Spitfire Compared to Hurricane in the BoB

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MIflyer

1st Lieutenant
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May 30, 2011
Cape Canaveral
Just read something interesting. Of course everyone knows that Hurricanes outnumbered Spitfires in the Battle of Britian. But an RAF fitter said that had they had nothing but Spitfires, even in equal numbers to the Spitfire/Hurricane mix, they might well have lost.

He said that they could turn around a Hurricane in only nine minutes, while a Spitfire required 26 minutes. He thinks that turn around time was a crucial element.
 
Just read something interesting. Of course everyone knows that Hurricanes outnumbered Spitfires in the Battle of Britian. But an RAF fitter said that had they had nothing but Spitfires, even in equal numbers to the Spitfire/Hurricane mix, they might well have lost.

He said that they could turn around a Hurricane in only nine minutes, while a Spitfire required 26 minutes. He thinks that turn around time was a crucial element.
While I don't disagree with this individual's perspective (he was there!) I'd also take into account that his opinion was based on his environment and what he witnessed. Did he mention what squadron he served in?
 
Former Fitter with No 145 Sdrn, Eric Marsden: "If we'd had nothing but Spits, we'd have lost the fight in 1940. The turn around time on the ground was so poor that Jerry couldn't have failed to get us. The Spit I and II took 26 minutes to turn around, compared to the Hurri's 9 minutes ... that is a complete service -- re-arm, refuel, and replenish oxygen -- from down to up again."

I'll bet a P-39 could have done it in five minutes!

Bell P-39 re-arming.jpg
 
3 minutes! :evil4:
5 minutes, the tea has got to steep for at least 3 minutes. :lol:

I would like to see several comparisons and the number of crewmen for each plane.
Also if they were using pre-loaded magazines/boxes or reloading empty boxes?
or reloading using a bench and working at waist level or kneeling on grass/mud with the ammo hanging about the neck to keep it out of the dirt.

There are a lot variables.
 
3 minutes? Don't be silly, It was ready for another mission five minutes before it had even landed!
That was because the cannon jammed and the bombers they were intercepting were too high to get there anyway.

Actually, I do recall reading that as originally designed the Spitfire required two men to load each machine gun. One man shoved the ammo box in from the bottom and the other guy on top of the wing fed the belt into the gun. They added a strip of cloth that enabled them to pull the ammo belt in from the bottom, cutting the number of men needed to arm the guns in half.

I do wonder how long it took to arm and turn around the other fighters, German, Japanese, IT, Soviet, and American. The BoB was a different situation in that the RAF had to turn fighters around as quickly as possible. How many situations were we in that we had to do that? Turn around time for the 8th AF fighters does not seem to have been an issue. Maybe the 9th AF had more need for that after 6 Jun 44, and 2 TAF sure did.
 
There are some videos on line of fighters being rearmed in the BoB.
There seems to have been some variation ;)

If a Squadron had spare ammunition boxes with pre loaded belts they could open the doors, drop the box, insert the new box while the man on top feeds the end of the belt into the gun. close the top and bottom door and move on.

If you have to drop the belt box and put the ammo belt into the box and then stick it back in things a bit slower. If you only have a few men trying to reload 8 guns with 8 boxes all needing to refilled things get a bit slower. 300-350 round belts that have to be kept clean, draping about the shoulder seems to have a been a practice, perhaps for the newsreels, but one man can only handle one belt at at time.
 
Faster turn around is a well known advantage of the Hurrricane. All reloading and feeding is done from the top of the wing with the guns in two groups of 4. The Spit is the opposite , guns spread out over the wing. Reloading from the bottom.
Most pictures show belts being carried. Maybe the RAF didn't have the luxury of spare ammo boxes at the time.
 
One little known item is that a lot of the RAF fighters in the BoB had battery powered HF radios. I don't know how often the batteries were replaced in those or how long that took to accomplish. And of course after installing new batteries the radios had to be tested as well.
 
One little known item is that a lot of the RAF fighters in the BoB had battery powered HF radios. I don't know how often the batteries were replaced in those or how long that took to accomplish. And of course after installing new batteries the radios had to be tested as well.
P-39's radios were solar powered. The cowl armor doubling as solar panels. A lesser known quality of the aircraft to be sure. I think it was pilot Buck Rogers that tinkered with the idea of using that solar panel to power an early laser. Engineering attempts failed however as it upset C/G too much.
 
Just read something interesting. Of course everyone knows that Hurricanes outnumbered Spitfires in the Battle of Britian. But an RAF fitter said that had they had nothing but Spitfires, even in equal numbers to the Spitfire/Hurricane mix, they might well have lost.

He said that they could turn around a Hurricane in only nine minutes, while a Spitfire required 26 minutes. He thinks that turn around time was a crucial element.
Hi

I doubt the Spitfire I took much longer that the Hurricane I to turn round, it wasn't short of access panels:
WW2OHorbats013.jpg

A look at the underside panels open with the ammo boxes underneath and others on a trolley near both wings (note the frayed remains of fabric coverings over gun positions indicating they have recently been fired). The refuelling towed bowser can just be seen at the right of the image:
WW2OHorbats010.jpg

A closer look at the underwing panels open to receive ammo boxes:
WW2OHorbats015.jpg

Two images showing an Albion 1930s tanker (this could refuel three aircraft at a time, this was not done on Fighter Command airfields as the aircraft were dispersed around the airfield so were refuelled singly). Also the second image shows armourers on top of the wing:
WW2OHorbats011.jpg

A fuller view of the towed bowser, fuel pumping rates for these WW2 systems were around 30-50 Imperial gallons per minute:
WW2OHorbats012.jpg

The hatch for access to the accumulator (battery):
WW2OHorbats016.jpg

Also access hatch for the radio equipment:
WW2OHorbats017.jpg

A ground crew view of BoB turn around (152 Sqn. had Spitfires at RAF Warmwell, No. 10 Group):
WW2OHorbats014.jpg

A BoB pilot's view (Myles Duke-Woolley), this is for Hurricanes, on turn around times:
WW2OHorbats018.jpg

I think refuelling times for the Spitfire and Hurricane would not be much different, and probably the re-arming times would be fairly similar, so unlikely I believe that the total times for turning around these fighters would differ greatly.
(Images and info from a number of books in my library, I can give details if needed but they are only to illustrate the points of discussion).

Mike
 
I don't have Spitfire I information handy but I have something from A&AEE testing of the Spitfire Vc universal wing:

Two armourers working together:
  • the four inboard .303s - 8 minutes
  • the four outboard .303s - 12 minutes
  • total - 20 minutes
 
Looking at the Spit V maintenance manual and the Hurri II maintenance manuals. The Spit V uses a pneumatic system for the brakes, flaps, guns, cine camera, and retractable landing lamps. The Hurri II uses the pneumatics for just the brakes and the guns.

So the Spit probably required more charging of the pneumatic system bottles than did the Hurri.

I suppose the use of pneumatics in the Spit and Hurri as well as the Mossie reflected a British preference for that over electrics, as compared to US aircraft. Why they did that I do not know. Perhaps cost was a factor. While I worked on USAF aircraft pneumatics, the only aircraft I can think of that used pneumatics for actuators was the F-106, which used high pressure bottles to supply the flight control Feel Force system and the weapons launching system. Pneumatics can be made capable of very fast operation compared to electric or hydraulics., which was a big advantage for launching missiles. Another engineer told me he was supposed to work on the F-106 missile launch actuator but was scared to do so. I asked why and after looking at the manual I had to agree with him. The actuator used what I think was the unique approach of applying the same pressure to both sides of the piston, using the difference in area to determine which way the piston moved. This had the advantage of sending part of the air back into the pressure bottle rather than dumping it overboard, but if you were testing the actuator on the ground and figured, "Shucks, I don't need to hook up the line to the port that sends it back up since I can do that by hand." then that long length of polished solid steel was going to come out of that cylinder and just keep right on going, through anything in its way.
 
My fiver worth. While I don't know the intricacies of WW2 fighter maintenance as I have no experience in such a thing, I have spent around 15 years maintaining airliners in a variety of scenarios. While 1940s fighters might not compare with the needs of a 2000s airliner, aeroplanes are aeroplanes and they all have wheels, engines, hydraulic/pneumatic/electrical systems that require servicing etc. I can say that there are a lot of factors to take into consideration regarding this scenario, high on the list is experience of the teams doing the work, as well as the environment they operate in, but that's obvious, so let's start with engineers and their experience levels.

The kind of maintenance that those guys were performing on the fighters between sorties would today be called Ramp Servicing. It is designed to be fast and efficient for obvious reasons. I worked on the Line, which was overnight servicing in a nice big hangar so the aircraft could go to work in the morning, although I do have experience in rampie work because I used to go and work at our maintenance bases at other airports away from our main base. Rampies turn around aircraft on the gate in between flights if they need maintenance (they don't always), like those mechanics on the airfields in 1940. Now, in my hangar environment I can change a airliner tyre in around 20 minutes, with another ten or so to do the paperwork (which is considered a part of the job and the job's not done until the paperwork's done), whereas your rampie can do it faster because he has to be able to do it faster, the requirements mean that he has to change that tyre and worry about the paperwork during a lull in activity rather than straight afterwards. The crux of the matter is that engineers, depending on their circumstances will find a way to do the job quicker and more efficiently than how the manuals stipulate you should depending on circumstance, and I suspect the same applied in WW2.

Things like access panels are only a source of delay based on the experience of the team servicing the aircraft. No, really. The Spitfire has a lot of access panels, but look at the size of them, they're tiny. Small access panels on small aircraft are a pain to me because I'm used to working on big airliners where you can crawl into the fuel tanks and remove tubing and switches etc, but when your wing is small, you can't do that. Small access panels mean that you have to sometimes do stuff like one-handed lockwiring, which is a pain (especially when that wire ends up under your fingernails!), but I bet if you were servicing a squadron of Spitfires at an 11 Group airfield where the aircraft are going up more than three times a day, you're gonna get pretty slick at that one-handed lockwiring, compared to, say, an engineer at an airfield in 13 Group whose fighters might only get up once a day or less, depending on where you are.

I'm not certain how mechanics were trained back then, but today you do courses on aircraft types and famil courses every couple of years to maintain fluency. To work on a new type I don't have experience on requires me to have that course tick in my experience log. I suspect back in the day the mechanics trained on how to do tasks, but didn't receive the same depth of training on each individual aeroplane type. So, while you might have worked on both Spitfires and Hurricanes, you might have more experience on one than the other, so the other would take longer because you're less practised. That doesn't necessarily mean that the trials times stating that the Hurricane is faster to service than a Spitfire is wrong, it just means that engineers with plenny of experience servicing Spitfires on the frontline are gonna bring that time gap between the two aircraft types down because of circumstantial pressures.
 
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Hi
Some more images. A contemporary view of ground crew from the 'ABC of the RAF', includes two images of Spitfire re-arming and comments on turn rounds:
WW2turnround002.jpg

WW2turnround003.jpg

From the 'Battle of Britain Then and Now' (Mk. IV), page 230, Spitfire rearming at RAF Warmwell 13th August, 1940, again rather more than two airmen involved in rearming, so it is going to take a lot less than 20 minutes:
WW2turnround006.jpg

Some famous Hurricane (601 Sqn.) images taken by the photographer Charles E Brown at Tangmere in July 1940, from a wartime book, but these images have been used in numerous publications:
WW2turnround004.jpg

The pilot on the right (behind airman with panel) wearing the white flying suit is Flt. Lt. Rhodes-Moorhouse, who was killed on 6th September, 1940. He was the son of William Rhodes-Moorhouse who was awarded the first Victoria Cross to an aviator during WW1. He died of his wounds in 1915 after returning from a low level bombing raid, the BE.2b replica in the RAF Museum at Hendon is in his aircraft's markings. The future Flt. Lt. was only one year old at the time of his father's death.
WW2turnround005.jpg

From the back cover of 'BoB Ten and Now' armourers taking ammo belt out of box:
WW2turnround007.jpg

One of the advantages of the Hurricane's construction was that the strength of the aircraft was in the internal tubular frame rather than being in a stressed skin fuselage, this meant you could have large removable panels without compromising the structure. This is also from 'BoB Then and Now', page 736, and was taken by a member of the ground crew (Eric Marsden) during the BoB:
WW2turnround008.jpg

This gave access to the oxygen on/off valve, radio and battery, parking gear and starter handle stowage.

Mike
 
Two armourers working together:
  • the four inboard .303s - 8 minutes
  • the four outboard .303s - 12 minutes
  • total - 20 minutes
and then notice the swarms of men around the fighters in the posed publicity pictures kindly provided by MikeMeech.

I am not saying the Spitfire was easier to service, I don't know, but unless the times include the numbers of men involved and some idea of the conditions the early times given don't mean much.

Please note the two images 5 & 6 in MikeMeech's post. and compare them with the claim of 9 minutes to rearm the Hurricane.
The belts have to be take out of boxes (two men?) which could be done beforehand. then image #5 shows the belts all laid out on the wing (how long?) with two men working on loading the belts.

Some newsreels show 4 or more men working on one wing but again it was posed.
The Earlier photos show 4 -5 men working on the Spitfires guns.
The time study in provided by Greyman says 2 men.
 

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