Spitfire cost vs Hurricane

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by Maxrobot1, May 30, 2010.

  1. Maxrobot1

    Maxrobot1 Member

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    I have read several brief mentions that the Hurricane was less expensive than the Spitfire.
    Was it just that Supermarine charged more or was the airframe really that much more complicated to produce? The Hurricane seems more complicated with the cloth covered parts as compared to the all-metal fuselage of the Spitfire.
    The cost of the engines could not be a factor nor could initial armament (8 .303 Brownings) but yet it appears that Hurricane were more plentiful in the early years because the cost of the Spit was a factor.
    Was Supermarine just making more of a profit?
     
  2. Markus

    Markus Banned

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    The Hurricane´s frame+canvas(later metal) cover was the traditional way to build planes. It was also so simple many companies outside the aviation industry could easily do it. And damage to this could be repaired not just quickly but in most cases on the spot.

    The Spitfire´s wing and to a lesser degree hull were monocoque -meaning there was no internal skeleton, the metal skin carried the load. That cost money but saved weight. Damage could only often be fixed by specialist repair units. IIRC it was in P. Fleming´s book "Operation S....n" where I read that Hurricane untis had a higher readyness rate during the BoB than those flying Spits.

    Last but not least, the Hurricane was heavily based on the Fury, while the Spitfire was a completely new design.
     
  3. Maxrobot1

    Maxrobot1 Member

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    So you think that the lower cost was due to Hawker using existing tooling and not having to train skilled workers?
     
  4. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    The Hurricane was a half generation older than the Spit, and this translated into lower cost. Even today, if you can build something with off-the-shelf technology, it will cost a fraction of that which is developed from new.

    A good example of this are the tour de france racing cycles. The new technology put into the years racing bikes, means that the bicycles when first developed cost about $250K each. Usually at least some of these technologies are transferred to the commercial market, where cheaper but almost as good a product can be bought for $5-10000.

    Wven though the airframe of the spit was revolutionary in 1938-9, by 1940, its technology had been master, and many of its components,, including large parts of the frame, were being built in shadow factories, similar to the hurri. If it had remained difficult to build or maintain, it would not have had its productiion rates ramped up as it did.
     
  5. Markus

    Markus Banned

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    Unlike the Spitfire the Hurricane was never "high-tech", not even when it was introduced. It was clearly made of much lower tech than the Spitfire and it was an evolutionary design. All that reduces the cost.
     
  6. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    The Spitfire was a thoroughbred of the racing line of Supermarine. It's design and construction were not particularly sympathetic to mass production. I read somewhere,but can't find the reference now, that it took three times as many man hours to build a SpitfireI as it did to build a contemporary Bf109E. The fact that Spitfire production out stripped Messerschmitt production early in the war says more about the organisation of the opposing aircraft industries than the aircraft themselves.
    The Hurricane was an altogether simpler and more familiar aircraft to build. As someone said it was at the end of a long line of doped fabric and frame constructed aircraft whereas the Spitfire was at the beginning of another generation of stressed skin,monocoque machines. This is reflected in the development of the Spitfire through to those late/ post war marques that look like they've been abusing the steroids,something not possible for the Hurricane.
    Steve
     
  7. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    Stona, ive heard that as well, but it does not stand up to closer srutiny. In a related thread there is a similar discussion going on at this minute.

    These are the facts....in 1940, with about 2/3 the workforce dedicated to spitfire production as was dedicated to 109 production, the british managed to produce roughly twice as many of their type as the germans did of theirs. Admittedly the brits devoted about three times the factory space as the germans, and were working about 50% longer hours per worker, but this still does not justify the notion that the 109 was an easier plane to produce. even allowing for nazi innefficiency simply cannot explain thjis.

    In the pre-war period ther is some truth to your argument. With a new and revolutiuonary type of construction, getting the skilled workers up to steam and the production lines organized properly took rather a long time to work out
     
  8. riacrato

    riacrato Member

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    #8 riacrato, May 31, 2010
    Last edited: May 31, 2010
    Again with the number games. The only way to get an even half solid estimation of production costs is by looking at the BOM and materials, number of subassemblies, number of all manufacturing and assembly steps, and numbers of work hours required for each step. Assuming the work force requirements are equal enough (which is likely the case, except for the spitfires wing). Your oversimplifying calculations mean squat. How do you even name the number of workers dedicated to Bf 109 production?
     
  9. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    As the U.S.A.F. bombing survey states, the German aviation and engine industry started practically from nothing during 1933. The first DB601 engine factory was built from scratch during 1936. It takes several years for a major industry to start from nothing and work up to efficient production. The German aircraft industry was just starting to produce results during 1940. Britain, France, Russia and the USA did not have this problem as their aircraft industries were not destroyed during 1919.

    1943 would be a better year for price / manhour comparison. By then German aircraft and engine industries were more or less worked up and Allied bombing was not yet a major factor.
     
  10. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    Surely the only reason that the British aircraft industry could out perform its German counterpart must be the organisation and supply of the two organisations. I don't believe a British worker was any better than his German counterpart though he (or she, at least in Britain,a whole other subject) may well have worked longer hours.Does anyone have a figure for the man hours required for the construction of the two types? I don't get home until August and I'm not sure I'll find them then lol.
    Steve
     
  11. Colin1

    Colin1 Active Member

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    A (female) German worker rivetting unflanged sheets in a jig for Bf109 assembly
     

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  12. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    Great Pic!

    Riveting is riveting once learned, especially in an assembly environment. It's like tying your shoes. What is a skill learned is the pace at which the driver and bucker work together behind a skin as shown. A good team can rivet huge surfaces in the matter of minutes. The other side of the coin is the preparation of the surface to be riveted, especially if you're installing flush rivets. That requires a bit more skill but still can be a quickly learned.
     
  13. vinnye

    vinnye Member

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    Dave, would the fact that the German aviation industry started from scratch in 1933 not give them an advantage over the British industry?
    If a new factory is built - you can design it to be efficient - whereas if you have inherited an old building - it may well not be fit for purpose.
    The Hurricane was - as mentioned in previous posts - a hybrid. It was a development of existing tried and tested manufacturing techniques and materials (same as a bi-plane but one wing).
    The Spitfire was a new design using new procedures and materials. It was also a relatively complex design - the elliptical wing was very difficult to mass produce quickly. IIRC the wings were different as they joined through the fuselage. Again making manufacturing more time consuming and expensive.
     
  14. Waynos

    Waynos Active Member

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    The British wartime industry started virtually from scratch too, from 1936 onwards. From 1919 to that date the industry survived merely on scraps and was almost a cottage industry. Indeed Supermarine were never anything else and almost had Spitfire production taken away from them for that reason. To imagine that the industry that churned out Spits, Lanc's Mossies etc during 1939-45 was the same one that was building Furies and Overstrands a decade earlier would be a misrepresentation IMO.

    The major production centres such as Castle Bromwich were entirely new, and not merely an extension or ramp up of an existing factory.
     
  15. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    As stated, the elliptical wing construction was probably made a non factor when production tooling was developed to mass produce the wing. I believe all models of the Spitfire had their wings joined at the fuselage. Here's one under restoration. I see no major issue that would make a Spitfire wing more difficult to assemble than any other wing, especially if production tooling is used.

    PV270 Previous Restoration History
     
  16. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    That doesn't help if you must train practically the entire aviation work force (including supervisors) from scratch. Let's look at historical results for the Ju-88 program.

    http://www.econ.yale.edu/growth_pdf/cdp905.pdf
    Britain may not have been producing aircraft on a massive scale throughout the 1920s and 1930s but they still had a significant head start on German aircraft production. Consequently a price comparison made too early won't be all that meaningful.
     
  17. Milosh

    Milosh Well-Known Member

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    And the British, Americans and Canadians didn't have to train their huge expanding aviation workforce?
     
  18. vikingBerserker

    vikingBerserker Well-Known Member

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    I have to admit, that was a pretty interesting read. Nice post.
     
  19. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    Actually they did...

    In the US all manufacturers had huge training programs when they brought in people off the street. Aviation maintenance schools were booming and there were dozens of aircraft assembler apprentice programs that paid new-bees during training. I had a uncle that worked for Brewster for about 3 or 4 months and then he got drafted.
     
  20. gumbyk

    gumbyk Well-Known Member

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    That shop is next door to where I used to work.
    The guys said that it was difficult to get anything to fit, especially on the wing, as there isn't one straight line on it. Also, the girder-style ribs take a lot more labour to produce than a simple stamped aluminium rib. The main spars are also a fairly significant piece of engineering, with having a number of box-sections sleeved on inside the other, and then all bent together to form the dihedral angle.

    there's three issues that would have made the spitfire wing more labour-intensive to produce.
     
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