The Supermarine Spitfire first flew in 1936 and in 1938 discussions began to develop a navalised version of what would soon become one of the most iconic aircraft ever made. The Sea Spitfire, shortened to Seafire Mk.1B first entered service in 1941 however these were mainly used for pilot training due to weak undercarriage. The first version to be built in numbers was the Seafire F Mk.III which entered service in 1942 and included features specifically for Naval service including folding wings. The Seafire saw continuous development throughout the late 1940s, eventually being fitted with the more powerful Rolls-Royce Griffon engine. The type saw limited export success and in addition to the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm, it was operated by the Royal Canadian Navy, French Navy and Irish Air Corps. The final Spitfire/Seafire to ever leave the factory was a Seafire FR Mk 47 on 28th January 1949 - after a total production run of 22,000 aircraft.
In Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm service, the Seafire F Mk.III saw combat service in both the Mediterranean and Pacific theatres with over 1,200 examples being built. The first Griffon-powered version of the Seafire was the F Mk XV which suffered problems on board carriers thanks to a tendency to torque roll into the Carrier superstructure. This version was eventually developed into the F Mk XVII which featured a modified fuselage, greater range, and strengthened undercarriage which helped to fix the issues experienced with the previous version. Later versions of the Seafire saw service in the Korean War but were only built in limited numbers before being replaced by the Hawker Sea Fury.
Seafire F Mk XVII SX336/G-KASX operated by Navy Wings will be appearing on static display at RIAT 2023. The Seafire F Mk XVII saw limited service with the Fleet Air Arm when it was used to cover to the evacuation of Palestine by 800Sqn. Built at Westland during April 1946, SX336 entered service at RNAS Bramcote in Warwickshire and was retired in 1955 after being placed in storage during 1953. The aircraft was restored by Kennet Aviation at North Weald and flew again in 2006 after restoration began in 1978.
Photo credit: Andy Evans
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