thanks to the internet poster 'robert' for the quotes [​IMG]

    martin
    I must be honest Martin I've never read that the Spitfire was a difficult plane to fly, only how easy it was to fly. Do you have any info :confused:
     
  9. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    The only info I have is a long conversation with Air Vice Marshal Sir Peter Wykeham in 1980. He had 14 confirmed and 3 probables in WWII with 60 different 'types' in his logbook. When I asked ( inevitably ) which was his favourite he immediately cited the P-51. He loved the Spitfire ( and of course the Mosquito .... ) but told me 'The Spit could bite you in the backside if you didn't know what you were doing, old boy....bit tricky. But you could do anything you wanted in a Mustang ; very forgiving to fly'.
     
  10. KnightMove

    KnightMove Ace

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    But if your agreeing opinion on my first question is correct, then this leaves a strange conclusion...


    The Spitfire was the most popular, probably best, most-produced (in the West at least) Allied fighter...

    but in the end, her influence on the war was not that decisive...


    The Battle of Britain would have been won by the Hurricane alone...
    The air battle over Germany was won by the Mustang, and also would have been won if the Germans had had more fighters...
    North Africa would not have been lost without Spitfires...
    Dieppe was a disaster even with Spitfire support...
    the Germans would have lost in the East, even if they had had more planes...


    so what was the main role of the Spitfire to win the war?

    [ 14. December 2003, 04:23 AM: Message edited by: KnightMove ]
     
  11. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    Which again goes to show that nothing is conveniently simple.

    The Battle of Britain may well have been won - but the RAF would have suffered far higher losses to achieve it and would have lacked many experienced pilots to carry on the fight.

    Malta was almost certainly saved by the Spitfire, and with it the Desert War. By that stage, the Hurricanes which had absorbed tremendous losses over Malta, were outclassed in air-to-air fighting.

    Dieppe - agreed ; but would the war had been 'won' if Dieppe had succeeded ? Doubt it.

    Spitfires in Burma ? Took quite a toll of Japanese aircraft. My knowledge of the Far East campaign is limited but the Spitfire was a decisive element in fighting the Japanese Air Force.

    Over NW Europe in the tactical role the MkIX Spitfire was a formidable weapon in 1944 and the heavier weight of firepower over the P-51 made it a fearsome ground-attack threat ( as Rommel found out... ).

    Would the P-51 in any case have performed as well without the uprated Rolls-Royce Merlin; the development of which had been accelerated by the high-altitude performance potential of the Spitfire?

    In a less-glamorous role, the Spitfire was one of the most valuable photo-recon platforms of WWII.

    The Spitfire may not have won the war, but the Allied air effort would have been a lot less sophisticated from day 1.

    For perhaps the best reading - away from statistics - as to what the Spitfire was doing in Europe, and what the pilots felt about the aircraft and the operations, I'd highly recommend 'Johnny' Johnson's book 'Wing Leader' ( constantly in print since 1956 ).
     
  12. KnightMove

    KnightMove Ace

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    Indeed, good reasons.

    But my main motivation for this thread was the intention for another: About the MOST INFLUENTAL weapon od WWII (similar to the "best weapon" thread, but this is a different question!).

    When pondering about which weapons I would chose myself, I had to reflect on the Spitfire for this purpose. If you put the Mustang on such a list, does this imply you have to do the same with the Spitfire?
     
  13. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    Then I'd have to say the Mustang was the most influential. It decisively proved to the Allies a fundamental lesson ; a successful bombing campaign requires as a prerequisite the attainment of control of the airspace over the target country.

    A lesson which has been heeded to this day.

    ( I gues you could argue this ad infinitum and ultimately say that the invention of papier- mache was the decisive factor.... ;) )
     
  14. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    Which was most influencial? Well, the Spitfire was in part the aircraft that kept Britain in the war. But, I doubt that the Germans could either have actually won the air war over Britain in 1940 regardless or successfully invaded.
    The P-51 on the other hand took the air war to Germany and Japan by virtue of its phenominal range. The choice is between a thoroughbred defensive interceptor and an offensive warhorse with stamina.
    Offense wins wars. I would say the P-51 had greater influence on the outcome. It was in great part the fighter that finished the Luftwaffe.
     
  15. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    Just an odd aside - the Dieppe operation of 19/8/42 saw the first combat use of the P-51.....
     
  16. Greenjacket

    Greenjacket Member

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    I would think of a few other contributions the Spitfire made to the war:

    Dunkirk - all the RAF's Spitfire squadrons had been kept at home away from the debacle in France. Over the beaches of Dunkirk Spitfires and their Hurricane companions flew continuous sorties over the beaches to help discourage the Luftwaffe's divebombers, and so aided a vital evacuation

    Over Japan - as the naval Seafire, the Spitfire contributed to the air war over Japan itself. For instance, shortly before the end of the war in August 1945 RN Seafires shot down eight Japanese Zero fighters without loss.

    In more general terms, I would say the Spitfire was an excellent complement to the long-range Mustang; while the Mustang could take strategic bombers as far as Berlin and beyond, the Spitfire provided a supremely able dogfighter over the battlefields of Western Europe and the Mediterranean providing cover to the tactical bombers of Western ground-attack forces.
     
  17. redcoat

    redcoat Ace

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    But then again if you think about it, no single weapon was decisive in WW2.For example
    Let's turn that question around. The air battle over the Med was won by the Spitfire in both USAAF and RAF use.
    The air battle over Germany would still have been won by the Allies, even without the Mustang. For you are forgetting that, like the Spitfire in the BOB, the Mustang was not the only US fighter fighting for control of the skies over Germany, there was also the P-47 (the USAAF Hurricane ;) ) and the Lockheed Lightning.
    But even if the Germans hadn't lost the air war over Germany it wouldn't have been decisive. The Luftwaffe would still have been broken in the end by the demands of fighting on 3 fronts.

    My own view, Hope
    Because until the Spitfire and the BOB, German weaponry had seemed unbeatable. The Spitfire showed the world that the allies could build weapons that were more than a match for the Nazi war machines. It gave them hope that the Nazis could be beaten. It became a potent symbol of freedom.
     
  18. KnightMove

    KnightMove Ace

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    I do not agree with your first point. Without the Mustang and complete Allied air dominance above the entire Reich, the Germans definitely would have resisted significantly longer... until 1946, 47... but well, maybe the A-bomb would have fallen on Germany in his case (was another debate in here).

    But the 2nd one, however, is very, very good! I had not thought about this!
     
  19. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    The 'morale' point is interesting when discussing the Spitfire. To people of my parents' generation, the Spitfire was a symbol of National defiance ( and still is ! I have seen older people moved to tears by the sight and sound of a Spitfire at airshows ).

    As Stephen Bungay puts it in 'The Most Dangerous Enemy' : -

    'The Spitfire...has charisma. It is clear that in 1940 the Spitfire fascinated the Luftwaffe and British public alike. The former admired it and were always shot down by Spitfires, never Hurricanes...The Spitfire became a symbol of 1940 and is now the icon of the Battle Of Britain. It plays the mythological role of a magical weapon...its power is unique'. ( p80/82 ).

    Illogical and emotional, yes, but.....
     
  20. Friedrich

    Friedrich Expert

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    After many stubborn discussions some years ago Friedrich finally understood logistics and weather and realised that a German invasion across the Channel was utterly impossible.

    However, I think that air superiority could have been achieved. Now, without the Spitfire in the scene it would have been a blood bath for the British even with a greater number of Hurricanes. Even if they could be much more easily repaired and produced, also they were much easier to shoot down by very experienced German pilots in supperb Me-109Es in 1940s. The loss of pilots would have been apawling and air superiority might have been achieved. But still an invasion... :rolleyes:

    Malta is a fine example. No Spitfires. No air superiority. Airborne invasion. No logistical chaos. A whole different outcome... BUT the problem of Malta is still not the 400 Spitfires available in November 1942. By May 1942 a German airborne invasion could have easily succeeded (and there were not enough Spitfires at that time to make it decisive).

    And the far east is also a thing to think about. Japanese Zeros just swept the RAF away in early 1942 and the poor Hurricanes didn't even have a chance. The Spitfire quite contributed there if I'm not mistaken.

    And I still believe that the P-51D was more substantial to the Allied air victory over the Reich in 1944. Without the Mustang the Luftwaffe could have kept a larger number of pilots and machines to keep the fighting going. Not to mention that without the P-51D the strategic bombing campaigns would have continued to have 1/3 loss rate, unbearable for the Allies.
     
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