1940: Could enough Spitfires...?

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by Jerry W. Loper, Feb 23, 2012.

  1. Jerry W. Loper

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    In the summer of 1940, could enough Spitfires have been built and maintained to equip more than 50 squadrons? Assuming in 1940, the Spitfire was the RAF's only fighter fit to face the Luftwaffe.
     
  2. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    No. How could they have done? Castle Bromwich was not on line and plagued by both management and industrial relations problems. They didn't build more than fifty Spitfires in a month there until September 1940 and Supermarine were building as fast as they could.
    Cheers
    Steve
     
  3. Jabberwocky

    Jabberwocky Active Member

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    I dont know if 50 Spitfire squadrons is possible, even in an alternate history timeline that diverges pretty far from the real timeline.

    You'd have to suppose that all the Hurricane factories were converted to Spitfire production probably from mid-1938 onwards. Given that the Spitfire took about a third more man-hours to make than a Hurricane, you'd also have too look for other areas to make up the difference.

    The most likely spot is Boulton Paul: cancel the Defiant and produce Spitfires.

    The only problem is that in real life Defiant production was quite slow. There were only three Defiants in service at the outbreak of war and Wolverhampton didn't really begin cranking them out in significant numbers until early 1940. In comparison, about 500 Hurricanes and 300 Spitfires were produced by the end of September 1939.

    You'd probably need a decision in early 1938 to abandon the Hurricane and Defiant and re-tool to produce the Spitfire as the sole single-seat fighter type.

    Even then, equipping 50 squadrons with Spitfires by July 1940 is a bit of a stretch. Fighter Command had 56 squadrons at the beginning of July, but only 54 operational. Of this, 38 were Hurricanes and Spitfires, then there were six Blenheim and two Defiant squadrons.

    More realistically, you probably have 28-32 squadrons outfitted with Spitfires by July 1940.
     
  4. Siegfried

    Siegfried Banned

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    first of all, what's an RAF squadron? 12 aircraft with 10 in reserve (ie under repair).
     
  5. Hop

    Hop Member

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    If the Hurricane didn't exist, yes. Hawker and Gloster both had a lot of experience building fighters and were much larger than Supermarine. They'd both have been able to churn out far more Spitfires than Supermarine could.

    The RAF had 18 - 20 squadrons of Spitfires operational during the battle. Both Hawker and Gloster should have been able to at least equal existing Spitfire production if they had received orders early on. Indeed, Spitfire production wasn't helped by the competition from the Hurricane, which had initial orders twice that of the Spitfire.

    In other words, without the Hurricane (or some alternative) Britain's two foremost fighter manufacturers would have been building Spitfires, which would have been ordered in much greater quantity, enabling bigger production runs (and bigger production runs mean more tooling and less man hours to build).
     
  6. buffnut453

    buffnut453 Well-Known Member

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    Typically 12 with 6 in reserve but it varied depending on local circumstances - I've seen fighter squadrons that operated almost 25 aircraft in total.
     
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