Concise Guide To Spitfire Wing Types

Spitfire Site

An overview of the basic wing types of the Spitfire and the differences between them. With drawings.
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C type

Called “universal wing”, this wing was structurally modified to reduce labour and manufacturing time and allow mixed armament options; A  or B type armament or a new, yet heavier combination of four 20 mm Hispano cannon.

The undercarriage mountings were redesigned and the undercarriage doors were bowed in cross section allowing the legs to sit lower in the wells, eliminating the upper-wing blisters over the wheel wells and landing gear pivot points.

The revised, strengthened undercarriage legs were raked 2 inches (5.08 cm) further forward, making the Spitfire more stable on the ground and reducing the likelihood of the aircraft tipping onto its nose.

The Hispano Mk II cannon fitted in all cases were now belt-fed from box magazines (the Chattellerault system) allowing to double the ammunition supply to 120 rounds per gun. The fairings over the Hispano barrels were shorter and there was usually a short rubber stub covering the outer cannon port when not in use.

General arrangement of the Type C wing
[Martin Waligorski]

The redesigned upper wing gun bay doors incorporated blisters to clear the cannon belt feed motors. Initially a single wide blister was incorporated that covered both motors. Initial production Spitfires Mk. Vc, such as those which were transported to Malta were factory-fitted with four cannon. In field conditions, it was often sufficient with two cannon armament and many of the four-cannon Spitfires were converted to fly with either outboard or inboard pair of Hispanos, or else converted to B-standard armament. Later on, production aircraft carried the two 20mm Hispanos and four Brownings. In such circumstances, the very large blister on top of the wing was not required and a new, more streamlined cannon breech cover was provided, with narrow blister fairing over the inboard cannon position and flat surface over the second, unused cannon bay.

The inner machine gun bays in C wing were moved outboard to between ribs 13 and 14. Also, the lower surface of the wing no longer had the gun-bay heating vents outboard of the gun bays and the retractable landing lights were no longer fitted.

The wing structure was stressed for provision of hardpoints outboard of the wheel wells capable of taking a 250 lb (113 kg) bomb under each wing.

Apart from early Spitfires Mk. IX converted from Mk. Vc airframes, the undercarriage indicator pins were not used on this or any of the later Spitfire marks.

Comparison of armament layout between type A (middle) , B (top) and C (bottom) wings on Spitfire Mk. V.
Note the difference in the placement of inner .303″ Browning on C wing.
[Crown Copyright]

Internal structure of the Type C wing as fitted to the Spitfire Mk. VIII.
The leading edge fuel tank was peculiar to this mark and was not mounted on Spitfires Mk. V and  IX.
Interestingly, both this and the subsequent drawing (produced by Supermarine) of the Mk. VII show the downward identification lamp. However, this item was deleted in the Mk. VII & VIII production, by modification No. 746 issued on 1 May 1943.
Click to enlarge image
[Crown Copyright]

Corresponding structural drawing of the Spitfire Mk. XIVc
Click to enlarge image
[Crown Copyright]

D type

This designation applied to the unarmed long-range wing for reconnaissance versions.  Space for substantial amount of additional fuel was provided in the space ahead of the wing spar, which together with the reinforced skin of the wing’s leading edge formed a rigid torsion box. Its otherwise empty interior was converted into an integral fuel tank capable of carrying 66 imp gallons. On hot summer days, so large amount of fuel inside the wing would produce a substantial volume of vapour, so relief valves were fitted to the tanks in the outboard rib position.

Internal structure of the Type D wing as used on the Spitfire PR Mk. IV and XI.
Click to enlarge image
[Crown Copyright]

Clipped wings

Starting with the Mk. V, some Spitfires had their classic elliptical wingtips replaced by shorter, squared-off fairings reducing span to 32 ft 2 in (9.80 m). Shortening the wing span substantially enhanced the roll rate, closing the gap in this respect between the Spitfire and the formidable German Focke-Wulf Fw 190.

The clipped-wing Spitfires are sometimes being referred to as “L.F.” versions, e.g.: LF Mk Vb. Formally, this is a misunderstanding as the LF designation referred to the low-altitude version of the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine and while many LF Spitfires had the clipped wings, a number did not.

Extended wingtips

Pointed, triangular wing tips were designed especially for high-altitude versions of the Spitfire, starting with the Mk. VI. The enlarged wing area they provided resulted in better climb rate and slightly improved ceiling at the expense of manoeuvrability in combat on “normal” altitudes. The idea with both clipped and extended wing tips was taken further in Mk. VIII production, when the tips became easily interchangeable and theoretically could be swapped to suit the preferences of an individual pilot or tactical requirement.

Internal structure of the extended Type B wing of the high-altitude Spitfire Mk. VI.
Click to enlarge image
[Crown Copyright]

Identical in outline, the wing of the Spitfire Mk. VII was of C type and therefore significantly different from the Mk. VI.
Click to enlarge image
[Crown Copyright]

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23 Comments | Add New

By Paul  |  2013-06-07 at 10:47  |  permalink

“Apart from early Spitfires Mk. IX converted from Mk. Vc airframes, the undercarriage indicator pins were not used on this or any of the later Spitfire marks.” – take a look at this photo of a Mk XIX on this website: http://spitfiresite.com/2011/07/guided-tour-of-the-spitfire-pr-mk-xix-the-bowser-wing.html/dsc06091. The yellow flag on the wing surface looks like an undercarriage indicator pin. I assume no one would retro-fit these devices so what’s the story on the PR wing?

[…] I settet var det to sett vinger av «e» typen,  det vil si den vingekonfigurasjonen som ble introdusert i 1944 med 2 20mm Hispano Mk II automatkanoner og 2 amerikanske .50» M2 Browning maskingevær. Du kan lese mer om de ulike vingekonfigurasjonene på denne siden. […]

By Spitfire Mk IXe Eduard Profipack cat no 8283  |  2014-07-24 at 20:31  |  permalink

[…] feature of the C wing. More about the differences between Spitfire wing types can be found in this fantastic article Spitfire Mk IXe Eduard Profipack cat no […]

By Charlie Bowman  |  2016-01-19 at 11:57  |  permalink

It seems to me that Dihedral angle in Spitfire is so “low” compared to some other warbirds. Could someone help me understanding why? Perhaps is in bennefit of manuverability due to “big size” wings. Clipped wing and enlarged tip wings makes Spitfire a unique kind of aircraft.

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